Every five years, Kassel becomes the centre of the contemporary art world. 100 days of retrospectives and avant-garde art, scandals and surprises, existential lightheartedness and heated artistic debates. For this 14th edition, Kassel once again surprises and even creates controversy locally, as, for the first time since its creation in 1955, it shares its prominent position with another city, Athens. The Greek capital even hosted the opening of the event on 8 April. The expatriate Syrian Philharmonic Orchestra (SEPO), whose musicians fled their devastated country, performed Gorecki’s heart-rending Symphony of Sorrowful Songs for the occasion.
Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk, formerly Director of the Kunsthalle Basel, chose the theme « Learning from Athens » because he wanted to highlight both the economic and migration crisis, « Greek problems have become European problems ». In this attempt to restore the artistic dialogue between Southern and Northern Europe, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens hosts « the largest Documenta exhibition » until 16 July, while the Fridericianum in Kassel will exhibit, from 10 June to 17 September, nearly 230 works by contemporary artists from the collections of the Greek museum. The works of artists such as Stephen Antonakos, Vlassis Caniaris and Jannis Kounellis, who died recently, will be on show. The visual symbol of dOCUMENTA 14 is currently under construction on the Königsplatz, an obelisk 16 metres high, the creator of which has not been made public.
One of the flagship events of this dOCUMENTA will take place on the Friedrichsplatz: The Parthenon of Books by Marta Minujín echoes her installation El Partenón de libros, dating from 1983. Always very involved in denouncing repression of the freedom of expression, the artist appeals for the donation of previously censored books, according to a list established with the University of Kassel. She will build her Parthenon at the very place where in 1933 the Nazis set fire to books they found offensive. This two-headed edition of dOCUMENTA is therefore politically committed and is questioning the distance contemporary art usually takes from current issues.
Brussels is the hub of contemporary art! After two weeks of intense Parisian events with three Drawing Fairs and the Art Paris Art Fair at the Grand Palais, the European capital takes over with four major art fairs: the famous Art Brussels (20-23 April), a major European event since 1968, the Yia Art Fair (19-23 April), which has become the alternative event not to be missed, as well as Poppositions at the ING Art Center and the OFF COURSE art fair.
The most established fair, Art Brussels, celebrates its 35th edition. For this anniversary, the fair is expanding in terms of exhibitors, going from 190 galleries in 2015, to 140 in 2016 and totalling 145 galleries from 28 countries this year. Like the last edition, the venue chosen to host the event is Tour & Taxis, an exceptional space in the heart of the city. The exhibition is once again organised around three different zones: PRIME, devoted to established artists from modern to contemporary; DISCOVERY for young emerging artists and REDISCOVERY, which showcases living or dead artists for the public to rediscover. The main area, PRIME, includes 19 galleries from Brussels (galleries often have other branches, notably in Paris or London): Albert Baronian, Bernier/Eliades, dépendance, MLF | Marie-Laure Fleisch, Hopstreet, Xavier Hufkens, Rodolphe Janssen, Kusseneers, Irène Laub, LMNO, Maruani Mercier, Greta Meert, Meessen De Clercq, Nathalie Obadia, Almine Rech, Michel Rein, Rossicontemporary, Sorry We’re Closed and Daniel Templon. Some opt for a solo show, a choice always welcome in this type of event as it allows visitors to fully appreciate an artist’s work. Nathalie Obadia has thus chosen Laure Prouvost and Daniel Templon dedicates his whole stand to Senegalese artist Omar Ba, two artists who are successful in the first market but still virtually absent from the second market, the auction market. Major contemporary art fairs now offer the opportunity to discover emerging artists. That’s the case with the YIA Art Fair that devotes itself to a vibrant and emerging art scene.
Founded in 2010 in Paris, the international YIA Art Fair (Yesterday is Aujourd’hui) is certainly earning its stripes. 2017 is a pivotal year in the expansion of this young show, mainly dedicated to emerging artists, as YIA now organises four events in Europe, with new editions in Maastricht and Basel in 2017, in addition to those in Brussels and Paris. The director of the fair, Romain Tichit, has established the Brussels edition in a place of choice: the Square Brussels Meeting Center located in the heart of the capital on Le Mont des Arts, a stone’s throw from the BOZAR museum with which YIA is a partner. 45 international galleries are taking part in this human-scale show.
The hustle and bustle of contemporary art therefore moves to Brussels during the third week of April. It will also be on the move again before the summer for the Art Basel fair in June.
James ROSENQUIST (1933-2017), one of the last figures of American Pop Art, has died at the age of 83. Born on 29 November 1933 in South Dakota, he began his career as an advertising painter on the streets of New York, before becoming one of the most active members of the Pop Art movement alongside Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. It is this advertising background, later transposed in his work, that distinguishes him from his contemporaries as he preferred assembling visuals from popular and political culture than creating brand images and logos. The formats are often gigantic, multiple composite images are combined with pictorial effects reflecting speed and movement. Cars, movie stars, food products and household appliances are juxtaposed, giving the work as strong an impact as a slogan.
The famous painting F-111 (1964-65), now owned by MoMA, is the most impressive example, 26 metres long by three metres high, mixing spaghetti, a little girl under a hair dryer and an atomic explosion. The work Be Beautiful (137.1 x 213.9 cm) did not reach a record in size but at auction after being bought at Sotheby’s New York for $3.3 million in 2014. Compared to his Pop Art contemporaries, his rating is low but he is nevertheless a popular and rare artist on the market, especially since many of his works were destroyed during a fire at his studio in 2009. Today, it is difficult to acquire one of his paintings for less than $250,000 but it is easy to find quality prints between $1,000 and $5,000.