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Natalia Goncharova Earned Her Place In Art History

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Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova’s cubist-futurist painting La Gare (train Station) fetched €963,000 (more than $1 million), surpassing the €500,000 to €800,000 estimate at auction this year.

At the turn of the 20th century, two wildly talented and rebellious students, Goncharova and Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov, met at the prestigious Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. They quickly became partners, sharing both a studio and a living space, and the art world was never the same. As founding members of the Jack of Diamonds, Moscow’s first radical independent exhibiting group, the lovers and collaborators struck a mighty fist through the firmly settled foundation of Russian art. Always stirring controversy while creating revolutionary works, the couple settled in Paris where they spent the rest of their lives.

Goncharova, a Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, writer, illustrator, and set designer, was also a founder — along with fellow Russian artists Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, and Marianne von Werefkin, and German artists Franz Marc, August Macke, and Gabriele Münter —of another radical art movement known as Der Blaue Reiter. Born July 3, 1881, in Nagaevo, Tula Governorate, part of the Russian Empire, she died Oct. 17, 1962, in Paris.

A pioneering avant-garde Russian painter, Larionov was also a founding member of an even more radical, but short-lived, group called Donkey’s Tail, which included Goncharova, as well as Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall, and Aleksandr Shevchenko. They were influenced by the Cubo-Futurism movement, and the group’s lone exhibition was held in Moscow in 1912.

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Larionov, who was influenced by the Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani, painted in the style of Impressionism starting in 1902, and after visiting Paris four years later, he shifted to Post-Impressionism and then to a Neo-primitive style, partly derived from Russian sign painting. In 1908 he staged the Golden Fleece exhibition in Moscow, which included paintings by Matisse, Derain, Braque, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.

Together, Goncharova and Larionov developed a groundbreaking style of abstract art known as Rayonism, after hearing a series of lectures about Futurism by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet, editor, art theorist, and founder of the Futurist movement.

Goncharova’s father, Sergey Mikhaylovich Goncharov, was an architect and also graduated from the same Moscow Institute where she and Larionov fell in love.

In 1915, Larionov left Russia to work with ballet owner Sergei Diaghilev in Paris on the the Ballets Russes, gaining French citizenship and never returning to his homeland. He was born June 3, 1881, in Tiraspol, Kherson Governorate, part of the Russian Empire, and died May 10, 1964, in the Paris suburb Fontenay-aux-Roses.

Fifty-five years after his death, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow hosted the first major Larionov retrospective in Russia, divided into a Russian section featuring mostly paintings, and a French section, including paintings as well as a large collection of his graphic works, many on public display for the first time. The French portion also displays his works from the Ballets Russes, along with works of other artists from his private collection.

Larionov’s delightful “A Stroll in a Provincial Town” (circa 1909) is feverishly inspired by his first visit to Paris in 1906. The vibrant and bold colors depict a flamboyant and carefree lifestyle that is undoubtedly refreshing to a Russian native. The diversity of his work is stark in the Tretyakov Gallery exhibition which features this painting.

Meanwhile, in London, watercolors by Goncharova, including three of her costume designs estimated to fetch between £600 ($771) and £800 ($1,029), are going on the block at Dawson’s Art, Antiques and Jewelry sale on Jan. 19.

Her work is part of Russian art and objects dealer Christopher Martin-Zakheim’s extensive collection from his former shop Iconastas in Piccadilly Arcade. Martin-Zakheim was diagnosed with a brain tumor and consigned the remaining stock of his beloved store when it closed last year. He died on Dec. 25, 2018.

The regal Iconastas opened in 1974, specializing in Russian Art from the beginning of Christianity to the end of Communism. It’s where well-heeled international collectors would find everything from Orthodox Icons and crosses created from the 16th century until the 1900s, to Soviet porcelain figures from the 1920’s, or precious pieces by Faberge.

More than half a century after their deaths, Goncharova and Larionov continue to intrigue and shock the art world, sometimes in curious ways.

“Still Life with Teapot and Oranges” was, for more than 50 years, believed to have been painted by Larionov, but Aleksandra Babenko, an Associate Specialist in Russian Art at Christie’s, discovered that it had been painted by Goncharova. It sold at Christie’s in November 2017 for £2.4 million ($3.1 million).

‘The minute I saw the painting in the flesh, it took my breath away,” said Babenko. ‘The vividness and boldness of its colors, the accentuated ultramarine outlines, and the audaciously angled composition — all exemplified the youthful fervor and rebellious mood within Moscow’s artistic community in the early 20th century.”

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Kapwani Kiwanga to represent Canada at 60th Venice Biennale

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Kapwani Kiwanga, who grew up in Brantford, Ont., and studied anthropology at McGill University before moving to France for graduate studies in art, is based in Paris.Bertille Chéret/Handout

Kapwani Kiwanga, the Ontario-born artist who lives and works in France, will represent Canada at the 60th Venice Biennale, the National Gallery of Canada announced Thursday.

Kiwanga will create work for the Canada Pavilion in the Biennale’s Giardini park where the international art exhibition opens April 20, 2024. Her participation will be curated by Gaetane Verna, former director of Toronto’s Power Plant and now director the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University.

Kiwanga, who grew up in Brantford, Ont., and studied anthropology at McGill University before moving to France for graduate studies in art, is based in Paris. Born in Hamilton, she is of Tanzanian and Scottish ancestry.

Starting with social and historical research, she uses video, performance, sculpture and especially installation to look at power structures and colonialism. She has created installations that investigate the manipulative elements of prison architecture; in another major series, she has recreated the floral arrangements that can be seen in the 20th-century photographs of independence ceremonies or military parades in African nations.

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In the Giardini, she will be provided with a strong backdrop for her themes: The park features national pavilions for all the traditional colonial powers. The Canada Pavilion, a shell-shaped modernist wood-and-glass structure built in 1958 and renovated in 2018, is a small building sandwiched between the larger German, British and French pavilions.

Kiwanga, who was chosen by a panel of Canadian and U.S. curators assembled by the National Gallery, is already an international star. In 2020, she was awarded the Prix Marcel Duchamp, France’s top art prize, and in 2018 she won Canada’s Sobey Award for an emerging artist.

She has exhibited widely in Europe and, in February, the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto will unveil the first major survey of her work in Canada. That exhibition will feature five new commissions as part of her research into the politics of botany.

In Venice, the 60th Biennale will continue to Nov. 24, 2024.

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Sussex Drive art gallery showing photo exhibit of the ‘hidden beauty’ of convoy protesters

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A press release from photographer Paul Ozzello and Art + Galerie calls the images “both striking and controversial,”

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A Montreal photographer who says he found “hidden beauty” when he visited last year’s convoy protest in Ottawa is exhibiting his portraits of protesters at a Sussex Drive gallery, coinciding with the occupation’s first anniversary.

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A press release from photographer Paul Ozzello and Art + Galerie calls the images “both striking and controversial,” while inviting viewers to see the exhibit and “engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue about the issues it raises.”

Jean-Pierre Bex, manager of Art + Galerie, and one of its artists, said in an interview that the exhibit of Ozzello’s photos is not a political gesture.

“We are taking absolutely no political stance on this show whatsoever,” Bex said. The show is entitled “Fringe.”

Bex acknowledged that the occupation “was a polarizing event for sure.” But he contended that Ozzello’s photo have artistic merit. “At the end of the day, they’re really nice pictures, really well presented,” Bex said.

Bex said it was “more of a coincidence” that Ozzello’s exhibit will fall on the anniversary of the occupation. He said he had planned on the exhibit happening sooner, but Ozzello needed more time to prepare his work.

Ozzello said he came to Ottawa soon after the trucks arrived and stayed for two weeks in a motel, drawn to document the event. He returned a few more times until the protesters were forced to leave.

“I search for hidden beauty… that often goes unnoticed, and when I came to Ottawa, I found a similar beauty in the spirit of those Canadian truckers,” said Ozzello in response to emailed questions.

“I know talk of the truckers can be very triggering to some and I hope my less critical viewpoint of the protest isn’t a complete turn-off,” Ozzello said. “This is coming from someone double-jabbed who sewed several thousand masks for my doctor friends at the beginning of the pandemic.

One of Paul Ozzello’s photos that will be on exhibit.
One of Paul Ozzello’s photos that will be on exhibit. Photo by Jean Levac /POSTMEDIA

“There was something romantic to seeing these primal men and women getting together to defy the government and stand up for what they believe, and I wanted to convey this more human side of the truckers,” he continued. “They had this quixotic grunginess that I love to photograph.

“When one of them saw my old Polaroid camera, he asked me to take a photograph of him – then took out a Sharpie and signed the print,” Ozzello said. “And that’s how it all started.”

He said he was apprehensive about meeting people who were violent extremists, but that wasn’t his experience.

“I eventually started talking to many of the truckers and realized that these people really weren’t much different from myself,” Ozzello said.

“These were just ordinary Canadians that were tired of being confined, afraid of what long term side-effects of the vaccine might be, that just wanted to return to a normal life.”

Other photographers and media documenting the convoy were not welcomed as warmly by protesters. Soon after the protest began, the Canadian Association of Journalists drew attention to troubling incidents.

“Journalists have received death threats littered with racist epithets. Others have been spat on and verbally and physically harassed. In another case, the windows of a CBC/Radio-Canada news cruiser were broken,” said a Jan. 28, 2022 press release from the CAJ.

Veteran Ottawa photographer Paul Couvrette, who lives and works in Centretown, said he too visited the convoy protest several times out of curiosity and that he took “thousands” of photos.

“I had at least two or three people threaten me,” Couvrette said. “I did have people tell me, ‘Put the camera away, delete all the pictures.’ I’ve been around enough that that didn’t bother me.”

He added that after his first few visits to the protests, he returned with a large Canadian flag on his backpack and was greeted as an ally. “Suddenly people went, ‘He’s one of us.’ It was an us-and-them thing.”

“I disagree with 99 per cent of what the convoy people wanted,” Couvrette said. But he called Ozzello’s sympathetic portrayal “valid.”

Said Couvrette: “The photographer is going to focus on the human side and there is a human side.”

A collection of Paul Ozzello’s photos that will be on exhibit.
A collection of Paul Ozzello’s photos that will be on exhibit. Photo by Jean Levac /POSTMEDIA

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Free ports are places with the ultra-rich store their art antiquities to avoid tax and duties

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Free ports are warehouses where the 0.01 percent stash their collections of “art, antiquities, wine, gold, jewels, and other priceless artifacts and never pay tax on them,” says Wyatt Cavalier in his newsletter, The WC. One warehouse in Geneva holds more than $10 billion in art, never to be seen by the owners, who would rather avoid paying taxes on their Velazquez than look at it. Similar dragon hoards are in Luxembourg, Monaco, Singapore, Zurich, Beijing, and Delaware.

They exist outside the formal jurisdiction of any country; the clients remain anonymous and the assets are kept a secret.

And though you may have never heard of free ports, they’re a big deal in the art world:

  • 28% of artists and collectors have used a free port;
  • 42% of dealers and brokers say their clients use them.

Why use a free port?

If you buy a $10m painting from a dealer in France and want to bring it to the US (or anywhere else, really), you’ll have to pay import duties as high as $2m – $3m. Storing it in a free port gets around this. For around $1,000 per month, you’ll never pay those import taxes on your van Gogh.

Moreover, when it comes time to sell your piece, you can skip sales tax via the free port’s informal economy. The crate moves from your unit to the buyer’s unit, and the money moves from her Swiss bank account to yours.

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