In: Featured

There are a few things that most likely pop into mind when a non-Chicagoan thinks of Chicago: Hot Dogs, Deep Dish Pizza, Wind, and the Shiny Bean (aka Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor.) Though all of those things do indeed exist in the Windy City, Chicago is a culturally vibrant metropolis that has acted as a hub for experimental and innovative architects, musicians and artists. Since giving the world its first skyscraper in 1833, hosting the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1853, and opening one of the largest museums of contemporary art of its time in 1967, the so-called “Second City” has been steadily pushing the art world into the future. Today, nothing has changed. There are, of course, the great museums (like The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art)  that are definitely worth a visit, but the neighborhoods are booming with phenomenal contemporary galleries. Here is a list of a few Chicago contemporary art galleries for art lovers to check out.

Since it opened in 2000,  the Monique Meloche Gallery launched careers of artists like Rashid Johnson, a Finalist in for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s 2012 Hugo Boss Prize. Owner and gallerist, Monique Meloche has an extensive resume, including assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. When it comes to the “next new thing” in the art world, Meloche’s instinct and taste prove to have its finger right on the pulse. Past exhibitions include Cheryl Pope, Rashid Johnson, and Kate Levant. Joel Ross.

Location: 2154 W. Division Chicago, IL 60622 Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11-6


For those who take a liking to photography, film, or other media-based art, Document has what you’re looking for. Aron Gent, the founder of this gallery, has created an intimate space that shines a light on aspiring artists. The space also operates as a professional printmaking studio that often aids in the production of the art shown in exhibitions. This gallery has a strong communal vein that advocates for national and international artists within the media based art world; the results of which are innovative and genuinely new images. Since opening in 2011, Document has had thirty solo exhibitions including work from Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Maisel.

Location: 1709 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm

Corbett vs. Dempsey | Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey

John Corbett and Jim Dempsey combine their interest and knowledge of music, film and painting with their record store/gallery in the Ukrainian Village. Corbett and Dempsey are no strangers to the Chicago art world or its history as they have both been involved in curating multiple exhibitions around the city like Big Picture: A New View of Painting In Chicago (Chicago History Museum, 2007). This airy open space, located on the fourth floor of the Dusty Groove Building, hosts exciting exhibitions that focus on 20th century and Contemporary paintings and sculptures (often accompanied by live musical performances.) Past shows include work from Arlene Shechet, Gabriel Garland, and Carol Jackson. 

Location: 1120 North Ashland Avenue Chicago IL,  60622 Hours: Tuesday -Saturday, 10 -5 pm

 


 

Stony Island Arts Bank situates in a building that was initially built in 1923 and was once a functional bank-until it closed in the eighties. The building was vacant for years and was deteriorating until Chicago’s artist, Theaster Gates, and his organization, Rebuild Foundation, bought the property and turned it into a “hybrid gallery, media archive, library and community center – and a home for Rebuild’s archives and collections.”  Gates and the Rebuild Foundation envisioned the restoration of this old building to be an example and a resource for envisioning the future of the surrounding communities on the South Side. The gallery space itself is breathtaking, but the artwork that is shown is just as awe-inspiring. Some of the past exhibitions include Noah Davis, James Barnor, and Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga.

Location: 6760 S. Stony Island Ave. Chicago, IL 60649   Hours: Friday-Sunday 12-8pm

Artspace 8| Courtesy of Artspace 8

Located on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, this 14,000 square foot gallery specializes in fine contemporary art. Artspace 8 uses its affluent location and ample gallery space to promote a variety of fantastic artist; both locally and internationally sourced, who work within different mediums. Artspace 8 opened in 2015. Its grand opening show was a tremendous exhibition of work by Silvio Porzionato, Lexygius Calip, Jacob Hicks, Dariusz Labuzek and many more. Their upcoming exhibition (opening June 24th) showcases the photographs of James McArthur Cole in his series Debilitated Beauty: Romancing the Cuban Aesthetic.  

Location:  900 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-7:00 pm


Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Chicago is just one of the four locations this network of artists has in the United States. Their focus is to promote an artist and to expand and create new relationships within a community, to afford more opportunities for collaboration with curatorial projects, the district initiated exhibitions, and projects. The results of this modus operandi are well-curated shows full of innovative artwork from all mediums. I Have No Feelings to Express was a past exhibition that included artists from the Los Angeles branch and was based on visual communication that “transcends geographical boundaries.” Artist from the Chicago location comprises Ana Kunz, Michelle Wasson, Josue Pellot.   

Location:319 N Albany Ave, Chicago IL 60612 Hours: Saturday 12-4 PM

Carrie Secrist Gallery| Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery

The Carrie Secrist Gallery was established in 1992 and has had great success for the last twenty-plus years. Located in the industrially chic neighborhood of West Loop, this gallery is known showcasing some of the contemporary art’s more established artists. Gallerist Carrie Secrist success is not unwarranted. Though many galleries sprinkle West Loop, Carrie Secrist Gallery stands out as a fantastic venue for excellently curated exhibitions.  Represented artists include Whitney Bedford, Danielle Tegeder, and Andrew Holmquist. This gallery is the perfect place to stop into to indulge in some visual treats after dining at one of West Loop’s many fantastic restaurants.

Location: 835 W Washington Blvd. Chicago, IL 60607 Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10:30-6pm  Saturday 11-5pm

 

Much of the contemporary performance art at this year’s Frieze Londons explored the notion of identity and the final day of the fair was no exception. Frieze offered a series of multi-disciplinary performances navigating themes of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Georgina Star. © Stephen Burke

Kicking off the afternoon’s performances was Leeds-born YBA Georgina Starr, staging her work in the UK for the first time in ten years. The piece, titled Androgynous Egg, took inspiration from the artist’s novel Empress 66 99 and incorporated an array of artistic practices, including puppetry, choreography and acapella melodies in both English and French.

The performers showered viewers with repeated words, fragmented phrases and an array of sounds, color, and visuals to create a surreal experience. Reminiscent of Dada sound poems, the experience felt almost claustrophobic in the purpose-built art fair filled with artistic objects.

Then it was time for the afternoon’s headline event: The Singing Lecture, performed by two vocal artists. First up was American cabaret performer Mx Justin Vivian Bond. Accompanied by the acoustic guitar, her lyrics explored themes of sexual orientation, gender identity and reconciling religious beliefs while each song featured candid anecdotes and musings.

Following Mx Justin Vivian Bond was Angolan/Belgian artist Nástio Mosquito, performing a vocal piece in collaboration with Martin Hirsch of the Bauhaus University, Weimar. A mixture of spoken words and songs, the performance explores echoed and looped, building layers of meaning.

Concluding the fair’s series of performance interventions was a queer art collective SPIT! (Sodomites, Perverts, Inverts Together!). Founded by Carlos Motta, John Arthur Peetz, Carlos Maria Romero and the performance was staged by performers Joshua Hubbard, Carlos Mauricio Rojas, Claudia Palazzo, Malik Nashad Sharpe, Daniel Brathwaite-Shirley, and Despina Zacharopoulou.

\"SPIT! Manifesto\" at Frieze London 2017 YouTube play

Having been invited to create a new performance piece to be premiered at this year’s fair by Raphael Gygax (Curator at Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich and Frieze Project 2017 Curator), Carlos Motta and his fellow artists developed work in two parts exploring gender-based discrimination and oppression. First came The SPIT! Manifesto Reader, a collection of queer manifestos dating from the 1960s to the present. Then a performance intervention took over half a decade of queer activism. The starting point of the movement was to create blending choreography, songs and spoken words in an attempt to highlight discrimination and oppression based on gender and sexual orientation and to negotiate contemporary queer politics.

Though manifesting in starkly contrasting ways, all the Frieze London 2017 performances used the human voice to challenge societal norms and to explore identity politics, some more concretely than others.

For nearly 60 years British artist David Hockney has been painting, drawing, and experimenting with the limits of artistic production. While merging traditional techniques with modern technologies, Hockney is interested in examining perspective and the reproduction of images.

A celebrated artist, he has been inspired by the never-ending genius of Pablo Picasso. Simply put, “[Picasso] mastered every style, every technique. The lesson formed is to use all of them.” From the beginning of his career, Hockney took it upon himself to master every skill, to become a virtuoso; this is what the artist continues to accomplish.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, Acrylic on canvas, 213,5 x 305 cm, ©David Hockney, Photo: Art Gallery of New South Wales / Jenni Carter Lewis Collection

Hockney’s most recognizable works revolve around water, pleasure, leisure, and the domestic lives of his friends and family as seen in his double portraits and swimming pools.  Starting in 1964 after a move to Los Angeles he switched to acrylic paint and a roller and embarked on a formalist journey that depicts a hedonistic and modern California. He also incorporated the use of photography in his practice by painting from his photos, resulting in precise and yet almost immaterial images. The most recognizable A Bigger Splash (1967) and Portrait of an Artist [Pool with Two Figures] (1972) proudly show his experimentation in representing transparency and light in water and his fascination with the male figure.

During the same period, Hockney began his double portraits to embrace naturalism and depict the psychological relationships between his subjects, friends or family. Despite their intimate nature, he painted these large-format works with a sort of mechanical “photographic” coldness.

The most famous works in Hockney’s oeuvre are far from how he began his career. He received a traditional arts education from the Bradford School of Art and later the Royal College of Art in London. During his schooling, he expressed interest in the social realism found in the British Kitchen Sink School of his teachers and American Abstract Expressionism. As a result, his early works are less colorful and vibrant. These pieces represent a mix of gritty realism and abstraction with themes concerning love, homosexuality, sexual liberty, and domestic life.  In finding his voice and expression, the artist brazenly borrowed stylistic elements from painters he admired such as Bacon, Dubuffet, Picasso, Balthus, Hopper and Morris Louis among others.

Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica, 1990, Oil on canvas, 198 x 305 cm, ©David Hockney, Photo: Steve Oliver, Private collection, United-States

An underlying interest throughout Hockney’s career has been experimenting with the representation of space over time. Significantly inspired by Cubism, his work confronts traditional, static perspective in favor of multiple simultaneous viewpoints. Despite his skepticism towards photography, in the ‘80s he turned to photo collage and Polaroid composites to create what he calls “joiners.” He takes the camera’s single viewpoint, turns it on its head, and produces works that mimic traditional painting in size and subject while retaining photography’s claim to uninterrupted “reality.” Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #1, 1986, for example, shows a highway desert scene composed of a couple of dozen photos aligned next to one another to portray how each is a different, singular perspective coming together to form the image as a whole.

While he has never abandoned traditional painting or drawing, Hockney broadens his experimentation by using technology such as the fax machine, printer, video, computer, and Apple products as new tools for creation. He uses his iPhone and since its launch in 2010, the iPad. The iPad specifically proved useful for blowing up images and as a sketchbook with the capacity to record and later replay the process of production. Pretty impressive for someone born well before the tech generation.

The Fours Seasons, Woldgate Woods, 2010-2011, (Spring 2011, Summer 2010, Autumn 2010, Winter 2010), 36 digital videos synchronized and presented on 36 55-inch monitors to comprise a single artwork, 4’ 21’’, 205,70 x 364,40 cm 4’ 21’’ ©David Hockney, Collection of the artist

A captivating production showing Hockney’s enthusiasm for technology is The Four Seasons, Woldgate Woods, 2010-11, a work consisting of 36 synchronized screens showing video footage of winter, spring, summer, and fall in England. Hockney again combines old and new by taking the approach of a large-scale landscape painting, a traditional medium and theme, and puts it into motion through the application of nine high-definition tracking cameras. Here, a concept as simple as natural weather patterns results in the creation of a mesmerizing universe; the magic of 365 days transformed into a few minutes of simultaneous peaceful pleasure. It is a truly immersive experience that almost hypnotizes those who marvel at each season, either reliving their nostalgic memories or witnessing the changes for the very first time.

Hockney’s different themes and modes of production may be experienced in the most extensive retrospective of the artist to date, which also happens to celebrate his 80th birthday. The exhibition is currently on view at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and is scheduled to travel to New York City later this fall. Through over 160 works it is the most comprehensive survey of the Briton and touches upon all significant periods of his career.

During the exhibition’s run, the Pompidou announced with excitement that Hockney had generously donated one of his more recent large-scale landscape works to the museum. The work in question, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire (2011) is the culmination of several months of continuous observation and sketching, all recorded on the artist’s iPad. The gift is a particularly important one as it is the first work by the artist to enter the Pompidou’s collection and according to Franceinfo to come into French collections as well. The work is currently on display in the museum’s central forum, open to everyone, and will be moved when the exhibition closes on October 23rd.

David Hockney is on view at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until October 23rd, 2017 and afterward will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City at the museum’s Fifth Avenue location, opening November 27th, 2017 and on view until February 25th, 2018.

 

This year, apart from the usual household names, Frieze London offers a strong contingent of emerging artists represented by young galleries.

 

Here are five artists to watch at Frieze London this year:

 

Tobias Spichtig

Swiss artist Tobias Spichtig’s multi-disciplinary work aims to capture the psyche of contemporary society. Combing elements of the figurative, the abstract and the surreal, most of the works on display are shown for the first time at Frieze. This year he is represented by German gallery Jan Kaps, which can be found in the Focus section of the fair along with 31 other young galleries.

Jan Kaps, booth H20

The Harrisons

Forming part of their series of “Survival Pieces,” the original portable orchard comprised twelve citrus trees, houses in hexagonal boxes above which individual lightboxes provided the vital ingredient. The installation was designed for the art gallery of the California State College at Fullerton and was nicknamed “the last orange orchard in Orange County” due to urbanization in the region.

 

See photographs, diagrams and plans of the original work and recreations of the trees themselves at the Various Small Fires (LA) booth.

Various Small Fires, booth H28

Courtesy of Naomi Sparks

Donna Kukama

As part of Frieze projects, South African performance artist Donna Kukama presents an interactive installation co-commissioned by the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. With a backdrop of medicinal plants, audience members are invited to interact with the artist through candid conversations on the nature of value.

Kukama’s installation can be found just outside the main entrance to the fair (P1)

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Under the Silent Eye of Lenin (2017) © Frieze

Kiluanji Kia Henda, Under the Silent Eye of Lenin (2017) © Frieze

Kiluanji Kia Henda

Frieze Artist Award recipient Kiluanji Kia Henda’s immersive installation explores notions of personal identity and heritage in the context of Angola’s western colonization, the Cold War period and the country’s relationship with the USSR. The work draws parallels between the widespread practice of witchcraft during the Angolan Civil War and science fiction narratives employed during the Cold War. Soviet iconography is juxtaposed with traditional craftsmanship in this interdisciplinary installation.

Frieze Artist Award is situated between booths B1 and B2

Regina José Galindo, ‘Tierra’ (2013) © Regina José Galindo and Proyectos Ultravioleta

Regina José Galindo, ‘Tierra’ (2013) © Regina José Galindo and Proyectos Ultravioleta

Regina José Galindo

This multi-media selection of video, drawings, and photography by Guatemalan artist Regina Galindo explores a wide array of themes. These themes include gender, the environment, immigration, violence, and labor in the context of post-war Guatemala. If we look at Galindo’s work as a whole, her work can be read an interrogation of the relationship between neoliberalism and the human body. Represented by Proyectos Ultravioleta, the selection of work also features the international debut of José Galindo’s bilingual poetry anthology ‘Dejen de disparar / Stop Shooting,’ presented for the first time to an English-speaking audience.

Proyectos Ultravioleta, booth H19

 

 

Frieze Art Fair is taking place in Regents Park, London, From Thursday 5th October – Sunday 8th October 2017

The South African artist, Jenna Burchell sits opposite me. Despite the fact we are surrounded by the creative bustle of the 1:54 (where she is currently exhibiting), she captivates me by the undeniable devotion she has to her work. Represented by Sulger-Buel Lovell, Burchell is fascinated with the theme of time and has used technology as a way to enhance her subject matter.

Burchell has a particular resonance with technology as her parents migrated from South Africa when she was younger, and thus programs such as Skype were her only forms of communication that produced an emotive response. She explains to me how technology not only helps to reveal previously hidden meanings and emotions but also connects and brings people together.

Jenna Burchell, Songsmith, 2016. Courtesy of Sulger Buel Lovell

As a self-proclaimed anti-disciplinary artist, Burchell has designed her language to create a new form of art. When presented with the question of how she would describe her artistic practices, she explained how it is difficult to develop an idea that is unique; one can only improve what has already been conceived. The artist notes how what were once singular disciplines can now be joined and explored together to create something beautiful; for example, science and art can now work together to shape something new. She states passionately, “You must twist the ordinary on its head and question the conventional.” Her outlook of manipulating disciplines and borrowing techniques is especially prominent in her most recent project Songsmith (Cradle of Humankind), nicknamed ‘the singing rocks’ by her audience. Within this project, she has transformed a relatively ordinary historical object into one of beauty and functionality.

Jenna Burchell, Songsmith, 2017-2018. Courtesy of Sulger Buel Lovell

The artist has collected some naturally broken fossils and rocks from three ancient sites in South Africa. She then repairs the fractures following the Japanese method of Kintsukuroi in which gold lacquer is inserted into the cracks of the object. As a result, the piece becomes more beautiful from the destruction which it faced; it has been gifted with a new lease of life. Not only does the rock become a form of beauty, but it also encompasses a historical tradition. In this sense, Burchell has connected and interlocked cultures, communities and individuals in a single rock. She captures an essence of humanity, and our desire to be bound together, united as one entity. Her work, therefore, generates a cultural capital in which common ground anchors people.

Although the rocks are incredibly beautiful, they are also functional objects. Jenna Burchell has ingeniously uncovered the poetic voice of the rock by capturing the raw-electromagnetic readings beneath the objects’ original resting place. In essence, when you interact with the piece, the magical sound of the earth echoes around you. Captured entirely by mother nature’s call, the viewer has an undeniably personal and emotional relationship with nature (click here to listen). The enchantment we have with the work is amplified by the different sound each Songsmith produces, based on its weight.

Jenna Burchell, Songsmith (Crandle of Humankind), 2016. Courtesy of Sulger Buel Lovell

Each Songsmith is a time capsule. The voice of each rock is infused by the place it came from, meaning each song has been sung for 2.2 million years (in the case of those from the Cradle of Humankind). So not only are we connected to nature physically by touching the rock, but we are also teleported 2.2 million back in time. We are part of an unbelievable collective experience; we breathe the same air, walk upon the same soil and are reminded by nature’s melody.

It is important to remember that Burchell would not be able to conceive her artistic concept without technological help. She argues that technology is like “the books of our age,” and in a sense she’s right. In the 21st century, we learn and adapt through the use of technology, so there is no reason not to embrace it. The only way in which this can be reached is through the specific technological technique called Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). The golden band running through each rock also aides our understanding. It is not only compositional but also allows the stone to resonate and the foundation to sing. Without technology, Burchell would not have been able to build the bridge joining humanity and nature together.

Carry with you the beauty of the Songsmith’s and let them be a reminder to interact, connect and build relationships with those around you. Replay the Earth’s song in your head and know that beneath you something genuinely incredible is happening.

Jenna Burchell is exhibiting at the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Somerset House, London until the 8th October. Find her on the first floor of the South Wing in room G27. 

Ryan_Stanier

In 2011 Ryan Stanier launched the Other Art Fair. Eliminating the middleman (galleries), Ryan created a space for artists to come and show their talent. Tremendously popular from the very beginning, the fair attracts more than 40,000 visitors and exhibits over 100 artists. The last London edition opening featured 130 contemporary artists, art investment tours and the much-anticipated Virtual Reality project, Underworld, by the Guardian. I met with Ryan in the hip part of Coven Garden last week to discuss how it all started and what we can expect in the future.

How did you come up with the idea for the Other Art Fair?

I don’t really have an art background. I got interested in art by being constantly surrounded by friends who are artists. And then I saw my friends struggle to produce an exhibition: it could be an amazing show, but nowhere accessible. That was the problem; it is so expensive to rent a space that artists have a little way out. They have little exposure; dealers and publicists don’t usually visit this kind of shows.

I thought, what if I create a show of the kind, but in Central London? It came out naturally, out of love for my friends. And that’s the thing: unless it comes out of your interest and passion, it has low chance to succeed. The material part was completely irrelevant at that stage. I looked for a space for a while, browsing around London, calling agents, and after hundreds of calls, I found one. I set up an informal gallery in Coven Garden in 2009. It was good timing, as after the financial crisis a lot of spaces were empty. We stayed at that place for a while putting up shows, selling art…

I realized after a while that I don’t want to be a gallerist. It wasn’t something I was interested in. My background in events gave me an idea to create a fair for artists, without galleries being involved. And so, the fair for the artists who don’t have an exclusive contract with a gallery was launched.

Did you think about the competition, big shots like Frieze?

Yes, but it’s a completely different market. We created a space where new collectors can come and buy art. We all go to big art fairs, but we don’t buy anything. There’s an experience, for sure. With that in mind, we decided to create something more accessible, more fun, and equally aspirational. We always knew how we are different with a unique position in the market. It’s all about the artists. People like Gordon Ramsey visit, we’ve been working with UBS for a while to create artworks for their offices… We’re also looking to launch an art prize.  We promote our artists and a lot of them make contacts through the Other Art Fair. It’s the same cost to rent a stand for everyone, so it comes down to the artists to make the most out of the fair.

How does the selection process work?

The upcoming fair had 1100 applications and we only have 100 slots. There’s a panel that selects artists, simply saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We’re interested in different types of mediums, so there are no specific selection criteria.

Who is your target customer?

It varies. We try to create a unique experience like nowhere else. We have a guest artist each fair, usually a known figure in the arts. For example, last year we had Tracy Emin create exclusive work for us in editions of 500, 50 pounds each. So, someone who has never bought art before could afford to buy an Emin. More than 50% of our audience has never bought art before, so we’re focusing on this ‘new collector’ type. The Other Art Fair is also interesting, it’s not intimidating. It’s never the same. What breaks all the barriers, I think, is that anyone can talk to artists and not a gallery sales person.

Tell me about your recent partnership with SaatchiArt.

It started last July. SaatchiArt is the biggest platform for artists, so we created the partnership where all the Other Art Fair artists are now available on SaatchiArt all year round. It came from my initial idea of how to help artists sell their work and create opportunities throughout the year.

Your first international edition was in Sydney last year. Why go to Australia first, and not, say, New York?

The city like London has around 30 art fairs a year, New York – twice more. In Sydney, there are only two art fairs every other year and such an enthusiasm for the arts from the public. It was a natural decision.

This year you’re expanding to New York, but not during the Frieze Week. Why?

In London, we run fairs both during the Frieze Week in October and one in the spring. The thing is, we haven’t noticed a large difference in visitor numbers and sales between the two. So, in NY we decided to develop a clear message about who we are and see who is interested in joining. We’re also expanding to Europe next year with 11 art fairs throughout the year.

Do you personally prefer museums or art galleries?

Museums. There’s no pressure and, you know, there are more impressive shows.

Do you have an advice for someone trying it out in the art world?

Don’t get overwhelmed by tradition. Don’t buy into it. Everyone will have to adapt to innovation.

 

P.S. Keep an eye on the place, in a few years it could be in your town.

Touria-el-Glaoui

I met Touria El Glaoui during the opening of 1:54 art fair this October. Already familiar with Touria’s tremendous success in not only establishing the fair four years ago, but also expanding to New York only two years after the inauguration, I was intrigued to meet her.

Elegant in her long silky dress with a stylish, and warm for English weather, cardigan, Touria made you feel 1:54 was not simply an art fair, but a home. The amiable, pleasant atmosphere of the Somerset House, which you don’t typically find in a large-scale art fair, made me feel like a guest to a home party, rather than a stranger in a museum. There was no sense of pretensiosness.

While we were sipping hot morning coffee and treating ourselves with a warm butter croissant, Touria shared how she built the brand, or better say the platform for contemporary African artists, and what it took to get 1:54 to the level of today.


You earned your MBA in Strategic Management and have an impressive background working both in banking and IT industries. What made you decide to turn to the art one?

I grew up in Morocco in the house of an artist – my father, Hassan El Galoui – and he was the person who gave me my artistic education. For this reason, art – particularly African art – has always been a part of my life. Much later on – in fact, during my career in the IT industry – I was travelling extensively around Africa and the Middle East, and this is when I fully realised how absent African and African diaspora artists were from the international markets in Europe and the US. Having the seen the incredible work being made on the continent, I decided it was time to the bridge the gap and create a platform.

How did you personal background (your farther is a famous artist) influence you throughout your career?

Many of my earliest memories are of my father’s studio with its incredible smell of oil paint. I would spend hours watching him transform his canvases, and the life of an artist became my daily norm. Because of this, my approach to running 1:54 has always been centred on the artist and on maintaining the integrity of the work. I have also organised and co-curated a number of my father’s exhibitions, and have also been working on the catalogue raisonné of his life’s work, and these experiences have certainly shown me much about the realities of being an artist working on the continent verses in Europe and America.

How did the idea for 1:54 come about? What challenges did you face/still facing?

When I established 1:54 back in 2013, the biggest challenge was finding both the interest and the support. This underpinned much of my decision to launch in London. In 2011 I could already see evidence of a growing interest in African and African diaspora art – for example with the Tate launching its two-year African art programme. I will never forget the incredible backing that I received in that first year, yet every year we continue to face the financial challenge of making the fair happen. We are incredible grateful this year to our main sponsor, Floreat, as well as to Christie’s education and the Arts Council England who have both sponsored this year’s FORUM.

Are you planning on expanding the fair to other locations? What’s the importance of having the fair now in both London and NY?

As I said, London was the most obvious ‘home’ for 1:54 for a few reasons, its internationality being one. Once London was up and running, we began to toy with the idea of New York, and began to see that our galleries and collectors were keen to make the move. We first launched as a pop-up edition, in May 2014, but returned again this year to enjoy our second edition. The two fairs are actually quite different due both to the buildings they are housed in as well as the different audiences they attract, and so the importance of having both editions is to widen the diversity and outreach of the fair. It’s very exciting for us when collectors are able to visit both.

Who’s your favourite artist?

This is always such a difficult question! I can never choose and it would be unfair for me to do so. All the artists and galleries that we welcome to each new edition brings something unique to 1:54 and my greatest hope is always that our visitors will explore and appreciate this diversity, and appreciate each artist in their own right.
6. Tell us what is new in this year’s edition of 1:54 art fair.

I am particularly excited about our incredible line up of Special Projects joining us this year. We have 10 in total, and each one is incredibly unique and will add a whole new element to the fair. Zac Ové’s installation, for example, will extend the fair into the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court for the first time ever; Ifeanyi Oganwu’s lounge design – created in collaboration with Phoebe Boswell – and Barthélémy Toguo’s Mobile Cafeteria will introduce vibrant, interactive spaces; and we will also be extending out over the airwaves with a live three-day broadcast by a new music-radio platform, Worldwide FM. Of course the Malick Sidibé exhibition – created in collaboration with Somerset House and MAGNIN-A – is also incredible exciting. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase such an influential African photographer, and to be able to extend the exhibition past the four days of the fair, throughout Somerset House’s winter season.

154_fair

1:54 Contemproary Art Fair, Somerset House Courtyard View. Zak Ove installation. Courtesy of Artsy.

Who are the artists to watch at 1:54 this year in London?

I want to draw attention to the fact that this year we are delighted to be welcoming 16 Africa-based galleries, of which 6 are from North Africa. Many of these are joining us in London for the first time, including Village Unhu from Harare, Zimbabwe; Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art from Cairo, Egypt; and L’Atelier 21 from Casablanca, Morocco.

What are your future plans for the fair and beyond?

1:54 is constantly evolving, this year we welcome an incredible 40 exhibitors with over 130 artists exhibiting with us this year. Despite this, we want our ethos to stay the same: to create a platform for African and African diaspora artists in the international art market while putting the artist first. In terms of expanding further afield, we first want to ensure that our London and New York editions are as good as they can be.

James Cannon, Portrait of Niru Ratman. Courtesy of START.

START Art Fair opens its third edition on September 15th in London. Located in the unique Saatchi Gallery, this new (compared to others) art fair is a star on the rise. Apart from featuring and showcasing emerging artists and galleries from all over the world, the fair also stands out for its curatorial projects. This year’s START Projects present works by Iraq-born and Qatari-based artist Mahmoud Obaidi.

The director of START is Niru Ratnam (check out his twitter). A believer in cultural globalization, Ratnam, who previously worked as Head of Development at Art14, brings the multicultural drive and global focus to the fair. We talked about START, London’s art scene and what Brexit could potentially mean for the art world.


What was the initial idea behind START and what is new in its third edition opening next week?

The idea behind START is very simple – an art fair set in a museum-quality location that focuses on emerging artists and new art scenes. There are lots of great art fairs around Europe so we wanted to do something that was a bit different – where you could go to and come away with a series of new discoveries. Ideally we want each visitor to go away with interests in artists and gallerists who they haven’t come across before. In terms of the setting, I wanted to move away from the trade show type venues that most art fairs go for and do something in the type of place that you’d normally visit for an exhibition – hence the Saatchi Gallery is our base.

In terms of what’s different, this year around half of the galleries participating are showing single artist presentations in START Solo — so the mixture of group presentations and solo presentations resembles the programme of a typical commercial gallery. We also have four fantastic Projects ranging from in-depth presentations of one artist’s practice to a vibrant group show of Taiwanese art and an artist-curated project.

Apart from its boutique-like setting at Saatchi Gallery, how does START differ from other art fairs happening in London?

We try to have quite a tight focus—on emerging artists and new art scenes. So the emphasis is very much on discovering artists and galleries who are new to you. Lots of these galleries are new to London audiences, so hopefully that gives the fair a little bit of a unique flavour.

START is relatively small scale compared to other art fairs. Would you think of expansion?

I  think fair organizers are realizing that viewers, no matter how expert, can only meaningfully look at a certain amount of art and artists at a fair. At a certain point, no matter how good a fair is, it becomes a blur, which means that the good stuff you seen gets forgotten. Also in terms of collectors, it just gets too confusing if there is too much to see.

How do you select artists for START Projects?

Travel! Seeing a lot and listening to hints from other people. This year, for instance, I’m delighted to bring Sumakshi Singh’s project to London having initially seen it at Exhibit320 in India earlier this year.
Obaidi, Peace. Project Confusianism. Courtesy of START.

Obaidi, Peace. Project Confusianism. Courtesy of START.

Again the emphasis is very much on looking at new art scenes in a bit more depth, so the opportunity to showcase Mahmoud Obaidi’s work in advance of his major museum show in Qatar, introducing him to London audiences at START makes perfect sense. He is exactly the type of artist that START is all about –somebody with a strong reputation in the region where he works but one who deserves recognition on a wider stage — and his participation as both artist and a curator in START Projects emphasizes the important role that established artists play in nurturing emerging talent in new art scenes where there is a relative scarcity of public institutions.

What are your future ambitions for START?

We tend to take each edition one at a time – we’re not a big art fair or organisation that will suddenly roll out three similar fairs around the world. So the main plan is simply to deliver a really great edition again!

What are your views on cultural globalisation being even more pronounced now due to political changes both in the UK and the world?

I think globalisation is a super-important topic right now particularly after Brexit, and I want the projects to show both the amazing positive side of globalisation but also some of the serious issues that have come with it. I have strongly advocated a globalised approach to art. I think that the cultural side of globalisation is needed, and needs to be stressed as a way of counter-acting the purely economic side of globalisation. In the light of Brexit, I am more convinced than ever that is important to affirm a belief in what cultural globalisation can bring to all of us.
Mark Grubb, For a Short Moment I Felt Nothing. Courtesy of Syson Gallery.

Mark Grubb, For a Short Moment I Felt Nothing. Courtesy of Syson Gallery.

Do you think London will still remain the heart of the art industry or will it shift in view of Brexit?

What Brexit really means is still unclear, as it seems very unlikely that too much is going to happen too soon. However, I would certainly expect less speculation for a while, at least in the London auction houses. I think the most important thing is to make a statement on where I think the majority of the UK’s art world are on this matter, and so to affirm an international outlook. Post the Brexit decision it is even more important for the art world to lead the way embracing globalisation and showing what a force for good it can be – so I’m glad that we’re showing galleries from so many different parts of the world.
SEE, LEARN, DISCOVER at START Art Fair September 15-18th at Saatchi Gallery.

China’s recent history is one full of social and political chaos. Chairman Mao Zedong resided as the country’s communist leader for nearly thirty years, responsible for the founding the People’s Republic of China, sending China into a deep economic crisis, and infamously inciting the riotous Cultural Revolution. Chairman Mao had set out to purge the country of what he called “impure elements.” The youth of China backed Mao as they flooded across the country murdering teachers, closing schools, denouncing family members, burning books, and destroying China’s history.  Artist were cast out of society and only those who attended nationalized art schools and produced works in a factory-like manner with politically expedient content, were permitted. Today, we see how Chinese artists critique the Cultural Revolution and the Communist Party, shedding light on China’s societal issues, through their creative individuality.

Hung Liu

Hung Liu was born shortly after the Chinese Civil War in 1948. She was a prolific student and studied at the best private schools China had to offer. As the Cultural Revolution began, Liu was sent to be “re-educated” in a rural village. Before leaving Beijing, she borrowed a camera from a friend. She used this camera to take photos of villagers, their families, and their day to day struggles. At this point in time, the Cultural Revolution was in full bloom and Chinese culture was being threatened to extinction. Hung Liu’s photographs of those villagers served as a preservation of those individuals and to their culture.

      

Hung Liu, Village Photograph IV, c. 1969–1975; Courtesy of The Artist.

Hung Liu, Village Photograph IV, c. 1969–1975; Courtesy of The Artist.

After the Revolution, Liu went on to study fine arts and earned a her graduate degree in Muralist Painting. For three years she painted political propaganda in the Soviet Realist style, all the while secretly painting landscapes with miniature tools and paints she herself had made. Hung Liu desperately wanted artistic freedom and was granted just that when she was given permission to attend the University of California San Diego in 1983.

Hung Liu, Pullman, 2004. Photographed at the Hunter Museum of American Art by Taylor Vance

Hung Liu, Pullman, 2004. Photographed at the Hunter Museum of American Art by Taylor Vance

Liu often paints from photographs of Chinese social outcasts: prostitutes, laborers, and prisoners. The realistic nature and size of her characters reflect her practice in Soviet Realism and Muralism. However, she manipulates the image by running paint down the canvas, which gives the effect of a photograph faded by time. The characters in each piece look as though they are disintegrating right before our eyes; a possible commentary on the lives lost and forgotten during the Cultural Revolution.

Hung Liu, Winter Blossom, 2011. Courtesy of Magnolia Editions

Hung Liu, Winter Blossom, 2011. Courtesy of Magnolia Editions

Hung Liu recently retired from her position as a professor at Mills College, but she continues to paint and has worldwide exhibitions.

Ma Desheng

Ma Desheng was a self taught artist, mainly because he was deemed unfit to be trained in fine arts at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Desheng worked as an industrial draftsman and woodblock print artist, using traditional Chinese ink.

Desheng produced a series of images of rock-like figures and portrayals of China’s working class. These images were stark contradictions to the suppressive propaganda that Mao and the Chinese Communist Party were feeding the people.

Ma Desheng, Untitled 19, 1980. Courtesy of Rossi & Rossi and The Artist.

Ma Desheng, Untitled 19, 1980. Courtesy of Rossi & Rossi and The Artist.

His early productions were un-romanticized images that displayed the realities of what was happening to China. The dark rigid lines evoke a sense of inner turmoil, similar to that of the artwork of the German artists, Käthe Kollwitz or Edvard Munch.

In 1970, Ma Desheng was influential in the founding of Star Group ( or Xing Xing). This group consisted of self taught, Western-influenced artists who fought for individualism and liberation against the Cultural Revolution. Ma Desheng and the Star Group bravely defied the government when they put on an exhibition of their own work across the street from the National Art Museum in Beijing. It was, of course, shut down by authorities and Ma was arrested for his involvement in organizing such an exhibit.The Star Group went on to lead a rally against the authorities and were successful in opening a second show; some say it was this rally that helped Chinese society become more culturally open.

Ma Desheng, ROCKS 1, 2012. Courtesy of Rossi & Rossi and The Artist.

Ma Desheng, ROCKS 1, 2012. Courtesy of Rossi & Rossi and The Artist.

Not long after Star Group’s second show, Ma Desheng moved to Europe, as did many of the other members. He continues to live and work in Paris, but there is no doubt that his passionate commitment to freedom of expression helped pave the way for future Chinese artists.   

Zhang Xiaogang

One of China’s most well known and successful artists, Zhang Xiaogang, was also a witness to China’s Cultural Revolution. His parents were government officials but were sent away to be “re-educated” at the height of the Revolution—an event that greatly affects his work.

He studied at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts after the Cultural Revolution ended, but his professors were persistent in teaching the style of Soviet Realism. Zhang resisted this style and any philosophy that had to do with collectiveness in society. He founded a group focused on the importance of individualism in philosophy and art called the Southwest Art Group. Though somewhat successful with nearly eighty artists in the group, the Tiananmen Square incident happened not long after and the era of liberal reform ceased completely.

Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3; Image courtesy of Zhang Xiaogang / Pace Beijing

Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3; Image courtesy of Zhang Xiaogang / Pace Beijing

It wasn’t until 1992 when Zhang returned from Germany after 3 months that he knew exactly what he wanted to paint. He stated that he “could see a way to paint the contradictions between the individual and the collective.” His portrayals of those contradictions are what make his paintings so eerily captivating. Most of his work is themed after family photographs but there is always some sort of strange mark or difference in color that makes them unique to one another. The child, who is typically centered, is the most defined. This can be taken as Zhang’s commentary on the youth of the Cultural Revolution and their willingness to disown their families and personal histories.

Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: Big Family No.1; Courtesy of Zhang Xiaogang and Studio/Daegu Art Museum

Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: Big Family No.1; Courtesy of Zhang Xiaogang and Studio/Daegu Art Museum

Zhang Xiaogang’s artwork has shown world wide and he is easily one of the most prominent Chinese contemporary artist of today.

Yue Minjun

Beijing-based artist, Yue Minjun, also captures that theme of contradiction that Zhang Xiaogang displays. Yue Minjun was born in 1962 and studied oil painting at the Hebei Normal University in 1985. His work is done in a style that has been coined as “Cynical Realism,” and they are iconically uncomfortable. Most of the paintings are self-portraits of the artist with pink skin, laughing maniacally in surreal backgrounds while bent over in an attempt to cover an exposed body, vulnerable in only underwear.

Yue Minjun, Blue Sky and White Clouds, 2013; Courtesy Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris — Pace Beijing

Yue Minjun, Blue Sky and White Clouds, 2013; Courtesy Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris — Pace Beijing

These cartoon like images are politically pointed at the Cultural Revolution and China today. Minjun states that “…laughter is a representation of a state of helplessness, lack of strength and participation, with the absence of our rights that society has imposed on us.” This laughter evokes a strange feeling to the viewer. You feel as if you were looking at someone that had just gone through a mental breakdown and had experienced an intense amount of pain, dehumanized, but has an odd instinct to laugh. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that, this is how Minjun see’s the China today; as society that has been through so much within recent years but does not know how to deal appropriately with the pain.

Xu Bing

The now world renowned artist, Xu Bing, was in high school when the Cultural Revolution broke out. Determined to stay in Beijing and continue his studies, he agreed to use his talents in calligraphy to create political propaganda. After he graduated, he was sent to the countryside to work in the fields and was not able to return until the death of Chairman Mao in 1976. Xu was accepted into Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts the following year to study printmaking.

Xu Bing, Book from the Sky; Courtesy of Blanton Museum of Art

Xu Bing, Book from the Sky; Courtesy of Blanton Museum of Art

The relationship between words and interpretation seems to be the core theme in Xu Bing’s work. In his grandiose installation, “Book from the Sky,” large scrolls hang from the ceiling and traditionally bound books and newspapers line the floor and walls, all stamped with woodblocks carved with made-up, nonsensical Chinese characters. The fact that nothing is literally being said in this piece results in many different interpretations. Is the installation a focus on Chinese tradition versus modern art? Is it a questioning of how different cultures perceive one another? Is it a commentary on the manipulation of words to achieve power, like in Mao’s case? Or is it a meaningless study of form and repetition? There are grounds for each of these questions within the piece and its intriguing quality is one of the reasons “Book from Sky” is such an international hit within the art world.  

Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang is probably best known around the world for his firework show at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but Cai’s artistry goes far beyond his pyrotechnic displays. He studied stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy from 1981 through 1985, which is evident in the spatial rendering seen in his large installations, paintings and performance pieces.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard; 1999; Photo by Elio Montanari

Cai Guo-Qiang, Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard; 1999; Photo by Elio Montanari

One of his most famous pieces was an installation he was commissioned to do for the 48th Venice Biennale, entitled, “Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard.” The installation consisted of 114 clay sculptures of peasants and laborers interspersed within the gallery’s setting.The piece created quite the stir amongst the art world as it closely resembled the famous Social Realist sculpture “Rent Collection Courtyard”: a highly political series of sculptures created during the Cultural Revolution. The stir wasn’t only because of Cai’s replica of the Chinese classic, but because he choose a material that would cause the sculptures to disintegrate as the show went on; a possible statement on Mao’s promises to the Chinese people and the ephemerality of their political and social structures.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Carnival Rehearsal, 2013; Photo by Joana França

Cai Guo-Qiang, Carnival Rehearsal, 2013; Photo by Joana França

Many of Cai Guo-Qiang works seem to embody a theme of unforeseen fate. In many of his paintings, he will scatter gunpowder on an already painted canvas, and ignite it. The result displays a combination of the controlled color of the actual paint, and the sporadic, random markings of the burnt gunpowder. This theme is also evident in his installation “Head On” where sculptures of wolves take off running and soaring through the air. The momentum of the piece is brutally interrupted as the wolves run, “head on,” into a wall a plexi glass and fall gracelessly to the floor.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Head On, 2006; Photo by Hiro Ihara

Cai Guo-Qiang, Head On, 2006; Photo by Hiro Ihara

It is often said that an artist’s role in society is to be instrument of the time; to reflect society back to itself, to be a catalyst of change, and to articulate culture. It is fair to say that these artists, and many other Chinese artists, are doing just that.  

No matter what time of year it is, chances are there is a biennial happening somewhere around the world. During certain years, the art world flocks to major cities like Venice or São Paulo—or remote places like Kassel, Germany or Dakar—to view some of the world’s greatest contemporary art. Since the 1990s these large-scale international contemporary art exhibitions have become the main way of exhibiting and publicizing international contemporary art.

Today, major biennials exist on every continent, everywhere from Sydney to Shanghai, with more than 150 established biennials in total. They have become such a craze that a non-profit called the Biennial Foundation was formed just to monitor their behavior. Confusingly though, not all of these exhibitions happen every two years, some are triennials (Yokohama Triennale) or quadrennials (Copenhagen Arts Festival—formerly the U-turn Quadriennale), but because all of these exhibitions follow the same general structure, they are all grouped under the biennial umbrella. Essentially, what distinguishes biennials from art fairs, like Frieze in London or Art Basel in Miami, is the fact that biennials are much larger, taking place in multiple venues across the given city, and, most importantly, the works displayed are not for sale. Biennials function as temporary exhibitions for contemporary art, not as galleries.

Padiglione Centrale Giardini, Venezia, 2010 Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti Courtesy: la Biennale di Venezia

Padiglione Centrale, Giardini, Venezia, 2010
Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti. Courtesy: la Biennale di Venezia

The concept of the biennial has roots in the 19th and early 20th century phenomena of the World’s Fair and Universal Exhibition. The word biennial comes from the Italian word biennale, meaning every other year, and refers to the original biennial—the Venice Biennale. The first Venice Biennale, in 1895, celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of Italy’s King Umberto and Queen Margherita. It was held at the Palazzo dell’ Esposizione, a public space called the Giardini on the Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice. The exhibition was hugely popular, and became a bi-annual (biennial) event. By the early 20th century many different countries had built pavilions in the Giardini to house their country’s art during the exhibition. During the first half of the 20th century, the pavilions featured an assortment of works by the country’s best artists. In the post-war years, the style of the exhibition began to shift towards more curated and thematic displays.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop and G124 (Senator Renzo Piano’s Working Group) L’architetto condotto 15th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, REPORTING FROM THE FRONT. Photo by: Francesco Galli Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Renzo Piano Building Workshop and G124 (Senator Renzo Piano’s Working Group)
L’architetto condotto; 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, REPORTING FROM THE FRONT. Photo by: Francesco Galli. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

The current global biennial structure was developed in the 1990s. Most biennials follow the general structure of the Venice Biennale, which has both a series of national pavilions that exhibit work from their country’s artists, all with individually curated themes, and a larger overarching exhibition curated by the biennial directors that is often linked to a different theme. As the art world became increasingly globalized in the late 1990s, the biennial phenomenon has also taken on a diplomatic element. These exhibitions bring together works of art from all over the world under one general curatorial theme, which is often connected to international social or political issues. For example, the 2016 Venice Biennale theme is “Reporting from the Front.”

Although the biennial model of contemporary art exhibitions has been debated, the idea of exhibitions that survey global contemporary art have been perceived as largely positive. The growth of biennial culture has been connected with fostering diplomatic relations between nations as well as promoting the growth of cultural tourism. Large-scale biennials draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world, and have certainly helped to generate tourism in previously under-visited destinations. Through these visitors the art displayed at biennials circulates around the world—every visitor returns from biennials with a list of top new artists to watch.

Justine Gaga, Indignation : installation, dimensions variables, 2012, © Justine Gaga. Dak'Art 2014 : Exposition International Village de la Biennale. Photo : Willy Kemtane

Justine Gaga, Indignation : installation, dimensions variables, 2012, © Justine Gaga. Dak’Art 2014 : Exposition International Village de la Biennale. Photo: Willy Kemtane

With the increasing globalization of the art world, many biennials focused on non-Western art have emerged since the 1990s. One of the most important of these is DAK’ART, the Dakar Biennale, founded in 1992. This biennial focuses on contemporary African art or works of black artists around the world. It is the largest exposition of contemporary African art and draws in visitors and artists from all over the globe to Senegal. Also, with the growing power of the Asian art market, major biennials are now located in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Japan, which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. A major exhibition of non-western art is also hosted every two years in Havana, Cuba. While originally dedicated only to Caribbean and Latin American art, the biennial has expanded to include work of artists from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East as well.

While biennials have a long history, they have evolved dramatically in the past thirty years. They have essentially transformed from World’s Fairs into the major place for viewing, circulating, and discussing global contemporary art.

Skip to toolbar