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Stephanie Cristello on EXPO CHICAGO

From September 22 through 25, the fifth edition of the EXPO CHICAGO art fair will take place at Chicago’s Navy Pier. The fair will present an array of national and international galleries, alongside specially organized exhibition projects such as IN/SITU and EXPO VIDEO. Flash Art spoke with EXPO’s director of programming, Stephanie Cristello.

I attended the first EXPO in 2012. What’s changed since then? 

We launched EXPO VIDEO in 2013, working with Alfredo Cramerotti (MOSTYN) in 2015 and Daria de Beauvais (Palais de Tokyo) for the 2016 edition. We’ve expanded and strengthened the panel programming — this year, our inaugural symposium on conceptualists Art & Language is a highlight. In 2015, we inaugurated a program in the Northern Trust Anchor Lounge specifically for discussions on collecting, which is our way of not limiting intellectual conversations to topics outside of the market — after all, we are an art fair. This year we will host talks such as “Collecting in the Age of Futurity” and “The Trans-Atlantic Museum.”

EXPO seems driven by curators—especially the Curatorial Forum. Why this emphasis? 

The Curatorial Forum creates an opportunity for colleagues in the field to exchange and collaborate, while supporting our dealers by ensuring leading figures will be in Chicago during the fair. There are the “public” relationships — such as this year’s IN/SITU program curated by Diana Nawi (Pérez Art Museum Miami), but also the more “secret” exchanges that have led to wonderful curatorial focuses. The rhizomatic structure of an exposition of this scale means that each year we get to develop more nuance, and start something completely fresh, all at once.

How does the fair respond to an art climate marked by the recent closure of several young Lower East Side galleries in New York? 

We hope for all the galleries we work with to succeed; this is an international fair open to many emerging exhibitors. EXPOSURE, featuring galleries eight years and younger, Special Exhibitions, EXPO Editions + Books, and EXPO Projects allow us to support their mission in a commercially viable way.

by Sam Korman

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Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt on viennacontemporary

Viennacontemporary will take place from September 22 to 25 at Marx Halle, Vienna, bringing together 112 galleries from twenty-eight countries. Flash Art spoke with artistic director Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt.

Viennacontemporary is a gateway between eastern- and western-European art scenes. This year you will present a special focus on the former Yugoslavia and Albania. What are your expectations for this section?

The expectation is that, in the future, the artists, institutions and galleries from the Focus countries will be more visible in exhibitions, fairs and galleries across Europe and beyond. Through Focus we offer lesser-known art communities a presence on the international art scene.

What are some of the trends that you have noticed from participating galleries?

Vienna is becoming more and more appealing to foreign galleries. Vienna has many things to offer contemporary art galleries, collectors and institutions. We also see more and more groups of collectors from Germany, France, UK, US and Belgium each year. We can proudly say we put Vienna back on the map of international contemporary art fairs!

One of your goals is to reach out to the American public. How will you achieve this?

I spent quite some time this year traveling in the US, talking to collectors, galleries and the press in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We need to better promote the full picture of Vienna — not only the fair and the rich cultural scene but also the Viennese way of life. In a way, we are becoming ambassadors for the city of Vienna. Viennacontemporary has a number of such “ambassadors” — friendly collectors and art professionals who promote the fair on their travels to various art events worldwide, including in the US. Our ambassadors and their enthusiasm tremendously support the fair and strongly contribute to the event’s international visibility.

by Flash Art

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Introducing WIFE

James Kelly spent six months in a Costa Rica rainforest and came out a different person. After releasing his debut album as WIFE in 2014, the producer and former front man of progressive black metal band Altar of Plagues finished a degree in environmental science and blindly signed up to live and work in a remote campsite with no electricity or running water.

That’s where Standard Nature comes in, an EP of five tracks that tears through unwieldy punk timings and electronic dissonance, swinging violently back toward Kelly’s early metal past, to be released on Profound Lore Records on September 26.

The surprise shift from the extreme tempos and roaring-shrieking of Altar of Plagues into the sentimental EDM epics of What’s Between (released on Tri-Angle) set a precedent for unpredictability in Kelly’s catalogue two years ago. It’s a catalogue that’s been metaphorically hacked through once again — like the Central American wilderness that changed everything. “I wanted to create music that was inspired by that moment,” writes London-based Kelly in an e-mail, referring to his memory of a chainsaw meeting a tree while traveling through an operational Costa Rican logging area. “So with a track like ‘Glass Interruption,’ I intended to have the blown-out bass and drums almost attacking the synths in an effort to stop them.”

Glass Interruption,” the lead single from Standard Nature, features a video by Kelly, made of found and captured footage of wildfires in 2016. The croaking low end that indiscriminately punctures a shrill ambience accompanies images of ecological destruction, mediated and meddled with by the humans holding the cameras that frame them. “Surprise,” say the words that flash across images of trees crashing and burning under the weight of thick, black smoke, “you let your eyes lie.” These written words act as subtitles to those sung by Kelly himself, so heavily distorted that their audible meaning is easily missed.

The album cover features a photo by fashion photographer Daniel Sannwald — an image of a shiny metal engine from an Ophelia Finke photo shoot. For Kelly, Sannwald transposed an image of nature into its reflection — a border zone between reality and reproduction, blurred into a sort of simulacra of human violation. “The concept of the wild is almost imaginary at this point, and we fetishize nature in so many ways,” writes Kelly, who learned a lot living within the very small community that inhabited the reforestation site in Costa Rica where he worked. “The people are so deeply in tune with the environment they live in, and that is essential when you live in a place where a frog the size of your fingernail can kill you.”

by Steph Kretowicz

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I Love Kevin / Jill Soloway

I once got in a terrible fight with an ex wherein he told me he wanted to be a composer, and I simply replied, “Well, then do it.” He never could get over my cruel response, which had been bred into me by the artistically inclined, privileged company that I keep.

This kind of insider art-world drama is central to the first half of I Love Dick, an adaptation of the 1997 novel by Chris Kraus based on her marriage to Semiotext(e) founder and philosopher Sylvère Lotringer. Directed by Transparent’s Jill Soloway, I Love Dick premiered last Friday on Amazon. Many of the nods to “-ality” and group shows are cringeworthy, but Soloway does ultimately give us a reason for this gruesome and exclusionary setup of art jokes.

Soloway’s direction is reminiscent of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, with her occasional dash of absurdity and long, languid shots that seem otherworldly. However, it will be the thematic content, I expect, that will create the most buzz. The series has been heralded as being about modern feminism, and it certainly is, but there is something fundamentally more expansive about I Love Dick, something deeply self-critical and disturbing in its prescience about artistry and self-hatred.

After explaining the premise of her film about the oppressive weight of sexism upon women, as well as the woes she has had creating the film, filmmaker Chris (Kathryn Hahn) does not receive the sympathy she had expected from the men who surround her. Instead, the mysterious, sexy scholar Dick (Kevin Bacon) — who is running the Marfa residency where I Love Dick takes place — dourly turns to Chris’s husband Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) and says, “My guess is that she doesn’t want to be a filmmaker, because if you wanted to be a filmmaker, you’d be one.” Chris is naturally aghast, but then returns home to begin a long, erotic letter detailing her obsession with the decidedly misogynist Dick. She then reads the letter to her husband, who cannot contain his own arousal, and they produce a mechanical fuck that ends when Sylvere cums and hops giddily away.

I Love Dick is a feminist ode, to be sure, but it is also about the lies perpetuated by self-construction, by vanity, and the passionate masochism of lusting for our brittle egos to be shattered. Though Chris is a talented artist, it seems that she feels she is a fraud, and it is Dick’s painful, yet erotic, job to dismantle an already flailing self-esteem. I Love Dick is truly brutal, and it shows the lusterless ashes of creativity being slowly extinguished.

This beautiful sense of foreboding is amplified by Soloway’s masterful adaptation of a book — based on Chris’s obsessive letter — that has no traditional plot. Though it is Chris’s text that we can hear and see, Soloway creates a disorienting combination of desires, as if everyone could be speaking for everybody else. The result, a shared doldrums of mutual attraction and bitterness, is surprisingly resonant.

by William J. Simmons

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Capitalizing COOL FOR YOU / Berlin

The capitalization in COOL FOR YOU is important. The artist behind the moniker, the Berlin-based producer also known as Vika Kirchenbauer, never told me why, but she insists on it, and it’s a format that recurs throughout her musical catalogue, which is small but effective.

A handful of mournful, lumbering electronic tracks sway, glitch and skitter on pitch-shifting chants: vocal harmonies of indiscernible origin that are triggered by titles like SHE WHOSE BLOOD IS CLOTTING IN MY UNDERWEAR and GIVEN YOUR CONVENIENT ABSENCE. The samples, it turns out, are from recordings of what’s called Sacred Harp choral music, which originated in the American South and is favored by Protestants. “I think we have to understand harmonies as colonizers and consider their role in shaping what in the West is considered authentic world music, most of which has inevitably been influenced by colonialism or Christian missionaries in one way or another,” writes Kirchenbauer in an email about the reasoning behind her reference to this a capella congregational music. In it there is no absolute pitch, only one that is relative to its participants, singing in a square. “That’s the reason why I looked into these quite old white Christian harmony structures.”

Kirchenbauer’s sound project, named after the Eileen Myles’ book of the same, is a small part of a larger visual whole, but also quite separate. She’s only recently started making the connection between her two roles — visual artist and music producer — and performing her music live in an event called COOL FOR YOU: SEPARATISM at Berlin’s NGBK in May. Located behind glass and obscured by the steel grating of a gate, Kirchenbauer played while feeding back infrared images of her outside audience. “From a spectator’s perspective it’s more about looking at oneself rather than unlooking at oneself,” she writes. “A lot of my work is on the transference of certain bodies and politics from subculture into high art spaces and the dynamics of gazes that emerge from that.”

This idea of identity and its extension, expansion and renegotiation in institutionalized or colonized space is central to Kirchenbauer’s work. Here, COOL FOR YOU music videos feature thermal images of moving bodies in intimate embrace, a face confronting the frame of a voyeuristic camera lens used in wartime with an unfaltering return gaze. “To me it also relates to that idea of seeing oneself through the eyes of others and how that gives such a heightened sense of transparency and vulnerability,” Kirchenbauer offers. “Looking at the interaction of bodies via infrared imaging it appears harder to define where ‘I’ stop and ‘you’ begin.”

by Steph Kretowicz

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Didier Guillon on the Valmont Foundation

On the occasion of the group show “El Cuor No Se Vende” at the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra, Flash Art chief editor Gea Politi spoke to Didier Guillon, president of the Valmont Group and the exhibition’s curator.

LVMH and other brands opened their art foundations years ago. Does the decision to curate art shows come from a need to expand the idea of “branding” within the Valmont world?

Within the Valmont Group, art is a true pillar of our identity. Brands can no longer be focused on themselves. They must build bridges to other universes, integrating new trends and opening up new horizons, whether they are alien or familiar to them. Familiar, because art has asserted itself as a common thread within the Guillon family for many years. It is a history that has its roots in Paris, where Charles Sedelmeyer, born in Vienna in 1837, father of my great-grandmother, opened his own art gallery.

Since I was twelve I have been striding arm in arm with my father to attend exhibitions and the great museums of Madrid, London and New York. It is this endless passion that I wish to honor through the Valmont Foundation; an entrepreneur cannot measure up in terms of patronage unless he is passionate about the projects that he supports. Each artist, each work, is chosen with the heart and not with speculative intentions.

How will you handle social networks when it comes to curatorial projects? Will you connect them to the brand?

Our purpose is to share with a large public this passion for art and beauty. That’s why I am endlessly searching for unusual, exceptional places for my exhibitions. I wish to give visitors the chance to live a unique moment. Beauty? I share it both through the works displayed and the venue that accommodates them.

The Valmont Foundation is the fourth pillar of the Valmont Group, which includes the three brands Valmont, L’Elixir des Glaciers and Il Profvmo. So, the Group communicates around the brands and the exhibitions, consistently linking art with beauty, since they represent its identity. Therefore, social networks are useful tools to share with my clients — but also with a large community — my passion for art, and to promote the exhibitions and the artists I love. I can also encourage a large public to discover unusual places, like Hydra this year, or the Palazzo Tiepolo Passi along the Canal Grande in Venice, where we were last year with “Dialogue of Fire” and where we will return in 2017 with a new exhibition.

Facebook, for instance, is a true communications tool for exhibitions. The Internet allows people who don’t have the opportunity to visit the magical places where we do our exhibitions to share these a unique experiences through photos and videos.

Do the artists invited need to relate somehow to your brand? Or is the selection connected to the world of Valmont in some way?

The artists have all been chosen with my heart and have no direct relation to the three brands of the Valmont Group. It is from within the Valmont Foundation that the artistic universe of the Group emerges. So, the bond with the artists is, first of all, affective and emotional, and it’s exactly to express such a peculiar and precious bond that the title of this summer’s exhibition is “El Cuor No Se Vende.” Simply because the heart is not for sale! The choice of the works is mainly based on their aesthetic, beauty-inspiring dimension rather than on aggressive themes with sexual, political or religious meanings.

The title “El Cuor No Se vende” suggests a critique of the state of the art market today. What is your position in this regard?

The title of the exhibition reflects my passion and expresses a pure, ethical approach, driven by the asthetic realm where art and beauty meet, and where taste and freedom are the only protagonists. These few, powerful Venetian words fight speculation, which is omnipresent in an art market dominated by trade fairs, VIPs and famous galleries. I seek the unpredictable, the original, through the works of young artists such as Quentin Garel, Tom Powell, Isao (Llorens Ishikawa) and Iliodora Margellos.

Their works have conquered my heart because they are far from any speculation and seem to be joined by a common bond. A bond made of a creative ethics, of a true and indisputable return to craftsmanship in the artistic work, and of a certain disregard for any need for creative justification. By choosing to display the works of such artists, I give them the chance to be known at an international level, and that is the strength and the difference of the Valmont Foundation’s exhibitions.

Do you feel brands should support artists rather than the market itself in order to make the art system more sensitive to certain social concerns?

The Valmont Foundation supports artists whose works embody beauty, as for instance the work of Bénédicte Blanc-Fontenille. Her work speaks about the frailty of the human being and the fact that this frailty is a motor that stimulates change and accomplishment. Other artists raise questions related to environmental issues.

There are no Koons or Murakamis in this show — meaning you felt no need to invite very established names. Who are some of the new talents you are supporting?

The selection of the works displayed at the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra from July 1 to August 31, 2016, breaks away from the artistic production of the last quarter of a century that has been so adored by the curators of big exhibitions. I chose young talents like Quentin Garel, a young Parisian who is a virtuoso of draftsmanship and carving. Like an architect or a cabinet maker, he assembles pieces to create skulls, heads, a bestiary in wood, bronze, iron or porcelain. His technique makes room for poetry, and his animals become contemporary, even conceptual sculptures that speak without forgetting that the real subject is man. Iliodora Margellos is a young artist who embodies a mix of American, Swiss and Greek culture. She makes sculptures from recycled materials and fabrics, creating a colorful and original universe that gives free rein to the visitor’s imagination.

With “El Cuor No Se Vende,” I introduce the works of sixteen artists coming from very different cultures: from Japan, Spain, France, Italy and Greece. All these works offer rich cultural contrasts and lead the visitor to wonder about mankind, the world, the environment and the quest for beauty.

by Gea Politi

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