Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, May 12, 2020


Artists in Isolation: There Have Always Been Signs.  Since at least 2011 Douglas Coupland has been churning out pithy, pop-colored observations about a changing world. Slogans for the 21st Century began as a series of eye-catching posters used to promote a Youtube party that Coupland was hosting at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver. Against bright monochrome backgrounds, he borrowed the hotel’s Knockout-49 font to dispense all-caps aphorisms around the question: “What could I tell myself ten years ago that would make no sense to that old ‘me’?” In a post-9/11 decade that now had Facebook in it, take any interval of time and a trip would be guaranteed. 2011 alone was a year that saw the rise of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements; a tsunami hit Fukushima, triggering a nuclear crisis; a far-right terrorist attack in Norway; and Apple’s debut of Siri.  Momus, April 27, 2020

COVID-19: Emily Carr University holds online grad celebration for class of 2020. Emily Carr University of Art + Design is honouring its graduating students in this year of the pandemic with a special online website. At the class of 2020 site, grads can post special celebratory frames around their social-media photos, view congatulatory videotaped remarks by Emily Carr community members, watch a speech by university president and vice chancellor Gillian Siddall, and peruse the lists of graduating students.  Georgia Straight, May 9, 2020

Richmond, B.C.

Pan/demic (All/People).  Art is essential; we know that. But the way we have been doing it is likely unsustainable in our post-pandemic world. I was lucky, this year, to be one of 25 young artists to receive support from the Sobey Art Foundation. The jury’s decision to split the operating budget of the Sobey Art Award between the longlisted artists was remarkable—artists, jury and administration moved as a flock.  It was clear that naming an individual winner in light of the global pandemic would be counter to our needs, when so many of us find ourselves struggling to figure out what our careers now look like, and what they might look like in an uncertain future.– Lou Sheppard is currently Branscombe House artist-in-residence with the city of Richmond, BC. Canadian Art, May 6, 2020


Take a tour of artist studios with Jarvis Hall Gallery’s virtual visits. Mark Dicey laughs when asked about a particularly gorgeous photo displayed as part of Double Insight, a series of online studio visits created by Calgary’s Jarvis Hall Gallery.  The idea for the program, which launched a few weeks back, is to visit an artist represented by the gallery at his or her studio through still photographs and explore “the sacred place where creative life and creative process coexist.” As with many galleries in the city, it has become a way for Jarvis, which specializes in contemporary Canadian art, to stay connected with its roster of artists and the art community.  Chronicle Herald, May 7, 2020


All set up with no place to show: COVID-19 robbed these art students of a chance to show their work.  It was supposed to be their time to show off.  Every spring, graduates from Toronto’s post-secondary art programs exhibit their final thesis projects at galleries across the city.  The largest of those exhibitions is GradEx at OCAD University, which would have seen 800 students present their work to an estimated 45,000 visitors in late April. Gallery 1313 was also scheduled to host several intimate shows from master’s degree students from OCAD and York University. The Parkdale artist-run centre squeaked in one show of York painting and sculpture in early March before all public gatherings were shut down to help curb the spread of COVID-19.  Canadian Art, May 11, 2020

Carlos Bunga’s ‘Occupy’ — art that keeps us apart while bringing us together. Carlos Bunga’s new work, at Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art, seems to be made for our times — the strong, visual image evokes a sense of us all staying apart while still being together.  But Bunga created this piece even before the COVID-19 social distancing we’re all experiencing. He methodically organized hundreds of standard packing boxes into a vast grid covering a significant portion of MOCA’s second floor.  Bunga’s work encourages us to situate ourselves within art, and thereby, the conditions of the present.  Toronto Star, May 8, 2020


Artists in Isolation: Nadège Grebmeier Forget’s “Some Kind of Game”  Live on Facebook from the artist’s home-studio on a March afternoon, Nadège Grebmeier Forget disgorged an urgent, spontaneous, and cathectic release of maximalist body art, evoking femininity, isolation, and the mediating screens between us. She performed a kind of tarantella, a dance-and-shake for indefinite time, meant to prevent death by infamous disease. Momus, May 5, 2020

Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories

House Call: Margaret Nazon.   Margaret Nazon lives in Tsiigehtchic, a remote Gwich’in community near the Mackenzie River south of Inuvik. She makes vibrant beaded works of the galaxies based on photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. Galleries West, May 8, 2020


Victorian Mothers Hid Themselves in Their Babies’ Photos.  It’s taken for granted nowadays that mothers can photograph their little darlings anytime they like. Capturing every sweet, mischievous expression that crosses a child’s face is made easy by the smartphone camera always within reach. This is, of course, a recent development in motherhood.  Consider instead the hidden mothers of 19th-century photographic-portrait studios, when long exposure times meant moms had to find a way to keep their little ones sitting still long enough to be seen, while also fading into the background themselves.   The Atlantic, May 10, 2020


The CDC’s Misappropriation of a Chinese Textile, and Why It Matters.  The cover of the May 2020 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal stokes xenophobia against Asian-Americans by identifying COVID-19 as a Chinese disease.  Hyperallergic, May 11, 2020

Millions of historic newspaper images get the machine learning treatment at the Library of Congress.  Led by Ben Lee, a researcher from the University of Washington  occupying the Library’s “Innovator in Residence” position, the Newspaper Navigator collects and surfaces data from images from some 16 million pages of newspapers throughout American history.Techcrunch, May 7, 2020

New York

The Gray Market: Why America’s Art-World Shutdown Is Reaching a Breaking Point (and Other Insights).   [In the state of New York] museums and other art institutions are currently grouped among the businesses that will only be permitted to reopen during the fourth and final phase of the recovery process. That places them alongside schools, gyms, and other centers for education and recreation—a categorization that doesn’t necessarily compute based on square footage or visitors’ activity within it.  But even if arts institutions succeed in lobbying the state for inclusion in an earlier phase of the economic thaw, as some are hoping to do, another danger looms. Artnet News, May 11, 2020

‘You can’t exactly walk a picket line in a pandemic’: New York union leader Maida Rosenstein on the crisis for museum workers. Last week, the Museum of Modern Art’s director Glenn Lowry spoke with other institutional leaders about the cuts the museum would make to its staff and programming as it looks to reopen in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, at museums across the country, the fallout from coronavirus has already spelled doom for freelance and contract workers. We spoke to Maida Rosenstein, the president of United Automobile Workers Local 2110, the union that represents hundreds of employees at New York museums, including MoMA, the Whitney and the New Museum, about what the organisation has been doing to maintain jobs for its members.  The Art Newspaper, May 11, 2020

Cyclical Gods: Reliving Pandemic.  I arrived at the opening of Sanctuary, artist Chen Dongfan’s first institutional exhibition in New York City, overcome with a profound sense of disorientation. It was January 30th and I was still jetlagged, having returned only two days prior from China, where the COVID-19 epidemic had steadily escalated into a national emergency. The deeper dissonance, however, sprang from the perceived normalcy – an art opening packed with friends and guests – while my memories of the nationwide pause were still vivid. Momus, May 7, 2020


Close your eyes and imagine seeing the art world’s treasures as if for the first time.  I am cursing my bad luck not to be stuck in lockdown in the Prado. A friend wishes she had stowed away in a closet before they bolted the doors of the National Gallery. Others would give anything for a week in the Rijksmuseum, a day in the Uffizi, an hour with Rembrandt or Vermeer, even just a few minutes with a Samuel Palmer moonscape in the Ashmolean or a Turner sunrise at Tate Britain. Museums are places of the heart. The Guardian, May 9, 2020

Vatican City

Want to See Michelangelo Again? The Vatican Museums Are Reopening Next Week, But You’ll Need a Mask and Temp Check to Enter.  What will reopening look like for the Vatican Museums, which have been closed since March 9? Mandatory face masks, temperature checks at entry, and strict social distancing requirements.  As Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the ongoing global health situation, continues its recovery, the nation’s museums are preparing to welcome the public beginning May 18 as part of phase two of its reopening. The government shuttered all museums on March 9 as the outbreak swept the country. The new normal won’t look much like the old one. The Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism has drawn up guidelines requiring advance reservations for museums, with all tickets being purchased online. Inside the galleries, social distancing will be a must.  Artnet News, May 2020


Isolating but not isolated – a photo essay of lives in lockdown.  In these strange, suspended times, a camera and lens can be an emotional bridge from one person to the next. As a film-maker you become reliant on the manic energy of shooting and the warmth of your community – crews, actors, colleagues or subjects – to keep you buoyant. Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of photos instead – through open doors and from the other side of the windows, respecting physical distancing – to try and capture the faces of friends and colleagues locked down inside their homes. – Rhys Graham. The Guardian, May 9, 2020


Museums and COVID-19: 8 steps to support community resilience.  Cultural and creative sectors are among the most affected by the current coronavirus crisis, and museums are no exception. We acknowledge the manifold challenges faced by museums and museum professionals during this time and urge policy- and decision-makers to rapidly allocate relief funds to ensure the sustainability of museums. In that regard, ICOM published a statement that is now available on our website. ICOM News, Apr. 29, 2020.  See also: COVID-19 Resources & Information for the Museum Field  American Alliance of Museums, May 2020 and Caring for Heritage Collections during the COVID-19 Pandemic Canadian Conservation Institute Notes, May 2020



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