our top picks for the frieze week 2015

With Frieze week getting in action and galleries gearing up for the world's attention here in London, we have continued our tradition and hand-picked our favourite 10 listings below for our followers -

1. Frieze 
Apart from the galleries booths, the sculpture park, the cafes and the queues, we recommend our followers not to forget the talks in the fair itself are also intellectually unmissable. We find the topics of these 2 sessions particularly relevant in the current climate globally and locally:  The New Museums: Coming Soon to a City Near You and Off-Centre: Can Artists Still Afford to Live in London?
We are also interested to explore the installations Rachel Rose created inside the Freize tent, which sounds intriguing from the way it was described by FT in her interview in their Weekend Magazine.

(image from Victoria Miro's website)

2. Elmgreen & Dragset at Victoria Miro Mayfair
The Scandinavian maverick duo returns to Victoria Miro featuring a new series of works that are representations of museum wall labels of other artists’ works, including David Hockney, Ross Bleckner, Roni Horn, Martin Kippenberger, and Nicole Eisenmann, among others. They are also having another solo show at Massimo de Carlo gallery called Stigma, which was shown in their Milan gallery earlier this year.

3. Ai Wei-wei at the Royal Academy
The Chinese artist has proved his celebrity artist status with his own show in the Royal Academy. Apart from his works on display, it is also the interviews he did with the press and the instagram posts and tweets he made during his visit which gives you the full wei-wei experience.

Cm_bill viola in mt rainier coffee shop 1979 photo kira perov_photoshopped

(image from Blain|Southern's website, by Kira Perov)

4. Bill Viola at Blain|Southern
Viewers visiting this show can see the predecessor of all Bill Viola's videos - one monumental installation Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier), 1979, shown for the first time since its inauguration at Media Study/Buffalo New York. In conjunction and presented for the first time ever, recordings of Bill Viola’s early sound compositions form an immersive installation The Talking Drum at The Vinyl Factory Space at Brewer Street Car Park in Soho, London. Two works are featured, The Talking Drum,1979, and Hornpipes, 1979–82, that explore the resonances of an empty swimming pool.

(image from Dominique Levy's website)

5. Gerard Richter at Dominique Levy
Another show which celebrates the earlier works of a monumental artist of our time. Dominique Levy is showing a vital group of paintings selected from the artist’s original nineteen Colour Charts produced in 1966. Presented with the support of the Gerhard Richter Archive, the exhibition is the first to focus on the earliest works of this series since their inaugural appearance at Galerie Friedrich & Dahlem, Munich in 1966.

Cy Twombly -

Bacchus, 2006–08,  © Cy Twombly Foundation (image from Gagosian's website)

6. Cy Twombly at the Gagosian new space in Mayfair
The exhibition will include as yet unseen large Bacchus paintings, with loans from the Cy Twombly Foundation and other collections. it is a tradition to open a new Gagosian gallery in Europe with Cy Twombly, apparently.

(image from a previous site-specific installation in 2014)

7. Neil Ayling at "Berloni off-site" 49 Greek Street
Ayling will present a site-specific projection across the dilapidated townhouse floor, alongside a space specific three-dimensional piece using images of the walls, ceiling and floorboards themselves. Through deconstructing an enlarged camera obscura, Ayling's studio creation here becomes fragmented to give way to a further sculpture.

(image from Gasworks' website)

8. Kemang wa Lehulere at Gasworks
Unravelling the relationships between personal and collective histories, amnesia and the archive, Wa Lehulere’s practice explores how South Africa’s past continues to haunt the present. Inspired by theatre and set design, his drawings, performances and sculptures are often conceived as ‘rehearsals’, framed by longer-term research projects about motifs such as the act of falling or the unfaithfulness of language.

(image by Ravi)

9. Architecture by Caruso St John
This year art lovers can also experience two much anticipated new spaces both built by architect Caruso St John - the Gagosian Mayfair mentioned above and Damien Hirst's Newport Street gallery at Vauxhall. You can find an article with interview of the architects by the Evening Standard here.

10. Outside London
If you haven't seen this yet, you have roughly 2 more weeks to go before it closes - Lightscape by James Turrell at Houghton Hall. It is definitely not easy to get over, given the state of railway transport in this country, and a drive from London and return will cause you half a day. But we are very sure the lights can add some beautiful memories to your Frieze week 2015, and lots of likes on your instagram as well.

stories from start-ups in the arts

organised by UP Global and Culturate
Google Campus london

Founders of start-ups in the visual arts industry share their experiences, give tips and explore the latest trends in this panel discussion on art + tech earlier this evening. The speakers include Jonas Almgren - CEO Artfinder, Bernadine Bröcker - CEO Vastari, Marcos Steverlynck - Co-founder Riseart and David Zokhrabyan - CEO and Co-Founder at ArtHome.London and Gitoon.

Below are some of the highlighted points we heard -

  • Efficiency and transparency hasn't happened in the art world much - it is now time to apply established technology to disrupt the market
  • Create 'experience' to engage and reach out to more people - e.g. art rental for "real" experience to consumers so that they can buy after rental if they like it
  • Make art accessible and affordable - create new market for art purchase and appreciation in mass public, make the market bigger
  • Follow the model of the Fashion industry to make art purchase popular online - provide good returns policy to encourage worry-free e-shopping
  • Pop up stores offline to increase accessibility
  • Social media helps the exchange of cultures, both among artists and among buyers
  • The technology to support the transactions online is a totally different platform from that to handle transactions in auction houses
  • Find out whether the buyers have affinity to the artist, or the artwork, or both?
  • Big brands in the art market is not big brands compared to the brand recognition and power in other industries
  • Museums start using new e-platforms to move inventory in archive, providing conusmers with affordable luxury through established art brands
  • Pricing is more transparent and democratic online
  • Is art an investment or just a personal decoration? Most people only buy art they truly like, and tend to not compare price as much as other commodity
  • Investors are not familiar with the new online market because it is not the usual traditional art market
  • Museums are not investing in art tech startups yet
  • Universities maybe the place to look for collaboration - students with ideas to collaborate & grow (e.g. UAL + arthome.london)
  • Digital art is shaping the future of art and the younger generation are more open to that and also help to shape what is defined as art in their generation
  • Most of the UK public money that 'support arts' only go to the venues, not the artists
  • Artists need to learn to sell their works, how to do business, what regulations are relevant - tax, insurance, etc for example
  • Artists never stop making art whether they sell the works or not
  • Artists can't afford the studio in big cities with high rent - how can artists be supported to have affordable production spaces? Big challenge but also big opportunity. If handled properly it can potentially bring the studio experience back to the customers
  • No one has a clear idea of what an art market is, someone has to define it so investors can get in
  • Artists need to build their brand & reach out to the Audience
  • Artists can see what is selling through big data, and how they can sell more maybe by making more similar or inspired works to the best-selling items, and audience can also see the growth of artists to buy those with more potentials
  • Electronic art is still way too avant-grade for common amateur buyers in the mass market
  • Authentication is a big challenge to tackle
  • 50% of sale on artfinder through mobile platform including tablets
  • Cyber security is not a big concern as art business is not big enough to attract hackers, reasonable level of security is enough
  • Different pricing models for artists online - some allows artist to make an offer of price to buy, some encourage artists to make works of different sizes which will be sold in different prices to broaden their reach to consumers with different budgets

our top picks for the frieze week 2014

​It is the week of the year here in London. Everybody suddenly becomes very cultural and talks about art. Yes, everybody.

So you want to catch up with the chat and impress people on how cultural you are? Here is our annual cheatsheet, free of charge. We would appreciate if you mention @londonart to others if they praise your insight. Thank you.

If you are visiting for the occasion, we suggest you try to take into all of the below (in no particular order) in your stay in London -

1. Sculpture Park at Frieze Art Fair
This is where everything starts, so it deserves to be mentioned year after year. A stroll in Regent's Park is an essential stop of your art week. No matter it is raining or sunny, you would be able to enjoy the wonderful marriage of horticulture, nature and art. No admission fee.

Anselm Kiefer, Ages of the World, 2014; Private collection; Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Arts. Photography: Howard Sooley / © Anselm Kiefer

2. Anselm Kiefer at Royal Academy
We attended the blogger's event from the Academy and curator Kathleen Soriano explained that site-specific works are commissioned in the show, "Yes, it’s a retrospective – 60 percent of the show is a retrospective – but the 40 percent remaining we really hand over to the artist. We want them to work with these fantastic galleries and create something that’s specific for those spaces." The very nature of Anselm's works strike one's mind because it asks fundamental questions about life. Read his interview with the Telegraph if you still have second thoughts.

3. Aiko Miyanaga at White Rainbow

4. Matthew Barney at Sadie Close

5. Tom Dale at Copperfield

6. Pierre Huyghe at Hauser & Wirth
The gallery has brought both installations as well as video works of Huyghe. The centre-piece is a disturbing piece of a masked monkey left behind after the Fukushima disaster. Huyghe's use of materials with life in his works adds another layer to the meaning of 'creation' in the hands of nature as well as the artist. 

7. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Carroll / Fletcher
First solo exhibition by the Mexican-Canadian artist, which displays 4 sound installations

8. Jan Kempenaers at  Breese Little

9. Performances Evening in DRAF on 16/10
DRAF is transformed into a stage for their annual evening of performances. Quinn Latimer & Megan Rooney, Joe Moran, planningtorock, Sarah Lucas and Eloise Hawser present new live works for a unmissable event. The gallery space is showing works by Nina Beier

10. Krijin de Kroning's Dwelling at Turner Contemporary & Folkestone Triennial
This is the first time we recommend something outside central London on our list. When it takes over 2 hours from Heathrow to the galleries in East and South London, we think it is fair to include something outstanding as de Kroning's work which is only about an hour away from St Pancras or Stratfor Intetnational stations on high speed train. And if you really take the courage to ride the train there, your would be rewarded with other amazing works of the Triennial in Folkestone or Edmund de Waal and Jeremy Deller in Margate. Here's an interview with the artist himself by Icon magazine.

More photos here on our flickr album for de Kroning's Dwelling.


And one last thing. As usual, we list the official websites of all the other art fairs in town we know here for your easy reference -

1:54 Art Fair - The African art fair in Somerset House has firmly established itself to be the place where people could go see contemporary art from the continent.

Sunday Fair - This is the satellite fair in Ambika P3 focussing in North American and Northern European galleries and artists. We love its no-frills approach, the website has only gallery listings, nothing else. You need to REALLY go to the fair to see what it's about. Now that's confidence.

Kinetica Art Fair - Kinetica moves its date from February to the frieze week this year, and change venue to Truman Brewery (probably because Sunday art fair is occupying its past base). We expect a lot of cool performances in the fair as usual, which differentiates itself from the other satellite fairs.

The Other Art Fair - Director Ryan Stainer has Polly Morgan on this year's committee to pick who should show in this fair

The Independent Artist Fair - Now tell me what's the difference between this one and the one above? Less commercial? What does that actually mean?

Art Apart - A boutique art fair from Singapore in Town Hall Hotel

Moniker - The focus is on street and graffiti art, which it labels as 'urban art'

the annual summer exhibition

by Suzanne Harb

Summer Exhibition
Royal Academy

Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy, once said; ‘a room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts’. This year over 1,200 thoughts from artists like Martin Creed and Michael Landy to unknown artists grace the walls of the main galleries of the Royal Academy. Having had to whittle down the 12,000 digital submissions would have been a Goliath task. However what remains is a look into the various disciplines that represent contemporary art today. 

Now, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition often get’s some stick from esteemed critics from the larger publications and across the board reviews are varied. What is interesting is how much discourse this annual exhibition (now in it’s 245th year) can encourage. With all those who attended making their own personal assessments as to which deserve to be labeled the good, the bad and the ugly. It is for this reason along that I love it! Due to the nature of the exhibition, it attracts such a varied audience thus opening up channels of communication between people and uniting them through their discussion of art. 

Providing a dissection of what is happening in contemporary art right now the Royal Academy is by the artists and for the artists. This is an incredibly powerful approach as it means no boundaries are put up in relation to prestige, style and approach. A plethora of current topics are tackled, it is almost like thumbing through the pages of a world new paper. Interestingly a piece titled FGM by Angela Braven is an example of how art continuously shines its light on contemporary issues. Depicting the horrors of Female Gentile Mutilation, and highlighting the ever widening divide in opinion regarding the matter, the inclusion of works such as this is vital as it highlights art fearlessness to tackle such issues head on.

What was in 1769, an exhibition open to the public was a pioneering and exciting, a notion that we take for granted in 2014. However the rooms curated in that traditional salon style are a means of acknowledging the exhibitions 18th century roots (and a technique very much needed to showcase the sheer volume of works). Gus Cummins RA was responsible for the curation of the Small Weston Room as well as room VII. Hung densely from floor to ceiling in a complex grid, works are clustered together as to produce some unexpected dialog among themselves, interesting juxtapositions and placements revealing more of a narrative.

Cornelia Parker RA has curated the Lecture Room. She has invited many high profile artists and Royal Academicians to contribute works in keeping with her black and white theme. With many artists creating new works especially for this space, she has created an exciting and dynamic cohesion of works. This room is playful yet sleek and provides a break from the busy rooms that preceded it.

While there is a great deal to take in, one drawback of the exhibition is that it is lacking in its representation of the more unusual artistic mediums. With a large percentage of the 1,262 pieces being taken up by paintings, and while sculpture does indeed stand out against the painted sea of works, we have yet to see the inclusion of performance art. In addition to this there is very little video and not near enough sculpture to be representative of the vast and varied approached to art today. While this is an important observation, I do not want it do detract form the wonderful experience it is walking through a room engulfed by art. Wondering and meandering through peoples thoughts is something very special. While you may not love everything on display the chances are you will find something that moves or amuses you. 


Further Readings -
Review: "The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: The anarchy and ecstasy returns" by Zoe Pilger for the Independent, 02.06.2014
Review: "Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, review: 'not so much old or new as exhausting" by Mark Hudson for the Telegraph, 06.06.2014
Review: "RA's Summer Exhibition: A sprawling exhibition of varying quality" by Will Gompertz for BBC Arts, 04.06.2014
Review: "First Look: the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition" by Ben Luke for the Evening Standard, 02.06.2014

degree show 2014 - Central Saint Martin . part 1

The annual degree show season has started, it's time to go spot the next super star graduates before they get affiliated with the noble house galleries.

We walked through CSM's show last weekend and found the works this year are as controversial as usual, although one would wonder how the visitors could understand the student's intention without their presence or any explanatory note most of the times. Or do they believe only the VIPs in private view evenings are worth their dedication and the general public should only appreciate their works by second guesses? It is puzzling that some artists still behave like this, and complain about nobody paying attention to their works when people give up their valuable weekend time to go see their works. We can perhaps only wish this 'tradition' would gradually change.

Here we are going to showcase a few highlights we found in the show, in no particular order and of no particular reason, since we are simply applying the same tactics as the students that do not present their works with their concepts -

2five8's installation '48 sheets' is a billboard controlled by motion sensors. The message is revealed when you walk across in front of the board.

'four letter words' by Claudia Klaus Rowland. Claudia left a comment on the vimeo page to explain her concept - please spend a minute to go read her words.

Isabella Cammareri's oriental-cross-romanticism 3D collages

Christina-Shelagh Mongelli's Gulf Prokupkin. There is a blue soldier that is en-gulfed by the black and white sea, suggesting a movement thats prone to fail as he is stuck on a rock. A rock that used to be close to the sea, a closeness suggested by its wavy shape. Yet their closeness is a reactionary one, as there is a 'gulf' between them.  An unbridgeable disparity, due to the lack of understanding.

Gwennaelle Cook's red-white-blue simple geometric exercise

Octave Marsal - Theo de Gueltzl's amazing etching on perspex

Kristian Kragelund's 220 pieces of steel forming some 70 leaning figures under the sun - he told us that the heat in a certain time of the day from the direct sunlight would make the sheets expand and adjust their balanced positions. Very interesting fact and hope there would be a time-lapsed video to reveal this happening

Ellen Rose turns kitchen towel roll into this wonderful chiffon or silk-liked fashion masterpiece with all the colourful strokes

Jack O'Brien's sound installation

Another visually stunning piece made by simple daily objects. by Majella Dowdican

Emma Vidal's intriguing sculptures are both sold

Dynamic sculpture by Matthieu Romet-Lemarchand

Poetic ceiling intervention by Valentin Dommanget

Last, we also like Sarah Jacqueline Hamilton's Mount Me which you would see a person climbing up a pile of foam when you put your eyes into the viewfinder - it's a pity that cannot be captured and reproduced here.

Full photo album here

Further Readings -

Page - Central Saint Martins degree show 2014 – in pictures on the Guardian, 21.05.2014

Page - official page for the Part 1 show

travelogue - a gallery village in singapore


Earlier this month, we have the opportunity to visit Gillman Barracks, an ex-british army  barracks tranformed into a home for many galleries, local and international.

The barracks is located in the fringe of the city centre, with an interesting mix around - business parks, starchitect residential development, academy of teachers as well as golf course. It is an initiative the Singaporean government create in the hope of competing with Hong Kong, Dubai and the likes to be the art hub of Asia.

Map showing the surroundings of Gillman Barracks - link

Directory at the Entrance of the Barracks showing the locations of various galleries and amenities in the venue

At the time of visit, a few galleries were showing works by Indonesian artists, which could be seen as a dominant emerging force in the whole South East Asian art scene given the rise of the country with 250-million population.

Michael Janssen was showing Indonesian artist Eddy Susanto's "Albrecht Dürer and the Old Testament of Java" in the gallery. Originally a graphic manifestation of Old Testament texts that were written in Hebrew, Dürer's images are recreated in Susanto's paintings with their outlines in Javanese script. This script, which the artist painstakingly wrote by hand with black ink pen, consists of the entire Old Testament, translated into the Javanese language.

In Equator Art Projects, we saw another Indonesian artist Yuli Prayitno's first solo show in the city - "Unity in Diversity: Archaeologic Excavation of the Peranakan Tionghua". The artist recovers examples of Pernanakan cultural artifacts, which he 'excavates' from dilapidated Peranankan houses. The objects, primarily pieces of furniture, porcelain and Chinese texts, are re-interpreted by the artist. In doing so, the artist makes visible the lost knowledge and wisdom of the Peranakan Chinese as a community, who form a part of Indonesia’s cultural diversity. It reminds us of Simon Fujiwara although Yuli's works are not autobiographical to himself. The fact that a native Indonesian artist dedicates his artist creation to embrace the existence of chinese culture in a country which citizens have not been always friendly with the Chinese community means perhaps the new generation has come out of the shadows of their parents. Or it could perhaps also be the fact that most artists' patrons afterall are the wealthy Chinese descendents in the region?

A unconventional show was up in Mizuma gallery with Indonesian artist Angki Purbandono showcasing 25 artworks made out of 78 scanographies featuring his 10-month stay in the Yogyakarta Narcotics Penitentiary, with the help of 20 other inmates who took part in the set up of the Prison Art Programs (PAPs) in May 2013. Although the works on the wall are shot by Angki, the contents are actually artistic creations of the prisoners.

Next door at Arndt gallery, there is a solo show "Triology" of Entang Wiharso, one of the most significant and internationally acknowledged Indonesian artists working in SE Asia today for his large scale paintings, wall sculptures and installations. His works have been exhibited extensively in various contexts: gallery shows, public and private collections displays as well as biennales and group shows in Indonesia and abroad. 

Other galleries were showing works by local artists and across the world but mainly in the region.

Fost Gallery was hosting Singaporean artist Heman Chong's solo show 'Of Indefinite Time or Occurence'. In his works, Heman investigates the relationships between image and text, examining how one is intrinsically linked to the other in his idiosyncratic manner of generating fictional narratives. 

Pearl Lam, one of the most influential buyers in contemporary abstract art, has a debut group show in her singapore gallery curated by Philip Dodd. In his own words about the exhibition, "First, this exhibition seems to me to follow on from the groundbreaking exhibition that inaugurated Pearl Lam’s Hong Kong gallery, Chinese Contemporary Abstract, 1980s until Present: MINDMAP. If that exhibition revealed just how various and strong abstract art in China has been since the 1970s, this much more modest exhibition explores what abstract artists from around the world have in common and what is it about their cultural location that makes them distinctive. In itself, this exhibition reflects a decentred art world."

In Space Cottonseed, we found Singapore-based Korean artist Lee Young Rim's site-specific "sculpture-paintings" challenging the audience's perception of "pictorial vs physical realms". Her show "Cutting into space" literally insert works into the gallery space, and together with the gallery's house-within-a-house interiors (which reminds us of Dover Street Market), create the most fulfilling spatial experience in our visit of the Barracks on that day.

Filipino artist Diokno Pasilan has a fascinating show in The Drawing Room. In 1998, after a four-year stint as the residency coordinator for the Australian Centre in Manila, Diokno moved to Perth. Living in Australia and finding objects made in local wood redefined his art practice. From there he rebuilt his personal history, autopiloting creations that take the image of boats.  This exercise in memory and association comes into play in the exhibition "S/V Locomote". As an international maritime prefix, “S/V” stands for “sailing vessel” while “locomote” adds to the essence of all boats – that they are made to proceed and eventually, to return. Also in the show is a series of paintings “Kinalawang na Larawan” (translated as corroded images) where he forms portraits out of iron dust.

Future Perfect was showing Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley. The Scottish artist's first solo show in SE Asia brings together photographic and sculptural work from the past five years, the exhibition complements Coley’s representation in the current Biennale of Sydney.

We found London-grown artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas' works were shown in Yeo Workshop. The show was his first show in Asia, collaborating with Annika Kuhlmann, manipulated the processes through which art is distributed in order to set in motion the mechanisms of social change. 

In many of these shows, we see a common theme - to seek artistic inspirations from one's cultural roots. While the more prominent market places are trading big labels with global appeal, Gillman Barracks has a feel of a little enclave with interesting treasures awaiting your discovery. We hope there would be more joint efforts from the galleries to promote the place and attract more art lovers from the city and afar to visit.


Further Readings:

Page - Gillman Barracks: Singapore's new contemporary art centre by Ellen Himelfarb for *wallpaper, 16.10.2012

Facebook - official facebook page

we are 5 today!

22.02.2009 - first tweet of @londonart

26.06.2009 - first post on london-art.net

11.01.2010 - launched facebook page

07.03.2010 - first post on weibo

08.11.2011 - launched google+ page

19.12.2011 - 10000th follower on twitter

01.05.2012 - first post on pinterest

02.03.2013 - 20000th follower on twitter

12.01.2014 - first post on instagram

22.02.2014 - approaching 30000 followers, with 27200+ on twitter & 2500+ followers on the other social networks 

Today we celebrate our 5th anniversary - thank you for all your support over the years!

The official celebration event is arranged on 01.03.2014. We would be gathering in a selected brunch venue to charge ourselves up before heading over to the Breese Little gallery, the Arcade gallery & the Victoria Miro gallery for a tour.

Interview with Ibi Ibrahim

La vie m'est insupportable lll (2013)

Ibi Ibrahim is an artist from Yemen who would be represented by the JAMM gallery from Dubai in the upcoming ART14 fair. The gallery would be showing Ibrahim's photographs from the past four years, highlighting the artist's affiliation to monochromatic compositions and featuring self-portraits alongside portrayals of young women and men, which contest a traditional Muslim space. Here's an interview with the artist -

Q1: Your photographic works would be represented in the upcoming ART14 in London. Could you tell us a little about how you discovered your interest in photography and when you decided to become an artist for this pursuit?

A: I have been interested in photography from a very young age. I have memories of escaping to our basement to look at black and white portraits. Photographs of my parents when they lived in Europe, the way they dressed and the places they went to. The portraits showed much happiness in the life they once lived. I began taking photographs at 22 and showed in a group exhibition in Yemen in 2009, my family pressured and harassed me to quit art. To them, it was considered shameful to become a photographer so I left and moved to New York. I wanted to show the struggles I and my generation encounter growing up in Muslim conservative societies and spent the next three years working on black and white photographs that aimed to touch on youth, individuality, sexuality and other sensitive topics often considered taboos in the Middle East. During ART14, and thanks to my gallery JAMM Art gallery, I will have the opportunity to display some of those pieces along with my recent self-portrait work. 

Untitled, Black Tears Series (2012)

Q2: To many people not from the region, Islamic culture does not encourage the exploration of human bodies beyond the boundaries defined by traditions. Your works are very different from some of these common beliefs. How do you see your artistic practice within the broader Islamic culture?

A: I am passionate about black and white films, in particular Arabic films from the 40s and 50s. I also enjoy Arabic colored films from 60s and 70s. In those films, you see everything. Nothing is considered taboo, nothing is to be censored. Something changed about the Arab/Muslim world. You can sense that in the cinema. Those films that were once playing in cinemas and TV stations across the Arab world are now censored. Many scenes are cut out because they're considered sinful. How can it be sinful so suddenly? The society is gradually becoming more and more conservative. If I were to produce my work in the 70s, it would have not caused such controversy like it does now – because the society would be more liberal, more cultured and more respectful of the freedom of speech, and the freedom of art. Today, I am receiving death threats on social media because of the work I am producing. It is quite depressing to see how my country and society, a society once known to be the treasure of the world when it came to art, medicine, and religions has turned. However, those threats can't stop me from doing my work - if I don't remind the Yemeni society of what we once were, then who would? 

 Yemeni Orgasm, Trypitch (2012)

Q3: You have grown up in several different countries in the Middle East. Could you share with us a few moments in life in some of these places which becomes your artistic inspirations?

A: I am more inspired by the travels I've done on my own rather than when I was living with my family. I would like to say that I was encouraged by my parents to explore art at a young age, but the reality is I wasn't. I have the Yemeni government to blame for that. After all, there are no museums or galleries in my country. If I were to show my work in Yemen, it would be done through a foreign entity such as the French, Spanish or German embassy and due to the security situation in Yemen, even those embassies began hosting less and less art events. I try not to focus on all those negative aspects, and traveling has been quite therapeutic. I am happiest when I am in Europe visiting galleries and museums. I very much dislike censorship in particular when it comes to art. In the Middle East, and as you know it is not easy to show "provocative art". It often brings me down that I can't show most of my work in the Middle East, but it is a path I choose and I don't regret it. I am happy to have a gallery that's given me the opportunity to show my work in London. This is my first time showing work in London and I am beyond excited. I hope it inspires Yemeni artists to be more courageous and daring in their work – we are in desperate need for that. 

Girl Moment, Sitara series (2012)

Q4: With the rising wealth in the Middle East, events such as Art Dubai and Sharjah Biennale are attracting worldwide attention and coverage. Do you think these events help in bringing authentic Islamic and Middle Eastern art to buyers and the general public? Apart from these commercial events, how is the general art development in the region over the last decade or so?

A: I don't think I am eligible to answer this question; after all I am not from the gulf. I sometimes envy artists from the gulf countries because they have so many resources and 
finding available. The gulf is going through a huge art thrive, and artists in all media are so much encouraged by the government to move forward and enhance their work. In Yemen, the case is different. The ministry of culture is full of corruption, and I stand with my words. Opportunities are only given to established artists who hold personal relationships with the ministry. The national museum, a governmental entity that holds historical and ancient art with over 100 years old of value is running without an archive system or electricity. It's painful that those neighboring countries enjoy this art thrive while here in Yemen the struggle continues, and it gets only worse. But then again, one cannot focus on the negative side. I am a 2.5 hour trip from Doha where I can visit MATHAF museum to see the biggest exhibition ever held for Mona Hatoum in the region. I am also 2.5 hour trip from Dubai where I can visit some of my favorite galleries and enjoy the work of great contemporary artists. I accept the reality of being in Yemen but that doesn't mean I will stay in the dark and not keep up with my surroundings. 

 Jalsat Banat, Sitara series (2013)

Q5: We know you have made a film called Sounds of Oud and it was screened in public earlier this year in New York. Could you tell us a little about it? What does its name mean? What made you consider making the film and would it be shown in London?

A: 'Oud' is a Middle Eastern musical instrument. The name of the film refers to the sound of that instrument; something you often hear when you listen to old Arabic music or belly dancing music. The film discusses issues barely spoken about in the Middle East. It's about a love triangle between an Arab couple and a friend – Do you follow your devotion or your desires? I don't want to give much away about the film, but watching the trailer should give the viewer a little idea. I obviously enjoy discussing sensitive topics in my work, and I think it's because I find no one else in my country is doing so. If no one does it, then it's my obligation to do so. It's quite challenging because I dream to create all this imaginary and fictional art work and escape reality but I find myself obligated to create art work that comments on the status of the Yemeni society today. It's something that can't be postponed – this is the time to get your message across, before people forget the recently occurred Yemeni revolution where young men and women gave their life away so the society can live with full freedom and full rights. My friend Sara Ishaq's film is nominated for an Oscar. This is the first time Yemen's name is part of such a huge event. I feel excited and inspired. If our government won't give us the opportunity we deserve, we will do it ourselves. 

The film will be screening in London this year. I will announce the dates on Facebook once confirmed.

All photos by Ibi Ibrahim

the future of photography as art

Photo 50 in London Art Fair 2014

With smartphones everywhere and instagram (we have started ours this year, by the way) becoming the de facto photo-app in every smart phone, every one is his/her own photographer telling famly, friends and strangers around the world what they want to share through the tiny micro-lenses on their phones.

Some people would wonder what would be the future of photography - would people really treat it as an art form? Or simply an aspect of everyday life no different than food and transport because it has become 'superficial'? Our visit to the London Art Fair last week provided some insight.

As usual, there is a section of the fair dedicated to photography called 'Photo 50'. This year, it is curated by Charlie Fellowes and Jeremy Epstein, Directors of Edel Assanti. With the title ‘Immaterial Matter’, the artists they have selected are linked by their use of a variety of photographic images to examine the increasingly indiscernible distinction between the digital and the material. Below we look at three of the selected artists -

Andrew Norman Wilson's works reveal the intensive, reptitive human labour behind Google's endeavour to digitize printed books. The series document errors in the conversion process, when accidental distortions of scanned images or the presences of employee's hands. It is precisely the existence of these errors showing human remains the force behind these efforts.

Nicholai Howalt applies a step on astronomical images made available to the public by NASA, making them from colour to grayscale. The process to create these images, is on the contrary to the Google book-scanning, highly automated under the sophisticated technology employed by NASA. Striping part of their attributes away, is regarded as an act of artistic creation.

Aram Bartholl's 'Greetings From the Internet' explores the crucial accucracy of WiFi codes vs the classic notion of human error. Displayed on a postcard stand, each post-it appears unique, despite the reginmented accuracy required by the Internet. It highlights the importance of physical actions in the digital world - without asking for the WiFi Code and receiving it from the other person, one would not be able to connect online and would remain shut off from the prospect of communication to others outside the immediate proximity.

It is worth noting that in many of the works selected, photography is no longer the ultimate medium of the artist creation, but an intermediate source which forms the final piece. In some cases, the photographs used in the works are not actually taken by the artists themselves. In a way, this could be what distinguishes photographic art from daily snapshots taken by all instagram users - that these works are created by artists, not photographers. True to many other art forms, people would probably judge an art piece based on the message it brings out, rather than the format, the fame of the creator or the medium it is on.

Full album set here

More on London Art Fair 2014 in future post.


Further Readings:
Page - Joe Hamilton in London Art Fair’s Photo50 Project by Nicholas Forrest for Blouin Art Info; 16.01.2014
Page - Photo50: "Most of the artists did not actually use a camera." by Tim Clark for a-n; 13.01.2014

see the world and the universe

If you are staying in town after the holiday season, and tired with all the parties, food and travel/commute, you would be glad to know that the world is coming to you here in London.

Sculpture by Yutaka Sone
David Zwirner Gallery

David Zwirner has brought three furniture size marble urban islands created by japanese artist Yutaka Sone to Mayfair.

Little Manhattan (2007–2009) - video link

Venezia (2013) - video link

Yutaka crafted these pieces from white marble, but their base treatment are not all identical. Little Manhattan and Venezia are resembling some sort of classical western sculpture base, which is smooth and round-ish. When looked from afar, they seems to be islands bursting out of the sea bed, only there isn't any water in reality inside the gallery. It would actually be quite interesting to imagine what they may be like being put inside an aquarium tank big enough to accommodate real marine life which would haunt the miniature cities in their "larger-than-life" size.

Hong Kong Island (Chinese) (1998) - video link

The Hong Kong Island piece, on the contrary, has a narrower base than the part that is "above water". Together with the shape of the island itself, it makes the piece looks very organic and from certain angles more like a treated specimen in a zoo lab or science museum. It is unclear whether the artist deliberately applies different artistic directions to distinguish the Asian city with the Western cities.

It is worth noting the official exhibition page on David Zwirner's website states that Yutaka has relied more on technology and internet than physical visits over the production period of these 3 works - "While each sculpture has developed gradually over several years, the technology used has changed significantly. For Hong Kong Island (Chinese), the artist relied on maps, aerial photographs, and frequent trips to the island. To create Little Manhattan, he added helicopter rides and an early version of Google Earth. For Venezia, completed earlier this year, Sone made almost exclusive use of the internet application and undertook only a handful of site visits."

full photo set here


Place: St Petersburg by Valery Valran
Erarta Gallery

One street away from David Zwirner, Erarta gallery which specialises in Russian art, is holding a show exhibiting paintings by Valery Valran. There are townscape paintings as well as still life portraits in the gallery.

The intimate details in Valery's urban paintings could rival that in Yutaka's island models. And there is a sense of serenity in his paintings because they look like art students practising with colour pencils to me. Of course Valery's drawing skills are no ordinary art students: just look at the shadows of his still life works in the album below. Although simple, his works could reveal the life of Russians in the USSR era - only basics like water (or vodka?) and eggs are present on the dining table. Everything is reduced to the bare necessity.

full photo set here

There are also 3 paintings on display in the gallery by Rinat Minnebaev, depicting Beijing, New York and Paris. While it is not a free-standing sculpture like Sone's, Rinat's versions of a relief map has a melancholic touch. Sone's use of white marble has a glowing effect on the cities the artist chooses to depict. While Rinat's use of gloomy earthy medium and texture, together with the choice of putting his works in a rectangular picture format, frames the cities in a reminiscent manner.

Rinat has made an interesting touch on the Beijing map - the Tiananmen Square is painted red.


Yes or Let's Say No by David Ostrowski
Simon Lee Gallery

Last, if you are bored with the material world, David Ostrowski's show in Simon Lee would lead you to a spiritual tour of the universe on the same street as Erarta. 

Walking through the gallery exploring the various canvases which are seemingly abstract and empty feels like navigating in the universe - there are little surprises in each canvas for discovery but only when you are examining them closely you would be able to appreciate them in their full effect.

In one of the paintings David has left a foot mark - some kind of humour to an artist's signature I suppose.

full photo set here

Further Readings -

Page: White City: Manhattan in a Marble Dress by Rachel Wolff on NYMag.com, 25.09.2011
Video: Yutaka Sone: Island at David Zwirner Gallery New York by Vernissage TV, 23.09.2011
Page: Valery Valran’s Mysterious St. Petersburg at Erarta Gallery London by Ellen Von Wiegand on theculturetrip.com
Interview: David Ostrowski: Yes or Let's Say No on hungertv.com, 02.12.2013