It’s Ferragosto in Italy, the run-up to Labor Day in the U.S., and late summer everywhere else. As the sunshine season winds down, the Air Mail Editor at Large shares not-to-be-missed art stop-offs, from the Greek Islands to the French countryside.
First stop: Delos
On this Greek island, part of the the Cyclades, the British sculptor Antony Gormley has created an installation called “Sight,” in which 29 iron “bodyforms”—some of them cube-like structures, others more classically human—stand here and there among the delicate archaeological remains of ancient walls and columns. Context, in Gormley’s work, is everything, and one cannot help wondering, while exploring the installation, why each piece is placed precisely as it is. Climbing to the final work, positioned at the pinnacle of the island, brings a profound sense of accomplishment. Delos is the mythological birthplace of the sun god, Apollo—whom the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley referred to as the eye of the universe—and from up there, one’s “sight” is surely Apollonian.
Next stop: Hydra
The Deste project space is located on a cliff in Hydra, one of Greece’s Saronic Islands. Each year a single exhibition is held in the space, and this year it was given over to the German-born American artist Kiki Smith, whose recent work is on view at Vienna’s Belvedere Museum through September 15. Smith had no clear plan for the project in Hydra—until she arrived on the island. In Deste’s space, which was once a slaughterhouse, the artist chose to place works directly where the animals had been kept. Look for the mermaid with the iron tail who presides over a pen that once held livestock. Smith’s visual language includes animals, astrology, the Hydra constellation, blood, and the sea. The show is called “Memory,” and it is eloquent.
The Vasarely Foundation, one of my favorite museums in France, celebrates the life and work of Op Art pioneer Victor Vasarely. The building is based on designs by Vasarely himself, executed by the architects John Sonnier and Dominique Ronsseray. From this site you can see Mont Saint Victorie, the mountain that Paul Cézanne obsessively painted when he worked through his compositional principles. And while you’re there, don’t forget to make a stop next door, where a show of Basquiat’s drawings just opened at the Château La Coste.
After that: Capalbio
The late French-American sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Tarot Garden,” in the Tuscan coastal town of Capalbio, is one of those places that makes you smile from ear to ear as soon as you walk in. This whimsical sculpture garden, which immerses visitors in Saint Phalle’s life story—from milestones to inspirations—culminates in what the artist referred to as her idea of a “small Eden where man and nature meet.”
With the careful guidance of her gallerist, Xavier Huefkens, British artist Tracey Emin—whose art is also on show at Rome’s Galleria Lorcan O’Neill through September 21—presents a selection of works in her favorite mediums at Art Projects Ibiza. As ever, a thought-provoking and insatiable title adorns the show: “An Insane Desire For You.” Emin has become a steady presence in contemporary art, and it’s refreshing to see her in the more unusual location of Spain’s picturesque Balearic island.