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New LGBTQ2+ art installation in Halifax celebrates visibility, kinship

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A new art installation that celebrates the kinship between LGBTQ2+ people and brings more visibility to the community has been unveiled at the Halifax Common.

Addressing a physically distanced crowd at the Citadel Gateway on the North Common Monday, non-binary, transgender and queer artist Margot Durling spoke about the importance of public art and queer visibility.

“Seeing yourself reflected in the built environment is a very powerful form of validation and belonging — especially when you’ve lived most of your life not seeing yourself reflected in the world,” said Durling.

“There is a significant difference between ‘all are welcome’ and ‘this space was created with you in mind.'”

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The piece, called Chosen Family, can be seen at the Citadel Gateway on the North Common. (CBC)

 

At first glance, the colourful symbols at the top of the poles may resemble the glyphs traditionally used to represent the male and female genders — but as Durling explained, they’ve been mixed up and abstracted to represent a vast spectrum of gender identities.

“There’s too many brilliant, majestic gender identities to even count. This art is an explosion of those markers,” Durling said.

“Each symbol deconstructs and defies gender norms. It is not meant to be an exact translation, it is meant to be whatever you see. Hopefully, a bit of you is expressed somewhere in there.”

 

The symbols are meant to represent a spectrum of gender identities. (CBC)

 

The installation is titled Chosen Family, a term frequently used in the LGBTQ2+ community to describe “the kinship of unconditional love, from people who not only accept you fully, but know how to honour and celebrate that in ways that are so, so deeply magical,” said Durling, who uses the pronouns they/them.

“There is a deep and irreversible trauma that happens when you are not accepted by your family,” they said, adding that they came out twice: first as queer, then as transgender.

“It was hard and there were times I didn’t know if I wanted to exist anymore,” said Durling, their voice trembling with emotion.

“I am deeply grateful for my chosen family for getting me through these times, many of whom are here in front of me today.”

 

Durling said they imagine the installation to be the backdrop for rallies, marches, parades, queer performance and first dates. (CBC)

 

Durling said they hope the art installation will bring hope to the world and remind people of the LGBTQ2+ community’s continued fight for justice.

“I saw this becoming the backdrop of future rallies, marches, parades, maybe even first dates and queer performance — imagine what you can do with these poles!” Durling said with a laugh, before becoming serious again.

“It was important to me and to our community that these reflected our joy and also our pain. For that reason, I made them bright and colourful, but also upright, like flagposts with heads held high, bringing honour and dignity to our community and to those we have lost.”

 

The moment the new art installation was unveiled. (CBC)

 

Carmel Farahbakhsh is the executive director and support and advocacy co-ordinator for the Youth Project, an organization offering support and services to LGBTQ2+ youth in Halifax.

Speaking at the unveiling Monday, Farahbakhsh said the new art installation will have an immeasurable impact on the young people who see it.

“Chosen family is heart, future, home for so many. I know that youth will see this art and feel a reverberating resonance and feel seen,” they said. “This is so fully exciting and so deeply moving to me.”

Latest art installation unveiled

Kate Moon, a community developer with the Halifax Regional Municipality, said the art installation is the latest piece of the North Park Intersection Redesign.

Moon said Durling’s installation is the third installation to go up at the common’s three gateway plazas. The first was Mi’kmaq Universe, a community art project etched in concrete by artist Teresa Marshall at the Creighton Fields Gateway, which was unveiled in 2017.

Then last year, the city unveiled Concrete Legacy, designed by local artist Marven Nelligan, which the Halifax website says “represents the past and present of African Nova Scotian communities, as well as a vision for the future.”

 

Kate Moon, left, and Mayor Mike Savage, right, during Monday’s event. Savage said the new art installations ‘truly make our city more beautiful and engaging.’ (CBC)

 

Mayor Mike Savage said during Monday’s event that these art pieces are “testaments to the diversity of artistic talent” in the region.

“Public art has such an important role to play in creating these strong, welcoming communities where people want to make a home,” he said.

“And pieces like this one truly make our city more beautiful and engaging and a better place for everybody to live.”

As part of the redesign project, the city also unveiled the Our Common Wood project in 2017, which transformed trees felled on the common to make space for the new roundabouts into art.

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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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