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"Francis Alys: Fabiola"
2007-09-20 until 2007-04-06
Hispanic Society of America
New York, NY, USA United States of America

Over the last two decades, Francis Alys has assembled a significant collection of nearly identical paintings and other reproductions of fourth-century Saint Fabiola, all based on a now-lost original painted in the nineteenth century by the French artist Jean-Jacques Henner. This obscure work has been assiduously copied by amateurs and professionals alike and has become a popular icon, a phenomenon that, as the artist stated, ďindicated a different criterion of what a masterwork could be.Ē Alysís collection, gathered from flea markets, antique shops, and private collections throughout Europe and the Americas, offers a window onto aesthetic, sociological, and theological values over the past century and more.

The exhibition of these images at the Hispanic Society will for the first time comprise Alˇsís complete group of almost three hundred Fabiola †portraits, mostly paintings, as well as several versions in needlepoint and wood relief, among other materials. These images will hang in the Societyís nineteenth-century painting galleries, ornate and decorative rooms paneled in dark mahogany. Engaging curatorial and institutional protocols and methodologies, their unlikely presence may relate to other objects in the Societyís collection, particularly the vast holdings of religious imagery and portraiture, while shedding new light on contemporary strategies.†††

Francis Alˇsís distinguished career includes significant projects and exhibitions at major international venues. Born in Belgium in 1959 and originally trained as an architect, Alˇs turned to the visual arts as a more direct way of exploring issues related to urbanization and socio-political conditions. As in his previous professional practice, the artist often works collaboratively within the public sphere, and he has developed an approach to art that is based on the observations of, and engagements with, daily life. Many of Alˇsís projects are solitary, peripatetic journeys which take the form of urban walks conditioned by particular circumstances. In The Collector (1991Ė92), for example, the artist pulled a magnetic toy behind him while traversing Mexico City. As metal scraps from across the capital accumulated on the toy, a provisional cartography was inscribed into the metropolitan landscape. At other times, Alˇs works within a community to create a social allegory. One such collaboration, When Faith Moves Mountains (2002), was created for the Third Ibero-American Biennale in Lima, Peru. It involved 500 volunteers who worked together to shift a 500-meter sand dune a few inches from its original site adjacent to an impoverished shanty town in Lima. Also in 2002, Mr. Alˇs created Modern Procession (2002), which marked the Museum of Modern Artís temporary move to Queens, New York. Additionally, Alˇsís work is the subject of Francis Alˇs: Politics of Rehearsal, on view at the UCLA Hammer Museum from September 30, 2007 through February 10, 2008.


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