Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, September 10, 2019


Ottawa waiting for B.C. to formally ask for Vancouver Art Gallery funding.   Federal funding for a new Vancouver Art Gallery building is waiting for the B.C. government to put the project on a list for cultural infrastructure funding of $157 million, according to a leaked federal letter.  The federal government said in the letter that its contribution to the project would be forthcoming once the province “prioritizes it for funding.”  The Vancouver Art Gallery is asking for $100 million for its new building which Ottawa wants to fund through the Community Culture and Recreation stream of the Integrated Bilateral Agreement.   Vancouver Sun, September 9, 2019.  See also: Vancouver Art Gallery waits on federal funds as Calgary venues get $100 million-plus commitments.  Vancouver Sun, September 6, 2019

Façade Festival lights up the Vancouver Art Gallery this week.  The Vancouver Art Gallery will be cloaked in colourful designs this week as the Façade Festival returns for another year.  Every evening from Sept. 8 to 14, different artists will be projecting their work onto the Georgia Street side of the gallery, lighting up the building’s iconic architecture with specially designed artwork and animations. Organizers at the Burrard Arts Foundation said the eye-grabbing effect is made possible through a process called projection mapping, which allows artists to turn a three-dimensional object into a dynamic canvas. CTV News, September 9, 2019

By the numbers: The disappearance of arts spaces in Vancouver over time.  In the fall, Eastside Culture Crawl executive director Esther Rausenberg is hosting an exhibit on displacement. Not as a vague inspiration or theme — the exhibit is about the artists themselves, who are increasingly being priced out of the city’s housing market.  “In the last 10 years … we’re just heading downhill,” she said. “We’re being squeezed out more-and-more.”   City officials and artists are grappling with the loss of cultural space, which senior cultural planner Alix Sales says is “the biggest issue facing the cultural sector” in the city.   Vancouver Sun, September 8, 2019

Mark Preston, Trace Yeomans, and Rande Cook at the Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver.  The current group show in the Tanúyap Project Space at the Fazakas Gallery explores the gesturing act in its diversity. It starts with the gestural art popularized by American Abstractionists in the 1950s when the physical gesture was used to explore high-modernist medium-specificity.  Akimbo, August 28, 2019


Critiques Emerge after $110M Promised to Arts Commons and Contemporary Calgary.  Some in Calgary’s arts community are pleased, and others quite concerned, following a recent federal funding announcement in the city.   On Friday, August 30, Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr announced that the federal government was prepared to give $80 million to Arts Commons and $30 million to Contemporary Calgary to support infrastructure and building projects… J.S. Ryu is the CEO of Indefinite Arts Centre, which is billed as “Canada’s largest and oldest disability arts organization.” And Ryu issued an email release of his own on Tuesday, September 3, outlining his concerns about the way this federal funding was disbursed.   “The Contemporary Calgary project, if the province chose to move forward after this announcement, would take away a total of $30 million out of the allocated $140 million [in this type of federal infrastructure funding] for the whole province,” Ryu wrote in his message. “The fact that one project would take almost a third of the total funding dedicated to the province’s arts sector seems shockingly high—and not equitable to the broad diversity of our province’s arts community that share many infrastructure challenges.” Canadian Art, September 5, 2019


Toronto’s Birch Contemporary celebrates 30 years, while the Susan Hobbs Gallery considers motion in art.  In his first year in business on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, Robert Birch overheard one pundit standing outside his storefront predicting this new gallery wouldn’t last six months.  Thirty years and multiple locations later, Birch Contemporary is showing the doubters the finger. Not literally, of course, but the gallery’s 30th anniversary show in its long-time Tecumseh Street premises starts with a cheeky gesture: Omar Badrin’s Backhanded, a stuffed, knitted glove with one elongated middle finger poking out well beyond the rest.  Globe & Mail, September 9, 2019

London, ON

Heirloomic at Support, London, ONHeirloomic is loosely defined in Support’s exhibition text as “having some characteristics of” or “in the form of an inherited quality, tendency, lesson, skill, or affinity.” In divergent, yet similarly indirect ways, contributing artists Jamelie Hassan, Anna Szaflarski, and Stacey Ho respond to this premise by considering the notion of “heirloom” as both visible and invisible presence, a conduit to past experiences and hidden influence, and inarticulable (or obscured) memory.  Akimbo, September 4, 2019


How to Break a Painting.  When Cindy Phenix painted Polymorphism of Power in 2017, she had only recently completed her BFA at Concordia University. That year she also embarked on residencies at the Banff Centre and at Montreal’s Les Territoires (mentored by artist Karen Tam), which marked the onset of an incredibly fruitful period. Following a solo exhibition at the Maison de la culture de Longueuil in the spring of 2018—in which every work sold—Phenix made her commercial gallery debut at Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, which caused a stir when every work found a buyer before opening night, leading Montreal’s La Presse to anoint her a “phenomenon.” And then, barely before the dust of the celebrations had settled, Phenix set off to begin her MFA at Northwestern University in Chicago. Canadian Art, September 9, 2019

Lab-École designs a better school – and a more generous society. For Pierre Thibault and Lab-École, “the layout of schools has not changed in 50 years,” he says. Think of a bar-shaped building, with a corridor down the centre and classrooms on either side. “But students have changed, and the pedagogy has changed.” To address this, the organization and Quebec’s ministry of education have now launched open-design competitions for five school construction and repair projects. The competitions are open and anonymous – an unusual arrangement that allows all architects to compete on the strength of their ideas, rather than winning a job with their résumés. “We hope it’s going to lift up the profession,” says Nicolas Marier, a Montreal architect and urban designer who is coordinating the design competitions for Lab-École. “We want to rethink how we learn.”  Globe & Mail, September 5, 2019

Marlon Kroll.  There is an insistent sense of play and double entendre at work in Marlon Kroll’s solo exhibition at Parisian Laundry. The effect brings to mind inversions, or the feeling of trying to tell a story while a little stoned—pleasant tangents arise and suddenly the story seems to have metamorphosed, perhaps becoming something clearer. Canadian Art, September 3, 2019

As Immense as the Sky.  Meryl McMaster’s latest works—a series of not-quite-self portraits that broaden understandings of land histories and what it means to be in a body—will feature next week in a solo show in Montreal. Here, Gabrielle Moser pulls the camera back on her work to date.  Canadian Art, September 4, 2019

New Google Doodle Honours Quebec Artist Marcelle Ferron.  The lush abstract paintings of Quebec artist Marcelle Ferron (1924–2001) can be found, says the Canadian Encyclopedia, in the collections of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paolo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, among other collections.  But from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on September 7, 2019, Ferron’s work was featured in a rather more public-facing venue: as the Google Doodle on the search page at  Canadian Art, September 7, 2019


$6M Beaverbrook Art Gallery expansion will ‘dramatically’ change downtown landscape.  The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is building a $6-million expansion that will push the gallery closer to Queen Street and give it a new entrance.   The new wing is dedicated to the late Harrison McCain, the Florenceville-Bristol businessman and co-founder of McCain Foods.  CBC News, September 6, 2019

Dartmouth, NS

The makings of artist Tom Forrestall.  I’ve always tried different things. I’m still trying different things,” says Tom Forrestall, now 83 and at work in his rambling, attic studio with its view out past George’s Island to the open ocean.   He first thought seriously of himself as an artist as a teenager. “I got oil paints going and I thought maybe I could do this. I liked it a lot. It might be my salvation.  “I bewildered my parents and everybody else. They never knew what poor old Tom was going to become because I had serious health problems with epilepsy and it looked like that was going to throw a wet blanket on a lot of things for me but I determined it would work.  The Chronicle Herald, September 9, 2019


Dana Claxton, Janet Cardiff and More Featured in “Great Women Artists” Book.  A new book highlighting 425 women artists from around the world includes several prominent artists from Vancouver, Toronto and other parts of Canada. Great Women Artists, to be released by Phaidon on September 25, includes major international figures both historical and contemporary, like Mexican modernist Frida Kahlo, Japan’s Yayoi Kusama and 17th-century Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. It also features Vancouver-based artist Dana Claxton, Toronto-based artist Rebecca Belmore and Ontario-born, Berlin-based artist Janet Cardiff.  Canadian Art, September 5, 2019

San Francisco

Vija Celmins’s Surface Matters.  A few days before the opening of Vija Celmins’s retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, last December, the artist, an auburn-haired woman in dark slacks and a slate-blue overshirt, stood in the first gallery and said, to nobody in particular, “This show is too large.” Curators are used to comments like this from Celmins, who is prone to self-deprecation. She once told a collector that the painting of hers he had recently bought was “the worst thing I’ve ever done.” The current exhibition, her largest to date, was scheduled to move on, after San Francisco, to the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, and on September 24th it will open at the Met Breuer, in New York, where Celmins has lived since the early nineteen-eighties.  New Yorker, September 2, 2019 (issue)

Los Angeles

Learning as Supporting: Alternatives for Futures in Art Education. Artist Eliza Swann moved to Los Angeles in 2013, after the spirit of a raven told her, head west. Swann had been in the Colorado mountains, when she began jotting down notes, trying to remember everything the bird’s spirit said. It also told her to found what would become The Golden Dome School, a non-hierarchical institute for studying the relationship between metaphysics, art, and ecology. This did not come as a complete surprise: during graduate school, she had been told again and again that her intuition and spirituality did not fit into a serious art practice, and she had been looking for a space to bring art and spirituality together.  Momus, September 3, 2019


Judy Chicago says, ‘I was being erased’ from Southern California art history.  At the age of 80, the career of Judy Chicago is finally being revisited in its depth and its breadth. Last year, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami featured a three-decade survey of her work. This month a new series by the artist, devoted to mortality and extinction, will go on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. And next spring the De Young Museum in San Francisco will host her first career retrospective.  Los Angeles Times, September 9, 201. 

Mayor Bowser’s Office Attempts to Seize the Arts Commission’s Art Collection. Last Friday, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office took steps to seize the art collection held by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities by locking commission staff out of the agency’s vault of public art, escalating a heated showdown between the mayor and the city’s arts administration body…The stewardship of the city’s arts collection appears to be up in the air. In response to questions about the incident, the mayor’s office provided a statement. “The art collection is the property of and insured by District of Columbia Government,” says Chanda Washington, director of communications for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain these valuable assets and their rich cultural history.”  Washington City Paper, September 5, 2019

New York

Heatherwick hits back at Vessel critics and defends Hudson Yards Designer Thomas Heatherwick has defended the controversial Hudson Yards development in New York City, saying people “shouldn’t underestimate what it takes” to build public spaces with private money. Heatherwick, whose Vessel structure sits on a raised plaza at the heart of the Midtown development, addressed criticism of his project and the wider development in a talk with Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs in Los Angeles last week.  Dezeen, September 9, 2019


William Blake review – blazing heresies from the artist who blows Constable and Turner away.  The poster for Tate Britain’s exhibition of William Blake uses the three Rs to sell this icon of the Napoleonic age to the turbulent Britons of 2019: “Rebel, Radical, Revolutionary.” It may seem an over-eager attempt to contemporise him – but Blake was all these and more. You could add pacifist (albeit a militant one who once got arrested after a heated debate with a soldier) and anti-racist, for as Blake’s devastating portrayal of a hanged slave in this show illustrates, he passionately protested against Africa’s subjugation.  The Guardian, September 9, 2019


A Vast Bauhaus Museum Opens in the German City Where the Famous Art School Came of Age.  The competition-winning design of the vast Bauhaus Museum Dessau is a far cry from Gropius’s landmark Bauhaus Building, or the Masters’ Houses a mile away. The young Spanish practice addenda architects’s building resembles a not-quite-welcoming bar overlooking the city park in the small East German town, which has been wrecked by the post-wall exodus of industry and many of its younger generation.   Built in less than three years, on a budget of €28 million ($31 million), the museum building is a 393-foot-long glass block overlooking a city park.  Artnet News, September 9, 2019


Why a Plan to Redefine the Meaning of ‘Museum’ Is Stirring Up Controversy.  As the institution’s role evolves, a universal definition of museum has become the subject of heated argument. In fact, while the International Council of Museums’ Extraordinary General Assembly — a United Nations-style body for museums, in which 119 countries are represented — was supposed to vote on the matter over the weekend, the vote was postponed after “profound and healthy debate,” with little clarity as to when it might be rescheduled… The proposed new definition, which may be amended before another vote takes place, describes museums as “democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures,” with a goal of contributing to “human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.” That’s a departure from the current ICOM definition. Last updated in 2007, it states that a museum is a “non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society” with traditional functions such as acquiring, conserving, researching, communicating and exhibiting.  Time Magazine, September 9, 2019



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