Saturday, January 29, 2011

An overnight trip to Edmonton for the opening of Brian Jungen’s exhibition at the Alberta Art Gallery, and the “Alberta version” of Carapace (2009), a work first displayed at Pay de la Loire, France, and then at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. For the AGA, Brian has reconfigured the piece, and my task, as a contributor to the publication, is to write on that configuration (Candice Hopkins will address the Loire and DC versions).

This was my first trip to Edmonton since the opening of the new gallery, a zinc-encrusted nugget where the old gallery once stood (at Winston Churchill Square). Unmistakably Gehryesque, the Randall Stout-designed structure is impressive, with high-ceilinged rooms geared at large-format works that would be impossible in the previous building. The justification for the new building, repeated like a mantra by those I spoke with, was to attract “international exhibitions,” like Jungen’s.

After checking-in (40 minutes, on account of 15,000 Christians in town for a conference), I purchased some flowers (lilies, billy balls and myrtle) at a nearby florist and made it to the gallery in time for the 5:30PM cocktail party/dinner upstairs. In attendance, Brian’s family and friends, as well as directors Wayne Baerwaldt (Illingworth-Kerr), Loring Randolph (Casey Kaplan Gallery) and Marc Mayer (National Gallery of Canada), the latter I had never met but had j’accused in an earlier post, a post that found its way into his Walrus Magazine profile, where he returned serve.

AGA director Gilles Hebert gave the opening address, followed by exhibition curator Catherine Crowston, who connected the dots for the local bourgeoisie; both were charming. More drinks, more food, before we decamped to a nearby pub for more drinks, more food, and some stimulating conversation, including a chat with Mayer, whose company I enjoyed. Later, on the way to the washroom, I broke up a fight between a blind-drunk older man and a twenty-something kid who was alleged to have “said something.” What that something was, no one knows -- save man who claims to have heard it.

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