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Picture That: Art Society is a Black-Owned Art Gallery at Southlake Mall – The Atlanta Voice



Outside of Art Society in SouthLake Mall where a ribbon-cutting will take place Tuesday, August 10. (Photo Credit: Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

The painting, a self-portrait of a Black woman, that attracted a female customer one Friday afternoon is the topic of discussion a day later as Art Society owner Shema Woodruff took a few moments to tell the story behind the piece.

“I was in a dark place in my life and art was my outlet,” she said.

The painting, “Complexity of Complexion” outlines her profile and has a roadmap of arteries making their way through her face and neck. Woodruff’s eyes in the painting can only be described as striking. Woodruff, 29, had quit her job as a restaurant manager in April and was looking for her next challenge and chapter in life. 

“I knew what I was doing was not what I was meant to do,” she said. “I would try to get my work in galleries and it was hard.” 

Then she had one of those crazy ideas that when all the stars are aligned and everything goes as planned feels like a stroke of genius: Why not open an art gallery? Hence Art Society, one part art gallery, one part art collective, one part all-purpose custom art studio was born. 

The only art gallery in Clayton County’s Southlake Mall is here. 

A Tupac and Biggie Smalls piece by artist Travis 18. (Photo Credit: Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

“This is Art Society, where artists come together and leave here with a place to bring their vision to life,” said Woodruff.

Surrounded by the traditional fare of American malls; sneaker stores, fast food joints, jewelry stores and t-shirt shops, Art Society may not be what you think of when you think of a mall tenant.

Woodruff signed the lease on the 8,100 square foot space in May. She joked about the moment the idea of opening an art gallery crossed her mind, “I wasn’t sure what I was thinking.” 

Artists interested in having their pieces- paintings, sculptures, photography, et al- displayed in Art Society have to go through what can loosely be described as an audition.

They can bring samples of their work to Woodruff and her business partner Stephen Benitez, 27, a cinematographer, photographer, videographer and all-around idea man, and as long as the art matches criteria of non-racist and non-offensive messages then it can pass muster. 

“We don’t necessarily have a criteria for art,” said Woodruff. “A black and white sign behind her read in part: “Art is everything, and everything is art.” 

Whatever is sold at Art Society gets split between the gallery and the artist. 

“We want this to be a place where artists can build their brand,” said Benitez, who also goes by Artez, a combination of the word “art” and his last name. “This is a community and it’s about the relationship we are building.” 

The pair were introduced by a mutual friend, Picasso’s Splat Room owner Picasso Black and have been working together to build the Art Society into something south Atlanta residents and visitors can take pride in. While growing up in Brooklyn, New York Woodruff said she wasn’t exposed to art at her local mall, or anywhere else she frequented as a child.

Art Society owner/operator Shema Woodruff’s self portrait “Complexity of Complexion”. (Photo Credit: Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

“I wasn’t introduced to how to make a career out of art until I was in my early 20’s,” she said. “I love seeing little kids and younger people coming in here enjoying the art. I don’t have to make a dollar that day. It’s all worth it.”

When asked why she didn’t open a gallery in a more art-friendly neighborhood like Inman Park, Grant Park, Midtown or Buckhead, Woodruff said she knew Clayton County didn’t have something like Art Society available to the public and that was a challenge she was proud to take on.

“[Clayton County] is predominantly Black and I feel like we need to be invested in ourselves,” Woodruff said. “Originally I wanted to do a pop-up [art] shop but the mall said no and so we created a space for artists instead.”

Both she and Benitez say the level of support has been strong. Art Society also offers customers graphic design and photography services. Woodruff shared a story of a customer coming into the shop last week looking to have a photograph of her recently deceased boyfriend put on a t-shirt. She and Benitez were able to do that and more, enhancing the photo and got the job done within the hour.

“I love that our clients can come in and get what they need within an hour,” said Woodruff. 

“We want Art Society to be a hub for all artists to be able to connect and collaborate,” said Benitez. “I believe we are all created by the Creator to create.”

Monday is art hanging day at the gallery and Woodruff is ready to display some new pieces she recently received. First, she is going to go over the pieces with gallery curator Andre Thompson, another artist helping make Art Society work. “I don’t hang art in here without contacting him,” she said. 

Music played in the background as patrons milled about. Woodruff and Benitez went back to assisting their guests. The gallery was buzzing with activity. An art gallery at Southlake Mall on a Saturday afternoon. Picture that. 

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'A really important moment:' New art exhibit celebrates Windsor's LGBTQ community –



An exhibit at the Art Gallery of Windsor is shining a light on the experiences of Windsor’s LGBTQ community.

“For me, it’s a really important moment in my life,” explained Meaghan Sweeney, one of the artists on display, who identifies as queer, on the asexual spectrum. 

The Pride and Joy Community Art Exhibition, sponsored through an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, features about 46 artists of all ages, with more than 70 pieces of art featured so far.

Sweeney explained that for a long time, they had a hard time feeling like they belonged or that they were “queer enough.”

“Being able to give myself the space to exist is one of the biggest kindnesses that I can do for myself, and also, one of the best things that people can do for themselves within the community,” they said.

“So that’s also why it was really important for me to be involved with this exhibition.”

Meaghan Sweeney (left) and Janet MacIsaac (right) stand next to their pieces of art featured in the Pride & Joy Community Art Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Sweeney’s art used playing cards to create representation for the asexual, or ace, community.

Janet MacIsaac, a queer non-binary woman, submitted two pieces of artwork for the exhibit, one of which, The Art of the Flight, represents the the journey of finding love and joy after being a survivor of sexual violence.

“The piece really captures the journey from kind of that place of trauma to a place of kind of reclaiming a sense of love, happiness and pride in who I am and in my body,” they said.

“That journey is something a lot of people go through, and it’s a struggle … to get to that point of loving yourself again is radical and revolutionary. And I’m happy that I was able to kind of channel a lot of the stuff I’ve learned over my years in education and feminism into this piece. So really proud of it.”

The special initiatives co-ordinator with the art gallery, Derrick Carl Biso, who also happens to be MacIsaac’s spouse, has been working on programming for the LGBTQ community for the past year. 

They explained that this exhibit is the “capstone project” of everything they’ve been working on. 

“Listening to some of the artists speak, I was getting teary-eyed,” Biso said. 

“I realize how important this show was and how meaningful it was to me personally. And getting to be in this room and look at all the art on the walls, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks now, I feel so good. I feel so grounded and held by a community.”

Biso added that they feel so much pride and joy with how it’s all turned out, along with being able to include two pieces of their own in the exhibit as well. 

The exhibit includes art work on the walls, digital displays — plus an evening gown created by a teenager getting involved in drag.

“I hope it inspires dialogue and conversation about how we can make Windsor a better place for trans and non-binary people and just generally the communities and people here who face marginalization and exclusion,” MacIsaac said. 

“But also dialogue about the joy and happiness and pride that we have happening in this community and just the amount of talent, creative talent that we have in the queer and trans community in Windsor.”

Sweeney hopes the work generates excitement among those who identify the same as they do.

“There’s very few opportunities for ace representation,” they said. 

“So, I hope that they enjoy that and I hope that people are curious and open and that they do feel like they’re celebrated through what’s going on here today.”

The exhibit is already open to the public, and continues until the end of October. 

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At Art Basel, No Americans Is No Problem – BNN



(Bloomberg) — The number of attendees at the first VIP day of Art Basel in Switzerland seemed to surprise nearly everyone.

“There were days where no one wanted to go, there were days where we were like, ‘No one’s going to be here, but we have to do it anyway.’ It was very up in the air,” says Marc Glimcher, president of the mega gallery Pace. It was only last week, he says, “that I had a feeling it was going to be good.”

Art Basel is known as the world’s most prestigious art fair, with 272 galleries selling hundreds of million-dollar artworks to the world’s super-rich. During normal years, the anticipation and the hype lead to a (genteel) melee at the opening, as collectors rush to their favorite booths to buy works before they’re spirited away by someone else. 

That rush was eliminated in 2020, with the in-person fair canceled entirely and moved to online viewing rooms. Then the 2021 edition was delayed until September. Since then, several fairs have dipped their toes in the art market’s waters, but none have been on the scale—or market import—of Art Basel. This means that the art world has had to wait more than two years for the Swiss fair’s concentration of high quality, high price material to provide a true test of the market. 

Initially, enthusiasm appeared to be muted. It would be an overstatement to say that there was a rush for anything but the pre-fair Champagne breakfast, and many attendees seemed content to linger in the convention hall’s courtyard, drinking and talking well after the doors to the hall were unlocked at 11 a.m. 

“It feels quieter than previous editions, but it doesn’t feel quiet,” says Alex Logsdail, the executive director of Lisson Gallery, which has locations in New York, London, and Shanghai. “On a regular year, that’s my ideal equilibrium,” he continues. “There needs to be a kind of environment where you can have real conversations—and not 30-second pitches where you’re looking over someone’s shoulder to see who you have to talk to next.”

Most of the talking on the first day seemed to be in German and French, a product of the fact that, even though vaccinated Americans can easily enter Europe, they still need to furnish a negative Covid test to get back into the States. The threat of having to quarantine in Switzerland proved a major deterrent for American collectors who would have otherwise attended. 

“It’s weird,” says Wendy Olsoff, co-founder of the New York gallery P.P.O.W. “There’s not the usual hubbub of American voices.”

That, for Olsoff, came as something of a relief. She’d brought a variety of pieces to her booth, the most striking of which was a single work by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, composed of 44 photographs taken from 1978 to 1979, which carries the asking price of $850,000. “A lot of people coming from America, who actually we don’t do any business with, take up a lot of energy,” she says. “So having a minute with collectors we don’t know is great.”

Nice, But Not Necessary

That seemed to be the somewhat surprising takeaway from the most Eurocentric Art Basel in recent memory: Even though the U.S. market still represents an estimated 42% of the global art market’s sales value, Americans themselves are nice but not necessary for business. 

“There are not many Americans here,” says Glimcher, who sold 20 artworks in the fair’s first three hours. “But evidently, we didn’t need them.”

This year, Glimcher filled his booth with comparatively affordable artworks by the likes of Robert Longo, Sam Gilliam, and Latifa Echakhch; the most expensive was a painting by Chuck Close, priced at $5 million. “We didn’t go out and hunt down $20 million paintings for this fair, I just wasn’t that confident,” Glimcher says. “But I definitely wish I had.”

Art Basel is split into three main areas. Unlimited, which opens a day earlier than the main fair, is located on the second floor of a convention hall adjacent to the building that houses all the booths; there, galleries traditionally stage such large-scale installations as, say, Urs Fischer’s house made entirely of bread, that they hope will be destined for a museum or private foundation. 

In the main fair’s hall, the ground floor is primarily filled with dealers selling expensive contemporary and blue chip art. Upstairs is for younger galleries—age, in this case, being a vibe rather than anything specific—showing generally less established artists at lower price points.

A European Rush

On the second floor it was the same story. “The majority of the Americans we work with on a regular basis are not coming this year,” says Daniel Wichelhaus, the head of Société gallery in Berlin. That didn’t keep him from selling 10 artworks, priced from €10,000 to €100,000 ($11,726 to $117,267), in the fair’s first 45 minutes. By the end of the day he’d sold 20 more. 

Four out of the 30 artworks were sold to Americans, Wichelhaus says, two of whom stayed home and bought the work remotely. “The energy felt great in the last two weeks already, leading up to the fair,” he says. “It was kind of boiling up.”

After two years of relying on fitful online viewing rooms in lieu of in-person art fairs—during which most galleries managed to thrive—Art Basel’s success this week is being watched closely by dealers as a barometer for future art fairs.  

“The last two years have shown people that they don’t need to be flying around, doing art fairs once a month, especially when you’re selling to the same people you know already,” says Logsdail. “It seems extremely wasteful, and it’s draining on everyone’s mental and physical capacity.”

Still, he says, the fair’s first day could augur well for business as a whole. 

“We are still in a pandemic,” he says, “and confidence is everything.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Aimless walks, an iPhone Pietà and a huge gargoyle: Art Basel is back – Euronews



What might at first glance appear to be confused tourists lost on Basel’s central Marktplatz, is actually a performance artwork at Switzerland’s iconic art fair, Art Basel.

‘Walking In Every Direction’, by English artist Hamish Fulton sees volunteers going on an hour-long aimless walk, the idea being participants turn inwards and reflect, perhaps even meditate.

It’s one of 20 site-specific installations and performances in Art Basel’s ‘Parcours’ event staged across the city’s centre.

After an entirely online event last year due to the pandemic, Art Basel is returning in person this week.

“It’s an indoor and outdoor sculpture project, installation, performance project, which takes place almost in everywhere in the historic centre of Basel, meaning that we find different locations, hosts, partners, who offer their spaces and we try to match it with exciting projects from artists,” explains Samuel Leuenberger, curating Parcours for the fifth time.

Leuenberger chose the theme of ‘Can We Find Happiness Together Again?’ for this year’s selection.

It’s a reference to the artists and galleries he worked with to make this year’s show happen, but also a reflection of the joy of seeing friends and colleagues after over a year apart.

“To really be able to trust that this will come through, to trust that this will take place, even though we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and so, hence the title,” he says.

“Of course, finding happiness with each other, but also through the arts and through just working together again and meeting each other in the public space.”

Last year’s Art Basel was moved entirely online due to the pandemic. Leuenberger says he had to rip up about half of his plans for 2020.

He hopes his happiness-themed selection – from Bunny Rogers’ stone gargoyle to Thomas Bayrle’s iPhone Pietà – might win over those not accustomed to traditional art settings.

“I think a lot of people who have fear of crossing the threshold of going to a museum, people who are maybe not so into the arts, this is a beautiful way to merge a different kind of public, maybe a more art insider public and one that’s just walking by,” he says.

“This is the beauty of it, you can walk around the corner and you bump into a piece and you would be completely surprised why it’s here, you might not know that Parcours is happening.”

Art museum Kunsthalle Basel is also taking part, playing host to a Parcours piece and staging events alongside Art Basel.

Museum director Elena Filipovic says after a year without the city’s traditional art fair she missed a lot.

“I miss most the conversations around art, the curiosity, the passion that everyone brings when they come to this week of Art Basel and to our shows at Kunsthalle Basel,” she says.

Of course, this year’s fair will be very different than previous editions with COVID-19 certificate checks and face masks worn throughout, there’ll likely be fewer buyers from the United States and South America attending in person, due to travel restrictions.

“Already starting mid-last week, you could see the demographics of the city had changed, so definitely people are coming,” says Filipovic.

“And, if there are fewer in numbers – and I could imagine there would be fewer of our colleagues from the US, from Latin America, from Asia, nevertheless, I have the feeling the people who are here are really serious, are the ones who really couldn’t be kept away. And that’s nice.”

Art Basel art fair opens with media previews on Tuesday 21 September 2021. The general public are invited to attend from Friday 24 September to Sunday 26 September. Parcours will also run till Sunday 26 September.

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