2013: A Year of Exploring the Arts

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Street musicians, le Marais, Paris (November 2013)
Last year I set a New Year's resolution, something I don't often bother to do. To reconnect with my creative side, I resolved to spend more time in 2013 producing and enjoying art.

Over the course of the year, I never found as much time as I had hoped to play at painting or collage, though I did manage to spend many hours practicing my photography, and came away with some images of which I'm proud.

I was more successful in seeking out creative visual inspiration.

Within the first few days of the year, I made it to the Met in New York to finally explore their revamped Islamic Art wing (which, while nice, doesn't hold a candle to the British Museum's Islamic collection), and to DC's Hirshhorn for the "Ai WeiWei: According to What?" exhibit, which reinforced
my adoration for the Chinese artist's work, so powerful in its simplicity and scale.
Ai WeiWei exhibit at Hirshhorn
In February, I saw an impressive contemporary collection at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. I particularly enjoyed Algerian painter Driss Ouadahi's "Breakthrough" and Moroccan Mounir Fatmi's mesmerizing "Technologia" video installation.
Still shot from Mounir Fatmi's "Technologia"
My move to Algiers brought new opportunities as well. At the Musée de l'Art Moderne d'Alger (MAMA), I saw at least three exhibits throughout the year, including one—aptly named the "Palace of Wonders"—that was seemingly drawn at random from the dusty depths of the museum's storage units and arranged without regard for period, medium, country, or artist. (Sandwiched between an antique jade carving from China and a locally made paint-by-number tableau of a galloping horse, one wooden African mask was simply labelled "Wooden mask, Africa". Spectacular.)
The MAMA in Algiers: a clandestine shot at an event inside the strictly-no-photos-allowed museum.
Elsewhere in town, Algerians greeted the reopening of the Musée Bardo—a converted Turkish palace—after six years of renovation with excitement. Unfortunately an early visit revealed that there was no art to see yet, just the empty museum itself. The Algiers art scene can only go uphill in 2014.
"Bellatrix II, 1957" by Victor Vasarely, at the Centro Cultural de Belém
I saw more worthwhile pieces in Doha, and last week at the Berardo Collection at Lisbon's Centro Cultural de Belém. Finally, I continued to be impressed in my travels by craftsmen making found art, like the enterprising Kenyan artists on Lamu who gave new life to old pottery shards or discarded flip-flops.
Slim the silversmith makes jewelry at his shop on Lamu from found Chinese pottery.
I look forward to more creativity and discovery in 2014.

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