This week, a major art fair goes digital as widespread gallery closures affect our community. I also offer an art project to do (with or without your kids) while you’re all hunkered down.
As our reality is shifting every day, so must our coverage. This newsletter will be adapting slightly in the coming weeks to look at how galleries, museums, and our art community is adjusting in the midst of a global pandemic. Plus, expect more tidbits from me about things to read and check out, or art projects to do with your kids at home. Since schools are closed, I’ll be bringing some art education to you!
Having an exhibition on view during gallery closures
At first, galleries were canceling public openings and events, while leaving exhibitions available to the public, and promising sanitized surfaces and safe distances. But just days later, throughout L.A., museums and galleries started closing or switching to appointment-only.
A couple of weeks ago, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s exhibition Journeyman opened at Klowden Mann Gallery. Now the exhibition is closed to the public, but still available to view by appointment.
The exhibition features new photogravure works — a traditional method for printing photographs using plate printing — and small ceramic architectural sculptures that are set into a false wooden floor. Together, the photographs and sculptures mirror forms found in modernist and brutalist architecture. The sculptures pictured in the photographs, however, were made from trash Valenzuela found around his studio in the Fashion District. The exhibition examines institutions, public control, and class divisions — an apt theme these days.
Valenzuela explained to me, “It is interesting that my art show that talks about authoritarian structures and bureaucratic nightmares is closed during a crisis that is partially created by governments concealing information, and institutions failing to provide important services to the citizens. This pandemic makes clear that personal and collective endeavors are always interwoven much more than multinational corporations and governments want us to believe.”
On a more personal note, he explained, “I think the art world needs to embrace that they are part of the community and the working class. Staying home and closing the galleries is thinking of the good of the community. Staying home safe doesn’t mean that we, artists, stop being cultural workers. The objects at the galleries and in the market are irrelevant right now.”
Amidst the lockdowns, a major art fair goes digital
Art Basel Hong Kong is one of the largest art fairs in the world, and when it canceled due to coronavirus, that led to surprising innovation. This week, in lieu of the fair, Basel is launching a digital viewing room for its exhibitors.
More than 90% of the galleries that were meant to be part of the physical fair have agreed to participate in the viewing rooms, which were offered to them for free. Taking cues from the in-person art fair, the viewing rooms will have timed entries and early viewing for VIP collectors. There are 231 galleries participating, with a total inventory of artwork valued at over $250 million.
The viewing rooms open to VIP on March 18, and to the general public on March 20, and will run through the 25. There is talk that the viewing rooms may continue to be a part of future fairs. Creative problem-solving in a time of crisis might ultimately lead to broader accessibility for art fairs in the future.
At almost 100, an artist gets her due and LACMA closes
Rising to fame in the art world, especially for women, is no easy feat. Rising to the level of having your first solo retrospective at a renowned museum the same year you turn 100 — impossible. Until now.
Luchita Hurtado is the Venezuelan-born, Santa Monica-based artist who just hit it big. She’s 99 years old. Her big retrospective recently hit LACMA, titled “I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn.” Steve Chiotakis and I talked last week about her work, and why it took her so long to receive critical acclaim.
LACMA, however, is currently closed to the public (but they were open when this interview taped). According to LACMA director Michael Govan, they too are “currently exploring ways for digital visitors to enjoy our wonderful exhibitions and collections.” This may become our new normal for a while.
An at-home art project idea for you
So many of us have been thrust into a new reality of working from home, while homeschooling children. Making art gives all of us the space to slow down, create something unique that is less rules-driven, and practice creative problem-solving. Do this with your kids, or even on your own, as a way to reconnect with yourself amidst this panic-inducing time. This art project focuses on color and pattern. It also helps to project a more centered self into the world -- something we can all use during these times.
Based on Luchita Hurtado’s Untitled drawing (pictured above), use markers, crayons, pen, or paint to outline a simple figure in the center of a paper. Make it big, so it fills the page like the image above.
In the middle of the body, think about a word that makes you feel centered and balanced: “family,” “sister,” “hope,” “love,” “flowers,” “sky.” Whatever you want. Hurtado uses the word “Mundo” (meaning world) as a way to connect her own body with the world around her.
Write the word in the center of the body, and then choose colors that represent your idea.
Start tracing the body shape one row at a time, alternating colors, or creating a different pattern of your choice. Imagine each of these lines that you draw as radiating your energy, and the word you chose, out into the world. Keep drawing your lines or pattern until they fill up the page.