News : Richard Serra's Qatari Desert Sculptures


Richard Serra's 'East-West/West-East' in Qatar. 

Richard Serra's 'East-West/West-East' in Qatar. 

American sculptor Richard Serra was commissioned to produce a site-specific standing-plate work for the desert in the Brouq Nature Reserve, near Zekreet in western Qatar. The artist has been visiting the region for the past 12 years, and while initally not interested in creating a work in the desert, he agreed to take a look after Sheikha Mayassa, Chairperson of the country's Museums Authority suggested he build something in the landscape. The site at Zekreet (about an hour’s drive from the capital, Doha) has a ground plane, and then an elevation of about 16 metres – like two elevation planes within one field.

Consisting of four steel plates measured by their relation to the topography, “East-West/West-East” was officially launched on April 11. The plates span more than one kilometres in length through a natural corridor formed by gypsum plateaus.  Made of smooth steel and already beginning to rust as is trademark of Serra’s later works, the sculptures seem as though they have existed there for centuries. Despite the great distance that the plates span, all four can be seen from either end of the sculpture.

 As well as this desert commission, the artist has two shows opening in Doha: a retrospective  offering a complete view of Serra’s almost fifty years of practice at the QMA Gallery, and a new work ‘Passage of Time’ taking up  the whole 5,000 square metres of the Al Riwaq exhibition space on the Corniche.

 Serra elaborates on his desert commission to The Independent:

Before, there was no way of discerning where anything was in relation to where you were, because you had no point of reference. What that piece does is give you a point of reference in relationship to a line, and your upstanding relationship to a vertical plane and infinity, and a perspectival relationship to a context – and pulls that context together. It makes it graspable. That’s actually a place out there now, and there certainly wasn’t one before. We did that simply by putting up four plates.
— Richard Serra

 While public art is new in Doha, what is important to Serra is not necessarily knowing about art, but the experience of the viewer. The work is but one in a growing public art landscape, aiming to put the Qatari capital on he map as a cultural centre and to broaden global perceptions of Islamic culture. It follows the 2013 unveiling of Damien Hirst’s ‘The Miraclous Journey’ and joins a collection of other important works installed throughout the country incuding ‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois, Calligraffiti project by eL Seed, and Serra’s tower ‘7’ – built on a on a specially constructed pier next to IM Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art.

Richard Serra, Passage of Time, 2013

Richard Serra, Passage of Time, 2013

Richard Serra's '7'. Photo: Lucy Rees, Doha, Qatar, 2012. 

Richard Serra's '7'. Photo: Lucy Rees, Doha, Qatar, 2012. 

You can read more about the Richard Serra exhibitions and projects here

Read about my visit to Qatar in 2011 on the blog here 

Watch this fantastic video below documenting the conception and installation of Richard Serra's '7' in 2011. 

News: You Imagine What You Desire : 19th Biennale of Sydney


John Stezaker , Mask XCV, 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

John Stezaker , Mask XCV, 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

An interview with Juliana Engberg, artistic director of this year’s edition of the Sydney Biennale (March 21 – June 9, 2014). 

 LR: The title is taken from a quote by George Bernard Shaw: “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will".

JE: I think this is the fundamental basis of art. Artists imagine what they desire. Depending on the kind of artist, they will either imagine a social principle or idea, or a world they want to see, or they might go to an imaginary place. I don’t believe art should be dry; even something more politically shaped can have elements of poetry in it, elements of seduction. I think when people come across art they actually want to feel something — that something has physically changed in your body. 

John Stezaker ,  Mask XCV , 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

John Stezaker , Mask XCV, 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

LR: You have said you are a spatial curator. Tell me about your treatment of the venues.

JE: I think of art and space in simultaneous movement. It’s not about going to find art that you like and then retrofitting it to the space. Each of the venues will have a character: the AGNSW is a hunkered down, low and dark space — I feel it has an earth/fire element to it. I am using works that speak more to social politics, an interrelationship between culture as a history and culture as a future. The MCA is a lighter space near the water; especially with the new renovations it now has cleaner lines. It is an air/water space. It goes more to the psychological, surreal, luminal qualities — flightiness and an evocative character that is a little bit intangible. 

Yael Bartana, inferno, 2013, photo montage, Courtesy the artist. Cockatoo Island. 

Yael Bartana, inferno, 2013, photo montage, Courtesy the artist. Cockatoo Island. 

LR: And what about Cockatoo Island

JE: I want it to be like a happy anarchy. Being a former shipyard, it has this history of labor and hardship. It will be boisterous. It’s so huge that it requires quite a bit of art for it to make sense and for it to be enough of an experience for the audience. But there is only so much you can do — you can’t put precious museum works out there. It’s raw, rough, and the scale can be daunting. I want people to have a real adventure, going out on boat, and to give some narrative around the context of an island — which can be a utopia or a dystopia. I want to use those ready metaphors. 

David Claerbout,  The Quiet Shore , 2011 , single-channel black and white, silent video projection, 36:32 minutes  Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London and New York; Yvon Lambert, Paris; and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Belgium   © David Claerbout 

David Claerbout, The Quiet Shore, 2011 , single-channel black and white, silent video projection, 36:32 minutes Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London and New York; Yvon Lambert, Paris; and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Belgium © David Claerbout 

LR: How does your knowledge of the Australian art scene work for you? 

JE: I don’t know if it’s detrimental or not but it does mean it’s slightly easier for me to activate something quickly, especially considering the biennale is now set for March instead of June 2014. I have an intimate knowledge of the venues, partners and sponsors. When curators come from overseas they tend be captivated by the place and want the opportunity to travel to the center and come to grips with indigenous artists, and that’s good, but I think it has been to the detriment of other local contemporary practices in urban areas. It’s a bit sad that some generations of Australian contemporary artists haven’t been present. 

Douglas Gordon , Phantom, 2011  stage, screen, a black Steinway piano, a burned Steinway piano, one monitor, dimensions variable. Courtesy Studio lost but found and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.  Rufus Wainwright, ALL DAYS ARE NIGHTS: SONGS FOR LULU used courtesy Decca Label Group. Photograph: Studio lost but found and Katharina Kiebacker, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 

Douglas Gordon , Phantom, 2011  stage, screen, a black Steinway piano, a burned Steinway piano, one monitor, dimensions variable. Courtesy Studio lost but found and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.  Rufus Wainwright, ALL DAYS ARE NIGHTS: SONGS FOR LULU used courtesy Decca Label Group. Photograph: Studio lost but found and Katharina Kiebacker, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 

LR: Is there a curator or biennale model that speaks to you? 

JE: It would be Harald Szeemann’s Venice Biennales in 1999 and 2001. I think he was a very generous curator who loved artists and people. He was a romantic at heart, even though some of the work he admired during his career was more conceptual. I think Harald’s approach is similar to my own. 

Krisztina Erdei ,  Antiglamour series 64 , 2011 , photograph, 50 x 70 cm. Courtesy the artist and Godot Galéria, Budapest

Krisztina Erdei , Antiglamour series 64, 2011 , photograph, 50 x 70 cm. Courtesy the artist and Godot Galéria, Budapest

Juliana Engberg is a curator, writer, publisher and designer, and is currently the Artistic Director of ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne). 

Juliana has been travelling the world researching and meeting with artists. You can read her blog about the experience here

The Biennale of Sydney runs from 21 March - 19 June, 2014 at the following locations:

Museum of Contemporary Art

Art Gallery of NSW

Cockatoo Island



Around the City

News : Do Ho Suh's fabric sculptures of his Manhattan apartment

Hong Kong 

For his current exhibition in Hong Kong, Korean artist Do Ho Suh explores the idea of home and memories of personal space by reproducing, in actual scale, objects from his former New York City apartment. The translucent sculptures include full size replicas of his radiator, medicine cabinet, bathtub, refrigerator, stove and toilet .

The exhibition is on view at Lehmann Maupin gallery until 25 January 2014 and coincides with the opening of Suh’s installation 'Home within Home' at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in his native Seoul.

The artist's full scale “homes” of semi-transparent cloth, including the traditional Korean house (hanok) of his childhood and his apartment in New York, explore the fundamental themes of home, family, and tradition.

Do Ho Suh (b. 1962, Seoul, Korea) currently lives and works in London, New York, and Seoul. Suh originally studied oriental painting in Seoul National University before moving to the United States in his 20s to study painting and sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University. 

Suh was named WSJ. Magazine's 2013 Innovator of the Year in Art. His recent solo exhibitions include Home within Home within Home within Home within Home, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (2013); Do Ho Suh: Perfect Home, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2012-2013); In Between, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan (2012); Fallen Star, Stuart Collection, University of San Diego, California (2012); and Home within Home, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea (2012). 


Do Ho Suh talks about his Staircase III installed at the Tate Modern, 2011.

News : Kwan Sheung Chi wins Hugo Boss Asia Art

Kwan Sheung Chi was awarded the Hugo Boss Asia Art award on 31 October 2013, presented by the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. Work by Kwan Sheung Chi was displayed in an exhibition with the other six shortlisted artists - Birdhead (Shanghai), Hsu Chiawei (Taichung), Hu Xiangqian (Beijing), Kwan Sheungchi (Hong Kong), Lee Kit (Hong Kong), Li Liao (Shenzhen), and Li Wei (Beijing) - which opened on 13 September 2013. For this first edition of the prize, artists under 35 years old from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau were eligible. 

The aftermath: Kwan Sheung Chi’s  Water Barrier   (Maotai-Water, 1:999)  (2013) toppled following last Friday’s event. Courtesy the artist

The aftermath: Kwan Sheung Chi’s Water Barrier (Maotai-Water, 1:999) (2013) toppled following last Friday’s event. Courtesy the artist

 In the new work titled ‘Water Barrier’, the artist installed in the exhibition space at the Rockbund Art Museum two 170cm high anti-riot water-filled barriers, inside of which is filled with water and a bottle of Maotai liquor. A video is playing of the artist trying to tip over the barrier, while in front of the barrier is a scroll which reads “Please Tear Down this Wall, Warm Reminder: Beware of People Behind”.

By using an unbalanced mixture of water and Maotai, the most expensive Baijiu on the Chinese market, the artist is trying to both highlight the disparity of status and also create a protective mechanism against outside forces. Making a critical point, viewers were encouraged to push it over at the celebration party on November 1 before drinks were served in the gallery space. 

Kwan Sheung Chi was awarded ¥300,000 in prize money. 

News : Favela painting

The Favela Painting project started in 2005 when dutch artists Haas&Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) had the idea of creating public artworks in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. After several successful projects, the image of a square painted in a design of radiating colours transformed Rio into "one of the world’s 10 most colourful places", according to CNN. 

 Over the years the Favela Painting Project has grown into a professional organisation, based in the Netherlands. It’s focus is: "mobilising people to transform their own communities into social art works of monumental size, to beautify and inspire, combat prejudice and attract positive attention, while offering opportunity and economic stimulus."



The design for the first project (below) was chosen together with local people. It took two months to realise. The painting has recently been restored completely, after it was faded by the sun and covered in bullet holes from the ongoing war between drug gangs and the police.

Boy with Kite, 2006. Vila Cruzeiro. 

Boy with Kite, 2006. Vila Cruzeiro. 

The below project covered a complete street in Vila Cruzeiro. Giant slabs of concrete protected the hill from mudslides during the rainy season inspired Haas&Hahn to paint it. The Japanese design was made by master tattoo artist Rob Admiraal. It took the team more than 8 months to complete the 7000 square metre design. 

Rio Cruzeiro, 2008. Vila Cruzeiro.

Rio Cruzeiro, 2008. Vila Cruzeiro.

For the colourful buildings below, a group of 25 local youth were trained and hired. In just a little over a month they painted this complete square in the community of Santa Marta. 

Praca Cantao, 2010. Santa Marta 

Praca Cantao, 2010. Santa Marta 

Exhibition : Singapore Biennale 2013 Opens

If the World Changed 

Eko Prawoto,  Wormhole,  2013. Bamboo installation, dimensions variable. Singapore biennale 2013 commission, image courtesy of the artist

Eko Prawoto, Wormhole, 2013. Bamboo installation, dimensions variable. Singapore biennale 2013 commission, image courtesy of the artist

Since its beginning in 2006 the Singapore Biennale has become one of the biggest art events in Southeast Asia. The fourth edition opened on October 27 2013. If The World Changed, the title is an invitation to artists to respond to and reconsider the worlds we live in, and the worlds we want to live in. 

 This year sees a bold new collaborative structure employed: rather than a singe authorial voice, a team of co-curators, made up of 27 art professionals -- each with distinct knowledge of Southeast Asian art practices, have been selected. 

Featuring works by 82 artists and artist collectives from 13 countries, SB2013 has harnessed the diverse energy of the Southeast Asian region. Aiming to push beyond the familiar, the SB2013 features artists who hail not only from major metropolitan areas but also from lesser known regions such as Cambodia and Laos allowing for a diverse range of practices to be seen. 

The Biennale runs from 26 October 2013 to 16 February 2014. 

Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct

News: Wangechi Mutu's Imaginative Journey

Sydney, Australia 

Interwined, 2003

Interwined, 2003

An interview with Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist Wangechi Mutu. Her sculptures, works on paper, installations, and videos explore gender, race, and sexual identity using collage and assemblage strategies that create provocative juxtapositions of the female body. 'Wangechi Mutu', curated by Rachel Kent, is on at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney from 23 May - 14 August 2013. 

Lucy Rees: How did you first come to art?

Wangechi Mutu: I was always a visual person. I’m not really sure how I came to it. My earliest memory is drawing. Drawing until I ran out of paper. Something I would do without being asked to. I think it was my blessing and curse. It was given to me.

LR: And do you still draw?

WM: I love it. For me it’s the most genuine part of my practice. It’s the most intimate because I don’t draw for anyone but myself. I draw and sketch everything before making it. I love the quality and flow of lines in other peoples’ work. It is something I always respond to. I have a lot of sketchbooks filled with ideas. Some of my major works have started as a small sketch in one of these books. I always say to people who can’t do art that you just didn’t have a good teacher. 

Wangechi Mutu Lucy Rees Art

LR: You seem to have moved away from collage in recent years and have been focused on creating these larger all-consuming installations. Have you exhausted collage for the moment?

WM: I haven’t exactly moved on from collage but I have been doing other things, that’s true. I have just finished a collage on linoleum series titled “Girl Specimens.” It is a new body of work, thinking about the body as collected specimen. Knowledge, like science, natural science, progresses by cutting things up or even killing things in order to study them, which is such a bizarre thing. It’s a fascination for me, but also a problem. How we consider what we learn. I was looking at a lot of books of paleontological specimens and I came across these old, strange crustaceans. I loved the way they were arranged in the book formally, but also how similar some of these animals were to body parts. So, I am still making collage and I am using a new surface — linoleum. I used to use Mylar, but I was finding it limiting. It’s a tough material but it is thin so you can’t stick too much on it. So now the works are collage, sculpture, video and installation all in one. 

LR: Your use of difference mediums seems to integrate seamlessly. I mean, even in your sculptures and installations there are elements of cutting, layering, building…

WM: Yes, it’s definitely the way I think. I don’t naturally segregate them. You know, it’s funny; I get invited to do these artist talks at painting schools. Because a lot of my work is 2-D, I suppose the painting departments think of me. But I actually studied sculpture. I kind of have this weird, ambidextrous, upside-down approach to these things. I naturally combine them.

wangechi mutu lucy rees art
wangechi mutu lucy rees art

LR: Is there an angle we are supposed to read your works from?

WM: I don’t think so. That would be such an amazing thing to be able to prepare people and decide how everyone should look at something. Part of what I am saying with this interest and ability of mine to combine things is also about not treating them in a hierarchal manner. For me, my work is more about the viewer. I want people to see them how they want. Some people see women, and that’s it. And then there are other people who see that the women are cut up, or broken, or question if they are really women or animals. If you are not interested in the issues, such as the objectification of women’s bodies, then this part won’t strike you. I think people are willing to see what they are ready to see. That said, I try to infiltrate the subconscious. I try to get far enough, so that if you remember the work a few months or years from now you might say, wait a minute… that is maybe what is going on.

LR: I’d agree that they have that ability. While some of your works have a more obvious or explicit message, such as your pin-up girls from The Ark Collection (2006), with others you’re not really sure what is happening. But you’re aware you are looking at something powerful and confrontational.

WM: Right. That’s my method. I am not didactic in that way. They are opinions on history or politics or social issues. They are my opinions and I want to transmit them, communicate then or even convince people that there might be some truth to them. But I just don’t believe in banging people over the head. I also really love visually interesting seductive things. I like to draw people in to a difficult message to be accepted. You can put a little pill in there. I think there are also many creatures and animals that act in this way. They draw you in, and then they bite you, or poison you or engulf you. I admire what nature does when it tries to bring you hither.

wangechi mutu lucy rees art


LR: A lot of the time your work is thematized, either in curated group shows or when it’s written about in art journals. It can be pigeonholed. If there was a myth to be dispelled about your practice, or something you feel has been too focused on, what would it be?

WM: I think people get lazy. They read what has already been written and base their writing on other people. And it spirals. I follow certain trains of thought. And I can say: “That came from that article, which came from that article…” Even when I go to a museum and see a show I think I should try to be open and fresh about it. But I think there are some things that haven’t been focused on enough, or brought up with my work. Until recently people were still confusing me for American. So I think one of the things I have always wanted is to be understood in the realm of contemporary African art. 

LR: So you feel very strongly rooted to your African heritage?

WM: I really do. I lived there until I was twenty, my formative years. It’s hard to ever get rid of those influences and that training. And the beauty of being born there, you can’t undo it. I think some things that I place in the work have so much to do with Kenya. America is not as interested in contemporary Africa as I would like it to be.

LR: Would you say the same for the rest of the world, or America specifically?

WM: I think Europe has an interesting, problematic and long relationship with Africa. The geographical proximity, the colonial history. There are a lot of Africans living in Europe. I have found that there are more Europeans willing to go there, who are more confident about saying things without looking over their shoulder and worrying: “Am I being stereotypical?" Sometimes I do think that people extrapolate feminism a lot. I am a big feminist, but I am not coming from the Western understanding of feminism. It’s not an American feminism. The protests I follow by African women are very different from the protests that happen in the US or Europe. 

LR: Let’s talk about this idea of multiple feminisms.

WM: I was in a show in 2007 at the Brooklyn Museum called “Global Feminisms.” It had so many problems that were interesting because they were inherent in the idea of feminism being plural. There were all these women from all over the world, but the discussion between the feminisms was really difficult to have. I mean, people’s feminism, or rather, people’s interest in women’s empowerment, comes from totally different places. It’s not about art anymore. It’s about life and politics.

LR: Interesting that the concept of feminism is a Western construct — it doesn’t actually exist in most of the world.

WM: Yes, yet there is a long history in these countries of the strength of the female, and the female body, that is undeniably a feminist space. These are some of the areas I’d like more focus on. 

LR: Your largest retrospective to date is currently on at the MCA. Let’s talk about some of the works.

WM: The curator, Rachel Kent, knew of all these works, and I was astounded that she wanted to transport so many big installations to Australia. All my works are like babies, they’re my children; it’s hard to pick out favourites. Although some have been problem children! Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem (2006) was a very expensive and very elaborate installation with a lot of dense issues, but ultimately I wanted to create a feast, a communing of people and minds and viewers. Something has gone wrong, there is a tragedy or unfolding of evil. It is a confluence of issues to do with war, with consumption and waste, wealth, America. Exhuming Gluttony: Another Requiem (2006) took a lot longer, it was much more complicated in terms of how many people assisted me to make it. Then there’s of course my little Intertwined (2008) piece where I combine two bodies from a fashion magazine in this erotic sexy pose. When I made the decision to put the hunting dog heads on them it was such a milestone. A moment when I decided to make African women like animals. I wanted to pay homage to mythology and the use of animals as a way of understanding human behaviour, but also how women are depicted like animals. All these things are intertwined into the one piece. There are two energies — one is much stronger and the other is coyer. It was magnificent how it just worked. Mud Fountain (2010) is a video work where I am actually posed as a woman in a cell. Actually I’ve been thinking how I use Catholicism and the Catholic Church as a major form of inspiration.

wangechi mutu lucy rees

LR: You were educated at a strict Catholic school, weren’t you?

WM: For a long time, twelve years! Catholicism is so rigid and really deeply affects you. It really gets into every little crevice. 

LR: And the visual imagery of the religious and biblical stories, you can see those elements of sacrifice, transformation, etc. in many of your works. From Metha (2010) with the bottles of milk and wine, to Mud Fountain.

WM: A suffering body in the middle of the cell. The notion of suffering and bloodletting. It is ancient, pre-Christian. There is something primitive about religious imagery. It reaches back to our oldest ancestors. This notion that if you kill an animal or a person and offer its blood then the gods will be kind to you. I believe it is still there. Bride killings, war, offering animals. Mud Fountain is bringing the eye to the center of the room, to the offering.

wangechi mutu lucy rees


LR: Where do you get your inspiration? You emit a curiosity about the world.

WM: I think a lot of it is within me. And I have attention deficit disorder [laughs]. I did travel a lot before I got to the US, and then I became stationary mainly because of these issues of immigration and also at times not being able to afford it. I traveled in the work, I traveled in a fantasy… 

wangechi mutu lucy rees

LR: And that’s the name of your show at the Nasher Museum?

WM: Yes. We tried so hard to find an appropriate name. Trevor, the curator, who knows me really well, told me about this show called “Fantastic Journey,” about this group of kids who get lost in a parallel universe and can’t seem to find their way home. It had a Wizard of Oz–like connotation — I am trying to get back home. It references the way I think, the way I go wandering off into my imagination, and it goes into my collages. The End of Eating Everything is a new 8-min video where I actually animated the way I think, my process. So that was a collage come to life. And in it, there is this female multi-cellular crazy thing traveling. She is travelling with no sense of where she is coming from and where she is going. 

This interview took place in Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013. 



News: Imran Qureshi wins Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year 2013


Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi (b.1972) was recently announced the winner of the award in Berlin, where his works will be shown in a major solo presentation at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in spring 2013. The award is based on recommendations of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, which includes internationally renowned curators Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Victoria Noorthoorn and honors artists whose work “addresses social issues in an individual way and has created an outstanding oeuvre that concentrates on the two focal points of the Deutsche Bank Collection: works on paper and photography." Previous winners include Wangechi Mutu in 2010, Yto Barrada in 2011, and Roman Ondák in 2012.

Born 1972, Hyderabad, Sindh; lives and works in Lahore. Trained in miniature painting, Qureshi works from the motifs, symbolism, and ornaments of the Moghul tradition that flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries in the north of the Indian subcontinent. In fact, Qureshi is an assistant professor of miniature art at  Department of Fine Art, National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan.

His works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions and collected across Japan, India, the UK, the US, Australia and Pakistan.

He created large scale installations at the Asia Society Museum in New York ("Modern Enlightenment" series in "Hanging Fire Contemporary Art from Pakistan" September 2009 - January 2010).

Read my interview with Imran Qureshi in Flash Art International here.