On a typical dark, rainy Vancouver Sunday afternoon in 2011 I had the pleasure of my first genuine encounter with the work of Andrew Dadson. As I gathered with other members of the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver for a studio visit in Dadson’s garage, which doubled as his studio at the time, I listened carefully as he shared the process and meaning behind his art practice. As he spoke of the representation of the void in his work, I experienced that moment of exhilaration when I am able to make an intellectual connection with someone else’s work. My mind immediately conjured images from Stephen Hawking’s writings on dark matter and wormholes. I have been quietly following Dadson’s work ever since that day as it has made its way to various international exhibitions and art fairs. Six years later, upon viewing his solo exhibition, I am as impressed with Dadson’s practice today as I was in 2011.
As you enter the Contemporary Art Gallery during Andrew Dadson’s solo show “Site For Still Life”, curated by Director Nigel Prince, the first thing that you’ll notice is the soft, violet aura which emanates from the B.C. Binning wing. One is drawn like a moth to a flame towards a series of eight potted houseplants, dispersed atop a low platform at the far end of the gallery. Though varying in type and size, each plant and its pot are painted uniformly in white, biodegradable paint. The plants are properly potted in moist, fertilized soil and are illuminated by LED grow lights placed at either side of the platform. This is a living sculpture – a growing trend among 20th century contemporary art, which uses plants and animals as its unwitting subjects. As these plants grow, their artificial shells crack from the internal pressure leaving parts of the leaves exposed and paint debris scattered below. “Houseplants” (2017) is an extension of Dadson’s practice, which traverses the delineation between painting and sculpture.
Dadson is perhaps best known for his thick, sculptural paintings created by an additive process of multiple layers of various colours of paint. A process-based artist, his technique is revealed in the application and careful placement of the paint itself. After the paint is applied most of it is then scraped away from the surface of the canvas and onto the edges, thus extending the painting beyond the canvas itself, creating a thick, multi-colored crust. Once the layering is complete, in an act of negation, Dadson applies the thick painting into a second raw canvas before removing the original one. What was once the bottom layer of the painting then becomes the top. An indentation is left where the thick primary canvas once was, creating a concave low-relief sculpture. The result is one of his signature “Restretch” paintings. The final, top layer of paint showing is always either white or black, bringing the viewer back into the void of abstraction recalling Malevich’s seminal work “The Black Square” (1915).
The four small “Restretch” paintings in “Site For A Still Life” were created using Dadson’s signature process, except that he replaced multi-colored paint layers with raw materials such as locally sourced mulch, gravel and soil in an homage to Arte Povera. Dadson’s use of paint and soils can easily be related to his landscape interventions, such as “Black Painted Lawn” (2006) and “Black Hill” (2014), in which he spray painted sections of outdoor private and public property with non-toxic acrylic paint, then photo-documented the work for posterity. The visual essence of these installations parallels his monochromatic works on canvas. While this act of obliteration of still recalls Malevich’s “Black Square”, Dadson almost intuitively realizes in his work that the void, or nothingness, can only be defined in comparison to something, hence leaving the rough edges to define or frame the negative.
In the Alvin Balkind wing at the CAG, Dadson has darkened the gallery and painted the walls black. In the centre, two projectors face opposite walls running the same reel of film. While one projects a sunrise the other, a sunset; at times it is difficult to tell which is which. Both time-lapsed films contain a partly cloudy sky, and a large glowing orb, all rendered in monochromatic tinted orange. “Sunrise/Sunset” (2015/17) is a simple, but powerful metaphor for the cyclical opposing forces of nature and the temporality of existence.
Returning to the B.C. Binning wing, two large monochromatic paintings suddenly come into focus. “Silver Mass” (2017) and “Double Half (2017) seem almost representational, as far as abstract paintings go. On the thick silver coated mass of paint a circular form appears in diminished view above a partial view of a much larger, assumingly closer, circular form. One can easily imagine that this is a view of one planet or moon, as seen from another. This premise is reinforced by marks that could easily be seen as moon craters. “Double Half”, whose final layer is rendered in white, seems again to represent celestial bodies, this time as seen from outer space. In a subtractive method, Dadson has gouged away small areas of the top paint layer to reveal a deep blue beneath, suggesting far away galaxies and stars. The end result is as if the artist has rendered a view from space, in a reversal of dark and light.
Noting how the artist focused this exhibit on atmosphere, (sun) light, earth (soil) and plants, all basic elements of survival – a clearer and profounder sense of Dadson’s work is revealed. Upon carefully viewing each work in the exhibit, the “Houseplants” installation takes on new meaning. The scene of quiet, motionless life forms bathed in an otherworldly light have a sublime effect. My thoughts return to Stephen Hawking and his proclamation in the spring of 2017 that humans must look to inhabit other planets within the next 100 years in order to survive before life on earth as we know it is decimated. Dadson seems more optimistic in his outlook for the humankind future than Malevich did. Where it is possible to sustain plant life, there is hope. Until that time, earth is still a site for life.
- Holly Marie Armishaw (October 2017)
Post-Parisian Depression is, as described by its name, a period of notable depression that one experiences upon leaving Paris and returning home. Symptoms are similar to those of other forms of depression and are marked by a sense of grief and loss. Caused by a return to reality, Post-Parisian Depression is the reconciling of what “is” with what “could be”. The heightened stimulation of the brain that one enjoyed while in Paris, now deactivated, still clings desperately to the memories, the moments, and the feelings of rapture that one felt while in the bosom of Paris.
The effect of leaving Paris is similar to the low experienced after a drug high as the dopamine levels in the brain return to their normal state, which no longer feels sufficient. Symptoms often include lethargy or malaise and may be further exacerbated by symptoms of jet lag occurring simultaneously. Post-Parisian Depression exists primarily as a tongue-in-cheek condition not yet recognized by the medical community, or as one might call it "a first world problem". Its recurrences and longevity can be exacerbated by triggering memories of Paris simply through browsing photos.
To love Paris is to love history. Secondary nostalgia, to coin another term, is brought on by a sense of proximity with great figures of the past, whether artists, poets, writers, philosophers, designers, fashionable aristocrats, emperors, kings or medieval knights. To walk in the footsteps of history, from the Middle Ages, to the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Belle Époque, the Avant-Garde, or Post-War Paris, is one of the most powerful features of this magnificent city. The idea of being part of something much grander than oneself is captivating to say the least. This concept of secondary nostalgia was so whimsically depicted in Woody Allen’s 2011 film “Midnight in Paris”. With its world-class museums containing collections from Ancient Egypt to the present, the ability to transport oneself to their preference of time and place in history is a privilege unknown to the majority of North Americans, who otherwise may become immersed in an ancient civilization only through books, films and the web.
One of Paris’s greatest strengths is that its attention is not lost on narcissism. La Grande Dame holds up a mirror to rest of the world to contemplate. Its many restaurants, museums, and contemporary art galleries, are a critical reflection of the diversity of its homeland, its colonies, and the world beyond. Each arrondisement bears a signature flavor of ethnicities and religions that can vary vastly from one neighborhood to the next. You may see stylish business men and women, Orthodox Jews, men and women dressed in traditional colorful African garb, Muslim women wearing hijabs while sporting the latest Chanel handbags, Asians of every type, and young hipsters, all of whom call Paris home. Our senses run on overdrive as we process the thrill of experiencing cultures that may be somewhat foreign to us, when in fact, it is we who are the foreigners.
France is similar enough to North America to be comfortable, but different enough to be exciting. By contrast it is that sameness that for some, makes our North American home cities so dull. Canada, for example, celebrated its 150th anniversary just this summer. (That is not to say that Canada was not inhabited by its First Nations People long before it was officially declared a country.) By comparison, Paris has maintained itself as a city for approximately 3000 years! We are, no matter how many generations old, visitors here. And so there is a sense that, even for a fourth or fifth generation Canadian, can only be known through spending time in Europe; that sense of discovering your ancestral roots and taking one step closer to knowing your true self. If you don’t know where you come from then how can you know who you are? This sense of proximity with our ancestry divulges some of the power that Paris holds over us.
We tend to feel much more alive when we travel. Outside of our comfort zones our brains are much more engaged. The smallest tasks become challenges: digging through a pile of change in our pockets and studying each coin carefully to determine it’s value as we attempt to pay for our morning coffee, successfully navigating the Paris metro, ordering dinner without resorting to speaking English, and a multitude of other daily activities are all small victories. In our home cities our brains become lazy. We can complete these everyday tasks on autopilot without the slightest concern. It is those small mental stimulations, like hearing new languages and accents, navigating new city roads or metro systems, and learning a new set of cultural norms, may keep us from developing Alzheimer’s or dementia as we grow older.
And so as we return the comfort of our homes, bathed in familiarity, and our brains return to their normal autonomic states, that it is not surprising to feel a sense of loss as a part of us that was once fully engaged returns to it’s slumber until the next trip to Paris.
- Holly Marie Armishaw, 2017
Tracey Emin is one of the most famous and controversial artists to come out of the United Kingdom in decades. She was born in Croydon, a suburb of South London, on July 3 of 1963 to unwed parents, her mother of English origin and her father of Turkish Cypriot descent. They raised her in the seaside city of Margate, where she had a difficult time during her teenage years, later expressed in vivid detail through her artwork. By the 1990’s Emin had made it onto the world stage of contemporary art as one of the most celebrated YBA’s (Young British Artists). Although she has turned her personal tragedies into a form of cultural currency, her success has not come without sacrifice.
Lauded as a significant figure in contemporary feminist art for her confessional tone, Emin wholeheartedly embraces the feminist adage “the personal is political”. In interviews she speaks candidly about being raped at age thirteen, getting pregnant at age eighteen, having two abortions and three miscarriages. By exposing the intimate details of her own life and the emotional scars of abuse and trauma that women are frequently conditioned to conceal, Emin creates an empowering dialogue about feminine existence.
I’ve Got It All (2000) is an enlarged Polaroid snapshot of Emin that contains many significant themes that run throughout her art practice – sexuality, intimacy, honesty, exposure, rawness, and the repressed anger that typically accompanies emotional pain. Sitting on a rust red floor in a low-cut Vivienne Westwood dress, legs splayed, Emin attempts to gather a pile of British currency that seems to spew uncontrollably from her loins. The context of when this image was created is essential to its central interpretation. In 1999 Emin was selected as a nominee for the Turner Prize. Although she didn’t win, her controversial piece My Bed (1998) inspired such a media frenzy that she overshadowed the actual winner. I’ve Got It All is clearly a celebration of triumph in the face of challenging odds.
An alternative interpretation to the celebrative tone of I’ve Got It All (2000) considers the title as sarcastic. Emin has been open about discussing the fact that she never had children. “I would have been so much happier had I not had the abortions, but I truly believe that I would have been so much unhappier if I had had the children." She has been heavily criticized for suggesting that motherhood and successful careers cannot exist simultaneously. However, she has opened up a very relevant discourse on an issue on the choice of childbirth that most serious career woman, and certainly every female artist, has contemplated by the time they have reached age 40. Emin was 37 when this photo was taken. The wealth portrayed in I’ve Got It All is a lifeless substitute for the children that she never had. But, while Emin has never carried any of her pregnancies to full term, she has given birth to art works and ideas that will far outlive her self; they are her carefully chosen legacy.
“Tracey Emin: I’ve Got It All. Saatchi Gallery. www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/tracey_emin_i_got_all.htm. Accessed Oct 25, 2016.
Digiulio, Lauren. “How Tracey Emin Conquered the World.” Idiom, September 28th, 2011, idiommag.com/2011/09/how-tracey-emin-conquered-the-world. Accessed Oct. 26, 2016.
Ward, Ossian. “Tracey Emin: No Bedtime Story.” Art in America, June 2011 Issue, pages unknown, www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/magazine/tracey-emin. Accessed Oct. 27, 2016.
“Biography.” Tracey Emin Studio, www.traceyeminstudio.com/biography. Accessed on Oct. 26, 2016.
Biography.com Editors. “Tracey Emin Biography.” A&E Television Networks,
www.biography.com/people/tracey-emin-20891535. Accessed Oct 26, 2016.
“Tracey Emin in Confidence.” YouTube, uploaded by braitnicho, Aug. 3, 2013,
“Tracey Emin - The South Bank Show.” YouTube, uploaded by VHS Pile, Feb 21, 2013. www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxaoAy9oNtY#t=262.466757.
“BBC HARDTalk with Tracey Emin” (Stephen Sackur Interviews Tracey Emin) YouTube, uploaded by BBC Hardtalk, Jun 12, 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=og5FqDxPUKg
Clearwater, Bonnie. “Roving Eye: A Happy Tracey Emin.” Art in America, Dec 19, 2011. www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/news/roving-eye-tracey-emin. Accessed Oct. 27, 2016.
Jones, Liz. “A life more Eminent: Tracey Emin opens up her intimate photo memoir - and tells Liz Jones why her 'not always palatable' past has shaped her life's work.” Daily Mail Online, April 20, 2013. www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2311050/Tracey-Emin-opens-intimate-photo-memoir-tells-Liz-Jones-past-shaped-lifes-work.html, Accessed Oct. 26, 2016
Manchester, Elizabeth. “Tracey Emin: Terribly Wrong.” Tate, July 2000. www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/emin-terribly-wrong-p11565/text-summary. Accessed Oct. 26, 2016.
Tracey Emin: 'I felt that, in return for my children's souls, I had been given my success’.” Independent, Jan. 28, 2009, www.independent.co.uk/voices/columnists/tracey-emin/tracey-emin-i-felt-that-in-return-for-my-childrens-souls-i-had-been-given-my-success-1518934.html. Accessed Oct. 27, 2016.
Urist, Jacoba. “Why can’t great artists be mothers?” NY Times, May 21, 2015. nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/05/21/why-cant-great-artists-be-mothers. Accessed Oct 26, 2016.
As I entered the vast halls of booths at Art Basel 2016 I was searching for new and exciting developments in photography. I found little to none. What did cry out to me most from the walls though was that something much more exciting was happening in the world of painting. One of the first works that really captured my attention was by Pamela Rosenkrantz - a fridge stocked with water bottles, each bottle filled with paint pigments. "Now that's a painting!" I said to myself. Here is my selection of works from Art Basel 2016 that challenge the notion of painting as we know it.
Traditionally speaking painting was simply: PAINT + CANVAS = PAINTING
Are both elements really required for a work to be considered a painting? After all, Robert Raushenberg's first "combine painting" entitled "Bed" of 1955 used the artists own bedding materials instead of a canvas to paint on. If it is agreed that we may eliminate the canvas and replace it with bedding, wood panel or acrylic sheeting, then it seems fair game to perhaps replace the paint with alternatives or even eliminate it altogether. Such is the case in Tauba Auerbach's woven canvases or Nicholas Hlobo's canvases with ribbon. In other works, the paint itself is kept, but deconstructed, omitting the oil that is traditionally mixed with pigment to produce paint. A fantastic example of this is Thilo Heinzmann's delicate minimal canvas. Anish Kapoor, the master of materiality and contemporary alchemist, presents "Dragon", which, while not on canvas, features monochromes of an intensely rich Prusssian blue pigment (reminiscent of Yves Kleins "YK Blue") applied to eight Japanese riverbed stones. Painting is no longer about subject matter; rather, it is an exploration in formalist practices. Materiality defines painting of this era.
While you might not agree with me that all of these are paintings, perhaps neither will all of the artists I've featured. But, in taking a cue from the title of Rosenkrantz's refrigerated pigments I urge you to "Look Deeper".
- Holly Marie Armishaw, July 2016
Bastille Day is a national holiday celebrated annually on July 14th by millions of French citizens. It was on July 14th, 1789 that the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, marking a key turning point of events in the spark of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a notorious prison in Eastern Paris. Though at the time, it housed only 7 inmates, it was known also to be the place where the French authorities housed their arsenal of gunpowder. Brutally murdering the prison warden and several guards, they also destroyed the stone prison by hand, symbolically dismantling the state of oppression that they faced. Accessing the gunpowder, they took up arms previously looted from Les Invalides, leveling the playing field between them and the Ancien Regime. Today all that remains of the Bastille prison is a brick outline of one of the towers, which can be found laid into the sidewalk surrounding the Place de Bastille. It is one of the most important non-existent monuments in the history of democratic civilizations. The events that transpired on that day reverberated throughout France, Europe and the New World, leaving a lasting impression that is deeply woven into the fabric of Western culture.
The events that led up to the storming of the Bastille are far too numerous and complex to explain in full detail in the context of this article. As many of us know, the French people had grown discontent over the handling of public funds, leaving them destitute as they bore the weight of heavy taxation, while the nobility and clergy, who paid no taxes themselves, lived in luxury off the backs of the people. An important historical fact that has often escaped the attention of most North Americans is that the French had been funding the American Revolution of Independence against the British. This support was facilitated by Benjamin Franklin - the first Ambassador between the United States and France. Of course, the French had their own political motivations, as they did not want to see the British gain further territories, and provided financial support until their own coffers were bare. Unfortunately, this major fact goes largely unacknowledged as the more popular story is that the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and her love of fashion and luxury, drove the country to bankruptcy. While it certainly didn't help matters, that would have to be one heck of a wardrobe! The fact is that the state of financial distress had been handed down to Marie Antoinette and her husband, Louis XVI through the hands of his grandfather, Louis XIV. Also known as the Sun King, it was Louis XIV, who built the fabulous Chateau Versailles, which is now a renowned symbol of the corrupt over-indulgence of those in power, and host to millions of tourists a year. Consequently, his grandson, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed by guillotine in 1793 during what would become known as the French Revolution.
The storming of the Bastille afforded the French people the opportunity to take up arms thereby forever altering the balance of power. As the people no longer respected the established authority, of the nobility and clergy, arming themselves enabled them the ability to revolt and to defy the King’s Guard, who were expected to maintain order in the French capital and to protect the royal family. It was seen as a necessity in the face of oppression by the corrupt absolute monarchy. It is this incident and ideology that eventually made it’s way into the second amendment of the American Constitution – The Right to Bear Arms. Though nothing can console us over the tragic and far too numerous mass shootings that occur in the United States each year, at least understanding the context of the historical events of the storming of the Bastille provides some illumination on the original ideals of the American NRA.
Though the very phrase “New World Order” seems to conjure notions of conspiracy theories, one need not look far, as it hides in plain sight. The proponents of the Revolution saw the Ancien Regime as needing to be replaced and the Americas, a popular place for new settlements, were then known as the New World. “Ancien” being French for “ancient”, and Regime, meaning “order”, referred to the system of absolute monarcy that they sought to replace with their own elected officials. These were instrumental ideals of the Revolution, which took root in the newer settled lands of the Americas, a land that was untainted by the rule of an absolute monarchy. At first the the Third Estate in France, (the first being the nobility, the second being the clergy and the third being everyone else) proposed the idea of a constitutional monarchy, as the British had already established. However, when it became clear that King Louis VXI had no intention of caving to these demands, he was executed for treason against France. It was said that "The King must die so that the Revolution may live". His wife, Marie Antoinette was also to face the same fate on the guillotine. Thousands more died on this new killing machine that became known as the "National Razor" during the Reign of Terror. Anyone that was suspected of sympathy to the monarchy, or as an enemy of the Revolution, was quickly tried and often sent to their death. As news of the beheading of the monarchs spread throughout Europe and North America, other monarchs feared similar uprisings. In Canada, the British suppressed this news from their citizens, in fear of a similar violent uprising.
As the Revolution gained momentum in Paris, the people organized and adopted a symbol to identify their allegiance to the Revolution. The color red was added to the previous colors of France, blue and white and became known as the “Tricoloure”. Some historians contend that the white of the flag represented the color of the House of Bourbon, the French royal family, while blue represented the spiritual. Though there is still much debate as to the meaning of those colors, one could speculate that the red of the tricolor symbolizes the blood that had to flow in order for the Revolution to live. Today the tricoloure is seen not only on the French national flag, but also on the American flag. Given that France was the first ally of the United States, it comes as no surprise that the U.S. flag bears the same colors as those of the French flag and the colors of the Revolution.
The French and the American Revolutions bear many striking similarities. Both were strongly influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment and both resulted in the establishment of a bill or charter of rights. The French "Declaration of the Rights of Man" (and of the Citizen) was passed in August of 1789, shortly after the storming of the Bastille. One of the most defining articles was the idea of liberty: "Article IV - Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights. These borders can be determined only by the law." The similarity to the American Declaration of Independence of 1772 is obvious, which states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." How unfortunate that in the year 2016, we face so many challenges to these simple rights, under constant threats of police brutality, racial profiling, gun violence and acts of terrorism.
The single, most important aspect of the French Revolution was of course the outcome. Following a long battle that cost many lives, France was transformed from being an Absolute Monarchy to becoming a Republic of the People, a Democracy. The revolutionary action took power from the hands of the few and placed it into the hands of many. The French Revolution has served for over 200 years as a reminder of the power of the “common” people to rise up against oppression and together accomplish “uncommon” feats through determination, collective organization. It is that spirit, which is captured in the French motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité “ (liberty, equality, fraternity), that daring achievement, that shaped much of the democratic ideals that Western civilization holds so dear to this day as a result of the fire that was sparked by the actions of Bastille Day, 1789. However, the most important debate that they French Revolution has indelibly impressed upon the Western World is with is the question of "at what cost of human life?" should we fight for what we believe.
This article is sadly dedicated to the men, women and children who lost life and limb in the terror attack in Nice on Bastille Day of 2016 while celebrating the most cherished of democratic ideals.
Forget any misconceptions that you might have about Paris being a city filled with dusty old museums full of art created by long since deceased artists. Paris has one of the most incredible international contemporary art scenes in the world! With an impressive diversity of work to be found by renowned artists from across the globe, it is no surprise that major art dealers like Gagosian and Mary Goodman have locations here in Paris. The smorgasbord of temporary exhibitions available here are enough to keep any art aficionado satiated for a prolonged length of time. Here are 10 days of recommendations, which you will find spaced throughout this dynamic city.
Day 1: Foundation Louis Vuitton
The Foundation Louis Vuitton, owned by LVMH, is a great example of one the major corporate sponsorships of the arts, as is so often seen in Europe. The highly anticipated spectacular building, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, opened in the fall of 2014. It is located at the far West side of Paris near the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. The exterior of the Foundation Louis Vuitton has recently been transformed by French artist Daniel Buren through a site-specific installation of grand proportions, patterning the glass façade with colored films in his signature modernist repetitive aesthetic. However the best feature of FLV, of course, lies within the glass walls. The current exhibition features contemporary Chinese artists including Yang Fudong, Ai Wei and many others. The most impressive feature may be two large works by artist Zhang Huan who uses incense ash gathered from Buddhist temples from his home city in his work. Using the ashes on linen, the artist has created what at close scale looks like a scattering of debris, but at far range comes into focus as historical scenes of Tiananmen Square and another of the Chinese people digging a massive canal. Painting, sculpture, video and animation run throughout the exhibit.
Day 2 and 3: The Marais
The Marais, also known as the 3rd and 4th arrondisments of Paris, has the highest concentration of contemporary art galleries in the city. Renowned international dealers like Emmanuel Perrotin, Thaddeus Ropac, Marion Goodman, and many, many others have spaces here. Some of them, limited by the scale of the historical architecture, have two spaces in close proximity to one another. Many of the world’s most prestigious artists are shown in these galleries as well as young talents. Pick up a gallery guide at your first stop for a detailed list of all the current contemporary art exhibitions in the city. To see them all in detail will likely take two full days. The galleries themselves are often very discreet from the street and difficult to locate unless you know what you are looking for. Watch for small bronze plaques bearing the gallery names on the walls outside courtyard gates. It is in these discreet spaces that you will experience the height of the Parisan contemporary art scene.
Day 4: Palais de Tokyo
The Palais de Tokyo, named after the now non-existent avenue it was built upon, features temporary exhibitions of French and international contemporary art. The Palais de Tokyo has become the most dynamic hub in the city featuring a broad program of that includes exhibitions, site-specific installations, performances, collaborative projects, film screenings and lectures. Memorable exhibitions here include those by Ryan Gander, Thomas Hirschorn, Hiroshi Sugimoto and others. A suite of new exhibitions has just opened, filling the altered basement with works by David Ryan & Jérôme Joy, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Marguerite Humeau, Ayoung Kim, Mika Rottenberg, and Michel Houellebecq. The Palais de Tokyo is open late, which is perfect also because they have a fantastic restaurant, Monsier Blue. If you make reservations and the weather is pleasant, you may be able to sit on the terrace, which provides a spectacular view capping off a perfect evening at the Palais.
Day 5: The First Quarter
One of the greatest joys of Paris is that the arts of all types are made readily accessible to the public, if you know where to look. Though the first arrondisment is most noted for the world-famous Louvre, it is not without it’s contemporary art treasures scattered about. In fact, the Lourve often collaborates with notable local galleries and has featured some phenomenal projects. This summer one can view a site-specific installation by artist JR at the Lourve Pyramid that has made European art news headlines. A detailed stroll through the adjacent Tuileries gardens often holds a few surprises. Among them, a Lawrence Weiner permanent installation along the North wall, adjacent to the Rue de Rivoli. At the end of the Tuileries lies the Jeu de Paume, a historical building known as the place where the Tennis Court Oath was signed, it is now a dedication photography gallery featuring temporary exhibitions of notable international photographers. Nearby in the courtyard of the Palais Royale one can view a permanent installation by French artist Chris Burden while sipping rosé in the afternoon sun at one of the café terraces.
Day 6: Chateau Versailles
The French are a world leader in cultural fusions, creating hybrid collaborations that marry contemporary art with music, fashion, design, architecture, and history. Summer is the best time to visit Chateau Versailles, which is a mere half hour train ride from Paris. Versailles has a program that allows for one chosen artist per year to work with the palace or it’s spectacular gardens where a grand exhibition of their work is installed. Imagine strolling the intricate and historic gardens designed by French landscape artist Andre Le Notre in the 18th century and coming upon a sculpture by Takashi Murakami! Other artists featured at Chateau Versailles include Jeff Koons, Bernar Venet among others. This summer features Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Elliason. While some of the works are so subtle that you might now realize that you are looking right at them, others mesmerize tremendous crowds. Working with elements such as light, mirrors, fog, water, and earth, his installations are cleverly interwoven into the history of the chateau itself.
Day 7: Les Grandes Magasins
North of the Opera lay some of Paris’s most renowned department stores, featuring designer labels from around the world. Les Grandes Magasins are, in themselves, an experience, especially by North American shopping mall standards. While many go for the shopping, and stay for tea at Laduree in Printemps, or lunch under the stained glass domes, there is more. Galeries Lafayette has it’s own exhibition space, aptly known as Galerie des Galeries. This is a vibrant contemporary art space that often features the work of local Parisian artists and allows an opportunity for experimental art projects of the highest caliber. This summer features TOILETPAPER, a collaboration between Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, which opens on July 6th.
Day 8: Saint-Germain de Près
Though Saint-Germain has many galleries, most are of a more decorative or design oriented type. However, one of Paris’s best contemporary art dealers also has not one, but two spaces there. Kamel Mennour represented an impressive stable of artists that include Anish Kapoor, Jake & Dinos Chapman, François Morellet and Duchamp Prize Winner Latifah Echakchch. An exhibition of profound and stunning works by Japanese-Korean artist Lee Ufan recently opened at Galerie Kammel Mennour's 28 avenue Matignon space. These minimalist works are both profound and stunning. Nearby at Mennour's initial space at 28 avenue Matignon, an exhibition of photographs by controversial artist Nobuyoshi Araki are on view.
Day 9: The Pompidou Centre
Although the Pompidou Centre’s mandate is focused on modern art, some of the most impressive curated exhibitions of contemporary art that I have ever seen have been here at the Pomipdou. Excellent examples of both French and international artists work can be seen here. The Pompidou Centre’s partnership with ADIF (Association for the International Diffusion of French Contemporary Art) allows for the annual winner of the Prix Marcel Duchamp to have a solo exhibition. For those who don’t already know, the Prix Marcel Duchamp is France’s version of the U.K.’s Turner Prize. The 2015 Laureate’s exhibition Melik Ohanian’s “Under Shadows” is currently on view in a fusion between poetry and science in an environment that expresses various dimensions.
Day 10: Paris Pantin
Though it may be a bit of a trek into unknown territory, it is well worth it to take the journey to Paris’s Pantin area. As in any major city, real estate is at its prime rates in the most dense urban areas, so gallerists often seek space outside the core, transforming less desirable neighborhoods into vibrant, eclectic hubs of art and culture. Thaddeus Ropac, for example, has opened a large project space in Pantin. Other dealers like Jocelyn Wolfe and Creve Cœur have their main spaces located here. The truly dedicated art professional will make the journey to Pantin.
By the time you have completed this itinerary, you will have seen some of the most important contemporary and historical neighborhoods of Paris, although this list is by no means exhausted. Paris is an exceptional hub of cultural diversity at any time of the year, but the summer months are when it is most delightful to wander the city. However, during the month of August is when most Parisians take their annual vacations and head for beachfront destinations. You will find most galleries have closed their doors for the entire month, to resume their business again come September.
- Holly Marie Armishaw (June 2016)
Holly Marie Armishaw is a Vancouver-based contemporary artist primarily using photography and digital imaging to create imaginary realms and states of being. She is also an independent scholar on art, history and culture.
In an era marked by global political tensions between East and West, Shirin Neshat is one of the most poignantly relevant artists today. However, given the current political climate, it is easy to misread the “Women of Allah” series, which first brought her notoriety as an artist. A series of black and white images, containing four unifying visual elements: a woman donned in the traditional Islamic veil or chador, a rifle or Kalashnikov, poetry written in Farsi, and a gaze that confronts the viewer. One would be mistaken to assume that these are portraits of female Islamic radicals or jihadists. The complexity of the works requires some knowledge of the context in which they were created. Firstly, “Women of Allah” was created between 1994- 97, several years before the pivotal turning point of 9/11 and the ensuing onslaught of Islamaphobia.
Born in Iran in 1957, Neshat grew up under the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi who embraced Western ideologies and supported reforms that encouraged the education of women and instituted family laws to be more favourable towards women. In Neshat’s late teens, during the mid 1970’s, her father sent her to the U.S. to pursue higher education in Los Angeles, California. A few years later, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 broke out. Citizens had grown weary of the Shah’s autocratic methods of governance and his lack of regard for the Islamic religion. Unfortunately, his embrace of modernity and Westernism was tainted by this autocractic disregard for democratic methods. Initially, many Iranian women began wearing the veil in the 70's as a form of protest against the Shah, both exhibiting the love of their religion and their rejection of the Shah's Western ideologies. However, after the Islamic Revolution, suddenly women no longer had a choice. The man that they had democratically placed in power, whom they put their trust in to uphold their values, turned on them, took away many of the rights and privileges that these women had grown up with, and, almost symbolically so, it became mandatory that women wear the veil in public at all times.
“In a way, by studying a woman, you can read the structure and the ideology of the country.” Shirin Neshat; Ted Talks
In 1991 Shirin Neshat was finally able to return to Iran and to be with her family. But, Neshat has repeatedly said in public presentations, she no longer recognized her homeland, which had transformed into a state of Islamic fundamentalism. Perhaps one of the most glaringly obvious visual signifiers of this theocratic transformation may have been that the face of women were literally, no longer visible. In her talk at Princeton University Neshat stated “The women of Iran, historically, seem to embody the political transformations”. She returned to the U.S. not so much inspired as compelled by the transformation that she had witnessed. And so, in 1993, she began working on her “Women of Allah” series.
Upon examining each of the four elements that appear in the works it seems that In their entirety the work is loaded with symbolism and fraught with contradictions. The veil is simultaneously a symbol of repression and a rejection of Western ideology. While many Westerners believe that the veil it is simply a repressive garment, the contradictory notion is that when covered, women are free from the repression of being an object of sexual desire through the male gaze. Feminist Iranian poetry is written on the women’s faces, feet and hands, in essence “covering” those parts of a woman’s body, which are required to be covered. But the covering by text in these works allows the women a voice where they are otherwise silenced. The texts themselves are poems of female martyrdom by an Iranian woman, Tahereh Saffarzadeh. Interestingly Neshat creates a contradiction because in Islamic Fundamentalist countries, “martyr” is a term most commonly reserved for men, whereas women are more likely to be ascribed the term “victim”.
Shirin Neshat states that she feels ambivalent about martyrdom. While she is proud of the women of her homeland for challenging authority, there is a contradiction that she has captured in her portraits – the softness and beauty of their young skin with the coldness of the rifles, symbol of cruelty, violence and death. She has found inspiration in the resilience of Iranian women who fought to defend their borders when Iraq attacked Iran in 1980, hoping to take advantage at the point of political instability, in what is now known as the Persian Gulf War. Women have also been at the forefront of peaceful demonstrations, banding together in several protests including the Green Movement and the Arab Spring. It is these women that Neshat admires for their courage.
Without forgetting her own Western education and influence, and having gone to university in the U.S. at the crux of second-wave feminism in the 1970’s, Shirin Neshat has imbued her subjects with a gaze that simultaneously confronts and defies the male gaze. Perhaps the most poignant image in the series is this one pictured below, in which the face of the women is bisected by the barrel of the rifle, just as Shirin Neshat’s own life and has been bisected by Islamic and Western influences.
Exiled from her homeland of Iran since 1996, Shirin Neshat has been living a nomadic lifestyle as an artist. Her oeuvre has extended beyond the still photograph into film and video. Her 2009 film “Women Without Men” won the Silver Lion Prize for Best Directing at the Venice Film Festival. Although shot in Morocco due to Shirin’s ban from Iran, the film takes us back to the Iranian capital of Tehran to a pivotal time in Iranian history, which informs much of Neshat’s earlier work. It is set in 1953, the year when a coup d’etat encouraged and backed by British and American armed forces overthrew Iran’s then democratically elected president and instated the Shah as ruler of Iran.
Continuing to explore gender roles of Iranian women, “Women Without Men” follows the tale of four women of varying age and class, brought together by a rejection of male oppression. Munis, who is interested in political activism, lives under the tyranny of her brother who tells her that he will break her legs if she leaves the house, eventually driving her to dive off the roof of their home, or at least imagines she does. The novel the filmis based upon draws upon "creative realism" allowing Munis to come back from her suicide in a second life where she comes as goes wherever she desires, at free will. Munis's best friend, Faezeh, is raped by two men one afternoon after gazing into a cafe where women are not allowed; she is understandably traumatized after the event. The young Zarin is confined to a life of enslavement as a prostitute, ravaging both her physical and mental health. Fakhri an older, upper-class housewife of a military general, is told by her husband that if she can no longer satisfy him sexually, he will take a younger wife. Having the most liberty of all the women featured, she leaves him, purchasing a villa in the countryside as a place for escape to begin a new life free from his presence and repression. Seeking refuge 3 of the women eventually find each other in the orchard and recover together in the villa where they can exist in freedom, without their veils of oppression. However, when men arrive at the orchard one night for a party, their secure haven is “raped” by their presence. The most fragile of them, Zarin, loses her life, perhaps in fear that she will never be safe. The film was adapted from the novel by Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur, which is banned in Iran.
The film "Women Without Men" exemplifies the strong, beautiful, and poignant style that has marked the still photographic works of Shirin Neshat. With its myriad of layers, the film is infinitely complex - weaving together both national and gender politics. No two characters are alike - ranging from the most traditional Islamic young women who are still virgins as they near the age of 30 and won't (or can't leave) their homes without a suitable escort or donning a chandor, to the very Westernized, culturally elite older woman who enters public places like restaurants without a veil, smokes cigarettes, listens to music and sings, purchases property without her husbands presence, drives about in an American automobile, and throws parties for the like of artists, actors, and other well-to do socialites.
The film beautifully captures the depth of each character and their internal states through a physical terrain. Drawing from Shirin Neshat's earlier use of poetic symbolism, this physical terrain is poetically depicted in the forms of the hard concrete streets and buildings of Tehran; a long, lonely road leading to the possibility of change; a wall that separates the orchard from the outside world (as seen above) with an opening small enough to enter as water flows freely through it; the dark, barren forest; the dense foggy marsh that Zarin is found floating nearly dead in (seen below); and the lush jungle-like garden which rays of sunshine pierce through in a stroke of optimisim. The orchard becomes a place where these women can escape their veils of oppression, as so poignantly conveyed by the veil dropped outside the wall.
Outside the garden walls, back in the city, all is not well as the political climate comes to a boil. Like a barometer throughout the film, Zarin's health, which had been improving in her new surroundings of hope, finally takes a turn for the worst as the military clashes with the Iranian citizens, overthrowing the democratic government and instating the Shah to power.
"This film is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Iran from the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to the Green Movement of 2009." (Women Without Men)
Humanitas: Shirin Neshat at the University of Oxford, Lecture – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pySIgzyDvKk&ebc=ANyPxKqxD84_4HLSkW-CRBpZ0Zquxn01rKDkoF8oTad2Y4kGQ7Yosp9emoOAYwM94h3bkowldKKLDhNqosW66U4FAhZZJTU7Aw
Shirin Neshat: Art in exile – YouTube
Shirin Neshat, Women of Allah Series https://teachartwiki.wikispaces.com/Shirin+Neshat,+Women+of+Allah+Series
Green Women of Iran: The Role of the Women’s Movement During and After Iran’s Presidential Election of 2009
The 'beauty' and the horror of the Iran-Iraq war - BBC News
Iran's Basij Sisters suppressed election protests https://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/08/05/80895.html
Iran–Iraq War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Iran Chamber Society: Iranian Society: Women in Iran Since 1979
When Walls Come Falling Down: Left Political Art Timeline, 1989-2000
Iran: Women protest against forced wearing of hijab, 1979
Iran's Women A Driving Force Behind Green Movement
In Iran, One Woman's Death May Have Many Consequences – TIME
Accidental Martyrdom and the Ambiguous Death Image of the Role of Iranian Women | iranianstudies.com
Iraq's war on women | openDemocracy
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran-Iraq war: Iraqi women's stories
Women's rights in Iran - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Shirin Neshat | Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
Shirin Neshat, Rebellious Silence, Women of Allah series | Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East | Khan Academy
Critics have compared “I Am Malala” to the iconic historical autobiography “Anne Frank’s Diary”. The former is an autobiography of a young girl growing up in a Pakistani village as the Taliban seizes control. So pertinent to this era, Malala’s story sheds light on a perspective that no major media agency could ever hope to. It is an invaluable reminder that the spread of Islamic radicalization affects more than just global superpowers; it is about more than just the cost of oil, international politics, or the growing threat of terrorism against Westerners. It is about the imposition of radical and repressive systems on an otherwise peaceful way of life for millions of ordinary people in the countries throughout which it spreads.
Using a dedicated radio station, which soon became the only one allowed, the Talibs (religious men) quickly had the entire Swat valley abiding by their every word. They encouraged the burning of CD’s, DVD’s and TV’s and the shops that sold them were shut down in an attempt to isolate the public from knowledge and to deter Western influence. Citizens were either publically praised or shamed for following or ignoring the teachings of the local on-air Mullah. Vaccinations were banned and during Ramadan, the Taliban shutoff the electricity and clean water source, leaving many sick and dead from cholera. They seized on opportunities like the devastating earthquake of October 2005 in Pakistan to take the newly orphaned and homeless children into madrasas (religious schools) where they trained them in military jihadism. Curfews were established and strict rules of purdah were imposed.
It is women who were subject to the strictest interpretation of purdah. Purdah, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, means “the practice in certain Muslim or Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain” and/or “a state of seclusion or secrecy”. It originated from early 19th century Perdu and the Persian word “parda” meaning veil or curtain. The most common form of purdah outside of the home is a garment known as a burqa, which may or may not include a yashnak, a veil that conceals the face where the eyes may or may not be exposed. One day in the market Malala’s mother and cousin were stopped by a Talib. “ ‘If I see you wearing a scarf but no burqa I will beat you,’ he said. My mother is not easily scared and remained composed. ‘Yes, OK. We will wear burqas in the future,’ she told him. My mother always covers her head, but the burqa is not part of our Pashtun tradition.” At first women were required to leave the house only when accompanied by a male family member, but later were banned from the market entirely and told that they should not leave the home except in an emergency.
“Then MMA activists launched attacks on cinemas and tore down billboards with pictures of women or blackened them out with paint. They even snatched female mannequins from clothing shops. They harassed men wearing western-style shirts instead of the traditional shalwar kamiz and insisted that women cover their heads. It was as though they wanted to remove all traces of womankind from public life.”
Public whippings were witnessed for the first time. Bodies began to appear in the “bloody” square each morning, for everyone to see on their way to work. The greatest impositions were placed on the most vulnerable – women and girls. “One day I saw my father and his friends watching a video on his phone. It was a shocking scene. A teenage girl wearing a black burqa and red trousers was lying face down on the ground and being flogged in broad daylight by a bearded man in a black turban. ‘Please stop it! She begged in Pashto between screams and whimpers as each blow was delivered. ‘In the name of Allah, I am dying!’ You could hear the Taliban shouting, ‘Hold her down. Hold her hands down.’…They hit her thirty-four times. A crowd had gathered but did nothing. One of the woman’s relatives even volunteered to hold her down.’ “ The local Khan confirmed that the film was genuine. “She came out of her house with a man who was not her husband, so we had to punish her,’ he said, ‘Some boundaries cannot be crossed.’ “
Malala had been reading the Quran, creating a direct translation from Arabic to her native tongue of Urdu, allowing her to “know” the Quran and it’s teachings first-hand. However, the majority of Pakistani followers of Islam cannot speak of read Arabic, and so were ignorant to the misinterpretations being broadcast by the local Mullah.
As the Taliban further imposed their agenda, hundreds of schools were burned throughout the country. Living in constant fear that theirs would be next, Malala’s father, Ziauddin, was told to close down his school, as it was “haram” (sinful). One day seven men came to their house and declared ‘I am representing good Muslims and we all think your girls school is haram and a blasphemy. You should close it. Girls should not be going to school,’ he continued. ‘A young girl is so sacred that she should be in purdah, and so private that there is no lady’s name in the Quran, as God doesn’t want her to be named.’ “ After shooting down his argument with a prime example of a woman in the Quran, Ziauddin refused to succumb to the pressure, and received frequent death threats as a result. However, it was Malala who would eventually be targeted and shot.
Having a keen passion for learning, the encouragement of her father, a solid comprehension of the Quran, and the understanding of the dangers of the misguided interpretations and teachings of the Taliban, Malala became an out-spoken advocate for the education of girls, for all children. She recognized the irony that Talibs believed that girls should be educated by women and treated by women doctors, but that if they weren’t allowed to go to school, then they would never be able to fill those positions.
It is precisely because Malala’s account of life under Islamic radicalism is not unique, similar to Anne Frank's account under Nazi rule, that it is so important. Of course, Malala's reaction was nothing short of heroic, which makes her an exceptional role model for social consciousness across the globe. And while she is most noted for advocating education for girls, particularly in developing countries, it is not just that girls should have a right to education, everyone should have a right to education. Advocating education as a basic humanitarian right is Malala’s solution to establishing worldwide peace. The act of denying education to certain groups of people in order to repress them is nothing new in tactics of war. Keeping people ignorant so that they are unable to make educated decisions about their own lives, that of their family’s and that of their country’s, enables others control over the fate of others. Malala, through her message, is lifting that veil of ignorance.
 Yousafzai, Malala. “I Am Malala” (New York: Bay Back Books, 2013), pg. 169
 Yousafzai, pg. 97.
 Yousafzai, pg. 170-71.
 Yousafzai, pg. 94.
Art Basel Miami Beach is not just an art fair, it is an experience like no other! Basel Miami, as it is better known, has become a phenomena, a celestial body upon which many smaller fairs orbit around. These satellite fairs now number at 20 and are growing in number each year. They feed off the proximity of Basel Miami and location costs are priced accordingly. Hotel prices are also based on this proximity as jet-setters and art-world glitterati from across the globe will pay a premium to be within walking distance to "the sun". Not to be confused with Miami proper, Miami Beach, or to be exact, South Beach, also known coloquially as SoBe, is the place to be in during the first week of December.
The original Art Basel is based at it's namesake, Basel, Switzerland and is held annually each June. As the European art market sought to bridge the gap with the American Market, they established Art Basel in Miami Beach. Reaching further still into the global market, their most recent establishment is Art Basel Hong Kong. What makes this fair different is that it is so much more than just another fair. Every nearby museum director, hotelier, restauranteur, retailer and professional driver prepares and braces themselves for the massive influx of this special breed of tourists that descend upon them at this time each year. If these are your people, this is our heaven.
What could be better for an art lover than leaving your daily routine, whether it be bustling city life, frozen temperatures or both, to arrive at this mecca of contemporary art world insiders. Under the intoxicating sunshine of South Beach, the transformation of the island is evident every where. Installations are strategically placed in nearly every purposed or non-purposed space. While the days are filled with aisle upon aisle of gallery booths, the evenings are a must "see and be seen", with countless VIP previews, parties, happenings, museum openings, and if you're lucky and can squeeze it in, fabulous dinners. Art Basel Miami is a marathon - rest for a moment, and you will surely miss something spectacular.
The main attraction is of course Art Basel Miami Beach - the fair itself for which the entirity of the spectacle is often referred as. The better integrated you are in the industry, the earlier you can get in to experience the fair. The gates are first opened by invitation only on a Wednesday throughout the day to the top collectors - this is the first buying opportunity given only to those who are proven as the most serious blue-chip art collectors. Anyone else is simply in the way, and understandably unwelcome. That same evening, the VIP Preview opens and the second sector is allowed in - press, collectors, consultants, and other VIP guests. In 2011, I was fortunate enough to receive a coveted pair of VIP tickets.
Once inside the hierarchy is evident in another form. Those galleries with the the most powerful names in the art world and the most investment capital will be the first that you encounter - Gagosian Gallery, Marion Goodman, Hauser + Wirth, Lisson Gallery, Emmanuel Perrotin, Thaddeus Ropac, Matthew Marks, Yvon Lambert - they have paid top dollar to get the prime booth locations. Rest assured, each and every gallery there has earned their position. There are a limited number of 247 booths and no matter how much money you are willing to spend, if your gallery has not been approved by their selection committee, no amount of money will get you a booth inside those walls. Fail to live up to the high expectations of the fair one year, and you will not be invited back the next. In essence, we have at our disposal a very carefully curated selection of the world's most influential galleries, representing the world's best artists of the moment, all under one roof. Years of traveling from exhibition to exhibition could not afford you this same opportunity that is carefully designed and presented to you on a golden platter, complete with champagne carts circulating the fair.
At Basel Miami you will find each and every contemporary blue chip artist that you can name. Their works have popped off the pages the top art magazines and museum catalogues and have come out to awe you with their tactile presence. Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin, Marina Abramavich, Cindy Sherman, Ai Wei Wei...they are all here, some of them, even in the flesh. For those who want to delve deeper into the current threads in contemporary art, Art Basel curates a series of panel discussions with leading artists, critics other industry experts.
While there is a sense of comfort with the familiarity of seeing the work of acclaimed artists, the greatest experience, in my opinion, is to discover the work of artists whom I have not yet encountered before. With row upon row of bright colours and iconic, eye-catching styles, if one caves to the temptation, or races through the aisles with the attention span of an ADD kid in a candy shop, you are bound to miss something great. As an artist it is a sad realization to see the majority of works receive little more than 2 seconds to capture each viewers attention before they are on to the next. If you take the time to lend yourself to the work, explore the imagery, read the titles and explore the details, you will often be pleasantly surprised. If you only visit the artists with whose work you are already familiar with, you will learn nothing from the experience. The most enriching experiences will be found where you least expect them.
Admittedly, it is tough spending the day inside a windowless convention centre, no matter how fantastic the art. All sense of time is lost as we wonder why our feet hurt and our stomachs are growling. To hold our attention for as long as possible, creatively designed rest spots and over-priced nourishment are available. Eventually fatigue sets in and even a $20 glass of champagne can no longer hold my attention as we begin to clamor for a breath of outside life.
Rest assured, your appetite for art will not be left unfilled by your desire for fresh air and sunshine. The nearby Bass Museum collaborates with Art Basel to hosts an outdoor sculpture garden. The site specific and public art installations are free for all to enjoy and engage with. Each year a selection of about a dozen artists are curated by Art Basel's "Public" sector. Weary collectors take a break in the cool shade of a palm tree while resting on the furniture of Thomas Houseago's outdoor living room. Children cool off in Jeppe Hein's installation where walls of water playfully appear and disappear, intermittently enclosing and freeing those who enter while Scott Reader's installation ironically calls out the elephant in the metaphorical room. While the work is different each year, Collins Park remains as one of my favourite Basel Miami destinations.
Don't be afraid to get out of the central area of activity. Wandering Westward will take you into the Art Deco district through miles of small boutique Art Deco style hotels, each painted in vibrant candy-coloured hues with vintage automobiles parked outside popular restaurants. Many of the side fairs temporarily take over these hotels, providing more affordable spaces for younger galleries. Beds and other furnishing are removed, walls are painted, and doors are left open as each room is inhabited by a different gallery. Aqua Art Miami has become one of my favourite examples of this fair model. As DJ's play in the open air motel courtyard, cheap drinks flow into plastic cups, and nude performance artists brush past us, we feel like we are in the midst of a Fellini film set. The work is affordable and the artists approachable. While not every space offers something spectacular, there are definitely pleasant surprises of artists who deserve more recognition. I was delighted to encounter once again, the work of Korean pop artist Mari Kim, whose work I had seen in at "Shine Artists: London" that summer. She was there and we were able to meet to discuss her work.
No experience of Basel Miami is complete without mention of the hotels. I'm not just referring to the hotels and motels that become makeshift fair grounds - I'm referring to the Hotels who are a living work of art in themselves. In recent years a new aesthetic has taken over the world of 5-star hotels - fun has become the new chic! International superstar designers like Paris's Phillipe Starck and Amsterdam's Marcel Wanders bring their uniquely playful styles to South Beach. With a sophisticated fusion of international influences, contemporary art and design these hotels are as glamorous as their guests. At the Mondrian, Basel Miami-goers can continue to chill outdoors under the warm night air in Wanders outdoor living room as they watch the sun rise. Shortly after falling asleep late one night, around 3:30 am we were suddenly awoken by the sound of a woman screaming. As the screaming continued as she were being murdered, hotel guests jumped out of of bed and flocked to their balconies. It was only after the rhythmic screams crescendoed after what felt like an eternity, that we were all able to get back to sleep.
In the mornings as the bustle begins again, tables full of gallery staff congregate with intensity as they plan their sales strategies for the day. Familiar faces begin to appear as my first Americano of the day starts to take affect. To the left a certain highly influential NY dealer has brunch with his wife and baby, to the right, a familiar crazy haired artist frantically waves down his server for the bill. As we leave the breakfast dining room of the Fountainbleau one morning, we recognize the familiar face of Tracey Emin, separated from the press by a velvet rope. We are just in time for the official unveiling of her new work, and of course my professional camera is still upstairs in our room; my I-Phone will have to do. Emin was commissioned by the Fountainbleau Hotel to produce a new neon work, specific to Miami. And for those who find her work, shall we say "out of reach", they have collaborated with her to produce a limited edition of flip flops that leave text-based impressions behind in the sand and a special edition beach towel - a steal at only $100 each. Emin has recently bought a place in Miami and they have returned her love by granting her first solo American museum show at the MOCA NOMI (Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami) in conjunction with Basel Miami 2013.
The Fountainbleau, once a location for a James Bond scene, doesn't just cater to the art market, it supports it. The moment we entered I was impressed with the hotel my partner had chosen. With three grandiose Ai Wei Wei chandeliers hanging from the lobby ceiling and six impressive 4 x 7' James Turrell installations behind the reception and concierge desks, I just had to pause for a lavender, lemon gin and tonic to enjoy them. Other notable artists work found in the hotel include Doug Aitken and John Baldessari. Equally stunning hotels that make up my list of favourites include the Delano by the aforementioned French interior designer Phillipe Starck, and his more recent magnum opus, the SLS, both part of an uber chic hotel group named SBE. Even if you are not staying at any of these hotels, make time to check them out. There is generally a vibrant night life at the back of the building, away from the prying eyes of Collins Ave. The best outdoor lounges, with sophisticated cocktails and cozy cabanas can be enjoyed under the starlight. The SLS boasts a fabulous restaurant and lounge scene in their exquisitely designed hotel.
Plan to get an early start each day if you are going to get through all 20 art fairs. (Not a chance in hell!) As the fairs only run for a period of 4 days, chose a couple per day. If you're up early enough, get some time in to chill by the pool. Trust me, with a perverse amount of choice and content, your will reach your art saturation point long before you've digested each booth in any given fair. To mix it up try the Design District on the mainland for a combination of shopping for Koons tableware or a pair of Maison Martin Margiela hightop sneakers between perusing a couple of different nearby fairs. This past year, in 2013 two of the longer standing fairs, Scope and Untitled, took to the sands of South Beach in massive tents. After all, what's the point of being in South Beach if you never experience the beach itself? There is quality work to be found at the side fairs, and less mediated by the slick marketing and presence of the blue-chip galleries. Artists names are sometimes scrawled on the walls instead of carefully typed on adhesive labels, but it doesn't matter, the focus is on the work. And when you tire of exploring the work, they provide outdoor lounges adjacent to the tent, looking out towards the sea, where you can enjoy a mid-day margarita as the sun sets.
When Basel Miami draws to an end and the exodus of art crowds head to the airport to return to their corresponding international places of residence, there is a sadness in the air. By the next day, their is no longer the familiarity of having "my people" around. No longer is anyone speaking French at the table next to me. Business conventions begin filtering in and we are left alone to enjoy the beach before we say goodbye to South Beach. But, we promise to be back!
- Holly Marie Armishaw (November 26, 2014)
Paris is a major international city that is over 2000 years old. It has seen more art movements than most of us can list and it continues to influence the art world today. When you come to Paris to experience contemporary art, you will discover more than just French artists. Just as at the ‘fin de siècle’ of the 19th century brought great artists from every corner of Europe and North America, Paris maintains the ability to attract top international artists who exhibit in their many prestigious established and cutting-edge venues alike. At every major international art fair, such as those produced by Frieze or Art Basel, Parisian art dealers have a clear and strong presence. Powerhouse dealers from other countries flock to establish a presence in Paris, drawing in big names like London’s Gagosian, NYC’s Marian Goodman and Salzburg’s Thaddaeus Ropac. With three major international art fairs per year – Art Paris, FIAC (Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain), and Paris Photo, with the latter two establishing annual venues in L.A., Paris is a major hub on the European and international art markets.
This June I had the opportunity to visit Paris once again, only this time I brought a dozen art collectors from the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver (CASV) with me. As a Director of the CASV and an avid Francophile, I wanted to share my passion for the contemporary art scene of Paris with a Canadian audience. This tour represents the last 6 months of my life: 5 months of preliminary planning, 15 exceptional hosts, and 5 days of fantastic French contemporary art experiences!
As we know, the traditional modes of presentation for contemporary art have evolved. Although the model of the “white cube’ still has it’s place, particularly in commercial galleries, Paris persistently features innovative and decisively “unfinished” experimental venues for it’s presentations. The Palais de Tokyo brings this hip new aesthetic into it’s 1936 re-purposed building format, perhaps drawing from a similar “unfinished” aesthetic that has been made popular in art works that reveal their own creative process. On the other end of the spectrum Parisians also find contemporary art in places dedicated to history, such as the Chateau Versailles, now a public museum that serves as a reminder of the wealth, opulence and ultimately, the abuse of power of the last great French monarchs before the Revolution. Through an annual program of contemporary art installations, Chateau Versailles has featured exhibitions by artists Jeff Koons, Bernar Venet, Takashi Murakami, Xavier Veilhan and others. We were fortunate to meet and attend a private studio visit with Xavier Veilhan while in Paris as well as with Jean-Michel Othoniel, who is currently working on a permanent installation at Versailles.
One of the most obvious aspects of the contemporary art scene of Paris is it’s extraordinary funding. While the French will quickly remind you of any recent cutbacks, they often don’t realize how good they really have it in comparison to other countries. They are constantly immersed in an environment where art is everywhere to be discovered. You don’t have to have money to enjoy art – it can be seen at above ground metro station entrances, in the metro itself, throughout the parks, installed in major department stores, and just about anywhere you look. Also, most museums offer a monthly “free day”. France is after all “the mother of the arts”. It is no wonder that French citizens are more than willing to support cultural endeavors through public support as well.
One of the highlights of our tour was a day trip to nearby Reims to see the innovative installation of the FRAC (Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain) Champagne-Ardenne collection. The Director of the FRAC, Florence Derieux, has collaborated with Vranken Pommery, who has allowed her to create an extensive intervention on the estate integrating the collection into the vast network of underground Gallo-Roman chalk caves where the champagne is aged. This exhibition celebrates the 30th anniversary of the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne. The FRAC Director, with the cooperation of Madame Pommery, hosted the CASV for a very memorable private tour and champagne tasting.
Aside from government support, there exist a number of foundations that also offer support for the arts; they are often created and funded by globally renowned French luxury designer brands, liquor distributors and other corporations. In the five-day intensive tour that we had in Paris, we were only able to scratch the surface of their existence. We were graciously invited by the Directors for private tours at both the Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, which is currently celebrating their 30th Anniversary, and behind the scenes at L’Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton. This fall will witness the opening of the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris’ Bois-de-Boulogne, built by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and funded by the French luxury brand LVMH.
One of the most impressive aspects of French support for contemporary art is through their collaborations with fashion. Artists like Jean Pierre Raynaud and Jean-Michel Othoniel, both of whose studios we had the opportunity for private visits at, have received commissions or done collaborations with world-renowned fashion designers. The first time that I encountered the sculptural work of Othoniel was in the window of an Yves Saint Laurent boutique in SoHo, NYC, circa 2000. Jean Pierre Raynaud’s most famous work, La Maison, has been the setting for important fashion photo shoots. Even though La Maison has been destroyed, he recently collaborated with French fashion design duo Piece d’Anarchive in a large-scale collaborative installation at the Palais de Tokyo where he filled 64 stainless steel buckets with the demolished remains of La Maison. And of course, Louis Vuitton has famously collaborated with contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami for a product line, and more recently, with Yayoi Kusama. The fusion of art with design serves to make it a bit more fashionable, potentially bringing in a younger wave of art collectors.
So what about the work itself? What defines French art today? With such a great diversity of artists working in different directions, there is no easy answer.. However, I will say this – installation is king! With sculpture a close second, the two are often inseparable. Visual art is no longer the stand-alone snob of the arts; collaborations are prolific, merging indiscriminately with musicians, fashion designers, and just about any other creative genre. Following a studio visit with French artist Xavier Veilhan, he invited us to attend a concert being held in the installation "On/Off" that he had created at the popular Galeries Lafayette department store in their dedicated exhibition space, Galeries des Galeries, re-creating the space using old make-up kiosks with the brand names removed. When the space was "On" it was packed with performers and their audiences and at "Off" times, the space could be explored in more subdued, intimate manner.
With such a great myriad of cultural diversity, is there anything missing? As I neared completion of my itinerary for the contemporary art tour of Paris, I gradually became aware that there was a notable absence of women artists featured in my program. After reaching out to dozens of private art foundations, top gallerists, collectors, and art patrons, none of them had offered me anything that featured women artists. Adamant that this was not the image of Paris that I wanted to portray, I scoured the websites of my contacts again. Shortly afterwards, I received word from the Director of L’Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton that we were invited to visit their space and that the new artist in residence, Andrea Bowers, a feminist artist from L.A., would be arriving just prior to our tour. Unfortunately, as she had just begun her residency, there was not yet any of her works to be seen when we toured the space.
One of my favorite gallerists, Emmanuel Perrotin, was scheduled to have an exhibit up during our stay in Paris that peaked my interest. To offer a bit of background, Emmanuel Perrotin has become somewhat of an art world celebrity in his own right. It is he who launched the very successful career of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Perrotin also represents a stable of other internationally acclaimed artists, such as Maurizio Cattelan, who covered the façade of the central pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale in taxidermied pigeons. Both artists represent an aesthetic of playfulness that make it unsurprising that Perrotin once had a gallery in Miami, host city of the annual Art Basel Miami Beach fair that draws blue chip art collectors, celebrities and art world glitterati to a place where “fun” is the new chic. It was in Miami that Perrotin met pop music star, Pharrell Williams, an avid art collector, and the guest curator of the current show “GIRL” in the Perrotin’s Paris, Salle de Bal location.
The title of the show “GIRL” gave me new hope in discovering new talents in contemporary French female artists. Sidelining the feminist interpretation in my head over the derogatory nature of the term “girl” being used when referring to grown women, I scheduled a private tour of the exhibit for the CASV. The exhibit contained token works by famed female artists Marina Abramovich, Tracey Emin, Sophie Calle, Yoko Ono and Cindy Sherman. However, out of the 37 artists exhibited in the show, only 18 were women. The others were men who paid homage to their vision of women, or evidently, homage to Pharrell Williams. I counted 7 works created for or based on the curator, Pharrell Williams. While I am of the belief that a curator should never steal the show from the artists they are exhibiting, Emmanuel Perrotin has been in this business a lot longer than I have. He knows first and foremost that art is business, and secondly, that the cult of celebrity is big business. Coming to Paris with a great respect for Perrotin and the lengths that he has gone to support his artists, I left with a somewhat jaded perspective. But, at the end of the day, if his modus operandi gets more media attention for his artists, should it be criticized? And, how can one begin to criticize a dealer who welcomes the critique of himself by the artists he shows. (see bottom right) The Guerilla Girls message proves to be as relevant today as it was when I first learned of their work during art school back in the 90’s.
As my contemporary art tour of Paris with the CASV concluded, I left somewhat disheartened. The older I get the more I become aware of that as a women, I am not equal, and we still have a long ways to go. Following Paris, my French vacation took me to the Cote d’Azure and Provence, where museums and exhibits dedicated to the “heroic” male artists who had once lived there, were prolific – Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Miro (at the Foundation Maeght) Van Gogh, Cezanne, and in Monaco, Gilbert and George. Reluctant to criticize France, I had to ask myself – are we in Canada any better? After all, who comes to mind when we think of Vancouver's most internationally acclaimed artists?
As I unpacked my suitcase upon my arrival back in Vancouver, I took out a stack of catalogues that had been given to me along the way. I sat down with a coffee to read the first one – a catalogue of the 2013 Prix Marcel Duchamp/Duchamp Prize nominees. The Duchamp Prize is a great honour to receive in France, the equivalent to the Turner Prize in the U.K. One of the most exceptional hosts that I’d had the honour of working on this tour with, Gilles Fuchs, is one of the founders of ADIAF, who created the Duchamp Prize. As one of the initiators and key patrons of the Prize, Fuchs is also on the jury. I knew the 2013 winner to be Latifa Echakch, but to my delight, she was one of 3 women who were nominated for the Prix Marcel Duchamp, out of 4 last year! Gilles Fuchs had been one of our favourite hosts with his warm personality, exceptional generosity, many well-established connections and dedication to contemporary art. So although women may not have equality in the arts yet, perhaps there is hope.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is one of the world’s most renowned photographic artists. He is masterful both in the technical precision of his works and in concept. He is best known for his long-duration exposures, such as those that are created in grandiose theater settings, opening his shutter for the entire duration of a film, which results in a beautifully detailed setting with a pure ray of light emitting from the screen. Using a similar technique, he has also created a series of seascapes; the duration of the exposure cancels out any and all details of the waves, photographically annihilating any potential life form from the image. The result is a minimalist composition with a clean horizon line, separating ocean from sky. It is with one of these seascapes that our journey into Sugimoto’s solo exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo begins.
Upon entering the subterranean space of Paris’ iconic contemporary art institution, it is immediately evident that this is not a typical photography exhibit. In fact, photographs play a minimal role in this wholly immersive environment. We find ourselves taking on the role of archeologists in the post-apocalyptic realm that Hiroshi Sugimoto has created. The exhibition area is lit only by the natural light emitting from the skylights. On evenings when the gallery is open late, visitors are given flashlights with which to explore the exhibit, further engaging their senses and imagination in this mysterious realm, as it would be if one were to find themselves suddenly with no electricity available. I hesitate to use the word “exhibit” for this immersive environment as it is so far from the traditional formal use of the word when used in reference to art. However, many of its elements include artifacts from Sugimoto’s personal collection, indeed placed “on exhibit” for us to find in the wake of the apocalypse. Sugimoto invites us to imagine ourselves in this situation and has left clues for us to discover to piece together the story of “what happened”. Survival aids can be found around the space, including a bottle of preserved air. Amidst the ruins we find hand-written letters left behind from various individuals who relayed their final thoughts on the day that the world ended.
At the end of the world as we know it, chaos reigns supreme. The natural world clearly has us at its mercy. For a moment, Sugimoto returns to his role as photographer, with his “Lightening Field” photographs, exposed through electromagnetic waves one of them is aptly placed behind a figure of the God of Thunder, further alluding to the idea that the human race has been metaphorically and perhaps literally ‘struck down’.
Throughout the exhibition environment, many explanations can be found for the state in which we find ourselves: a meteor which has crashed through the skylight and continued it’s course blasting a hole in the gallery floor to reveal a hidden cavern; empty beehives; relics of war and most disturbingly, a "Japanese Hunting License" proclaiming open-season on the Japanese people. Where did we go wrong? Fossils of giant insects raise the question if they will once again rule the world when we are gone. Most riveting though are the evidences of how the last survivors tried to cope. Tiny vials containing supposed human DNA are hidden throughout the space, in hopes that the human race can be re-activated again in the future by any survivors. The impacts at the end are substantial, sex plays a key role in our survival; hermaphrodite bodies can be found strapped down, with gas masks or other respiratory aids.
Others have accepted their tragic fates and have done the only thing they can think do – spend their last evening on earth drinking with friends. In case we don’t get the reference, Sugimoto has provided a panorama of images depicting “The Last Supper” - their photographic emulsions damaged by contact with liquid. A long table can be found strewn with empty bottles. At closer scrutiny we come across an important clue, a vintage date on a bottle of wine marked year “0028”.
In a post-apocalyptic world all currency systems are affected and the art world is no exception. Art no longer holds the values we have ascribed to it. What was once considered a priceless pop art object now holds more value as a last meal.
As we near the end of the exhibition we are left feeling lost, confused, alone and solemn. We have been hit hard in the gut through the confrontation of our own demise as we think about returning to the surface and emerging out into the city again to face the daily media blasts of the most recent and recurrent threats to global security.
Hiroshi Sugimoto was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1948. This fact becomes relevant when we consider that he was born just 3 years after the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Growing up in a post-nuclear society would certainly give one cause to consider the looming threat of human extinction.
As we near the end of the exhibition we approach one last object, placed on a plinth in the centre of the final stretch. The position in which it has been displayed indicates that this is a very important element. It is a small sculpture of stacked crystal prisms. As the clouds are clearing overhead and the sun begins to emerge through the skylights, a beam of light hits the prism releasing a small rainbow of colour, a symbol of hope. (Not only is light necessary for sustaining life, but is it also an essential element in the photographic process.) As we view the mid-sphere the centre splits into two visual fields, separated by a clear horizon line; no details, just earth and sky. All details have been obliterated, as they might be in the event of a nuclear disaster, just as they were in the first piece in the exhibit. In this we find a new beginning. As we follow the final corridor of the space, we find ourselves back at the beginning of the exhibit, where we first saw Sugimoto’s “Seascape” and the journey begins again.
Although this exhibition was something of a surprise, Hiroshi Sugimoto has kept true to his most definitive themes: an encapsulation of time and the cyclical nature of death and re-birth. This impressive exhibition comes full circle, though an experience that has the familiarity of a great film or film. We leave our journey in awe of its profundity.
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s exhibit “Aujourd’hui, le monde est mort [Lost Human Genetic Archive]” ran until September 7th, 2014 at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
The CASV is honored to have been taken under the wing of esteemed art collector, Gilles Fuchs. As President of ADIAF (The Association for the International Diffusion of French Art), Mr. Fuchs has generously extended his support for contemporary artists, and French artists in particular, by founding the acclaimed Prix Marcel Duchamp, France’s answer to the U.K.’s Turner Prize. Each year four nominees compete for the Prize, showing together at FIAC in front of an international audience, culminating with a single winner being chosen from a jury of notable figures in the art world, including Fuchs himself. The winner goes on to a solo exhibit by a major French art institution, the Centre Pompidou and receives a sizable financial endowment.
In the main room is a piece by critically acclaimed French artist Christian Boltanksi, who represented France in the 2011 Venice Biennale. What first appears to be a coffee table, at closer inspection is a vitrine of curious archived objects and mementos, one of his “Vitrine of Reference” works. As is typical of Boltanski’s unique style, an air of tragedy is evoked in this work. His photo-installations often recall the horrific tragedy of the Holocaust, a personal reminder of his Jewish father and a global reminder of the scars incurred by many countries. Christian Boltanski’s poignant voice still resounds strongly today as one of France’s best artists.
A collector’s true commitment to their passion for art is often seen in a site-specific installation in one’s home; in this case, a dining room designed by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren. Integrating his bold black and white lines, Buren’s work pairs perfectly with the signature grids of his French contemporary, Jean Pierre Reynaud. Once a part of “La Maison” in la Celle Saint Cloud, a project in the mid-70’d where Reynaud covered an entire house in his signature black and white tiles and later destroyed it because it was “too beautiful”, some of the remnants are now in the private collection of Mr. Fuchs. Beautifully curated, Fuchs dining room seamlessly integrates the works of Buren and Reynaud while complimented by the more obvious, yet also gridded work of Gilbert and George’s “Crazed Growth”.
Holly Marie Armishaw
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Holly Marie Armishaw is a contemporary artist, art writer, francophile, and world traveler. Through rigorous exploration of inspiration from international sources of art and culture, she infuses her insights with a critical eye as she discusses global trends. Both her art and writing are informed by attending a continuous array of art exhibitions, lectures, fairs and biennales, both at home and abroad.