In: contemporary art
December 20, 2017
If you’re an artist with innovational techniques (think technology or quantum physics) and still don’t have a gallery representation, listen up! MTArt, the first artist agency, could be the ideal place for you to become a greater artist and get recognized.
Founded two years ago, MTArt is the first artist agency (working similarly to more common music or film agencies). Marine Tanguy, the founder, came from a cultural background and always strived to work with artists and help them get known. The result? MTArt Agency!
We met a few months ago at Marine’s artsy flat in London and spoke about MTArt and her latest endeavor, art festival Unfold, that took place in October 2017.
Hi, Marine! So nice to finally meet you! I’ve been following your business, MTArt, for a while now. How did you get an initial idea?
Hi, Daria! I never thought it would become a business really. We created MTArt back in 2015. I always loved contemporary art and especially artists and I always thought how I could find a better supporting system for them. I was a young gallery manager in London when I was 21. So I knew I wanted to work in the industry, but I was not as close to artists as I wanted to be. Something expectable from a traditional art business model. Then, I got a chance to move to LA.
I love Los Angeles! It’s so different from London though…
It was a mind-blowing experience. I looked a lot at music and film agencies, so I thought why can’t something similar work for artists? It got me moving. After raising the capital, we’ve established an artist agency. Our primary focus is not only on works of art, it’s a more grounded approach towards art. It’s about building a visibility, making art more accessible. We want to establish a name of an artist with a significant content. MTArt is an agency that is all about a continuous collaboration with artists on a long-term basis.
How do you find your artists?
We get a lot of submissions via social media, texts, emails… What makes us choose is the degree of innovative techniques and valuable content. Now ‘innovation’ is such a buzz word! What I mean by it, is that every MTArt artist questions the status quo; content is the key.
But when do you say ‘yes, this artist is the one’? What is the selection process?
So, first, we meet the artists and we start testing them. In the agency, we want hard-working and committed people. I know that those who will do very well in the future, can handle stress easily. That is why we look for team players. Artists usually work alone, but during stressful moments they start working as a team.
After we select the artists, we support them for three years. It works like a typical music or film agency in Hollywood. We talk to our artists and try to understand what they want to do in the future, what their aspirations and interests are. Then, all we need to do is complement the artistic vision with exposure. Basically, what we do is accelerating and financing our artists. There’s constantly trust between us. I even have a spare bedroom upstairs so they can always stay for a night or two! ‘laughing’
Sounds very inspirational! And what about your latest endeavor – Unfold Festival? Is it connected to MTArt?
The vision is similar. There were four of us, four co-founders. We all came from different art businesses. The idea was to help people to engage with art in a different way. So, we decided to take art to the streets and new exhibition spaces. Unfold emerged as a street festival during the Frieze Week.
Why did you choose to host the festival during Frieze? Not too crowded?
The timing helped a lot since everyone comes to London in October to see art, but we wanted to do it differently. We did not like putting works under a tent, as it happens in other art fairs. It lessens the experience. We decided to take a historical street in London (Church Street) and enhance it with art. No more walls and psychological barriers that come with gallery spaces. It was all about people being surrounded by art, together with a series of talks and artist studios curated in the main exhibition space.
The wine was blue as well!
Oh yes, my French friends did not approve! ‘laughing’ Very artistic and alternative to a traditional art fair. The crowd was very mixed as well. We had collectors of course, but also people who have never been to an art event before. The partnerships we had (e.g. with Aston Martin) have never taken place with artists. So, we tried to approach new people and get them interested in art.
Unfold was fun. There was wine and art… what not to like?
The festival showed that the content of art was meaningful, but also entertaining. We want people to engage, it’s our main priority.
Will you continue Unfold on an annual basis?
We had another festival, called MELT, last year. It was all about integrating art into urban landscapes. I’ve always attempted such projects to get a conversation going. It’s a way to try new things. Now we commission urban exhibitions, so I want to scale it up. Eventually I would like to have a lot of collaborations coming out of Unfold.
I cannot wait to see these new collaborations! So, what do you think is yet to be done?
What’s lacking is an art and tech festival. A lot of artists are experimenting with these mediums already. We want to create evolution in art and celebrate revolutionary artists, so we hope to do the art and technology festival next year and recognize the artists who are pioneering this new medium.
I can see one of your goals is to attract new people to the arts. Why do you think it can be hard to get new people interested in art?
The art world is considered to be a part of the luxury industry. So, by definition it needs to be exclusive and inaccessible, but that works only for a small percentage of the population. If you think of music and film industries, they focus on entertainment, not luxury. That’s the biggest conflict in the art world. You can’t be luxury and for everyone. I think, we should educate more people about art and get interested in new practices.
Thank you so much for your time, Marine! I hope to see our new projects in London soon.
Thank you, Daria!
October 26, 2017
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
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
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
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
October 18, 2017
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.
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.
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.
October 6, 2017
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:
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
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
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
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
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
October 6, 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.
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.
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.
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.
June 12, 2017
In the world of museum giants, inexhaustible lists of galleries, and raved-about art fairs, art foundations are often hidden gems that not only offer visitors the experience of viewing art and learning more about it, but also actively engage with their community, supporting contemporary artists or preserving the legacy of an individual. While other art institutions or businesses have commercial or collection-building interests, art foundations typically focus more on the development and backing of artists themselves. Here are some of the most reputable and successful art foundations found in Paris.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Since recently opening in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton has made quite a name for itself in Paris by rising to the top of the city’s cultural ranks. Located just west of the city center, at the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the larger Bois de Boulogne, the foundation is housed within a unique structure designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry. A visit here is worth it just to admire the dazzling building, which has been called “the iceberg” and described as a “glass cloud.” Personally, I had the impression of walking up to a futuristic pirate ship stranded in a lush forest.
Fondation Louis Vuitton was born out of the ambition of the LVMH group to continue with their dedication to support art, culture, and heritage by placing strong roots in western Paris. With just about 4,000 sq.m. of exhibition space, FLV holds a permanent collection of 20th and 21st-century works (150 pieces by 71 artists) and puts on impressive museum-grade temporary exhibitions as well as site-specific installations. In its three years of existence, it has exhibited many of the masters of Modern Art, with landmark exhibitions such as Keys to a Passion and Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection, as well as displays of Chinese and most recently African art. The foundation also organizes a series of events ranging from dance and music performances to talks and activities for students and children.
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
Situated in an industrial-style, entirely transparent glass building by Jean Nouvel, both reflecting its environment and blending with it, the Fondation Cartier has been promoting contemporary art for more than 30 years. Since its opening, the foundation has aimed to stimulate creativity and discovery by revealing young artists to the public and regularly commissioning works for temporary exhibitions or for its own permanent collection, which includes over 1,400 works from 300 artists worldwide.
Fondation Cartier engages in all mediums and forms of artistic expression, from design to photography, from painting to video, and from fashion to performance art. Another unique aspect of their programming, entitled “Nomadic Nights,” places an emphasis on the various forms of performance art including dance, music, film, theater, conferences, installations, and spoken word. After exploring this large variety of activities, visitors can relax in the foundation’s “wild” but carefully curated garden, which mixes diverse flora, art installations, and local cultural heritage dating back to the 18th century.
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
Opened in 2003, just a year before the death of the iconic photographer, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson was established to preserve the legacy and complete works of Cartier-Bresson and his wife, Martine Franck. It houses various rare publications, vintage prints, and documents assembled from their lives, and it is regarded today as one of Paris’s central locations for photography: it is a space for education, discussion, and admiration for the photographic medium, as well as a resource and support for contemporary photographers. The foundation also sponsors the Henri-Cartier Bresson Prix, awarded every two years.
Perhaps the most aesthetically modest foundation on this list -white washed interior and all-, but certainly an important cultural gem of the city. It is located along a quiet residential street in an atelier dating back to 1912, where Cartier-Bresson’s famous “The Decisive Moment” (1952) has found a home and where all may come to discover the joy of photography.
Fondation d’entreprise Ricard
The Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, created in 2006, is much smaller than the other foundations on this list; but what it lacks in size and imposing architecture, it makes up for in its rich programme and involvement in the French art community. Situated right off of the Place de la Concorde, it runs very much like any typical contemporary art gallery, with five to six exhibitions a year and free admission. The foundation is dedicated uniquely to the young French art scene, supporting its emergence and promoting its awareness abroad.
In partnership with the reputable contemporary art fair, FIAC, the two organizations have created the program Young Curators Invitational (YCI), where young curators from around the world are invited to participate in the fair by meeting with artists, collectors, gallery representatives, and other critics to discuss the French art scene and other issues in the art world. Additionally, since 1999 Le Prix Ricard has been annually awarded to an emerging artist working or living in France. The winner receives a purchase of one of their works, the chance to exhibit in the Centre Pompidou, and support in producing a personal project abroad.
So whether you are interested in discovering the fresh talent in the French art scene, are yourself an artist or an art professional looking for resources, or want to attend one of the many monthly performances, conferences, or affiliated programs, there is certainly something to be found at the hyper-active Fondation d’entreprise Ricard.
Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent
What would a list of Parisian art and culture be without some fashion? Housed in a traditional Parisian hôtel particulier dating from the Second Empire, at 5 avenue Marceau (just across the street and around the block from the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris), the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent preserves the legacy of the iconic couturier Yves Saint Laurent. The foundation, whose galleries opened in 2004, occupies the same space that the YSL Haute Couture house operated in from 1974 to its closure in 2002. Its mission is to preserve the 5,000 garments, 15,000 accessories, photographs, sketches, and archives that bear witness to the YSL Haute Couture creative history. The foundation also puts on exhibitions of photography, drawings, paintings, and items from their fashion collection. It also owns and manages the Jardin Majorelle and Berber Museum in Marrakech, Morocco.
The foundation is currently closed for renovations in preparation for the opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent on October 3, 2017. This new museum will be dedicated to the life and works of YSL, showing across 450 sq.m. about 50 rotating models with items from the permanent collection as well as providing access to the salons and studio where YSL himself worked. From those who consider Vogue to be their Bible to those who more simply take an interest in design and fashion, this is a place to keep your eye on as October comes around!
Since the early 20th century, some artists have been exploring the possibilities of movement by introducing the element of time, reflecting the importance of the modern machine and technology, and exploring the nature of vision in their work –they are kinetic artists. Among them, the most renowned figures are Jean Tinguely and Alexander Calder. Nowadays, Swiss kinetic artist Ralfonso extends this artistic lineage and incorporates motion into his Kinetic, Light, and Interactive sculptures, which are exhibited and installed across the globe, including China, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Switzerland, USA and Russia.
Ralfonso has been fascinated by mechanics and design ever since he was a very young boy. He then started to design objects and sculptures that had a motion component, which later on became art in motion, or kinetic art. For more than 20 years he has endeavoured to push the boundaries of kinetic art at the intersection of art, mechanics and design. His work is mostly inspired by nature, by the shape and natural interaction of different elements. His sculptures gently move with the wind, with water, through motors, or when pushed by hand, and range in size from 50cm to 15m.
Different from usual sculptures, kinetic sculptures are 4-dimensional with the added dimension of time and the “change over time” element. As our technology advances, kinetic artists nowadays do not only have to engage with motion, but also with other engineering fields. It is imaginably not an easy practice in art. Ralfonso sees that as a major benefit rather than a challenge. He enjoys collaborating with experts in technical fields, as well as developing new interactive public art together with graduate students and their professors in various fields of science and art.
With the help of engineering and technology, Ralfonso designs monumental public outdoor sculptures that are environmentally interactive and can even generate energy. For example, his 8m-tall Cube Tower consists of 5 cubes, all of which move in different directions with the wind due to the wind channels in each cube. Then, the next generation Cube Tower #2 will be constructed with high-efficiency solar panels on all surfaces. So it will generate electricity not only through sun exposure, but also through the rotation of the large cubes.
Ralfonso wants to create interactive and dynamic art –to change the prevailing one-sided, passive viewing of a still piece of sculptural art. All his works create dynamic interactions, where the art and the viewer exchange, react and interact. He strongly believes that art viewing should really be a two-sided communication between the art and the viewer. Therefore, some of his works have transformed from local art to global art, as they are accessible from anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, Ralfonso co-founded the Kinetic Art Organisation (KAO), a platform and a place for everyone interested in kinetic art to meet, exchange and share information about this art form. KAO has now become the largest kinetic art organisation in the world with over 1,000 members from 60 countries, and has published its first e-book about kinetic art, with new articles by 18 international artists, curators and collectors from all over the world, including the USA, China, Mexico, India, France and Switzerland.
Many of Ralfonso’s works have been installed in public spaces. In his perception, public art should be able to intrigue the public and make them enjoy engaging with it both mentally and physically. His goal is to design truly new, never-seen-before public sculptures, which actually can “see” and “hear” the viewer, and can interact directly with them. Ralfonso, together with a group of graduate students and their professors, are exploring various cutting-edge concepts for his public works, such as augmented and virtual reality, and globally interactive art –which implies that the viewer does not have to be in front of the sculpture but can interact with it via computers and smartphone applications from anywhere in the world at any time. One example is Ex Strata, an interactive light and sound sculpture installed both at Tsinghua University in Beijing and at the NHL campus in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, that can be controlled through the Internet.
On February 2017, KAO held the 3rd bi-annual Kinetic Art Event and Symposium. Meanwhile, Ralfonso has been selected as the master artist for the Putian International Sculpture Exhibition in China and as the Silver Prize winner for the China (Ningbo) Urban Sculpture Design Contest. Ralfonso’s sculptures will be installed in both Chinese cities, adding to his growing list of large public installations across China.
More info: http://www.ralfonso.com
YouTube: Ralfonso – Kinetic, Light & Interactive Sculptures
“I feel like everyone wants me to give them some drama about this show,” Touria El Glaoui, Founding Director of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, said with a laugh, “but it’s actually been one of the easiest set-ups…with New York, there’s this window of opportunity and visibility for the artists and a unique engagement with institutions that you don’t really see in any other city.”
1:54 was founded and organized by Moroccan curator Touria El Glaoui to improve the representation of contemporary African art worldwide. Now, 1:54 is the foremost art fair dedicated to contemporary African art in the primary art market, showing in London during the October Frieze Week since 2013, and 1:54 NY during the May Frieze New York since 2015. Entering its third year in New York, 1:54 NY is showcasing over 60 emerging and established contemporary artists, bringing 19 international galleries together from 10 countries.
1:54 is a ratio that runs parallel to the entirety of the fair’s mission, representing the entirety of Africa: 1 continent, 54 countries. As the title suggests, 1:54 tries to preserve rather than blend together the differences between each country’s histories and cultures. Taking a look at this year’s 1:54 NY, the fair exemplifies its goal in representing individual countries, illustrating local development with global engagement, while connecting to common themes such as female representation, a hugely controversial topic in America as well as worldwide.
The role of gender identity and the fragile state of humanity come up in many of the pieces, always based from the African perspective, which within these topics play a fascinating role. For instance, Lawrence Lemaoana, an artist from South Africa represented by Johannesburg-based Afronova Gallery, creates graphic works that critically engages with the media in present-day South Africa. He views the relationship between media and the people of South Africa as extremely problematic and expresses this view through his trademark cynicism emblazoned on kanga fabric, a traditional fabric with its own complex history. In one of Lemaoana’s kanga canvases at 1:54 NY, the phrase “MY FATHER WAS A GARDEN BOY” reflects upon the time of Apartheid when the easiest job for a man to get was a gardener, and those who worked as gardeners were called “garden boys” by their white employers. Lemaoana brings up a part of South African history on a piece of fabric that lines modern day streets at markets. Kanga fabric is also considered to be a female cloth, so along with telling the story of his father in the past, Lemaoana is toying with gender identity and who the use of this fabric is truly for.
Nigerian-American artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji’s diasporic view and love for the fusion of opposites creates an upfront look into micro- and macro-relationships. She was born in the United States but currently lives in Nigeria (and is represented by London-based gallery 50 Golborne), allowing her to mold the experience of a life spent between two countries. Her delicate lines build private and public scenes on trace architect paper, the translucency of the background and fragility of the paper’s surface translating to a bigger idea of the delicacy of humanity. Just like in Lemaoana’s work, Ogunji is playing with bigger topics that are experienced worldwide but adds personal elements such as her life as a Nigerian-American woman.
Someone to keep an eye on? Nigerian artist Ndidi Emefiele (featured image). Represented by London-based gallery Rosenfeld Porcini, her work is confrontation and humorous, mixing the contemporary (cut-outs taken from magazines or printed from Instagram) with the traditional (Nigerian dress colors or patterns found in modern settings). The pieces showcased at 1:54 NY hold a message of female empowerment, while the glasses found on most of the girls act as a layer of protection from the world, particularly the “male gaze”. In her 2017 piece Taxi, the exposure of the subject’s skin in comparison to the Matisse-like figures dancing in the background paintings is just one of the contemporary vs. traditional comparisons that can be immediately interpreted. Emefiele confronts popular topics such as gender as a social construct and the portrayal of female bodies within the media while incorporating traditional patterns, foods, and stances from her Nigerian roots.
1:54 NY does an incredible job of not only representing separate African countries but respecting those differences while creating worldwide topics that can be picked up by anyone who comes to visit the fair.
May 5th – May 7th 12-8pm
Pioneer Works (159 Pioneer Street), Brooklyn
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.
March 11, 2017
“I see life as a passageway,
with no fixed beginning or destination”
– Do Ho Suh
Humanity is often focused upon the destination of life rather than the journeys travelled. These journeys are the ones that result in a life worth living, instead of a life in which the centre of attention revolves around the end result. To be obsessed with the end result of an endeavour, as opposed to living in the present, is the very premise that the artist Do Ho Suh (b.1962, Seoul, Korea) challenges in his new exhibition, ‘Passage/s’.
Currently on display at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London, Suh’s body of work questions the boundaries of identity as well as the global connection between individuals and groups. After growing up in South Korea, the artist has moved and lived in many different countries, immersing himself in the culture of each one of them. In his work he aims to create a global connection between his identity, his previous destination, and his current journey. He establishes that his own understanding of ‘home’ is both a physical structure and a lived emotional experience. In this sense, the physical structure of a ‘home’ can only be described as the building or property in which one has lived, whereas the home as an emotional experience is documented in the adventures and memories of life. I
Beginning upstairs on the First Floor, the visitor is immediately transported into the many ‘homes’ of the artist. Each independent aspect of a home, whether it is a simple light bulb or a complicated fuse box, has been carefully replicated by Suh’s meticulous hand. Polyester, which is both a fluid and a translucent medium, is the main choice of material for Do Ho Suh. He uses to replicate everyday objects, and its translucency amplifies the importance of concentrating upon the ‘passageways’ of life: you must be able to travel through each destination in order to continue growing and developing.
This concept is heightened in ‘Passage’s: The Pram Project’, a video installation recorded from the perspective of three different cameras. Taped from the comfort of his daughters pram, the video removes the viewer from the controlled environment of the gallery, and places them into the charming streets of Islington and Seoul. Surrounded by the child’s adoring laughter and babbling, we are reminded of the innocence of humanity and the importance of ‘home’ as an emotional connection, something which provides stability and safety.
Continuing on the Lower Floor, Do Ho Suh displays large threaded drawings replicating doorways and stairwells. Each entrance has been accurately copied from the multiple buildings in which Suh has lived, exaggerating how the outside exterior of a ‘home’ does not necessarily reflect the individual immersed within it. For example, not everyone who lives in a London home is British – the immersion of cultures is the most important aspect to create a global identity.
The exhibition arguably concludes with the most impressive component of Do Ho Suh’s work. His series ‘Hubs’ occupies the entirety of the Upper Gallery, where nine reproductions of the apartments in which Suh has called ‘home’ are on display. The transient polyester spaces are connected by threaded doorways and moving doors, enticing the viewer to walk through and experience each room. Although interactive, ‘Hubs’ removes the practical function of a home: door hinges and handles remain motionless while electrical outputs and pipes are frozen without power. By referring back to Suh’s original premise of the home as a physical entity, as well as an emotional experience, we are placed in this complex structure as both ‘private’ and ‘public’ viewers. In one way the elongated home visualises the ‘private’ life of an individual, while the ‘public’ global identity seeps into the design through the fragile material.
I encourage you not just to see the exhibition first-hand, but to interact and engage with the artwork. The unfortunate irony of this brilliant collection of work is the influence of present day technology, and our infatuation and dependence upon our mobile phones. The majority of people visiting exhibitions today try to capture every moment and work of art into a single photograph. This degrades the original intentions of Do Ho Suh and his exploration of life as a journey, as a photograph destroys the steps travelled in order to take it. Life is about the experiences seized by your eyes, not the artificial screen of a phone or lens of a camera; rather than living through your phone, live through reality.
Do Ho Suh‘s ‘Passage/s’ is on display at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London until 18th March, 2017.