Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, January 9, 2019


Best of Vancouver arts 2018: looking back at our most memorable reviews on-stage and in galleries.  Memorable Vancouver exhibitions in 2018, include: Takashi  Murakami: Octopus Eats Its Own Leg (Vancouver Art Gallery), Kerry James Marshall: Collected  (Rennie Museum), Curious Imaginings by Patricia Piccinini (Vancouver Biennale, at the Patricia Hotel) and Eternal Tides (PuSh International Performing Arts Festival).  Georgia Straight, December 31, 2018


With ‘In the Realm of Perception,’ Surrey artist celebrates her first solo show at SAG As a painter, Nicoletta Baumeister is keen to explore how the human mind sees, understands and constructs the world around it.  In her first solo exhibition at Surrey Art Gallery, 40 works created by the South Surrey-based artist will be shown during the two-month run of In the Realm of Perception, which opens on Saturday, Jan. 19.  Surrey Leader Now, January 8, 2019


Making in the Not-Knowing.  In the following conversation the Toronto-based sculptor Jen Aitken stresses the importance of intuition as “a valuable form of knowledge and expertise.” She sees it as having a double register: for her as an artist, it’s a way of making, and for us as viewers, it’s a way of perceiving. “I’m pushing against interpretation and resisting recognition,” she says, adding that she is constantly searching for what she calls a “distancing of familiarity.”  Border Crossings, December 2018

What More Is There to Say?  The last thing we see in Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, the devastatingly important documentary made by filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, cinematographer Nicholas de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky, is a text dedicated to Sudan, the name of the last surviving male northern white rhino… Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is only one part of a much larger project, which includes concurrent exhibitions at the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, as well as an exhibition catalogue and a 236-page book published by Steidl that reproduces over 100 of Burtynsky’s archival pigment prints. Scale is a defining issue… I have made a number of references to other artists and art forms because Burtynsky, de Pencier and Baichwal are artists themselves, and they work diligently in their respective disciplines to produce the most attractive images they possibly can. This is both a virtue and a danger; in making us pay attention, they run the risk of aestheticizing disaster. Each of them is aware of this possibility and has clearly made a determination that the attention is preferable, and more useful, than the alternative. Once you’ve got an audience in the house, then what you’ve accomplished can begin to do its work.  Border Crossings, December 2018


Artists and Arts Supporters Named to Order of Canada.  Recipients include: Shirley Cheechoo, (founder of Weengushk Film Institute); Maxine Noel, (for her advocacy of the creative expression of Indigenous communities); Léopold L. Foulem  (the creator of distinctive, baroque ceramics); John McEwan, (welder of large steel sculptures); and Michel de la Chenelière (patron behind the first major art-therapy pavilion in a Canadian art museum.  Canadian Art, January 3, 2019

Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Artist Wins Public Art Appeal.  A controversial public art installation by Brian MacNevin in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, has earned the support of local government—provided it passes an upcoming safety inspection.  In September 2018, Town of Bridgewater staff, acting on multiple complaints, ordered the artwork in MacNevin’s front yard be removed. They deemed it “dangerous or unsightly” under a section of the Municipal Governance Act generally reserved for unkempt or hazardous properties.  Canadian Art, January 3, 2019


Whose Community Is It?   In Canada, Chinese cultural clusters and spaces are often labelled as “culturally diverse” as part of a multicultural agenda. The frequent comparisons between “the East” and “the West” has us [Canadians of Chinese descent] living with the consequences of these generalizations and the subsequent construction of so-called Chinese culture. So, what does “Chinese” actually mean for people entangled in a Chinese identity? Montreal-based artist Karen Tam and Toronto-based artist Morris Lum both investigate the role Chinese spaces serve in the Chinese community and what they signify more broadly within a culturally Euro-Canadian society.  Canadian Art, January 8, 2019

Los Angeles

Review: A child in ‘The Ditch’ and other mesmerizing moments in ‘Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings’ at the Getty. In Sally Mann’s photographs, past and future exult in their mysteriousness. Yet, an alert and lucid invitation to engage in scrutiny of the constructed image almost always grounds the experience in the present. Even on the occasion when a picture doesn’t finally succeed, the encounter can feel momentous.  Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2019


Clyfford Still, as Seen Through His Daughter’s EyesA Daughter’s Eye/A Daughter’s Voice at the Clyfford Still Museum is curated (and narrated through available Bluetooth headsets) by Sandra Still, the youngest of Clyfford Still’s two daughters. Her curatorial debut offers visitors and scholars sharp judgments on celebrated paintings and brilliant details about her father during his most reclusive period. “There was never a dull conversation. There were lots of silences,” said Sandra.   Hyperallergic, January 8, 2019

St. Louis

Kehinde Wiley: ‘When I first started painting black women, it was a return home’  When the American artist Kehinde Wiley – known by many for his presidential portrait of Barack Obama – walked into a Little Caesars restaurant in St Louis, he didn’t know he’d walk out with models for his next painting.  He saw a group of African American women sitting at a table and was inspired to paint them for Three Girls in A Wood, a painting on view at the St Louis Art Museum. It’s part of Wiley’s exhibition Saint Louis, which runs until 10 February, where 11 paintings of St Louis locals are painted in the style of old masters, a comment on the absence of black portraits in museums.  The Guardian, January 9, 2019

New York

Over 7.36 Million People Visited the Metropolitan Museum in 2018.  Over 7.36 million visitors have passed through the Metropolitan Museum exhibitions, largely drawn in by landmark exhibitions like Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters, and the tail ends of highly-publicized shows like Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer and David Hockney.  Hyperallergic, January 6, 2019


British Museum realises ‘vase’ is in fact an ancient mace-head displayed upside down.  Inspired by some contemporary photographs shot in southern Iraq, the British Museum has mounted No Man’s Land (until 27 January), a small exhibition attesting to man’s chronic inability to exist peacefully within agreed borders. The exhibition showcases three ancient objects that tell the story of the first recorded border conflict, a clash between two Sumerian city states in the third millennium BC, while juxtaposing them with the modern photographs. Inscriptions on two of the objects document the viewpoints of the ancient city states of Lagash and Umma, with each side invoking claims to disputed territory supposedly allotted them by the gods.  In a bit of serendipity, the curators realised during research for the show that an object they had long assumed was a vase had actually been displayed upside down.  The Art Newspaper, January 7, 2019

How pioneering video artist Bill Viola’s near-death experience influences his work on religion.  It’s impossible to avoid connecting Bill Viola’s childhood experience with the work’s imagery. The triptych’s central panel features a fully clothed figure underwater, “floating limply in this black void”, as he has described it. To the left is a woman giving birth; to the right, the artist’s mother on her deathbed. Though the central figure is not him, Viola has described the Nantes Triptych as a form of self-portrait “in another world with the experience of life and death”. The Standard, January 8, 2019


Sister Wendy Beckett obituary.  Sister Wendy Beckett, who has died aged 88, could be dismissive of the high-profile television work that made this hermit nun with owl-like glasses into an unlikely household name during the 1990s… Behind her gentle, toothy smile, Sister Wendy could be fierce. It was seen in some of her verdicts on modern artists who failed to interest her, though cloaked as ever in a show of nun-like Christian charity. “I find myself saying to myself firmly that I might not have been interested or excited or challenged by what I’ve seen,” she said on a rare trip to London in 2008 to see an exhibition by those on the Turner Prize shortlist, “but the artists who made these installations must have been. I am prepared to marvel at their inexplicable enthusiasm.”  The Guardian, December 26, 2018


Laura Cumming’s best art of 2018.  It was the most momentous of years. I have never seen anything like it. Not just for the magnificent quality of the shows, public and private, nor their millennial sweep, from Mantegna and Bellini at the National Gallery to the very latest brushstroke by Tomma Abts at the Serpentine Gallery. But because of an epochal change in attitudes. The Guardian, December 30, 2018


Prado at 200: director Miguel Falomir on the museum’s reinvention and the death of the blockbuster.  Miguel Falomir Faus has a foot in two eras of the Museo del Prado. The Madrid museum celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, and Falomir is very much part of its history. Before becoming its director in 2017, he was the deputy director under Miguel Zugaza and the long-serving curator of Italian Renaissance paintings. Falomir’s distinguished work at the Prado includes surveys of Titian (2003) and Tintoretto (2007) and its late Raphael exhibition (2012).  The Art Newspaper, January 7, 2019

Abu Dhabi

Salvator Mundi. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have ‘lost’ the world’s most expensive painting. The Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, Salvator Mundi, may hold the key to the Trump-Russia investigation. And, the artwork itself could be evidence of collusion.  Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘last’ masterpiece was to be unveiled on September 18 at the spellbinding new Louvre in Abu Dhabi, but the exhibit was put on a temporary hold, amid rumours the painting was lost.  Narativ, January 2, 2019



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