Exhibition includes nearly 300 images from the artist’s collection, and inaugurates Dia’s three-year collaboration with the Hispanic Society

Sep 18, 2007

Francis Alÿs: Fabiola

New York, NY— Dia Art Foundation and The Hispanic Society of America initiate a three-year collaboration with a project by artist Francis Alÿs. Commissioned by Dia and installed at the Hispanic Society's Beaux-Arts facility in Manhattan, Fabiola comprises almost three hundred portraits of the Christian Saint Fabiola, all of them copies of a lost original. The paintings will be installed in the Society's mahogany-paneled North Building Galleries from September 20, 2007, through April 6, 2008. Alÿs's collection will be seen within the context of the Hispanic Society's unique collection of Iberian and Latin American art, engaging a dialogue between these historical and contemporary collections.

Francis Alÿs, who relocated to Mexico City in the early 1990s, assembled a significant collection of nearly identical paintings and other depictions of fourth-century Saint Fabiola over the last two decades. All of these are based on a renowned portrait devised by nineteenth-century French academic painter Jean-Jacques Henner. This much-venerated image has been so assiduously copied by amateurs and professionals alike that it has become a popular icon, a phenomenon that, as the artist stated, "indicates a different criterion of what a masterwork could be." Gathered from flea markets, antique shops, and private collections throughout Europe and the Americas, Alÿs's collection offers a window onto aesthetic, sociological, and theological values over the past century and more.

The Hispanic Society presentation will for the first time display Alÿs's encompassing group of Fabiola portraits, mostly paintings, as well as several versions in needlepoint, wood relief, and other materials. These images will hang in the Society's nineteenth-century painting galleries, ornate rooms paneled in dark wood. Engaging curatorial and institutional protocols and methodologies, their unlikely presence may relate to other objects in the Society's collection, particularly the vast holdings of religious imagery and portraiture, while shedding new light on contemporary artistic strategies.

Fabiola is the first in a series of projects commissioned by Dia for the Hispanic Society. The partnership between the two organizations provides a venue for Dia's renowned New York City programs until Dia locates a new home in Manhattan, and expands audiences for both institutions.

In keeping with Dia's approach to producing scholarly publications, the Alÿs project will be accompanied by a hardcover book that will include background material on Saint Fabiola, as well as essays by art historians, theological historians, and Dia curator Lynne Cooke. The publication will also catalogue each Fabiola, including detailed descriptions and photographs, many in full-color.

Public and Educational Programming
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public programs including lectures, panel discussions, and gallery talks, as well as special educational initiatives that draw on the relationship between the contemporary project and the Hispanic Society's permanent collection. In addition, Dia will organize a program for local schools in the Washington Heights neighborhood in which students will visit the Fabiola installation and participate in specially designed activities and projects. In order to further expand this outreach effort, Dia will additionally design online lesson plans in both Spanish and English, that will be available to a wider circle of regional schools.

Francis Alÿs, Fabiola, and the accompanying publication and educational programs are made possible by the Brown Foundation, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, and Erica and Joseph Samuels. Additional support is provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson; and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.

Francis Alÿs
Francis Alÿs's distinguished career includes significant projects and exhibitions at major international venues. Born in Belgium in 1959 and originally trained as an architect, Alÿs turned to the visual arts as a more direct way of exploring issues related to urbanization and sociopolitical conditions. As in his previous professional practice, the artist often works collaboratively within the public sphere, and he has developed an approach to art that is based on the observations of, and engagements with, daily life. Many of Alÿs's projects are solitary, peripatetic journeys which take the form of urban walks conditioned by particular circumstances. In The Collector (1991-92), for example, the artist pulled a magnetic toy behind him while traversing Mexico City. As metal scraps from across the capital accumulated on the toy, a provisional cartography was inscribed into the metropolitan landscape. At other times, Alÿs works within a community to create a social allegory. One such collaboration, When Faith Moves Mountains (2002), was created for the Third Ibero-American Biennale in Lima, Peru. It involved 500 volunteers who worked together to shift a 500-meter sand dune a few inches from its original site adjacent to an impoverished shanty town in Lima. Also in 2002, Mr. Alÿs created Modern Procession (2002), which marked the Museum of Modern Art's temporary move to Queens, New York. Additionally, Alÿs's work is the subject of Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal, on view at the UCLA Hammer Museum from September 30, 2007, through February 10, 2008.

Dia Art Foundation
A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is internationally renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects. Dia presents public programs and its permanent collection of works from the 1960s through the present at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, in New York's Hudson Valley. Since opening in spring 2003, Dia:Beacon has received more than 350,000 visitors. Beginning in the fall of 2007, Dia presents commissions and projects by contemporary artists at The Hispanic Society of America, while it seeks a permanent home for these initiatives in New York City. Additionally, the foundation maintains long-term, site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and in Bridgehampton on Long Island. For additional public information, visit www.diaart.org.

The Hispanic Society of America
Founded in 1904, The Hispanic Society of America is dedicated to the presentation and study of Hispanic culture. The collection is unparalleled outside of the Iberian Peninsula, and provides deep insight into the culture and art of Spain, as well as significant representation from Portugal and Latin America. Since 1908, the Society has been housed on Audubon Terrace between 155 and 156 Streets in Manhattan, in the Beaux-Arts complex that includes buildings by architects Charles Pratt Huntington, Stanford White, and Cass Gilbert. Comprising both library and museum, the Society has a diverse collection of paintings, decorative arts, books, manuscripts, maps, prints, and photographs, dating from the second millennium B.C. through the twentieth century, and is open to the public free of charge. For additional public information, visit www.hispanicsociety.org.

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, press@diaart.org or 212 293 5518

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