Hopped up on art

The day of art, conversation and film began at Vancity Theatre with a PACKED audience. The opening panel featured curators Kitty Scott and Douglas Fogle with artists Lisa Anne Auerbach and Althea Thauberger. The panel celebrated the North American launch of Phaidon’s Creamier: Contemporary Art in Culture10 Curators, 100 Contemporary Artists, 10 Sources. The most up-to-date global survey of today’s most significant emerging artists.

The book itself is packaged in a signature artful Phaidon style — large-format folio and loose pages, wrapped in a printed belly-band — that makes it truly engaging to both handle and read. Unfortunately while we had a sample from the publisher we didn’t have any of the books on-hand to sell as we had hoped, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull resulted in some shipping delays.

The Vancity Theatre audience was packed with artists, curators, gallerists, critics, collectors, students and enthusiasts — all whom appeared very engaged in the talk with Kitty, Althea, Lisa Anne and Douglas. The focus of the conversation was the only thing that anyone in the arts can talk about right now: money. Though unlike the luxe times of years gone by, they talked about the lack of money readily available to the arts.

Artists, curators, and galleries on both sides of the boarder are feeling pressure as a result of evaporating funding and tightening budgets.

The fact that public money available to the arts has diminished in an extreme sense is not new — I blogged about it last April when impression/expression was still in it’s infantile days (read the post here) — but what’s new is what curators and artists are saying about the situation now that we’re waist-deep. What is new, the panel explained, is that in addition to being artists and curators, they must also be survivalists.

In the afternoon, art-loving Vancouverites took in free talks and tours by art-world experts who explored and illuminated a selection of exhibitions in gallery districts across the city.

The day ended with a special screening of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, Tamra Davis’ feature documentary about the legendary artist. A few days later I watched Julien Schnable’s Basquiat.  The two films couldn’t be more different. Watching the Hollywood version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a charicature of Basquiat characterized by spectacle. But Davis’ film was raw and true. It brought tears to my eyes to see the reality in the footage of his descent into drugs, paranoia and feelings of irrelevance.

“They tell me the drugs are killing me, so I go off them. Then they say my art is dead.” (paraphrased, Basquiat)

The Radiant Child follows Basquiat’s trajectory from intentional obscurity and marginality to almost accidental infamy. The film gives unapologetic insight into a life that was mired in rumour and criticism.

The night was capped off with a lovely reception in the lobby of the Vancity Theatre. The energy level was high and it was apparent that the hundreds of attendees at this near sold-out event were enjoying themselves.

Vancouver, don’t miss this great event next year! And for Toronto art-lovers, keep your eyes peeled for the Toronto Art Hop, coming this fall!

Big thanks to Art Hop sponsors, volunteers, and organizers at The Canadian Art Foundation and the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver!

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