In: Artist

Before this massive retrospective, I had only seen a few of Cindy Sherman’s portraits here and there. That’s what made The Broad’s first special exhibition, Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life, so overwhelming to me. I was taken aback by the vast expansion of her creativity.

The Broad’s exhibit holds over 120 works by Sherman and is curated by Philipp Kaiser. Kaiser flawlessly presents Edye and Eli Broad’s collection, the largest Sherman collection in the world, as well with works on loan from Metro Pictures, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Menil Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all with Sherman herself as the subject.

Curator Phillipp Kaiser speaking at the press preview. Photo by Karli Feder

Curator Phillipp Kaiser speaking at the press preview. Photo by Karli Feder

The retrospective covers over forty years of Sherman’s work, and is curated in a loosely chronological order including works from the centerfolds, the fairy tales, the history portraits, the sex pictures, the clown pictures, society portraits, and a full length feature film entitled Office Killer. The exhibition begins with her Untitled Film Stills in 1975 and concludes with works completed this year. Kaiser’s curation perfectly captures Sherman’s artistic evolution. The exhibition itself feels like its own museum due to the drastic variations in her style. If a viewer walks in only having heard the name “Cindy Sherman,” they leave enthralled by Sherman’s chameleon-like talent to move through the barriers of genre that define so many other artists.

Upon arrival, the viewer is immediately greeted by two floor-to-ceiling murals of Sherman, imagined by the artist herself for the exhibition. One instantly gets the impression that this exhibit will be intense, humbling and exciting. Reminiscent of film stills, these murals perfectly tie in both Los Angeles and the influence of film, pop culture, and the stereotypes involved in both pop culture and film that have had a profound effect on Sherman’s work and, in turn, her identity as an artist.

The first gallery holds Sherman’s black and white film stills and is an impeccable introduction to those unfamiliar with her work. In one, she is seen standing in the corner of a room with her hand on her hip in an apron and long dress. In Untitled Film Still #47, we see Sherman in another classic 50’s inspired look:  she is pantless and wearing a white collared shirt with a straw hat and big sunglasses. She seems to be caught in the midst of gardening and surprised by the intrusion of a viewer, as the viewer has been placed in the perspective of the photographer. Quickly, one can recognize the sacrifice of Sherman’s own identity as an individual and, in this case, her submersion into an identity characterized by the clichés and stereotypes of women in the 50’s and 60’s.

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Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder.

The exhibition then moves into her fashion pictures. When arranged together, the transition of Sherman in terms of persona from one portrait to the next is drastic and awe-inspiring. I was astonished by her incredible attention to detail, the expansive emotional coverage, and her clearly inherent ability to see a style for what it is, bring herself into it, and create something so unique out of a form already so familiar. All completed in the 80’s, the constant changes in the lighting, mood, and character being portrayed show how quickly Sherman can commit herself to an identity we imagine to be entirely different from her own. In Untitled #119 she is a powerful force of a woman, her arms stretched wide as she seems to be caught mid belt of an opera song. The image radiates light and the power of femininity. In Untitled #122 she stands hunched over, drowned in black fabric, fist clenched, and one eye looking directly at the camera. In every image of her fashion series, she is unrecognizable. Her fashion pictures are potentially the greatest in showcasing her incredible diversity as a subject and an artist, especially for the untrained or unfamiliar viewer.

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

The gallery that holds the Centerfolds and the Pink Robe photos is a perfect combination of Sherman’s most iconic photos, as well as what many consider a glimpse at “the real Cindy Sherman.” The four centerfolds are arranged in a single line directly opposite the room of her four pink robe photographs. The Centerfolds show Sherman as the star of each photograph in a style that reminded me of Hitchcock’s films. The women are the primary focus of each photograph, all of them with very little background, all on the floor, fully-clothed, unaware of the camera, and fixated on something just outside of the image. Though each of the Centerfolds is structurally similar, each one differs in the emotional state of the subject: detachment, fear, daze, and apprehension. When thinking of the name “Centerfolds,” one imagines the sexual objectification of women in magazines such as Playboy, but the women in Sherman’s Centerfolds makes one consider the vulnerability that inevitably accompanies the sexual portrayal of women. The Centerfolds, a comment on the powerless women of an age of sexual objectification in pop culture, are the perfect juxtaposition to the Pink Robe Photos, which immediately shatter the notion that all sexualized women are weak. The Pink Robe Photos show a powerful and in-control woman in a highly-sexualized state, more so than the Centerfolds. Also arranged in a single line, Sherman again as the subject makes direct eye contact in each photograph, exuding dominance. This woman is a far cry from those pictured in the Centerfolds. She has power in her eyes, and though she is seen covering her naked body with a pink robe, her varied body language gives way to a sense of commandment.

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder.

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

The exhibition closes with new photographs produced this year. A room is filled with what appear to be the aging starlets of an age long gone. One is instantly drawn to Untitled #512, which is different from the rest in terms of her body language and color-scheme. Sherman is shown in a short brown wig and long feathery coat, photoshopped onto a background of rough terrain. This woman is lonely and displaced, but her facial expression would say otherwise; she appears soft and intense, the contrasting aspects of the photograph blending in harmony. She stands angled in a way where she seems thin and more petite, her left knee brought to her right, similar to the pose of a pin-up model. These works reminded me of the Untitled Film Stills, although they are structurally dissimilar, they seem to be a comment on the power dynamic women held in the 20’s as the Untitled Film Stills were on the 50’s and 60’s. The exhibition ends as it begins; Sherman acts as the subject of the work as she both embraces the characteristics of the times and disputes them by infusing her works with power and femininity.

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

Installation view. Photo by Karli Feder

Cindy Sherman created her own style by having the ability to idealize reality. Her flawless execution and comprehensive understanding of the characteristics that define so many periods of art make her one of the most successful artists of modern time. The retrospective is brave, overwhelming, at times terrifying, and incomprehensible. In the beginning, I found myself enamored by how she is able to become so many different subjects, but by the end I was left shellshocked by the unbelievable fact that all of these works came from one, clearly uninhibited mind.

Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life is on view at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles from June 11, 2016- October 2, 2016.

In 1985 Mona Hatoum walked through Brixton in bare feet for almost an hour, dragging behind her as she did the pair of Dr Martens boots that were tied to her ankles (Roadworks). This was Mona Hatoum in the beginning of her work: the body is the locus of all connections between a human and the surrounding space, objects, other humans, society, politics.

Her work creates a challenging vision of our world, exposing its contradictions and complexities, often making the familiar uncanny. Through the juxtaposition of opposites such as beauty and horror, she engages us in conflicting emotions of desire and revulsion, fear and fascination.

Mona Hatoum was born in Beirut to a Palestinian family and during a visit to London in 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon and Hatoum was forced into exile. She stayed in London, training at both the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art (University College, London) between the years 1975 and 1981. She now lives and works in Berlin and London and has participated in numerous important group exhibitions including The Turner Prize (1995), Venice Biennale (1995 and 2005), Documenta XI, Kassel (2002), Biennale of Sydney (2006), The Istanbul Biennal (1995 and 2011) and the Fifth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2013).

I believe it is important to start any description of Hatoum’s work with the above information as this was the platform that allowed the world to be witness to her continuous inspiration. Exile must have been her curse and blessing.

Mona Hatoum, Performance Still 1985, 1995 @Mona Hatoum

Mona Hatoum, Performance Still 1985, 1995
@Mona Hatoum

‘It was nice to be in a place where everyone spoke with a Palestinian accent, which was my parents’ accent – though in Beirut, people used to hide it so they would fit in. But it was very overwhelming, very sad. You feel angry all the time – though I had to keep myself together so I could make the work, and it was inevitable, then, that the work would be about the situation.” She says about the time when she was invited to Jerusalem, in 1996.

Solo exhibitions include Centre Pompidou, Paris (1994), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1997), The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1998), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1999), Tate Britain, London (2000), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Magasin 3, Stockholm (2004) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2005). Recent exhibitions include Measures of Entanglement, UCCA, Beijing (2009), Interior Landscape, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2009), Witness, Beirut Art Center, Beirut (2010), Le Grand Monde, Fundaciòn Marcelino Botìn, Santander (2010) and as the winner of the 2011 Joan Miró Prize, she held a solo exhibition at Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona in 2012. In 2013-2014 she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum St Gallen and the largest survey of her work to be shown in the Arab world is currently held at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.

Coming back to the Tate Modern exhibition, it is absolutely overwhelming to be in the presence of this artist’s lifetime work… The energy seems to have attached to the walls of each room and stories are leaking from every corner, entering the open pores of the spectator’s skin. The body reacts to Hatoum’s body works as they should.

My first thought as I entered the first room of the exhibition was that art is an endless row of assumptions about life as we perceive it and as we are taught to perceive it. Mona Hatoum is unbuttoning the jeans of the old and young generations of art seekers. Her works undress you of the daily routine and her black and white interference between routine and search for absolute is a terrifying blessing.

‘Stills of sequence of live images seens on large monitor facing the audience” 12th of June, 1980 is an artistic scan of the spectator and as he is acknowledging the introspection, the scan penetrates deeper, beneath the skin, into the psychic.

“Light Sentence” 1992 was one of my favorite installations showcased in the exhibition. This prison of shapes that might open the door to freedom of understanding in silence. Mona Hatoum never felt confident enough to speak in her art and the silence translated by some of her works is absolutely overwhelming. In “Light Sentence” there is a perfect harmony between light and darkness and movement does not kill this harmony… Only voices could. Metal, light bulbs, white walls, shadows and movement suddenly become an escape or imprisonment.

Mona Hatoum’s work can be interpreted as a description of the body and its impact on other people and the surrounding objects, as a commentary on politics, and on gender difference as she explores the dangers and confines of the domestic world. Her work can also be interpreted through the concept of space as her sculpture and installation work depend on the viewer to inhabit the surrounding space to complete the effect. There are always multiple readings to her work. The physical responses that Hatoum desired in order to provoke psychological and emotional responses ensures unique and individual reactions from different viewers. (WIKIPEDIA)

In “Jardin Public”(1993), the artist depicts a classic French garden chair that sports pubic hair which seems to grow from the holes in the seat. The title hints at the link between ‘public’ and ‘pubic’, both connected to the Latin work for ‘adult’. The human bodies leave prints on the places that they touch, creating an uninterrupted connection between people and places and their objects.

In her singular sculptures, Hatoum has transformed familiar, every-day, domestic objects such as chairs, cots and kitchen utensils into things foreign, threatening and dangerous. In Homebound (2000) Hatoum uses an assemblage of household furniture wired up with an audibly active electric current – combine a sense of threat with a surrealist sense of humour to create a work that draws the viewer in, on both an emotive and intellectual level.

Mona Hatoum, Impentrable 2009 Florian Kleinefenn courtesy of the artist gallery Chantal Crousel, Paris

Mona Hatoum, Impentrable 2009
Florian Kleinefenn courtesy of the artist gallery Chantal Crousel, Paris

I spent roughly 10 minutes on the room that hosts the installation “Impenetrable” 2009 and thought about the infinity of hope. Looking through the corridors rods of barbed wire, space that you hope you can penetrate and eventually escape the three metre cube maze. Hatoum makes reference to the Venezuelan artist Jesus Rafael Soto’s series of Penetrables, hanging cubes made from colourful rubber tubes.

“Cellules” 2012 suggests confinement, isolation and biology. It suggests the struggle to escpae the imprisonment of our own biology.

Then “Quarters”1996 suggests official, institutional lodgings, while the implicit idea of layered bodies links this work to urban architecture in which people live above one another. Its layout echoes the Panopticon, a prison design in which inmates are always subject to surveillance from a central viewing position by an unseen guard, which philosopher Michael Foucault used as a metaphor for a disciplinary society.

Imprisoned by society, imprisoned by biology, imprisoned by politics. Everything is under the formula of chaos: always close and black – “Turbulence” 2014.

“Hot Spot” 2006, a steel globe with the continents outlined in neon, casting an orange glow and sending buzzes of electricity throughout the room is the piece that completely separates your from the reality that envelopes outside the doors of Tate.

“Interior/Exterior Landscape” 2010 is a room size installation that contains altered household furniture including a bed frame threaded with hair, a hair embroidered pillow that depicts flight routes between the artist;s most visited cities, a conjoined table and chair  and a bird cage housing a single ball of hair. Hanging from a metal coat rack are two circular wire hangers that frame wall drawings of the Eastern and Western hemispheres and a market bag constructed frn a cut-out print of a world map.

“Twelve Windows” made by Mona Hatoum with Inaash, 2012-2013 are twelve pieces of embroidery, the work of Inaash, The Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps. Each ‘window’ represents a different region of through its motifs, stitches, colours and patterns, meticulously embroidered by Inaash’s experienced craftswomen. The aim of the project was to preserve a traditional skill, at risk of extinction because of the dispersal of Palestinians across the region. Hatoum created an installation in which the ‘windows’ are displayed in a space criss-crossed by steel cables, making a visual metaphor for this divided territory.

The last room of the exhibition showcases “Undercurrent (red)” 2008 which explores again the interest of the artist in craft and textiles. This piece is realised dramatically in a combination of traditional technique with materials such as a square mat, woven from red electrical cable, a long fringe snake and 15 watts light bulbs that brighten and dim at what Hatoum describes as a “breathing pace”.

Mona Hatoum, Measures of Distance 1988. © Mona Hatoum

Mona Hatoum, Measures of Distance 1988. © Mona Hatoum

The entire exhibition is a public survey of the artist’s perception of this world that held her tight into a tense creative process, after spitting her away from her biological crib. An exploration of an immigrant soul who saw through the reality of a migrant crowd of souls all travelling from one understanding to another, one reality to another to the point of escape from the imprisonment.

Mona Hatoum exhibition (4th of May 21st of August) is curated by Clarrie Wallis, Curator of Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate and Christine Van Assche, Honorary Curator, Centre Pompidou, Paris, with Katy Wan, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern and Capucine Perrot, former Assistant Curator, Tate Modern.

140 photographs from 10 different series produced by Fernell Franco between 1970 and 1996 are currently shown at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. CALI CLAIR–OBSCUR is a first-time-in-Europe retrospective of this curiously under-recognised Latin American photographer.

The exhibition has not failed to demonstrate Fernell Franco’s photography techniques and unique senses of vision, evidently accumulated from his rich experiences from being a fotocinero (a photographer who takes and sells portraits of people in the streets) to a photojournalist for the newspapers and a fashion photographer. Working as a photojournalist of Cali, Colombia, his sharp and close observation of the city stems from his unbreakable bonding with his native home. As highlighted by the title of the show –Cali, Clair-Obscur, Fernell Franco’s powerful, unobtrusive and yet radical works center on the light and darkness of the city’s urban life.

Fernell Franco, Series Billares, 1985. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

Fernell Franco, Series Billares, 1985. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

Since 1954, Fernell Franco had been discovering cinema and eventually became a film aficionado. He would watch several movies a day in various cinemas throughout the city. As a result, cinematic influence of Mexican cinemafilm noir and Italian neorealism is significantly visible in the Billare series, presenting interior images of snooker clubs in finely designed composition, and the Interiores series, seeking to record the fast-vanishing urban areas from early 1970s where abandoned homes became slums. What I favor the most in these series is how the cinematic effects were accentuated by the artist’s retouching of colours and the emphasis on the contrast between red and green on B&W photos. Serving as a testimony of the cityscape for later generations, the Interiores series showcases the importance of Fernell Franco’s work within a broader cultural context in Cali at the beginning of the 1970s.

Fernell Franco, Series Prostitutas, 1970-1972 (photomontage),Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

Fernell Franco, Series Prostitutas, 1970-1972 (photomontage),Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

The Prostitutas series depicts young girls and women working in one of the last brothels in Buenaventura, Colombia. It is neither glamour nor seduction. Instead, we see realism and darkness. Uneasiness arose when I saw some of the girls in portraits look like a 12-year-old, too young to appear in such settings. The artist used experimental techniques such as toning and solarisation to enhance the contrasts, underlining the dark shadows as ‘a metaphor for forgetting and confinement’. Ironically, underscoring the contrast is the light-hearted salsa music that accompanies the exhibition. Fernell Franco wanted to recreate the joyful and enthusiastic ambiance typical of restaurants, bars, night clubs and brothels of Cali when he exhibited this Prostitutas series at Ciudad Solar, Cali back in 1972.

I like the creepy mysterious, imaginative and  artistic series entitled Amarrados (translated as tied) photos taken by Fernell Franco of wrapped and tied merchandise objects left unattended overnight when he was wandering around the outdoor markets of Colombia and Latin America. According to the text description in the exhibition, these objects in peculiar forms and sizes were seen as dead human bodies.

Fernell Franco, Series Interiores, 1979, Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

Fernell Franco, Series Interiores, 1979, Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fundación Fernell Franco Cali / Toluca Fine Art, Paris

Fernell Franco’s works, representative of Latin American photography, not only are part of the vibrant art scene in Cali since early 1970s, but also have witnessed the transformation of a Colombian city throughout the decades meandering through light and darkness.

FERNELL FRANCO | CALI CLAIR–OBSCUR
February 6 June 5, 2016, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

Performing for the Camera’ is the newest exhibition at Tate Modern which showcases the progressing relationship between performance art and photography from the 19th century into the present.

Focusing on actors, dancers, poets, artists and more, the exhibition contains a whirlwind of movements captured in a selection of images where the body becomes art. Organised into different sections such as ‘Staging/Collaboration’, ‘Performing Icons’, ‘Self/Portrait’ and ‘Performing Real Life’, the exhibition looks at the diverse nature of performance. It also contains diverse forms of photography from film to digital and even the inclusion of the ‘selfie’.

‘Performing for the Camera’ shows that performance is much more complex than people might think. Yes, it includes an array of posed models, choreographed dancers and constructed personas, but it also shows more intimate elements that we perhaps do not even realise are a performance. Whether you are vegging out at home, interacting with people around you or developing your identity through your clothes choices, it seems that life, in fact, is a performance and this exhibition captures every element of it.

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Amalia Ulman Excellences & Perfections (Instagram Update, 8th July 2014), (#itsjustdifferent) 2015 © Courtesy Arcadia Missa and The Artist​

Photography is a vital tool in the world of art as it preserves the moment before it is lost forever. It can be staged; it can be candid, though it always captures the precise momentum of time. The photographs within the exhibition showcase how our movements and expressions can become a political battle ground and how we can use our bodies to represent higher concepts such as gender inequality or resistance against a political regime.

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Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. 3 black and white prints. Each 148 x 121 cm. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio Image courtesy Ai Weiwei © Ai Weiwei.

Highlights of the show included a series of photographs of Ai WeiWei entitled Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn taken in 1995. The photograph depicts Ai WeiWei with an expressionless face looking into the camera and dropping a 2,000 year old urn, thus, allowing it to be smashed to pieces. In this performance, the artist is rebelling against the intense focus China puts on its culture. However, without the aid of photography, this performance would not have been captured. The act of dropping the vase itself would not have taken more than a few seconds, but its significance stretches far beyond its existence and produces a provocative and somewhat empowering effect for both the artist and the spectator, as we witness the artist liberating himself from a symbol of a regime that has limited him so much in both his life and his career as an artist.

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“Strip No. 5, Dealer”, 1999 Photography Jemima Stehli, courtesy of Laurence King Publishing

Another highlight is the artist Jemima Stehli with her piece Strip from 1999-2000. In these images, Stehli takes an array of somewhat unconventional self-portraits where she performs a strip tease in front of seated male figures, all of whom come from the art world including curators, critics and more. With her back to camera and the male subject looking straight into the lens, Stehli creates a strange yet effective dynamic within her images. It is in fact the man in the photograph who is given the shutter release and therefore is in control of when the images are taken. These challenging photographs capture an array of concepts such as a male gaze, voyeurism and sexuality and the artists’ bold use of her body. The artist both sexualises and desexualises the body in her piece with everything from the use of her sexually charged title, the display of her naked body and the reactions of the male subjects involved.

Both Ai WeiWei’s and Stehli’s pieces are massively contrasting but they also have some similarities at their core which run throughout the whole exhibition. They show the diversity that photography can take, the meaning that one frame can hold and, ultimately, they really do embody the concept ‘an image is worth a thousand words’.

With it being two years since Tate Modern last showcased a photography exhibition, I think, their newest edition definitely showcases the importance and diversity of this art form. Whether we realise it or not we all perform for the camera at some point in our lives: a posed family photo, photographs taken of weddings and celebrations or simply selfies.

‘Performing for the Camera’ brings out elements that I believe most visitors will find a connection with as it also looks at life with the inclusion of celebrity culture, gender, race, sexuality and more. It shows how on some level, even if there is not a camera there to capture the moment, we all interact and engage with performance throughout our lives.

Performing for the Camera’ on view at Tate Modern through June 12th.

Born in Limassol, Cyprus in 1989, Meletios Meletiou studied Fine Arts in the Academy of Rome and worked also as an assistant professor during the academic year 2012-2013. Furthermore, he attended professional courses of interior design at the Rome University of Fine Arts as well as window dresser and visual merchandiser at the Altieri Academy of Fashion and Art. Since 2014 attending a second level Master in Visual and performing arts in Rome’s Fine Arts Academy.

Meletios developed his ideas and formulated his own thinking during his academic and pre-academic years and applying it in various ways in his work.

Artists of his nature are essential to the artistic practise, they offer a different perception of the current events, with a realistic and more humane approach.


  1. How did you enter the art world? How did you start creating?

I can recall my father from a relatively early age being exposed into the arts, and that was the catalyst that triggered me to go into a private art school for 8 years. As I was growing up, I realised that this was my field. The entire procedure of creating art defines me as a person.

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PortaCorpi – Again(2), 2015. Courtesy of the Artist.

  1. Can you share with us what are you doing right now? What projects are you undertaking?

Currently, I am working on three projects. The two of those begun last year and the last one was initiated few months ago. One of those projects, includes the new park that is taking its shape in Magliana, next to the Tiber River. I was chosen to create a sculpture through my university. This project was supposed to be exhibited last year, but due to some procedural decisions it was postponed. This project includes a rock made by travertine tiles and it is called “Transition”. The other project, was given to our team by the United Nations and it is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be fulfilled until 2030. The last project however  is the one that stigmatised me both as a person and as an artist.

I started focusing on the refugee crisis, and most importantly to the people that were victimised from the war in Syria. It all started when I was scrutinising the entire chaotic situation in Mytilini where it was filled with people urging for a better living with no organisation whatsoever; as it was a crisis indeed. “Better Days for Moria”, a non-governmental organisation, which is volunteering in the area of Lesbos in Greece is burdened by refugees helped me to visit Lesbos to dissect the situation. The initial plan was to take some photographs that I needed for this project depicting the chaos in the area and conduct some workshops with the refugees in the entertaining section that is held by ‘Better Days for Moria’.

The project however took another take. I had to change my approach to it. You have to understand that when you have to do with people, emotions are getting involved and things cannot go according to plan. Generally, this project was related to the journey of ordinary people from Syria to Greece and then from Greece back to Europe. So this included a two-journey depiction.

  1. What do you want to extract and focus on in Lesbos?

At first I just wanted to go, see what is going on, help, cooperate with the people there and leave. I never thought that the impact of this visit would have altered my perception and my practise. It helped tackle art in a more humane way. Most importantly it reminded me how to be a human and not just a human being. It made me erase everything I considered in the past and create my one “Simio 0” which is the name of the project I will focus on. My ultimate aim is to create an installation that will describe the present situation in Lesbos of the victims of the war and in the same time be used as a historical evidence in the future of what was going on back then. I feel that even if the refugee crisis has gained massive exposure, it is not entirely raising the awareness needed. After all, the crisis is still there. We do not learn from history. History repeats itself, but with different standards every single time.

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PortaCorpi – Again, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist.

  1. How did it all start and how do you visualise the final installation project?

Few months ago, more specifically in September, I started a project that was related to the Refugee Crisis. This project was a continuation of my previous studio practise. You have to bear in mind, that I usually use symbols while creating.  From 2010, I am using an everyday object, what people know as clothes hangers as a symbol to depict people that are trapped into certain situations that they cannot handle themselves. I initiated this project to depict a massive issue to create awareness and this was anorexia. I tried to portray bodies that suffer from specific nutritional turbulences. As I went along, this project developed to a generic depiction of turbulences that cause humans addictions. My aim was to actually interpret bodies that due to these experiences turn out to be lifeless. I understand that this is harsh. But my objective was to put an end to it. These bodies were hooked in what I have used as a symbol – the clothes hanger. The clothes hanger turned out to be a symbol that represented the people that are hooked by certain situations. Without it, the people would have been free.

Last year, I used this symbol of clothes hangers to represent the people that suffer and are trapped from terrorism and more specifically ISIS. I called this project ‘PortaCorpi’. Therefore, through this process, this symbol became my trademark. I relate this symbol to the refugee crisis. I relate it this symbol to the life vests that are the only safety nets people have during their journey from Syria to Greece and Greece to Europe.

I don’t know if you have seen this, but when the refugees land into Lesbos, those life vest jackets are thrown away. The irony is that those life vest jackets are the only supportive elements people have. They are not even real. They cannot save human beings. It is simply an illusion for the refugees that the life vest jacket is their own protection. But its not.

I want to create the parallel of these life vest jackets to a clothe hanger. People throw the life vest jacket as soon as they see land, to get rid of the burden. To get rid of the war crime because they feel safe at least.  I don’t know how to define the burden. The people that arrive to Lesbos are bodies that were forced to leave their country. They are bodies that are trapped into a situation that they did not choose themselves.  Nobody wants to leave their country and that is the only thing we can take for granted. From my perception, this is what I define to be the ‘clothes-hangers’. It is the situation that keeps the hooked embedded into a consequence that they did not choose themselves. They are forced to enter the sea with the fear of dying and Lesbos becomes their zero point where they finally feel safe. Zero point in Greek means “Simio 0” which is the name of the project. As Lesbos becomes the safe haven of the refugees their bodies are finally back on track.

From my own perception, time stops there- in the so-called “Simio 0”. I want to create an installation, with hundreds of handmade wires that will be presented as hangers. This will work as a parallel with the mountains of life vest jackets that are thrown away after the refugees reach the land. As you can imagine, the situation itself is unstable therefore, things can be subjected to transform and develop as I go along.

My plan is that I will visit Lesbos soon. This journey will definitely last longer. My aim is to conduct new workshops that will focus on the ‘imaginary friends’ that refugees may have in this journey as their shoulder. These workshops will consist of handmade wires sculptures that will represent each person’s personal perspective on the matter.

  1. I understand you work with concepts. Why did you choose to work with the refugee crisis? Why now?

It was not an urge. It was a building process of my previous studio practise. After the ‘PortaCorpi’ concept, this project was subsequent development. The refugee crisis, had a massive impact on me, especially after the incident in the port of Mytillini, last summer. Especially when you see all these horrific images – image is so important nowadays- you understand that you need to relate further. The orange brightness verifies a vigilant sentiment. Therefore, all these images, and the development of my studio practise made me understand that this project was essential for me as an artist.

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Collezione, 2010-2012. Courtesy of the Artist.

  1. Based on your experience, what is the role of art in a society?

As people, we tend to forget quite easily. Art is an important source of communication between people that have a language barrier. When I was in Lesbos and I was interacting with the refugees, we were communicating through sketches. They couldn’t speak English so art was our common language. Art is a language that everyone can understand, every person in this world. Thereby, I feel that art underlines memories and interaction.

  1. What was the hardest thing you came across in Lesbos?

The first boat. I cannot take it off my mind. I was holding two cameras and I had no clue what I was going to see there. I saw a new-born baby getting off the boat. That was my zero point. I was dashed.

  1. Are you usually influenced by political/historical considerations or by artistic ones?

I tend to examine historical considerations to create something that is going on in the world right now. I don’t care about visual aesthetics to the eye that much. I care that the aesthetic of the concept will delivery the right messages to the audience or make them ask questions regarding the concept I am raising. Art needs to make people think. If it is aesthetically pleasing or not, that’s not something I focus on.

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PortaCorpi – Operation ISIS, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist.

  1. How do you approach your work?

I sketch non-stop. I analyse my thoughts. I let myself into my thoughts and research non-stop. Lesbos was a turning-point as I said before. I have seen something that I have never seen in my entire life. It made me tackle art in a more humane way.

  1. Who is your favourite artist?

I never felt the urge to have a favourite artist. I examine several artists for what they are doing which many of them are influential to me in their own level.

  1. What is the thing that inspires you?

Humans and their surroundings.

  1. What are your plans in the future?

I want to feel satisfied from what I am doing in Lesbos. I want to reach a point that I will feel that I have offered something else with the project that is based on the refugee crisis. The only thing I have learnt from my experience in Lesbos is that situations are subjected to alter all the time. You cannot go according to plan.

  1. As a young artist, what is your advice to the younger generation that aspires to become part of the art world?

Find your own form of expression. Whatever you do, do it passionately.

 

Yes, you didn’t read it wrong – this is about South Korean artists in the Parisian art fair. The art world in Paris has welcomed spring with Art Paris Art Fair which gathers 143 galleries from 20 countries, including Azerbaijan, Colombia and Iran for the first time. The fair presents art from the post-war period to the present, with South Korea as the guest of honour this year. Almost 70 Korean artists are represented by galleries both from Korea and around 20 Western galleries. In fact, the Korean art scene and markets has been growing drastically with multiplied global market share during recent years. By observation, the work of South Korean artists is generally well received by fair-goers while these following artists have particularly intrigued both the French (majority) and international audience.

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Choi Jeong Hwa, Breathing Flower, 2014

  1. Choi Jeong Hwa

Being one of the most internationally renowned artists from South Korea, Choi Jeong Hwa’s art consists of cultural icons and materials from our daily life, such as soda bottles, shopping bags, and colourful plastic dishes. He is also known for large-scale installations that trump the hierarchy of museum. At the fair Park Ryu Sook Gallery from Seoul presents a moving installation titled Breathing Flower that catches much attention from fair-goers as the large red flower opens and closes with air being pumped in and released at intervals.

chun_kwang_young_aggregation_15_2014_mixed_media_with_korean_mulberry_paper_courtesy_of_art_paris_art_fair

Chun Kwang Young, Aggregation 15, 2014_mixed media with korean mulberry paper. Courtesy of Art Paris Art Fair.

  1. Chun Kwang Young

Generally recognised as a pioneer in contemporary Korean art, Chun Kwang Young’s art employs traditional Korean technique and material but expressed in visual language of our time. Hundreds of small shapes wrapped in tinted antique mulberry paper are inspired by the artist’s childhood nostalgia as they resemble bundles of paper packages of traditional medicinal herbs. His work can be seen at several gallery booths including Kálmán Makláry Fine ArtsOmer Tiroche Contemporary ArtPark Ryu Sook GallerySundaram Tagore Gallery. Among these, Sundaram Tagore Gallery has brought various new site-specific works – a series of colourful and greatly tactile wall reliefs, which make it worth visiting the booth.
While Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts is displaying only one piece by the artist, it is still recommended to visit the booth to check out the work of a younger South Korean artist, Ilhwa Kim, whose work has visibly been influenced by Chun Kwang Young’s while demonstrating his own style and technique, using another traditional material – handmade Korean paper, Hanji.

installation_by_bahk_seon_ghi_at_galerie_andres_thalmann

Installation by Bahk Seon Ghi at Galerie Andres Thalmann

  1. Bahk Seon-Ghi

At the booths of 313 Art Project, Galerie Paris-Beijing and Galerie Andres Thalmann, you can discover and be amazed by the artist’s suspended charcoal installations. Started to concentrate on working with charcoal in the late 1980s, Bahk Seon-Ghi wants to express nature which he has been in close contact since his childhood. His work made up of subtle and humble small pieces of charcoal is very visually appealing.

kim_joon_drunken-absolut_vodka_2011

Kim Joon, Drunken-Absolut Vodka, 2011

  1. Kim Joon

This Seoul-based artist explores tattoo culture using digital prints made with 3-D imaging. Desire, memory and youth are illustrated through digital mediums of porcelain and tattoos. Park Ryu Sook Gallery has brought the artist’s latest series Somebody of startling images of misplaced and intertwined body parts. Though not much my cup of tea, it exposes the hidden desire or the human and the society. I personally prefer Kim Joon’s series of porcelain in shapes of broken human bodies imprinted with brand logos, such as Absolut in Drunken-Absolut Vodka, 2011 as presented at Sundaram Tagore Gallery’s booth.

kim_tschang-yeul_recurrence_spy201501_2014_courtesy_of_art_paris_art_fair

Kim Tschang-Yeul, Recurrence SPY201501, 2014. Courtesy of Art Paris Art Fair.

  1. Kim Tschang Yeul

Living and working in both Paris and Seoul, Kim Tschang Yeul, at an age of 87, has spent much of his career painting water drops. He drills into the expression of the forms and meanings of this object. At the booths of both Baudoin Lebon, Paris and Park Ryu Sook Gallery are some latest important pieces of this distinguished artist, visually vivid water drops lying on backdrops subtly inscribed with characters from the Korean language.

Art Paris Art Fair at Grand Palais, Paris, 31 March – 3 April, 2016

The delightful Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side is my favorite escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Manhattan, but you may already know that from my review of Berlin Metropolis. There is nothing like great art, old world nostalgia, and sublime Viennese desserts to take your mind off the stresses of everyday life. The exhibition, “Munch and Expressionism,” does not disappoint. Munch, who is best known for his iconic piece, “The Scream,” painted works that dealt with heavy existential themes and were both horrifying and erotic. The show displays the fascinating symbiotic relationship between the Norwegian father of Expressionism, Edvard Munch, and German and Austrian Expressionists; the German artists being Max Beckmann, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gabriele Münter, and Emile Nolde, and the Austrian artists Richard Gerstl, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. This exhibition, organized with The Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, features “The Scream,” in addition to several other captivating paintings and woodcuts from this fascinating period of modern European art.

Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895. Image Courtesy of The Artist and The Neue Galerie

The exhibit is organized into four different galleries that chronologically document the evolution of Munch’s provocative aesthetic. The first gallery, “Experimental Printmaking,” features some of Munch’s early works from the late 19th century and demonstrates Munch’s “radical approach” to his craft. In addition to Munch’s innovative woodcuts, this gallery includes some great paintings such as the three versions of one of my personal favorites, Munch’s peculiar “Madonna” from 1895. This painting features a beautiful nude female subject; the lithograph version is adorned with a border of tiny sperm-like creatures and a little fetus in the corner. While the painting is conventionally erotic, it also conveys Munch’s association of sex with death and other grave consequences.

The second and third galleries, “Munch and the Expressionists in Dialogue” and “Influence and Affinity,” delve a bit deeper into the dynamic between Munch and the Expressionists. These sections explore how Munch paved the way for these artists to break with the conventions of realism and experiment with color and brushwork. I was especially drawn to the playful use of color in Munch’s “Model by the Wicker Chair” from 1919 and “Bathing Man” from 1918. Although these paintings are done in vibrant shades of blue, green, and violet, they maintain Munch’s signature ethos of anxiety and grief.

Edvard Munch, Bathing Man, 1918. Image: Courtesy of The Artist and The Neue Galerie

Edvard Munch, Bathing Man, 1918. Image: Courtesy of The Artist and The Neue Galerie

I was also intrigued by the equally colorful “Street, Dresden” by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The painting exudes brilliant color, yet simultaneously reads as dark and devastating. No exhibit at the Neue Galerie would be complete without a few pieces by Egon Schiele, one of the (literal) poster children for the museum and one of my favorite expressionist painters. I really appreciated the addition of Schiele’s “Self-Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder,” which, with its liberal brushwork and penetrating eyes, is full of intense emotional pathos. Prior to visiting this exhibit, I wouldn’t necessarily associate Munch with Schiele because I consider their aesthetics so distinct from one another. However, after looking at Schiele’s paintings in the context of Munch, I began to see the similar themes of anguish that pervade the works of both artists.

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder, 1912. Image: Courtesy of The Artist and The Neue Galerie

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder, 1912. Image: Courtesy of The Artist and The Neue Galerie

The fourth and final gallery in the exhibit is an appropriately claustrophobic and dimly-lit room dedicated to the main event, Munch’s “The Scream” from 1893, and the two original lithographs. Additionally, the room features Erich Heckel’s woodcut “Man on a Plain,” as well as a few Schiele portraits. Above the final version of “The Scream” is a quote by Munch himself:

“I was walking along the road with two friends,

“The sun was setting – the sky turned blood-red.

And I felt a wave of sadness – I paused

tired to death –Above the blue-black Fjord

and city blood and flaming tongues hovered.

My friends walked on – I stayed

behind – quaking with angst – I

felt the great scream in nature” – Edvard Munch

Although I had seen this iconic image countless times reproduced in textbooks and on the internet, I felt like I was looking at “The Scream” for the very first time. There was something powerfully cathartic about standing in that tiny dark blue room and confronting the painting live. After gaining a better understanding of the cultural and historical context that Munch was operating in, the painting resonated with me on a much deeper level. Visitors can expect to leave “Munch and Expressionism” emotionally moved and curious to learn more about this innovative period of art history. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a slice of Sachertorte, mit schlag on your way out.

“Munch and Expressionism” runs until June 13th and is definitely not to be missed. Bring a friend or two for a solid afternoon of superb paintings and delectable pastries.

One of the largest art fairs in the world, Art Dubai, celebrates its 10th edition this year in the heart of the new cultural and creative hub of the art world – Dubai Emirates. The fair is known for mostly showcasing artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Africa. Spanned along 76 galleries from 35 countries, Art Dubai 2016 is the largest and most diverse fair line-up among its predecessors. Apart from art, Art Dubai has the largest non-for-profit education program in the world, focusing on bringing more than 1000 local school children to appreciate art and learn about it.

Driven by the 2020 plan for Dubai to become the global artistic destination, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the patron of the fair, established 3 artist residencies in the Emirates, mostly focusing on emerging contemporary artists from the region. The fair is the cultural infrastructure, the soul and the cultural dialogue between artists and viewers. Art Dubai has global aspirations to successfully start building the bridge between professional and amateur young artists to create an international art platform as well as support emerging art spaces of the region. Over the past 9 years the fair had a tremendous impact on the economic situation of the city, bringing over $35 million (calculated without the final sales revenue). Apart from the contemporary art section of the fair, it is the 3rd year of the Art Dubai Modern, showcasing the shift towards the modern art of the North African and Middle-Eastern artists.

The interesting fact of Art Dubai 2016 – 45% of artists represented are women. By doing so, the fair seeks to emphasize the role of the women artists in the arts of the region. Moreover, it is largely assumed that it’s the largest percentage of women artists represented in any art fair worldwide. Would it be the beginning of the art fair feminist movement? Art Dubai definitely strikes this question the first.

Here is a list of top 3 artists to see while roaming around the Art Dubai this weekend:

  • Marina Abramovic
    Marina_Abramovic

    Marina Abramovic, Portrait of the Artist with a Rose, 2013. Courtesy of Artsy

    Represented by Galerie Krinzinger Vienna, Marina Abramovic was born in Yugoslavia and now lives and works in NYC. One of the major works of the 21st century, the Artist Portrait with the Rose (2013) by Marina Abramovic – the queen of the performance art movement – is one of a series investigating the spiritual and shamanistic practices if the Amazon region. The portrait is not just an observation though, it showcases the artist’s own experience while traveling in Brazil to “places of power”. Even though not having much to do with Arabic art, this art piece is an absolute must-see for any art professional or amateur art lover.

 

  • George Pusenkoff
    George_Pusenkoff

    George and Ilya Pusenkoff, The Color of a Shadow. Courtesy of Daria Zlobina

    Represented by Galerie Brigitte Schenk, George Pusenkoff was born in Russia before permanently moving to Germany in the 90s. Throughout the 30-year career as an artist, George has been thinking about shadows and their movement. At the fair, he presents his earlier pieces depicting Mona Lisa made out if pixels (the art piece that you can actually touch) and a new digital art installation, where every visitor becomes a literal part of an artwork by casting geometric shadows.

  • Benjamin Tavakov
    Benjamin_Tavakol_Untitled_2015

    Benjamin Tavakov, Untitled, 2015. Courtesy of Art Dubai

    Represented by the Khak Gallery, Benjamin Tavakov is a contemporary Iranian artist. His 3D sculptural installations have a unique view of the world, quite sinister and yet melancholically beautiful. The artist tackles such notions of one’s being in the world and the continuous ascendance in the world despite all hardships by observing the everyday life of the region.

 

 

Art Dubai 2016 takes place at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, March 16-19, 2016

Since its inception in 2009, SPRING/BREAK Art Show has been gaining a steady stream of followers eager to get a look at emerging artists in the New York art scene before their big break – as well as collectors who want to purchase artwork without breaking the bank. Located for the second year at the Skylight at Moynihan Station, the somewhat dilapidated space above the massive post office provides ample potential for unique installations with its wood-paneled former mailing rooms and seemingly randomly placed sinks and bathroom stalls. Considering the pomp-and-circumstance often associated with Armory Arts Week, the art-school qualities of the curator-driven fair can, at times, feel campy or kitsch. However, for those looking to actually understand what they are seeing, the DIY-attitude of the venue lends itself perfectly to discussion, typically with the artists or curators themselves

Jimmy's Thrift: Artist Azikiwe Mohammed acts as Jimmy, the shop-owner of "Jimmy's Thrift" located in New Davonhaime. Photograph by Daniela Mayer

Jimmy’s Thrift: Artist Azikiwe Mohammed acts as Jimmy, the shop-owner of “Jimmy’s Thrift” located in New Davonhaime. Photograph by Daniela Mayer

Azikiwe Mohammed, “A New Davonhaime Thrift Store,” curated by Dustin Yellin

Step into Jimmy’s Thrift, a cozy wood-paneled shop of discarded ephemera in the fictional city of New Davonhaime, which gets its name from the amalgamation of the five most densely populated black cities in the United States (New Orleans, LA, Detroit, MI, Jackson, MS, Birmingham, AL, and Savannah, GA). Playing on the idea of people moving to find a better way of life, artist Azikiwe Mohammed has created a haven for black people, free from the issues surrounding the cities of its real-life inspirations. When I questioned Mohammed about his own inspiration for the project, he answered, “The last few years have been hard for brown folk, so what if there was a place that wasn’t?”

Much like a real shop, Jimmy’s contents change daily as the artist receives or creates more items. The tone varies from playful to serious, with a highlight of the space being the record player of real people discussing the first time they realized they were black. Looking at the eclectic mix of items around the room, it is hard to believe that one person made all of its contents, but each object is integral to the installation. Mohammed commented, “One of the things that was really important to me was to be able to make something that, while I’m controlling all the stories, not everything looks like it’s made by the same person… if I can make stuff that is different enough, then the question isn’t who made it, it’s where did all this come from.

Untitled #3 from 15 Pairs of Mouths with MOHAUNTDH in the background, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos. Photo by Daniela Mayer

Untitled #3 from 15 Pairs of Mouths with MOHAUNTDH in the background, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos. Photo by Daniela Mayer

Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, “MHOAUNTDH,” curated by Amanda Uribe and Ché Morales

Taking the expression “talking with your hands” to a new level, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos combined the words “mouth” and “hand” to create MHOAUNTDH, an installation emphasizing technology’s impact on -and fusion with- communication. Playing off of Bruce Nauman’s “Fifteen Pairs of Hands,” the artist cast fifteen pairs of hands as if they were texting – a series she titled “15 Pairs of Mouths.” As noted by curator Ché Morales, “We don’t always talk on the phone anymore, we text, so the thumb has replaced our lips.” Other works include “In Conversation,” a series of booth-like structures that play with concepts of language barriers by the audible repetition of Google Translated definitions, seemingly questioning whether or not technology bridges or widens the gap between true understanding.

A close up of the clothing for sale at LV DIY. Photograph by Daniela Mayer.

A close up of the clothing for sale at LV DIY. Photograph by Daniela Mayer.

Alfred Steiner, “LV DIY,” special project by 101/EXHIBIT, curated by Kevin Van Gorp and Shen-Shen Wu

One floor down from Jimmy’s Thrift is a very different kind of store where cardboard boxes from McDonald’s line the walls, surrounding the used clothing scrawled with the universally recognizable LV monogram. This is copyright-lawyer-turned-artist Alfred Steiner’s LV DIY store that parodies the contents, prices, and physical boutique design for Louis Vuitton. According to curator Shen-Shen Wu, the items for sale are more worthy of their price tag than their real world counterparts. “It’s actually more unique than whatever Louis Vuitton is selling, so you can buy a mass-produced item that is branded in a luxury way or you can support an artist who is producing a conceptual art piece.”

What initially appears to be a blatant commentary on mass-production and consumerism is given another level with the book filled with lawsuits involving Louis Vuitton, who, although eager to collaborate with contemporary artists, are notoriously abusive about wielding their intellectual property rights to silence criticism and parody. Luckily, Steiner can provide legal counsel for his own exhibit.

SPRING/BREAK Art Show, March 2-7 2016, 421 Eighth Avenue, Skylight at Moynihan Station (Main Post Office Entrance)

On March 2nd, VIP guests and press filled Piers 92 and 94 to preview the 22nd edition of the Armory Show, with Benjamin Genocchio—the Armory’s new executive director—bringing together just over 200 galleries from 36 countries. It is the show’s largest international turn out yet, with galleries from Mexico City to Reykjavík. As the Armory Show has grown, it has introduced a special invitational section that focuses on encapsulating artistic practices from a certain region. For its 7th edition, the show presents “Focus: African Perspectives,” curated by Yvette Mutumba and Julia Grosse, the founders of Contemporary And, an online platform that focuses on global art from African perspectives.

While some of the galleries outside of the focus exhibition seemed to take the theme to heart, after investigating, it became apparent that most are simply just becoming more internationally aware and looking beyond their domestic landscapes. Many galleries’ rosters feature a wide range of very diverse artists, not just in terms of nationality but also diversity of medium and theme. With such an international range of artists and works, it seems our interest in the global has been reflected within the art market. However, unsurprisingly and understandably, most galleries have stuck to the usual show of their newest works by their most marketable artists, international or not. Dealers brought out classic blue chip artists, such as Dan Flavin and Ai Weiwei, and, as is expected, displaying works that preview what is to come for the next season and playing off the popular trends within the art world.

Courtesy of Lisson Gallery and the Artist: Ai Weiwei, "Shelter," 2014. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of Lisson Gallery and the Artist: Ai Weiwei, “Shelter,” 2014. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Despite the sometimes too obvious business side of the fair, it was a big year politically with lots of hot button issues, such as racial inequality, which are reflected in many of the contemporary works on display, indicating dealers’ have an understanding that social consciousness and political engagement within art is attractive to the Armory’s attendees. Overall, while the Armory Show is still a typical art fair at heart, it did allow visitors to view some serious artistic gems before they disappear behind private doors. Here are some highlights we think are worth checking out:

Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery and the Artist: Kehinde Wiley, "Bound," 2015. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery and the Artist: Kehinde Wiley, “Bound,” 2015. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Sean Kelly’s booth dominated the entrance of the show with a large, magnificent Kehinde Wiley bronze sculpture entitled Bound, 2016, its price listed at $375,000. Bound features three women bound together by their hair and was featured in Wiley’s Brooklyn Museum show in the spring of 2015. On either side of the sculpture are two new works by Jose Dávila that are in direct conversation with pop superstar Roy Lichtenstein’s two paintings, Drowning Girl, 1963 and Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But…, 1964. While I was visiting the booth, associates were busy pulling smaller works by Dávila in the same style and similar subject matter. The booth boasted another work by Kehinde Wiley, an enormous, brand new portrait entitled Equestrian Portrait of Phillip III, which was already sold before the start of the fair.

Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2016 Pier 94, Booth 501. Jose Dávila, "Untitled )Oh, Jeff...I Love You, Too…But...) II," 2016 and "Untitled (Drowning Girl)," 2016; Kehinde Wiley, "Bound," 2016. Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2016
Pier 94, Booth 501. Jose Dávila, “Untitled )Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But…) II,” 2016 and “Untitled (Drowning Girl),” 2016; Kehinde Wiley, “Bound,” 2016. Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

I spoke with Lauren Kelly, director of Sean Kelly, about how they chose what to bring to this year’s show. “We specifically tailor what we exhibit based on the market; for this Armory show we wanted to show all brand new works. People expect to see new works at the Armory, so it was more about what exciting new works our artists have versus what balance we want of international or domestic artists. However, we’re in a political year, and we’re thinking about that…we’re showing works that are socially relevant.” When I asked about the Dávila works flying out of the back room, Kelly commented, “we always do really well at the Armory, its a great sales fair for us.” The average price of the artworks? Kelly responded with a cool “Fifty to sixty thousand.”

Courtesy of Victoria Miro and The Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, "To Be Determined," 2016. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of Victoria Miro and The Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “To Be Determined,” 2016. Photography by Madeleine Mermall

Victoria Miro’s booth did not disappoint; a large Kara Walker greets passersby and works by Sarah Sze, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili and others fill up the space. A large diptych by Njideka Akunyili Crosby stood out from the rest. It is so new that one of the gallery’s representatives told me it has yet to be named, so it is simply being called To Be Determined, for now. A Nigerian artist based in Los Angeles, Crosby’s work represents a cultural hybrid between being Nigerian and American and the dichotomy that exists between the two. The work depicts a woman sitting at what we presume to be a kitchen table, her stiff yellow dress crinkled at the waist. She sits sideways, her elbow leaning across the top of the chair, her other arm settled on the table. Her eyes are cast downward, lost in a moment to herself. Across from her, a TV plays the image of a military leader. Adjacent to the television, on the wall, we see the bottom half of a framed wedding photo of a bi-racial couple. The background of the diptych is a collage of traditional Nigerian textiles and images from Nigerian news. I was entranced.

Paris’s Galerie Alberta Pane’s featured piece was definitely the most photographed of the fair. Romina de Novellis performed The Cage, or, La Gabbia, during the VIP and press preview that consisted of the artist locked nude in a cage with 500 white roses, which she methodically tied to the bars around her, slowly encapsulating herself within a floral box. She was constantly surrounded by spectators. Her serene, graceful and trance-like gestures and expression made me feel slightly uncomfortable. After a period of time, I was hyper-aware of my participation in the spectatorship and felt like I was entrapped in the viewpoint of the voyeur while she was entrapped in her vulnerability, slowly hiding herself from the audience’s gaze.

Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery and The Artist: Elias Sime, "Tigthrope, Trios," 2013. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery and The Artist: Elias Sime, “Tigthrope, Trios,” 2013. Photograph by Madeleine Mermall

James Cohan Gallery’s feature piece is by Elias Sime, entitled Tigthrope, Trios, from 2013. I spoke to David Norr, senior director, about Elias Sime’s work. “Elias is an Ethiopian artist who works in Addis Ababa. He creates compositions out of recomposed electronic parts that are often sourced from the market place, it’s called the Mercato. Often in Africa electronic parts are dumped and they are stripped and they are separated and resold at the market place. Sometimes they are separated by color, sometimes they are separated by actual material. They’re sold in 55 gallon drums. He uses these materials to create almost topographic landscape pieces. He’s using what’s available. It’s not as if oil paint from Brooklyn is available to him, so he’s working with the language that he’s familiar with, and wants to work within that language. He’s interested in making something of Addis, so it’s both directions in terms of formalism and also speaking to his environment, his surroundings.” When asked about the general price range, Norr said that the works they brought the show cost anywhere from $3500 to $235,000, “we brought works for a diverse range of buyers, we were thinking about the real art market.”

Although London dealer Ben Brown came armed with his usual suspects that include Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana and Alexander Calder, he balanced the classic big names of modernism and post-modernism with some works by relevant contemporary artists like Awol Erizku. Also, Claude Lalanne’s Pomme d’Hiver was quite the crowd pleaser.

Jack Shainman Gallery brought a diverse range of works that are representative of their roster that wow’d critics and collectors alike. Works by Hank Willis Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, Titus Kaphar, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Barkley Hendricks are all must-sees. 

Hank Willis Thomas, Promise, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Hank Willis Thomas, "Promise," 2016

Hank Willis Thomas, Promise, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Hank Willis Thomas, “Promise,” 2016

I had the opportunity to speak with Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, director of Jack Shainman, about their works on display. “We brought a representation of our roster; we represent artists from across the world, including Africa, Europe and around the Americas. We have a really diverse range of artists.” When discussing Promise by Hank Willis Thomas, she stated that “his new works are focused on taking really well-know or historically important photographs and finding an isolated moment within the frame and turning it into 3D sculpture. A sub-sect of this larger series is working around sports imagery. He’s really interested in ideas revolving around identity, representations, activity and thinking about sports as a life metaphor.”

Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Titus Kaphar, Alternate Endings II, 2015

Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Titus Kaphar, Alternate Endings II, 2015

Moving towards the Titus Kaphar, Bellorado-Samuels told me that “he’s really interested in visiting the art historical canon, specifically European and American history painting, but taking figures that generally would’ve been pushed into the margins and making them the central figure and reinterpreting history that way.”

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery and The Artist: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Fortress, 2016

Towards the back-end of the booth, I was drawn to a piece by Toyin Ojih Odutola, inquiring about the work, she told me the artist was born in Nigeria but has lived around the U.S. for quite some time. “She works in various mediums, including this graphite and ballpoint pen and pastel, really interested in thinking about portraiture but really in a material way and rethinking line and form and what the material means to the subject. Thinking about the skin as a terrain and remapping the body.” When asked about the experience so far, Bellorado-Samuels was enthusiastic. “It’s been a great fair, it’s super busy and it’s a great opportunity for people who know these artists or to introduce people to artists they haven’t seen before, and now get to see them here, so it’s been good!” When I asked about prices, she told me that they range between $17,000 to $1.3 million. The publicist quickly stepped closer, so I ended my questioning there.

Namsa Leuba at Echo Gallery, Lagos as part of Armory Focus

Namsa Leuba at Echo Gallery, Lagos as part of Armory Focus

Echo Gallery Lagos, a gallery invited to the Armory Show as a part of Armory Focus, featured photography by Namsa Leuba. I had a chance to speak with the artist herself about her work.

“For the past few years I’ve been working on the concept of African identity through Western eyes. A part of my work is very based in fine art and also fashion, finding inspiration through fashion. I work only with local people, and with a Nigerian fashion designer. For almost all my pictures I do my castings in the street. I wanted to get another perception of what will be the next generation in Lagos. In my other photographs I work with traditional clothes and thinking about cultural symbolism in West Africa, South Africa. I try to cover not only multiple generations but also traditional and contemporary, past present, modernity, tradition, I explore both sides. I try to explore Africa. I work with different tools from ritual ceremonies and where I’m from, in Guinea, this was very serious, the postures and tools used in my photos are considered sacred. I wanted to use human beings, because in ceremonies these tools, these statuettes used during rituals, they are only animated by your mind. I wanted to make visible the invisible, make them alive and seen in a different context. It was interesting, in South Africa they don’t use the statuette, so to bring a different culture there and do something different, it was very welcomed. When I exhibited these photographs with these sacred tools in my country, though, it was sacrilege. People were offended that I put these tools in my photographs and made the statuette alive, it became violent. The police had to get involved. People eventually settled down, but it was welcomed in South Africa because its a totally different culture, they didn’t see it as offensive.”

The Armory Show, March 3-6 2016, 12th Avenue at 55th Street, Piers 92 and 94