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The art I love: MACAAL president Othman Lazraq's tour of his museum's formidable African art collection – CNN

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Written by Othman LazraqMarrakesh

Othman Lazraq is director of the Fondation Alliances and president of the Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech, Morocco.

My dad Alami Lazraq, founder of real estate firm Groupe Alliances, started collecting art from Morocco 40 years ago and then, gradually, began collecting pieces from the rest of Africa as well. He transmitted this passion to me, and now I am helping to evolve the collection as director of the Fondation Alliances and president of our Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech.

Each work tells its own story, and it’s important to give them all the opportunity to be heard. This is why MACAAL was born.

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In a country like Morocco with a small art ecosystem, it’s crucial to support local artists, while inviting in the wider population. So through our exhibitions, residencies, workshops and community events, MACAAL provides crucial spaces where African artists can engage with the world.

Here are five works from our collection that truly embody the spirit of MACAAL.

‘Composition’ (1970) by Mohamed Melehi

‘Composition’ (1970) by Mohamed Melehi Credit: Mohamed Melehi

Mohamed Melehi is a pioneer of modern art in Morocco, known for his incredibly colorful abstract paintings featuring psychedelic waveforms. During the late 1950s and early 1960s he studied in Seville, Rome and then New York, where he exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art before moving back home in the late 1960s. He would go on to lead the Casablanca school — a group of Moroccan artists who famously exhibited their radical works for all to see in Marrakech’s Jemaa el-Fna Square in 1969.

“Composition” speaks to me as part of art history. The day I saw it, I knew that it had to be part of our collection so that we could continue to share Melehi’s legacy.

I’m very grateful to have witnessed the artist’s emotions as he walked into his retrospective at MACAAL last year, and saw many of his works together again. He told me he hadn’t seen our piece in several years and he was touched that it was back in good hands.

‘Untitled’ (2018) by Joy Labinjo

'Untitled' (2018) by Joy Labinjo

‘Untitled’ (2018) by Joy Labinjo Credit: Mark Pinder

Joy Labinjo is a young British-Nigerian artist who bases her paintings on old photographs from her family’s albums. I love intimate life scenes in figurative paintings, and hers are done on very large canvases with bright color palettes.

This painting is of her cousins posing for the camera in front of an orange-tiled wall and glass shelves filled with china. It reminds me of my grandmother’s home.

These days we all rely on our camera phones and have thousands of images in the cloud that we never look at. We don’t print them or hang them. But the photos we keep in old boxes at the back of our closets are the real gems. My family has those boxes that we open up together from time to time. I love Joy’s work because it highlights the heritage we all share.

‘Imdiazen #2’ (2018) by M’Barek Bouhchichi

'Imdiazen #2' (2018) by M'Barek Bouhchichi

‘Imdiazen #2’ (2018) by M’Barek Bouhchichi Credit: M’Barek Bouhchichi

Besides being a great friend, M’Barek Bouhchichi is one of the most talented Moroccan artists of my generation. His multidisciplinary works fight against the norms of society while also exploring his inner self. He believes all humans are the result of multiple cultures, and that we must go beyond geographical borders and interact with the rest of the world.

This work draws on his research into the Berber peasant poet M’barek Ben Zida, who believed he could connect with the forces of nature, either to calm them or use them against others, and speak to animals, plants and insects.

Each of the seven tall branches, made from wood and copper, has a poem chiseled into them. The installation is impressive in size from afar, but once you get up close, you realise its sensitivity and ability to communicate. It’s a very delicate and elegant piece that reminds us of the incredible diversity of Morocco’s population through its use of vernacular verse.

‘Composition in Blue’ (2016) by Abdoulaye Konaté

'Composition in Blue' (2016) by Abdoulaye Konaté

‘Composition in Blue’ (2016) by Abdoulaye Konaté Credit: Abdoulaye Konaté

Abdoulaye Konaté is one of the masters of our continent. The Malian artist creates impressive textile-based installations that explore social, political and environmental issues, as well as concerns over the formal language of signs and aesthetics.

“Composition in Blue” has a beautiful gradient of blues, crafted from a Malian fabric that has been cut into tiny pieces to give it movement. It reminds me of a large bird’s feathers, and when the work faces you on a wall, the yellow center looks like the sun. It is a commemoration of textiles and refers to flags of communication and propaganda.

The first time I saw it I felt intimidated because of the power it carries. I’ve gotten to know Abdoulaye, who is such a humble human being, and now keep this work close to my heart.

‘Young Woman with Fishes’ (1973) by Baya Mahieddine

'Young Woman with Fishes' (1973) by Baya Mahieddine

‘Young Woman with Fishes’ (1973) by Baya Mahieddine Credit: Baya Mahieddine

Baya Mahieddine was a self-taught Algerian artist who originally worked as a maid on a farm, immersed in the beauty of nature.

Mahieddine got her start modelling animals in clay, and in the late 1940s, she met a French gallerist who brought her to Paris to exhibit her works. Here, she met Matisse and Picasso and became interested in painting.

Soon after, she got married to an Algerian musician and had six children as his second wife. Living in a traditional household meant that she hid her paintings away for 10 years until he died, after which she was free to create again.

I have this painting at the entrance to my home so that it can be in my life every day. For me, the work is full of hope. The feminine palette of bright pink, turquoise and emerald acts as a symbol of the strong woman she wanted to be. It’s a message for future generations to believe in what they do and never give up on their dreams.

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St. John's International Airport Unveils New Art Installation – VOCM

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St. John’s International Airport has unveiled a brand new art installation to welcome arriving passengers.

The piece, Art Upon Arrival, includes 24 illustrations on eight structural columns in the arrivals area are adorned with brightly colored, graphic images that harken to all things St John’s such as food, plants, nature and music.

Artist Molly Margaret says after an extended period working on the project it’s fun to see public reaction to the piece.

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How Brexit Is Still Impacting the British Art Market

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At first, it was frustration, then it was confusion, and now… well, no one really knows. It’s been more than five years since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union (EU) and the U.K. art market, like the country as a whole, is still wondering what Brexit actually means.

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Dealers are tired of talking about Brexit, but they also can’t ignore it as the British art market enters an uncertain 2023. That’s because, for collectors, gallerists, and dealers in the U.K., a combination of legislative, bureaucratic, and economic factors brought about by leaving the EU are making it more costly and less efficient to buy and sell art. The impact of Brexit, it turns out, is ongoing.

Not only does the U.K. begin the year facing the “worst and longest” recession of any country in the G7, but two staples of London’s art fair circuit, Masterpiece London and the Art & Antiques Fair Olympia, recently announced that they were canceling their summer editions. Both fairs cited escalating costs and a decline in the number of dealers, and both organizers mentioned the impact of Brexit as a contributing factor.

 

 

Installation view of Masterpiece London, 2022. Courtesy of Marc Straus.

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The cancellation of Masterpiece, which is owned by Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group, felt particularly significant.

“It’s very sad for the London art world—and London more generally,” said William Summerfield, head of sales and a specialist in modern British and 20th-century art at the auction house Roseberys. “The fair had a very particular style that was entirely ‘Chelsea’ and I think a lot of non-‘artworld’ buyers and visitors were more comfortable with [it] than some of the other, larger fairs.”

It’s unclear what the spillover of the fair’s cancellation will be for the British art market more broadly. Yet, as Summerfield cautioned, “losing a major yearly event always has a knock-on.”

But there’s also the question of what this says about the British art market today. There were already signs that the European presence at Masterpiece was wilting, with stands from the continent falling by almost 60% between 2018 and 2022, according to the Financial Times. The cancellation may have been a shock, but it wasn’t a huge surprise.

 

 

“The organizers were rather circumspect, talking about less international attendance, but what that translates into is that the Europeans aren’t coming anymore,” said Gregor Kleinknecht, a partner at Keystone Law and specialist in art law and dispute resolution for clients that include collectors, galleries, institutions, and dealers. “That’s both the exhibitors and the trade who would normally take up stands at the fair, but also the collectors. There is less incentive to come to London with all the complications after Brexit.”

Masterpiece is the latest art world example of how Brexit is crystallizing and exacerbating difficulties for an already febrile British economy, which can no longer blame COVID-19 lockdowns for its woes.

“Effectively, the U.K. has pulled out of the world’s largest and most effective trade agreement and, predictably, that has consequently made trade more difficult,” said James Ryan, CEO of Grove Gallery, which has spaces in London, Switzerland, New York, and Australia. “Quite aside from the unpleasantness of directly rebuffing those nations we do the most trade with, it has served to reduce that trade, including the trade in art and antiques—which has been negative for all those involved.”

 

 

Brexit legislation is impacting the art trade in a number of ways, touching on everything from taxation to employment all the way through to data protection, dispute resolution, and copyright. It’s led to heaps of red tape, all amounting to the basic fact that the free movement of people and goods between the U.K. and EU no longer exists in the fluid way that it once did. Art—and artists—have become more difficult and more expensive to move across the continent.

The British art market is still adjusting to this new normal, but the impact has already been drastic. In the two years since the U.K. formally left the EU’s single market and customs union, its share of the global art market has plummeted to its lowest level in a decade. Dealers complain about extra VAT (value-added tax) and shipping costs, which can mean spending more than four times than before on logistics. Smaller galleries are overburdened with extra paperwork. Christie’s has noted a “drop-off” in EU consignments in London, and collectors are being disrupted, too.

Fiorenzo Manganiello, an Italian-based private collector and patron of the Lian Foundation, told Artsy that the administrative aspect of importing works from London has become “cumbersome” since Brexit: “I have experienced logistical issues and work being blocked sometimes for months at a time,” he said.

 

 

EU countries such as France, meanwhile, are seizing on the fallout. Last year was a banner year for the French market: The country hosted a shiny new international art fair, enjoyed record-breaking results at its auction houses, and enacted policies that, ominously, aim to “take up the challenge of the French reconquest of the art market,” according to the Art Law Review.

So far, so bleak for the U.K. art market. But is it all disaster ahead? While everyone that Artsy spoke to for this piece acknowledged the difficulties caused by Brexit, many were quick to find optimism in the reputation and heritage of the British market, as well as its enviable ability to produce top artistic talent. Galleries continue to open, museums continue to host world-class shows, work continues to sell, and London remains a leading light of the international art market, they say.

“For me, London is the place where innovations in art still take place, surrounded by top-tier art schools and universities,” said Manganiello. Britain still remains a “top-tier destination” to acquire artworks, meet artists, and discover emerging galleries, he added, noting that he’s increasing the number of works from London galleries.

 

 

For those in the trade, meanwhile, a typically British attitude characterizes the current mood: Yes, Brexit is a pain, but things aren’t going to change anytime soon. We may as well get on with it.

“Frustrated? Yes. Pessimistic? Yes!,” said Katie Terres, COO of Artiq, a London-based art agency that curates collections around the world. While Brexit has added an extra layer of “frustration” and cost, the company, like many others, has had to adapt. “We’ve found ways of working with it and working within the regulations for our clients. We’re trying to make it as easy a process as possible.”

The cancellation of Masterpiece isn’t the first post-Brexit hurdle that the British art market has faced—others include EU funding cuts and unclear government guidance, to name a few—and it’s unlikely to be the last. But as long as the collectors keep coming, the auctions keep hammering, and the galleries keep selling, there’s no reason to write off Britain’s integral place in the art world just yet.

Arun Kakar

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Metro Vancouver art instructor found not guilty of child molestation, despite judge’s concerns with case

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A Metro Vancouver art instructor has been found not guilty of molesting a young student, despite the judge ruling that she strongly suspected the accused touched the girl “under her pants as she described”.

According to a Supreme Court of B.C. ruling, the teacher was arrested last March after the student reported the alleged incidents to her mother.

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The girl testified that during the course of art classes at the man’s home he put his hand down her pants, under her underwear, and that he placed her hand on his penis, over his pants.

He was subsequently charged with touching a child (count one) and inviting a child to touch him (count two) for a sexual purpose — to which he pleaded not guilty.

The teacher said the only touching that occurred was to correct the student’s sitting position or posture as she drew and painted. He said he was a strict teacher who often admonished the student and had at one point put his hands on her torso to pull her back into her seat.

Justice Heather Holmes said the girl was a credible witness and that key areas of her testimony “had the ring of truth”.

“I accept (the student’s) evidence that (the teacher) touched her inside her pants, in the way she described, during the final Sunday lesson and on at least one other occasion, likely a number of other occasions.”

In reference to the alleged penis touching, Holmes wrote “(the student’s) uncertainty or discomfort in remembering or describing this conduct do not reduce the credibility of her evidence.

“However, together with the associated absence of detail, they leave her evidence about this allegation as little more than a bare assertion of the conduct she described, with a little context against which to assess its reliability.”

In conclusion, Holmes wrote that if she were to choose between the evidence of the student and evidence of the teacher regarding count 1, “I would conclude (the student’s) evidence is more credible and more reliable than (the teachers).

“However, that is not the task. For an accused person to be found guilty of a criminal offence, the evidence must establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard. It does not require absolute certainty, but it does require more than strong suspicion.

“The evidence in this case leaves me strongly suspecting that (the teacher) touched (the student) under her pants as she described. However, the evidence does not give me confidence on that point beyond a reasonable doubt. (The teacher’s) evidence is not compelling, for the reasons I have given, but I cannot reject it entirely. It leaves me with a reasonable doubt.”

As a result, the teacher was found not guilty on both counts.

The accused name, the location of the art studio and the ages of all parties have not been reported due to a publication ban put in place to protect the girl’s identity.

 

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