An expanded art space, illuminated by colourful overhead lanterns and lush hanging flower baskets, now greets visitors to what was a dark, dingy alley behind the Pelissier Street parking garage.
An expanded art space, illuminated by colourful overhead lanterns and lush hanging flower baskets, now greets visitors to what was a dark, dingy alley behind the Pelissier Street parking garage.
Officially unveiled Thursday, Art Alley is a vibrant, colourful public space that its creator, the Downtown Windsor Business Revitalization Association, hopes will attract visitors to the city core.
With support from the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, the Downtown Districting Committee, the City of Windsor and partner contractors, and $25,000 from the federal government’s Healthy Communities Initiative, the laneway transformed into an outdoor art gallery.
“On behalf of the Downtown Windsor Business Revitalization Association, I cannot express how delighted we are to unveil one of the most exciting, innovative and collaborative projects the board has ever seen,” said Pat Papadeas, vice-chairwoman of the DBRWA board of directors.
Public spaces like this one are glue in our communities
These works encompass significant art installations in the core and include graffiti art installations and the magnificent lampshade art installation dreamed up, developed and dedicated by some of the region’s finest artists.”
Papadeas credited artists Julia Hall, Kiki Simone, Talysha Bujold-Abu, Tony Castro, Ostoro Petahtegoose and graffiti artist DERKZ, for the dazzling display.
“Public spaces like this one are glue in our communities,” said Richard Wyma, chairman of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation board of directors. “They enable a feeling of belonging and social cohesion.
“They’re a big part of what makes community’s safe and vibrant and connected.”
Wyma said the WindsorEssex Community Foundation worked alongside community foundations from across southwestern Ontario to determine recipients of $794,000 as part of the second round of the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative.
Seven local projects shared $165,000.
Wyma said funding was allocated to projects in three overall categories — safe and vibrant public spaces, improved mobility options and digital solutions.
The other local recipients include Bike Windsor Essex for its Safe Windsor Cycling program, CJAM FM student media to support its technology lending library program, the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator supporting its development of the accelerator community patio, Essex County Library supporting its library book bike and mobile information kiosk program, the Polish People’s Home Association supporting the creation and transformation of an eco-friendly pavilion for safe gatherings and the Rotary Club of Windsor 1918 for Windsor Essex Rainbow Alliance supporting the re-development and enhancement of Lanspeary Park.
Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk said the goal of the fund is to bring the community and community partners together.
“Wow, this is absolutely incredible,” Kusmierczyk said. “Look at this. This is an absolutely incredible transformation.
“And it takes a little bit of vision, it takes a little bit of hard work. And it also takes collaboration and partnerships and this is the end result.”
Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin was praised by both Papadeas and Kusmierczyk for his tireless work to improve the downtown area and especially to bring out the potential of the city’s alleys.
“There’s been no bigger, better champion for downtown than Rino Bortolin,” Kusmierczyk said. “I wanted to thank you Coun. Bortolin for your vision, your steadfast advocacy.”
Thursday’s reveal was just the first phase of the development of Art Alley, according to Papadeas, who hinted that another announcement will soon be coming regarding the newly updated space.
“This is not scientific, but our sense is that 80 per cent of any issues we have downtown will actually solve themselves by people being down here,” she said. “People moving, people walking, people shopping, people sitting around and enjoying the day.
“This is a welcoming space and this is for the community.”
A new building that will connect sustainable energy and world class visual art has just been announced and is set to open in 2027.
Made public by minister of Canadian heritage Pablo Rodriguez and long-standing MP Hedy Fry, the centre will receive $29 million in funding through the federal government and Infrastructure Canada.
As well as being apart of the Vancouver art gallery, the building will also be the first passive house art gallery in North America.
Passive house is an ultra-low energy performance standard within buildings and will further the gallery’s vision of creating safe and inclusive spaces, while meeting Canada’s efficiency standards in the goal of net-zero.
The building itself will showcase a variety of artists local to Canada and from around the world. It will also have a multi-purpose Indigenous community house, public art spaces, a theatre, and initiatives for marginalized groups.
For Fry, this new building will play an important role in supporting the groups that need it most.
“Cultural spaces and institutions like the Vancouver Art Gallery play an important role in supporting vibrant and inclusive communities. They connect the past with the present through exhibits that inform and inspire, they safeguard priceless artefacts and works of art, and they promote the talent of our Canadian artists and creators.”
Hugh Eakin’s new book, “Picasso’s War: How Modern Art Came to America” (Crown), isn’t really about Picasso, or about war, or about art. Its subject is the creation of a market for a certain product, modern art.
One (mostly) good thing about the digital revolution, which is otherwise sucking us all into a plutocratic dystopia, is that the Internet has reduced the barriers to cultural production enormously. Many types of cultural goods are now much easier to make and much cheaper to distribute. You don’t need an investor to capitalize your production costs or a distributor to get your stuff before the public. You just need a laptop and a camera (and maybe an inspiration). And, no matter how small you are, you always open worldwide.
It’s true that when your product goes online it will be competing with a zillion similar products—and products that do have investors and distributors, such as streaming services, are much more likely to attract audiences and become profitable. But the Internet makes your work accessible to anyone who wants to see it or read it or listen to it or buy a copy of it, because barriers to cultural consumption are also much lower. Goods are far easier to access and to acquire.
Back when all of life was offline, back when to buy a record you had to go to a record store, back when there were record stores, the infrastructure required for cultural goods to get from creation to consumption had many more moving parts. These parts are the principals of Eakin’s story. His focus isn’t on the big-name modern artists, like Picasso and Matisse, who are offstage for much of the book. It’s on figures most people have never heard of: dealers, gallery owners, collectors, curators, and critics—the components of what sociologists call the art world.
The art world isn’t a fixed entity. It’s continually being reconstituted as new artistic styles emerge. Twentieth-century fine art, in Europe and the United States, passed through a series of formally innovative stages, from Cubism and Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, and each time art entered a new stage and acquired a new look the art world had to adjust.
At the most basic level, the art world exists to answer the question Is it art? When Cubist paintings were first produced, around 1907, they did not look like art to many people, even people who were interested in and appreciated fine-art painting. The same thing was true of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings (around 1950) and Andy Warhol’s soup cans (1962).
But you don’t know it’s art by looking at it. You know it’s art because galleries want to show it, dealers want to sell it, collectors want to buy it, museums want to exhibit it, and critics can explain it. When the parts are in synch, you have a market. The artist produces, and the various audiences—from billionaire collectors to casual museumgoers and college students buying van Gogh posters—consume. The art world is what gets the image from the studio to the dorm room.
The general American public, in the period when modern art emerged, around the time of the First World War, had no interest in it. Wealthy Americans, the sort of people who could afford to buy art for their homes, had no taste for it. Even the art establishment was hostile. In 1913, a Matisse show at the Art Institute of Chicago instigated a near-riot. Copies of three Matisse paintings were burned and there was a mock trial, in which Matisse was convicted of, among other things, artistic murder. The demonstrators were art students.
In Eakin’s account, the creation of a Picasso market in the United States—“Picasso” standing for modern art generally—took almost thirty years, from the first American Picasso show, at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291, in 1911 (eighty-three works, one sale), to “Picasso: Forty Years of His Art” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1939 (more than three hundred and sixty works). The MoMA show, as Eakin puts it, “electrified the city.”
High-end department stores like Bonwit Teller and Bergdorf Goodman began selling Picasso-themed clothing. A national tour followed, and from then on, Eakin concludes, “the story of modern art—the collectors who acquired it, the scholars who studied it, the museums that showed it, and the ordinary people who waited in long lines to see it—would be written in America.”
Modern art had many middlemen and women in the United States—Albert C. Barnes, Walter and Louise Arensberg, Katherine S. Dreier, Galka Scheyer, Solomon R. Guggenheim, Hilla von Rebay, Hans Hofmann, Meyer Schapiro, Clement Greenberg. Eakin has chosen to center his story on just two of these people: John Quinn, a collector and an all-around cultural impresario, who died, of liver cancer, in 1924; and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of MoMA, which opened in 1929. Using these figures gives his book a certain symmetry: Quinn tried and failed to do what Barr finally succeeded in doing, which was to get Americans to accept and appreciate modern art.
Quinn was a successful Wall Street lawyer who spent much of his money in support of contemporary art and literature. He was not only an art collector. He was the principal American adviser and promoter of modern writers like William Butler Yeats, Joseph Conrad, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot. He bought their manuscripts as a way of supporting them, and he helped make their work known in the United States. He negotiated Eliot’s American book contracts at a time when Eliot was barely a coterie writer. He brought Yeats to the United States for a national tour. He arranged for the first American production of J. M. Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World.” He acted as a talent scout for the publisher Alfred A. Knopf.
Culture industries need to adapt continually to changes in the legal, financial, and political environment—tax laws, depreciation rules, government regulations, quotas and tariffs, the availability of capital, and geopolitical developments, like wars. In what was possibly his most significant achievement as a supporter of modern art, Quinn single-handedly got Congress to rewrite a 1909 tax law that imposed a tariff on imported art less than fifty years old while exempting “historic art.”
Eliminating the modern-art tariff made it much more feasible for American galleries to exhibit and sell contemporary European painting. Most of the works in Stieglitz’s Picasso show at 291, for example, were drawings, because they were assessed at a lower value than paintings. It was too expensive to bring paintings over from Europe.
Quinn wasn’t just collecting for himself. He was on a mission. As Eakin puts it, he wanted “to bring American civilization to the forefront of the modern world.” He thus operated as, in effect, a one-man art world. He subsidized New York art galleries, often buying many of the works they showed. He was a key figure behind the 1913 Armory Show, where the public could see more than thirteen hundred works of modern art, and where Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” became a succès de scandale.
When modern art was attacked for undermining American values—the Times called the Armory Show “part of the general movement, discernible all over the world, to disrupt and degrade, if not to destroy, not only art, but literature and society, too”—Quinn worked the press, giving interviews to New York papers in which he labelled unsigned attacks like that one “Ku Klux criticism.” Over time, he built up a huge collection of modern European painting and sculpture, which he stored in his ninth-floor apartment on Central Park West.
The apartment was a rental. Quinn was rich, but he wasn’t J. P. Morgan rich. Morgan spent something like sixty million dollars on art, most of which he donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which he was the chairman. Quinn didn’t have that kind of money. On the other hand, Morgan was buying Old Masters (he was the force behind the 1909 tax law exempting “historic art” which Quinn got rewritten), while Quinn was buying work that almost no one else wanted. From the point of view of the American art world, the incredible collection he amassed, containing works by, among others, Brâncuși, Braque, Duchamp, Gris, Matisse, Picasso, Rousseau, Seurat, van Gogh, and Villon, was close to worthless when he died. No American dealer could sell it, and no American museum wanted to hang it.
Knowing this, Quinn directed, in his will, that his collection be sold at auction, with the proceeds to go to his sister and his niece, who were his only heirs. (Quinn never married, but he had relationships with a number of notable women; at the time of his death, his partner was Jeanne Robert Foster, the daughter of a lumberjack, an astonishingly beautiful and gifted woman who was closely involved in his search for new art.) Since Americans didn’t want it, much of Quinn’s collection of European art thus ended up going back to Europe.
Conveniently for Eakin’s narrative arc, Alfred Barr, then a young art-history professor at Wellesley, was able to see some of Quinn’s collection before it was dispersed, which allows Eakin to propose that one of Barr’s aspirations when he accepted the directorship of MoMA three years later was to reassemble the Quinn collection and bring it back to America. This was impossible, of course. The pieces were now in too many hands. But MoMA became, in effect, Quinn’s museum, and Quinn’s canon (plus photography and a few artists, like Klee and Kandinsky, whose work Quinn did not collect) became Barr’s canon.
And it is still MoMA’s canon. If you walk through the fifth floor of MoMA today, where art that is owned by the museum and that was made between 1880 and 1940 is displayed, you will be looking at the very works whose art-world adventures are the subject of Eakin’s book.
Probably hundreds of people pass by those works every day, and none of them seem scandalized, even by Picasso’s eight-foot-high “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” painted in 1907—five naked women in a brothel, cubistically rendered, two with faces like African masks, aggressively confronting the viewer. (You need to stand very close to the canvas to get the proper effect, though almost no one does.) The shock of the new has worn off. This was probably not the kind of public acceptance that Quinn and Barr had in mind. But, as Gertrude Stein once said, “You can be a museum or you can be modern, but you cannot be both.”
There is a Paris side to Eakin’s story, too. Again, the focus is mainly on two figures: the gallerists Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Paul Rosenberg. (A third operator, a kind of freelance dealer and ladies’ man named Henri-Pierre Roché, who referred to his penis as “mon God,” and who scouted deals for Quinn, has a colorful part in the story.)
Of the circumstances that culture industries are obliged to adapt to, none played a more powerful role in the first half of the twentieth century than geopolitics. Kahnweiler did not sell his artists’ work in France, even though his gallery was in Paris. His collectors were in Germany and Russia, countries where modern art was created and understood. But the First World War and the Russian Revolution shut those markets down. As a German national, Kahnweiler even suffered the seizure of his collection by the French government.
A decade later, the rise to power of Stalin and then Hitler made conditions much worse. The governments of both leaders made modern art a political target. (The Nazis referred to modern art as Kunstbolschewismus—Bolshevik art—even though it was equally anathema in the Soviet Union.) Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union did not just censor modern artists and writers. They imprisoned them and they killed them. After 1933, the year Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany, the United States suddenly became attractive as a place where modern art could safely be shown. Hitler and Stalin provided the tailwind for Quinn and Barr’s mission to modernize American taste.
Kahnweiler and Rosenberg are keys to Eakin’s story because both men represented Picasso, and Eakin thinks that Quinn and Barr were determined to make Picasso the face of modern art in America. He says that Barr regarded “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” in particular, as a painting that could define MoMA’s entire collection.
But Barr had a hard time persuading his board of trustees to actually buy art, as opposed to borrowing it for exhibitions. The museum mounted highly successful retrospectives of Matisse in 1931 (thirty-six thousand visitors) and van Gogh in 1935 (a blockbuster, and really the exhibition that established a public for modern art in the United States), but the trustees declined to purchase a single work by Matisse, and they passed on van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” an image that would one day grace countless coffee mugs.
MoMA’s efforts to acquire “Les Demoiselles” is a good example of the twists and turns in the road from artist to public. When Picasso finished the painting, he let some people see it in his studio in Paris, where it acquired what Eakin calls a “cultlike status.” But the work was rarely exhibited publicly. Picasso liked to hold on to his best pieces, and he kept “Les Demoiselles” rolled up for years. In 1924, he sold it to Jacques Doucet, a fashion designer. (Doucet’s wife refused to allow him to hang it in their living room. The new was still a shock to her.) Doucet paid twenty-four thousand francs—about twelve hundred dollars at the time.
Barr knew where the painting had gone, and in 1935 he tried to persuade Doucet’s wife, who was now a widow, to lend it to MoMA for a show on Cubism. She refused. But a year later she sold the work to a Paris dealer, Germain Seligmann, for a hundred and fifty thousand francs—about six thousand dollars. Imagining that he could get a good price for it in New York, Seligmann had the painting shipped to his gallery there, and that was how Barr found out that it was back on the market.
When he approached the MoMA board, however, the members balked at Seligmann’s asking price of thirty thousand dollars. Barr exerted what pressure he could, including having art-world allies testify to the work’s historical significance, but to no avail. In the end, he found a provision in a bequest to MoMA that permitted the sale of one of the works in the donor’s collection in order to purchase another. He picked a Degas horse-racing scene and offered it to Seligmann in exchange for “Les Demoiselles,” a transaction that did not require board approval.
Seligmann and Barr agreed that the Degas was worth eighteen thousand dollars. Seligmann had reduced his ask on the Picasso to twenty-eight thousand, and he now said that he would “donate” the remaining ten thousand—an act of generosity that was the financial equivalent of an air kiss, since no cash changed hands. As Eakin points out, the deal still left Seligmann with a three-hundred-per-cent profit.
And so, for the cost of a run-of-the-mill Degas, and almost thirty years after it was painted, Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” a work as apotheosized in the history of modern painting as “The Waste Land” is in the history of modern poetry, was finally available for public viewing. In 1941, the museum did acquire “The Starry Night,” also through an exchange. Today, the paintings hang within a few yards of each other on the fifth floor.
The story in “Picasso’s War” is well told, with an impressive level of biographical detail. As a picture of interwar transatlantic cultural exchange, it necessarily (because of the Quinn-Barr hook) leaves out a lot, notably Bauhaus and Dada, both of which had an impact on American art-making and American taste. But, as an account of the means by which Picasso and the styles of painting with which he was associated achieved cultural prestige in the United States, it’s an admirable and enjoyable book.
Does it matter that Eakin doesn’t have much to say about the art that his protagonists are scheming to promote? A little. Artists and writers do not operate in some otherworldly zone. They want recognition. They want sales. Like everyone else in the art world, they are responsive to the social, political, and financial environment, and this affects their artistic choices. Still, what mattered most to the artists Eakin is writing about was the work of their peers and the art of the past which they emulated or reacted against, and that is a subject on which many books have been written.
Eakin also leaves unanswered (and unasked) an obvious question: Why did Americans’ tastes change between 1911 and 1939? It couldn’t just be because Alfred Barr found the means to acquire Picassos for his museum. What turned modern art from a matter for connoisseurs and academics into, to put it crudely, a middlebrow phenomenon?
The transition must have involved significant social changes. For modern literature, the work of writers like Eliot, Stein, and Joyce took a chronologically parallel route to acceptance and, ultimately, canonization. You could not even legally bring a copy of Joyce’s “Ulysses” into the United States until 1934, twelve years after it had been published in Paris. But at some point Americans who aspired to cultural literacy started to feel that it was important to read “Ulysses” and “The Waste Land,” and to know how to look at a Picasso and a Kandinsky. These were works that an educated and worldly person needed to have some familiarity with. What made people think this?
Quinn and Barr never met, and that was probably for the best, since they were very different personalities. Barr was a brilliant museum director who had an essentially academic approach to modern art. Quinn was a businessman. His edges were much rougher. His letters to the writers and artists whose work he advocated for reflect his complete (and completely pro-bono) absorption in their legal and financial affairs. And he seems to have been genuinely appreciative of their work.
But he was also a ranter and a bigot. Obliged to acknowledge this, Eakin quotes one letter in which Quinn refers to Rosenberg as “a cheap little Jew,” and another, to Ezra Pound, in which he complains about the “million Jews, who are mere walking appetites” in New York City. This may underplay the bigotry. There was a lot worse to pick from. In 1919, for instance, when Quinn was trying to get Eliot’s poems published in the United States, he grew frustrated with the publishers Albert Boni and Horace Liveright, who were Jewish. “It is a dirty piece of Jew impertinence,” he complained in a letter to Eliot, “calculated impertinence at that, for that is the way that type of Jew thinks he can impress his personality. . . . Feeling as I do about this matter, of course I have the keenest possible feelings regarding Jew pogroms in Poland. . . . It also occurs to me that I might be willing to even agree to make a modest contribution and take a modest part in a pogrom here. There might be a couple of additional pogroms in the outlying districts, one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn.” We don’t encounter this Quinn in Eakin’s book. Nevertheless, three years later, Boni and Liveright published “The Waste Land,” in a deal negotiated by Quinn. Business first.
Is the art world, as we’ve known it, still intact? Obviously, the market is functioning. Art gets displayed, reviewed, bought, and sold. For a while, it seemed that painting and sculpture might be less susceptible than other cultural goods to the effects of digitization. Unlike a song or a book or a video, a painting is unique. A Pollock is worth millions; a copy of a Pollock is worth the cost of the materials required to produce it plus whatever permission fee was charged for the reproduction by the rightsholders.
It was therefore possible to feel that the monetary value of a painting correlated with its art-world value. Pollocks were worth a lot of money because museums displayed them, critics argued about them, art historians assigned Pollock an important place in the story of modern art, and so on. The art world could continue to perform its gatekeeping function in much the way it had in Alfred Barr’s time.
But the Internet does not suffer exemptions. Nothing may go undigitized. Today, many collectors do not buy physical works of art. They buy art works (among lots of other stuff) in the form of N.F.T.s, which are purely digital products. They don’t need the physical work, because they’re not assembling collections; they’re speculating.
It’s not that people have never bought art on speculation (although, historically, you’d be better off in a stock-market-index fund). It’s that the art world has started to come apart. Curation and criticism are increasingly detached from the rest of the mechanism. The market today is driven by dealers and collectors, neither group appearing to care whether museums and reviewers have validated the work they are buying and selling.
Certainly, art critics may feel that they’re becoming irrelevant. In an article on recent sales at auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, in which very new paintings by very new artists attracted seven-figure bids, the Times art critic Jason Farago concluded that “the time between a new work’s creation, digital dissemination, purchase and resale has become so compressed that the old legitimation mechanism simply cannot function.” He worried that this might be “part of a larger and, in the end, hazardous cultural reversal in which numerical measurement, measured in dollars or in likes, are the only records of quality or importance.” Welcome to the desert of the virtual.
And are paintings still unique? Advances in 3-D printing may soon make it possible to produce a copy of “The Starry Night” that is indistinguishable from the canvas Vincent van Gogh painted. Your dorm room can look exactly like the fifth floor of the Museum of Modern Art. You may want to think about installing a gift shop. ♦
I walked into Crew’s and Tango’s, a queer bar in Toronto, and my senses were flooded with light, glitter, wafts of vodka cranberries, and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blaring on the speakers as a drag queen performed.
Ivory Towers, a drag queen fashioned with caution tape as a bodysuit that matched their vibrant yellow hair, led an entranced crowd through the last stanzas of the song. Their stage presence was as powerful as their black thigh-high stilettos.
When Helena Poison joined the stage in an incredible pair of ass-less chaps with rainbow fringe going down the pant leg, the two engaged in banter with the crowd members, all of whom hung onto their every word.
Drag performers like Towers and Posion have had to create a space for themselves in an outwardly heteronormative and patriarchal society.
Rowena Whey, a leader within the vibrant Kingston drag community and a practicing drag queen of six years, told The Journal what the culture means to her.
“Drag is an art form where we perform gender, that takes a lot of forms,” Whey said.
While she adopts a female presenting gender for her performances, Whey stressed that drag comes in varieties; there are drag kings and non-binary performers as well.
“Drag is an all-encompassing art form,” she said. “Not only is it makeup, fashion, body contouring—it’s also dancing and singing and acting and comedy.”
Her first encounter with drag was in Edmonton at the Evolution Wonder Lounge where she was mesmerized and intrigued by a performer who would later be her partner.
“I didn’t really know drag existed until I moved to Edmonton,” Whey said. “I started doing drag for Halloween one year, but if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.”
Whey spent time watching makeup tutorials and making her own clothes for her drag persona.
“When it came time to go out, I was in drag for 15 hours. If I could do that I could do it as a career,” she said.
Whey talked about the lengthy process of getting ready for a show, from venue hunting to styling to makeup to hair. The work that goes into drag is all-encompassing.
“They like to say that when you’re doing drag makeup, there’s this like wow moment where you actually feel like your transformation is complete,” she said.
“For me, that doesn’t really happen until after my entire face—lips, lashes, like everything—is on, but my wig doesn’t have to be on, which I always find strange.”
When asked to name who her biggest inspiration has been, Whey said Elton John.
“I love that he is an out and proud queer man, he’s not afraid to be flamboyant. He’s theatrical and out of this world and over the top. I always felt that really deep down.”
Catch Rowena live at the Grad Club and Daft Brewery on the first Wednesday of every month and the last Thursday of every month, respectively.
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Welcome to Drag: The performance art celebrating gender fluidity – Queen's Journal
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