Venice Biennale

Chanel Has Tapped French Artist Xavier Veilhan to Confect the Playful Sculptures in Its Latest Couture Collection


Chanel enlisted French artist Xavier Veilhan to craft a menagerie of animals as the set design for its spring 2023 haute couture collection at the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris today.

The last in a three-part collaboration with the French luxury house, Veilhan created the animated sculptures—a lion, camel, buffalo, elephant, and many others—to evoke a “parade of animals” in a village festival.

Choose your avatar amongst Xavier Veilhan's haute couture menagerie. Courtesy of Chanel.

Choose your avatar among Xavier Veilhan’s haute couture menagerie. Courtesy of Chanel.

“I’m interested in how animals are linked to certain places: towns, folklore, traditions…[so] I suggested a setting that resembled a village fête,” explained the artist. “It’s also an exploration of what our own imaginings can be.”

The 59-year-old artist works in a variety of mediums, including photography and painting. He’s best-known for sculptures in his signature angular or jagged style, like that of his cardboard and wood animals for Chanel. Veilhan’s creations have been installed in public spaces around the world, most notably in Miami’s Design District, where he created an homage to Le Corbusier, and at the Palace of Versailles in 2009.

A dog sculpture by Xavier Veilhan for Chanel haute couture. Courtesy of Chanel.

Xavier Veilhan represented France in the 2017 Venice Biennale. He transformed the French pavilion into an immersive recording studio, in which he invited professional musicians from around the world to perform for the duration of the Biennale.

His collaboration with Chanel came at the request of its creative director Virginie Viard—who assumed the role following Karl Lagerfeld’s death in 2019.

Chanel’s Virginie Viard and artist Xavier Veilhan. Courtesy of Chanel.

“Virginie Viard asked me if I could work around the idea of Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment and its bestiary,” the artist said, referring to the original couturière’s home atop the spiral staircase of her Paris boutique and atelier (although she famously retired to the Ritz each night). That’s where Viard and Veilhan would meet to go over ideas, amid the fashion icon’s collection of small animal sculptures, thus a theme was born.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Chinese Artist Yu Ji Has Been on a Meteoric Rise Since the Last Venice Biennale. What Is It About Her Art That Enraptures Curators?


There is something about Yu Ji’s work—it can stop even the most seasoned, seen-it-all curator in their tracks. Now, the Shanghai-based artist is continuing her rapid ascent to art-world fame with a solo show at London’s prestigious Chisenhale Gallery, her first institutional exhibition outside of Asia.

Chisenhale is known for propelling emerging artists from Lynette Yiadom-Boakye to Hito Steyerl to international acclaim, and Yu Ji appears to be no exception. Already, her work is making its way around the globe: she is the subject of a concurrent one-person exhibition at West Bund Museum in her native Shanghai, presented in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, and will participate in the forthcoming New Museum Triennial in New York.

For the Chisenhale exhibition, titled “Wasted Mud,” Yu Ji transformed the gallery into a kind of paradoxical urban-meets-wilderness cavern. A large black hammock stretches across the space, sagging under the weight of piles of rubble gathered from construction sites in fast-gentrifying East London. A table sourced from a market in London’s Deptford area holds a sculpture of a headless form. Electronic pumps disperse plant-infused water through tubes threaded around these displays, with some of the liquid leaking onto the floor. 

Yu Ji, <i>Wasted Mud</i> (2021). Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2021. Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Andy Keate

Yu Ji, Wasted Mud (2021). Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2021. Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Andy Keate

This collection of works—inspired, and in some cases drawn directly, from the show’s surroundings—is classic Yu Ji. Back in 2019, she spent three months in London as a resident of the Delfina Foundation and set aside hours to walk the streets, taking inspiration from the Thames, the city’s canals, and local flea markets.

“It was a time to really stay in the city and be with the city and not do anything for production,” Yu Ji told Midnight Publishing Group News. That experience formed the basis for her current show. 

For Yu Ji’s fans, her work offers a lesson in how to look at what’s around us. “Her work is appealing because it asks us to consider our relationship to ourselves, to each other, and to our external environment,” Aaron Cezar, the director of the Delfina Foundation, told Midnight Publishing Group News. “Rather than focusing on the tensions that often lie underneath these relationships, Yu Ji offers the possibility to explore how these connections can also be transformative. Coming out of the pandemic, I think this resonates with audiences.”

Yu Ji was born in 1985 in Shanghai, where she also received her MFA in sculpture from Fine Art College of Shanghai University in 2011. Though she was nominated for the Hugo Boss Art Prize for Emerging Asian Artists in 2017, it was her inclusion in Ralph Rugoff’s Venice Biennale in 2019 that launched her onto the global curatorial radar. Displayed across the central pavilion were sculptures from her signature “Flesh in Stone” series, in addition to a site-specific installation of resin-coated iron chains suspended from the ceiling, seemingly frozen in time and space.

Installation view, Yu Ji, Flesh in Stone–Component #3 (2017) at La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 2019. Credit: © Yu Ji, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: 李欣怡 Li Xinyi.

Installation view, Yu Ji, Flesh in Stone–Component #3 (2017) at La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 2019. Credit: © Yu Ji, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: 李欣怡 Li Xinyi.

On the heels of the biennale, during her London residency, “there was a huge interest in her work,” Cezar said. “Almost every major gallery requested studio visits!” 

Indeed, both Sadie Coles—the tastemaking London gallerist who snapped Yu Ji up after Venice, and now represents her—and Margot Norton, curator of the forthcoming New Museum Triennial, cited Venice as a critical moment. “It convinced me that we wanted to commit to representing her,” Coles said. “Great work always finds a market.”

“The work really did stick out,” Norton said. “I do think the ideas she’s exploring resonate, and the techniques she’s using are original. The work in Venice was doing something new and something I hadn’t seen before.”

Top curators and critics familiar with Yu Ji emphasize the novel nature of her use of materials and the underlying themes of connection with others. Plus, in a moment when the art market favors bright, figurative painting, Yu Ji’s work is the opposite. It’s not trying to be decorative, or clean. Instead, it seeks to directly confront tension: between the natural and urban worlds, between varying media and matter, and between the physical and the ethereal.

Yu Ji, "Inside China : L’Intérieur du géant" at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2015 © Yu Ji. Courtesy Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Yu Ji, “Inside China : L’Intérieur du géant” at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2015 © Yu Ji. Courtesy Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

“After a year of being wed to our screens through necessity, I think Yu Ji’s commission gives us a welcome break from a digital interface and allows us to get lost in physical material,” Chisenhale curator Ellen Greig told Midnight Publishing Group News. “Her work also explores the human body and shared space, and in that way, her work comments on how we are all connected and dependent on one another in some way; something I think is important not to forget.”

Jo-ey Tang, an artist and former curator at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, recounted an unrealized performance idea that was vetoed by the Parisian art center upon the artist’s 2014 inclusion in a group show. The proposal would have seen Yu Ji shatter a bag of cement, with the resulting dust particles continuing to linger mid-air long afterward, levitating in the space due to emissions from low-frequency speakers positioned skyward.

The concept was rejected due to safety concerns, but Tang remembers Yu Ji’s vision to “take the unconscious of the room… challenged curatorial and institutional authority.”

Yu Ji, "Inside China : L’Intérieur du géant" at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2015 © Yu Ji. Courtesy Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Yu Ji, “Inside China : L’Intérieur du géant” at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2015 © Yu Ji. Courtesy Palais de Tokyo. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

This sentiment of pushing boundaries has long been reflected in Yu Ji’s work. Testing limits is what Yu Ji does in her art practice: the limits of the body, the limits of memory, the limits of materials, and further, the limits of what constitutes a series of works that spans years and multiple mediums and forms,” Tang said. “Ultimately, Yu Ji is asking: how does art work, how does art live in real time?” 

 

“Yu Ji: Wasted Mud” is on view through July 18 at Chisenhale Gallery in London. 

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

From Sotheby’s ‘CryptoPunk’ Coup to an Anti-Picasso Protest: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week


Venice Biennale Announces a Theme – The so-called “art world Olympics” will be titled “The Milk of Dreams,” inspired by Leonora Carrington’s surrealism.

Stuart Weitzman Sells a Trove – In 10 minutes, Sotheby’s netted $32 million for five stamps and one coin consigned by the famous shoe designer.

CryptoPunk Makes a Killing – NFTs aren’t dead yet, considering one of the rare digital characters known as CryptoPunks sold for a staggering $11.75 million at Sotheby’s “Natively Digital” auction.

Mario at the Museum  A former Nintendo factory will house a museum dedicated to the video game company’s illustrious history.

Sotheby’s Doubles Down on Decentraland – The world’s oldest auction house has opened up a virtual location in the metaverse, banking on winning more crypto-clients.

The Next Gen Hockney – Beloved painter Hilary Pecis discusses her ascent from almost quitting art altogether to becoming the toast of the gallery world.

All In the Family – The sisters and stepmother of the late, great Jean-Michel Basquiat are organizing an exhibition of never-before-seen work.

The Met Returns Benin Bronzes – In a game-changing move toward restitution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is returning two of the looted artworks to Nigeria.

All That Glitters – Peek at the newly renovated Hall of Gems in the American Museum of Natural History in all its glory.

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Basilica – Israeli archaeologists discovered a 2,000-year-old Roman basilica built by Herod the Great.

Detroit Institute of Arts Draws Ire – An artwork commissioned by the DIA for the local police department is under fire from community members.

Art Students Protest Picasso – A Spanish professor and her students staged a silent protest against Picasso’s mistreatment of women.

Gallery Salaries, Decoded It turns out that many art dealers and gallery assistants make barely enough money to stay afloat, according to a new survey and report by Midnight Publishing Group News, discussed this week on the Art Angle.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

The Migrant Ship That Christoph Büchel Displayed at the Venice Biennale Has Gone to Sicily, Where It Will Become a Memorial


The sunken fishing ship upon which more than 1,000 African migrants died in 2015, and which was later controversially displayed at the Venice Biennale, will now be converted into a permanent memorial in Italy.

The ship had been languishing in Venice since 2019, when Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel turned it into an incendiary monument to the Mediterranean migration crisis as part of the Venice Biennale. Presented without context or labels, Barca Nostra—as Büchel’s installation was called—promptly fomented harsh condemnations. (Two of Midnight Publishing Group News’s own writers ranked it among the worst artworks of the year.)

The piece further fueled ire last year, when it was revealed that the artist had not returned the vessel to Augusta, the Sicilian city legally responsible for it, despite a contract requiring him to do so after the exhibition’s close. 

According to reports at the time, the ship’s cradle was damaged during transport—a defect that was not covered by the biennale’s insurance, since Büchel had agreed to foot the shipping costs himself. Both the team behind the biennale and the Augusta town council called on the artist to give the object back.

The shipwreck being moved from a port near Augusta, Sicily, to Venice for the biennale. The project is being presented by artist Christoph Büchel. © Barca Nostra.

The shipwreck being moved from a port near Augusta, Sicily, to Venice for the biennale. The project is being presented by artist Christoph Büchel. © Barca Nostra.

Now, after two years, that has finally happened. Traveling atop a barge, the ship made its return to Augusta this week, according to the New York Times

Representatives from Hauser and Wirth, Büchel’s gallery, did not respond to a request for comment on the ship’s return. 

With the Büchel saga in the past, Augusta will now look to the future of the vessel, including plans to turn it into a “Garden of Memory.” Details about the memorial haven’t yet been revealed, but Giuseppe Di Mare, the mayor of the Sicilian municipality, told the Times that it “will have to be in the open, because that boat gives a sense of the sea, the air, the skies. To enclose it in a building would clash with its story.”

“Certainly, the ship has attained an international dimension and we want this garden to become a place of reflection for the world, so that all people can ponder,” Di Mare added.

Over 1,000 people from Mali, Mauritius, and other African countries died when the ship collided with a Portuguese freighter off the coast of Libya in 2015. Pulled from the depths of the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, the ship has since become a symbol of Europe’s failed policies for accommodating arriving migrants.  

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook: