World-leading artists donate artworks to support Whitechapel Gallery

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World-leading artists donate artworks to support Whitechapel Gallery
Laure Prouvost, IDEALLY THIS POSTER WOULD SHOW YOU THE WAY, 2019, Acrylic and varnish on board , 57.1 x 37.2 cm, Unique. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

LONDON.- Whitechapel Gallery announced the donation of 14 exceptional original artworks to the Gallery by world-leading artists Francis Als, Yto Barrada (b. 1971), Alvaro Barrington (b. 1983), Gareth Cadwallader (b. 1979), Andrew Cranston (b. 1969), Ayan Farah (b. 1978), William Kentridge (b. 1955), Sadik Kwaish Alfraji (b. 1960), Cathy de Monchaux (b. 1960), Laure Prouvost (b. 1978), Michal Rovner (b. 1957), Alexis Teplin (b. 1976), Francis Upritchard (b. 1976) and Richard Wentworth (b. 1947).

All donated artworks will be auctioned in support of Whitechapel Gallery’s education and community programmes, during a gala dinner on 21 January 2020, as part of the Gallery’s prestigious Art Icon award in partnership with Swarovski. This year the auction forms part of a major new fundraising initiative, timed to coincide with the ten year anniversary of the Gallery’s expansion in 2009. Titled Towards Tomorrow, this ambitious drive will support the Gallery’s continued success and innovation for the next decade.

Since 2014, the Art Icon gala and auction has contributed 1,058,148 towards Whitechapel Gallery’s education and community programme, enabling the Gallery to engage tens of thousands of children and young people with art and with the big ideas of our time. Every year communities ranging from 15 year old rappers to Bangladeshi seamstresses participate in interpreting and creating art with Whitechapel Gallery. Groups work with artists to harness their creativity, with the award winning results put on public display in the Outset Project and 176 / Zabludowicz Collection Project Galleries. In the last ten years Whitechapel Gallery has worked with more than 51,500 school students, 35,000 college and university students, welcomed 8,400 participants to family days and engaged 3,500 local participants in community workshops. More than 10,000 15 - 21 year olds have visited Boot Camps, masterclasses, creative career sessions and collaborations, and more than 300 have taken part in the Duchamp & Sons Youth Forum.

The works to be auctioned to support education as a core element of the Gallery’s mission can be viewed here and are:

• Francis Als’ Ghetto Collector (1990 – 92), a work deriving from one of the artists’ earliest performances – an iconic action in which the artist dragged a magnetic toy dog throughout the streets of Mexico City, picking up nails, bottle caps and scraps of metal forming a second skin.

• Pile de dinosaure (Pile of Dinosaurs) (2012) by Yto Barrada, a woodblock print depicting dinosaurs piled up on a tree. It was first shown at the artists’ acclaimed exhibition Faux Guide (Pace London, 2015), which explored museology, archaeology and palaeontology.
1972-1934 (WC) (2019) by Alvaro Barrington, an abstract painting on burlap and paper in which a bright yellow oval hovers over a lusciously thick surface of a warmer yellow. Barrington’s paintings are often inspired by his formative years in Venezuela and depict a romanticised view of the Caribbean.

• What a Wonderful World (2019) by Gareth Cadwallader. Featuring semi-abstract text that reads ‘What A Wonderful World’ – from the title of Louis Armstrong’s 1967 song – this painting was made for the cover of a limited edition artist book. The book translated the song lyrics into every language offered by Google Translate alphabetically and then back to English, from which the next translation was taken.

• For Donald (a lost friend) (2019), by Andrew Cranston, a painting showing the artists’ friend looking out of a window and greeting a seagull. Painted in almost fluorescent colours, the scene integrates myriad references from Art History and Cranston’s personal history.

• Iman (2016) by Ayan Farah. This painting is formed from a patchwork of historical fabrics, soaked and stained with natural pigments and materials, exposed to the sun and stitched together over a lengthy period.

• If You Have No Eye (2014) by William Kentridge, a limited edition linocut featuring the artists’ iconic motif of a tree native to the Johannesburg area. The tree is printed onto a background of dictionary pages and surrounded by proverbs and texts suggesting echoes of a troubled past.

• Human Anatomy Manuscript (2007) by Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, a work on paper by one of the most important Iraqi artists working today depicting a standing figure in black ink confronting the view. The work references anatomical drawings but is rendered in a highly expressive style.

• “Worried about the weather” – part 2 act 1 (2019) by Cathy de Monchaux, a sculptural relief presenting a dense forest of copper wire, twisted into a gnarled tree, and two unicorns facing one another. Evoking medieval imagery, forests have contemporary resonance for the artist - as sites of escape and border crossing for people.

• IDEALLY THIS POSTER WOULD SHOW YOU THE WAY (2019) by Laura Prouvost. This painting is the original hand-painted sign relating to a London-wide series of posters currently featured across the London Underground. It draws on the artists’ own sign painting tradition and London Underground’s history of wayfinding and graphic design.

• Untitled (2019) by Michal Rovner, a set of limited edition prints in which two large silhouettes rise above an iconographic landscape of London. The prints are companion pieces to the artist’s upcoming Crossrail commission for Canary Wharf station, which investigates human motion and migration through the lines of a train crossing a landscape.

• Fruit Bowl (2014) by Alexis Teplin. This brightly coloured and complex painting is hand painted on linen and cotton by the artist, then cut out and rearranged to create a painting-collage assemblage. Teplin frequently uses found materials in her painting practice, which often expands beyond the limits of the frame to including writing, performance, costume and moving image.

• Fun Fez (2015) by Francis Upritchard, a work which presents three richly coloured and patterned sewn Fez hats. Hats are a recurring motif for the artist who uses them to excavate histories and traditions across times, places and cultures.

• Thus (2019) by Richard Wentworth. This sculpture transforms a pipe with three mirrors and hanger into a precarious, but balanced composition. Intended for display close to the ceiling, the installation of the artwork disrupts typical modes of viewing and the repurposing of familiar objects subverts their function and extends our understanding of them.

There will also be a selection of silent auction lots on offer including exclusive behind the scenes tours and artist encounters.

As part of the gala, an Art Icon award is presented annually to celebrate the profound influence of a living artist on their own and subsequent generations. In 2020, Francis Als will be honoured. Iwona Blazwick said: “This award celebrates an artist whose work elevates the simple activities of walking, playing and observing everyday life, in locations ranging from Mexico City to Mosul, into an art form that is at once playful and profound. The lyrical vision of Als’ actions, films and paintings transcends social and national boundaries to reveal a common humanity”.

Nadja Swarovski commented: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Whitechapel Gallery and the Art Icon award, which celebrates an outstanding artist and their contribution to our cultural life. Francis Als combines a global vision with an eye for the local, and sees compelling human stories at the smallest level. His richly suggestive multimedia works capture ephemeral moments that encourage the viewer to question the nature of art and its relationship to the world”.

The Whitechapel Gallery’s annual Art Icon event is organised with generous support from Swarovski, which has a longstanding commitment to the Gallery and its programme. The Art Icon Committee includes Erin Bell, Luigi Maramotti, Sarah Miller, Farshid Moussavi, Francis Outred, Irene Panagopoulos, Jasmin Pelham, Catherine Petitgas, Alice Rawsthorn, Darius Sanai, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Bina von Stauffenberg, Nadja Swarovski, Cheyenne Westphal, and David Zwirner.

Born in Antwerp in 1959, Als originally trained as an architect and moved to Mexico City in 1986, where he continues to live and work. It was the confrontation with issues of urbanisation and social unrest in his country of adoption that inspired his decision to become an artist. Throughout his practice, Als directs his distinct poetic and imaginative sensibility toward anthropological and geopolitical concerns centred around observations of, and engagements with, everyday life. His projects including public actions, installations, video, paintings and drawings have involved travelling the longest possible route between Mexico and the United States; pushing a melting block of ice through city streets; filming his efforts to enter the centre of a tornado; and accompanying a Kurdish battalion during the Liberation of Mosul to create a series of tiny yet powerful paintings. His famed collection of found ‘Fabiola’ paintings, premiered at the Whitechapel Gallery, is on permanent display at the De Menil Foundation in Houston. Francis Als has also been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including a major survey at Tate Modern in 2010.

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