Five pieces by legendary Haida sculptor Charles Edenshaw donated by dealer Donald Ellis
Charles Edenshaw is arguably the greatest sculptor in Canadian history. Working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Haida carver crafted dazzling, elegant, impossibly intricate pieces that took traditional Haida art into whole new realms.
New York art dealer Donald Ellis compares him to Michelangelo.
“He’s the most important 19th century Indigenous artist in Canada, possibly in North America,” said Ellis from New York. “He was the leader of the Haida people at a time when the smallpox epidemic hit. He was creating all this extraordinary work when the world around him was crumbling.
“We believe he was possibly the first Indigenous person on the northwest coast, maybe in North America, to make a living producing art.”
Edenshaw’s artworks are in many of the world’s great museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Berlin Ethnological Museum in Germany.
Oddly, in Vancouver, the major Edenshaw collections are at the Museum of Vancouver and the UBC Museum of Anthropology, not the Vancouver Art Gallery. First Nations art wasn’t considered art in the gallery’s early years, it was considered ethnography.
The Vancouver Art Gallery had a groundbreaking Edenshaw exhibition in 2013. But it had to borrow the art for the show because the VAG only has two Edenshaw pieces in its collection, a model argillite totem and a Haida hat that his wife made and he painted.
The size of the VAG’s Edenshaw collection is about to jump, because Ellis has donated five Edenshaw works to the gallery: two bracelets (one gold, one silver), and three silver spoons.
“Both the bracelets have very important provenance,” said Ellis.
“Edenshaw gave the large silver bracelet to Chief Shakes (in Alaska) in the 19th century, which was then given to his daughter, Mary Ebbetts Hunt. She was Tlingit and brought Chilkat weaving to Vancouver Island.”
She passed the bracelet down through her family.
“The gold bracelet remained in the Edenshaw family until they sold it a little while ago.”
The VAG’s acting director, Daina Augaitis, was co-curator of the 2013 Edenshaw exhibition. She said his best work — a trio of platters that weave a single story — is simply exquisite.
“The design of them is so sophisticated they just take your breath away,” said Augaitis.
Of the Ellis donation,” she said, “I would say that the perhaps the most extraordinary is the wider silver bracelet that (belonged to) Chief Shakes. That’s a frog design. His ability to make the designs, make the drawings, but also his execution (is remarkable) — he had such a steady hand.”
“Do you know what push lines are?” asks Ellis. “In engraving, a push line is when you’re drawing a line with a small chisel in silver or gold. You stop and then you start again, and if you look under magnification, you can see a little ridge where the hand comes up when it stops, and moves down when it starts again.
“Edenshaw doesn’t have push lines. His hand was so certain that he could draw an ovoid in one movement without stopping and starting again. And when you look at all his contemporaries, you see push lines, little mountains. That fascinates me.”
Ellis is one of the world’s top dealers in Indigenous art. Many people recognize him from the American version of the Antiques Roadshow, where he did a famous appraisal of a Navajo blanket for $350,000 to $500,000. The old guy who brought it in starts to tear up, and it became one of the most famous appraisals in the show’s history.
Originally from Ontario, Ellis moved to New York when his business took off. But he now spends most of his time in B.C.
“It’s my adopted home,” said Ellis. “I’ve been living in New York and Vancouver, primarily in Vancouver now for the last eight years. I have a modernist house on the water (on the North Shore). It changed my life. I sort of don’t ever want to be anywhere else now.”
At 62, Ellis said he’s entering a new phase in his career. He wants to semi-retire from being an art and antiques dealer and plans to work with public museums to build their collections.
This includes the VAG, where he will be making a “significant” donation for the proposed new Vancouver Art Gallery at Larwill Park downtown.
He said part of his inspiration was the legacy of artist Gordon Smith, who died this week at the age of 100.
“You could probably argue the reason I’m doing this now with the VAG is rooted in Gordon,” said Ellis. “One of the many things Gordon taught me through observation is the value of generosity. Gordon was the most generous human beings I’ve ever encountered.”
In recent years, Smith was known for giving visitors to his home a work for art as a gift.
“It got to the point where it was difficult to visit,” Ellis said. “I think 98 per cent of the times I visited Gordon, I left with a gift.”
Toronto Biennial of Art Appoints Curators
The Toronto Biennial of Art has appointed Montreal curator Dominique Fontaine and Peruvian curator Miguel A. López as co-curators of its 2024 edition.
Fontaine, who was born in Haiti, is a founding director of aposteriori, a non-profit curatorial platform that produces diverse and innovative contemporary art. Her projects include curating Between the earth and the sky, the possibility of everything for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche in Toronto in 2014, and co-curating the survey exhibition Here, We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary, which showed at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2018.
López worked as chief curator, and later as co-director, of TEOR/éTica in San José, Costa Rica, from 2015 to 2020. In 2019, he curated the retrospective exhibition Cecilia Vicuña: Seehearing the Enlightened Failure at the Witte de With (now Kunstinstituut Melly) in Rotterdam. The exhibition travelled to Mexico City, Madrid and Bogota.
Patrizia Libralato, the biennial’s executive director, said the two curators will contribute scholarship, innovation and inspiration to deepen the event’s connections to both local communities and global conversations.
“Together, we aim to create an event as uniquely diverse, responsive, challenging and engaging as the city itself,” she said.
The biennial, which will run from Sept. 21 to Dec. 1, 2024, attracted more then 450,000 visitors to its first two editions, which featured free programming across the city.
It has featured work by artists such as AA Bronson, Judy Chicago, Brian Jungen, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Kapwani Kiwanga, Caroline Monnet, Denyse Thomasos and Camille Turner.
Source: Toronto Biennial of Art
Football and art come together in the first NFT exhibition of its kind
– The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture’s From Strike to Stroke exhibit features 64 FIFA World Cup match results in a unique man-machine collaboration
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 6, 2022 /CNW/ — The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) celebrates the art of the beautiful game in a unique exhibition at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. From Strike to Stroke features 64 NFTs by 32 artists from the competing nations, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) fuses the pieces from the contending two countries in each of the 64 matches into a unique piece based on the match outcome. The result will be a singular collection of one-of-a-kind NFTs created through a collaboration of man and machine. Strike to Stroke runs at the Msheireb Galleria Doha, Qatar until December 23.
Ithra, a cultural bridge between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world, channels the world’s passion for football into its infatuation with the arts as the world comes together for the World Cup. The exhibition melds the man-made with the machine-made, and combines art, sport and technology in an innovative fashion.
It features the work of 32 emerging and established artists, each tasked with creating a piece representing their country and using their respective team’s jersey colors. After each match, the AI-powered algorithm combines the artists’ creations with match statistics to generate unique pieces that represent each game. The collection will be a unique set of pieces presented as NFTs – non-fungible tokens. These cryptographic assets are based on blockchain technology, and created in a process similar to cryptocurrencies.
From Strike to Stroke includes artists who have never created NFTs and NFT artists who had not worked within traditional fine art.
“The passion shared by football fans for the love of the beautiful game can be tangential to the passion shared by art aesthetes,” said Dr. Shurooq Amin in her curator’s brief to the exhibition. “By connecting 32 artists from both the traditional and digital arenas, Ithra not only bridges the gap between Web2 to Web3, and between football and art, but furthermore between human and machine, as the artists collaborate with AI generation technology to create unique NFTs that combine art, football and technology.”
Images and exhibition catalogue can be found here.
For more information on Ithra and its programs, visit www.ithra.com.
SOURCE King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra)
Richard Serra’s art installation hard to miss in Qatar desert, once you get there
Art stands tall in the desert some 75 kilometres northwest of Doha.
You need a rugged vehicle and no small resolve to find it, given signage is almost non-existent. The last few kilometres take time as you cross the desert on a slightly flattened but irregular path well away from the closest blacktop. Proceed with caution.
But East-West/West-East by American sculptor Richard Serra is worth the effort.
Completed in 2014, the installation comprises four giant steel plates – the outer two stand 16.7 metres high and the inner two 14.7 metres – and span more than a kilometre. Slightly different in height, to compensate for the difference in ground level, they line up like enormous fence posts in the barren desert flanked by gypsum plateaus at some points.
If not the middle of nowhere, it’s well on the way.
Possibly the last place on earth you’d expect to see “one of the most significant artists of his generation,” as Serra is dubbed by the Gagosian Gallery which has showcased his work in both New York and France.
“Taking art to the people,” is how Qatar Museums, the country’s arts and culture arm, explains it.
Depending on the direction you approach, you see only part of the art. As you get closer, the dark plates get bigger and bigger and you get to see all four.
“After the perceptual bombardment of Doha, with its architecture dominated by idiosyncratic shapes and kitschy facades, the sensuous experience prompted by the rigorous abstraction of the (desert) sculpture is at once bracing and sensitizing,” wrote Artforum magazine.
“Serra reminds the viewer, like 19th-century German Romantic artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, of man’s frailty in the face of nature’s omnipotence,” added Numero magazine.
For non art-critics, imagine the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey on steroids and times four in the desert. Stand next to one and you feel like an ant – a very hot ant under the blazing Qatari sun.
You’ll also likely be alone, albeit under review from what seemed like security in a nearby pickup truck.
The 84-year-old Serra, who worked in steel mills during college, is known for his large-scale abstract steel sculptures.
There is another in Doha itself. A sculpture called 7 – the number seven has spiritual significance in Islamic culture – was commissioned by Qatar Museums.
Built out of seven steel plates, it faces the sea at MIA Park, adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art.
Like a billionaire stocking his mansion with objets d’art, the government of Qatar has dug deep into its oil-filled coffers to decorate the country with world-class art.
There are big-ticket art works all over.
In 2013, Qatar Museums Authority head Sheikha al-Mayassa al-Thani, the daughter of the emir of Qatar, was listed atop ArtReview magazine’s annual Power 100 list “on account of her organization’s vast purchasing power and willingness to spend at a rate estimated to be US$1-billion a year – in order to get top works of art for its Doha museums,” ArtReview said.
Le Pouce, a giant golden thumb by French artist Cesar Baldaccini, is front and centre in Doha’s Souq Waqif market. French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, a giant spider that can also be found outside Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada, stands inside the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC), which doubles as the World Cup’s main press centre.
Another edition of Maman, one of seven, was sold for US$32-million by Christie’s in 2019.
“The Miraculous Journey” by English artist Damien Hirst is hard to miss outside Sidra Medicine centre just down the street from the QNCC. The 14 monumental bronze sculptures chronicle the gestation of a fetus inside a uterus, from conception to birth – ending with a statue of a 14-metre-tall anatomically correct baby boy.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022
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