David Altmejd. The Index

Curator: Louise Déry

Artist: David Altmejd

Pavillon du Canada, Biennale de Venise

June 10, 2007 - November 21, 2007

Montréal artist David Altmejd will be Canada’s official representative at the 2007 Venice Biennale of Visual Art, the world’s oldest and most prestigious venue for the international display of contemporary art. Altmejd’s career has already garnered international attention at the Istanbul and Whitney biennials and the Frankfurter Kunstverein, and will certainly make a strong impression on the imaginations of the visitors to the Biennale.

Altmejd was chosen through a nationwide competition and was nominated by Louise Déry, director of the Galerie de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, who was selected with her institution to represent Canadian visual arts at the event. Déry was prompted to nominate the 32-year-old Altmejd because of the incredible aesthetic power of his oeuvre.

The commission created by Altmejd for the Biennale consists of two works, both toying with the Pavilion’s notable peculiarities of an aviary, imagining it as a shelter where birds can safely nest and feed. The Index chimes with this particular resonance, highlighting the architectural philosophy of planting a building organically in its natural settings; that of the Giardini Pubblici. The work is made up of various structures of wood, steel and mirror glass, interconnected and assembled. They are inhabited by flocks of stuffed birds and squirrels, fabricated from materials at hand and fragmented bodies – half-human, half-avian – the whole richly ornamented with tree sections and quartz crystals. The piece rests in a display case with mirrored sides, exaggerating its material scope. In turn, the work becomes an architectural space, a habitat of kinds that reveals both its cavities and protuberances, its mysteries and truths. The title, The Index, refers to the principle classification of the species, to their organisation into an avifauna with an internal balance that ensures their continued existence.

To compliment this, on the far side of a living tree housed in the pavilion is Altmejd’s second work – The Giant 2 – an imposing 4.3 metre behemoth that sits on the ground. Although isolated it smacks of visual luxuriance, attended by all manner of stuffed and sculpted birds. The figure is at once a body and an environment, which relies on hybrid-wildlife to ensure its unique, isolated, survival. Both of Altmejd’s works are a pertinent look into the inescapable unity of all life.

David Altmejd is represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery (New York) and Stuart Shave/Modern Art (London). The official Canadian participation at the Venice Biennale is made possible through the financial and administrative support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the National Gallery of Canada. Other major supports comes from the ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, the ministère des Relations internationales du Québec, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the City of Montreal and Tourisme Montréal. DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art is the exclusive private partner of the Galerie de l’UQAM in the organisation of the exhibition. Aéroplan is the official sponsor of the Galerie de l’UQAM.

Biennale di Venezia

The 52nd International Art Exhibition, entitled Think with the Senses – Feel with the mind. Art in the Present Tense, will run 10 June to 21 November, 2007. The international exhibition, set up in the Arsenale and in the Italian Pavilion at the Giardini, will present about a hundred artists from all over the world. The Preview will be held from 7 to 9 June at the Arsenale and Giardini venues and is intended only for the professionals and press. The Biennale will be open to the public from 10 June to 21st November, 2007.

About the artist

David Altmejd lives and works in Montréal, New York and London. He has degrees in visual art from UQAM (BA, 1998) and Columbia University (MFA, 2001). He is represented by the Andrea Rosen Gallery (New York) and Stuart Shave / Modern Art (London). His work has been shown in Quebec, United States and Europe. In a few years, David Altmejd has already acquired an international reputation, notably participating in the Istanbul (2003) and Whitney (2004) biennials, and his works can be found in collections as important as those of the Guggenheim and Whitney museums in New York.

About the curator

Curator, author and teacher, Louise Déry holds a doctorate in art history and has been director of the Galerie de l’Université du Québec à Montréal since 1997. She was previously on the curatorial staff of both the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Since the 1990s, she has worked with numerous artists including Dominique Blain, Raphaëlle de Groot, Antony Gormley, Nancy Spero, David Altmejd, Michael Snow, Daniel Buren, Giuseppe Penone and Sarkis. She has published more than 50 exhibition catalogues and recently produced an exhibition and a book with the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. She has been promoting the work of David Altmejd since 2000 and published the first monograph on the artist in 2006 (David Altmejd, Galerie de l’UQAM, 2006, 112 pp.). A solo exhibition she organized of Altmejd’s work is touring Canada in 2007.