Tea with Culture

A podcast about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates at Venice Biennale 2015

Emirates Fine Arts Society Exhibition - 1981. Image courtesy of the Emirates Fine Arts Society

The 56th edition of the International Art Exhibition at Venice Biennale is on from 9th May till 22nd November 2015 (the press and VIP preview is between 6th-8th May). 

The UAE Pavilion is taking part with an exhibition titled "1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates". The exhibition is curated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation and will explore the emergence of contemporary art practices in the UAE over the past four decades, featuring over 100 works by 15 artists.  

This is the first time there will be a historical look at the contemporary art scene in the UAE, an opportunity to learn more about what kind of work was created in the early days of the UAE, way before we had commercial art galleries, a biennale in Sharjah and art fairs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The exhibition features only Emirati (mostly male) artists, Dr. Najat Meky is the only female artist amongst the 15.  

A part of me is thrilled this is happening, it will be an opportunity to showcase Emirati artists who have been around for 40 years, dimissing the perception Emirati artists only started emerging the past decade. 

But I also wish there are more female artists represented in this exhibition. I can't help but question where are their voices, where's their story and history and this exhibition. I also wonder when will the UAE Pavilion consider including non-Emirati artists, who are part of the contemporary art scene in the UAE. This is the UAE PAvilion's 4th participation at the art biennale, I hope there will be more daring choices in the future editions of the biennale. 

I am looking forward to reading the reviews about this exhibition and hear people's thoughts. Sadly I had to decline my invitation to the preview this week, but I hope to get a chance to visit the biennale later this year. 


About the exhibition:

Inspired by historic exhibitions in the UAE throughout the 1980s, the exhibition will be arranged into thematic groupings, and there will also be works arranged by artist to highlight elements of their practice, and some works will be paired to create dialogues between them. The aim is to encourage connections between works, rather than following a didactic chronology. 

1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates was conceived as a retrospective on contemporary art exhibitions in the Emirates over the last 40 years. Through an unprecedented and dense grouping of over 100 works structured to create dialogues between artists and across practices, curator Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, will show the diversity and the history of the art scene in the UAE.

“Reflecting our generation’s collective obsession with memory, many recent exhibitions have been conceived to look at the past in order to reflect on the present. For these archival exhibitions, curators travel the world to discover overlooked artists and art scenes, institutions invest in research, gathering material, and publishing texts. But how do we connect all the information?” said Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi.

“This exhibition and its accompanying publication a invites viewers to make connections directly between objects, historical archives, and the collective memory they represent. The resulting discourse is both personal and collective, and marks the beginning of a much more detailed and intensivere search project.” 

Sheikha Hoor AlQasimi’s research relied heavily on the public archives of the Emirates Fine Art Society (EFAS), a trove of English and Arabic books on visual art, theatre, and literature, as well as catalogs, photo albums and copies of Al Tashkeel, EFAS’newsletter, which has been published since the 1980s.

The Emirates Fine Arts Society is a non-profit association that was formed in 1980 in Sharjah, and has long served as a galvanizing incubator for the UAE’s art scene.


The following 15 artists are taking part in this exhibition and a look at some of the work that will be shown in Venice. 


Abdul Qader Al Rais (b. 1951, Dubai, UAE)

Abdul Qader Al Rais - Al Intithar (The Wait), 1968. Oil on canvas, 79 x 57 cm. Image provided by the artist.

A pioneer of the fine arts movement in the UAE, Abdul Qader Al Rais’s work is inspired by his Emirati environment and the Arabic alphabet. His oils and signature watercolors have been exhibited in more than 30 solo exhibitions around the world, and he has represented the UAE in many international art events. He received a bachelor’s degree in Sharia Law from the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain in 1982.

Abdullah Al Saadi
(b. 1967, Khorfakkan, UAE)

Abdullah Al Saadi - The Cavity Room, 1991. Animal bones, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

Working in drawing, photography, artist’s diaries, and found objects, Abdullah Al Saadi has exhibited both in the UAE and internationally. He received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, in 1993, and studied Japanese art at Kyoto Seika University from 1994 to 1996. In 2014, Sharjah Art Foundation presented his solo exhibition “Al-­Toubay”.

Abdulraheem Salim
(b. 1955, Dubai, UAE)

Abdulraheem Salim - Intithar Imra’a (Waiting for a Woman), 1986. Relief on brass, 183 x 92 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum.

A painter and sculptor, Abdulraheem Salim has had more than 10 solo exhibitions in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt. He received a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from the College of Fine Arts, Cairo University, in 1981. 

Abdulrahman Zainal
(b. 1951, Dubai, UAE)

Image via

Painter and sculptor Abdulrahman Zainal has had solo exhibitions at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation (1992), the Al Ahli Club, Dubai (1992), the Lancaster Hotel Hyde Park, London, (1980), and at Dubai High School (1973). He has shown his work as part of group exhibitions around the world and regularly participates in the annual exhibitions of the Emirates Fine Arts Society.

His awards include second prize for “Environment Day” (1998), second prize for “Expressive Faces” (1998), and the “Golden Dana”, Kuwait (1998). He received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Cairo College of Fine Arts in 1978, and undertook postgraduate studies at Edinburgh Fine Arts College.  

Ahmed Al Ansari
(b. 1954, Sharjah, UAE)

image via

A founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Ahmed Al Ansari’s exhibition marking the inauguration of Radio Sharjah in 1972 was the first ever solo exhibition in the UAE.

Since his solo exhibition at the Hilton Abu Dhabi in 1979, he has exhibited his work at many events, including the 21st exhibition of the UAE Fine Arts Society (2003); the 4th Sharjah Biennial (1999); the annual exhibition of Gulf Cooperation Council Artists (1994); and the 9th Exhibition of Fine Art at the Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi (1994).

He was recognized at the third exhibition of Gulf Cooperation Council Artists (1994) as a pioneer of the fine art movement in the UAE. 

Ahmed Sharif
(b. 1978,  Dubai, UAE)

Ahmed Sharif - Untitled, 2006. Acrylic on Canvas, 180 x 140 cm. Image provided by the artist.

Ahmed Sharif is a member of the Board at Emirates Fine Arts Society and served as its director from 2006 – 2008. He has participated in many exhibitions and festivals across the world since 1993. He holds a bachelor’s in Economics from the United Arab Emirates University. 

He has won many prizes nationally and internationally and has participated in the Sharjah Biennial (1997), Cairo Biennial (2001), Arab University Biennial (2001), Mahaba Biennial (2003), Dhaka Biennial (2003), Tehran Biennial (2005), and the EMAAR international Symposium, Dubai (2005). 

Hassan Sharif
(b. 1951, Dubai, UAE)

Hassan Sharif - A to Z, 1983. Collage, photographs and pencil on mounting board, 73.5 x 56 cm. Image courtesy of Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

A pioneer of conceptual art in the UAE and the Middle East at large, Hassan Sharif has played a major role in promoting contemporary art in the region through his diverse works, which include live performance, drawing, photography, multimedia, and synthetic works.

He was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society in 1980, and founded the Free Atelier at the Youth Arts Theater in Dubai in 1987.

He published cartoons in newspapers and magazines between 1970-­1979, and received a diploma of Fine Arts from Byam Shaw School of Art, London, UK, in 1984.  

He has participated in many group exhibitions and international biennials.

Dr. Mohamed Yousif
(b. 1953, Sharjah, UAE)

Dr. Mohamed Yousif - Isteeqath (Waking Up), 1984. Wooden Sculpture, 6 x 16 x 123 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum.

A pioneering artist who has made invaluable contributions to the fine arts movement in the UAE, Dr. Mohamed Yousif was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, and was Chairman of its Board of Directors for several terms.

Motion and stillness feature prominently in Yousif’s works, which have been exhibited in art events around the world.

He has participated in all exhibitions organized by the Emirates Fine Arts Society since its inception in 1979, and organized the exhibition “Exiting In” at his house in 2003. He is the former chair of the Board of Directors of the Sharjah National Theater.

He received a Ph.D. in Fine Arts from Manav Rachna International University, India, a Master’s degree in Fine Art from Webster University, Missouri in 2000, and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the Cairo College of Fine Arts, Egypt, in 1978.  

Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah
(b. 1953, Sharjah, UAE)

Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah - (left) Ta’ir (Bird). Iron, 82 x 26 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum. (right) Untitled. Steel sculpture, 50 x 23 x 35 cm. Images courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

A natural sculptor whose spontaneous works are inspired by the local environment, Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah is a member of numerous cultural societies and organizations, including the Emirates Fine Arts Society, the GCC Art Friends Group, Al Jidar Fine Arts Group, and the Al Iyab Fine Arts Society.

He has organized several solo exhibitions, and been involved in a host of local and international art events, including the UAE Fine Arts Society’s exhibitions between 1986 and 1993; the first three Sharjah Biennials (1993-­‐1997); the first GCC States’ Plastic Arts Exhibition (1989), and “Portraits”, UAE Fine Arts Society (1995).

Additionally, he participated in most of the local and international exhibitions organized by the Emirates Fine Arts Society from 1985 to 2000 in 17 countries around the world. 

Mohammed Al Qassab
(b. 1960, Sharjah, UAE)

image via

Multimedia artist Mohammed Al Qassab is a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, where he has served in several positions on its Board of Directors and founded the Outreach program.

He has exhibited in many exhibitions and his works are in the collections of Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, the Barjeel Art Foundation, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Sharjah Museum of Art.

As a representative of the UAE, he has won the gold prize twice: at the first GCC Fine Art Exhibition (1989) and at The Silver Jubilee at the GCC Art Exhibition, Muscat (2013). He was recognized by the GCC Ministry of Culture as a GCC Creative Artists in Riyadh in 2012.  

Mohammed Kazem
(b. 1969, Dubai, UAE). 

Mohammed Kazem - Tongue, 1994 (detail). From a series of 45 gelatin silver prints mounted on five corrugated boards, 43 x 43 cm each board. Image provided by the artist.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Mohammed Kazem is a conceptual artist whose works depict changes in sociopolitical and natural environments worldwide.

His work has been exhibited at the Havana Biennial (2000), Dhaka Biennial (2002), Singapore Biennial (2006), the University of the Arts, Philadelphia (2010), and at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012).

He also represented the UAE at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). His many awards include the first award for synthetic works at Sharjah Biennial (1999), and the Sharjah Biennial Award (2003).

He studied fundamentals of drawing at the Emirates Fine Arts Society (1984-­‐1987), and music at Rayat Institute of Music, Dubai (1990-­‐1991). He recently obtained a Master of Arts degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. From 1999 to 2007, he served as supervisor of the Free Atelier at Youth Arts Theater.  

Moosa Al Halyan
(b. 1969, Dubai, UAE)

Moosa Al Halyan - Horse Painting, 1996. Acrylic on canvas, 75 x 99 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Moosa Al Halyan has exhibited his work in many group exhibitions, including the second Al Banoosh Exhibition, Al Wasl Club, Dubai, (1984); the sixth GCC Youth Exhibition, Abu Dhabi, (1990); two UAE University exhibitions (1988, 1990); the annual exhibitions of the Emirates Fine Arts Society (1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990); the Teacher’s Society, Khor Fakkan, (1988); the second and third editions of the Sharjah Biennial (1995, 1997); the Arab Youth Festival, Riyadh, (1982); and the Bangladesh Biennial (1996), as well as exhibitions in Madrid, Muscat, Bahrain, and Khartoum.

He won the top prize at the GCC Exhibition, Oman (1988), and the third prize at “The UAE in the Eyes of Its Artists” Exhibition, Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation (1998).

Dr. Najat Meky
 (b. 1953, Dubai, UAE)

Dr. Najat Meky - (left) Portrait, 1982. Welded Metal, 40 x 20 x 20 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation. (right) Portait, 1982. Welded metal, 57 x 30 x 15 cm, Photograph by Alfredo Rubio, Courtesy of the Sharjah Art Foundation


Painter Dr. Najat Meky is a member of numerous cultural societies and organizations, including the Emirates Fine Arts Society, the GCC Art Friends Group, Al Jidar Fine Arts Group, and Al Iyab Fine Arts Society.

She has had many solo exhibitions, including “Distinctive Marks”, Sharjah Art Museum (2001), and other solo shows at the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi (2011), the Sharjah Art Gallery (2005), Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation (2006), Abbekos Gallery, Sweden (2007), Emirates Fine Arts Society’s Gallery, Sharjah (2007), and the Cairo Atelier (1992).

Her group exhibitions and international shows include the Luxor 6th Photography Forum, Luxor (2013); Arab Female Artists Exhibition, Sharjah (1995); China International Sculpture Symposium (2008); the first three Sharjah Biennials (1993, 1995, 1997); and the Tehran Contemporary Art Biennial (2002). Her many awards include the State Honor Award in Science, Literature and Arts (2008).

She received a Ph.D. in Metal Coins from Cairo College of Fine Arts in 2001. 

Obaid Suroor
(b. 1955, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE)

Obaid Suroor - Untitled, 1994. Oil on Canvas, 135 x 94 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Obaid Suroor is in charge of the Society’s Atelier in Ras Al Khaima. He has exhibited his paintings in numerous exhibitions. 

Salem Jawhar
(b. 1956, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE)

Salem Jawhar - Al Bee’a Al Bahriya (Marine Environment), 2004. Ceramics, 75 x 68 cm. Image provided by the artist.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Salem Jawhar has exhibited his work in many exhibitions in the UAE and internationally.  He received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, with a major in ceramics.  




Film and TV Viewing Log - April 2015 


Here's my list of films and one TV show I watched in April.  I saw a lot in the cinemas in London, which was pure pleasure for me. Said it before and will say it again, nothing beats watching a film on the big screen. Nothing. 

Stand outs: 

- Blade runner on the big screen, plus a varied selection of old and new films in London. Wrote more about it here.  

- Roman Polanski's Repulsion freaked the hell out of me.

- Lisandro Alonso's Jauja for its beaitiful cinematography. Still scratching my head thinking about the ending. 

- Stanley Kubrick's Boxes was a great insight into Kubrick's process and research methods for his films.  

- The pleasure of watching long films in the cinema (in London), Edgar Reitz's Home from Home - Chronicle of a Vision, almost four hours long and Haile Gerima's Harvest: 3000 Years, 150mins long. 

- Jamaa Fanaka's Welcome Home, Brother Charles - bizarre and ridiculously entertaining. 


Here's the complete list:



Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) ★★★★

Cycles  (Zeinabu irene Davis, 1989) ★★★ 

الإعتراف / Al E'iteraf / Confession  (Saad Arafa, 1965) ★★★

صراع في الميناء / Sira` Fi al-Mina / Dark Waters (Youssef Chahine, 1956) ★★★★

Stanley Kubrick's Boxes (Jon Ronson, 2008) ★★★★

Une collection particulière / A Private Collection (Walerian Borowczyk, 1973)  ★★★

Film of Her (Bill Morrison, 1996) ★★★

Harvest: 3000 Years (Haile Gerima, 1976) ★★★★

Diary of an African Nun (Julie Dash,  1977) ★★★

Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, 2014) ★★★★

Cry of the City (Robert Siodmak, 1948) ★★★

Home from Home - Chronicle of a Vision (Edgar Reitz, 2013) ★★★★

Welcome Home, Brother Charles (Jamaa Fanaka, 1975) ★★★

Daydream Therapy (Bernard Nicolas, 1977) ★★★

Blade Runner - The Final Cut (Ridley Scott, USA, 1982/2007) ★★★★★

Cobain: Montage of Heck (Brett Morgen, 2015) ★★★★ 

Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011) ★★★★ 

9 Songs (Michael Winterbottom, 2009) ★★★

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets (Florian Habicht, 2014) ★★★★

Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) ★★★★★ 

Le Petit Amour (Agnès Varda, 1988) ★★★

A Zed & Two Noughts (Peter Greenaway, 1985) ★★★

Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015) ★★★★  

Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007) ★★★★  

Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, 2007) ★★★ 

Elsa la Rose (Agnès Varda, 1965) ★★★ 

Murs Murs (Agnès Varda, 1981) ★★★ 

Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura / Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (Manoel de Oliveira, 2010) ★★★

Rocking Cambodia: Rise of a Pop Diva (Marc Eberle, 2015) ★★★

Good Vibrations (Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn, 2013) ★★★



Links to my previous film and TV viewing log:

January 2015 
February 2015   
March 2015  



Cinema at The Space - May 2015

This May, Cinema at The Space will explore filmmakers from the Cannes Film Festival and celebrate Cannes' special tribute this year to acclaimed actress Ingrid Bergman.  The screenings take place at The Space in Abu Dhabi (twofour54 Park Rotana Building), and free to attend, but you must RSVP in advance.

Here's the line up for May: 


Monday, 4th May at 7.30pm


London Diary - Cinema 

One of the main reasons I visited London last week was to see Blade Runner - The Final Cut on the big screen. A few months ago, BFI announced it will release the film across the UK and I told myself I must book a trip to London in April.

For me, London is always worth visiting because there are so many things on their arts and culture calendar. But during this trip, I ended up spending more time inside a cinema than gallery hopping. There were so many films I wanted to see, so I ended up watching a film or two everyday I was there. I watched a few with friends, but I also enjoyed some me time inside a cinema.

I just wish there was half the option of films shown in London can be screened in Dubai, it would make me go to the cinemas in Dubai more often. Nothing beats watching a film in a cinema. Nothing. 

What I watched and where: 

This was my first time at Barbican's cinema. I usually go there to see the exhibitions and of course admire the architecture of the place. I watched a few movies there and experienced both their big and small halls. One screening involved watching a four hour film, Home from Home, an epic black and white saga which I enjoyed watching. 

Cobain: Montage of Heck  (Brett Morgen, USA, 2015, 145 min)

Home from Home - Chronicle of a Vision
(Edgar Reitz, Germany, 2013, 235 min)

Une collection particulière / A Private Collection (Walerian Borowczyk, Poland, 1973, 14 min)


Stanley Kubrick's Boxes
(Jon Ronson, UK, 2008, 48 min)


Every time I am in London, I make it a point to watch a film or two or three at BFI. It's one of my favourite places in the city and I always said if they had a room to rent, I would be the first in line. 

Blade Runner - The Final Cut
  (Ridley Scott, USA, 1982/2007, 117 min)
In case you are wondering, yes, it was worth flying to London to see it on the big screen. 

Cry of the City
  (Robert Siodmak, 1948, USA, 95 min)

Curzon Bloomsbury
I've been to this cinema, but before it was taken over by Curzon, when it was known as Renoir Cinema. It's been refurbished and is now a stylish looking boutique style cinema. 

Jauja  (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina, 2014, 109 min) 

I'm not exagerrating when I say every scene in this film is worth framing. This is from the opening scene. Beautiful and dramatic cinematography. 
Just like the Barbican, this was the first time I watch films at Tate Modern. I'm normally there for the exhibitions only. There was a film series titled "LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema" screening that week. I watched a few, most on 16mm or 35mm film. 

Daydream Therapy (Bernard Nicolas, USA, 1977, digital video, transferred from 16mm, b/w & colour, 8 min)

Welcome Home, Brother Charles
(Jamaa Fanaka, USA, 1975, 35mm, colour, 91 min)

Diary of an African Nun
 (Julie Dash, USA, 1977, 16mm, black and white, 15 min)

Harvest: 3000 Years
 (Haile Gerima, Ethiopia, 1976, 16mm, black and white, 150 min)

Rough Trade East

I went to Rough Trade to buy something, but stumbled upon a talk with filmmaker and artist Bill Morrison and a screenings of some his short films, to promote his 3 Disc BLU-RAY DVD release by the BFI I only sat through one film as had to go be somewhere else that evening, but I plan to get my hands on the Blu-Ray DVD set soon.  


Film of Her (Bill Morrison, 1996, 12 min)


London Diary - David Batchelor's Monochrome Archive, 1997-2015 at Whitechapel Gallery

Monochrome Archive, 1997–2015, no.19 Islington, London 10/04/1999 © David Batchelor

David Batchelor (b. 1955) has been photographing his series of Found Monochromes for 20 years, white rectangles and squares encountered on walks through cities from London to São Paulo.

The exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery brings together for the first time all 500 images from this series. I really liked the way the series was displayed, as a multi-screen installation instead of your usual images hanging on a wall exhibition. 

The series started in London, but now includes images from various cities. 
No. 57 Stoke Newington, London, 20.08.02 © David Batchelor

No. 487 Pompeia, São Paulo, Brazil, 26.02.2012 © David Batchelor

While he started looking at how abstraction is embedded in the urban fabric, the series has grown into a far more personal project: a psychogeographical map of each city he visits.  

“I often feel that abstract art is the art of the city and that the monochrome is its exemplary form”. David Batchelor

Installation view of the exhibition.

There was a table display showing all or most of the slides from this series. 

Here's a video with David Batchelor discussing his series in more details.



David Batchelor's Monochrome Archive, 1997-2015 is on till 10th May 2015. 

London Diary - Tate Modern

Henry Wessel, Incidents 05, from Incidents 2012 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 406 x 508 mm © Henry Wessel, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

I didn't spend too much time looking at exhibitions at Tate Modern during this trip, because one of their main exhibitions, Marlene Dumas' The Image as Burden is an exhibition I saw last September in Amsterdam, and I didn't have time to see their other big exhibition, Sonia Delauney.

I was there to see a movie, so whilst I was waiting, I walked around all the free exhibits. Here are my highlights from that evening.

Henry Wessel, Incidents 14, from Incidents 2012 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 406 x 508 mm © Henry Wessel, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

Henry Wessel, Incidents 26, from Incidents 2012 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 406 x 508 mm © Henry Wessel, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

From parking lots and highways to suburban houses and hotel lobbies, Henry Wessel’s technically sophisticated photographs depict America’s social landscape. 

Described by Wessel as a ‘work without words’, Incidents is a portfolio of 27 photographs recently acquired by Tate, depicting ordinary moments in the everyday lives of strangers. Captured from his car, on the street, or in other public places, and taken with minimal interaction with the subject, these commonplace scenes are framed by Wessel as if they were isolated moments from a grander narrative. 

Incidents was not originally produced as a series. Instead, it emerged from Wessel’s process of returning to his archive of contact sheets and discovering connections between images taken years or even decades apart. Wessel has said that this manner of working distances him from the subjective experience of shooting.  

Nam June Paik (1932–2006) used television as an artistic medium from the early 1960s and developed a unique style of video art based on technological innovation and creative experimentation. His work altered and transformed newly found technologies. Although art and technology were often seen as diametrically opposed to each other, Paik paved a way to integrate them.  

Paik was born in South Korea and studied music in Japan and Germany. Influenced by and working alongside musicians such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and artists such as Joseph Beuys, he developed a great interest in electronic music and dada-inspired provocative aesthetics. Paik was also closely involved in the New York avant-garde and Fluxus, an informal international group of avant-garde artists active from the early 1960s to the late 1970s.

This display showcases the diversity of Paik’s practice, ranging from Can Car 1963, an early ready-made sculpture, to Nixon 1965–2002, which incorporates manipulated cathode-ray-tube televisions, and Bakelite Robot 2002, a humanoid machine sculpture. Based on his observations of everyday life and the increasing influence of mass-media, this group of works represents Paik’s visionary approach towards the future of art and his continued relevance to contemporary practice.

Dod Procter - Morning, 1926 © Tate | Oil on canvas support: 762 x 1524 mm frame: 1072 x 1832 x 73 mm
How beautiful is this painting? 
This was voted Picture of the Year at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1927 and bought for the nation by the Daily Mail newspaper.

From c.1922 Dod Procter had begun to paint a series of simple, monumental portraits of young women that she knew, utilising the fall of light across the figures to give a powerful sense of volume. The model was Cissie Barnes, the sixteen year old daughter of a fisherman from Newlyn, the Cornish village that was home to Dod Procter for most of her working life.

The popularity of this painting led to its being displayed in New York, followed by a tour of Britain from 1927 to 1929.
© Ibrahim El Salahi - Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I 1961–5
Here's Ibrahim El Salahi talking about his work and this piece.

London Diary - Tate Britain

I spent an afternoon at Tate Britain, intending to check out only two exhibitions, Salt and Silver:  Early Photography 1840 – 1860 and Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process, but ended up staying there for a few hours looking at other work. In addition to the smaller exhibitions, there is Walk through British Art, 500 years of British Art that requires multiple dedicated trips to fous on. 

Here are highlights from my visit. I also want to commend Tate's website for having great content (images, video and text) for each exhibition that I can share here with you.  

Jean-Baptiste Frénet, Horse and Groom, 1855© Wilson Centre for Photography

This is the first exhibition in Britain devoted to salted paper prints, one of the earliest forms of photography. A uniquely British invention, unveiled by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839, salt prints spread across the globe, creating a new visual language of the modern moment.

This revolutionary technique transformed subjects from still lifes, portraits, landscapes and scenes of daily life into images with their own specific aesthetic: a soft, luxurious effect particular to this photographic process.

The few salt prints that survive are seldom seen due to their fragility, and so this exhibition, a collaboration with the Wilson Centre for Photography, is a singular opportunity to see the rarest and best early photographs of this type in the world. 


In the following video, Charlie Philips discusses the exhibition and also reflects on the people and places he chronicled throughout his career and finds much in common with the photographers featured in Salt and Silver and the work they created over 160 years ago. (Warning, contains one nude image.) 

Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process

On till 17th May 2015    

Both image: Nick Waplington, Untitled, 2008-2009

This exhibition is a result of a collaboration between artist Nick Waplington (b. 1965) and the acclaimed fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969–2010).

Providing a rare behind-the-scenes look into one of fashion’s most innovative and celebrated names, Waplington’s photographs capture the creative journey of McQueen’s final Autumn/Winter collection, Horn of Plenty in 2009.

The critically acclaimed collection was an iconoclastic retrospective of McQueen’s career in fashion, reusing silhouettes and fabrics from his earlier collections, and creating a catwalk set out of discarded elements from the sets of his past shows.

Waplington’s photographs reveal a raw and unpolished side of the fashion world. Candid images of McQueen’s working process are juxtaposed with rigorously produced photographs of recycling plants and landfills to create a powerful commentary on destruction and creative renewal – themes at the heart of the Horn of Plenty collection.


Here's an interview with Nick Waplington talking about his work and his experience on this project. 

Tracey Emin's My Bed
On till summer 2016   

Tracey Emin My Bed 1998© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2014 Photo credit: Courtesy The Saatchi Gallery, London / Photograph by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Tracey Emin's My Bed is on display at till the summer next year, 15 years after it
 first came to public attention when shown in the 1999 Turner Prize exhibition. It is displayed alongside six of her recent drawings as well as two Francis Bacon paintings choses by Emin.  

Love it or hate it, it is worth listening to what Tracey Emin has to say about it and why she chose Francis Bacon's work to be displayed in the same space. 



Antony Gromley's Bed 
Permanent display 

Antony Gromley - Bed, 1980-1

I saw another bed at Tate Britain, Antony Gromley's Bed made in 1980-1. He used a double mirror-image of himself, "delineated in the hollows eaten out of layers of sliced white bread". 

Gormley used 8640 slices of Mother's Pride bread (minus those he ate in making the negative spaces), which he dried and dipped in paraffin wax before stacking and layering them to produce the final form. The volume of the artist's body is represented by empty space, the contours of which are defined by a surrounding environment composed of bread.

Referring to the inevitable destruction (or evaporation) of matter through consumption and digestion (solid to liquid to air), this work also suggests the body's ability to transform it into spirit. Gormley had a strict Catholic upbringing, both from his father's family (Catholic Irish) and the Benedictine boarding school he attended. 

Bed suggests the Catholic ritual of consuming the body and spirit of Christ, dually symbolised by bread, through the taking of the sacrament. The pose of the absent and supposedly sleeping figure, arms folded on the chest, replicates the traditional pose of the dead carved on mediaeval tombs. The growth of mould on the bread illustrates the life-death-life cycle literally: as one substance decays, another organism is able to take life. Bed, the usual location for conception, birth and death, becomes the ground for the transformative processes of life itself.

Karen Knorr
On till 4th October 2015 

Karen Knorr - Belgravia 1979–1981

I've only seen work from Karen Knorr's India Song series, because that's what the art fairs I attend keep showing. So I was happy to see some of her older work which I really like. I liked the format and even though the work is more than 30 years old, I found it quite relevant. 

This display brings together two series of work by the photographer Karen Knorr: Belgravia 1979–81 and Gentlemen 1981–83, which form part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection. Knorr’s work emerged out of debates in cultural studies that were current in the 1970s about the politics of representation.

The series, Gentlemen and Belgravia both combine image and text. Gentlemen brings together photographs taken in gentlemen’s clubs in central London with text constructed out of speeches of parliament and the news; in doing Knorr explores patriarchal values in the upper middle classes. Belgravia highlights the aspirations and lifestyle of a privileged minority living in one of the most affluent parts of London.

"Poor man's picture gallery": Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography 
On till 1st November 2015   

I had the most fun in this part of the exhibition that was about early 3D photography. 

‘Poor man’s picture gallery’: Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography is the first display in a major British art gallery devoted to early three-dimensional photography.

These ingenious but inexpensive stereograph pictures were a 19th century craze, circulating world-wide in tens of thousands and more.

Pioneers of the art form were quick to challenge fine art itself. Celebrated canvases of the age, such as Henry Wallis’s Chatterton and William Powell Frith’s Derby Day, were recreated in real depth.

This display brings 12 of Tate’s Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite works face to face with a rare collection of their three-dimensional doubles assembled by Brian May. 

Yes, Brian May of Queen... 

 Walk through British Art - 500 Years of British Art
Permanent display 

John William Waterhouse - The Lady of Shalott, 1888

I was not able to see all of 500 years of British Art at Tate Britain, but I hope to get a chance next time I'm in London. It is a terrific collection and requires multiple visits to really absorb and appreciate it. 

The BP Walk through British Art offers a circuit of Tate Britain’s unparalleled collection from its beginnings to its end. This ‘walk through time’ has been arranged to ensure that the collection’s full historical range, from 1545 to the present, is always on show.

There are no designated themes or movements; instead, you can see a range of art made at any one moment in an open conversational manner.

The Turner Collection is part of Walk Through British Art. Here's a video exploring his work. 



London Diary - Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at Barbican

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector © Image courtesy of Movado Group

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector at Barbican is a quirky exhibition, an insight into what inspires and influences the artists featured in it, their personal tastes and obsessions. It includes memorbabilia, collectibles and rare artefacts. 

The exhibiton includes the following artists, a selection of objects from their collections alongside at least one key example of their work providing an insight into their inspirations, influences, motives, and obsessions. 

  • Arman 
  • Peter Blake 
  • Hanne Darboven 
  • Edmund de Waal 
  • Damien Hirst 
  • Howard Hodgkin 
  • Dr Lakra 
  • Sol LeWitt 
  • Martin Parr 
  • Jim Shaw 
  • Hiroshi Sugimoto 
  • Andy Warhol 
  • Pae White 
  • Martin Wong/Danh Vo  


Throughout history artists have collected objects for professional and private reasons as studio props, sources of inspiration, references for their work, personal mementos and, even, investment. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector presents the fascinating collections of 14 post-war and contemporary artists. Their holdings range from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, specimens, rare artefacts and works of art.

For some artists, the passion for collecting has complemented and informed their artistic interests, and for others it has hindered their ability to work. Why do artists collect? How do they live and work with their collections? What is the relationship between the objects artists collect and the works they make?

Collections have traditionally been amassed with the objective of building and transmitting knowledge. Artists too share this aim, but towards more subjective ends. Unlike museums, artists do not typically take a scholarly approach to collecting, nor do they seek to assemble comprehensive or representative collections. Reflecting personal obsessions, their acquisitions are often made in tandem with their own work and on a visual basis.

Many artists live with and make use of their collections, while others keep them under wraps or in storage. Some artists are connoisseurs, carefully shaping their collections, and others accumulate hoards of objects, never letting anything go. 



This video is an overview of the exhibition, featuring some of the artists in the exhibition. 



Here are some of favourites: 

Hanne Darboven  

Hanne Darboven collection. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

Hanne Darboven collection. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images
Hanne Darboven artwork. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

HANNE DARBOVEN (1941-2009) grew up in a large house, known as Am Burgberg, in the Hamburg borough of Harburg. In 1966, she weny to live in New York, where she befriended Carle Andre, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner and other artists associated with Minimalism and Conceptual Art. During this time, Darboven introduced numerical calculations and abstract notations in her works on paper, some of which comprise hundreds of framed sheetds installed on the wall in grids. These ways of working developed into systems for calculating dates and composing music. 

Darboven returned in 1968 to her family home in Harburg, where she would live, work and amass a diverse collection of objects over the next four decades, filling the rooms from floor to ceiling with artworks and postcards from friends, family possessions, sculptures, statues, musical instruments, souvenirs curiosities, trinkets and countless other objects. She had a fondness for animals, evidenced by photographs of her pet goats, sculptures of a horse and goat commissioned from local artisans, and taxidermy, as well as ceramic, wood and toy animals. The partial contents of two of her rooms are exhibited in the exhibition. 

The rigid seriality of Darboven's work is often personalised by the inclusion of photographs of her environment or of individual objects form her collection. On view here, Mitarbeiter und Freunde (1990) documents a holiday party at her home attended by co-workers, friends and family including her mother, sisters and neighbours.

Dr Lakra

Dr Lakra's record covers collection. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

Dr Lakra artwork

Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, DR LAKRA (b.1972) is an artist whose work blurs the borders of mediums, techniques and cultures. Working initially as a tattoo artist, he has since expanded his practice, producing objects, drawings and murals that have gained international recognition. Throughout his career he has developed a distinct aesthetic, a hybrid visual vocabulary distilled from a range of sources.

A regular visitor to flea markets both in Mexico and abroad, Dr Lakra has crammed his studio with old toys and dolls, bones, curiosities, books and vintage magazines. These objects feed into his work. An extensive collection of LPs provides an inexhaustible source of grotesque and macabre imagery for his drawings and tattoos. A similarly eclectic mix of images features in the scrapbooks he collects, which reflect the personal tastes and dreams of anonymous makers. Often beautifully made, these books speak to long forgotten personal narratives, rescued from the garbage heap.

Sol LeWitt

Sol le Witt's collection. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty images

Sol LeWitt, Autobiography, 1980. LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut USA © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015.

The American artist SOL LEWITT (1928–2007), who was a key proponent of both Minimalism and Conceptual art, built an extensive collection of works by his contemporaries, including Hanne Darboven, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, and Robert Ryman, among many others.

Collecting was a form of dialogue with other artists, and LeWitt generously continued to purchase and trade works throughout his career, including with emerging and lesser-known artists. He collected in other areas, including scores by composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. LeWitt counted these minimalist composers as friends and supported their early endeavours by purchasing their hand-written scores. He saw an affinity between his practice and theirs, which also used repetition and variation within a self-imposed system.

Artists from other periods of time were of interest to LeWitt. Nineteenth- century woodblock prints from Japan were his earliest acquisitions, made when he was serving in the US Army during the Korean War. These prints with their flattened forms, black outlines and vibrant colours appealed to LeWitt who had studied printmaking and designed posters while in the armed service. He also collected modernist photography, acquiring prints by Karl Blossfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch, August Sander and others.

The matter-of-fact quality of these black-and-white prints and their exploration of typology were characteristic of LeWitt’s own approach to photography. In his photobook Autobiography (1980), shown here as framed prints, LeWitt documented his downtown Manhattan loft, its architectural details and his possessions in more than 1,000 images, usually nine per page, arranged in grid. 

Martin Parr 

Martin Parr's collections. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images
Martin Parr's artwork. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

Photographer MARTIN PARR (b. 1952) is drawn to the eccentric and the odd. Time and again he has taken tourism as his subject and travelled to the world's most saturated sights. He focuses on the manic behaviours of the sightseer: the herd-like tour groups, the compulsive acquisition of photographs and souvenirs.

Parr himself is also an avid collector of kitsch souvenirs. An expansive collection centres on products with the portraits of dictators and political figures, revealing the intersection of the political and the everyday. In a related vein, a recent obsession is Soviet space dog memorabilia. Urban strays sent to space during the 1950s and 1960s, the space dogs' trajectory from the streets to the stars made them symbols of utopian progress across the USSR, although some died in orbit. Fifty years later these strange objects are left as the remnants of a distant era.

While working in a Butlin's holiday camp in the 1970s, Parr started a major collection of postcards that now spans the 20th century. Early black-and-white examples convey news stories to the receiver, of both local interest (freak hailstorms, lightning strikes) and international importance (World War 1). With the introduction of colour in the 1950s, the tourist postcard as we know it was born: "wish you were here" images that fabricate an idealised vision of international travel. Ranging from the boring to the bizarre, the exotic to the everyday, Parr's extensive collection forms a rich visual archive of modern tourism. 

Andy Warhol 

Andy Wharhol's cookie jars collection. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

Andy Warhol's artwork. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

A year after the death of Andy Warhol (1928-87), Sotheby's orchestrated a sale of the artist's voluminous collection in New York. There was an incredible 10,000 lots, and the auction lasted 10 days. Warhol was an obsessive collector of almost everything: he had an impressive collection of folk art, antique chairs, Art Deco furnishings, Native American artefacts, jewellery and fine art; but he also hoarded mass-produced collectibles and ephemera bought from flea markets and thrift stores.

He had little desire to impose order on his objects and was unconcerned with theor display. Once bought, they were discarded in a corner or closet in his Manhattan townhouse, often still in their bags or wrapping. He was excoted by the aqcuisition and possession of things, rather than their use or appreciation. 

Warhol was the son of working-lass immigrants, and this accumulation of objects contrasted sharply with his Pittsburg childhood. His collecting compensated for an early life that had been relatively devoid of possessions, and many of his collections centred on childhood artefacts such as vintage tin toys. Other objects, including his famous cookie jars, look back to a nostalgic ideal of post-war suburban domesticity. 

This attachment to the familiar and the domestic often surfaces in Warhol's own work. 

Pae White 

Pae White amongst her scarves collection. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

Pae White's artwork. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

Since the early 1990s, Los Angeles-based artist Pae White (b.1963) has pursued an expansive practice that embraces not only sculpture, installation and painting, but also furniture, graphics and interior design. Her work is often characterised by a playful use of unorthodox materials the kitsch, the decorative, the everyday and the discarded all play a part in White’s artistic output.

As both collector and artist, White is drawn to things that are seemingly endless in supply. Her largest collection consists of over 3,000 textiles by prolific American designer Vera Neumann (1907–93), who was prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. Known as Vera, she created an apparently infinite array of vibrantly coloured prints, produced most famously as scarves, but also as bed sheets, towels, dresses and tablecloths. Her practice was founded on the notion that art and design could and should be accessible to all, and each print originated as an artwork by the designer. To fuel this scale of production she constantly translated her environment into designs mundane commodities, exotic landscapes, modernist abstractions and Pop colours sit side by side in her textiles.

It is this open and generous attitude towards art, design and the surrounding world that resonates with White’s own work. Sharing with Vera a fondness for winged creatures, White has designed edible chandeliers made of seeds for birds and created a series of delicate cage-like forms made of colourful wires such as Cloud Clusters (2005), which in this exhibition is suspended over the double height space. 

Martin Wong / Dan Vo

Martin Wong collection_Dahn Vo artwork. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images
Martin Wong collection_Dahn Vo artwork. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, Barbican Art Gallery. ©Peter MacDiarmid, Getty Images

MARTIN WONG (1946–99), along with his mother Florence Wong Fie, amassed a trove of thousands of objects reflecting their shared appreciation of East Asian art and culture, Americana and kitsch. Wong’s mother nurtured his childhood interest in art and in collecting by taking him to Asian antique and gift shops in San Francisco. After studying ceramics at Humboldt State University  in northern California, Wong left for New York in 1978 to pursue painting.

In New York, Wong continued acquiring from Chinatown gift shops as well as from artists and dealers. He often traded or sold items from his collection to acquire more valuable pieces, and his mother in turn added to the collection, the vast majority of which was stored for safekeeping in her San Francisco home. Many objects from this collection served as props for his visionary, realist paintings. Wong died of AIDS-related complications in 1999.

After the artist DANH VO (b.1975) purchased a work by Wong, he visited Florence in San Francisco and saw the collection in situ. Vo attempted to find a museum to permanently house the trove of nearly 4,000 objects. It was only after Vo acquired the collection and presented it with a selection of Wong’s paintings as a work titled I M U U R 2 (2013) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York that an institution, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, decided to purchase it as an artwork by Vo.



Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector is on till Monday, 25th May 2015. 



[images via]


Paris Diary - Harry Gruyaert at Maison Européenne de la Photographie

© Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

Harry Gruyaert at Maison Européenne de la Photographie was an exhibition rich with colour I've not seen in a photography exhibition for a while. I was not familiar with Harry Gruyaert's work before, but after this exhibition, I can't wait to get my hand on some of his photo books, especially TV Shots (more about it below).

I was pleased to read his influences include cinema and directors like Michelangel Anotonioni (which was also a delightful coincidence, since he too had an exhibition at Cinémathèque française in Paris whilst I was there, you can read about it here.)

Here's a quote by Harry Gruyaert from the exhibition wall text that I really liked: 

"Colour is more physical than black and white which is more intellectual and abstract. With a black and white photo, it's more about wanting to understand what's going on between the people. With colour, you have to ne instantly affected by the different tones expressing a particular situation." 


About the exhibition and some images from it:

Harry Gruyaert photographs colours: this is his way of seeing the world. At around 20 years old, he left his native Belgium, feeling it tobe too limiting, and decided that photography would be his chosen means of expression: it would allow him to translate and consruct his quest for knowledge and sensuality. 

In the 1970s, along with American photographers Saul Letter, Joel Meyerowitz, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, Harry Gruyaert was one of the few European pioneers to have give colour a purely creative dimension: an emotional non-narrative, and radically graphic perception of the world. 

This exhibition at Maison Européenne de la Photographie is his first ever retrospective.

© Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

© Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

FRANCE. Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Berck. 2007. ©Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

BELGIQUE. Ostende. Thermes. 1988. ©Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos

MAROC. Meknes. Souk. Citrons confits. 1988. ©Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos 


TV Shots 

© Harry Gruyaert, TV Shots, GREAT BRITAIN & FRANCE. 1972

The exhibition included a video of images from Harry Gruyaert's TV Shots series, which I absolutely loved. I loved it for its aesthetics and it also made me think of today's "slacktivism".

This is an extract from the exhibition wall text:

In those days VCRs didn't yet exist, let alone the ability to freeze frames or to rewind. I was therefore face to face with current events, live, camera in hand and sometimes very close to the screen so I could frame things differently. 

I found myself after all in a situation very similar to that of street photography where, in my opinion, a good image is a question of controlled chance, a kind of small miracle that arises when you're receptive and concentrated. Had there been more technical means at my disposal at the time. I'm under the impression the images wouldn't have been as good, or as fresh, but instead simply the result of conceptual exercise. 

I had therefore become kind of bedroom reporter confornted with the "society of spectacle", in front of this factory of universal  thought; it's probably the only time in my life when I truly felt like a "photojournalist", as close as I would ever be to the world's terrible reality; the machine, sabotaged by flamboyant disrespect, is put back in its placce and its message becomes absurd and alarming, wrote Yves Bourde in the French newspaper Le Monde in 1974.

© Harry Gruyaert, TV Shots, GREAT BRITAIN.1969

© Harry Gruyaert, TV Shots

© Harry Gruyaert, TV Shots, Munich, Olympic games.

© Harry Gruyaert, TV Shots

© Harry Gruyaert, TV Shots, GB. ENGLAND. London. BBC II. TV Shots. Apollo XIV. 1971. 

TV Shots wasn't taken very seriously or appreciated when it was first shown more than 30 years ago. Read more about it here and you can see more images from the series here



I leave you with this video interview with Harry Gruyaert. It's not from/about the exhibition, but will give you an insight into his work, his thoughts on and relationshop with photography, his interests and influences. 


Paris Diary - Palais de Tokyo 

Palais de Tokyo is the only museum I'm aware of that is open till midnight, and for that reason alone, I love it. More museums should be open till midnight, at least once or twice a week. 

There were several exhibitions when I went (all on till 17th May 2015), here are my highlights: 


Bouchra Khalili - Foreign Office 

Bouchra Khalili - Foreign Office, Palais de Tokyo 2015. Photo : Aurélien Mole. © ADAGP, Paris

Bouchra Khalili - Foreign Office, Palais de Tokyo 2015. Photo : Aurélien Mole. © ADAGP, Paris

For her exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, Bouchra Khalili presents a new series of works made up of films, photographs and documents. Produced in Algeria, this new project takes is part of the artist’s investigation over the last ten years into the forms and discourses of resistance as expressed by the members of minority groups that arise from these colonial and postcolonial histories.

With “Foreign Office”, Bouchra Khalili revisits the period spanning from 1962 to 1972 when Algiers became the “capital of the revolutionaries” after Algeria’s independence. The city opened its arms to the many militants of African, Asian and American liberation movements such as Eldridge Cleaver’s International Section of the Black Panther Party, the ANC (African National Congress) led by Nelson Mandela, the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) led by Amilcar Cabral, and even the now-forgotten Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf.

Taking as a starting point this facet of Algerian history  whose piecemeal transmission, in the form of legend, has frozen it in the past, the film portrays two young Algerians of today who recount this history, questioning its traces and the reasons why it has been forgotten by their generation. Questions surrounding oral tradition, language and their relationship to the story and to history are at the film’s core and reveal an alternative historiography. The series of photographs establishes an inventory of the different places that welcomed these liberation movements based in Algiers, while a map made by the artist reinstates them within the city’s contemporary topography.


Takis -
Champs Magnétiques (Magnetic Fields) 

Takis, Palais de Tokyo 2015. Photo : André Morin. © ADAGP, Paris 

This exhibition explores the "interstices between art and the sciences by paying tribute to the great sculptor and inventor Takis who will turn 90 in 2015".  I was not familiar with his work, but the piece titled "Sculptures Musicales" is the one that impressed me the most. I couldn't take any photos of it or film it because my phone camera wasn't working, but I found this video online which should give you an idea of the piece.  


About the piece from (via the catalogue):

"If only with an instrument such as radar, I could capture the music of the hereafter!... If only the object, as it turned, could capture sounds and transmit them." Takis, Estafilades, Paris: Julliard, 1961 

Takis would realize his dream of a sound coming from the depths of the cosmos in his own way, with his Sculptures Muicales from the mid-1960s onwards. To do this, he installed an electromagnet behind a simple wood panel that attracted and repelled an upholsterer's needle that, in turn, would strike a strin producing a halting music. In some cases, electric light bulbs were inserted into the panels in such a way that they switched on and off to the rhythm of the sound. The device was of a great simplicity and its visual proposition very straightforward. The addition of more Sculptures Musicales with variations on the position of the needle or the tension of the cord produced a randomized music, both strange and harmonious. Music "from the hereafter." 

About the overeall exhibition:

The first person to “send a man into space,” six months before Yuri Gagarin, during a famous performance, and who realized a monumental basin of light signals on the esplanade of La Défense in 1988 that thousands of people see every day, probably without knowing anything of their author, is a major figure in post-war art.

Born in Athens and based in Paris since the 1950s, Takis set about exploring magnetic field energy in his work. Working in proximity with his contemporaries of the New Realism movement, he integrated light and music in combination with the use of magnets into his sculptural practice.

From his exposition of magnetic forces to his “tribute to Kafka” and his erotically charged bronze sculptures, the exhibition brings together around fifty spectacular pieces. This is one of the most comprehensive solo exhibitions of Takis’ work since the Jeu de Paume’s show of 1993.

A tireless experimenter and “intuitive savant”, Takis has continuously sought to capture cosmic energy by combining art and science.

As a contemporary plastician, his work is grounded in a sculptural tradition that spans archaic Greek sculpture and Giacometti on the one hand and the rejects of technology on the other.

Fascinated by the “scientific magic” at the core of inventions (he even registered a number of industrial patents), Takis is also a science philosopher, regularly drawing inspiration from the great ancestors of pre-Socratic philosophy, Hippocratic medicine, and Ancient Egypt.



Le Bord des Monds (At the Edge of the Worlds) 

Answering Marcel Duchamp’s question: “Can one make works of art which are not ‘of art’?”, the exhibition "Le Bord des Mondes (At the Edge of the Worlds)" explores the many fields of artistic creation and welcomes creative people from outside of the art world whose work would seem to belong to it through its depth, its beauty and its singularity. These artists – visionaries, experimenters, poets and pirates – reveal these unprecedented fields and defy limits.

The exhibition includes work by 24 artists/collectives and was quite intensive. The following are my favourites. You can see the rest here


Kenji Kawakami 

Beurre en stick, Kawakami Kenji. Courtesy Jean-Christophe Lecoq.

Kawakami Kenji. Courtesy Jean-Christophe Lecoq.

Kenji Kawakami (b. 1946, lives and works in Tokyo) invented chindogu, objects that he has been creating since the 1980s and who number today over one thousand unique specimens. These strange inventions are true manifestos of political, economic and poetic resistance. While they serve a function and are thus usable, they are nonetheless resolutely useless.

These manifestos, devised as responses to the laughable difficulties of men, develop like a fable disconnected from any practical meaning and prompt a reflection on the consumerism and materialism of modern life.

Following the 10 founding commandments of chindogu, each object must affirm its freedom and pleasure in being useless, must be universally understandable and must constitute a non-verbal form of communication. It must be “given to the world” and can therefore not be sold, filed, patented or even owned. As unidentified objects, the chindogu are for Kenji Kawakami “an intellectual game to stimulate the mind.”



Theo Jansen  

Vue de l’exposition « Le Bord des Mondes », Palais de Tokyo, 2015. Photo : André Morin. Theo Jansen, Animaris Umerus, 2010. Courtesy de l'artiste. ADAGP, Paris 2015.


For over twenty years, Theo Jansen (b. 1948, lives and works in The Hague) has devoted himself to the study of an independent and autonomous species: Strandbeests or “beach creatures.” Every summer, he transforms Scheveningen beach into a laboratory where these monumental creatures are deployed. Made solely out of electrical insulation tubing and sometimes out of bamboo-sticks, cable ties and Dacron sails, they are moved by the wind’s force.

The Strandbeests species are developed according to the principles of evolution and genetic transformation, thereby questioning the widely accepted division between the natural and the artificial, the organic and the mechanical, and creating a complex genealogy.

Theo Jansen rejects our spontaneous anthropocentrism and considers the Strandbeests as having their own rationale, their own mechanisms and evolutionary principles of which he is not so much the inventor as the conveyor and transmitter.



Jerry Gretzinger  

Vue de l’exposition « Le Bord des Mondes », Palais de Tokyo, 2015. Photo : André Morin. Jerry Gretzinger, Jerry's Map, 1963-2014, Courtesy de Jerry Gretzinger.

Jerry’s map, 1963-2014, peinture sur papier, dimension variable, Courtesy Jerry Gretzinger

In 1963, Jerry Gretzinger (b. in 1942, lives and works in Mapple City, U.S.A.) drew the first element of the map to an imaginary world. Each day, the drawing was added to, expanding this world and mapping out the features of an unknown land with the appearance of cities such as “Plaeides” and “Ukrainia.”

Fifty years later, the cartographer is still working on this same document that has since morphed into a space made up of almost three thousand A4 sheets of paper. Every morning, Jerry Gretzinger picks a card out of a pack that he himself designed. The card tells him the change he must make that day: to add a building, take away some streets or create fallow land.

The world he is creating is born of the map’s own development as the layers of paper sediment on top of one another. These transformations are documented in an inventory, acting as a memory of the successive steps in the construction and modification of this universe.


Rose-Lynn Fisher 

Rose-Lynn Fisher, The brevity of time (out of order) losing you, 2011, Pigments sur papier, 28x35 cm, Courtesy Rose-Lynn Fisher et de Craig Krull Gallery, Los Angeles.

Through her study Topography of Tears, Rose-Lynn Fisher (b. 1955, lives and works in Los Angeles) has examined over a hundred tears hers and those of others using an optical microscope. Started in 2008 and made up of over a hundred images, the series qualified by the creator as “aerial views of emotional terrain” reveals the complexity and the elusive nature of the feelings that inhabit us. These tears are the result of fits of laughter, moments of doubt, grief or exasperation…

Rose-Lynn Fisher has concentrated on macro /micro photography for many years. Her research attempts to materialize and make visible through images, the physical manifestations of the intangible. The extreme variety and dissemblance between each of these tear studies reveal humanity’s infinite nature, the existence of a multitude of territories inside of us like so many worlds that can be revealed by photography; yet they remain “foreign” and indecipherable to us.


Game of States 

Game of States, Michał Slezkini Bohdan Slezkin 2015

Game of States was created around 1947 in Warsaw when Poland was integrating the Socialist bloc. Created by a few teenagers, the game was developed in the greatest secrecy in apartments where diplomatic conspiracies and military offensives were carried out in miniature between fictitious states: the parliamentary monarchy “Tiny Empire,” the social-democratic kingdom of “Niam Niam,” the communist dictatorship of the “United Materialistic Socialist Republics” and the “Republic of Poland.”

A fantastic maze of ideas and strategies, of official and unofficial plot twists imagined by its practitioners, Game of States has developed over several generations through letter exchanges, the creation of political characters, spies, media manipulations, fake accidents, and is still enriched today by Michal Slezkin. As a cathartic outlet, it has become the realization of an utopia where reality can be reinvented, dissolved and transformed from game to game.


Hiroshi Ishiguro  

Vue de l’exposition « Le Bord des Mondes », Palais de Tokyo, 2015. Photo : André Morin. Iroshi Ishiguro, Kouka, 2014. Courtesy d'Hiroshi Ishiguro et dévelopé par l'Université d'Osaka.

As a researcher in robotics intelligence in Osaka, Japan, Hiroshi Ishiguro (b. 1963, lives and works in Osaka) creates “geminoid” robots, machines that imitate in every way the appearance and the behavior of humans. These anthropomorphic robots are based on existing individuals, becoming their automatic replica with humid lips, expressive eyes and shining hair. The researcher is interested in the way in which man communicates and creates “natural” relationships with objects.

Beyond the technical and technological performance, Hiroshi Ishiguro is above all attempting to understand humanness, the reason for our existence. Does human nature exist? Can it be artificially produced and reproduced? Ishiguro uses robots in order to analyze man and his psychological makeup, his cognitive system, his sociability and what makes him human.


Jesse Krimes 

Jesse Krimes, Purgatory (1 of 292, detail), 2009. Page du « Federal Reporter» de la bibliothèque de droit des détenus, cartes à jouer collées avec de la mousse à raser et du dentifrice, morceaux de savon, portraits en transferts de journal. Courtesy de l’artiste.


During his incarceration in an American prison, Jesse Krimes (b. 1982, lives and works in Philadelphia, U.S.A.) invented for his co-prisoners and himself a means of symbolic escape with the materials given to him by the penitentiary administration.

He methodically cut out portraits of his peers in the newspaper, transferred these images onto bars of soap that he then dissimulated in card decks prepared for the purpose. In this way he was able to deceive the vigilance of the prison guards in order to release these hidden portraits in letters sent to the outside world.

These 300 or so portraits became proof of the existence of these hundreds of individuals absent from a world from which they have been banished. By bypassing the restrictions on freedom and symbolically reintegrating the existence of these ghosts into a territory whose access has been physically denied them, Jesse Krimes engaged in an act of resistance.


Arnold Odermatt 

ARNOLD ODERMATT, Wil, Oberdorf, 1951 © Urs Odermatt, Windisch. Courtesy Galerie G-P & N Vallois, Paris et Galerie Spinger Berlin © ADAGP, Paris 2015

Arnold Odermatt (born in 1925, Switzerland) was a police officer in the Nidwalden canton, who as a passionate photographer preferred this medium over the customary sketches used for accident reports.

For more than sixty years, he photographed the canton police’s daily life, which he captures with a singular vision. He produced the series Karambolage, a sequence of photographs of accidents, where humor replaces tragedy, and composition replaces information. The lines on the road, tracing the cars’ trajectories prior to collision, illustrate Odermatt’s discerning eye in the framing and composition of his pictures.

His photographs were revealed in 1990, when they were discovered by his son, Urs Odermatt.