‘Shreds of the Same Memory’: Watch Tau Lewis Turn Scraps of Fabric Into Elaborate Soft Sculptures

Brooklyn-based artist Tau Lewis is a scavenger of treasures, amassing heaps of recycled materials that she deftly reconstitutes into new art works.

In an exclusive new interview filmed as part of Art21’s New York Close Up series, Lewis works in her Brooklyn studio creating soft sculptural masks that recall the ceremonial African masks used “directly in the process of communicating with a spirit or a God or sometimes an ancestor.” 

Shot on 16-millimeter film, the documentary-style interview gives viewers a lens into the self-taught artist’s creative process as she works to give new life to discarded fabric and objects, preserving the memories inherent in the fibers. “We use every scrap of fabric” she explains, adding that every scrap “has character, it’s mysterious… each new sculpture has a piece of an older one embedded in it. They share shreds of the same memory and the same truth.”

For Lewis, the act of repurposing works is rooted in the tradition of Black creation, which she says “is an upcycling, regardless of an access to.” Making do with what is at hand, “taking things as they are and making them shine.”

Just as members of the Yoruba tribe infused their ritualistic masks with a spirituality, Lewis believes in the lived experience of her materials, which are passed on to her newly crafted works. The masks are both contemporary and historical works: “They’re now contributing themselves in a different form and this is really wonderful.”


Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series New York Close Up, below. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Midnight Publishing Group News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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Saudia Arabia Reveals Its $15 Billion Masterplan to Turn the Ancient City of AlUla Into a Global Culture Hub

Saudi Arabia has unveiled its plans for the ancient city of AlUla, which Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud hopes to transform into an international tourist destination for art, culture, and nature.

The three-part “Journey Through Time Masterplan” has a $15 billion price tag, with phase one—which has already seen the expansion of an airport—set for completion in 2023. Phase two is expected in 2030, and phase three in 2035. The ultimate goal is to bring in 2 million visitors annually and to create 38,000 new jobs, boosting the nation’s economy by $32 billion, according to Arab News.

The Royal Commission for AlUla is billing the revitalized city as “the world’s largest living museum, where contemporary art coexists with ancient heritage.”

AlUla is home to numerous ancient cultural heritage sites, including the 2,000-year-old Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Mada’in Saleh), or Hegra, which in 2008 became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Mada’in Saleh), or Hegra, which in 2008 became Saudi Arabia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 2,000-year-old city is part of the nation's plans to turn AlUlah into an international destination for arts tourism. Photo ©Royal Commission for AlUla.

Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Mada’in Saleh). Photo ©Royal Commission for AlUla.

But the project has become controversial in the West due to alleged human rights abuses by the Saudi regime, including the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. France signed a 10-year agreement to help promote AlUla as a global tourism destination earlier that year, and several major museum leaders from Europe and the U.S. have been on the project’s advisory board. In 2020, California public art biennial Desert X came under fire for hosting an edition in AlUla.

In the newly unveiled plans for AlUla’s development, the government has designated five cultural districts. From north to south will be Hegra Historical City, Nabataean Horizon, Jabal Ikmah, Dadan, and AlUla Old Town, an ancient walled city built of mud bricks and stone.

A 12-mile greenway, dubbed the Wadi of Hospitality, will run alongside the city, traversed via tramline. The government plans to build 15 new cultural assets, such as museums and galleries, to help create what’s being billed as a “cultural oasis.”

Rendering of Kingdoms Institute, a global hub for archaeological and conservation research being built in AlUla. Image ©Royal Commission for AlUla.

Rendering of Kingdoms Institute, a global hub for archaeological and conservation research being built in AlUla. Image ©Royal Commission for AlUla.

Plans include launching an international competition next April to design Kingdoms’ Institute, an international archaeology and conservation center. It will be “a world-class institution dedicated to the study of the history of the Arabian Peninsula since the Prehistoric time,” José Ignacio Gallego Revilla, the executive director of archaeology, heritage research, and conservation for AlUla, told the Art Newspaper.

The development will also include the construction of new luxury hotels, including one designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, which will be carved into the existing rock landscape of the Sharaan Nature Reserve.

The crown prince founded the royal commission for AlUla in 2017, naming Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, the nation’s first culture minister, as the project’s governor. It is one of the major components of Saudi Vision 2030, a nationwide development project that aims reduce the country’s dependence on oil by diversifying the economy, and to improve public services in health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.

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A Museum in the Himalayas Has a Solution for the Tons of Trash Climbers Leave on Mount Everest: Turn It Into Art

Mount Everest is perhaps best known for some of the staggering numbers associated with it. It soars almost 30,000 feet above sea level, making it the earth’s tallest mountain, and it has attracted thousands of the planet’s best high-altitude climbers, around 10,000 of whom have reached the summit.

And those climbers leave quite a bit of trash. In 2019, the government of Nepal announced that 24,200 pounds of garbage—including plastic bottles, cans, food wrappings, equipment, batteries, and, um, human waste—were brought down from the mountain during a 45-day cleanup project.

The solution for many climbers is to burn their refuse in open pits. But that only contributes to the pollution, of which there is lot. In spring 2019, researchers testing snow and water samples found that the mountain, which many consider to be a remote and pristine landscape, is in fact terribly polluted. According to a report published in the online journal One Earth, snow samples from 11 areas of varying altitudes all contained microplastics. Three of eight water samples were also contaminated.

As part of efforts to clean up the mountain, the Himalayan Museum and Sustainable Park has organized an initiative called Sagarmatha Next to find environmental solutions for the issue.

The first step is the proposed creation of the Sagarmatha Next Center, a place for upcycling practices to turn trash into treasure. Those in charge say they hope to employ local and foreign artists to create artworks out of trash to sell them to tourists.

“We want to showcase how you can transform solid waste to precious pieces of art” that can “generate employment and income,” project director Tommy Gustafsson told Reuters.

The plan is to have a soft opening for the center, which will include an art gallery, for locals this spring.

Another part of the initiative involves asking climbers to participate in a “carry me back” scheme, in which they are responsible for bringing a two-pound bag of trash back to the Lukla airport, a hub for visitors. From there, the trash will be flown to Kathmandu.

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Don’t Miss These 10 Museum Shows Opening in Europe in 2021, From a Hito Steyerl Retrospective to a Star Turn for Helen Frankenthaler

After 2020’s crush of postponements and cancellations, we are hopeful that 2021 will be different.

While a lot still remains to be confirmed, we have plucked out the most highly anticipated exhibitions to see in Europe in 2021.


Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
May 27–November 28

Helen Frankenthaler, Madame Butterfly (2000). One-hundred-two color woodcut. ©2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphic Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY

Helen Frankenthaler, Madame Butterfly (2000). One-hundred-two color woodcut. ©2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphic Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY.

This major print retrospective of Helen Frankenthaler includes 30 works on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, spanning from her first-ever woodcut, in 1973, to her final work, published in 2009. The show will examine the artist’s innovative approach to printmaking, defying the woodcut medium’s supposed limitations to create new dimensions of beauty.


Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Green Coconuts and Other Inadmissible Evidence
Vienna Secession, Vienna
Through February 7

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, <i>Once Removed</i> (2019). Exhibition view Secession 2020, Photo: Iris Ranzinger.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Once Removed (2019). Exhibition view Secession 2020, Photo: Iris Ranzinger.

This exhibition of the Turner Prize-winning artist’s work investigates sound, speech, memory, and their role in the quest for truth. A key tenet of the artist’s practice is his analysis of acoustic clues and earwitness testimony, and the exhibition will include four works from two series that investigate this, as well as other forms of witnessing. Included will be Abu Hamdan’s audiovisual inquiry into the Syrian torture prison Saydnaya, After SFX (2018), as well as a new series of prints titled For the Otherwise Unaccounted, which is inspired by birthmarks.


Untitled: Art on the Conditions of Our Time
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
February 6–April 5

Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, <i>Finding Fanon Part One,</i>(2015), courtesy of Copperfield Gallery & Seventeen Gallery, London. Image: Claire Barrett.

Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Finding Fanon Part One,(2015), courtesy of Copperfield Gallery & Seventeen Gallery, London. Image: Claire Barrett.

This group show will bring together 10 British artists who are part of the African diaspora whose work probes key cultural and political questions of our time. It will include new commissions and recent works by by Barby Asante, Phoebe Boswell, Kimathi Donkor, and others. Curator Paul Goodwin says the exhibition will center the works, instead of focusing on Blackness itself. “Questions of Blackness, race, and identity are shown to be entangled in the multitude of concerns—aesthetic, material, and political—that viewers can encounter without the curatorial voice obscuring the works,” he says.


Ad Minoliti
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
April 1–March 13

Ad Minoliti, <i>Cubes</i>(2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Ad Minoliti, Cubes (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

This is the Argentinian artist’s biggest exhibition, and first institutional UK show, to date. The artist, whose work was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale, is known for making colorful paintings and installations that grapple with queer theory and feminism. The show is conceived as space of respite away from the constaints of gender binary, human-centered art and life, in what the artist calls an “alien lounge.” It will host bi-weekly workshops as part of Minoliti’s Feminist School of Painting, which will tackle traditional painting genres in an effort to reimagine historical narratives from feminist, intersectional, and queer perspectives.


A Fire in My Belly
Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin
February 6–December 12

Laure Prouvost <i>They Parlaient Idéale</i> (2019). Courtesy of the artist und carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.

Laure Prouvost They Parlaient Idéale (2019). Courtesy of the artist und carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.

Curator Lisa Long is planning a major exhibition drawing on Stoschek’s collection, which includes challenging and cathartic pieces by artists including Barbara Hammer, Anne Imhof, Adrian Piper, and Arthur Jafa. The viewer will be positioned as a witness to acts of violence in a brave look at how it is represented, distributed, and circulated. Rarely seen pieces and several new works that were recently purchased will be on view. The show’s title, “A Fire in My Belly,” is an homage to the seminal work of the same name by American artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, which will also be on view.



Hito Steyerl
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
February 3–June 7

How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic EducationalHito Steyerl (2013). Image courtesy of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin .

The acclaimed German artist’s largest-ever show in France was pushed back from its original date last summer. The exhibition, which was first presented last fall at K21 in Düsseldorf, includes a best-of of Steyerl’s major works, including her break-out 2013 piece, How not to be seen, and Factory of the Sun from the 2015 Venice Biennale, as well a new production. Part of the show will incorporate the unique architecture of the Centre Pompidou as a point of departure.


Beuys: 2021
Various Venues in Europe
Throughout 2021

Joseph Beuys Photo: Behr/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

Joseph Beuys Photo: Behr/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

The conceptual artists is the subject of a major blockbuster program next year that will take place in 12 German cities, as well as in Warsaw, Poland, Vienna, Austria, and Manresa, Spain. We are particularly looking forward to the exhibition at K20 in Düsseldorf, called “Everyone Is an Artist: Cosmopolitan Exercises With Joseph Beuys,” which opens on March 27. The show will presents many contemporary artists in dialogue with Beuys, questioning or expanding on the practice of this most enigmatic artist. In October 2021, the Krefeld Museum will offer the first exhibition ever to juxtaposition Beuys with Marcel Duchamp.


The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
February 12–May 30

Unknown, Multiple leg cuffs for chaining enslaved people, with 6 loose shackles, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda.

Unknown, Multiple leg cuffs for chaining enslaved people, with 6 loose shackles, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is planning a major show that looks at the history of slavery across the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. The show will look at the Dutch involvement in the slave trade, taking up 10 true stories of individuals who were either victims or profiteers of the trade. More than 100 objects and artworks will be on view from the Rijksmuseum collection and elsewhere. “This past has long been insufficiently examined,” museum director Taco Dibbits said.


Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective
Gropius Bau, Berlin
March 19–August 1

Yayoi Kusama, <I>Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show</i> (1963). Courtesy: Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Yayoi Kusama, Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963). Courtesy: Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

This major survey show will focus on the early development of Yayoi Kusama’s work, including the early paintings and sculptures that eventually led to her immersive environments, which will also be on view. The show is curated by the museum’s director, Stephanie Rosenthal, in collaboration with Kusama’s studio, and charts the Japanese artist’s often overlooked activities in Europe and Germany from the 1960s onward. The show will travel to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in late 2021.


Various Venues, Arnem
April 10–June 21

sonsbeek curatorial team. Courtesy sonsbeek.

Sonsbeek’s curatorial team. Courtesy sonsbeek.

Taking place about every four years, “Sonsbeek” brings international artists to the small town of Arnem in the Netherlands. This edition is helmed by the Berlin-based curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, who has turned the concept for the exhibition on its head: it will now open in 2021 and will unfold over the next four years. Topics including race, gender, and the state of the working class will be central to the show, which includes artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Laure Prouvost, Oscar Murillo, and Willem de Rooij, among others.

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