Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, December 7, 2016


Hard currency, soft power: Poly Culture rolls into B.C.  A division of one of China’s biggest state-owned corporations, which has links to the military, opened a downtown Vancouver art gallery gallery November 30, and its CEO said corporate siblings may follow.   “Coming to Vancouver is connected with Poly Culture Group’s strategy decided by its directors; whether Poly Real Estate and Poly Technologies will come to Canada will be decided by themselves” Poly Culture CEO Jiang Yingchun told Business in Vancouver through an interpreter.  Business in Vancouver, December 6, 2016


Kelowna Art Gallery unveils new Drawing from Life exhibition. Opening this Friday, Drawing from Life features newly commissioned works by eight local artists. The resulting works are rich, massive in scale, and truly fill the Gallery space. Two of the works are 12 feet high and another one is 22 feet long. Kelowna Now, December 6, 2016


Calgary Critic Wins Canadian Art Writing Prize. Ginger Carlson of Calgary, Alberta, is winner of the 2016 Canadian Art Writing Prize. Carlson will be commissioned to write a feature story for a future issue of Canadian Art and will receive a $3,000 award.  The two runners-up for this year’s prize are Stéphanie Hornstein of Montreal, Quebec, and hannah_g, of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Each will receive recognition in the magazine and a $1,000 award.  Canadian Art, December 6, 2016


Remai Modern announces Jimmie Durham exhibition, exclusive Canadian stop for renowned artist.  The gallery announced Tuesday that it will host the lone Canadian exhibition of Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World, from March 23 to Aug. 5, 2018. The first North American retrospective of Durham — a renowned Cherokee artist, performer, essayist and activist — will be displayed in three major U.S. markets before Saskatoon.  Saskatoon Star Phoenix, December 6, 2016


RBC Makes $500K Donation To Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre.  The RBC Foundation said it is thrilled to donate $500,000 to help build the new Inuit Art Centre in Winnipeg.  “We’re incredibly honoured and proud to partner with the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Inuit Art Centre,” said Kim Ulmer, Royal Bank of Canada regional president.  CBC News, December 6, 2016


Ken Danby: Good, bad and ugly.  I’ll say this much for Beyond the Crease, the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s achingly sincere reclamation effort of the work of Ken Danby: It’s bold. Just not in the ways I’d hoped. Toronto Star, December 3, 2016 

What Now: A Reconsideration of Futures.  To consider the future is really to consider the present. [The Winter 2017 cover of Canadian Art], a gorgeous flatbed-scanner collage by Vancouver artist Derya Akay, with the “strength” tarot card in its centre, suggests all the humble ways in which futurity can indeed be present.  Futurity is one of the main ways one can tell the modern from the contemporary, thereby gauging the profound shift of the avant-garde… How does art prepare? The major artworks of the 21st century so far (and we’re not that far) feel daydreamy, motivated by assessment, negotiation with the past, the archive: Geoffrey Farmer’s Leaves of Grass, Christian Marclay’s The Clock, Camille Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue. When they are not this, they seem beholden, however critically, to the epic (Frances Stark’s My Best Thing, John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea).  Canadian Art, December 1, 2016 


Nicolas Grenier: How to Reverse Art-World Commerce—for a Time. This past summer, in a stand-alone cube not much bigger than a closet, Montreal-and-LA-based artist Nicolas Grenier reversed the give-and-take polarities of art-world commerce. For The Time of the Work, Grenier invited 14 artists and one collective to contribute works to the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery’s “SIGHTINGS” project series. A select group of artists, critics and collectors then chose a piece. No money changed hands. Instead, each “acquirer” spent time—with only paper, pen and the artwork itself—inside Grenier’s customized cube, the length of their isolation determined by how long it took the artist to create the work in the first place.   Canadian Art, December 5, 2016

Public art project to liven up Montreal’s Highway 20.  Highway 20 heading into Montreal from Pierre Trudeau International Airport is not a pretty stretch of road. National Bank president and chief executive officer Louis Vachon, who drives the thoroughfare every day from his house in West Island, says it looks “like you’re coming into a city in the Rust Belt” – not the kind of first impression he thinks the city should give to first-time visitors.  He decided to take action with an ambitious plan to install a $3.2-million public art work along six kilometres of the road, also known as Autoroute du Souvenir. The jury’s choice for the commission was BLEU DE BLEU, a monochrome installation that will take various forms over its six-kilometre length. Artist Alain Paiement says his conception for the piece can be summed up in three words: “One blue line.”  Globe & Mail, December 2, 2016

New York

Expert Forgery-Spotter James Martin to Head Sotheby’s Scientific Research Department.  Amid an ongoing Old Master forgery scandal, Sotheby’s auction house is making an effort to prevent the sale of fakes with the establishment of a scientific research department, by way of the acquisition of Orion Analytical. The firm’s founder, scientist and art conservator James Martin, joins Sotheby’s this week as part of the deal.  Artnet news, December 6, 2016


Miami Report: A Crack in the Façade.  During art fair week at least, Miami already feels like it exists in a realm divorced slightly from reality. Tanned older men with slicked-back grey hair and loafers chaperone flamingo-like young women in stiletto heels and runway-ready dresses down streets lined with Art Deco hotels tinted like Jordan almonds. Cotton-candy sunsets descend over striped umbrellas on pristine white beaches. The picturesque movie-set scenery suffers the occasional puncture, thanks to souvenir shops selling the latest in polyester neon and blaring Pitbull and LMFAO so loud that you can’t even think (some, like Alvin’s Island on Collins Avenue, are works of art in themselves). It all feels expensive and bombastic and artificial and magnificent, just like Ugo Rondinone’s Miami Mountain, now installed permanently outside the Bass.   Canadian Art, December 5, 2016

North America

The museum of the present.  Writing nearly twenty years ago on “the ongoing transformation of the American museum,” the late theorist Stephen E. Weil identified how museums were moving from “being about something to being for somebody.” This is a phrase that has been taken up by critics of contemporary museum culture, but for Weil it signaled a positive change, a momentous redirection he traced back to the cultural revolts of the 1960s. The New Criterion, December 2016

Museums Rethink Retail Exhibits.  When the Metropolitan Museum of Art launched an overhaul of its retail operations earlier this year, revenue was plummeting.  The main shop at its Fifth Avenue flagship looked dated. Some goods, including cheap costume jewelry and ceramics, bore no relation to the museum or its collection. Others simply reproduced images of art on canvas totes or printed neckwear. Some basic items visitors wanted—such as posters keyed to current exhibitions—were in short supply. Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016


Why museums and galleries stretch way beyond beautiful buildings  The old world of museums as quiet, cavernous halls displaying collections of objects for those willing to make the trek is having to adapt. While perhaps branding was once sniffed at in cultural institutions as the dark arts of commercial witchery, today it is a key part of the show. In an age of flashy soundbites and stories told dramatically, most commonly on a digital platform, museums recognise the need to stretch well beyond their physical boundaries.  The Drum, December 2, 2016


Decoding Betye Saar’s Uneasy Symbolism.  One of the aspects of being human that separates us from the other animals is our ability to use complex symbols. Instead of simply lying on the ground, keening in pain, we use language to express that we are hurt and need help, or hand signals if we can’t speak, and utilize that more modern abstraction of human labor — money — to compensate others for their efforts to rescue us. What first occurs to me when I see Betye Saar’s work at the Fondazione Prada is that she is a sophisticated symbol user, one who is so advanced in her comprehension of how cultural symbols work that she can pull them apart and reassemble them to turn their meanings inside out. Hyperallergic, December 5, 2016


Palmyra antiquities seized at Geneva Free Port. Swiss authorities have seized nine antiquities looted from Palmyra and ancient sites in Libya and Yemen at the Geneva Free Port. The artefacts, which range from the fourth century BC to the third century AD, were deposited at the secretive tax-free warehouses between 2009 and 2010, the Geneva public prosecutor said in a statement on 2 December.  The Art Newspaper, December 5, 2016


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