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Holy Art Show

By Anne-Marie Audet.

When you live in New York City you are constantly inundated with art shows in converted warehouse lofts and other industrial spaces. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting New York during design week then you’ve also had the pleasure of going from Manhattan to Williamsburg and to see how just crossing a bridge can change the space where these shows are held.

But even after all of the shows I visited during my stint in New York, I was completely unprepared for the space of the IVY International Artists Exposition held at the Chapelle Saint-Louis de la Pitie-Salpêtrière on Thursday 4th May 2006.

For a Catholic-raised girl like me it was a bit surprising to see the art works hung along the walls just a meter below the stations of the cross, as visitors to the Chapelle attended mass, prayed for loved ones, or paused to look at the work before wetting their fingers to make the sign of the cross.

But I wasn’t the only one shocked. Some of the works raised an eyebrow or two, such as the wire art piece “City of Piss” by Toronto (and sometimes Paris) based artist Stéphane Monnet. Conceptual artist Sono Fukunishi had her piece literally go up in flames, much to the shock and delight of the attendees. Even organizer Suzanne Hollands' piece, "Refuge(e)", ruffled the feathers of the Father of the church despite it’s stark humanitarian message. He didn't think the plastic bags were very "pretty" for such a beautiful church.

Paris is a city made for art. From the Louvre to the Pompidou, it could be argued that it has the best art the world has to offer. But even in such a city there are few possibilities for young struggling artists to gain attention for their work. And this is why I V Y paris exists.

The idea for a group show started long before I had joined the group, and I was lucky to have a chance to get involved. Right from the start it was a collaborative effort. It was a result of these behind-the-scenes efforts that not only made the show a success, but also brought a real spirit to the group.

On the day of the hanging people borrowed and lent, offered support and encouragement, and took the time to look at one another’s work and offer advice. In a culture where charm can be everything, it was most charming to see one of our artists, a formidable attorney turned writer, smile nervously as he asked if his art pieces were good enough to be so close to the work of another exhibiting artist whom he held in high esteem. I assured him that they were. But he didn’t have to take my word for it. As the night went on some of his works were the most visited and inquired about pieces in the show!

The next day as I entered the Chapelle, I was greeted by the church organist in the midst of a duet with a clarinet player, adding a touching soundtrack to the end of the show. As the last pieces started to come down we talked and laughed about the slight hiccups of the night such as running out of wine glasses and of course the fire, it became evident that the show was a success in more ways than one.

Later someone commented, "How can we ever top having a show in a space like the Chapelle?" But as I look back and remember, it’s seems evident that the IVY Artists Group has a will, and we will surely find a way.

See more photos.

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    Copyright © Susie Hollands.