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The Works: Activated! Managing an art festival during uncertain times – The Gateway Online



After the challenging year and a half that has seen many art events downsized or sent online, The Works: Activated! provided a great public art festival for in-person audiences. Organizers believe that the event, which ran from July 7 to 17, could act as a precursor for other art events in the future.

After Churchill Square was largely empty for the previous year and a half, the festival brought the location alive with activity. The venue was chosen by The Works organizers due to its spacious qualities, and a centralized location. The Works has previously had a strong year in 2018 in terms of artworks and has been a staple since its debut in 1986.

The Works: Activated! was a labour of love for volunteers and artists alike, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating unique challenges for organizers. There were fewer artworks in the main location to allow social distancing and online resources to allow for more access. There were also concerns about opening so close to expanded vaccination rollout for the province.

Amber Rooke, who has been manager of The Works since 2012, said that in each iteration of annual event, the abstract and engagement have been a focus in their main venues, and this year is no different. 

“As organizers, we were attempting to plan something earlier on […] it takes time to plan something that would be able to happen even under tight restrictions and that really responds to the needs of a community coming hopefully out of a pandemic,” Rooke said. ”The call was really to artworks that [are] physically able to manage an outdoor open exhibition space. Specifically, the active portion of it … [is] what activated refers to — activating space in that way.”

Why does Rooke, along with other organizers, feel strongly about opening the event this year, so close to changing regulations regarding vaccinations and public space? The Works: Activated! wants to showcase work that inspires energy after a long period of isolation, and invites the public back into public spaces.

“We want to also remain flexible and responsive to the needs of the public and what is healthy and good to be doing at this time,” she said. 

“So it’s really important that we were active this year and that we produce something because we need artists making art. That’s something that we need as a society and that’s something that The Works is here to help support.”

The immersive collection of art on display continues to embody this theme, encouraging participants to consider their own personal relation to space as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.

“We have a range of works… that offer a little bit of an intimate experience. For example, Taryn Walker’s [piece] Since We Can’t Dance Together, is a greenhouse,” Rooke described. “You can’t really see or touch the pieces inside and what we have in there is a number of plants as well as beautiful drawings of fingers and insects, dancing around in a certain way with the wind and the light inside there.” 

“Now, this interaction is happening and it’s beautiful and it’s organic, but it’s also just out of reach. Most of the work that we have right now is looking at what is normal, and sort of [normal] — it takes just a little bit of a step away from what is.” 

Jin He Since We Can’t Dance Together installation by Taryn Walker

Taking a look at Since We Can’t Dance Together from the artist’s perspective, Taryn Walker focused on the structure of this multi-media sculpture and its embodiment of intimacy, healing in companionship, and social isolation.

Walker is a queer, Indigenous artist of Salish ancestry. She said that her work presents a joyous and meaningful conversation about the end to the pandemic. 

“With the pandemic, I feel like there is kind of this need of collective process, greed, kind of hold ourselves, tenderly, that kind of leads for our community,” Walker commented. 

“A kind of collective feeling like we’re moving — [growing] out of a period of [COVID-19 related] trauma, so I feel… we’re moving on about this darker time [to times of] joy, of boldness and playfulness, maybe even humour,” she said. “I feel like that is reflected in my installation but also all the other artists’ [pieces] as well.”

Art has an important place in managing crises. Rooke and Walker both discussed the healing properties art provides.

“Art also has a really important societal role in communicating and concretizing ideas and feelings,” Rooke said. “That is something that we all really need right now. We need to, in some ways, look to the artists to describe our experience and to give you words or shape to what it is that we are feeling and experiencing and that will help to process it.” 

What Rooke would like the general public to take away from the event is to consider it a precursor to events returning after concerns over COVID-19 subside. 

“We look forward to a more active festival experience in 2022. Certainly, we recognize that there are some possibilities that will continue to have some health restrictions going forward,” Rooke said. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to produce an event with many sites, and really have a chance to gather and celebrate with the community.”

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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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