Pieter Schoolwerth and the relief of the soul

Pieter Schoolwerth and the relief of the soul

by Elda Oreto

Pieter Schoolwerth twistes the medium of painting, leading it beyond its limit, and into new narrative possibilities, through the virtual world, towards reality.
In his latest artworks, made for Virtual Relief, exhibited from April 26th to July 13th 2019 at the Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler gallery in Berlin, the artist, who lives and works in New York, presented a series of bas-reliefs.

Pieter Schoolwerth, Virtual Relief – Courtesy of Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Gallery
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The theatrical scenario of the relief presents a broken up scene: some figures, faceless puppets, stand out on the surface, which melt into the background.
In Personality Settings Retractions (2019) there is an interior of a living room where some shadows, tangled up in one another, to the point that it is difficult to discern, become a unique creature. A formless torso with a thousand ends. A leg and a shoulder emerge from it, three or four heads of different sizes are side by side. It is a unique body that assimilates many others. Everything is very colorful. Blinding.

The technique developed by Schoolwerth to create bas-reliefs follows a complicated process. First of all, the artist takes an image and makes one or more shadows. He often uses himself as a model or his friends. Then he takes a wallpaper from the internet. Synthesizes and superimposes the images like a digital collage that he prints on a foam core (a type of material used to make posters). At this point he executes the painting in oil and acrylic and in this case shapes the bas-relief.

The basic idea of ​​his research is that our body is slowly fading away. Even if our times are dominated by commodification and consumism, the body is getting alienated from its most impure but authentic nature. Loses weight, little by little it thins and slowly evaporates leaving a two-dimensional copy as a trace.
The virtual reality and Internet are just perfect tools for this concept. Above all, Social Networks that sink people into an abyss of isolation instead of connecting them with the world and bringing people together. But let’s be careful, Schoolwerth is not a moralist, he doesn’t hate the Internet, but he translates an ambivalent, deeper feeling. Perhaps it is the body’s resistance to evaporation.

Pieter Schoolwerth, Virtual Relief – Courtesy of Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Gallery
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Two of the bas-reliefs on display: Model for Personality Inventory (2018) and Model for Behavioral Surplus Capture (2019) go beyond the relief and in a vortex of shades and colors claim their own independent presence in fact they can be seen on both sides. Like magic doors, these artworks invite us to cross a dimension that leads to a parallel universe where time, memories and emotions merge with images, leaving subtle traces that have more of the mystery of shadows than of the purity of the soul.

In Compromised Personality Inventory (2019) we enter a domestic interior with the jagged but clear outlines, underlined by bright colors. There are two female silhouettes, one sitting on a chair and another is standing in front of her. They are discussing animatedly. Between them, some arms emerge and they mix with other shapes in a monochromatic hint that seems to swallow the first two.
A Hydra hidden in its den.

Pieter Schoolwerth, Virtual Relief – Courtesy of Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Gallery
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The tangle of shadows that lives inside the apartment in Privacy Settings 8 (2019) is the ghost that inhabits a haunted house; the anguish of a world that feeds on images. These are projections, echoes of our multiple virtual personalities. These images that define our personality are contradictory. It’s a schizophrenic monster that camouflages with the environment that surrounds it.

Pieter Schoolwerth, Virtual Relief – Courtesy of Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Gallery
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Schoolwerth received his BFA from the California Institute of the Arts and exhibited at the Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson (2018), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016), the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris ( 2002) and his works are in the collections of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver Art Museum; the Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco. In May 2019, his first monograph “Model as Painting” was published by Sequence Press, New York. From 2003 to 2013, Schoolwerth organized and produced concerts and music with Wierd Records and Wierd Party at Home Sweet Home on the Lower East Side of New York.

Pieter Schoolwerth, Virtual Relief – Courtesy of Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Gallery
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The artist has the ability to show how anxiety and loss are constantly hiding in our daily life. He does it using the media of painting and the structure of the Internet and Social Networks like Instagram and Facebook. And he does it turning these tools upside down and then turning them around, to reveal the power they have striking our Fantasies.

Every shadow at the end is a self-portrait. In Schoolwerth’s practice, colored ectoplasms are the matrix that generates the painting and the bas-relief. Cast by shadows, as for revenge, the artwork gains a physical presence, becoming a real body of a thousand souls, a body that inhabits space of the gallery, haunting it.

Elda Oreto

+9 presents site-specific works by 16 contemporary artists at the most unexpected location in Athens

+9 presents site-specific works by 16 contemporary artists at the most unexpected location in Athens

+9 / 20.06 – 12.07.2019

/ curator + concept design: dr Kostas Prapoglou

20 Iera Odos, 104 35, Athens, Greece

The industrial building on 18-20 Iera Odos currently used as a music venue, is situated within the geographical region of the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos (1100 BC – AD 500). Nine metres belowthe surface of the modern city and tons of backfills, excavations since 1863 have brought to light parts of inner Kerameikos (potters’ and residential quarters) and outer Kerameikos (cemetery and the Demósion Sema public graveyard).

The area of the exhibition building lies nine metres above the funerary monuments of prominent Athenians. It is located right above the ancient Hiera Hodos (Sacred Way) linking Athens with Eleusis where the Eleusinian Mysteries took place; on the west bank of the Eridanos river; west of theDromos, a wide road leading the way to the Platonic Academy and the –later– Christian orthodox church of the Holy Trinity. It is all being now overshadowed by today’s Peiraios roadway and the adjacent buildings of the last century.

Installation shot / general view of +9
Photo: Kostas Prapoglou

Adonis Volanakis, Viomen (2019) name giving, white clay, cobalt paint, dimensions variable
photo: Kostas Prapoglou

The exhibition will negotiate notions with clear references to antiquity yet liberated from an obsessive fixation on the ancient world. It will take into consideration every single metre of evolution and will speculate on all of the possible nine metres of history that will follow.

What may lie nine metres below our feet without us being able to discover it, could equate to a future reality nine metres above. The surfacing of a utopian condition brings forth the imaginary, but at the same time it flirts as a connection link with the idea of passage and transition. A dialogue emerges between realities and it is activated through a crack in spacetime, a crevice that [inter]connects the worlds in one breath.

Despina Charitonidi, CrossFit (2019)
marble, 30mm reinforcement steel bars, 3D printed wedge, 1.30 x 0.23 x 2.50m
photo: Kostas Prapoglou
Diohandi, Eleusis 2010, Video still

The transformation of the urban habitat through literal and metaphorical backfills embodies ideas of [dis]semblance, voidance, disdain, corrosion of memory and the empowerment of an [inter]personal mythology and fiction as well as the fabrication of an in-progress identity. The repertoire of an everchanging political, religious and cultural condition is inscribed not only within the historical continuity of this locus but also within a flux of a conscious construction, deconstruction and conflict.
The choreography of the contemporary urban landscape redefines the architecture of life itself. It gives birth to a taxonomy of possibilities with human existence and its hypostasis as the protagonists, undergoing a constant battle with time and their very own selves.

Yannis Kondaratos, Untitled (2006-7), oil on canvas, 2.10 x 2.65m
photo: James M. Lane
Eleni Zouni, Linear Z (2019), chalk, dimensions variable
photo: Kostas Prapoglou

Curator dr Kostas Prapoglou invites 16 contemporary artists from three generations to establish via their cross-disciplinary visual vocabulary (embracing installations, video, sculpture, painting and ceramics) a site and time specific relationship. They will discover in the ground and above the concrete floor themselves as well as the entire world and empower the viewers’ desire to dig with their eyes and build with their dreams.


Participating artists: Lydia Andrioti, Manolis Baboussis, Despina Charitonidi, Evangelos Chatzis, Lydia Dambassina, Diohandi, Kleio Gizeli, Zoe Hatziyannaki, Yannis Kondaratos, James M. Lane, Despina Meimaroglou, Eusevia Michailidou, Evi Savvaidi, Nikos Tranos, Adonis Volanakis, Eleni Zouni.

Evangelos Chatzis, Portal (2019), detail
marble, steel, LED lights, digital print on plexiglass, water, mirror, 2.00 x 0.85 x 2.40m
photo: Kostas Prapoglou

Lydia Andrioti, Cyclic Chorus II (2019)
Video still

exhibition duration: 20 June – 12 July 2019

opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 14.00 – 20.00 Saturday, Sunday, Monday: closed

address: 18-20 Iera Odos, 104 35, Athens, Greece
Kerameikos metro station: 5 minutes
Thiseio train station: 10 minutes

Kleio Gizeli, The Crew (2019), detail
glass, clay, plastic, fabric, nylon, silicone, water, colourants, LED lights, dimensions variable
photo: James M. Lane

The twisted circus of Kathryn Andrews at the König Galerie.

The twisted circus of Kathryn Andrews at the König Galerie.

by Elda Oreto

The circus is the ultimate entertainment for children: the colors and the magic of a suspended world where everything is possible, beyond imagination. But the circus is also ‘fiction par excellence’, the ambiguous place of illusions where clowns, acrobats, actors appear almost doomed to entertain people. Circus Empire is the solo-show of Kathryn Andrews at the König Galerie in Berlin that opened on Friday June 7th and will be on display until August 4th, 2019.

Kathryn Andrews, Circus Empire, 2019, installation view. Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin / London.

 
 

A gigantic circus tent, made specifically for the exhibition, is encapsulated in the nave of the former Church of St. Agnes, now the home of the gallery.
Outside the tent, we meet the first work: Picasso trace Buzzer, a sculpture that resembles one of those games that can be seen at an amusement park. The work consists of three elements. The silhouette of a bull, as drawed by Picasso, a high voltage cable with a hook at the end, and behind the bull a large yellow cage in the shape of a light bulb.
The device works like the well-known game for children Operation, where the high-tension hook must draw the shape of the bull without touching the metal tube. If it does, it starts an annoying buzz, the bulb and a neon sign lights up that says: Picasso not Picasso.
The exhibition seems to bring out the rascal child in us, staging an aspect of our society that incites fun at all costs. However the spectator can witness this fun without being an active part of it.

Kathryn Andrews, Circus Empire, 2019, installation view. Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin / London.

 
 

Through her artistic practice, Kathryn Andrews (Mobile, Alabama 1973 – lives and works in Los Angeles) investigates the dynamics of power and freedom. Using elements that refer to Pop culture, the entertainment industry and the movie world, mixed with the classical European tradition, from visual arts to archeology, Andrews underlines how culture is a practice of colonization and normalization of forms of control.
Kathryn Andrews, MFA of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and BFA of Duke University in Durham, exhibited in various institutions including the Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI (2017) , the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, (2015), The High Line, New York, (2016), and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany (2013).

Kathryn Andrews, Circus Empire, 2019, installation view. Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin / London.

 
 

Inside the tent, the American Claw Game welcomes the visitors, a plexiglass box that simulates the fishing claw machine. But there is no handlebar to drive it or no coin acceptor. There is no way to play, one can only look at it from the outside.
Inside the plexiglas box there are various toys that recall props from Hollywood movies. Among them, entangled in the mechanical claw, there is a mask of Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States. The mask is an imitation of the one used in the movie “Point Break” (1991), in which a group of reckless surfers robbed banks disguised as Presidents.
Walking inside the amusement park, there are five panels with Wheels of Foot in Mouth, another recreational device.

Five rounds panels reproduce diptychs with futuristic masks and of ancient sculptures.
Each mask has a ‘window’ on the mouth and one on the head. As in the wheel of fortune, a mechanism on the back of the panels randomly shows figures on the heads: games, weapons, symbols, flowers; while from the mouth are coming out sentences like: Did you get an invitation? You remind me of my ex, for example, or Oh, was that the end of your story? Your laugh is so boisterous, and again, We’ve already met, Do you dress yourself?
Expressions that belong to formal circumstances but that unveil sarcasm and hostility.
The masks are sphinxes that reproduce an enigma without solution.

Kathryn Andrews, Circus Empire, 2019, installation view. Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin / London.

 
 

Looking for John Conner, is the reproduction of Terminator arms attached to a metal tube and supporting another thinner tube. Ar the ends there are uncanny clown miniatures.
At the exit of the arena, the last work is composed of two sculptures, two giant faces, which look into each other’s eyes. Two steel tubes cross the forehead and at the end there are two words: Are you Happy with it? And You sound so nervous.
Like the phrases on the wheels, these statements always hide their true message.
In the background a 4-channel audio installation, Carnival, created by Kathryn Andrews with Scott Benzel, reproduces the atmosphere of the amusement park.

Kathryn Andrews, Circus Empire, 2019, installation view. Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin / London.

 
 

Circus Empire shows elements of contemporary society, but has something very ancient in it.
Indeed, it seems almost to go beyond time to connect the past and the present.
In particular, it reminds me that the circus was one of the favorite entertainments of the ancient Romans. In the Satire X, the poet Giovenale writes “at this point, since votes aren’t sold anymore, [the people] have lost all interest; they once cared about everything themselves, powers, legions; now lets everything get away, caring only for two things: bread and circuses (panem et circenses)”.

Kathryn Andrews, Circus Empire, 2019, installation view. Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin / London.

 
 

For the excessive and enigmatic tones, for the contrasting and strident elements, for all the clamor and the cumbersome installation, which occupies the space, the exhibition made me think about that and also about a comment by Cicero, the Latin writer and politician, about this satire. According to him the problem was not the fun, the circus, but the desire of people to sell their freedom and their rights in exchange for a full belly and excitement, which distracted them from noticing other appetites, the ones that belong to men who never get satisfied.

Elda Oreto

Where to find artistic research? The OP_FAME conference in Wroclaw

Where to find artistic research? The OP_FAME conference in Wroclaw

by Paulina Brelinska

There is one specific feature connected with debates about art – they need constant updating. During their continuance, relevant goals appear, but are usually forgotten. For several years, the sphere of smart and skillful self-promotion and the functioning of visual artists in the world of art became a key theme. The dynamic development of this need has led to the moment when the artist is required to keep track of and improve his promotion strategies. The Openheim institution located in Wrocław Old Town turned out to be a new platform of ideas conducted by this concept.

OP_FAME Conference, Discussion, Openheim Gallery in Wrocław – photo. Jerzy Wypych

It is worth considering what distinguishes it from the other contemporary cultural institutions, courageously promoting various dogmas of art. Openheim is the first gallery in Poland that introduces artistic research actions to a wider audience (it should be known that outside the country it is an extremely common form of contemporary institutional activities, while in Poland it is just fledgling). The founders consciously use knowledge and tools from the border between science and art to promote intercultural understanding between different heritage such as Jewish, Polish and German. Since the inaugural opening after the revitalization in 2018 in the walls of the historic building, series of meetings from many scientific and creative areas are organized, including non-artistic ones. The owner provides a space filled with free and experimental activities. One feels the space is open to many possibilities, spontaneous summaries, bold conclusions resulting in the formation of a strong community of friends of the institution. Gathering the empirical experience of many representatives of the world of art, Openheim creates its own new knowledge. Everything under the need to communicate, understanding and openness to setting up new artistic relationships with people.

OP_FAME Conference, Discussion, Openheim Gallery in Wrocław – photo Jerzy Wypych

Artistic research: unknown land.

At the end of the previous year the exhibition of the outstanding Polish artist Mirosław Bałka was inaugurated. Sooner not later, a lover of archives and research practices, a representative of the Polish trend of critical art – Dorota Nieznalska leaded workshops for professional and emerging artists. She talked about her artistic practice based on cooperation with various institutions and their historical documents. It was also the first meeting that felt actually worth mentioning in the context artistic research, which Polish professionals need more than ever. Preparation of the project, called basic research in general, was to prove to be the key moment in creating art. Artists shared their experiences, defined the research area of ​​their own activities. Dorota Nieznalska emphasized the need to organize thoughts and respect for thought processes that support the structure of well-prepaired artistic concept.

OP_FAME Conference, Workshops, Openheim Gallery in Wrocław – photo Jerzy Wypych

Artistic Know-How

In the new March two-part conference program called OP_FAME, the organizers – Kama Wróbel and Mira Skrudlik – prepared a series of meetings around the topic of functioning in the art market. There was experts in the field of art criticism, artists, gallery owners and people responsible for the implementation of residency invited as well as a numerous local art world members. The decisive advantage of shaping collective know-how was an open dialogue between invited panelists and participants.

One of the more engaging meetings turned out to be a Saturday workshop with Joanna Żak, the owner of commercial gallery Żak Branicka from Berlin. The panelist showed the honest and current state of the Polish art world from the perspective of an observer promoting Polish art behind the western border. Earlier, however, thanks to the critics Stach Szabłowski’s conversation with Joanna Żak and Marta Kołakowska, we learned about the key differences between the Berlin and Warsaw Gallery Weekend. The last reality this time, was presented in more critical light. The discussion drew attention to huge differences in the education and development of individual art markets. “Warsaw is ten years younger than Berlin” we have heard many times from the invited guests. The only thing that actually the two capitals have in common is the difficult economic situation of artists who, in the pursuit of career development, flee from smaller cities such as Wrocław to Warsaw. The same situation happens with artists based in Warsaw who decide to make international career in Berlin. All this is happening under the banner of a strong need for active functioning in the global circulation, in which the artist must cooperate with at least a few commercial galleries to stay in the profession learned at the academy.

Openheim Gallery in Wrocław – photo Jerzy Wypych

This is not the “off” moment

The idea of creating a cyclical “gallery weekend” event, which was widely discussed during the OP_FAME conference, was supposed to be a commercial event. As we learned from a Berliner, this is a meeting place for collectors from Europe and the world. In Poland, this trend is just at its early beginning. Curious art lovers visit the event – Warsaw Gallery Weekend – although they still do not put it on “must be list”. It is an opportunity to see the largest number of galleries in one place, although, as noted, German culture shuns off the alternative “off art” at commercial events. Such solutions have never been maintained in the history of the structured Berlin Gallery Weekend. It is definitely opposite to Polish reality, but let me ask this question once again: Is this really the proper time for “off” moment, for Polish early bird art market?

OP_FAME Conference, Discussion, Openheim Gallery in Wrocław – photo Jerzy Wypych (Panelists: Stach Szabłowski, Joanna Żak, Marta Kołakowska)

Know-how and artistic research

Soon after all the discussions around the artistic self-promotion, the recipients were brought down to earth. It turned out that the internal need for the emergence of Warsaw as a gallery weekend power still has a long way to go to achieve real perfection. The current formula of the commercial gallery itself seems to update without knowing in which direction it is going. The substantive discussion on the borderline between privatization and the factual conference fully met the internal research need, the above text is a temporary record of the most important topics that had the opportunity to become a new knowledge.

OP_FAME Conference, Workshops, Openheim Gallery in Wrocław – photo Jerzy Wypych

Paulina Brelinska

FIAC 2018 in images, the first highlights live from Paris

FIAC 2018 in images, the first highlights live from Paris

FIAC 2018, as seen by Dolores Pulella for XIBT

For its 45th edition, which will end on the 21 October 2018, FIAC this year brings together exhibitors from 25 countries, within the prestigious halls of the Grand Palais in Paris there is an exciting selection of modern art, contemporary art, and design galleries, among the most emblematic of the international scene.

On the 18th of October Paris celebrated the start of the 45th edition of the FIAC, and for the occasion the famous international art fair chose to maintain the similar setting of last year’s successful edition. As in 2017 there are 195 exhibitors, about a hundred are in the main hall of the Grand Palais with the newcomers on the upper floors. The layout is also very similar, with the French gallery Perrotin in the space in the center, near the main entrance.
In the recent years FIAC regained a prominent role among the unmissable events of the contemporary art world and now stands out together with Art Basel and Frieze.
A third of the exhibitors are from France but there is a significant Italian presence, certainly more than in the past. During the week the city is buzzing with related events and its museums take this opportunity to inaugurate big exhibitions like the one about Basquiat and Schiele at the Louis Vuitton Foundation or the one about Franz West at the Centre Pompidou.
Even though the center of the attention is always the Grand Palais, the fair has also an extension “Hors les Murs” in the Tuilieres Gardens, in Place Vendome and a new addition this year, in Place de la Concorde where there is a village of architectural projects.

Here you can see some of first highlights live from our correspondent Dolores Pulella.

Sprüeth Magers / Berlin, London, Los Angeles

Regen Projects / Los Angeles

Magazzino / Rome

Gavin Brown’s entreprise / New York, Rome

Gagosian / Paris, London, New York, Beverly Hills, San Francisco , Hong Kong, Geneva, Rome, Athens

303 Gallery / New York

Galerie Max Hetzler / Berlin, Paris, London

Neu / Berlin

Praz Delavallade / Paris, Los Angeles

FIAC 2018 in images, the first highlights live from Paris © Dolores Pulella, XIBT Magazine

THE BANKSY SHREDDING CONSPIRACY

THE BANKSY SHREDDING CONSPIRACY

The internet went wild with theories and speculations about what seems to be one of the most talked stunts the contemporary art world has seen in a while.

Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon” shredded itself last Friday at Sotheby’s in London.

Last Friday night the iconic Banksy “Girl with Balloon” went up on auction at Sotheby’s in London and, moments after being sold for $1.3Million, was set to self-destruct passing through a shredder hidden in the frame.
People present at the occasion gasped at the unexpected and shocking view of what happened to be one of the most successful stunts in recent contemporary art history.
The news was reported by almost every mainstream media, newspapers, news tv channels, and, of course it went viral on social media with many praising Banksy’s cunning plan expressing dislike of the art market.
But some people started wondering about how was such an elaborate stunt planned years ahead (after all, the work was made in 2006), was Banksy himself present at the auction? Was the auction house involved at all?

The artist, after commenting on his Instagram account with a photo of the event and the words “Going, going, gone…”, posted on Sunday a video explaining how he decided to put a shredder in the frame and destroy the canvas in case the piece was ever put up for auction, voicing his long expressed hostility towards galleries reselling his works.
Of course it’s easy to say that the whole thing makes the artwork even more desirable in its shredded state since it’s now been defined as instant art history.

This contributed to spark a debate among art lovers, connoisseurs and insiders, how did he do it?
Well speculations have emerged suggesting the shredder was triggered via a remote control by somebody in the audience and some onlookers reported seeing a person with a device in his hand after the shredding happened.
So it appears we might have a remotely controlled device but how was it powered? The first thing that comes to mind is, well… batteries!

There doesn’t seem to be anything plugged in, nor wires coming out of the frame, could batteries last 12 years and keep ready and waiting? Yes, it might be unlikely but it seems possible. If that’s the case how was the receiver for the remote control powered in order to keep the batteries from discharging? Was it just activated a few days prior the auction? We don’t know and nobody seems to have a convincing and fully explanatory theory about it.

Banksy shows how he built a shredder inside the frame of the painting in a video posted on his Instagram account on Sunday.

Maybe it wasn’t even a battery powered shredder, maybe it was just a mechanical wind-up mechanism which would store the energy for many years and for the trigger maybe a hidden arming switch was used to keep the receiver off and was activated just recently.
Some people suggest the canvas might even be still intact inside and a pre-shredded copy was pushed out of the frame while the original piece was hidden.

The conspiracy of course doesn’t end here, many people seem to think that Sotheby’s must have been involved directly, knew about it and must have helped organizing it in a sort of publicity stunt from which they would also have benefited in some way, maybe reselling the print which might have now increased in value.

So what about the Sotheby’s listing? It notes that the piece was “Authenticated by Pest Control”.
Pest Control is Banksy’s “handling service”, which will go out to verify supposed Banksy pieces to try and make sure they’re authentic. Perhaps part of the verification process might include inspecting the work before it is auctioned… and this might be the key to the mystery.

Julie Hur

Deborah De Robertis strips off in front of the Virgin Mary. Panic in Lourdes.

Deborah De Robertis strips off in front of the Virgin Mary. Panic in Lourdes.

Luxembourgish artist Deborah De Robertis, former member of Femen and well known for her nude performances – especially for her 2017 one in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre – created havoc in France in one of the most popular and visited shrines in the world, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. De Robertis, who is going to face trial in Tarbes in May 2019 for gross indecency, was charged with “sexual exhibitionism” after she stripped off, on the 1st of September, in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the famous grotto with her hands clasped as if in prayer as if she was a live projection of the Madonna wearing only a blue veil on her head.

The pilgrims, shocked and in disbelief, tried immediately to cover up the artist’s body and called the authorities reporting what, according to them, was actually a very blasphemous outrage. De Robertis’ intent was to incarnate the apparition of the Virgin in a woman’s body – “What would happen if the woman whose vulva was painted by Courbet embodied herself to get out of the frame and use the institution to her advantage and not the other way around? By embodying the female models my aim is to free them from the framework in which they are frozen and thus to reverse the point of view on the historical, political and artistic level” the artist said. Although the pilgrims and the catholic authorities condemn her act as a serious lack of respect for religious freedom, in disregard for the people present at the sanctuary and the families with children gathered in prayer, last year the artist was cleared of the sexual exhibitionism charges for her performance at the Louvre. The Paris court also acknowledged that the motivation for the offense was non-sexual in nature and that it had “no legitimacy in deciding what is or is not art”.
How will it end this time?

Julie Hur


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