Francis Alys: A Story of Deception
Working in a variety of media and a range of scales, from humble works on paper to monumental staged performances, Francis Alys (born 1959) has established himself as one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. Based in Mexico City since 1986, the artist fashions much of his work from the street life he observes during long walks throughout the city. Bringing together a variety of participants, from Mexican sign-painters to British Guardsmen, his collaborations have produced several well-known works, including “When Faith Moves Mountains” (2002), in which he enlisted 500 volunteers to attempt to move a sand dune one foot from its original position using shovels, and “The Modern Procession” (2002), a ceremonial procession commemorating MoMA’s temporary move to Queens, New York, that included a brass band and uniformed participants carrying reproductions of the Museum’s most famous works across the Queensboro bridge. Published to accompany the largest retrospective of Alys’ work to date, this publication is more a guidebook than a conventional monograph, reflecting the spirit of the artist’s wandering practice. It features an introductory essay by Mark Godfrey, a curator at the Tate Modern, an index of quotes from Alys’ previous writings and interviews compiled by Klaus Biesenbach, Director of P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center, and descriptions of works written by Alys and Cuauhtemoc Medina, freelance curator and art critic, as well as responses to the artist’s work from a wide range of critics and commentators.
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