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Art star Gabriel Orozco's pandemic: a screen-friendly opening and new introspection – Reuters Canada



MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – There was no formal opening or personal interaction with fans. Instead, Gabriel Orozco, the Mexican artist with a continents-spanning perspective, promoted his new collage watercolors with a dramatic, screen-friendly teaser.

Mexican artist, Gabriel Orozco, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Mexico City, Mexico October 3, 2020. Picture taken October 3, 2020.REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Orozco created the several dozen works while in quarantine in Japan earlier this year, but he oversaw their installation at a top-tier Manhattan gallery the way millions now work: virtually.

In a first for Orozco, the collection – containing the watercolors, as well as larger abstract paintings created mostly in Mexico – debuted last month without a glitzy public opening.

There was no chance for admirers or critics alike to interact with the artist, renowned for transforming ordinary items into poetic flourishes since the early 1990s.

So, his new paintings were publicized with a slick, video teaser set to dramatic music.

Forced to rely more than ever on tools like Zoom and Skype across a range of current projects, the son of a leftist Mexican muralist says he sees an evolving transformation of creativity born from the upheaval of global pandemic.

“There is the opportunity, probably, of a new generation to emerge, a new way of working to emerge, an alternative way of living for everybody to be reconsidered,” he said, sitting just off the lush courtyard of his Mexico City home.

An hour earlier, squatting down with pencil in hand, he discussed finishing touches to block sculptures he calls dice with his collaborator, Mexican stonemason Juan Fraga, who he had met face-to-face for the first time in months.

Before the pandemic, the two would meet every couple of weeks to refine the layers of whimsical geometric designs carved into the blocks.

Slideshow ( 4 images )

Orozco said his art, spread generously over sculpture, canvases, human and animal bones, minimalist installations, and more, took a mild hit from restrictions on travel and personal contact.

“Like many people, I start to suffer this kind of psychological effect of being in the screen all the time,” he said, calling it “very distracting.”

More generally, Orozco expects more changes emerging from the pandemic’s disruptions, even if its ultimate impact on creativity and inspiration is not yet clear.


Orozco, 58, sees the same changes that are upending how people work – less face-to-face contact and more screen time – also making their mark on the museums and commercial art galleries he knows well.

“In this new art world, there’s going to be more and more of a dependence on the distribution of works with digital media, and so the gallery, all the galleries, are making much more of an effort,” he said.

At the same time, his latest work appears to have taken on a more introspective turn. He noted that for his new watercolors he allowed himself an indulgence he does not usually seek.

“Psychologically (the paintings) were interesting because they became a very, I call them a little neurotic, passionate, almost therapeutic, which is something I don’t like to do in art,” he said.

Orozco argues that the social isolation and anxiety felt by many over the past few months is already changing how we create and communicate.

“The pandemic is a moment of a crash of activity that accelerates the crisis that was coming from before,” he said, a few hours before he was set to fly back to Japan.

The artist, who has also spent extended stints in London, Paris, and Bali, said less travel had been something of a relief.

“That was okay in a way because it was not so bad to slow down,” said Orozco, who studied art in Mexico in the 1980s before leaving for Spain, Brazil and the United States.

Last year, Orozco was tapped by Mexico’s president to oversee a more than $400 million revamp and expansion of Mexico City’s Bosque de Chapultepec, a project he says will focus on the sprawling urban park’s ecological restoration and social interconnectedness.

Surrounded by maps rolled out on tables and three-dimensional models of the park, he said he expects to finish the master plan by December, but has otherwise pushed off all other projects until 2022.

And he offered a related pandemic coping mechanism.

“I don’t plan too much ahead.”

Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Rosalba O’Brien

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In the Return of Art Fairs, Smaller Is Better – The New York Times



Wearing a yellow face mask designed in Ethiopia, the gallerist Rakeb Sile greeted a trickle of visitors to her booth one recent morning at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London. Addis Fine Art — the gallery of which she is a founder in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa — had on display a colorful cityscape, a portrait painted on fragments of used canvas and a gem-studded black cape worn in a recent performance-art piece outside Buckingham Palace.

“With the right precautions, we just have to keep things moving,” said Ms. Sile, who is of Ethiopian descent, referring to the pandemic. She said the gallery owed it to its staff and artists, and to the 1-54 fair, which was founded in London in 2013 and is now also held in New York and Marrakesh, Morocco.

“The narrative on Africa is always so flat, and very, very shallow,” she said. “Somewhere like this, you can come in and really discover things that you just never thought you would discover.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

The pandemic has led most of the world’s fairs to cancel en masse and instead have online editions. These include Art Basel, in Hong Kong, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach; FIAC, which was to have taken place in Paris this week; and the Frieze Art Fair in London, which usually coincides with 1-54.

Yet 1-54 and at least two other stalwarts, Art Paris and Viennacontemporary, decided to go ahead this fall.

The context could hardly have been tougher. The virus has caused severe restrictions on travel and crowds, two defining features of any international fair. According to a midyear art-market survey on the virus’s impact that was published by Art Basel and UBS Global, fair cancellations in the first half of 2020 have led to galleries’ generating only 16 percent of their sales at art fairs, down from 46 percent during the same period last year. Nine of 10 galleries predicted no second-half recovery in this sector of the business, and only a third forecast a sales increase at fairs next year.

Once Frieze went virtual, 1-54, which ran from Oct. 8 to 10, could have canceled. It was helped by its smallness and its location at Somerset House, a stately 18th-century building in central London with a warren of interconnected rooms that allowed one-way traffic flow and strict crowd control.

Though the fair, at capacity, drew only 3,000 visitors this year (down from 18,000 in 2019) and featured 30 galleries (down from 45), several booths sold out, including Ed Cross Fine Art, which featured ruglike textile works by the Welsh-Ghanaian artist Anya Paintsil. The fair itself broke even.

“In a world where people are more and more worried about large gatherings, about safety and about the prospect of getting sick, we have to think about more intimate formats, and ours happens to be one such format,” Touria El-Glaoui, the fair’s founding director, said after its end. “We’re already small, and already flexible, unlike a fair in a convention center that hosts more than 100 galleries.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

Ms. El-Glaoui said she hoped to go ahead with the New York edition of 1-54 next May — and to hold it in the photographer Annie Leibovitz’s former studio, the Caldwell Factory, as had been planned for this year before its cancellation.

Discounting also helped make the fairs happen. Viennacontemporary, which offered half-price booths, ended up hosting 65 galleries in total, down from 110 last year. Art Paris gave a 15 percent discount to established galleries and 14 newer ones, and gave the latter the proceeds of its ticket sales, a total of 110,000 euros (about $129,000). A total of 112 galleries participated in the Paris fair this year, down from 150 in 2019.

Art Paris was the first fair to take the post-lockdown plunge and proceed as normal, occupying the domed turn-of-the-century Grand Palais from Sept. 10 to 13. This year’s edition drew about 57,000 visitors, down 10 percent from last year. It also had first-time exhibitors that included the high-profile gallery Perrotin and multiple six-digit sales, among them those of a drawing by Giacometti and two sculptures by César.

Art Paris was long perceived as a largely local art-world outlier. But “what was previously singled out as a weakness in my case — that the fair wasn’t international enough — turned out to be an advantage,” said Guillaume Piens, its director since 2012.

Credit…Mohammed Badra/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Purchases were mainly by French collectors, challenging the commonly held belief that France has few collectors and that we’d be nothing without American buyers,” he added. “Things have changed a lot.”

Mr. Piens said he was right to have resisted turning Art Paris into a clone of other large, global fairs, where visitors see “practically the same things,” regardless of where they go, and “it’s like driving down the same highways, with the same names and the same galleries all over.”

Johanna Chromik, artistic director of Viennacontemporary, also noted that local — meaning Austrian — collectors made that fair a success this year, accounting for half of sales, up from the usual one-third. The Vienna event, which ran from Sept. 24 to 27, also caters to Austria’s neighbors, especially the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary.

Credit…Kristina Kulakova

Putting on the fair was difficult, Ms. Chromik said — “you can imagine how many sleepless nights I had” — but she added that collectors were “highly motivated” and “really buying; we had solid to really good sales this year.” Many visitors had not been to a fair since the Armory Show in New York in March, so they were pleased “to see art for real, in three dimensions,” she said.

Collectors’ enthusiasm was confirmed by the UBS/Art Basel report. Despite the virus, 82 percent said they planned to attend exhibitions, art fairs and other events in the ensuing 12 months. More than half hoped to attend events both at home and abroad. And 59 percent of the high-net-worth respondents said that the virus had increased their thirst for collecting.


So fairs seem here to stay, the events’ directors said; there will just be fewer of them.

“I don’t believe in returning to how we lived before 2019,” Ms. Chromik said. “We learned from this year.”

She said some of the practices introduced at Viennacontemporary this year — like shared booths, of which there were about half a dozen — could well continue.

What the Covid-19 pandemic has made clear, said Mr. Piens of Art Paris, is that the last several years featured “too much foie gras and too much Champagne, resulting in a giant indigestion.”

Mr. Piens added, “We’re all on a diet now.”

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Epilepsy education centre in Abbotsford holds online art classes – Abbotsford News



The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education in Abbotsford is hosting monthly virtual art classes for people across B.C. living with epilepsy.

The next class is scheduled for Oct. 22 on Facebook Live.

The aim is to improve communication and concentration, reduce feelings of isolation, and increase self-esteem and confidence.

The charity has received a $4,500 donation from the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation to support the organization as it continues to provide services to B.C.-based children, youth, individuals and families.

RELATED: B.C. epilepsy patient ends sit-in, awaits answers

The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education was incorporated in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization.

Since then, it has pioneered landmark education programs that have been adapted provincially, nationally and internationally.

They provide direct support to families and individuals struggling with seizures; create children’s education and materials and comfort items; send children to summer camp; and promote research.

The centre is located at 32868 Ventura Ave. Visit for more information or to register for the next art class.

RELATED: Purple Day 2020: Epilepsy awareness heads online

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Windsor is known for many things, but street art isn't one — Derkz is on a mission to change that –



The city of Windsor, Ont, is in many ways defined by its manufacturing heritage, its leadership in the automotive industry and its proximity to its U.S. neighbour Detroit. One thing it is not known for is its street art — but a number of local graffiti artists are hoping to change that.

Windsor-based artist David “Derkz” Derkatz is a graffiti writer and muralist. His work is all over the city, immortalizing everything from civil rights heroes, pop icons and animals to his most recent piece, which is one of Canada’s largest murals celebrating frontline workers.

In this doc by filmmaker Sasha Jordan Appler, Derkz is tasked with painting a wall on an abandoned building to revitalize a forgotten part of the city.

“The west end’s known for being a little bit more gritty, like a little bit of the rougher part, so they wanted something bold and tough,” says Derkz. “I came up with the two-hawk designs.”

Graffiti can completely change a community. Once criticized as vandalism, it is now in contemporary terms an alternative to traditional gallery space, showcasing work outside and defining — or sometimes redefining — a neighbourhood’s character. These colourful large-scale works, like Derkz’s hawk design, create a reason for people to flock to the area and make it feel more welcoming.

Mural artist Derkz in his studio. (CBC Arts)

Watch as Windsor gets transformed by Derkz and fellow graffiti artists Eugenio “Drevmz” Mendoza, Daniel “Denial” Bombardier and Briana “Athena” Benore in the premiere of “Graffiti: The Art that Changes a City” on CBC’s Absolutely Canadian series on CBC TV in Windsor and online on CBC Gem, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

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