23 September 2013

Chelsea Art

"Cabinet Interieur de Madame Adelaide, Corps Central, Versailles" Robert Polidori (1986)

My neighbourhood, Chelsea, is the art center of New York with more than 200 galleries showcasing artists of all mediums. Saturday morning I decided to pop into a few to check out some photography exhibits.

I love everything French so my first stop was to see “Versailles” by Robert Polidori. The series of large format photographs depict the restoration of the Chateau de Versailles, the 17th-century built home of France’s kings and queens, including Marie Antoinette. Taken over a 15-year period (1985-2010) they show palatial rooms filled with builders’ tools, ornate paintings leaning against walls, torn fabric, and faded paint. Quite impressive, they make Versailles seem almost more real than the opulent images one is used to seeing.

Next up was “Across the Ravaged Land” by Nick Brandt, a collection of photos of quite a different nature. These large, black and white images of Africa’s endangered animals were extremely moving. Elephants, lions, and the arid land in which they struggle to survive are interspersed with the remains of the dead. One image, of a row of men posing with elephant tusks, was particularly disturbing. What is so incredible about them is how close-up the shots are. The lion above just begs you to reach out and touch his mane.

Out on the street though was my favourite exhibit of the day. What do you do with a closed-down gas station? Turn it into a "Sheep Station," of course. The old Getty station on the corner of Tenth Avenue and 24th Street has had fake grass and 25 "Mouton" sculptures (sheep) by François-Xavier Lalanne added among its defunct pumps and a white picket fence surrounds it all. Organized by Paul Kasmin and Michael Shvo, it’s whimsical and eye catching and so much nicer than a smelly old station.

“Versailles” is at the Mary Boone Gallery through October 26, 2013; more info here. “Across the Ravaged Land” is at the Hasted Kraeutler Gallery through October 19, 2013; more info here. "Sheep Station" is on view through Oct 20, 2013; more info here.

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