Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, May 18, 2017


The unveiling of Yucho Chow, chronicler of old Chinatown. The small, round Yucho Chow Studio seal, with its Chinese characters and Vancouver Chinatown address, is embossed on hundreds of group and individual portraits taken over four decades during the early 1900s.  Most are now tucked in dusty albums in basements and attics across the city. They were taken by a jovial, prolific artist, whose own image and story had been little known, and fading away even to his own descendants, until now.  For years, Catherine Clement, as curator of the Chinese-Canadian Military Museum, had been meeting with veterans and their relatives. They would bring out their old family photos and, over and over again, Clement would see that same Yucho Chow Studio seal.    Vancouver Sun, May 17, 2017

Art after a Brain Injury.  Imagine closing your eyes and being unable to recall the face of your best friend, or husband or even your child. Where your memories could only be constructed out of actual photographs or images. Where you couldn’t remember what was in your fridge unless the door was open, even if you had just stocked it. Where you had no idea what you were going to paint, until it was flowing from your fingertips.  At 29, Vancouver-based artist Sheri Bakes was living a dream life. The young woman from Nanaimo, BC, had graduated from Emily Carr University with a degree in drawing and painting.  he was working on a Master’s degree in art therapy, and training hard to be a part of the Canadian Coast Guard, where she worked part time in the summers.  Then one day after training, Bakes had a stroke and everything changed.  Canadian Art, May 17, 2017

Vancouver Report: Behind the Screen.  By compiling online comments into books and translating Seventeen magazine headlines into bead art, Vancouver artists lift the veil on medium as message Canadian Art, May 17, 2017

ART SEEN: Vancouver Biennale sculpture by Ai Weiwei leaving Harbour Green Park. The cast iron sculpture by the celebrated Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was being removed Tuesday from the north end of Bute Street in Harbour Green Park in Coal Harbour. The horizontal sculpture had been installed in 2014 as part of the Vancouver Biennale.  Vancouver Sun, May 9, 2017

Jillian Tamaki’s explorations become Boundless.  In April, the American Library Association released its annual list of the books most often challenged in the United States. Topping that list was This One Summer, a Canadian graphic novel about two preteen girls vacationing in Ontario’s cottage country. The book earned a number of prestigious citations—including a Caldecott Honor and the 2015 Eisner Award for best graphic novel—but its unflinching look at adolescence didn’t sit well with everyone. Libraries in Florida and Minnesota pulled the book off their shelves after parents complained about its mature themes.  Georgia Straight, May 17, 2017


David Heffel takes us where the auction is.  Going once, going twice, going to be some big dollars spent at Heffel Fine Art Auction House’s spring auction.  Though nothing will fetch anywhere near the $11.21-million price of Lawren Harris’s Mountain Forms at Heffel’s fall auction in 2016, this spring’s Toronto sale includes more than 120 masterpieces, with the collection of works (by Harris, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Andy Warhol, among others) estimated to achieve upwards of $14-million.  The Globe and Mail spoke to auctioneer and Heffel president David Heffel about the auction and how a 1926 mountain painting shook up the art world.  Globe & Mail, May 17, 2017.  See also Artists Jean-Paul Riopelle, Lawren Harris highlight Heffel’s spring 2017 live auctionGeorgia Straight, May 12, 2017

Suzy Lake reprocesses the gender divide at the Ryerson Image Centre Scotiabank Photography Award: Suzy Lake: The introductory text on the wall at the Ryerson Image Centre describes the work of Suzy Lake as being at the fore of “female identity and the aging body,” but that’s hardly the half of it. Lake, who has been working — ceaselessly, consistently — for nearly 50 years, gathers up broad swaths of the gender divide, past and present, and reprocesses it as the frank, absurd, discomfiting and ultimately destructive thing that it is.  Toronto Star, May 17, 2017

Los Angeles

The Guggenheim Restores Its First Web Art Commission. In 1993, the 21-year-old trans man Brandon Teena was raped and murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska. His story is perhaps most widely known because of the film Boys Don’t Cry, but it was also explored during that same period in a much more experimental and fluid form by artist Shu Lea Cheang. “Brandon” is live and fully browsable once more, thanks to a recent restoration by the museum as part of its initiative to conserve computer-based art in its permanent collection.  Hyperallergic, May 16, 2017


Art Museum receives record gift of nearly $12 million.  The Cincinnati Art Museum has received the largest single monetary gift in its history. Longtime supporters Carl and Alice Bimel left a bequest of $11.75 million to the museum to establish the Alice Bimel Endowment for Asian Art., May 16, 2017

New York

After Surviving a Fire, St. John the Divine’s 17th-Century Tapestries Return.  After 16 years of conservation, the 1644-56 Life of Christ tapestries by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli that crown the art collection of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine have returned to view. Unlike their previous positions high above parishioners’ heads, they’re temporarily installed in the Chapel of St. James, wrapping around the room at eye-level, as they would have been in the 17th century when the textiles heralded the wealth, taste, and Christian piety of the Barberini family.  Hyperallergic, May 14, 2017


57th Venice Biennale review – the Germans steal the show.  Migrant boats, vulnerable teens, a teeming Faustian hell… conscience pervades the Biennale’s big pavilions, while the main international exhibition slips into something more comfortable.  The Guardian, May 14, 2017

The road to the Venice Biennale is paved with good intentions.  Art matters. It is more than a commodity to be bought and sold by the rich or a frippery for extravagant lifestyles (yes, Jeff Koons handbags for Louis Vuitton, I mean you). In her exhibition for the Venice Biennale, Viva Arte Viva, the Centre Pompidou’s curator Christine Macel has produced a manifesto of sorts for a much wider interpretation of art’s role: its ability to bring communities together, bridge divides, open minds and changes lives. So far, so good…Paradoxically, in her attempt to argue that art is much more than its market, Marcel has completely overlooked its power to impress and seduce us with its visual appeal or its capacity to engage us with its complexity. This is a pedantic, didactic and at times offensive show that will have us running to the next round of contemporary art sales at Christie’s or Sotheby’s just so we can see some good art. It is an experiment that has seriously backfired.  The Art Newspaper, May 16, 2017

Democracy’s Dark Side and a Glimmer of Hope in Mark Bradford’s Venice Biennale Show.  The front of the US Pavilion is looking trashy. Artist Mark Bradford piled a few loads of gravel up against the porch to waist height, and they’ve attracted some stray cigarette butts and candy wrappers. The gravel is actually an artwork, titled “Barren,” and a fitting, official introduction to Tomorrow Is Another Day, Bradford’s solo project for the 2017 Venice Biennale curated jointly by the Rose Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.  Hyperallergic, May 17, 2017

What Happened to the Anthropocene? Searching the 57th Venice Biennale for Signs of Destruction. there’s no greater risk to our species than the one posed by humankind’s impact on the environment. It’s unnerving how familiar this adage has become, and the myriad coping mechanisms we employ upon its utterance. Odd, then, that one similarity between Documenta 14 in Athens and the 57th Venice Biennale is a lack of direct engagement with the age of the anthropocene.  Momus, May 17, 2017

Sylhet, Bangladesh

First major contemporary art institution in Bangladesh takes shape.  A new art centre and sculpture park aims to draw international visitors to north-eastern Bangladesh, re-drawing the art world map. Srihatta-Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park is due to open in the rural tea district of Sylhet, around 150 miles from Dhaka, late next year. The Art Newspaper,  May 17, 2017


What Does Buying Art Have to Do With Organic Produce? A Lot.  For decades, art galleries brought visitors exhibits and artists that riveted and radically transformed the trajectory of our cultural and national narratives. While we would generally go to museums to see historical art, galleries offered the new, interesting and avant-garde. They were the places where we connected with artists and like-minded people….Ironically, as if in a reversal of roles, many art galleries now act like museums did in the past. Their spaces now feel sterile and out of touch. For a time now, galleries have abided by the corporate business model, creating a corporatized art-buying experience.  The Observer, May 16, 2017

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