Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, March 24, 2020


Shuvinai Ashoona.  Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona wears high heels when she draws.  This is one interesting thing I learned at Ashoona’s exhibition, Mapping Worlds, at the Vancouver Art Gallery.   But there are plenty of other fascinating aspects to her extraordinary work.   As curator Nancy Campbell explained at the show’s preview, before the gallery’s temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashoona treats her creative process like a job, arriving at 9 a.m. at the Kinngait Studios in the Nunavut community formerly known as Cape Dorset. She draws until 5 p.m., with a break for lunch, and then heads home… Ashoona’s drawings are incredibly beautiful and closely observed, but also funny. Idiosyncratic details fill every corner. Squid monsters attack like whirling dervishes, women give birth to planets, and multi-coloured bears pile atop each other into a mountainous rug pile, much like a Playboy mansion fantasia run amok.  Galleries West, March 20, 2020

You Can Get Lost Inside This BC Gallery’s Virtual Tour De Force Go adventure, right from your couch. You’d be surprised by all the free on hidden experiences around town that you never knew about. The next time you are bored at home, you can enjoy a virtual tour of the Vancouver Art gallery and see one of its most colourful and unique exhibits in recent years… Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Vancouver Art Gallery is currently shut down until further notice.  But you can wander the halls and see breathtaking colourful masterpieces with a click of your mouse.  Online you can visit the spectacular Douglas Coupland exhibit that happened in 2014. You’ll be able to spend as much time as you’d like looking at the artworks by the legendary Canadian artist that explores themes about modern life.  Narcity, March 18, 2020.

Forget livestreaming: artist Erica Stocking uses a phone to reach isolated audiences.  In the face of her play being postponed at the Contemporary Art Gallery, sculpture, installation, and performance artist Erica Stocking is asking audiences to dial in to an audio conference call.  Whereas other performers, from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to Dan Mangan, are opting for livestream, the artist is instead turning to the good, old-fashioned phone.  Stocking is an Emily Carr University of Art + Design grad and former Vancouverite who now lives in Toronto. She’s calling the work The Artist’s Studio Is Her Bedroom: a choreographed statement of autobiographical art making, an open rehearsal that listeners can dial into from the comfort and safety of their own homes in this time of COVID-19 social-distancing.  Georgia Straight, March 19, 2020


Calgary’s Glenbow Museum creates at home access to art during COVID-19 closure.   The doors to Calgary’s Glenbow Museum were closed on March 13, due to COVID-19 concerns — but that doesn’t mean the public can’t access the artwork inside the building.  Glenbow Museum launched its first Glenbow from Home exhibit on Wednesday. The website allows audiences to go online and virtually view exhibits inside the museum.   Global News, March 23, 2020


Floating Pink Cloud.  It’s hard to look at the news these days without coming across the word crisis. Be it climate, refugees or COVID-19, a profound sense of global upheaval permeates our lives. The torrent of headlines can throw our day-to-day struggles into perspective, making them seem insignificant or downright immaterial.  That’s what makes Alysse Bowd’s interdisciplinary performance-based exhibition, Floating Pink Cloud, which opened recently at Harcourt House, an Edmonton artist-run centre, both countercultural and captivating… Floating Pink Cloud was scheduled for Harcourt House in Edmonton from March 6 to April 18, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 crisis many galleries have closed temporarily.  Galleries West, March 20, 2020


Resonant Signals.  A national survey of 10 artists who find new meaning in networks of change (by Joni Low).  Canadian Art, March 23, 2020

Galleries Close Across Western Canada.   An unprecedented wave of gallery closures – most recently the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Remai Modern in Saskatoon – continues to sweep across Western Canada amid fears over the COVID-19 pandemic…Some galleries have been promising an increased social media presence and new features on their websites, even live-streaming of virtual openings, since the wave of gallery closures began late last week. Galleries West, March 20, 2020

Tour these [Canadian] museums from the comfort of your couchCTV News, March 16, 2020


Conserving the Art and Legacy of Spain’s First Recorded Female Artist.   In 1692, the sculptor Luisa Roldán was invited to take up the post of Escultora de Cámara in the court of Spain’s last Habsburg king, Charles II. A well-established artist long before her court appointment, Roldán’s sculptures were commissioned by Spanish aristocrats and royalty and her works were widely circulated — they were sent to Mexico and England during her lifetime. She was Spain’s first recorded female artist, learning the craft from her father, the sculptor Pedro Roldán. Luisa Roldán is easily the most famous sculptor you’ve never heard of. Hyperallergic, March 16, 2020


Art Trip: Care for Canadian women artists? Buy more work by them. About two years ago, the Canadian Embassy in Washington conducted an inventory of the artworks displayed across its six floors. The audit showed that of the 180 total pieces assembled there, just one-third were made by women artists. The phenomenon is, sadly, typical of many institutional art collections, both at home and abroad. Fortunately, for institutions that care to address the problem, the remedy is painfully straightforward: Buy more work by women artists.  At their own discovery, embassy staff made it their goal “to get to parity,” says public affairs counsellor Denis Chouinard. The exhibition A New Light – on view to the public through April 30 – presents 38 works by 27 Canadian women artists, drawn from the Global Affairs Visual Art Collection, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Scotiabank Fine Arts Collection.  Globe & Mail, March 18, 2020

American Alliance of Museums Asks Congress to Allot $4B for Nonprofit Museums.   As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the cultural sector battles unprecedented financial blows, with major museums across the world indefinitely shutting their doors to visitors in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus. In a letter dated yesterday, March 18, museum leaders across the United States wrote to US Congress and Senate leaders requesting Congress allocate at least $4 billion to nonprofit museums in the United States.  Hyperallergic, March 20, 2020


Museum freelancers to sector: ‘Fight for us’  Museum freelancers are urging organisations to stand up for them as debate over supporting self-employed workers during the coronavirus outbreak continues. A joint statement from the five major sector organisations – the Museum’s Association, National Museum Directors’ Council, Association of Independent Museums, Heritage Alliance and National Trust – says measures to mitigate the virus’ spread, while necessary, means organisations will “suffer economically, placing jobs and likelihoods at risk”. It notes that “irreplaceable” collections are at risk, “as well as the highly valued work we do in engaging people in their history”. Arts Professionals, March 23, 2020


‘The city gives you the time to find inspiration’: Why Canadian artists are flourishing in Berlin.   Ask AA Bronson why he loves to live and work in Berlin, and he points out the window of his apartment. The celebrated Canadian artist and founding member of the groundbreaking arts collective General Idea lives in a spacious, sun-drenched flat in one of the poshest neighbourhoods in the city – the kind of place budding artists might picture when they squeeze their eyes shut and dream. Across the gallery-filled street is a building where some of the apartments are set aside for people living with disabilities. “Anywhere else, this would be two separate worlds,” he says. “’I love Berlin, I love the horizontal equality of everything.” Globe & Mail, March 19, 2020

Ai Weiwei: ‘An artist must be an activist’   The Chinese Berlin-based artist answers questions from Observer readers and art world luminaries on creativity and protest, Chinese politics – and why he never cooks the same dish twice…  Until the coronavirus outbreak, Ai’s design – a grid of 50 explosive devices from a 1911 grenade to a 2019 guided nuclear missile – was due to cover the floor of the Imperial War Museum London’s vast atrium, underneath the suspended Spitfire and Harrier jet, leading visitors to the spring exhibition, Refugees: Forced to Flee.  Now the exhibition is postponed and Ai says when contacted last week: “Cultural institutions are probably the last to be damaged, but the first to show how severely this can affect our understanding about art and culture, which reflect tragic human moments like this.   The Guardian, March 22, 2020


10 Binge-Worthy Art Podcasts in the Age of Coronavirus.  Many museums and galleries have closed in attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the conversation about art keeps going — and you can get your fix of the art talk (and also the gossip) through a growing number of art podcasts. Hosts include curators, art writers and artists. Here are my picks for 10 art podcasts worth subscribing to, from one in Los Angeles showcasing the music that moves local artists to another, out of Sydney, focusing on Aboriginal culture.  Including: Recording Artists, Talk Art, Awaye!In Other Words, Dr. Janina Ramirez — Art Detective, What Artists Listen To, The Sculptor’s Funeral, The Art Newspaper Podcast, Momus: The Podcast, The Lonely Palette.   New York Times, March 20, 2020

In the Time of Social Distance, Galleries Go Digital.  With today’s public launch of Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms, art lovers all over the world now have an opportunity to view works that were previously planned for the Hong Kong iteration of the prestigious art fair. (Originally scheduled to begin March 19, the fair was canceled last month due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.) To accompany your virtual visit to the fair, we’ve gathered several other online exhibitions worth checking out. While the viewing conditions may be new to some, engaging with these standout artists and artworks is well worth the learning curve as we adjust to our new normal. Hyperallergic, March 20, 2020

The Art World Goes Dark. No one knows what the economic damages will be, or how totally the art world will be remade. This is a complex infrastructure made up of people at every economic level, all but a cadre of them living precarious lives in the best of times — dependent on the patronage of the very wealthy, but not themselves secure at all…  Art will go on. It always has. All we know is that everything is different; we don’t know how, only that it is. The unimaginable is now reality.  That’s the rub. Art’s primary metaphysical building block is that which has never been imagined. This is why I can say — and know — that art will go on. The reason is that art is an advanced abstract operating system devised for imagining the unseen, gleaning the group mind, a tool to invent new protocols, experience rapture from form, explore consciousness, map reality, create constellations of unspoken communication that echo across millennia — things that never change but that are different for every person who sees it, and is even different every time we look at the same work. This is because art is the ability to embed the unimaginable in material. Creativity is a survival strategy; it’s in every bone in our bodies, and always has been.  Vulture, March 20, 2020

The Artists Who Found Inspiration in Isolation.  In somber times, art can provide a respite from reality. For a number of artists who, under different circumstances, found themselves isolated, detained, or bed-ridden, taking distance from the world provided fertile ground for creative discovery. During these days of social distancing, their stories offer a glimmer of hope.  Hyperallergic, March 20, 2020

Show business – the artists who realised a house could be more than just a home  ‘Show Sunday’, the day on which Victorian artists opened up their studios to display the works of art they were about to dispatch to the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, was part of the London Season. In 1881, however, the Art Journal noted that it was attracting the wrong kind of visitor: people now came ‘to see the studio, and if possible the live artists, rather than the pictures’… From being ‘a box wherein miserable painters hide themselves’, as Augustus John put it, the studio evolved into a space where work was displayed as well as created.    Apollo, March 23, 2020

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