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Flash News: Ai WeiWei – Palazzo Strozzi – AKAA – Paris – Abstract Expressionism – Rembrandt

[20/10/2016]

Ai Weiwei reframes the Palazzo Strozzi

AI Weiwei’s first solo exhibition in Italy will surely not go unnoticed. Entitled ‘Ai Weiwei Libero’ as a tribute to the refugees criss-crossing Europe, it is the largest retrospective of his work to date and runs until 22 January 2017 at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Arturo Galansino, who was recently appointed head of this prestigious institution and worked with the artist at the Royal Academy in London on the anthology ‘Ai Weiwei 360’ in 2015, has curated the exhibition.

After Jeff Koons at the Uffizi last year, the historical capital of the Medici once again welcomes one of the most bankable artists in contemporary art. A unique opportunity for the stars of the art market to confront history. The Chinese artist has used the iconic architecture of the Palazzo Strozzi to stage his work Reframe in which 22 fluorescent red rescue dinghies obscure the windows of the first floor… By hiding the diamond pointed cut stones of this unique building, the artist has created quite a stir among numerous Florentines, in the same way that inhabitants of Versailles were shocked by the controversy surrounding Dirty Corner by Anish KAPOOR. This is not the first time that Ai Weiwei has challenged opinion on the difficult living conditions of refugees. Reframe indeed reminds us of his installation F Lotus, consisting of 1,005 life jackets of different colours placed on circular platforms in a pool at the Belvedere in Vienna, or the 14,000 life jackets wrapping the columns of the Konzerthalle in Berlin last February.

Inside, the public can discover his most emblematic works, pieces from his decade in New York where he discovered the art of Duchamp and Warhol, and installations from the 2000s made from bicycles or stools. Visitors can also see, among the famous photos showing the artist giving the finger in front of the world’s most famous buildings, a photo of him making the same gesture in front of the Palazzo Strozzi. For his first one man show in Italy, Ai Weiwei has finally completed his series of portraits of major Tuscan ‘protesters’ in Lego: Dante, Savonarola and Galileo, whose legacy the Chinese artist and activist is clearly following.

But won’t the personality and self-confidence of Ai Weiwei risk overshadowing the central subject of the exhibition: the ordeal of refugees?

AKAA, a new major art event in Paris

Also Known As Africa, the first Parisian exhibition on contemporary art and design from Africa is finally taking place. Postponed after the terror attacks in Paris last year, the exhibition finally opens at the Carreau du Temple from 11 to 13 November 2016.

At a time when African art is gaining visibility, this first French exhibition could be the missing link in a promising art market. Indeed, the exhibition Magiciens de la terre (1989) and Africa Remix (2005) were landmarks in the recognition of contemporary African art, supported by major private collections (Jean Pigozzi’s collection), biennials (Dak’Art), art fairs (1:54 in London and New York) and major exhibitions, such as BeautéCongo at the Cartier foundation last year. In their wake, Bonhams has organised for the last few years two annual events called ‘Africa Now’, one dedicated to modern art and the other to contemporary African art. And on 17 November, Piasa will be organising its second sale of contemporary African artists.

AKAA draws from this momentum and showcases the rich and diverse creativity in Africa. It stands out by offering a large selection of designers and artists from the continent, as well as artists with a close connection to it, looking at African art beyond its boundaries. Its authenticity comes from the fact of not being just a trade show but also a place to meet and discuss African creativity today through lectures, panel discussions, films and performances. To do this, Victoria Mann, founder and director of the event, has brought together some thirty international galleries whose selection allows us to see the work of recognized names such as Frédéric BRULY BOUABRE from Ivory Coast or Romuald HAZOUMÉ from Benin while also discovering young talent. This should no doubt raise the interest of art collectors and enthusiasts!

AKAA sounds like a magical formula whose alchemy we hope will be long-lasting…

An ambitious exhibition on Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism dramatically changed the history of contemporary art by offering new ways of immersing oneself in painting. The works of Pollock, Rothko, Still, de Kooning, Newman and Kline are often impressive, because of their huge size on one hand, and on the other, because of the energy conveyed by line, the use of colour and a newly found freedom from traditional imagery. The emergence of this movement in the 1950s created a paradigm shift, the crucial moment when New York took over from Paris and became the new world capital of art. Between the late 1950s and today, the great figures of the movement have become stars, icons and a major inspiration for generations of artists.

An exhibition on the subject is, therefore, both ambitious and highly anticipated… It opened last September at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (until 2 January 2017), and claims to be ‘The greatest exhibition of Abstract Expressionism organised in Great Britain’ for decades. It is expertly curated by art historian David Anfam, author of the catalogue raisonné of Mark Rothko’s paintings, and Edith Devaney, Contemporary Art curator at the Royal Academy of Arts.

The exhibition gives pride of place to Clyfford STILL, to whom an entire room is devoted, as well as Barnett NEWMAN, Jackson POLLOCK, Willem DE KOONING, who has a whole wall dedicated to his famous ‘women paintings’, and ROTHKO, whose six ‘colour fields’ occupy the central rotunda. If the critics are divided about the design and lighting, one must acknowledge the fact that this unique exhibition has managed to gather together more than a hundred and fifty paintings, sculptures and photographs by the most important and most collectible artists of the 20th century.

Rembrandt in confidence at the Musée Jacquemart-André

The genius of REMBRANDT (1606-1669) is celebrated at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, the ideal place to showcase the work of the Dutch master of the 17th century, as the Jacquemarts (Édouard André and Nélie) bought three of his paintings between 1865 and 1892: Pilgrims at Emmaus (1629), Portrait of Princess Amelia van Solms (1632) and Portrait of Dr Arnold Tholinx (1656), which are part of this exhibition open until 23 January 2017. Providing visitors with a unique insight into Rembrandt’s most intimate works, the exhibition features some twenty paintings gathered together thanks to a series of exceptional loans from major museums around the world, notably the Metropolitan museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, the National Gallery in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

The objective of the curators, Emmanuel Starcky and Petr Schatborn from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and Pierre Curie, curator of the Musée Jacquemart-André, is to reveal an intimate facet of Rembrandt’s work through his relationship to others and himself, notably through his striking portraits and self-portraits, but not only… As Rembrandt’s creativity, inner energy, unparalleled inventiveness and virtuosity are also expressed in his drawings and engravings, a technique in which he excelled. During his career, Rembrandt created 400 paintings, 300 drawings and as many etchings, often using himself as the model. These prints are quite common at auction and allow buyers, incredibly, to acquire works by one of the most important artists in art history for between $2,000 and $5,000 on average, as with what is thought to be the portrait of the artist’s father, sold for $2,800 last September in Vienna (Büste eines Mannes mit hoher Kappe: Der Vater des Künstlers(?), Dorotheum). In this etching from 1630, Rembrandt managed to capture the inner movement of his subject with an incomparable degree of intimacy…

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