There is a welcome sense of normality at the reappearance of the Art Basel fair in its hometown next week. A 50-year staple until the pandemic struck, the past two years have witnessed cancellations and postponements, plus the logistics of vaccinations and testing, all of which have upset the art market’s reliable rhythms. Now the fair is back in its usual slot with 289 gallery exhibitors, a similar number to its 2019 turnout, and visitors from around the world ready to descend on the city’s Messeplatz.
But not everyone has been here before. This year, 19 galleries are new to the Swiss fair, while in the hallowed main section 26 are different from 2019’s line-up. The numbers are not huge in the scheme of things, but represent a shake-up for a fair that has long epitomised the conservative art market, with predominantly European and American art brought by western galleries.
Some of the changes reflect the accelerated Darwinian shifts in the gallery industry since the pandemic struck — for example, Salon 94 and Lévy Gorvy galleries are no longer separate entities but come in their combined form of LGDR. Some spaces, including Metro Pictures, closed down during the lockdowns.
Other dynamics have helped to refresh the make-up of the fair, says Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s director. “One of the few positives that came out of the pandemic was that people in power took a hard look at issues such as structural racism. The fair took a hard look too,” he says. He doesn’t elaborate on the outcome of Art Basel’s soul-searching, but says that, in general, “suddenly there was more sympathy and empathy for people who had been ignored”. As a result, “galleries from places more peripheral to the art market felt that there was less of a financial risk of doing a fair such as Art Basel and less of a risk of showing, say, artists of colour as the market shifted more towards where it should be.”
The art market’s turn towards previously marginalised artists has been marked in recent years, in parallel with an institutional push towards rectifying their “pale and male” holdings.
At Art Basel this year, newcomers include two galleries from Africa — Jahmek Contemporary Art (Luanda) and OH Gallery (Dakar) — with others from Guatemala City (Proyectos Ultravioleta), Bucharest (Ivan Gallery) and Jeddah (Athr Gallery). In the Unlimited section for large-scale work — often the riskiest for a short-term selling event — there are also “more women, more artists of colour and more women of colour”, Spielger says. These include the Cameroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo (Galerie Lelong & Co), the young American Kennedy Yanko (Vielmetter Los Angeles) and 80-year-old Mary Lovelace O’Neal (Jenkins Johnson Gallery).
Proyectos Ultravioleta, founded in Guatemala City in 2009, applied to the Swiss edition of Art Basel for the first time this year and joins its Statements section for emerging artists. The gallery promises an immersive booth by the indigenous Mayan artist Edgar Calel, whose In Traces We Leave Over the Face of the Earth series are almost life-size paintings of day-to-day family scenes based around their red pick-up truck. Calel’s work was recently acquired by Tate, at the Frieze London fair — with the museum as a custodian of its rights rather than an owner. The acquisition “forced the museum and our gallery to reconsider the ways we can thoughtfully engage with works from different [intellectual traditions] than those from the west”, says Stefan Benchoam, director of Proyectos Ultravioleta. He describes Calel’s work as “somewhere between art, ritual and spirituality” (booth range $2,500-$35,000).
It’s not just the galleries from outside the art market’s usual periphery that are pushing the boundaries. Another newcomer, New York’s Nicelle Beauchene, brings work by the young, queer, black American photographer Elliott Jerome Brown Jr ($5,000-$16,000). “Art Basel is the most prestigious platform in the world for contemporary art and will be the first time Elliott’s work is shown in mainland Europe,” says Patrick Bova, gallery director.
San Francisco’s Altman Siegel gallery comes back to the art-fair circuit for the first time since 2019, with a solo booth of the Bay Area artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. Gallery owner Claudia Altman-Siegel describes the artist as a “feminist pioneer” who has “been making art about technology and identity since 1965”. In conjunction with Bridget Donahue gallery, they bring work from Hershman Leeson’s early Water Women series, initiated in 1975, centred around the shape of a woman made from water droplets.
It is testament to the value of an art fair such as Art Basel that its newcomers take their inclusion so seriously. “Art Basel is the only fair that gathers so many people in the same place,” says the Antwerp gallerist Sofie Van de Velde. Another newcomer, she brings a solo showing of the late avant-garde Belgian artist Guy Mees to the fair’s Feature section (a collaboration with Daniel Marzona gallery) and a multi-part installation by the Dutch artist Folkert de Jong to Unlimited.
One newcomer, the Chicago- and Paris-based Mariane Ibrahim, among just a handful of black gallery-owners on the circuit, has made it straight through to the main section of the fair. “I sat quietly and waited for my time to come before I applied to Art Basel [in Basel],” she says. She brings a booth themed around the Blue Note jazz record label, with works that have elements of water, fluidity and the hue. Artists on show include the German-Ghanaian Zohra Opoku, Japan’s Yukimasa Ida and Ibrahim’s superstar artist, Ghana-born Amoako Boafo (booth price range $15,000-$350,000).
Ibrahim describes the Basel fair as “a currency for our artists”. She says: “Now I have been accepted, and we all have access to the same collectors, let’s just see if our booth will be on the right side of the market. I wanted to be in the race, it’s up to me whether I win or lose. And I am going to bring my A-game.”
June 13-19, artbasel.com
Art workshops for teens offered in photography, poetry – Sarnia Observer
Hopes are participants in an upcoming art workshop series for teens also get involved in a photo contest jointly hosted by Lambton County Library and the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, a gallery official says.
The Take Your Shot Teen Photo Contest that opened in May for 13-18-year-olds, and running until July 10, is one of the reasons photography was made one of the topics in an upcoming Random Acts of Art Workshop (RAAW), said Anna Miccolis, community art and education coordinator with the downtown Sarnia gallery.
The photo contest has been held by the library dating back to around 2009, but in recent years the gallery has come on board, she said.
“It’s had a number of different names over the years,” she said about the contest.
The July 6-8 RAAW “crash course of photography basics” with photographer Sierra Rei Hart at the gallery promises to help prep youngsters with photography knowledge, including composition, perspective, lighting and editing.
Winners, meanwhile, in the contest that challenges teens to encapsulate the feeling of home in their shots, get their photographs matted and framed. A choice of prizes is available to the grand prize winner.
Details are at jnaag.ca.
The contest kicked off in May with a talk about photography and storytelling from decorated photojournalist Larry Towell.
An Aug. 12 to Oct. 8 exhibition at the gallery called Feels Like Home is planned to showcase work by Towell, from the gallery’s permanent collection, and jury-selected entries from contest participants, Miccolis said.
The other Summer RAAW workshop is poetry with spoken word artist Shelly Grace July 20-22.
It ties into 10th anniversary plans for the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery this fall, Miccolis said.
“We’re looking at our permanent collection and the story of how JNAAG came to be in this building, but we’re, in that exploration of the permanent collection, we’re thinking about what our collection encompasses at this time,” she said.
“And we thought that a program centred around poetry and performance could create an opportunity for some interesting responses from youth in the community.”
Details are pending for anniversary plans in October, she said.
“But we do have a plan for a rotation of exhibits, giving a survey of the permanent collection.”
The age 14-18 RAAW series – another for 9-13-year-olds is called TNT Summer Splash – has been hosted by the gallery for more than a decade, including its pre-JNAAG days as Gallery Lambton, Miccolis said, noting the workshops are free.
Past iterations have included making murals on walls of buildings, as well as stained glass artwork and experimental painting, she said.
“As always, we’re looking to create deepened connections to the work on display,” she said. “Whether it’s a current exhibition, or using programs as a primer to exhibitions coming in the near future.”
Current gallery exhibitions include photography exhibition One Wave by Ned Pratt, and Facing North, featuring paintings by Jean Hay.
Surprised by art — Folks Art Festival uses garbage cans as canvas – Welland Tribune
The annual Niagara Folk Arts Festival may be wrapping up, but its Art We Surprised project will be around all summer — and perhaps even beyond.
So if you’re walking in St. Catharines’ Richard Pierpoint Park and find yourself face-to-face with a piece of art, make sure to take a closer look.
It was carefully created and designed — but instead of the artist using a traditional canvas, the work is on a plastic garbage can.
The point, as the name suggests, is the surprise.
“The project came from the idea that persons walking through (the park) would suddenly come upon a highly decorated art work, and be surprised to find it out in a natural setting,” said Pam Seabrook, fundraising and events manager with Niagara Folks Arts Multicultural Centre.
Originally planned for the 2020 festival through the City of St. Catharines Centennial Gardens Partnership Fund, Art We Surprised was placed on hold due to the pandemic.
Seabrook said the pause was because organizers wanted the art pieces to create “real engagement between artists and the general public,” but in the end, settled for a hybrid model — with some solo creations, and some group pieces.
Spanning an assortment of styles and inspiration, from pencil portraits to pieces reminding residents the importance of taking care of the environment. Each art piece is created by an artist who came to Canada as an immigrant.
Seabrook said the art project is an example of what the centre stands for: the inclusion of all cultural heritages, and breaking down of racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, perceived lack of abilities and seclusion barriers.
One of the artists, Cemile Kacmaz heard about the project through social media. Kacmaz came to Canada with her 12-year-old son in 2020, with the goal of working as an education assistant, and bringing art into special needs programming.
Originally from Istanbul, Kacmaz said she came to Canada because of the difficult political situation in Turkey, and a lifestyle she did not want her son to grow up in. Being an artist in Canada allows her a freedom of speech and expression people in Turkey — and for much of her own life — are not always allowed to share publicly.
Kacmaz attended Niagara College for two years (graduating last week), but with most classes online, said it was difficult and lonely, with no friends or family nearby.
When she learned the fold arts centre was looking for artists to participate in its annual art project, she thought it would be fun and give her a chance to become involved with the Niagara community.
Art We Surprised was an opportunity to use her art for change.
Kacmaz spent a month and a half planning, and another month painting her garbage can. It was a “long, slow process,” she said, but the organizers gave artists the ability to take their time.
“Painting is the way of communication between me and the world. It is a kind of tool to understand the world around me,” she said.
Her inspiration was the universe, and by placing the garbage cans into the space, between “planets and stars, I wanted to point out how we treat the nature we live and exist in.”
All Art We Surprised garbage cans created by artists from across the Niagara region — artists with backgrounds spanning Lebanon, Africa, Colombia and China — will be placed in St. Catharines and at Pierpoint Park this month.
The Niagara Folks Art Festival has held a community art project each year since 2019, with artists invited to participate in communal art projects, regardless of ability.
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