Archive: Issue No. 123, November 2007

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SUE WILLIAMSON'S DIARYARTTHROB
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Diary

The Hotel Printania, our residence in Paris

Diary

The shower in the Hotel Printania

Diary

Sam Nhlengethwa�s gallery painting on the Paris show

Diary

An L.A. sunset from the taxi

Diary

Victor Ekpuk in the chic lobby of The Angeleno


SUE WILLIAMSON

Wednesday, October 3

If World Cup Rugby fever is gripping Paris, there is little sign of it on the streets. No raucous tribes of orange men with tall furry hats or any of the other colourful gear I remember from being in London one year when World Football Cup was in progress. An occasional discreet reference on a billboard ad, yes. That's about it.

'DésiRéalités' is the title of a show of South African video and photography which is being mounted by Editions de l'Oeil, the art book publishers, to tie in with the World Cup. The venue is Espace 1789, a cultural space in Saint Ouen, a working class suburb of Paris with a highly diverse population.

The most obvious connection with rugby on the show is Pieter Badenhorst, with his quirky images of odd rugby fields. The other artists in town for the opening are Lolo Veleko, Sam Nhlengethwa, showing one of his new paintings of a gallery (the Goodman) hung with images of his own work, and photographer Andrew Tshabangu.

Thursday, October 4

Tonight is the opening of 'DésiRéalités', and the mayor of Saint Ouen is one of the opening speakers, talking movingly of how the commitment of South Africa to change an untenable situation had been and continues to be an inspiration to societies around the world.

Like all good openings, the evening finishes with a great dinner for the artists at a nearby restaurant, La Puce.

Friday, October 5

I will never again go to Paris without paying a sybaritic visit to the Turkish Baths at La Grande Mosque. Metro stop: Juisseau. Gallerist João Ferreira had described to me years ago how one is searched out and scrubbed down there, and I have been dying for this harsh cleansing ritual ever since.

To enter the Baths is to enter another world, a world of old blue Moorish arches, small intricate stained glass windows, a series of softly lit rooms of marble slabs in niches with a haze of eucalyptus scented steam in every room, each hotter than the last. In the final small room, the hottest, is a round pool with miraculously cool water. What an extraordinary place for a film or video shoot, but sadly, if understandably, photography is forbidden.

On entering the establishment, one writes one's name on a penciled list, and in time one of the women comes to seek you out, and lay you on a slab. The scouring which follows covers the entire body, including your face. The softened skin comes off in curling layers. The massage is delicious. Mint tea is served.

Three hours later, my face in the mirror is pink and glowing and my mind is so relaxed I can hardly think.

Sunday,October 7

Freddie and Gael of Editions de l'Oeil are taking the other artists to a World Cup match and I am heading for Charles de Gaulle to take a New York flight.

Monday, October 8

Ah, New York. So many shows, so little time. But it's Monday, and most galleries are closed. Go shopping with my friend Annie instead.

Tuesday, October 9

Meet with design editor Ilana Anger at HarperCollins about page designs for the new book I am working on about contemporary South African art. Looking good. Downtown to the Grey Gallery, where there is a fine show of Larin American abstractions.

Wednesday, October 10

Today I am heading out to Newark, New Jersey, where contemporary curator Christa Clarke is to take me on a tour of the Newark Museum, an institution which is beginning to invest strongly in contemporary African art. I am surprised to find the train trip from Penn Station is only 15 minutes, and from there it is a short walk to the museum. Less than an hour door to door from the upper West Side of Manhattan, yet Christa tells me that most New Yorkers carry on as if they are being asked to make a major journey into the interior when invited out.

The museum has on a great show of contemporary photography and video art from India. The artists are almost all unknown to me, except for my old friend Sunil Gupta, and it is good to see his work again.

Thursday, October 11

Back on the plane, headed now for Los Angeles, where the 'Inscribing Meaning' show which opened at the National Museum of African Art in Washington is to open at the Fowler Museum at UCLA this weekend.

The hotel, The Angeleno, a circular tower which was once a Holiday Inn but is now an incredibly smart boutique hotel, is located right next to the San Diego Expressway, on the corner of Sunset Boulevard. How LA is that? My room has a small balcony from which I can view an unending stream of eight lane traffic advancing and retreating in a ceaseless hum. I feel as if I am living on a traffic island.

Closing the balcony door seals off the noise completely, and I am free to bounce around on the most comfortable bed in the world, clad in the softest most cuddly dressing gown in the world, found hanging in the wardrobe, and order room service. Well, you know how I am about hotels.

Friday, October 12

This afternoon there is a run through of the show for the Fowler Museum staff, who of course, are the ones who will have to answer questions from the public later, and then we all go out to dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant. By now, the other artists invited for the opening, Nigerian Victor Ekpuk and Ethiopian Wonene Kosrof have arrived. We met in Washington earlier this year, and it's great to see them again.

Saturday, October 13

The fabled Getty Museum is perched on a hill above our hotel. Wosene and his wife Patricia have driven in from San Francisco, so we climb in their car and pay a visit to this museum, more noted for its magnificent location which overlooks the entire city and its architecture, which mixes contemporary steel and glass with pillars and platforms of hewn honey-coloured stone, than for its collection.

Tonight is the opening, an invitation only affair, with the food and drinks part held in the courtyard of the museum. Back to the home of Polly Nooter Roberts, co-curator of the show with Christine Kreamer, for the opening night party.

Sunday, October 14

It's really quite hot in LA. Wosene, Patricia and I breakfast in a café on Venice Beach, a part of LA which seems to be permanently 60s with its incense laden air, and tie dyed offerings on the lines of stalls. As I devour my breakfast burrito, buff rollerbladers speed skate past, their oiled and tanned muscles gleaming.

Feels like a beach day to me, and I wonder who is going to want to spend their time inside a lecture theatre for the symposium around 'Inscribing Meaning' this afternoon. When the time comes, however, a respectable crowd fills the theatre, and Chris and Polly have planned it so tightly, with a general discussion followed by interviews and slides with each of the three visiting artists, that it goes really well. Good questions, too. Always the sign of whether you have held the audience's interest, or not.

One of the questioners is ex Cape Town artist Andre van Zijl, who has been living in LA with his wife Debbie for years. Tomorrow they have kindly offered to show me more of the city. The other artists are leaving in the morning, and on Wednesday, I, too, will be headed home.


 


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