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Friday, 19 June 2009

Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro, London

Installation is one of my favourite art forms. Depending on the work it can embody the space, enhance it and inevitably change it in some way. Thinking about the natural world versus the built environment led me to follow up Victoria Miro’s press release on Yayoi Kusama’s three giant pumpkins that will be on view for about a month this summer. The new giant dotted pumpkins will be installed in Victoria Miro's canal side garden to mark the 80th birthday of Japan's most revered contemporary artist.

Yayoi Kusama - whose legendary career spans six decades - celebrates her 80th birthday this year. To mark the occasion, for the first time in London, three new pumpkin works will be on display. Situated in the gallery's canal side garden the sculptures will be presented alongside her permanently installed iconic piece Narcissus Garden (1966-).

Kusama's acclaimed presentation in the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993, which consisted of a mirrored room filled with tiny pumpkin sculptures in which she sat in colour coordinated magician's attire - marked the beginning of the artist's preoccupation with the pumpkin motif. Following the Biennale she went on to produce a huge, yellow pumpkin sculpture covered with an optical pattern of black dots. This pumpkin came to represent for her a kind of alter ego or self-portrait and remains one of her signature series of works.

Kusama is a fascinating artist; the fact that her career has lasted over 60 years is a testament to the longevity of her work. I am amazed that in Novemvber 2008, Christies New York auctioned her a piece of her for $5,100,000. The hightest sum ever paid for a living female artist’s work!

Another fabulous Japanese artist is Yoshitomo Nara. His last work in the UK was at BALTIC, A-Z project.

Yayoi Kusama: Outdoor Sculptures runs at Victoria Miro from 23 June until 25 July. Opening hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 6pm.

Image credit (c)Yayoi Kusama courtesy of Victoria Miro

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The First City of Film: Congratulations Bradford!

Beating Los Angeles, Cannes and Venice on 12 June Bradford became the first ever UNESCO City of Film.

Revealing pride for his home-town, Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy said of the award: “This is superb news for Bradford and is testimony to the City’s dedication to the film and media industry. Not only has Bradford played a crucial role in the story of cinema and helped shape its history, it has inspirational plans to enhance its future relationship with film, which will benefit both the local community and the industry at large.”

The UNESCO award (United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) means that Bradford is now part of the Creative Cities Network.

The only other two UK cities awarded UNESCO status, are Edinburgh City of Literature and Glasgow City of Music. Designed to promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and developing world, this important award promotes the shared interest of Bradford and UNESCO in the mission towards cultural diversity.

One crucial component to Bradford’s success is the city’s film festivals. These encompass the length of breadth of film making, with Bite the Mango, Bradford International Film Festival and Bradford Animation Festival showcasing shorts, feature-films, documentaries and animation from every corner of the globe.

Aesthetica was present at Bradford International Film Festival 2009, where we chatted with festival director Tony Earnshaw about his personal highlights of the festival and the importance of festivals to independent film. For a further overview of film festivals on a global scale, take a look at the Aesthetica ‘Film Festival’s at a Glance’ feature, which covers the best of contemporary and classic film from Munich to Cambodia

Bradford’s City of Film bid was chaired by Bradford-born Steve Abbot, producer of films such as “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Brassed Off”. If you want to emulate Abbot’s success, why not try your own hand at filmmaking? The current issue of Aesthetica has a step-by-step DIY guide penned by leading industry insiders Shooting People and Branchange Festival Programmer Philip Ilson. Here at Aesthetica, we are committed to supporting independent film making, and host a new short film every month on our homepage – courtesy of Shooting People.

If part one of our DIY Film Guide has sparked your creativity, our August-September issue is set to be essential reading. We’ll be bringing you the second part of our how to’ guide – with tips on how to promote, distribute and just get your film seen!

Image Top: Awayday

Middle: Steve Abbott producer and chair of the Bradford City of Film Board and Simon Beaufoy Oscar winning screenwriter

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Marcus Coates Wins the Daiwa Foundation Art Prize

You might remember the cheeky image that was on the cover of the Feb/March issue this year? A man in super cool shades, a hare jumping out of his retro Adidas jacket and a badger on his head? Well, that was Marcus Coates who was one of the artists involved with Nicolas Bourriaud’s exhibition as part of the Tate Triennial“AlterModern” which finished on 26 April at Tate Britain.

Bourriaud argues that post-modernism is over and that it’s a term which is no longer relevant in today’s world. Coates’ film, installation and performance art focuses on the relationship between humans and other species. His work has received international acclaim.

Being one of the featured artists in this high profile exhibition really sets the stage for Coates’ contributions to the debates in contemporary visual culture. He was selected from an impressive shortlist. The Daiwa Foundation Art Prize was launched this year to introduce British artists to the Japanese visual arts scene. As well as receiving £5,000, Coates will be going on to Japan for his solo exhibition at Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo.

Jonathan Watkins on behalf on the judging panel: ‘Coates has emerged as an artist with a distinct an extraordinary vision. He is making work now which is better than ever.’

The prize has been a resounding success, with nearly 900 applicants from across the UK. The prize, as well as providing a unique opportunity for artists wanting to establish themselves overseas, helps to further consolidate Anglo-Japanese relations in the arts. The shortlisted artists include Adam Dant and Bedwyr Williams; will be exhibiting their work at the Daiwa Foundation Japan House Gallery in London until 17th July.

Coates is an exciting artist making real contributions to contemporary art, introducing new concepts and themes while at the same time encouraging us to re-think our standard views.

Members of The Judging Panel were:

Jonathan Watkins (Chair): Director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

Mami Kataoka: International curator who works with both The Hayward Gallery, London and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.

Tomio Koyama: Owner of Tomio Koyama Gallery and collector of major Japanese and international artists.

Joanna Pitman: Art Critic for The Times and former Times correspondent in Japan.

Edmund de Waal: Artist potter, curator, writer and Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster.

Daiwa Foundation Art Prize Exhibitions London runs from 15 June – 17 July 2009 (Mon-Fri 9:30am -5:00pm. Daiwa Foundation Japan House Gallery,The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation13/14 Cornwall Terrace, London NW1 4QP. In Tokyo from 7 – 21 November 2009 Tomio Koyama Gallery

Image credit top: Galapagos Fashion (c) Marcus Coates
Image credit middle: The Plovers Wing (c) Marcus Coates

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Can't wait for summer festivals...

Finally, the sun is shining, and in these credit crunch times I’m looking forward to some fantastic free festivals over the coming months. In my mind, festivals are what make the British summer – plastic cups of warm cider, the intoxicating smell of frying onions, floppy burgers and the holy trinity of wellies, cagoule and sunburn. And rather than heading for the bright lights (and inevitable mudfest) of Glastonbury or Reading, there’s something wonderfully homespun about the assortment of local community festivals which spring up each year. As a Leeds University veteran, the city’s annual Hyde Park shindig, Unity Day, holds a special place in my heart.

Leeds’ Hyde Park area is typical of an eclectic city community, with an ethnic mix jumbled up among the constant flux of arriving and departing students, and Unity Day aims to draw this varied community together in a safe environment where everyone can have a good time. That’s my favourite part of the whole experience – the mingling of different groups, seeing children run between their parent’s legs, while student revellers boogie away to bongo drums and dubstep. There are always some great creative types, a graffiti jam, local stalls, delicious food (I’m sure anyone whose enjoyed a festival over the past few years would know that the soggy burgers mentioned above are really a distant memory) and a chance for local acts to let their neighbours know what they’ve been up to. I can’t wait to spend the day lazing on the grass, and wandering between jazz, tea dances, drum and bass, and alternative performers and I’d like to hear of any other community festivals that have earned a special place in your hearts over the years? Or is anyone else a Unity Day regular?

Bring on the summer!

Image credit: Roland Seaton

Monday, 15 June 2009

Art Basel 40 –strong results for 2009

The sentiment reflected throughout the art world has been that of the recession, cut backs and closures. It has been a tumultuous time for all; however, as Wayne Hemingway said to Aesthetica in the last issue a recession can create serendipity and variation.

Now then, how’s the art fair industry holding up? At Aesthetica we work with numerous fairs from Art Beijing, India Art Summit, Art Chicago, Glasgow Art Fair, Zoo Art Fair, Newcastle Gateshead. We know how these events work, and with Basel being 40 years old, it has already been through a recession or two, so how did it go this year?

The 40th edition of Art Basel closed yesterday having attracted 61,000 artists, collectors, curators, and art lovers from around the globe, slightly more than last year and the highest number ever. The participating galleries, art connoisseurs, and the media were unanimous in pronouncing this a strong year for the show. Art 40 Basel demonstrated the health of the high-quality segment within the art market: Collectors rewarded excellent material and strong booth presentations with unexpectedly strong sales throughout the week.

With more than 300 galleries from 29 countries exhibiting works by over 2,500 artists, Art 40 Basel was a triumph. Many artists also attended the event: Stefan Balkenhol, Matthew Barney, Elmgreen and Dragset, Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Dan Graham, Subodh Gupta, Joan Jonas, Jeff Koons, Mark Leckey, Sigmar Polke, Ed Ruscha, Nedko Solakov, Not Vital and Franz Erhard Walther. And over 50 museum groups visited, as did major private collectors from North and South America, Europe and the emerging markets of the art world.

Participating galleries displayed their most interesting pieces and presented them in carefully curated booths. Many of the stands featured thematic exhibitions and one-person shows, while many galleries presented video works, installations and large sculptures. Paintings, works on paper, and photography continued to be strongly represented. Private collectors came from all continents, as did representatives of almost all the world’s major museums. Many exhibitors reported excellent results given the current conditions, adding that they also made valuable new contacts for the future of their program, and look forward to Art 41 Basel, which takes place June 16- 20 June 2010.

Discussing their experience at Art 40 Basel, gallerists offered this:

“The overall quality of the fair really creates an energy that makes collectors excited about buying art, which has resulted in us doing solid business - not just on the opening but every day of the show.” Mark Payot, Hauser and Wirth, Zurich/London

“We came with no expectations, but it went really well for us. There were many pleasant surprises and we connected with many new people.” Tim Blum, Blum and Poe, Los Angeles

“Business was surprisingly good, which was unexpected. Art Basel still remains the best place to see clients who return for many years, and to meet new ones as well.” Monika Sprüth, Sprüth Magers, Berlin/London

“Art 40 Basel witnesses a return to the roots of the artmarket. Knowledge, sustainability and seriousness move back to the foreground and the program-driven galleries especially benefit from this phenomenon.” Mathias Rastorfer, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich/St. Moritz/Zug

“Art Basel was a huge success against sober expectations. Business was very good, and the quality of the art and all the exhibitor booths was superb.” Roland Augustine, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

“Art Basel has exceeded all our expectations. Not just in terms of sales, which were strong, but also in terms of the joy and excitement for our artists, who were exhibiting both in our booth and in Art Unlimited. This is an unparalleled venue to expose the greater world to African art, and to introduce our artists to the most prestigious collectors and institutions in the world.” Liza Essers, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

“We are very happy and sold works by almost all the artists from our program. We could even place the large installation by Hans op de Beck at Art Unlimited with a private foundation.” Lorenzo Fiaschi, Continua, San Gimignano/Beijing/Le Moulin

“At Art 40 Basel we met the highest level of curators and collectors, and many important museum opportunities will arise from this. We feel really honoured that our artist Nina Canell was selected as a winner of the Baloise Art Prize.” Finola Jones, Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin

One of the most spectacular events at this year’s Art Basel was the presentation of “Il Tempo del Postino” at Theater Basel. All three nights were completely sold out and many art lovers extended their stay to experience this unique presentation, which many viewers aftewards described as a “historical art world event”. Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno as a group exhibition that would occupy time rather than space, “Il Tempo del Postino” (Postman Time) presented a sequential display of time based art on the theatre stage. The Basel edition of “Il Tempo del Postino” was directed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala and Rirkrit Tiravanija; each of the twenty artists - Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney & Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, and Pierre Huyghe.

See www.mif.co.uk for more info on “Il Tempo del Postino”

The recession is in full swing, but the show must go on. It’s that type of determination that keeps the art world alive and well. We know that we can’t return to the way it was before, in fact, I wouldn’t want to. I feel it’s given me a positive outlook for the future, and mended some of my careless ways. It’s a highly creative time, energized and full of opportunity – you just have to be open to it.

Aesthetica will be working with several fairs and festivals this summer, check our website for further details.


Image credit: Bruno Bischofberger

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