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    The Late Canadian Polymath Rodney Graham Is Getting a Posthumous Showcase in the British Countryside

    The late Canadian artist Rodney Graham is getting a posthumous spotlight at Hauser and Wirth’s Somerset outpost. 
    After a breakout turn representing Canada at the 1997 Venice Biennale, the conceptual artist, who passed away last fall from cancer at 73, became known for his dryly humorous films and photographs in which he often cast himself in various elaborate guises and scenarios. The show, on view through May 8, includes a series of large-scale lightbox photographs that thrust the viewer into a number of Graham’s richly imagined worlds. Filled with textured detail they bring a vibrancy to otherwise banal scenes; an overworked chef taking a cigarette break, an unkempt hermit jubilating in front of a ramshackle cottage. 
    The exhibition also nods to other dimensions of Graham’s practice, which stretched to encompass adept painting, sculpture, photography, and musical work. Called “Getting It Together in the Countryside,” the show borrows its title from Graham’s 2000 LP of the same name, a jam session of improvised guitar recordings—fitting for the gallery’s rural British location, which Graham visited to perform at its opening in 2014. 
    Rodney Graham, Betula Pendula Fastigiata (Sous-Chef on Smoke Break) (2011). ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
    Throughout his career, Graham seamlessly inhabited his various characters. “It may be a burden to reinvent oneself every time,” Graham said, “but it makes things more interesting.”
    The centerpiece of the exhibition is Graham’s The Four Seasons, a late body of work executed between 2011 and 2013. The series was inspired after Graham’s fellow artist and friend David Batchelor remarked that two images of characters—a drywaller and a chef—enjoying smoke breaks, reminded him of summer and winter. This spurred Graham to make two more companion pieces, another smoke break, this time of a Hollywood actor/director on a technicolor film set in the 1950s to represent spring, and a fourth, more meditative take on a kayaker on the Seymour river for fall, which he joked was his chance to take an “oxygen break.”
    The exhibition also dips into other aspects of his practice, opening on one of his sculptures, an innocuous-looking door propped against a wall. It could be any old screen door—they are pretty ubiquitous fixtures—but this particular one happens to be an exact replica of Elvis Presley’s door at Graceland. Graham was tickled when the object was offered up for auction alongside other Elvis memorabilia in 1999 and ran with it, deciding to cast the replica in solid silver.
    One example from his “inverted trees” series following the artist’s early experiments with the camera lucida, a large-scale pinhole camera that dates back to ancient times, is also on view.
    “Getting It Together in the Country” is far from a complete overview of Graham’s polymathic practice, but it is one of the last exhibitions of his own work that he had a hand in organizing, and aptly showcases him as a unique artist, masterfully aloof, and still winking from beyond the veil.
    “Rodney Graham: Getting It Together In the Country” is on view at Hauser and Wirth Somerset through May 8.
    Rodney Graham, Main Street Tree (2006). ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Tom Van Eynde.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
    Rodney Graham, Paddler, Mouth of the Seymour (2012-2013). ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
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    ‘I’m Not Giving People What They’re Used To:’ Awol Erizku on the Challenges Inherent in Remixing His Own Work

    For his latest exhibition, Awol Erizku has transformed the white cube at Ben Brown Fine Arts into a Black space. 
    Even if you think the artist’s decision to literally paint the walls black is a bit on the nose, the actual content of the exhibition is certainly less heavy-handed than his last outing with the gallery in 2017, which included a graffiti-laden door emblazoned with Trump’s name and a swastika. In “Cosmic Drill,” on view through April 6, Erizku revisits many of the same issues evoked in that earlier show, albeit with a little more trust in the viewer to do the work of unpacking them.
    Anchoring the exhibition is a series of artworks that merge photography, painting, and sculpture. On first viewing they’re cool-looking backboards for a series of colorful basketball hoops. Photographs of space, sourced from NASA and printed on aluminium panels, are overlaid with hand-painted patches of buffed-out graffiti markings.
    A large-scale marble sculpture of three stacked dice in the colors of the pan-African flag, titled Head Crack [Stack or Starve], monumentalizes cee-lo, a popular dice game often played in inner city parks, including those in the South Bronx, where the Ethiopian-American artist was raised. Erizku has also produced a conceptual mix-tape to score the exhibition, featuring drill music—a subgenre of nihilism-imbued hiphop reminiscent of trap but slower (and, if you can imagine it, more blunt).
    Installation view, “Awol Erizku: Cosmic Drill” at Ben Brown Fine Arts London, 2023. ©Ben Brown Fine Arts. Photo by Tom Carter.
    In the seven-odd years since he was buffeted to fame after shooting a pregnant Beyoncé, the Los Angeles-based artist’s practice has matured. He has distinguished himself as a multidisciplinary artist while maintaining his profile as an important name in photography. In 2021, he photographed poet laureate Amanda Gorman for Time magazine’s “Black Renaissance” issue, even as he himself is also considered part of that renaissance, a generation of ascendant Black artists gaining recognition across the cultural landscape. His art world bona-fides have continued to sprout. Last March, Antwaun Sargent curated an Erizku solo exhibition at Gagosian in New York and, in September, the artist gained representation in the city from Sean Kelly.
    The works on view at Ben Brown were made in Erizku’s L.A. studio, where he decamped from New York four years ago, finding the less entrenched art scene to be more conducive to the kind of slippery work he was making. “It felt like a lawless place. I think there’s a kind of freedom there that I didn’t experience or feel in New York,” Erizku told me when I visited him at the gallery. “I felt like because of New York’s rich institutions that uphold a lot of the formal and traditional values of painting, sculpture, and other mediums, you kind of have to conform and bend to those norms.”
    In this latest body of work, Erizku has revisited his older works but instead of repeating his most popular series such as the “Reclining Venus” or “Hand and Rose” works for which he is well known, he has sampled and re-mixed lesser-appreciated work from his archive, folding in new layers.
    Earlier versions of the basketball hoop sculptures were shown in 2017, executed on plywood and adorned with Black Panther Party motifs and African masks. “I think this time the direct diasporic signifiers are stripped as a way to get to a more universal kind of reading,” Erizku told me about these more subtle manifestations. 
    He has dubbed this process retroactive continuity. He doesn’t mind how it is interpreted, either. “The challenge is that now I’m not giving people what they’re used to,” he said. “But for me, it’s far more rewarding to fail in a big way and learn from that as opposed to succeeding in some small fashion, and then being stuck to being that person who only does X, Y, and Z.”
    Awol Erizku, Kyrie’s Lament (Shawny BinLaden Type Beat) (2022). Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts.
    Trying to encapsulate in explicit terms what Erizku is doing would limit the work on view at Ben Brown, which  exists somewhere between the hard edges of pre-ordained categories, like the buffed-out street markings that have inspired it. Erizku sees these as representing a “beautiful and poetic” tug-of-war between the mark maker and the eraser—as both vie for control of the narrative, neither succeeds totally in their aim. “In that erasure process, this other thing sort of emerges and that’s what I’m after,” said the artist.
    That “other thing” has been described in critical discourses surrounding Black artistic production in different ways: in a public conversation Erizku had with visionary curator Ekow Eshun and poet Caleb Femi, they evoked what Toni Morrison referred to as “Black liquidity,” a fugitive entanglement of art forms that can take on an improvisational quality.
    The layered titles of Erizku’s work also resist straightforward readings. Instead, they raise even more cosmic knots. For instance, Kyrie’s Lament (Shawny BinLaden Type Beat) references the competing narratives engulfing NBA star Kyrie Irving after he platformed an anti-semitic documentary film on social media. 
    Erizku himself said that his work is trying to touch upon “the Black imaginary,” making references to his own self-expression as well as the art of David Hammons, or the explosive beats of Shawny BinLadin.
    “I’m just expressing things I have seen and felt. And I can only speak for myself, so it’s not some sort of collective trauma, it’s none of that,” he said. “This is just all very internal and very personal, really.”
    Speaking of his relationship to drill, the violent subject matter of which has become a target of politicians, Erizku said he considers himself a sort of visual “griot”—keepers of oral history in parts of West Africa—who hopes to help preserve the music as an art form by giving it a visual component. “I think there’s rich history in it. I’ve followed it since I can remember, and I see where it’s going,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s an expression, and it’s Black expression, first and foremost.”
    Incorporating references to it in his work is a way of “protecting it and making sure that it’s not looked down upon or it’s not considered low brow, simply because other people don’t understand the depth and the complexity of what’s being said,” he noted.
    When it comes to the wider narratives surrounding the “Black renaissance,” and his place within that particular canon of artists, Erizku was ambivalent. “I don’t know where I fit in that because I feel like I’m just getting started. I just finished my first monograph literally last week. Yes, I’ve been making work for close to 12 years now, professionally, but at the same time, it feels like chapter one for me.” In a way, then, it’s no wonder that the exhibition feels somewhat like an unfinished thought. 
    “Awol Erizku: Cosmic Drill” is on view through April 6 at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.

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    Tschabalala Self, Torkwase Dyson, and 9 Other Artists Will Transform the Coachella Valley With Site-Specific Installations for Desert X 2023

    Get your cameras ready. The artist list for the fourth edition of Desert X is here, and it promises to be a stunning show.
    The site-specific international art exhibition runs from March 4 through May 7, 2023, and features a cohort of 11 multigenerational artists hailing from Europe, North America, and South Asia, each of whom will produce an artwork responding to the dramatic landscape of the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California.
    Returning this year is artistic director Neville Wakefield and co-curator Diana Campbell, who together selected the artists to create works that both respond to and take cues from their environment.
    “There’s a saying attributed to the Kwakwaka’wakw nation that a place is a story happening many times,” Wakefield said in a statement. “This idea of place as the multiplicity of stories flowing through it is central to Desert X.”
    Campbell describes the works as “artistic interventions that make visible how our energy has a transference far beyond what we see just in front of us in our own localities.”
    The landscape of the Coachella Valley. Photo: Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X.
    The artists are cast in the role of storytellers, bridging the divide between global issues and individual responsibility and experience. Torkwase Dyson’s Liquid a Place engages the dichotomy of the body as a vessel filled with water, and its physicality within an environment like the desert, where water is a rapidly fading memory. Meanwhile, Tschabalala Self takes on the archetypes of the American West, reconstituting the traditional equestrian statue with a work that highlights the Black and Native women who have long been excluded from this history.
    Other projects touch on issues of migration, conspiracy theories rooted in the Western expanse, the proliferation of street vendors, and the notion of invisible labor. Even the image of the mechanical bull and its relationship to masculinity—conceived in projects spanning performance, film, and sculpture—is presented against the dramatic backdrop of the desert.
    More details, including a detailed map of the installations, will be available on March 4. Until then, see the full artist list below.

    Rana Begum, b. 1977, Bangladesh, based in London
    Lauren Bon, b. 1962, USA, based in Los Angeles
    Gerald Clarke, b. 1967, USA, based in Anza, California
    Paloma Contreras Lomas, b. 1991, Mexico, based in Mexico City
    Torkwase Dyson, b. 1973, USA, based in Beacon, New York
    Mario García Torres, b.1975, Mexico, based in Mexico City
    Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin, b. 1987, India, based in London and Delhi and David Soin Tappeser, b.1985, Germany, based in London and Delhi)
    Matt Johnson, b. 1978, USA, based in Los Angeles
    Tschabalala Self, b. 1990, USA, based in New York
    Marina Tabassum, b. 1968, Dhaka, Bangladesh, based in Dhaka
    Héctor Zamora, b.1974, Mexico City, Mexico, based in Mexico City
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    Artists Have Long Held Day Jobs to Make Ends Meet. A New Exhibition Makes the Case That Side Gigs Also Fuel Creativity

    Aspiring artists looking to break into the art world often hear a warning: “Don’t quit your day job.” But a new show at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin proves that even some of the world’s most successful artists have relied on other jobs to make ends meet—and that those day jobs can sometimes prove key to their central practice, rather than distractions from their primary calling.
    Featuring 75 works by major U.S. artists including Mark Bradford, Jeffrey Gibson, Jeff Koons, and Barbara Kruger, “Day Jobs” will be the first major exhibition to address the impact that day jobs have had on art history—demonstrating that while the gig economy might have seemed born of the 2010s, the side hustle is actually nothing new for artists.
    Before he became a pioneering California Light and Space artist, for instance, Larry Bell was a young painter working by day at a commercial framing shop in Venice Beach in the 1960s. Filling customer orders, Bell was one day struck by the beauty of the light hitting a pane of glass in a metal frame. A totally new direction for his work was born, and a burgeoning art movement.
    The jobs represented in the show are many, and wide-ranging. Some have an obvious connection to the art world—Andy Warhol, of course, got his start as a fashion illustrator. Other related careers featured in the show include graphic design, billboard painting, and furniture making.
    Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley (ca. 1956). Collection of the Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut, ©the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York, via Yale University Press.
    But artists have also worked at major companies such as Ford Motors and IKEA, and held demanding jobs such as ICU nurses and high-powered lawyers. Did you know, for instance, that Jeff Koons was once a Wall Street commodities trader? “Day Jobs” also highlights less glamorous careers, with artists who have moonlit as dishwashers, janitors, and nannies.
    Though these roles may appear to have nothing in common, exhibition curators Veronica Roberts (the Blanton’s former curator of Modern and contemporary art, and now director of California’s Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University) and Lynne Maphies (a former curatorial assistant at the Blanton) make the case they all can provide unexpected creative inspiration for the artists who hold them.
    Fred Wilson, Grey Area (Brown version), 1993. Collection of the Brooklyn
 Museum, bequest of William K. Jacobs, Jr. and bequest of Richard J. Kempe, by exchange 2008. Photo: ©Fred Wilson, courtesy of Pace Gallery.
    A day job can push artists in new directions as they learn about a new industry, get exposed to new materials or working methods, or even just shift their studio hours—Howardena Pindell was a figurative painter, until a curatorial assistant job at New York’s Museum of Modern Art meant she could no longer make art during daylight hours, prompting her to experiment with hole-punched paper scraps from her desk job, creating unique abstract works.
    Art museums, it turns out, often employ artists—at MoMA alone, Sol LeWitt was a receptionist, Dan Flavin was an elevator operator, and Robert Ryman was a security guard.
    Sara Bennett, TIANA, 25, in the library at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (2019). Photo: ©Sara Bennett, courtesy of the artist.
    Rejecting the myth of the lone genius working alone in the art studio, art springing forth from the studio whenever inspiration strikes, “Day Jobs” looks at the ways that economic pursuits can help fuel the creation of great art. Could it be that quitting the day job to make art full-time isn’t the ultimate goal?
    “Day Jobs” will be on view at the Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard., Austin, Texas, February 19–July 23, 2023.
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    Never-Before-Seen Paul McCartney Photos From the Height of Beatlemania Will Reopen London’s National Portrait Gallery

    Following a three-year closure for renovation, London’s National Portrait Gallery will Get Back this summer—and it’s debuting a series of never-before-seen Paul McCartney photos to mark the occasion. 
    The museum reopens on June 22 with the exhibition “Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm.” The show will bring together a series of portraits shot by McCartney on a 35mm camera in London, Liverpool, Miami, New York, Paris, and Washington, D.C. during the early, mop-top days of his band’s rise to global stardom.
    The event “will provide a uniquely personal perspective on what it was like to be a Beatle at the start of Beatlemania,” NPG director Nicholas Cullinan told the Guardian. “At a time when so many camera lenses were on the band, these photographs will share fresh insight into their experiences, all through the eyes of Sir Paul McCartney.”
    Long thought lost, the photos were recently rediscovered by the Let It Be songwriter, and in 2020, he approached the NPG about the possibility of a show. 
    “He said he’d found these photographs that he remembers taking but thought had been lost,” Cullinan recalled. “We sat down with him and began going through them. [It was] extraordinary to see these images—which are unseen—of such a well-documented, famous, and important cultural moment.”
    Paul McCartney, Self-portraits in a mirror. Paris (1964). © Paul McCartney.
    A monograph of the nearly 1,000 photos shot by McCartney will be published alongside the show in June. Both the book and tickets for the exhibition are available for pre-order now. 
    The same year McCartney contacted the NPG, the museum closed its doors for a £35.5 million ($45 million) renovation project. Popular portraits were sent out on loans and tours as the institution overhauled its galleries and redesigned its entrance.
    Now, as it prepares to open again, the museum is promoting several high-profile shows to lure visitors back. In addition to “Eyes of the Storm,” the NPG will open an exhibition of works by Yevonde, a 20th-century British photographer who pioneered the use of color in portraiture. Then, in November, the institution will re-present “David Hockney: Drawing from Life,” which opened for just 20 days in 2020 before increasing Covid-19 cases caused the gallery to close. 
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    The Winter Show in New York Dazzles Collectors and Browsers Alike With Its Troves of Rare Art and Antiques

    Widely regarded as the foremost art, antiques, and design fair in the United States, the annual Winter Show has returned to New York’s landmark Park Avenue Armory (January 20–29) in all its gleaming, glinting glory. Serious collectors and casual observers alike can browse the carefully curated booths of vetted works. 
    Last year, the Winter Show set up shop in the shell of the former Barney’s flagship on Madison Avenue—a clever, if temporary, move precipitated by pandemic concerns. For 2023, the New York fixture is back in the Armory’s vaulted vastness, where it has proffered historical treasures for 65 of the last 69 years. Once again, it aims to engage visitors with items spanning 5,000 years of human history, culled from galleries around the world—68 in all. 
    It’s an astounding array of works, ranging from vibrant contemporary ceramics and jewelry to gilded antiques and furniture of the more traditional variety, offering show-goers not only aesthetically appealing but historically significant art and objects through the centuries. 
    George II period Chinese red lacquer bureau on stand (Chinese, ca. 1750). Exhibited by Ronald Phillips LTD
    Every object on show is vetted to ensure the highest standards of authenticity and quality. “We have 120 experts in 30 fields, from antiquities and metalwork to European painting and textiles to 20th- and 21st-century design—to name just a few,” the fair’s executive director Helen Allen told Artnet News. The vetting committees change each year, she added, depending on the disciplines on display. “Our vettors are a combination of dealers, curators, restorers, and former auction-house specialists.” 
    Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, The Madame Mère Inkstand Paris (1812). Exhibited by Koopman Rare Art.
    Asked whether she’s spotted any trends this year, either on the supply or demand side, Allen said, “There is definitely a big push to represent artists often overlooked in the contemporary market, and we are seeing a strong interest in this through focused presentations.” As an example, she pointed to exhibitor Robert Simon, who’s curated an exhibition of works by women artists from the Renaissance through the 20th century.
    Nestled in a darkened corner of “Heroines of the Brush” sits a small yet enthralling depiction of the Madonna and child by nun-artist Suor Plautilla Nelli, the earliest known woman Renaissance painter of 16th-century Florence. “Plautilla Nelli is a special interest of mine,” Simon told Artnet News, “having studied the artist since I was in graduate school and, rare as her paintings are, having had another about 15 years ago.” This one was acquired, he explained, after it recently emerged from a private collection in Tuscany, where it was thought to be an anonymous work. “But the style is unmistakably hers, and the attribution of the painting to Plautilla Nelli was confirmed by two scholars who have published on the artist.”
    Suor Plautilla Nelli (Florence, 1524–1588), Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Catherine, Ursula, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, exhibited by Robert Simon Fine Art. Courtesy of the Winter Show.
    The 2023 edition brings 14 new exhibitors to the Winter Show. Among them, Eguiguren Arte de Hispanoamérica from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has displayed an impressive selection of antique Hispanic American art and equestrian silver. Imperial Art, hailing from Paris, specializes in pre-revolution French paintings and objets d’art. The centerpiece of its booth is a floor-to-ceiling royal portrait of King Louis XIV by the studio of Hyacinthe Rigaud. Pictured in his coronation robes, the Sun King commands fealty.
    Studio of Hyacinthe Rigaud, Portrait of Louis XIV in Coronation Robes (ca. 1702). Provenance: Dukes of Noailles. Exhibited by Imperial Art.
    George Nakashima, conoid table and ten chairs (1969). Persian walnut, East Indian rosewood, American black walnut. Exhibited by Geoffrey Diner Gallery. Courtesy of the Winter Show.
    They join returning exhibitor Geoffrey Diner Gallery, specialist in postwar art and design, particularly the designs of George Nakashima and Gio Ponti. The booth’s all-wood Nakashima table is an outstanding example of the artist’s experimentation with free edges and fissures. Hirschl & Adler Galleries of New York also returns with American and European paintings, such as those by Charles Willson Peale, who not only painted leaders of the American Revolution but participated in combat as well. And longtime exhibitor Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts greets visitors as they enter the Armory with three bronzes: Auguste Rodin’s miniature Pierre de Wiessant, a reclining figure by Henry Moore, and Jacques Lipchitz’s towering Lesson of a Disaster (1961–70). Standing at the front entrance, the latter’s depiction of a phoenix rising out of flames is an unambiguous reiteration of the fair’s message of revival.
    Auguste Rodin, Pierre de Wiessant, “Bourgeois de Calais,” (ca. 1905). Exhibited by Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts.
    Tiffany Studios, Rare Snowball Window (ca. 1905), exhibited by Lillian Nassau. Courtesy of the Winter Show.
    Lillian Nassau, too, returns with a host of Gilded Age leaded-glass works by Tiffany Studios, as well as an intricate glass window attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright. Michele Beiny brings exquisite contemporary ceramics and antique porcelains from Meissen and Sèvres. A gold cast of German supermodel Veruschka’s lips—designed and cast by Claude Lalanne, manufactured by Milanese jeweler GianCarlo Montebello—beckons from the booth of Didier Ltd. The gallery is asking $200,000 for the one-of-a-kind 18-karat piece of jewelry, commissioned by Yves Saint Laurent in 1969 and published in Vogue in December of that year.
    Details of Claude Lalanne, Bouche (1969). Exhibited by Didier Ltd.
    Pennsylvania dealer Kelly Kinzle has rolled out a real showstopper, a limited-edition 1930 Commodore Roadster by Italian luxury car manufacturer Isotta Fraschini, which Kinzle compared to Rolls-Royce of England, its main competitor at the time. “It really takes the air out of the room,” he beamed, explaining that the car could reach 100 miles per hour, quite a feat in its day. Kinzle said his asking price is $1.45 million for this exemplary automobile, which features a Lalique hood ornament.
    Isotta Fraschini, body by Carrozzeria Castagna, 1930 Commodore Roadster. Exhibited by Kelly Kinzle.
    Medieval enthusiasts will want to stop in at Daniel Crouch‘s booth, where a volvelle astronomical calendar takes pride of place among rare books and antique maps. Crouch said it’s the only such calendar to have survived from the Middle Ages, hanging for over three centuries in the cloister of the San Zeno Abbey in Verona, Italy, where it would have been seen by all the monks several times every day. Crouch explained that the object has been dated to approximately 1455 using its own time-tracking rotational mechanisms—which, he noted, puts it within a year of the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. The stellar provenance befits its $1.5 million asking price.
    San Zeno Astrolabe, cloister of San Zeno abbey (ca. 1455). Exhibited by Daniel Crouch Rare Books.
    One must-see presentation is not for sale: The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), in partnership with East Side House and Bank of America, is showcasing treasures from two of its costume collections—the exquisite hand-tailored qipaos of Aileen Pei (stepmother of architect I.M. Pei) and the intricate opera gowns of the Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association, which promoted and preserved opera in New York’s Chinatown primarily in the 1920s and ‘30s, the golden age of Cantonese opera in the United States.
    Opera costumes exhibited by the Museum of Chinese in America. Courtesy of the Winter Show.
    In addition to wowing visitors with its worldly wares, the Winter Show serves another purpose: to support the East Side House Settlement, a community-based organization benefiting the children, families, and community of the Bronx and northern Manhattan. The fair will put all ticket sale proceeds toward this cause, which it has done since its founding in the 1950s.
    The Winter Show is on view at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, New York, January 20–29, 2023.
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    British-Ghanaian Filmmaker John Akomfrah Will Represent the United Kingdom at the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024

    John Akomfrah, the British-Ghanaian artist whose ambitious films and screened installations have tackled colonial legacies, climate change, and immigration, has been selected to represent Britain at the 60th Venice Biennale, set to open in April 2024.
    The nomination was announced today by the British Council, which has been responsible for the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale since 1937. 
    In a statement, ​​Akomfrah called the commission a “huge privilege and an [honor],” adding that “it is without a doubt one of the most exciting opportunities that an artist can be presented with.” 
    Akomfrah, 65, is widely regarded as one of the most influential video artists of his generation. 
    Born in Accra, Ghana, in 1957, the artist’s family fled to Britain when he was just four. In 1982, he was one of seven founding artists behind Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), a group formed with the goal of increasing the representation Black British communities on screen. The collective’s first film, Handsworth Songs, won the BFI John Grierson Award for Best Documentary in 1986.
    Since then, Akomfrah has consistently turned to his chosen medium to explore topics that are both timely and universal in scope. Among the highlights are Mnemosyne (2010), a film about the experiences of post-war migrants living in the U.K.; The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a poetic portrait of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall; and Purple (2017), a 62-minute, six-channel video installation that explores the effects of changing climate patterns on human communities and natural ecosystems across the globe.
    John Akomfrah, Four Nocturnes (2019). © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy of Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery.
    Next year’s presentation will mark Akomfrah’s third turn at the Biennale, following, most recently, his presentation of the film Four Nocturnes, which was commissioned for the inaugural Ghana Pavilion at the 58th iteration of the show in 2019. The artist’s Vertigo Sea (2015) was also included in the Okwui Enwezor-curated main show in 2015.  
    Other artists to have represented Britain at the prestigious expo in recent years include Phyllida Barlow, Sarah Lucas, Cathy Wilkes, and Golden Lion winner Sonia Boyce. As with those figures, who were all over the age of 50 when commissioned, it seems the British Council panel of nominators prioritized Akomfrah’s long history of artistic triumphs. Though the list of Akomfrah’s recent accomplishments is impressive too: in 2017, he won the Artes Mundi prize, the U.K.’s biggest award for international art, while just this month, he was knighted as part of the King’s New Year Honours List for 2023.
    “John’s inspiring style and narrative has continuously evolved, revealing key ideas and questions about the world we inhabit,” Skinder Hundal, the British Council’s Global Director of Arts and the Commissioner of the British Pavilion, said of the artist’s nomination.
    “The quality and contextual depth of his artistry never fails to inspire deep reflection and awe. For the British Council to have such a significant British-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exhilarating moment.”
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    ‘It’s Less Scary, More Attractive:’ Artist Every Ocean Hughes on Her Unflinching Work That Gives People Another View of Death

    Many artists have made work about death, but few have been as close to their subject matter as Every Ocean Hughes. The American artist tackles the subject with humor, sensitivity, and knowledge mined from her training as a death doula. “Alive Side,” Hughes’s new exhibition at the Whitney in New York (on view through April 2), features a trilogy of video and performance works about dying. They are shown alongside a photo series dedicated to Manhattan’s redeveloped west side piers, which have themselves become a metaphor for the death, legacy, and rebirth of the neighborhood surrounding the museum.
    I first encountered Hughes in 2021, when she showed One Big Bag at Studio Voltaire in London. The second in her death trilogy, the single-channel film installation follows performer Lindsay Rico taking the role of doula and talking through her “mobile corpse kit,” with practical tools including water bowls and cotton swabs alongside more creative items such as ceremonial bells.
    Rico’s delivery is captivating, speaking beyond the mechanics of death care to its murky politics, racism within medical practice, and the lack of agency that many face at the end of their life. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just about a ‘good death’,” Hughes told Artnet News. “There can be so much stress and violence. I have always wanted to make sure I am keeping that in the picture.” 
    The artist decided to learn more about death care after the passing of her grandmother in 2016. She has since taken part in numerous death doula workshops, which teach students about everything from washing dead bodies to caring for the bereaved. 
    “I had some friends die when I was a kid and I always knew that I would have to take care of that at some point as an adult,” she said. “It’s the thing that has impacted me the most as a person. Then my grandmother died. She was my sister, my mother, my best friend. It was the first time I was able to be present. My mum and her friend are nurses and had also been hospice volunteers. They had the physical skills; I kind of slotted into spiritual care.”
    Every Ocean Hughes, still from One Big Bag (2021). Single channel video; 40 min. Courtesy of the artist.
    Her works stand as an encouragement to be more open to death. “It changes your life when you slow down and turn towards death,” she said. “The aim of the writing in these projects is to make it something people want to stay with. When people encounter this knowledge in a performative way, with a creative aesthetic, they are given multiple access points. It’s less scary, more attractive.”
    Help the Dead is a 60-minute 2019 performance. It’s the first in the trilogy that Hughes describes as speaking to the social side of death, where One Big Bag focuses on its material aspects. The two-person performance discusses horrors such as the unofficial “death tax” imposed in funeral homes across the United States for those dying with AIDS at the beginning of the crisis, and the fact that some bodies were buried deeper than usual for fear of contamination. The work balances painful conversation with upbeat melodies and lively performance.  
    “Especially with Help the Dead, I didn’t know which parts viewers would find funny and which they would find hopelessly sad,” she said. “Something disgustingly tragic might be a moment where someone needs to laugh. The choreography in One Big Bag is also to give some relief to the performer. She’s talking about a dead baby: what’s her body doing in that moment? She’s channeling the intensity for the viewer. It’s a very embodied, physical thing we’re talking about.”
    Both works are shown at the Whitney alongside River, a new commission which completes the trilogy, with a focus on the mythic side of death. “I say myth instead of religion, but it’s about the stories we tell,” she says. “Death is the basis of religion and culture.” The performance features a character who can pass between realms.
    “Are we talking about crossing into the underworld, like the Odyssey? Or the first time you go to a gay bar?” she said. “That’s a whole other world too. I’ve always loved that underground, underworld meeting. The character’s defining trait is their exuberance. It’s like when you first come out. Of course, there is anxiety, but you’re also excited about all this stuff you didn’t know about and how much you feel your life will change.” 
    Every Ocean Hughes, The Piers Untitled (2010-2023). Courtesy of the artist.
    Hughes’ photographic series on Manhattan’s west side piers will line the entrance to the show. She started working on the images fourteen years ago and much has changed since for communities who inhabited the area. 
    “I did not have my future gentrification glasses on when I started photographing that place,” she says. “I had been going there from the time that I moved to New York. I then understood that it was important culturally and politically. It’s unrecognisable now. My favourite set of pilings are underneath Little Island, this new development. One of the reasons they keep the pilings there is to protect the decades of polluting sediment that would be stirred up if they were removed. For this show I was thinking about dying, legacy and transitions; you can map those themes onto the gentrification of the Whitney’s neighborhood.”
    Many of Hughes’s works lead back to fear and the resulting barriers that are put up between bodies. This can be felt in her references to AIDS victims buried deep within the ground; in the pilings that hold down sediment while being crushed by new developments; and in the trepidation that many have for touching their loved ones’ dead bodies. Her work is an invitation to look at these things that are kept at arm’s length.
    “When I attended my first workshop, I knew why I was there, but I still felt shocked when she said we were going to wash the body,” she said. “I had the sense it would be toxic, that there’s something bad about the body after death. But where has that come from? Our elders and the generations before them would stay with the body. If you love somebody in life, what does it mean to wash and care for their body after death?”
    “Every Ocean Hughes: Alive Side” is on view through April 2 at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York.
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