After initially preventing him from traveling to the UK, the British government has granted Syrian-born, Sharjah-based artist Thaier Helal‘s second visa application, allowing him to attend the opening of his first solo show in London.
“We had reapplied for Thaier’s UK visa and now it’s been approved,” Minna J. Apostolovic, head of public relations at Ayyam Gallery, told Hyperallergic. “We’re trying to get him on the next available flight to London.”
Helal is attempting to travel to the UK in time for the January 22 opening of his exhibition Landmarks at Ayyam Gallery’s space on New Bond Street, even though the Home Office — the ministry that oversees security and immigration — turned down his first visa application. The artist had provided all the requisite documents including bank statements, a letter from the University Of Sharjah (where he lectures), and recommendations, but immigration officials reviewing his first application said they were “not satisfied he [was] genuinely seeking entry to the United Kingdom as a business visitor. In addition [they were] not satisfied that [he] intend to leave the United Kingdom at the end of [his] visit,” according to theIndependent.
“I just don’t understand why I have been refused entry to the UK, I am just an artist who wants to be at the opening of my first solo exhibition in Britain. It means so much to me — it is really a career achievement,” Helal told the Independent. “I truly believe that the only reason preventing me from being allowed into the UK is my Syrian passport, it was my belief that Britain was an open society which embraced creative freedom and the promotion of cultural exchange.”
Ayyam Gallery, which was founded in Damascus and also has exhibition spaces in Dubai, Beirut, and Jeddah, is unfortunately accustomed to having to deal with immigration officials’ inscrutable decisions. Last year Israeli authorities prevented one of the gallery’s artists, Khaled Jarrar, from traveling to New York City for openings of exhibitions in which he was featured at the New Museum and the Whitebox Art Center.
Artists with non-EU passports attempting to travel to the UK and North America have long faced similar difficulties. In 2013, the Algerian artist Sofiane Belaskri was denied a four-day visa to visit the UK for the opening of an exhibition and ensuing workshops at the Free World Centre in London. Last year, the Canadian government denied the Afghan artist Hanifa Alizada a visa to attend a photography symposium in Ottawa.
NEW YORK, NY.- Over a dozen of Europe and the United States’ leading dealers of Japanese art will present exhibitions during New York’s Asia Week, from March 13 to March 22, 2015. The wide spectrum of exhibitions will highlight the breathtaking range of the arts of Japan, from ancient terracottas to scenes of nature and of Japan’s emergent middle class entertainment to recent photographs of bodies emblazoned with tattoos. In 2015, the Japanese Art Dealers Association will hold its seventh consecutive collaborative exhibition of Japanese art by leading dealers in the field – the only regularly held mini-fair during Asia Week, one that dates back to 2009. JADA 2015: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association will feature over 60 works of art that span 2,000 years. The exhibition will be held at the Ukrainian Institute of America, 2 E. 79 St. in New York, for three days only, from March 14 through March 16, 2015. Asia Week draws to New York curators, art historians, collectors, and aficionados from all over the world for a week of exhibitions that reveal long-hidden masterpieces and fine works of art. It was established in by Sotheby’s in 1992. “The interest in Japanese art has continued to be robust over the past several years, and in 2015 JADA welcomes several new affiliated galleries to its ongoing effort to highlight exceptional Japanese art during Asia Week,” said Sebastian Izzard, president of the JADA. “Our members and affiliates look forward to a vibrant Asia Week with the arts of Japan among the week’s highlights.” Among the works in JADA 2015 will be an early bronze Dōka (ritual spear blade) from the Yayoi Period (400 BC-AD 300), exhibited by Mika Gallery, that is in exceptionally fine condition. An early and important 15th century calligraphy, Zen no Kaname, Principle of Zen, by Motsurin Shōtō (d. 1419) will be shown by Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts. Shōtō was a prominent calligrapher of the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and a disciple of Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481), the noted Zen Buddhist monk and poet. The provenance of Zen no Kaname, Principle of Zen includes Jinkōin Temple, one of the three largest Shingon sect temples in Kyoto. Other highlights include a remarkable and historically notable pair of circa 1800 six-panel screens, Places Along the Tōkaidō, a highly detailed work that pre-dates Utagawa Hiroshige’s landmark print series, The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō. The screens feature hundreds of travelers in various landscapes and are both remarkably beautiful and a document that recalls a transitional moment in Japanese culture. They will be exhibited by Erik Thomsen Gallery. Dating from 1889, nearly a century later, is a pair of hanging scrolls by the 19th century master of several media, Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891), Carp Swimming among Water Plants. The scrolls illustrate the artist’s exquisite technique and his sense of play: the expressions between the creatures is all too human, a quixotic merging of nature and man. The scrolls will be presented by Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art. Illustrating a love of nature derived from spiritual adulation common in Japanese art are Landscapes and Birds of the Four Seasons, a pair of ink and color on gold-leaf six-panel Kyo-Kano screens (school of Mitsunobu/Takanobu) that date to the early 17th century. The beautifully painted screens, of rich colors and dynamic composition, are in pristine condition and were once in the Kyushu Daimyō collection, which included screens now in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. They will be shown by Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Fine Art. In addition to JADA 2015, the members of JADA will hold exhibitions at their individual galleries: Erik Thomsen Gallery; Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Art; Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Fine Arts; Mika Gallery; and Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art. Eight prominent galleries affiliated with JADA – one from Asia, two from Europe, and five from the United States – that handle Japanese art will be exhibiting during Asia Week as well: Bachmann Eckenstein Japanese Art, of Basel, Switzerland; Floating World Gallery, of Chicago, IL; Giuseppe Piva Japanese Art, of Milan Italy; Hiroshi Yanagi Oriental Art, of Kyoto, Japan; Onishi Gallery, of New York, NY; Ronin Gallery, of New York, NY; Scholten Japanese Art of New York, NY; and The Art of Japan, of Medina, WA. The auction house Bonhams will be active during Asia Week, as well, and Christie’s will be holding its annual auction of Japanese art in April. Three notable and distinguished galleries that handle Japanese art have become affiliated with JADA in 2015 but will not be exhibiting in New York during Asia Week. Each is based in London, England: Grace Tsumugi Fine Art, Gregg Baker Asian Art, and Malcolm Fairley Ltd.
Sharjah Biennial 12: The past, the present, the possible (SB12) will open on March 5, 2015 and will be on view through June 5, 2015. SB12 began to take shape in a private conversation between artist Danh Vo and curator Eungie Joo in early 2014. Together they discussed the relevance of contemporary art and the potential of artistic positions to imagine something beyond current states of social and political confinement—and the need for artists to play active roles in imagining the possible.
While archeological research confirms the presence of humans in this region over 125,000 years ago, Sharjah—as a city, an emirate and a member of a relatively young federation—is still in the process of imagining itself through education, culture, religion, heritage and science. SB12 will invite more than fifty artists and cultural practitioners from approximately twenty-five countries to participate in this process by introducing their ideas of the possible through their art and work.
SB12 will be on view from March 5 – June 5, 2015, with opening events taking place March 5 – 8. A vital component of Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual programming, March Meeting 2015 will take place in mid-May, exact dates forthcoming. SB12 will also feature a monthly talks series in Sharjah beginning in September 2014.
Sharjah Biennial is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, which brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region.
Since 1993, Sharjah Biennial has commissioned, produced and presented large-scale public installations, performances and films, offering artists from the region and beyond an internationally recognised platform for exhibition and experimentation.
CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute is presenting an exhibition of Japanese prints by a mysterious 18th century Japanese artist whose identity is debated but whose output was remarkable for its innovation and imagination. Masterworks of Japanese Prints: Toshusai Sharaku will be on display through March 29, 2015, in Gallery 107. Toshusai Sharaku produced about 150 designs in a 10-month period between the summer of 1794 and the early spring of 1795. Before and after this period, an artist by this name is unknown, and therefore, Sharaku’s identity has been a matter of much debate. The Art Institute has one of the best museum collections of Sharaku’s work in the world thanks to the early efforts of collectors Clarence and Kate Buckingham. Most of the prints in this exhibition entered the museum between 1925 and 1934 as gifts from the Buckinghams. Sharaku’s earliest work consisted of 28 bust portraits of actors who appeared in the Kabuki plays presented at the three principal Edo (Tokyo) theaters starting in the fifth month of 1794. Each of these prints had a dark, shiny background made with a mineral silicate called mica. All of these early designs are bold portraits of actors in identifiable roles. After a few months, however, and as the peak of the Kabuki season approached, this format was abandoned and he began designing prints of two full-length figures. In many of these prints, white mica rather than dark mica is used. The technique of using mica became quite popular in the early 1790s but was later abandoned, perhaps due to governmental edicts. In his later prints, Sharaku turned to a yellow ground, smaller format for bust portraits. This exhibition, organized by Janice Katz, Roger L. Weston Associate Curator of Japanese Art, contains examples of all of the types of prints mentioned above. Also on view in a different gallery will be Blue Phoenix, a stunning pair of folding screens by Japanese artist Omura Koyo (1891–1983). These oversized screens present Koyo’s vision of a tropical scene complete with rare birds and exotic plants. Bright orange Flame of the Forest flowers form the backdrop for flashy pheasants with highly patterned plumage and blue heads. The work glows, not only because of the bright colors, but also due to the gold leaf that was applied to the underside of the silk on which the scene is painted. This pair of screens, Koyo’s masterpiece, was exhibited at a Japanese government-sponsored exhibition in 1921, where it garnered great praise and one of the coveted prizes.
PARIS — Three curators, Jean-Hubert Martin (who last year orchestrated the sprawlingThéâtre du Monde show), Moulim El Aroussi, and Mohamed Métalsi, have assembled a vast, 2,500-square-meter (~27,000 sq. ft.) show of contemporary aesthetics from Morocco calledContemporary Morocco at the Institut du Monde Arabe. Without a doubt they have fashioned a fruitful overview of the work of 300 contemporary artists, designers, filmmakers, and musicians. Much of the work invites examination in light of the powers of globalization and the wave of revolutions and protests that have come to be known as theArab Spring. Thus, the show highlights a combination of factors that stress the great diversity of artistic movements there. It implicitly stresses how religious and intellectual openness is part of the Moroccan tradition.
While the provincial aspect of some of the work at times reminded me of nightmare BFA studio visits, the entire exhibition succeeds in depicting a society in movement, thirsty for edgy invention, and unfettered freedom. Highlights of this huge pictorial corpus include the dynamic glowing light and sculptural installation of conical shaped sugar loafs by the visual artist and chorographer Atbane Younès called “9oualab” (2013). In a dark room, white light blinks and sweeps over a beautifully stacked pyramid of sugar loafs. These loaves have a conical form that has not changed for generations, but they retain something that has a paradoxical charge in Moroccan society. They are offered at every important event, like weddings and funerals yet represent rare spiritual value. Thus the work establishes a multiple and unified link of abstract uncertainty between mystical and trivial representation.
There are also strong abstract paintings here, for example sweeping open gestural paintings by Najia Mehadji (that favor a penchant for contemplation and meditation) and jagged dark paintings by Abdelkébir Rabi, whose work suggested to me the rough and rocky environment of the majestic Atlas Mountains of his childhood. Also of interest were the intensely claustrophobic geometric jumbles by André Elbaz. His paintings tend to balance open forms as they dissolve and deconstruct. All three painters suggest a rich and complex openness to modernity in current Morocco, as does Nourredine Daifallah, a Moroccan calligrapher, with his intricate “Hommage à Imam Al Jazouli” (2014).
But for me, the star of the show is 23-year-old Nadia Bensallam. Her cluster of terrific drawings powerfully portrays the ecstatic suspension of time through sex while criticizing dogmatic stances in Moroccan society — including the veil. One feels with her an intelligible emphasis on the black line, like a young Raymond Pettibon, within a general crotchety and slightly surreal erotic aesthetic. Her drawings have something about them that suggests the beautiful heights of a romantic sublime.
Her startling short videoed performance about hypocrisy shows her wandering the streets of Marrakech, cheekily wearing a blasphemous and outlandish combination of high heels and black niqab with miniskirt, carrying a big cherry colored handbag. A teenaged boy eyeballs her and then pursues, shouting something, but I could barely hear what was said. Then the many women she meets in her eccentric outfit insult and curse her out.
Both Fatima Mazmouzn and Nadia Bensallam seemed to be able to capture the pertinent mood: a distinctly dark aesthetic taste that struck me by-and-large as a form of Romantic Goth that bordered on the erotic.
I know Morocco through occasional visits, and I found this overview of the current Moroccan arts scene, like Morocco itself, to be both familiar and continuously mysterious. The formal issues and conventional syntax of the work lent a mixture of recognizable technique to a reflection on, and questioning of, certain Moroccan religious and cultural traditions. That seems highly relevant in wake of the “Je suis Charlie” slogan/movement adopted by supporters of free speech and freedom of expression after the January 7th massacre at the satirical newspaperCharlie Hebdo in Paris.
The best artists in the exhibition demonstrate the blossoming role that softly subversive art plays in the life of open minded Moroccans (and all people). It is an art that reflects the diversity and fusion inherent in the history of Morocco itself. One where conventional syntax does not squash unconventionality. Thus it is fitting that a huge red sign reading “Nous sommes tous Charlie” (We are all Charlie) in Arabic and French has been placed on the facade of the Institute of the Arab World.
Le Maroc contemporain (Contemporary Morocco) continues at the Institut du Monde Arabe (1, rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, Place Mohammed V, 5eme, Paris) until March 1
When clothing appears at the Metropolitan Museum, it’s typically a big to-do involving the Costume Institute, haute couture and numerous theatrical set pieces. (See, for instance, the current exhibition of Victorian mourning attire.) But “Kimono: A Modern History,” quietly folded into the museum’s Arts of Japan Galleries, is a different kind of fashion show.
It’s as stunning as anything the Costume Institute has to offer, with case after case of richly embroidered, dyed and printed robes. Its point of view, however, is more scholarly than sartorial. Really it’s a history of modern Japan, told through a garment with a simple T-shaped cut and a name that translates, simply, as “thing to wear.”
Despite its ceremonial, traditional reputation, the kimono belongs (and has always belonged) to a wider material culture that runs high to low and includes hanging scrolls, prints, books, magazines and decorative objects. Kimonos have even served as home décor, as seen in a pair of six-panel folding screens from the late 16th century that show pictures of robes draped over stands to form a makeshift room divider.
Edo period kimono pattern books, displayed alongside contemporaneous woodblock prints of kimono-wearing actors and glamour girls, link kimonos to the theater and to a flourishing publishing industry. Men’s kimonos from the 1930s and ’40s, printed with airplanes and battleships, meanwhile, do double duty as war propaganda.
Throughout, the show revels in the versatility of the kimono — a garment worn by men and women, commoners and elite samurai, Westerners and the Japanese alike. Although the curators include some incredibly luxurious examples, like the sky-blue silk satin robe embroidered with gold shells that may have been part of a wealthy young woman’s trousseau, they also make room for coats worn by farmers and firefighters (which, to a contemporary eye, are just as fabulous with their patchworks of recycled fabric and printed figures from Japanese folklore).
Although the most sumptuous textiles in the exhibition date from the Edo period (1615-1868), the section on the subsequent Meiji period (1868-1912) is even more stimulating. It unfolds as a lively back-and-forth between Japanese kimono designers and their Western counterparts, made possible by the opening of Japan’s ports to international trade. Prints by the artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi set the scene, showing a mix of Western-style dresses and kimonos in of Yokohama, a port city.
A coral silk velvet evening coat by Jean-Charles Worth, a great-grandson of the Paris-based English designer Charles Frederick Worth, attests to the kimono’s appeal for fashionable Western women (especially those who had tired of the corset). Corsets and bustles, meanwhile, found their way into the wardrobes of high-ranking Japanese women.
Materials and techniques were exchanged along with designs; wool traveled east and silk west, and a new, hybrid method of stencil dyeing, called kata-yuzen, evolved, enabling such gorgeous creations as a silk gauze kimono bordered by a summery scene of carp and waterlilies.
Synthetic Western dyes are responsible for the deep purples and other brilliant colors of kimonos of the Taisho period (1912-1926). And some early Showa period robes, from the 1920s and ’30s, borrow liberally from the stylized, swirling patterns of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements.
Other Showa kimonos flaunt aggressively modern, representational motifs: Leicas and Rolleiflex cameras, in a men’s under-kimono from 1955, or Mickey Mouse, in a midcentury child’s kimono. These mass-produced items, sold in department stores and suitable for everyday wear, stand in vivid contrast to the show’s older, handmade kimonos (which, by midcentury, had become sought-after collector’s items).
Inspired by and dedicated to the independent textile historian and scholar Terry Satsuki Milhaupt, who wrote the detailed and insightful book that is the show’s catalog, “Kimono” was organized by the Met’s curator of Japanese art, John T. Carpenter, and the curatorial fellow Monika Bincsik.
It concludes with kimono-inspired fashions from the 1950s through the early 1990s, by designers such as Bonnie Cashin, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, displayed alongside traditional kimonos made by Japanese artists who have been designated Living National Treasures. The show might have benefited from some more current examples; Mr. Miyake’s persimmon-colored shirt with long, spiraling sleeves, from 1991, is the most recent piece on view.
Fortunately, Ms. Milhaupt’s book (edited, after her death, by her widower, Curtis J. Milhaupt) offers an up-to-the-minute account of kimonos in contemporary culture, with nods to gatherings of kimono devotees in Ginza and Kyoto and kimono-promoting pop stars like Puffy AmiYumi. It also quotes some sage advice on kimono styling from Mr. Yamamoto, who reminds us not to get too fussy: “It’s only a kimono (meaning ‘material for wearing’).”