errrrr … Thinking proves pointless.

July 21, 2013

 

Three years ago I decided to regularly post images and articles on this art blog. I promptly proceeded to do … sweet f*** all.

Yes, I am a procrastinator.
Yes, I have concerns that take precedence over unpaid labor.
And, yes, there are plenty of moments when typing blog entries about art provides a unique experience of the absurd.
Many find it quite obviously pointless. I had to think about it for three years to come to the same conclusion – but on a much more spiritual level.

In a way the whole process of blogging – which, incidentally, in 2013 feels incredibly 2000s – is somewhat reminiscent of that question in philosophy about whether a tree that falls in the middle of a forest makes a sound or not when it hits the ground. (In other words, if there’s no cognizant being consciously perceiving through hearing is there sound or are there merely soundwaves carrying the potential for sound?)
Blog-writing is a bit like that: if there’s no one there to read your words, do you have a voice?

Well, the tree in the middle of the forest doesn’t care.
Why should I?

However, I do readily admit that after three years of abstinence from writing it would be so cool to come back with a blog entry marked by profound insight, biting wit, incredible poetry, or why not something substantial like an image bank of 3000 fabulous artworks that rock this world.
Well, there’s none of that.

Were I to scratch my head a few minutes, how would I summarize the main insights that I’ve gained? Let’s see. Hm. Would I really go ahead and hit “publish” on the following?

1. Taking time (to think or do whatever it is you need at a given moment) is the most painfully worthwhile occupation.

2. Art isn’t everyone’s thing. That’s a good thing. But it does happen to be my thing. And that’s a good thing too.

3. The market is about the market. Prices are determined by supply and demand (by people with the financial means to buy) for a given work in a given sale context at a given moment in time. Neither supply nor demand are driven by absolute measures of value or merit. Market value is not a numerical expression of artistic worth. Markets are spaces of commercial exchange.
It doesn’t matter. Eat it.
Then vomit if you need to and get over and on with it.
As Frank Stella said, “The air is polluted, but you still have to breathe.”

4. Art is about art, and that can be about many things.

5. What art is and isn’t is a whole list in itself. It would have to be added to every day with every new artist that begins to create, with every new piece that is shared with the world, with every new set of eyes (or ears or whatever) that discovers and experiences a new or historical artwork ….

6. What art does and doesn’t do is an equally long list. It can be your emotional sparkplug, your spiritual springboard, your aesthetic relief, your intellectual plaything, your preferred source of sensations, it can be your political megaphone, or just something to stick on your walls because that’s what people in our society do ….
It can be all of that, more – or nothing at all. All options are perfectly acceptable. If they aren’t, we’re not discussing art, but something else.

7. The most interesting struggles, the most difficult combats, the most challenging experiences, the greatest moments, the most intense sensations, the deepest sorrow, the most sincere joys – all take place in our heads/hearts. Artists are capable of materially accessing all this. For that they are, they have always been and will always be the magicians of the human soul and, as such, deserve celebration.

8. There’s a lot of good art out there.

9. There are a lot of good artists out there.

10. Thinking is pointless – if it doesn’t result in action.

 

None of the above is news. But I suppose the insights are new to me.

That’s why there are new artworks, new books, new plays, new movies – my god, that’s why there’s a freakin’ new day every twenty-four hours. None of these are ever fundamentally new.

And that is totally ok.

An acquaintance recently confided in me that his elite school told him to always quote great thinkers for rhetorical emphasis. So, let me sign off today with a tribute to and a quote by an important figure of the 20th century:

“I’m not wise, but the beginning of wisdom is there; it’s like relaxing into—and an acceptance of—things.
– Tina Turner

 

Kutlug Ataman, 99 Names, 2002, Thomas Dane Galler, London, Sperone Westwater, New York, Galeri Manâ, Istanbul. Shown in the Unlimited section of Art Basel in June 2013

Kutlug Ataman, 99 Names, 2002, Thomas Dane Galler, London, Sperone Westwater, New York, Galeri Manâ, Istanbul. Shown in the Unlimited section of Art Basel in June 2013

Still thinking

April 10, 2012

Georg Baselitz (German, born in 1938), wood and mixed media sculpture, 2009

It’s been a while … because I needed a while … There you have it.

Indian Summer Art Stroll Through Paris

October 2, 2011

Detail of Richard Stipl's wall sculpture at gallery Dukan & Hourdequin, rue Pastourelle, Paris 3rd arrondissement (on show until Oct. 15th, 2011)

NMT – Paris – September/October 2011

As explained in a previous blog post, September is “re-entry” time in Paris. If so inclined one could spend 24/7 looking at all the new exhibitions, going to all art fairs (Art-o-rama, Marseille ; Docks Art, Lyon ; Marrakech Art Fair), biennials (Lyon, Venice …), new collectors initiatives (François and Jean-Philippe Billarant’s new Silo outside of Paris), run to all gallery exhibition openings, stay up all Saturday night to see the many temporary contemporary art installations on view during la Nuit Blanche (“all nighter”) on October 1st in Paris  …

Alternatively, and this has been very relaxing personal choice this year, you can put your iPhone on airplane mode, put on some comfortable walking shoes and breathe in the soft Indian Summer air while quietly strolling from one exhibition to the next without any particular “agenda” other than the sheer pleasure of feeding the eye.

You’ll come across the good, the bad and the ugly – a little like little red riding hood or, in French, le petit Chaperon rouge – and sometimes you won’t know until much later whether you’ve been gobbled up alive or whether you’ve come nose to nose with something worthwhile.

Here are some images of my recent finds. I would recommend some more than others, but I won’t do so today. I’d rather encourage you to go out there and explore for yourselves.

Slideshow of an Indian Summer art stroll through Paris:

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African Voodoo at Fondation Cartier, Paris, until Sept. 25th, 2011

September 14, 2011

“When looking at African art, the more you feel aggressed, the more attentive you need to be, don’t be afraid to be shaken up, to be jolted.” – Jacques Kerchache

"Vodun: African Voodoo", Fondation Cartier, Paris, April 5th-Sept.25th 2011

Born in Rouen in 1942, Jacques Kerchache opened his first art gallery in Paris at age 18 and went on his first trip to West Africa at 21. He soon began displaying traditional West African art alongside artworks by European artists. At the time, African ritual objects and reliquaries were condescendingly referred to as art nègre. Jacques Kerchache recognized and spent four decades fervidly promoting their intrinsic artistic qualities up to his death in 2001.

Today the Cartier foundation in Paris pays homage to the man who coined the term arts premiers and obtained its inclusion in the collections of the Louvre. From April 5th until September 25th, an exhibition devoted to the West African sculptural tradition of the former kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin, western Nigeria and Togo) sheds light onto this heart of darkness. One hundred bocio sculptures and figurines formerly part of the ancient religious cult and philosophical tradition Vodun – the origins of the more popularly known, colonially influenced Voodoo offsprings – are thus displayed in Italian designer Enzo Mari’s highly effective scenography, highlighting extracts of a unique collection and providing insight into a man’s life and passion.

Jacques Kerchache’s aesthete’s eye and intimate knowledge of West African beliefs, customs and ritual ceremonies gained over time through patience, luck and courage, gave him a unique vantage point. Convinced that “masterpieces are very rare because great artists are very rare in all societies” he set out to unearth “the Michelangelo and Giacometti of these (West African) societies.”
Kerchache thus treated his finds with equal respect and was keen to initiate the West to not only the cultural but also the artistic intricacies of his finds in ways and through means that they would understand and be able to connect to. Upon returning from one of his early trips into the heart of the black continent he not only displayed Mahongwe m’bweti reliquary figures (found in a dried-up well in modern-day Gabon, discarded by Christian missionaries in the 1930s) but published an accompanying catalogue with a text by French poet and essayist Claude Roy. The ensuing arrest of Jacques Kerchache in Gabon where he was accused of art smuggling added scandal and notoriety to a singular life trajectory.

Dealing in art, in tribal art objects, acting as advisor and go-between between European collections (both private and institutional) and curating several exhibitions, Jacques Kerchache made numerous trips to Africa and also to Southeast Asia while running his gallery in rue de Seine from 1965 until 1980. (Rue de Seine in Paris’s Saint-Germain district still remains a center for tribal arts with the Parcours des mondes event celebrating tribal art every month of September since 2001)

A fortuitous holiday encounter on the island of Mauritius in 1991 with Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, allows trailblazer Kerchache to take his ambitions to yet another level. His dream of introducing traditional, tribal art into the Louvre – as expressed in a “manifesto” published in French daily Libération a year earlier – becomes reality in the year 2000 with the inauguration of the Pavillon des Sessions at the Louvre and prefigures the inauguration of what became known as the Quai Branly museum in 2006.

What strikes me as being particularly effective about the current exhibition at the Fondation Cartier is of course the forcefulness of the pieces displayed. But then again, I am no specialist and incredibly uncertain as to whether I would be able to tell “mere folk art” or a “standard votive offering” from a “masterpiece” – a distinction which Kerchache keenly made… (Is it safe to presume that at least 95% of the foundation’s visitors share my humble position?)
What really gives me access into the world of Vodun rituals and aesthetics plus precious insight into the efforts of an extraordinary man is in large part a highly effective exhibition layout and presentation. The scenography draws me in immediately as of my first impressions on the ground floor and prepares me for a complete immersion into the full abundance of other-worldly beauty on the basement level.

Italian designer Enzo Mari’s scenography combines understated, minimalist simplicity (untreated wood, uncomplicated structures, spacious presentation) with the refined sophistication that high art presented in such a foundation deserves. It respectfully emphasizes the aesthetic and artistic nature of the objects displayed thanks to devices such as individual glass casing and dramatic lighting. It also provides a certain narrative backdrop that encourages the layman to feel closer to a totally foreign belief-system.
A small selection of elongated, wooden sculptures are displayed in the first part of the exhibition. Presented in a circular layout in front of vertical panels suggesting huts with a particular focus on a sculpture placed in the center, the visitor is included in this “village”. On the other side of the ground floor, boxy wooden seats encourage the onlooker to sit down and watch extracts of interviews with Jacqes Kerchache and documentary snippets of Vaudun rituals. The low-key seating arrangement and its voluntarily makeshift appearance contribute to an impression of immediacy and intimacy. Wooden displays along the edges show black and white photographic material from the 1960s, catalogues, type-written letters and newspaper articles providing archival evidence of Kerchache’s progress from adventurous youth to political advisor, from the original black and white budget catalogues to luxurious coffee table publications. We can thus begin to imagine a man’s impassioned pursuit of beauty in places where few others were sensitive enough to recognize it and begin to feel part of a journey that no one today will be able to make again.

In the basement section, 48 dramatically lit Vaudun statuettes presented on individual plinths offer a dazzling contrast to the first section’s light and airy simplicity. Here the visitor walks as through a forest, free to stop and admire each individual bocio or figuring. Contained within square, glass cases and placed at eye level the visitor can easily study the details of their assembled fabrication (metal, wood, textile and leather straps, padlocks, seashells, beads …) and intimately engage with their foreign force and beauty.

Jacques Kerchache had said, “Artists have always had a privileged relationship with works of art based on their experience of the sensual. I have endeavored to make that unique way of seeing mine, a way of seeing that creates strangely familiar bondes between humans and works of art. It has accompanied me throughout my career.” The current exhibition at Fondation Cartier does his ambition justice.

 

“Vodun: African Voodoo” is showing at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain from April 5th to September 25th, 2011.

Fondation Cartier
261, boulevard Raspail
Paris 14th – metro: Denfert-Rochereau (line 6)

La rentrée! September is “re-entry time” in Paris ….

September 6, 2011

It’s difficult for people outside of France to grasp the full extent of the annual August shutdown. But business, social life and art really do go into Beach Orbit for a full four weeks of the year.

September is the month of re-entry, it’s la rentrée. Kids go back to school. Corporate types swap their Villebrequin shorts for ties. Deal makers dial C for Cash from city pads not yachts. Journalists type away from within their humble abodes, flip-flops and espadrilles flung into a corner after poolside sojourns at auntie Gwendoline’s (“Thank God for family after all!”) …
And the art flock – the monied, the passionate, the busy bees, the clueless and the sharks – all reassemble for a renewed round of friendly back-stabbing artworld banter. Galleries re-open their doors. Institutions work up to their blockbuster exhibition openings. Art fairs rev their ever-more finely tuned engines. Curators sharpen minds and pencils eager to demonstrate their yet-to-be-revealed genius in The Next Brilliant Exhibition. (“I will find a sponsor this time!”) Finally, the re-energized art critic can’t wait to dish out sweets or spanks depending ; the mere thought sends anticipatory frissons down his reptilian spine.

Whether mind and body of the art flâneur can take the full shock of renewed activity really entirely depends on the quantity and quality of sun, rosé, lengthy snoozes, extended meals and other summer delights absorbed.

Yes, it is indeed re-entry time in Paris.
Bonne rentrée
! and buckle up because they’ve announced quite a ride!

Young art from Winnipeg, Canada, on view in Paris until Sept. 25th, 2011

August 15, 2011

Just in case you’re feeling frustrated ’cause the galleries have closed shop for the summer, you can see some contemporary creations at La Maison Rouge (Fondation Antoine de Galbert) near Bastille in Paris.

“My Winnipeg,” June 23rd – September 25th, 2011
Maison Rouge – Fondation Antoine de Galbert
10 bd de la Bastille – 75012 Paris

 

 

Relax and take a nap and Galeries Lafayette _ Ends August 20th, 2011

July 6, 2011

Who said contemporary art is hard work? French artist Claude Levêque invites visitors to lie down in his new piece commissioned by Galeries Lafayette and on view in the 1st floor exhibition space of the Parisian department store (Paris, 9th).

Note: Claude Levêque represented France at the Venice Biennale in 2009.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjgpya_hymne-a-la-joie-de-claude-leveque-a-la-galerie-des-galeries_creation

Farewell Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

July 6, 2011

American artist Cy Twombly dies in Rome, aged 83 … It’s a good time to go gaze into the blue of his monumental ceiling work commissioned by the Louvre and inaugurated in 2010 …

And the Pompidou has one of his paintings hanging right at the beginning of their new presentation of the permanent collection on the 4th floor … Beautiful ….
The Pompidou is also displaying his model for a bronze monument that was to be placed at the center of the Place Furstenberg (Paris, 6th) designed in 2005.

Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) _ and still modern

June 12, 2011

The Petit Palais is showing “Charlotte Perriand. From Photography to Furniture”, until September 18th, 2011. The creator of the famous LC2 Grand Confort armchair, the B301 reclining chair and B306 chaise longue (all three from 1928) this exhibition reveals that she also practiced her keen eye in photography, capturing people and landscapes in tight black and white compositions, simple yet powerful like her furniture.

Longtime subsumed by the overpowering aura of Le Corbusier, with whom she collaborated for 10 years, and Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand has gained more and more widespread recognition over the last couple of decades as one of the leaders of early Modern furniture, architecture and interior design.

The exhibition is inserted among the ecclectic collection of the City of Paris displayed in this palace designed by Charles Girault for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. Fyi, it has a nice café in its très picturesque inner courtyard garden and visiting its permanent collection is free of charge. Click here for an overview of the Petit Palais’ permanent collections.

The only problem with the Richard Prince show is that it’s ending on June 21st, 2011

June 11, 2011

Richard Prince’s solo show “American Prayer” is showing at Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris 13th until June 21st, 2011.
Very cool expo. My only regret is that I hadn’t gone to see it sooner.

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PS. The images are not meant to appear sideways. The image gallery insert thang on this blog is just not feeling cooperative today. I’ll fix it sometime later.


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