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Art Trip: Meryl McMaster's haunting self-portrait at As Immense as the Sky merges lineages – The Globe and Mail

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Meryl McMaster’s There Are No Footprints Where I Go.

Courtesy of the artist

In Meryl McMaster’s haunting self-portrait There Are No Footprints Where I Go – part of the exhibition As Immense as the Sky, on view at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham until Feb. 23, 2020 – the artist retraces a journey taken by her mother’s Dutch ancestors during the 18th century, when they crossed into Canada via Picton, Ont., at the time of the American Revolution.

In McMaster’s restaging, however, the boat is guided by a distinctly Indigenous cultural figure: Raven, the trickster hero who put the sun back into the sky after it was stolen by a man. The sun is perhaps what he is carrying in the lantern he holds in his beak, as he and his blindfolded companion row toward the horizon.

By assuming this guise – aided by theatrical props and costumes, which the artist creates herself – McMaster merges her matrilineal European and patrilineal Plains Cree heritage, and charts a course through a place that belongs both to her direct ancestors and a time that predates human existence.

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In McMaster’s work, which earned her a Scotiabank New Generation Photography Award in 2018, birds often function as “a reminder to see the world from different perspectives,” the artist says. In other photographs from the series, canaries and goldfinches “reference unwanted creatures who were exploited in the interest of exploration and industrial progress.” Birds use stars to navigate, and having Raven guide a boat beneath an overcast sky is a warning to remember that, “as the stars become hidden by light pollution, we start to lose our way.”

In an effort to better know herself, McMaster has embarked on a journey that uses “stories from family and knowledge keepers” as signposts, helping her bring awareness to the fact that both the environment and the body are sites clouded by the consequences of colonialism. The experience “has reinforced for me how small I am in the universe,” the artist says, “and how we are time capsules learning and gathering information to pass down to the next generation, just like the last generation did before that.”

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Art Beat: Rogue Arts Festival goes virtual on Saturday – Coast Reporter

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The music and cultural gathering that is the Rogue Arts Festival was among the many arts cancellations last summer, thanks to the pandemic. But the funkiest annual festival on the Coast is bringing last summer’s planned lineup of acts back for a mini-fest this weekend, online. “We are thrilled to be able to showcase a diverse sampling of 2020 Rogue Fest artists while remembering the volunteers, vendors, staff and supporters that have made us who we are today,” Rogue Fest said in a Facebook post. On Saturday, Jan. 23, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. you can catch Bits of String, Disco Funeral, Parlour Panther, Sadé Awele, Sarah Noni, Stephen Hamm, and Tetrahedron. “Hosted by the ever-awesome Ndidi Cascade.” Go to roguefest.ca for details on the performers and information on how to link up on Saturday afternoon.

Tracing Footsteps

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Also online this weekend is an opening reception, art exhibit, and meet-the-artist session all in one. On Sunday, Jan. 24, Sechelt artist Lynda Manson presents Tracing Footsteps, a collection of paintings based on sketches by her uncle, Bruce Black, who was killed in action in the Second World War. Manson will show Black’s sketches made while he was off-duty in the U.K., her re-imagined and elaborated takes on them, plus other works related to the theme. Proceeds from the exhibition will go to the bursary fund of the Sunshine Coast branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women. Tickets are $10 at eventbrite.ca or at cfuwsc.org.

Arts grants

The pandemic has been just as hard on the arts community as other parts of the community and economy since early 2020, so the B.C. government has come up with a new grant program to help out. “Together with the arts sector, we are working hard to make sure that dancers, writers, painters and other artists can continue being resilient and finding innovative ways to keep creating through COVID-19,” B.C. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark said in a news release. The ministry has created a new, $500,000 Pivot for Individuals program through the BC Arts Council. B.C. residents can apply for up to $12,000 to learn new skills or adapt their practices. The program is available to professional artists and cultural workers, including: dancers and choreographers; visual artists; writers; actors; multi-media artists; and arts administrators. To learn more, go to bcartscouncil.ca and follow the links.

Due to the pandemic, all listed live events are subject to change. Check ahead. Space is limited in Art Beat but please let us know about your events at arts@coastreporter.net

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President Biden Picks Oval Office Art, Inauguration Spotlights Paintings, and More: Morning Links from January 21, 2021 – ARTnews

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To receive Morning Links in your inbox every weekday, sign up for our Breakfast with ARTnews newsletter.

The Headlines

PERFORMERS WERE THE STARS OF YESTERDAY’S INAUGURAL ACTIVITIES, with singers like Lady GagaJon Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen participating in the celebration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, and poet Amanda Gorman delivering an address that stole the show, but visual art is playing a symbolic role in the transition of power, as well. Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey and photographer Bill O’Leary got a look inside Biden’s Oval Office, and found that a portrait of Benjamin Franklin had taken the place of one of President Andrew Jackson (a favorite of President Trump). The presence of Franklin, who was an inventor, writer, scientist, and more (really a jack of all trades), is “intended to represent Biden’s interest in following science,” Linskey writes. Also present: busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, a moon rock, and a 1917 Childe Hassam flag painting that President Obama also displayed in the office. (Trump had it on view for a stretch, but eventually removed it.) As it happens, historian Jon Meacham, who’s known to have Biden’s ear, used another Hassam for the cover of his 2018 book, The Soul of America.

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PRESIDENTS CAN BORROW ART FROM THE SMITHSONIAN TO DECORATE the White House, as Smithsonian magazine detailed in 2009. Obama’s picks included pieces by Ed Ruscha and Glenn Ligon. It’s not known yet what the Bidens may have picked, but Alex Greenberger reported in ARTnews that First Lady Jill Biden did help select a landscape by the pioneering Black painter Robert Duncanson to serve as the official painting of the inaugural. The work is owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., and its inclusion signals “a new administration with an insightful understanding of art’s potential power,” Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight writes in a column. It was not the only painting getting some special attention. Olaf Seltzer ’s 1927  painting Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea at the Great Falls of the Missouri, 1804 was printed in the inaugural’s official program, Tulsa World reports. It’s in the collection of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, and was just put on view yesterday in an exhibition called “Americans All!”

The Digest

One last Inauguration-related item: street artist Adrian Wilson was responsible for transforming a New York subway sign at 46th Street in Queens to read “46th Joe”—an image that spread quickly around the world. [Gothamist]

Collector Roberto Polo, a “financier whose roller-coaster career included a major art fraud scandal that landed him in prison,” is showcasing his holdings in new art spaces in Toledo, Spain, Raphael Minder reports. [The New York Times]

Australian artist Adrian Jones has died at the age of 63. The cause was pancreatic cancer. [ArtAsiaPacific]

Ruben Suykerbuyk has been tapped by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to be its new curator of Old Masters . . . [Press Release]

. . . and collectors Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong have donated a number of Surrealist paintings and publications to the museum. [The Art Newspaper]

The Hyundai automobile company is partnering with the digital-art group Rhizome on a series of projects, online and off. [Aju Business Daily]

Canon has launched a website that allows users to take photographs of space via satellite technology. [Hong Kong Tatler]

Since many art museums are closed in the United Kingdom amid lockdown restrictionsThe Guardian is taking a tour of their collections in a series of articles. Today’s focuses on a Rose Wylie work. [The Guardian]

The New York home that artist Sarah Sze shares with her family is stocked with art by Kara Walker, Richard Serra, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and many more. [Architectural Digest]

Musician and artist John Lurie is the subject of a new show, which “is like an apprenticeship with a crotchety bohemian Yoda,” James Poniewozik writes. [The New York Times]

Curator Robert Storr has a new compilation of essays out—and he is as pugnacious as ever in a new interview. [Artnet News]

The Kicker

Hong Kong–based artist Phoebe Hui Fong-wah has been working on a new project with curator Kwok Ying that has involved collaborating with NASA. Sadly, though, just when she was about to see moon dust at one of NASA’s buildings in Houston—she was in her hotel room there!—officials told her not to come, citing coronavirus precautions. “I basically refused to leave until Ying convinced me to fly back,” she tells the South China Morning Post. “I didn’t want to bullshit. I wanted to see moon dust myself. I was gutted. But, of course, we managed in the end with Zoom and emails.” [South China Morning Post]

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Art Basel Has Postponed Its Namesake Fair Yet Again – Bloomberg

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On Thursday, Art Basel announced that its marquee Swiss fair would be postponed from June until September.

While the announcement isn’t much of a surprise—countries are struggling to contain a more contagious strain of the virus—the postponement is the latest acknowledgment that a return to group events is still a very long way away.

“It will take a while even now that we have vaccines,” says Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, in a phone interview.

“The nature of Art Basel shows is that they’re large-scale events. Their success is dependent on widespread international travel, and that, for us, is the uncertainty for how long it will take [to resume]. So postponing from June to September makes the most sense.”

Art Basel is traditionally the final stop on the spring/early summer global art buying tour. 

#lazy-img-367442138:beforepadding-top:66.72727272727273%;Art Basel showcases 290 of the world's leading galleries,
The Unlimited section of the Art Basel fair in Switzerland.
Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket

Unlike other art fairs, where galleries bring comparatively affordable work that can be snapped up by impulse buyers, the Swiss fair is a showcase for the best dealers have to offer. Galleries will often hold back their most expensive pieces specifically so that they can present them to Art Basel’s nearly 90,000 visitors.

In 2019, the last time the fair took place, an estimated $4 billion worth of art was crammed into a sea of booths and private viewing rooms, as crowds delighted in spectacles like a 30-foot-long blow-up recreation of a Nike sneaker by the artist Olaf Nicolai and a 28-foot-long sculpture by the artist Tom Wesselmann. Last year’s edition was cancelled entirely after a similar postponement to the fall. 

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Now this sales opportunity is gone—or at the very least, delayed until Art Basel’s rescheduled VIP preview day on Sept. 21—leaving dealers to generate sales through other means. 

Read More: Contemporary Art Needs Big Gatherings and Gossip to Survive

Art Basel, for its part, is planning three online viewing rooms (OVRs).

The first will take place between March 24–27 and will be “dedicated to artists who have broken new grounds aesthetically, conceptually, or socio-politically,” according to a press release. The second and third will be held in June and November respectively, with major themes yet to be determined. 

“Nobody in their right mind considers an OVR with 100 galleries to be a substitute for an art fair,” says Spiegler. “We think that under a specific set of conditions, and handled in the right way, these digital events do bring attention to galleries and artists.”

#lazy-img-367441767:beforepadding-top:66.72727272727273%;17 handwoven carpets were made in Oxaca, Mexico, using
An artwork by Polly Apfelbaum at the 2018 edition of Art Basel.
Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket

Looking Ahead

The news of the postponement strikes a blow to other art fairs, who are, as yet, are going ahead with plans for in-person fairs this spring and summer.

Frieze plans to hold its annual New York fair in The Shed between May 5 and May 9, and has already pushed its Los Angeles fair from February to July. TEFAF, a showcase for old masters and decorative arts, has scheduled the European branch of its fair for May 29 in Maastricht.

Art Basel Hong Kong plans to open its doors in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 19.

In light of the same factors that postponed the Swiss edition entirely, Spiegler’s ambitions for the Asian edition of his fair are limited.

“We’ve already informed visitors that we expect strong travel restrictions, but it’s not clear what the state of play will be there,” he says. “We’re hoping for a regional fair, but keep in mind that there are many international galleries that have gallery spaces and staff in Hong Kong.”

#lazy-img-367441807:beforepadding-top:66.72727272727273%;"Tumba Abierta III", the stunning work by José Yaque, is a
 “Tumba Abierta III” by the artist José Yaque at Art Basel.
Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket

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