Wednesday, November 21, 2007

arp s art

A sculpture by Michalis Kallimopoulos. (Courtesy of Nees Morfes gallery.)

When taking the elevator up the Rex Theater, one may be slightly confused by the sound of laughter that seems to come from the auditorium. For a moment, you may think that you have arrived late for a performance that is already under way. In fact however, this is not live laughter coming from the auditorium but recorded and used in the acoustic installation of artist Kostas Ioannidis. He is one of the artists participating in "Common View" a new project that brings contemporary art to the Rex, one of several premises of the Greek National Theater. Initiated by Yiannis Chouvardas, director of the Greek National Theater, the project explores the common ground between the visual arts and the theater. It hopes to expose theater audiences to the medium of the visual arts and create a different context for understanding both the visual arts and theater.

Ghislaine Dantan and Eleni Koukou, the two curators who were invited by Chouvardas to design the project, have planned three successive exhibitions for the Rex which will stretch through to the end of May. They have chosen artists whose work borrows elements from the theater or performance. They have also shown a preference for site-specific projects, performance art or video and audiovisual installations. The majority of the works are special commissions made for the particular project.

A video still from '59 Positions' by Erwin Wurm. (Courtesy of the artist.)
The first exhibition, which will run to January 6, is an elegant and carefully designed display arranged along the building's staircases, in the foyer and cafe. Designed to be seen during the performance's intermissions, it includes works that are not imposing or tiring to the viewer but which nevertheless can make an immediate and lasting impact. It is a tight, unpretentious and conceptually solid exhibition, not a bland or decorative arrangement of works.

It is also an exhibition that includes some high-standard art. One of the best works is "Drama Queen," a video by the Berlin-based team of Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen is Danish and Ingar Dragset Norwegian). The video which was first presented at this year's Munster sculpture project (a reputable public sculpture exhibition that takes place in Munster once a decade) shows a play in which the protagonists are not people but seven actual sculptures. Andy Warhol's "Brillo Box," Jeff Koons's stainless steel "Rabbit," "Four Cubes" by Sol LeWitt, "Walking Man" by Alberto Giacometti, "Elegy III" by Barbara Hepworth, "Untitled" by Ulrich Ruckriem and "Cloud Shepherd" by Jean Arp are each transformed into a human character. The character-sculptures articulate thoughts that reflect the mind-set of the artist that made them or the culture of each period. There are also amusing, witty dialogues that make indirect, clever comments on modern and contemporary art. Because the video is around 40 minutes long, it is best seen during a separate visit.

"Common View" also includes six videos from the well-known "One Minute Sculptures" series by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. The videos show small happenings in which the artist engages in bizarre, humorous acts that imitate routine, everyday habits such as putting on one's clothes. The videos are shown on the building's staircase landings and can be seen all together from the theater's cafe area. As with the video by Elmgreen & Dragset, Wurm's videos are works with a performative aspect.

The most eye-catching works of the exhibition are the large sculptures by the young Greek artist Michalis Kallimopoulos. Painted in white, the plaster-like, huge, grotesque-looking busts have something exaggerated, almost theatrical about them. They somehow bring to mind the busts of actors that are sometimes placed in traditional theater-houses. The characters that Kallimopoulos depicts bring to mind Greek life in the 1950s or 60s: They include a grouchy old man or the elderly female character of the "Auntie." They personify aspects of Greek mentality that are rooted in the past but still persist � for example the dominating female figure or the constant complainer.

Seen against the old-time architecture of the Rex, Kallimopoulos's sculptures appear even more vivid. Indeed, in "Common View" one may find that the building's interior architecture complements the works and helps bring out their different aspects. The opposite is also true: The actual art enlivens the space and introduces a contemporary feel to it. Dantan and Koukou plan to use the building's interesting architecture to its best effect. In "Common View," the theater's architecture becomes a stage for art. Theater becomes a context for viewing art and art for appreciating theater. With the proliferation of artistic, cultural and educational centers in the nation's capital, the upcoming modern and contemporary art fair artparis-AbuDhabi will be one of the most important events of its kind in the UAE, and the region.

The four day event, which takes place from November 27-29 at the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. artparis-AbuDhabi is being organised in partnership with Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) and Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC).

In the words of His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH): "artparis-AbuDhabi is an important component of our wider cultural and economic developments in Abu Dhabi, which also include the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island and its museums, art academies, art centres and creative industry clusters. Through these initiatives, we aim to bring culture and the arts closer to education and public life and to position creativity as an active driver in our human, economic and industrial development."

"We chose to have an art fair in Abu Dhabi because it naturally links the artistic and financial sectors in a mutually beneficial alliance, thus bringing the synergy that we wish for between culture and economy, and between human and urban development," he added.

artparis-AbuDhabi aims to provide artists in the Arab world with a unique opportunity to initiate and develop ties with important players from the international art sector, and to energize the Middle Eastern art market and cultural industries through a dedicated program of events and activities including exhibitions, networking events, educational workshops and courses and special tours of local art galleries and art and culture institutions.

"artparis-AbuDhabi aims to create an atmosphere of cultural understanding and a meeting and exchange place for artists and art lovers," said Caroline Clough-Lacoste, the fair Director. "The fair is a significant milestone for the UAE art community because it is an excellent opportunity to expose their artists to an international audience. Their art works will be on sale and are expected to draw in a large audience of enthusiasts and art lovers from the region."

With over 700 artists participating at artparis-AbuDhabi and 47 galleries, from 17 different countries, including Asia and MEA, the range of modern and contemporary art is as wide as it is diverse. While painting is the dominant form on display, photography and sculpture will be also be exhibited to emphasize the varying trends in art over the last century.

The special program developed around the art fair aims to foster local knowledge about, and sensitivity and appreciation for the visual arts.

- Paris-Sorbonne-Abu Dhabi Conference:
Paris-Sorbonne-Abu Dhabi University in conjunction with artparis-AbuDhabi, will present a conference by Serge Lemoine, Director of Paris' Musee d'Orsay, about the history of modern and contemporary art.

- Sotheby's Institute of Art Course:
Sotheby's Institute of Art � London will present a three-day intensive course including subjects such as: Modern and Contemporary art history, collecting art and investing in art. Aligned with Art Paris-Abu Dhabi, the course offers special lectures, panel discussions with guided visits to the Fair by experts in the field, gallery directors, dealers and leading institutions. In addition to focusing on modern and contemporary art, the participants will gain a strong foundation in researching and analysing the art market.

- "Art red and Blue" Exhibition:
The Gmurzynska Gallery from Zurich will exhibit a monumental sculpture by Robert Indiana entitled "Art red and Blue" at the entrance hall of the Emirates Palace constituting one of the powerful elements of the art fair.

- "Signs and Calligraphy" Exhibition:
In parallel with the fair, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage will present an exhibition, organised by Lebanese art specialist Amal Traboulsi, showcasing artists from the Arab world. The exhibition will focus on the theme of "Signs and Calligraphy", which are particular to traditional forms of art that have emerged from the Middle East and North Africa. Calligraphy has long been associated with the Islamic world and is an esthetical representation of religious expression, holding meaning in a unique artistic genre. The Director General of ADACH, Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, said: "Through this exhibition, we aim to give homage to the artists of the classical calligraphy tradition and to showcase the work of others, who practice a more modern form of calligraphy and who experiment with its form while still relating to the long standing tradition that they descend from."

- Pleyel Pianos Performances and Exhibition:
Another highlight of ArtParis-Abu Dhabi will be an exhibition of the latest creations of Pleyel pianos. Pleyel is the sole manufacturer of pianos in France and the oldest in the world.
For the past two years, Pleyel has participated in the artparis exhibition in Paris. The company has thus had the privilege of being amongst the select few who inaugurated the Grand Palais, even installing a Café Pleyel there last March. This year, Pleyel pianos will follow artparis to Abu Dhabi, where they will play at the Blue Lounge of the Emirates Palace.

- Art- Paris Abu Dhabi: Organised by leading European art specialists, artparis-Abu Dhabi takes place at the Emirates Palace Hotel from November 26 to 29. The artworks that will be shown during the event include works by greats such as Karel Appel, Arman, Jean Arp, Jean Michel Basquiat, Daniel Buren, Christo, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti, Keith Haring, Robert Indianna, Yves Klein, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Kasimir Malewitsch, André Masson, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Soulages, Kees Van Dongen and Andy Warhol, among others.

- Created in 1999, artparis is an international fair dedicated to modern and contemporary art, which takes place in March of each year, in the heart of Paris, under the elegant glass roof of the Grand Palais, a prestigious location of French culture.
Approximately 100 French and international galleries present a large panorama of international artistic creation from the 20th and 21st centuries. Although painting remains the most significant medium at the fair, sculpture and photography are also represented.

- ADACH's mission is to promote culture and arts throughout the region Abu Dhabi, and its association with the NYFA, ADACH will support artistic talent and create an environment conducive to a strong cultural and artistic industry expression. ADACH hopes that this initiative, along with other projects, such as the Middle East International Film Festival, will be on par with the international community and also encourage a stronger cross-cultural dialogue and understanding between nations.

- TDIC & Saadiyat Island: Saadiyat Island is being developed by the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), an independent public joint stock company of which Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is the sole shareholder.
The island will be home to the world's largest single cluster of world-class cultural assets including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi designed by Frank Gehry, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, the Maritime Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, a performing Arts Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, which is currently subject to an international design competition. Saadiyat Island, will also include seven highly individual districts with hotels, marinas, golf courses, beach-fronts, civic and leisure facilities, and luxury residential areas.


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