By: Ozana Plemenitash

In the world of museum giants, inexhaustible lists of galleries, and raved-about art fairs, art foundations are often hidden gems that not only offer visitors the experience of viewing art and learning more about it, but also actively engage with their community, supporting contemporary artists or preserving the legacy of an individual. While other art institutions or businesses have commercial or collection-building interests, art foundations typically focus more on the development and backing of artists themselves. Here are some of the most reputable and successful art foundations found in Paris.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton, © Iwan Baan / Fondation Louis Vuitton,

Fondation Louis Vuitton, © Iwan Baan / Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Since recently opening in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton has made quite a name for itself in Paris by rising to the top of the city’s cultural ranks. Located just west of the city center, at the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the larger Bois de Boulogne, the foundation is housed within a unique structure designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry. A visit here is worth it just to admire the dazzling building, which has been called “the iceberg” and described as a “glass cloud.” Personally, I had the impression of walking up to a futuristic pirate ship stranded in a lush forest.  

Fondation Louis Vuitton was born out of the ambition of the LVMH group to continue with their dedication to support art, culture, and heritage by placing strong roots in western Paris. With just about 4,000 sq.m. of exhibition space, FLV holds a permanent collection of 20th and 21st-century works (150 pieces by 71 artists) and puts on impressive museum-grade temporary exhibitions as well as site-specific installations. In its three years of existence, it has exhibited many of the masters of Modern Art, with landmark exhibitions such as Keys to a Passion and Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection, as well as displays of Chinese and most recently African art. The foundation also organizes a series of events ranging from dance and music performances to talks and activities for students and children.

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain

Jean Nouvel, Bâtiment de la Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, boulevard Raspail, Paris, 1994 © Jean Nouvel / Adagp, Paris, 2011. Photo © Luc Boegly.

Jean Nouvel, Bâtiment de la Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, boulevard Raspail, Paris, 1994
© Jean Nouvel / Adagp, Paris, 2011. Photo © Luc Boegly.

Situated in an industrial-style, entirely transparent glass building by Jean Nouvel, both reflecting its environment and blending with it, the Fondation Cartier has been promoting contemporary art for more than 30 years. Since its opening, the foundation has aimed to stimulate creativity and discovery by revealing young artists to the public and regularly commissioning works for temporary exhibitions or for its own permanent collection, which includes over 1,400 works from 300 artists worldwide.

Fondation Cartier engages in all mediums and forms of artistic expression, from design to photography, from painting to video, and from fashion to performance art. Another unique aspect of their programming, entitled “Nomadic Nights,” places an emphasis on the various forms of performance art including dance, music, film, theater, conferences, installations, and spoken word. After exploring this large variety of activities, visitors can relax in the foundation’s “wild” but carefully curated garden, which mixes diverse flora, art installations, and local cultural heritage dating back to the 18th century.

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2004 © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos Courtesy Fondation HCB.

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2004 © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos Courtesy Fondation HCB.

Opened in 2003, just a year before the death of the iconic photographer, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson was established to preserve the legacy and complete works of Cartier-Bresson and his wife, Martine Franck. It houses various rare publications, vintage prints, and documents assembled from their lives, and it is regarded today as one of Paris’s central locations for photography: it is a space for education, discussion, and admiration for the photographic medium, as well as a resource and support for contemporary photographers. The foundation also sponsors the Henri-Cartier Bresson Prix, awarded every two years.

Perhaps the most aesthetically modest foundation on this list -white washed interior and all-, but certainly an important cultural gem of the city. It is located along a quiet residential street in an atelier dating back to 1912, where Cartier-Bresson’s famous “The Decisive Moment” (1952) has found a home and where all may come to discover the joy of photography.

Fondation d’entreprise Ricard

Fondation d’entreprise Ricard © Aurélien Mole / Fondation d’entreprise Ricard.

Fondation d’entreprise Ricard © Aurélien Mole / Fondation d’entreprise Ricard.

The Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, created in 2006, is much smaller than the other foundations on this list; but what it lacks in size and imposing architecture, it makes up for in its rich programme and involvement in the French art community. Situated right off of the Place de la Concorde, it runs very much like any typical contemporary art gallery, with five to six exhibitions a year and free admission. The foundation is dedicated uniquely to the young French art scene, supporting its emergence and promoting its awareness abroad.

In partnership with the reputable contemporary art fair, FIAC, the two organizations have created the program Young Curators Invitational (YCI), where young curators from around the world are invited to participate in the fair by meeting with artists, collectors, gallery representatives, and other critics to discuss the French art scene and other issues in the art world. Additionally, since 1999 Le Prix Ricard has been annually awarded to an emerging artist working or living in France. The winner receives a purchase of one of their works, the chance to exhibit in the Centre Pompidou, and support in producing a personal project abroad.

So whether you are interested in discovering the fresh talent in the French art scene, are yourself an artist or an art professional looking for resources, or want to attend one of the many monthly performances, conferences, or affiliated programs, there is certainly something to be found at the hyper-active Fondation d’entreprise Ricard.

Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent

Fondation Yves Saint Laurent. Facade 5 avenue Marceau, Paris © Sacha / Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.

Fondation Yves Saint Laurent. Facade 5 avenue Marceau, Paris © Sacha / Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.

What would a list of Parisian art and culture be without some fashion? Housed in a traditional Parisian hôtel particulier dating from the Second Empire, at 5 avenue Marceau (just across the street and around the block from the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris), the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent preserves the legacy of the iconic couturier Yves Saint Laurent. The foundation, whose galleries opened in 2004, occupies the same space that the YSL Haute Couture house operated in from 1974 to its closure in 2002. Its mission is to preserve the 5,000 garments, 15,000 accessories, photographs, sketches, and archives that bear witness to the YSL Haute Couture creative history. The foundation also puts on exhibitions of photography, drawings, paintings, and items from their fashion collection. It also owns and manages the Jardin Majorelle and Berber Museum in Marrakech, Morocco.

The foundation is currently closed for renovations in preparation for the opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent on October 3, 2017. This new museum will be dedicated to the life and works of YSL, showing across 450 sq.m. about 50 rotating models with items from the permanent collection as well as providing access to the salons and studio where YSL himself worked. From those who consider Vogue to be their Bible to those who more simply take an interest in design and fashion, this is a place to keep your eye on as October comes around!

Okay, there’s a lot of red… some nice white strokes, a hint of yellow, and… now they’ve all blended into orange and pink dripping endlessly down the canvas. And then there’s the black lines and swirls. Are they supposed to be scratches? What’s written in that corner? It’s all so big, I can’t quite make out the top…

I’m not sure I know what I’m looking at but, I can feel it. And that’s what makes the works of American artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) so significant. His energy can be as subtle as the breath of a mark on a cream-colored canvas, or as animated as the manic blood red loops of Bacchus (2005). No matter the intensity of his energy, one element remains coherent —the unpredictability of where his emotions will take him.

The Centre Pompidou presents an in-depth retrospective of the artist’s long career, beginning in the 1950s and right up until his death in 2011. The show revolves around three major cycles —Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), and Coronation of Sesostris (2000). The exhibition, organized chronologically, includes some 140 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs featuring well-known works such as Blooming (2001-08), as well as others never previously exhibited in France.

Vue de la série Nine Discourses on Commodus, 1963 Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, Bilbao © Cy Twombly Foundation

The journey begins with a step into the bare landscape of cream washes, imperfect whites, and clumsy scribbles. The first gallery encompasses Twombly’s early works from the 1950s. During this period he was still in his hometown of Lexington, Virginia and he also began his travels to Europe and North Africa accompanied by his friend Robert Rauschenberg. Often characterized as graffiti (a label which Twombly rejected), his erratic, aggressive lines fill the entire surface, almost as if someone was trying to claw their way out from behind the canvas.

Moving further into this strange new world we discover Twombly’s life-long muse —the Mediterranean. The artist was fascinated by it since his first visits to Rome in the ’50s, and this fascination intensified during the periods that he lived in Italy. The iconography, metaphors, and myths of ancient civilizations left a strong mark on his works. From Egyptians to Greeks, Romans, and Persians, Twombly acts as an archaeologist, layering references from the classical past while drawing connections to contemporary figures and painting practices such as abstraction and minimalism.

‘Coronation of Sesostris, Part VI’, 2000. Acrylique, bâton de peinture, crayon à la cire, mine de plomb sur toile Pinault Collection © Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection.

The subject matter of Twombly’s oeuvre suggests a vast literary knowledge and a deep understanding of the human psyche. He reinvigorates the ancient myths and histories of Achilles, Eros, Venus, Apollo, Mars, and Commodus with an instinctual understanding of not only their narratives but also their spirits, their dramas and traumas. We can feel the rage of Commodus, the cruel Roman tyrant, as he unleashes terror and chaos in Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963). With each successive canvas the battle between white (innocence and victims) and red (power and oppression) grows more aggressive. Textured paint is thrown back and forth until at last a fresh reddish-orange glistens with victory.

Perhaps the most intriguing and complex element of Twombly’s artistic approach is his use of language. He creates visual poetry by merging the principles of abstract expressionism and the lyricism of words. Coming off as difficult and rather unclear, his script is largely incomprehensible. A mishmash of singular words or illegible phrases float throughout his compositions neglecting any true syntax or logic. The words are activated and energized by the dynamic forms, expressive lines, and bold colors that accompany them. The ten-part series Coronation of Sesostris (2000) perfectly demonstrates how Twombly blends language and image so that each complements and fulfills the other. Referencing Egyptian sun god Ra,  Egyptian king Sesostris I, ancient Greek poets Sappho and Alcman, and contemporary poet Patricia Waters, the series shows the artist’s unrelenting dedication to narrative and ancient civilizations.

Twombly is a modern poet. His work can most easily be understood as an emotional and intellectual reaction to an understanding of the past, expressed through the language of color, form, and writing. It possesses an archaic energy that surpasses traditional and one-dimensional representations of history and instead strives to express a universal essence. His work is as sensual and sensitive as it is intellectual and independent. Cy Twombly, a true maverick, interpreting humanity across time and space.

“Cy Twombly” is on view at the Centre Pompidou until April 24, 2017.

It’s no secret that the Latin American art scene has exploded over the past couple of years. Auction houses, galleries, and even museums have tagged along this trend and have finally begun giving these artists the recognition they deserve. However, for those not deeply invested in the ebb and flow of the art world, the current 2016 summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro are a perfect time to familiarize oneself with some of the top contemporary artists of Brazil, a country rich in cultural and visual history. Here are a few of my favorites.

Beatriz Milhazes

Beatriz Milhazes, Bye, bye, love, 2011-2012. Acrylic on canvas.

Beatriz Milhazes, Bye, bye, love, 2011-2012. Acrylic on canvas.

Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960) finds her inspiration in nature and its many, ever-changing forms. Her work is characterized by a vibrant palette, floral motifs, and organic patterns that resemble mandalas. Her recurring arabesques also hold a foundation in Brazilian culture—carnival decorations, Baroque colonial architecture, and popular music. The process of creation is rather laborious and structured —she paints her motifs first on a sheet of clear plastic, which she then applies to canvas to dry. The result is a rhythmic flattened surface, with shadows of color and forms where the color was not completely transferred. Her work has been used worldwide in outdoor spaces, for interior decoration, in stained glass, and for dance productions.

Rodrigo Mogiz

Rodrigo Mogiz, Between My Charming, 2010. Embroidery and Painting, Stabilizer. Courtesy of Fabio Pena Cal Galeria de Arte.

Rodrigo Mogiz, Between My Charming, 2010. Embroidery and Painting, Stabilizer. Courtesy of Fabio Pena Cal Galeria de Arte.

Rodrigo Mogiz (b. 1978) creates dream-like compositions where figures outlined in colorful strings float in an empty, white space. He appropriates images from magazines to explore themes of sexuality, gender, and expression, and to highlight the base superficiality of social media outlets and how audiences merely absorb aesthetics. These fantastical works fall somewhere between painting and embroidery (also using application beads, lace, and pins), poetically fusing the two mediums while simultaneously manifesting each of their unique characteristics. Mogiz has been exhibiting since 2000 and is based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz, 'The Birth of Venus, After Botticelli (Pictures of Junk)', 2008. Digital C-Print. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Art (c) Vik Muniz and licensed by VAGA, New York.

Vik Muniz, ‘The Birth of Venus, After Botticelli (Pictures of Junk)’, 2008. Digital C-Print. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Art (c) Vik Muniz and licensed by VAGA, New York.

Vik Muniz (b. 1961), an international sensation, is best known for producing imagery within the nexus of mixed media. Using a diverse range of everyday materials (from trash to diamonds to sugar to dirt) paired with elements from popular culture, Muniz excels in a layered appropriation of canonical artworks. His practice involves arranging his materials into a dense collage and then photographing it. He has recreated works by Leonardo, Dürer, Courbet, Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Malevich, Hiroshige, Warhol, Weegee —to name a few. What appears as a familiar image from afar, turns into a wondrous exploration of a myriad of minute details up-close.

Ernesto Neto

Installation shot of Life is a Body We are Part of in the 2014 exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao entitled The Body That Carries Me. © Ernesto Neto and Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

Installation shot of Life is a Body We are Part of in the 2014 exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao entitled The Body That Carries Me. © Ernesto Neto and Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

Ernesto Neto (b. 1964) is a highly influential figure in the contemporary Brazilian art scene. His work falls within the categories of sculpture and installation, but is not limited to their parameters. Sensuous environments made of organically abstract forms are his trademark. His materials include soft, stretchy fabrics in different colors that he fills with items like coffee beans, spices, or Styrofoam. Interested in sensuality, corporality, and reflection, Neto strives to present conditions where the human body becomes aware of itself in relation to the space around it. Visitors enter his playful worlds and physically react to the immersive habitats. They may feel, smell, look, and share their experiences with those around them.

OSGEMEOS

2015 independent project with artist Doze Green, made as a tribute to ‘80s Hip-Hop scene. Located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 1st Street in the East Village, New York City.

2015 independent project with artist Doze Green, made as a tribute to ‘80s Hip-Hop scene. Located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 1st Street in the East Village, New York City.

OSGEMEOS (b. 1974), Portuguese for “the twins,” is the name of the street art duo created by brothers Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo. Working together since they were children, the two share a magically impenetrable bond that has helped them shape a unique visual language that has transcended from the streets and into galleries, auction houses, and even museums. Their work is easily recognizable by its whimsical yellow figures with tubular torsos, gangly limbs, small spaced-out almond eyes, and thin-lipped mouths. These playful characters are inspired by graffiti, hip-hop, and break-dancing culture, and often incorporate social or political referents relevant to each particular geographic location. The brothers have projects all over the world—so keep your eyes peeled, you never know when you’ll round the corner and find yourself face to face with OSGEMEOS.

Alice Quaresma

Alice Quaresma, Ninho 61 (Nest 61), 2016. Color pencil and sticker over photographic print. © 2016 Alice Quaresma Rodriguez.

Alice Quaresma, Ninho 61 (Nest 61), 2016. Color pencil and sticker over photographic print. © 2016 Alice Quaresma Rodriguez.

Alice Quaresma (b. 1985) is a native of Rio de Janeiro and currently lives in New York City. Her practice involves photography and mixed media and explores issues of identity, displacement, and memory. Referring to her works as “photo-objects,” Quaresma superimposes drawings and geometric shapes over flat photo paper to push the boundaries of the photographic medium by incorporating elements of texture and volume. Her faded, dreamlike compositions evoke the subtleties and inexplicable phenomena of the emotional and psychological connection we feel to the places we experience.

“I find inspiration every time I feel physically disconnected from the place where I am.”
—Alice Quaresma, March 2016 interview with
Artspace.

Adriana Varejão

Adriana Varejão’s treatment for the aquatics center built for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of the artist.

Adriana Varejão’s treatment for the aquatics center built for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of the artist.

Adriana Varejão (b. 1964) primarily focuses her practice on ceramics tiles, either appropriating their history and function to reveal a darker, underlying meaning, or using their formal qualities to produce new visual effects. Throughout her career she has explored themes such as colonialism, racism, subjugation, and cultural formation through violence. Her work has often oscillated between the grotesque and the delicately beautiful. Varejão was chosen to decorate the Olympic Aquatics Center in the 2016 Rio games. Her 2004-08 work, Celacanto Provoca Maremoto (“the Coelacanth Causes a Seaquake”), made of blue-and-white tiles, was restructured, blown-up, and printed on canvas to adorn the exterior of the stadium. The work’s obvious aquatic aesthetics seem to be a perfect fit for the center’s function. However, references to Portugal’s colonization of Brazil through azulejo-inspired tiles and Baroque imagery subtly keep the country’s dark history afloat.

“Danny Lyon: Message to the Future,” the photographer’s most comprehensive retrospective is currently on view at The Whitney Museum of American Art. The show boasts an impressive 175 photographs and films as well as rarely exhibited archives and personal documents. It is divided thematically exhibiting Lyon’s most well known bodies of work, and roughly chronologically traces the start of his career in 1962 all the way to Lyon’s work in the present day. The exhibition is divided into seven sections: Civil Rights, The Bikeriders, The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, Prisons, New Mexico and the West, Films and Montages, and Ongoing Activism. From the titles alone Lyon’s broad range of interest in social issues and concern for the marginalized and disenfranchised is made apparent. His work represents a nonconventional and intimate approach where Lyon immerses himself in his subject’s world, gaining an insider perspective that moves beyond mere observation and into a wholehearted and genuine interest. 

Danny Lyon, “Arrest of Taylor Washington, Atlanta”, 1963. Vintage gelatin silver print. 24 x 16 cm (9 7/16 x 6 ¼ in.); Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Danny Lyon, “Arrest of Taylor Washington, Atlanta”, 1963. Vintage gelatin silver print. 24 x 16 cm (9 7/16 x 6 ¼ in.); Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

“You put a camera in my hand, I want to get close to people. Not just physically close, emotionally close, all of it.” –Danny Lyon, The Whitney Museum of American Art

Lyon began his career in 1962 when he began working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as their first official photographer, documenting the civil rights movement in the South. He captured sit-ins, demonstrations, marches, funerals, and the general turbulent and violent atmosphere of the period. His photographs were used in brochures, posters, and fundraising campaigns, many of which portrayed the brutal force of the police academy, questioning their position and responsibilities to civilians. One 1962 SNCC poster of a [white] officer, arms crossed, reads “Is He Protecting You?” It is highly unsettling to see just how many of these images seem so familiar and resonate in American culture today.

Danny Lyon, "Leslie, Downtown Knoxville," 1967. Vintage gelatin silver print. 28.7 x 19.1 cm (11 1/4 x 7 1/2 in.). Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mr. Danny Lyon. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Danny Lyon, “Leslie, Downtown Knoxville,” 1967. Vintage gelatin silver print. 28.7 x 19.1 cm (11 1/4 x 7 1/2 in.). Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mr. Danny Lyon. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Turning the corner we are met with cool, hard faced bikers in leather jackets with matching “Chicago Outlaws” insignia. This selection is based off of Lyon’s time spent riding with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club in the late 1960s. Romanticized shots of the Outlaws on the road, such as Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville (1966) and Route 12, Wisconsin (1963) indulge us in the liberating freedom such groups enjoyed, while in several close up portraits we have a rarely seen, tamer version of the bikers—surrounded by their families, girlfriends, and wives. The rebellious nature of the bikers, matched with their unapologetic pursuit of freedom attracted the photographer to the group. After spending more time with them and gaining their confidence, Lyon began recording the group speaking candidly and conducted informal yet highly personal interviews. The photographic documentation and edited transcripts would become his famous book, “The Bikers,” published in 1967.

In his extensive body of work, Prisons, encompassing photographs, interviews, recordings, and film, Lyon chronicled life behind bars. With the help of Dr. George Beto, then director of prisons within the Texas Department of Corrections, Lyon gained access over a fourteen-month period to move freely inside prison complexes and to follow prisoners around on their daily activities. We see personal belongings like photographs and calendars, games of checkers, labor time on the fields, shakedowns, security pat-downs, and officers on guard. These images are as serious and somber as they are filled with humanity and understanding of these men and their situations. The resulting photographs, film footage, and other archival documents would become the book “Conversations with the Dead” published in 1971.

Danny Lyon, "Shakedown at Ellis Unit, Texas," 1968. Vintage gelatin silver print. 21.6 x 31.3 cm (8 1/2 x 12 1/4 in.). Museum of Modern Art. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Danny Lyon, “Shakedown at Ellis Unit, Texas,” 1968. Vintage gelatin silver print. 21.6 x 31.3 cm (8 1/2 x 12 1/4 in.). Museum of Modern Art. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

“[I wanted to] make a picture of imprisonment as distressing as I knew it to be in reality.” –Danny Lyon, The Whitney Museum of American Art

Documentation, and truthful documentation, is the end goal throughout Lyon’s photographic practice. His images are transparent, direct, and charged with meaning and message. Each one serves a to bring injustice to the surface with the hope to promote social change. With this approach he has challenged the conventional “sanitized” vision of American life as presented in media, offering up an alternative that portrays the various social histories of America.

From the 1970s and onward he shifted focus as a self-proclaimed “advocacy journalist.” His activist drive took him to various Latin American countries where he captured laborers and street children, undocumented workers crossing the US-Mexico border, and the violent revolution in Haiti. More recently, between 2005-09, he traveled to China to documented communities living in polluted regions.

Danny Lyon, "Haiti," 1987. Gelatin silver prints montage. 58.2 x 58.2 cm (22 7/8 x 22 7/8 in.). Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Danny Lyon, “Haiti,” 1987. Gelatin silver prints montage. 58.2 x 58.2 cm (22 7/8 x 22 7/8 in.). Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Regardless of subject matter, geographic location, or time period, all of Lyon’s images are linked through a common spirit: the photographer’s compassionate character and relentless ambition to be a truth teller. The result is his inherent ability to humanize his subjects while returning the dignity and character that social prejudices and ignorance have stolen from them. These are human beings worthy of a second chance and worthy of a second glance.

A single look at these photographs and we are filled with more understanding and compassion than when we entered, a comprehension that seems as relevant today as it did decades ago. If that’s not the point of art, then I don’t know what is.

Danny Lyon: Message to the Future is on display June 17-September 25, 2016 at The Whitney Museum of American Art.

In a seemingly unstoppable and swift movementgalleries, art dealers, art aficionados, trend-spotters, and urban socialites—are flocking to the Lower East Side to enjoy the charms of the experimental food scene, hip and often quirky bars at every corner, the thriving nightlife, and of course, the ubiquitous art presence. From street art, to endless graffiti tags and random public installations, the art scene is evidently booming especially as many galleries, established and new, make their way downtown to partake in the infinite energy.

Located solidly in the Lower East Side, right next to Two Bridges and a just a few blocks from the East River, Sargent’s Daughters first opened its doors in November 2013 as the joint venture of dealer Allegra LaViola and Meredith Rosen, former director of BravinLee programs in Chelsea.

The East Broadway physical location was converted from LaViola’s eponymous gallery into the current gallery space. In an area mostly dedicated to minimalist, conceptual, and experimental contemporary art, Sargent’s Daughters stands out as a gallery focusing on more traditional mediums such as painting, drawing, and sculpture with the intent to bridge the gap between the historic and classical and more modern contemporary aesthetics. LaViola and Rosen search for innovation within already established mediums, genres, and aesthetic conceptions to prove that the contemporary can have strong ties to the past in interesting and meaningful ways. Quality with a sense of tradition and lineage trump overt flash and quirky trends in this gallery space.

Owner and Director, Meredith Rosen, shares what this joint venture is all about with Art Versed as well as her views on working within the art world.


Installation of Deborah Kass's "America's Most Wanted," on view May 20--June 28, 2015. Courtesy of Sargent's Daughters.

Installation of Deborah Kass’s “America’s Most Wanted,” on view May 20–June 28, 2015. Courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

What is Sargent’s Daughters mission? 

Our interest is in artists whose work combines the qualities of tradition and cutting edge.

In addition to exhibitions by represented gallery artists, Sargent’s Daughters creates collaborations as a platform for exploring new conversations within a wider context of galleries, artists and objects.

What were the motivations behind making the switch in 2013 from working at BravinLee programs in Chelsea to opening Sargent’s Daughters in the Lower East Side with Allegra LaViola? 

I wanted to be able to work with artists and create ambitious exhibitions without the constraints of an existing platform.  My partnership with Allegra had a lot to do with timing and instinct.

As a relatively recent space, was it difficult getting the gallery up on its feet? 

Of course! To do anything well is very hard, but I love the challenge. I think the gallery model is constantly changing so as a dealer you can never get too comfortable.

Everyone seems to be saying that the Lower East Side is turning into the new gallery quarter—what were your reasons for moving into the neighborhood and has the location proved favorable to you?  

We love our location.  It’s a great space, across from a park and right next to the subway.

Installation of Donald Baechler's "Recent Works," on view November 18--December 20, 2015. Courtesy of Sargent's Daughters.

Installation of Donald Baechler’s “Recent Works,” on view November 18–December 20, 2015. Courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

I’ve read in previous interviews that you chose the name “Sargent’s Daughters” in reference to John Singer Sargent, regarding him as a risqué innovator within his time. Can you explain this concept in relation to contemporary art and how it fits into your vision for the gallery?  

We loved that John Singer Sargent was an innovator working in a traditional medium and wanted this statement to represent the context of our growing program.  We exhibit work that has a strong historical lineage by artists who push the limits of contemporary art today – formally through various mediums and intellectually through their choice of content.

What kind of artists, if there even is a specific, are you looking to represent? 

We aren’t interested in a specific kind of work.  We are always interested in work of the highest quality whether it’s something brand new or shedding new light on an artist with an established presence.

Cy Gavin, The Future of Tucker's Point, 2015. Courtesy of Sargent's Daughters.

Cy Gavin, The Future of Tucker’s Point, 2015. Courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

Do you have a favorite from the shows you’ve put on? 

Our last exhibition by Cy Gavin is one of our best exhibitions to date.  I really feel each show gets better and better as we have more experience, reflect on past exhibitions and create a stronger dialogue with gallery artists.

What makes Sargent’s Daughters different from other galleries? 

When we opened most galleries on the LES were interested in building programs with young and emerging artists.   We didn’t open with a roster of artists.  We started putting together the best shows we possibly could with the artists we discovered and established artists that we admire.

Anton van Dalen, Bird Car, 1987. Courtesy of Sargent's Daughters.

Anton van Dalen, Bird Car, 1987. Courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

Do you have any future plans for the gallery that drastically differ from what you are doing now? 

To hopefully grow our program and with the artists we bring to the table.

What are your thoughts on the art market today and the increasing interest and importance of art fairs and biennials?

I think art fairs are very important to build an international audience for wide range of artists.  I find it very interesting to go to an event where I can see so many dealers in action. You can learn so much by example.   

Who is your favorite non-contemporary artist?  

Picasso

What is your favorite museum (world-wide range)? 

Fondation Beyeler – I look forward to seeing their exhibitions every June when in Basel.

Sargent’s Daughters

179 E Broadway, New York, NY 

Harlem-based artist Jordan Casteel is one of the three current artists in-residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her patiently detailed, large-scale figurative paintings instantly demand one’s attention with their dynamic and vibrant swaths of color. Born in Denver, Colorado she received her MFA from Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut in 2014. Just a few months after graduating, Casteel launched herself into the New York City art scene with her first solo exhibition, Visible Man, at Sargent’s Daughters. Just a year later, in 2015, her second solo show, Brothers, opened in the same space.


© Jordan Casteel, Courtesy of the Artist and Sargent's Daughters.

© Jordan Casteel, Courtesy of the Artist and Sargent’s Daughters.

I got the wonderful opportunity to visit her studio in Harlem and see her enchantingly monumental works in person while discussing her motivations behind making art that is at once personal and intimate as well as approachable, speaking to a broad audience.

  1. The Studio Museum in Harlem describes your work as “black masculinity in a domestic space.” Can you explain what drove you to pursue this theme?  

I remember having this very specific reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s trial: I need to start becoming more proactive in making work that directly relates to a conversation I care about and that directly relates to my family members such as my twin, my father, my older brother—the people in my life closest to me. I felt I needed to make a body of work that dealt with the humanity of men in my life, black men specifically, and that would show the vulnerable, sensitive side of them that I would encounter when at home or in intimate personal spaces.

  1. Your first solo show in New York City at Sargent’s Daughters, Visible Man, speaks to this theme. Did it achieve what you wanted it to?

I was super excited to be given this opportunity and equally as excited to see how well-received it was. I felt like people were having the conversations I wanted them to have around those bodies, in that they were talking about humanity as it related to these black men at a time when Michael Brown had just been killed a few days before that show opened. I had been showing these bodies outside of a greater media dialogue and trying to recontextualize them into a more sensitive conversation. People were able to think about it more critically, so yes, I’d say that show went really well.

  1. Why did you choose to paint the men as nude?

The nudes happened initially in an effort to counteract what clothing can do in detracting from understanding the essence of somebody. There can be insignias or stereotypes that people want to project based off of what someone is wearing, which I feel blocks people from understanding who these people are. I was watching a lifetime of men being misunderstood and seen as villains and hyper-sexualized.

  1. And then it seems that not too long after Visible Man you were back at Sargent’s Daughters having your second show Brothers. Can you say what you were looking at differently with this show?

I was really focused on expanding the conversation on black men to becoming one about their relationships with each other. I was thinking about multiple figures—fathers, sons, brothers, and cousins. What does it look like when the space is shared intergenerationally?

  1. Were both of these bodies of work very personal to you?

Definitely. Most of these guys are my friends, family and people I know from Denver. I decided to explore some of the men who had been directly influencing this practice for me in my personal life, and representing them felt important in this time and space. My inspiration almost always directly relates to what I’m around and who I’m around and engaging with.

For me it’s about capturing an essence of people, their souls. One of the first things I paint in every work is the eyes because I do feel that is a very significant and telling part of the person.

© Jordan Casteel, Courtesy of the Artist and Sargent's Daughters.

© Jordan Casteel, Courtesy of the Artist and Sargent’s Daughters.

  1. What does your work process look like?

I am very regimented in the way that I work. I am a 10-6 workday sort of person and oftentimes include weekends in my schedule. The way I make paintings is first I photograph my subjects. After, I come into the studio and create my own palate using color aids, then I begin sketching on the canvas, and slowly fill the rest in. A way for me to keep a sense of immediacy in these paintings, without having a live model, is to allow myself to instantly react to what I see and just let my hand go. There’s a wonkiness to these paintings, in that, I’m not hyper obsessed with fixing minute details or having everything completely anatomically correct. This is also the space where I allow myself to let go. There are moments where painting becomes meditative for me and then other moments when there is more of a freedom and looseness. All of the different elements of the painting manifest where I am mentally and emotionally in certain times and spaces as I make the piece. My commitment is just to see the paintings everyday that I can, to be actively in their presence within this space. They become a direct community for me, especially when they start to pop up and have conversations with each other.

  1. I love your rich color palate; it’s what instantly drew me to your paintings. Is there a specific reason why you work with such vibrant colors, especially in the depiction of your subject’s bodies?  

I’m interested in having a conversation about color and how it relates to black skin. I am thinking about blackness as being multifaceted and how it is often times attributed to different tones and hues. I am interested in what we project onto bodies as it relates to color before we even truly see the person. Color is a fun way for me to have that conversation, and besides I just love color. My mother told me that when I was little girl, I was obsessed with rainbows.

  1. What is this new project you’re working on?

There is an essence of Harlem that I’m trying to capture. It’s a huge shift for me. Prior to this body of work, all my work has been inside the domestic space and this work is moving to exteriors. It’s going back to individuals and so it’s very important for me to try and make connections.  Community is such an integral part of my work, so I’m trying to work on a new set of relations, here, in my community in Harlem. I am shaking people’s hands, I am introducing myself, and taking a moment to get to know who these people are.

  1. Has it been hard finding people to paint and then approaching them?

A lot of these people I’m running into on my walk from the studio to home. It’s taken practice but its not always easy for me. I think there is a certain element, as women in New York, to sort of look down and engage with men in a really particular way—there’s a shutting down that I have embodied somewhat since moving here, which I have to consciously counteract when doing this work. It’s hard but it’s also amazing to see how as soon as you cross that threshold with people just how much they can give back.

  1. Do you have an overarching aim for your work?

As many people that I can touch with these paintings, the better. I want these paintings to be a slow read of somebody. I want them to be carefully understood, respected, valued, and seen. How do you make somebody seen in a world where, in many aspects, they have been invisible for centuries? And as a woman, what does my lens add to that conversation? As a sister, as a daughter, as a friend—how do I begin to show everyone else what I see and have experienced as a black woman to my black brothers? The hope is that these works can cross boundary lines of many facets—the broader an audience the more I will feel that I have achieved a goal.

Casteel’s newest work will be shown at The Studio Museum in Harlem during their Artists-in-Residence exhibition, opening July 14th.

Can’t wait until July to see her work? The museum will be having open studios on April 17th from 1-4pm.

Global/Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran is currently on view at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University’s fine arts museum. As the title suggests, this stunning exhibition brings together six modern and contemporary artists working with their local Persian traditions in Iran as well as internationally, broadening the discourse to current political and social situations. Spanning three generations, the Grey has assembled a critical, thought provoking, and visually breathtaking show that depicts the diverse artistic production stemming from a country whose art is not as accessible to audiences outside of its borders.

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A complex yet culturally rich narrative unfolds as we move through the galleries. The show begins with the pioneering modernists of the 1960s and 1970s, Parviz Tanavoli (b. 1937) and Faramarz Pilaram (1937-1983). It then moves to Chohreh Feyzdjou (1955-1996) working right after the turbulent Iran-Iraq War years (1980-88), and ends with the youngest artists Shiva Ahmadi (b. 1975), Shahpour Pouyan (b.1980), and Barbad Golshiri (b. 1982) working within the 2000s up until today.

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This show is exceptionally rich and compelling as it brings together a broad and genuine portrayal of Iranian culture based in ancient traditions and forms while simultaneously questioning bleaker themes of power, authority, identity, violence, and military aggression that have all been pertinent throughout the country’s history and as well as today. These themes and motifs are handled in such subtle and incredibly clever ways that the resulting affects are illuminating. Through diverse mediums such as painting, ceramics, metalwork, mixed media, photography, assemblage, watercolor, and video these artists manipulate their heritage and history to make intriguing new claims and connections.

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Much of the exhibition is heavy on artistic and curatorial installation that actively engages visitors as they maneuver through the space. The conjoined galleries of Feyzdjou and Golshiri show the dedication and precision in which the exhibit was planned out. Golshiri, who is interested in tombstones and cultures surrounding death, helped arrange the works within his own gallery in order to have it resemble a cemetery plot. Photographs of cemeteries are hung low with a few resting on the floor and leaning against the walls. A stone cenotaph is snuggly fit in a corner while three large rectangular marble slabs are arranged in the middle of the floor. As we walk through these works we arrive at an intimate gallery displaying Feyzdjou’s large-scale installations. 403 scrolls are hung in a grid pattern while rolls, wooden crates, and a large canvas strewn scaffolding resembling an Iranian bazaar display inhabit the rest of the space. These dark, grim objects have been made from reused materials and appropriated works from Feyzdjou’s early art school days. They speak to her quest for identity and represent cycles of destruction and reconstruction.

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My favorite artists within this exhibition are Ahmadi and Pouyan, whose works are ground in fine details and toying with the audience’s initial perceptions. Nothing is quite what it seems with these two. Both employ past traditions through their use of miniatures, most notably from the Shahnama (Book of Kings), an illuminated manuscript detailing various Persian epics. Ahmadi takes these narratives and recasts them into contemporary contexts. Her works are colorful, alluring, playful, and rendered in watercolor, giving them an ethereal softness. Her subject, however, is corruption. Faceless rulers sit upon bleeding thrones while monkeys and other circus animals present candy-shaped offerings, which are in fact bombs and grenades. Pipes, industrial and traditional Iranian architectural forms surround these mythic scenes creating an apocalyptic play land. Ahmadi loves “sugarcoating” images where they appear beautiful from afar but reveal darker narratives when we step closer. These works are as mesmerizing as they are grotesque. Rendered with masterful subtlety yet poignant critique, she is commenting on the military aggression that has been present within Iran since the 1979 revolution as a battle over the country’s natural resources and the civilian traumas faced at the hands of their own governments.

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Pouyan similarly subverts the meaning of the Shahnama epics by taking specific illustrated pages and stripping the scenes of any figurative elements. What we are left with is an eerily empty landscape void of the elite figures that would have been a part of the scene. These small-scale works are fascinating and leave us to ponder on the contexts of power and patronage, and how authority can dictate “what is left unseen” within society.

Another exquisite series from Pouyan is his “Projectiles.” These monumental hanging works invade the gallery space as missile-like structures. Inspired by medieval Persian armor he explores how technology has served power throughout history. These first appear as menacing weapons but upon closer inspection reveal Pouyan’s fine calligraphic ornament. They are sharp and suggest violence but are also aesthetically striking and in fact very beautiful.

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I have come back and seen this show multiple times and with each new visit I have discovered something new. You are set into a sort of trance as you move through the galleries, mesmerized by the ornately fine detailed works and the variety of mediums. The exhibition as a whole is a feast for the eyes as well as a deeply psychological portrayal of Iran’s past. The artists’ consistent referencing to history and Persian heritage allows us to begin to better understand the country’s complex present.

Beautiful and enlightening from all angles, I highly recommend making a visit to NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. Global/Local 1960–2015: Six Artists from Iran is on view until April 2, 2016.

Absolutely breathtaking, powerful, beautiful, visually striking, and so utterly important in today’s milieus of self-representation and socio-cultural movements.

This week I had the greatest pleasure of attending a lecture featuring world-renowned photographer Zanele Muholi at New York University’s Gallatin Galleries. I had stumbled upon about this talk on a poster pinned up inside an academic building while waiting for class to begin. I had studied Muholi in class before and had been instantly captured by her striking images and powerful portrayal of the stories of South African women, specifically black lesbian women. The presentation had been stunning and the talk was beyond illuminating; the event was concurrent with Gallatin’s current show Zanele Muholi: Zinathi.

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Muholi self identifies as a black lesbian and a visual activist.

She was born in 1972 in Umlazi township in Durban, South Africa; she currently lives in Johannesburg. Before her photographic career took off she worked as a human/lesbian rights activist, as a reporter for the LGBTI website Behind the Mask, and co-founded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) as well as Inkanyiso, an organization dedicated to queer visual arts, activism, media, and advocacy.

The lecture began with the presentation of a short film (2013) from the Human Rights Watch with whom Muholi collaborated with. The revealing film explores her work, speaks to the pressing issues surrounding homosexuality in South Africa, and marked the start of the global campaign—16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

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Working almost exclusively in black and white film, Muholi creates powerful images that confront the viewer and simultaneously tell a story, always seeking to educate. Gallatin’s current exhibition, entitled Zinathi, brings together new works from two series Faces and Phases and Somnyama Ngonyama. Zinathi is a Zulu expression that means “All races, nations, communities and cultures” have LGBTI individuals.

The works from Faces and Phases focus on portraits of black lesbians and trans men surrounding Muholi within her community in South Africa. This continuous series began in 2006 as a visual project and has turned into an unprecedented archive of photographs documenting the community and the country. Stretching until today, Muholi has revisited a number of these women, re-capturing them at different stages in their lives. Her intent is “to fill a gap in South Africa’s visual history that, even 10 years after the fall of apartheid, wholly excluded our very existence,” (Zanele Muholi, Faces and Phases 2006-14, 2014).

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These women stand proud and defiant in front of the camera. Most are portraits and the rest are shot from the waist up. Muholi made a point throughout her lecture to mention that she made sure that all of these women “looked good,” as in clean, put together, with fresh haircuts—because she is tired of seeing the same images of Africans perpetuated throughout the media. These are ones of poverty, sickness, uncleanliness, and extreme desperation, ones that provoke pity. However, these archetypes are not her or her community’s reality. She wishes to uplift these women and present them as members of society worthy to be celebrated, respected, and documented within history. Each woman stands in front of a different background and has a unique way of interacting with the camera, of interacting with Muholi. She has developed relationships with almost all of these women; they trust her and have shared their stories with her. Many of these narratives revolve around the unrelenting hardship of living as a lesbian woman in South Africa as well as other countries where African leaders have criminalized homosexuality and publicly projected hate speech while doing very little to prevent violent hate crimes.

{ In 2006, with the Civil Union Act, South Africa became the first country in Africa to legalize same sex marriage and the 5th country in the world. The legislation includes same sex marriage under common-law definition and legally gives gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. }

Her second series displayed, Somnyama Ngonyama, translates to “Hail, the Dark Lioness” and confronts the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive, while commenting on specific events in South Africa’s political history. Here, Muholi turns the camera on herself and shows a series of self-portraits where she takes on different characters and archetypes while referencing traditions of portraiture and fashion photography.

“The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure. By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I’m reclaiming my blackness from the privileged gaze.”

 I cannot play down the importance of Zanele Muholi as an artist, as a photographer, as an activist, and as a deeply impassioned [gay female] human being.

Zanele Muholi: Zinathi is on view at NYU’s Gallatin Galleries until February 26th.

The film is overly ambitious at best.

Propped up by a clumsy narrative, it does not fulfill the ‘Musical or Comedy’ category that it was nominated for at the Golden Globes. It has zero comedic elements and may be described solely as a biographical drama. The film’s only salvageable element is the powerfully stunning performance by Jennifer Lawrence as daring entrepreneur Joy Mangano. Lawrence has just won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and has been nominated by the Oscars and the Academy Awards for Best Actress.

The film takes place in a small town in New York where everyday is cloaked in bleak wintery misery. It’s 1989 and Joy lives with her ex-husband, their daughter, her mother who never leaves the comfort of her bed and soap opera specials, her grandmother (who rather strangely narrates the film, *spoiler alert* even from her grave after she dies mid-movie), and then, to top things off, her bachelor father moves back in. Joy suffers from reoccurring flashbacks of her childhood when the family structure began to collapse but there was still hope for a promising future, perhaps away from everyone else.

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Director David O. Russell seems to rely on the same stars cast from his previous box office hits (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) to turn another blasé, overdone tale of entrepreneurship into something watchable. The film’s utterly misleading and ambiguous trailer only makes this fact more evident because anyone who watched it could not begin to tell you what the movie is actually about. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are shown front and center, exciting fans (myself included) and hinting at the potential for another love adventure between Lawrence and Cooper (Cooper isn’t seen until halfway through). There is absolutely no mention of any entrepreneurially-driven plot, simply a vague mood that drifts between intense and completely lackluster.

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The tone of the film starts off as emotionally heavy and uncomfortable, employing taxing interactions between Joy and her deadbeat family as we see the depressing realities of her life play out. This not-so-joyful and unnecessarily long introduction finally leads up to the point of the film when Joy comes up with the idea for her Miracle Mop. Luckily, the pace quickens for the remainder of the film with the tone alternating between desperate excitement and hopeless dejection.

The film reaches its climax with a melodramatic and predictable legal battle, which Joy handles herself, in an ultra Hollywood-esque, cowboy western, don’t-mess-with-me attitude. Russell brings the story to a close on a rosier, more positive note with a clichéd happy ending, which we could all see coming from the start.

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There are about a dozen or so cardboard characters throughout the film, all of which serve only as obstacles that Joy must overcome or props she may use in her desperate journey towards success. Everyone around her, from her family to friends to sketchy business partners, is portrayed with an exaggerated destructiveness that tests her patience and determination. Joy herself is stubborn and passionate while desperately trying to bury her overt discontent while simultaneously realizing her absolute potential (queue overdone American dream sequence).

Overall, the film seems forced. The story of lowly underdog struggling into self-made success is anything but original. However, the fact that this film centers on a strong independent female character gives the narrative more credibility. Lawrence, despite criticism that as a 25 year old she shouldn’t have been playing a 30-40 year old woman, perfectly fits the driven, blunt, no-mess role. Unfortunately, one has the feeling of entering this film completely blind (re: horribly produced trailer) and leaving rather disappointed.

Now, I don’t want to say this movie is a complete travesty, it’s watchable, but it certainly isn’t very good. I ended up having an alright time and only because of my undying love of Jennifer Lawrence. Joy Mangano’s story and achievements could have been portrayed much more genuinely and wholeheartedly had it not been for Russell’s poorly exhibited artistic endeavors. Russell has given less of a biographical depiction and more of his own over-exaggerated, clichéd, cinematic fictional fable.

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