Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, May 10, 2018


The B.C. landscape through the eyes of Emily Carr, Mattie Gunterman and Ian Thom. Ian Thom’s first job at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1976 was cataloguing Emily Carr paintings.  “I basically had to go down into the vault and measure every painting, look at them all and record all the inscriptions, where they were signed and all that kind of stuff,” he recounts. “So (Carr’s paintings) have been in my consciousness since 1976.”  Forty-two years later, Thom is retiring from the gallery, where he has been the senior curator of historical art since 1988. “I jokingly say if they’re dead, they’re my responsibility,” Thom deadpans. “That means I’ve done Matisse shows, I’ve done Picasso shows, I’ve done Rembrandt shows. Occasionally I get to do a living artist — when I did the E.J. Hughes show he was very much alive. I did a big Tak Tanabe retrospective, (and) I’ve worked with Gordon Smith.”  Over the years he’s done over 100 exhibitions at the VAG, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Seven have been of Carr. And, for his last VAG show, he has chosen to do Carr again, in a double bill with photographer Mattie Gunterman.  “We wanted to look at two women in the first half of the 20th century (who were) looking at the landscape of British Columbia, in fairly radically different ways,” said Thom, 65.  Vancouver Sun, May 9, 2018

See Shigeru Ban’s Kobe Paper Log House at Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite starting May 11.  Get up close to a full-size version of Shigeru Ban’s Kobe Paper Log House, which will be on display at Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite location as part of the “Offsite: Shigeru Ban” exhibition. Under Ban’s direction, the Gallery constructed a version of the 15.8 square-meter structure using readily sourced materials. The exhibition opens May 11. Archinect, May 3, 2018

ART SEEN: SUM Gallery opens in permanent home for Queer Arts Festival.  In art-world terms, something unusual is happening Saturday in Vancouver.  It’s the opening of SUM Gallery which describes itself as the country’s only permanent space dedicated to exhibiting queer art. It’s on the fourth floor of the Sun Wah Building on Keefer east of Main in Chinatown.  SUM Gallery opens with a solo show of video works by Karin Lee. It’s curated by Paul Wong and SD Holman. Holman is also the executive director of SUM.  Vancouver Sun (Blog), May 9, 2018

Douglas Coupland’s work in plastic is fantastic.  “I never thought I’d be doing ecological art at age 56,” says the Canadian novelist and artist Douglas Coupland of his installation Vortex, a year-long installation opening at the Vancouver Aquarium on 18 May (until 30 April 2018) that looks critically at the effects of plastic waste in oceans. “But it just came to me,” he adds—and it turns out he means that literally.  The Art Newspaper, May 9, 2018

Parking lots get mural makeover for new Granville Island public space  The new public area, directly underneath the deck of the bridge on Anderson Street, is marked with dramatic murals that depict Coast Salish weaving patterns and salmon on two bridge pillars by Musqueam artist Debra Sparrow. Vancouver Sun, May 9, 2018


Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit shows the wonders the B.C. artist carved from wood. Speaking in the documentary film Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters, the esteemed Kwakwaka’wakw artist mused on the enduring importance of the cedar tree to his people. Dick, who died last year at the age of 61, also considered the sense of spiritual connection he experienced when he carved a block of wood taken from an ancient cedar. Early on, the understanding came to him that what he was making—a mask, perhaps—was an ongoing part of the tree’s life. As form emerged through his carving, he realized that “Something else was making this all happen. It wasn’t me—I was just part of it.” Then he added, “This art form is ceremonial… It’s given to us as a gift of the Creator.” Georgia Straight, May 9, 2018

Audain Art Museum wins a Governor General’s Medal in Architecture.  Patkau Architects’ design for the Audain Art Museum in Whistler has been named a winner of one of this year’s Governor General’s Medals in Architecture.  It’s the only B.C. building amid the dozen named in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts announcement today. It joins a cross-country list that includes an international airport, a park pavilion, a small hospital and a library in a 170-year-old church.  Georgia Straight, May 7, 2018.  See also Audain Art Museum a Canadian winner at 2018 RIBA International Award Canadian Architect, May 9, 2018


Wildlife: Edmonton Cemeteries artist residency show gives voices to the dead.  For 10 months, Candace Makowichuk strolled amid our dead and buried, breathing in their stories.  As the first-ever artist-in-residence for City of Edmonton Cemeteries, the inventive photographer collected wildflowers nestled between the tombstones, photographed wreaths left by mourners and made rubbings of otherwise forgotten names and symbols which once waved on flags overseas in theatres of war.   Edmonton Journal, May 9, 2018


Moyra Davey wins $50,000 Scotiabank Photography Award.  Moyra Davey, a New York-based Canadian artist whose broad-ranging work has spanned from documentary photography to intensely close-up photos of everyday objects to video to a series of images roughly folded and sent to exhibitions around the world, is the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Photography Award.  The two runners-up for the prize, Greg Staats and Stephen Waddell, will be awarded $10,000 each. Toronto Star, May 9, 2018

In documentary Kusama — Infinity, compelling art survives sluggish handling.   In the late 1960s, Yayoi Kusama threw herself from the window of her New York studio and fell two stories to the concrete sidewalk below. If not for the bicycle that broke her fall, she explains, she’d probably have died. At the time, she didn’t particularly care either way.  That’s just one of the startling, revelatory episodes to be found in Kusama — Infinity, a new documentary biopic on the celebrated octogenarian Japanese artist, opening in Toronto on Friday. In the midst of a whirlwind touring exhibition of her work predicated largely on social-media hype and harmless-seeming flurries of polka dots, the film adds to the Kusama circus many layers of necessary depth. The documentary starring Yayoi Kusama, directed by Heather Lenz, opens Friday at TIFF Lightbox. Toronto Star, May 10, 2018


Dirty Words: Sensitive.  In 1992, regional realities prompted the Dalhousie Black Canadian Students’ Association to request removal of work by renowned African American artist Carrie Mae Weems… A quarter century after a group of Black students at Dalhousie University sought to use their bodies to block public view of a body of work that they saw as deeply harmful to themselves and to their community, Parker Bright, a Black artist in New York, stood before Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket, the words “BLACK DEATH SPECTACLE” on his back. At the 2017 Whitney Biennial, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and elsewhere, communities that have suffered specific historical and racialized forms of violence objected to works of art that objectified that violence. Today, it seems absurd to ask if they “got it”—for who is better positioned to get it than those who have lived it? To claim otherwise is to admit to the open secret of the white supremacist foundations of the art world. This, I believe, is the unspoken heart of the unresolved conflict that emerged in Halifax in 1992; the students who protested Weems’s works were also protesting a system within which they had no representation, a system that made decisions about what pain they should or should not tolerate, and argued that it was for their own good. Canadian Art, May 9, 2018


National artists’ group calls on CRA to change tax deduction rules.  A national organization representing artists is wading into what it calls a potentially precedent-setting tax issue for a Halifax-area sculptor.  Steve Higgins is facing a $14,500 bill from the Canada Revenue Agency after it rejected his expense claims for a project because it was done with public funding and wasn’t sold privately.  Now the Canadian Artists Representation has stepped in to try and help. They’ve been referring Higgins to accountants and lawyers who specialize in the field, as well as striking a working group with the Canadian Arts Coalition to look at issues related to taxes and artists.   CBC News, May 9, 2018

New York

Rockefeller auction: Picasso painting sells for $115m as part of $646m haul.  A record-breaking first evening of a three-day auction of David Rockefeller’s world-class private art collection raised over $646m in New York on Tuesday – an amount that already exceeds the valuation of the entire 1,600-item sale list that, all told, is predicted to break the $1bn mark.  Among the works of art for sale at Christie’s in Manhattan on Tuesday evening were a rose period portrait by Pablo Picasso that sold for $115m (including fees) and a painting by Monet from his water garden series that sold for a record $84.7m.  The Guardian, May 9, 2018

How did the Rockefellers shape the modern art market.  The Rockefellers entered the Modern art market in its earliest days, and the manner in which they collected reflects, perhaps influenced, its dramatic growth through the 20th century. Alongside Henry Clay Frick, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Mellon, John D. Rockefeller, Junior was a client of the British art dealer Joseph Duveen. Duveen built a business out of selling the collections of European aristocrats to American millionaires and once said: “Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money.” The Art Newspaper, May 8, 2018

Meet Lucas Zwirner, the Heir Reimagining David Zwirner Gallery One Book at a Time. In 2015, Lucas Zwirner, a Yale-educated literature aficionado who had envisioned a career in philosophy, was successfully lured into the family business with his father’s promise to grow their art gallery’s eponymous publishing house, David Zwirner Books. “I realized that rather than writing alone, I would rather be working on a project with a group of people,” explains Zwirner, 27, who, along with his team, now works with artists on various editorial ventures. “I’m trying to focus on projects that extend the gallery’s reach beyond monographs.” W Magazine, May 9, 2018


US government could regulate art dealers under proposed law.  US lawmakers are working on legislation that would subject the country’s art dealers to financial regulation by the government and which could prove challenging for galleries, an art-law firm warned its clients this week. New York-based Pearlstein McCullough & Lederman said that legislation is likely to be introduced in Congress during the week of 14 May, adding dealers of fine art and antiquities to the list of regulated financial institutions under the Bank Secrecy Act. The Art Newspaper, May 4, 2018


Artists and Curators Weigh In on Baltimore Museum’s Move to Deaccession Works by White Men to Diversify Its Collection.  A museum is a place where racism and sexism is on full display,” said artist Shinique Smith. “You can see this in any institution in any part of the world.” Smith, an internationally known painter and sculptor based in New York and Los Angeles, who has works in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Rubell Collection, the Whitney Museum, and numerous others, grew up in Baltimore and recalled the profound influence of the Baltimore Museum of Art on her development as an artist.  Hyperallergic, May 7, 2018


Azzedine Ala​ïa exhibition towers but has lightness of touch.  Visitors to Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier, which opens on Thursday, are met by a phalanx of seven 6’11” Amazons each dressed in the late designer’s signature leopard print and black.The exaggerated height of the mannequins amplifies what Alaïa’s clothes have always done, which is to make women look extraordinary. “No other dress can make a woman look and feel as good as an Alaïa dress because it cinches the body perfectly,” as Naomi Campbell put it. The Guardian, May 9, 2018


New tribunal aims to provide expertise and impartiality for art disputes. A new body dedicated exclusively to resolving art disputes, the Court of Arbitration for Art , will be formally launched 7 June in the Hague by the Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI) and the nonprofit Authentication in Art. Instead of being decided by judges and juries, cases will be heard by arbitrators who are seasoned lawyers familiar with industry practice and issues specific to art disputes. The Art Newspaper, May 7, 2018


Against the Politicisation of Museums.  “Museums,” declares Jillian Steinhauer in a recent OpEd , for the Art Newspaper “have a duty to be political.” A lot of her colleagues agree. It’s not enough for museums to entertain, inspire, and educate; they must change the world, too.   Quillette, May 4, 2018

Why Meditating Might Make You a Better Artist.  At least one well-regarded study, by the Italian cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato, found that OM (open monitoring meditation) benefits divergent thinking, which is the process of generating as many ideas about a topic or problem as possible. We might say that emptying the mind helps us not to fixate on stressors,  stimuli, or things that don’t pertain to our work, and in doing so allows new ideas to enter the field of our thinking. Colzato found that FA (focused-attention meditation) also may stimulate divergent thinking. Artsy, May 9, 2018

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