Fabienne Levy in the openings days of her Lausanne gallery, October 2019  © Odile Meylan

Fabienne Levy knew that she wanted to do things differently when she opened her Lausanne art gallery in October 2019. Born into a world of connoisseurs, she waited for the right moment to enter the art scene on her own terms. She wasn’t going to follow trends, she set out to carve her own path.

How refreshing: her eponymous gallery proposes art that means something to us and not just to the art market. Instead of the usual fare of instantly recognizable contemporary actors, she is inviting artists who create new forms of beauty with the perfectly ordinary. The timing is just right, we needed to get back to the basics.

Telling stories

The Fabienne Levy Gallery is within a stone’s throw from Lausanne’s visionary Plateforme 10, the first arts complex built next to a major train station: the Fine arts museum, inaugurated in October 2019, will be joined in 2021 by the design and photography museums, making it a culture planet that now has its first satellite.

It’s early days yet, with only two exhibitions to date, but Fabienne Levy has already tipped the balance with her manifest to use:

“Art as a bridge between people and as a path for new thoughts”.

This is new on the contemporary art scene and that’s exactly what the inaugural artists, Andrea Galvani and Yuval Yairi do, they are using art as a premise to take our thoughts elsewhere and then they tiptoe away. What we are left with is art that is full of meaning and that we can then transform into something that remains with us. When did that last happen?

“I want to take the time to tell the story behind a work and to share the artist’s vision. Too many galleries today are fighting to survive in an art world surrounded by trends, markets diktats and a certain branding of all. People are in a rush, it’s not easy to bring them to hit the pause button, immerse themselves in the show and listen to a story… This is exactly what I am trying to do.”

Fabienne Levy

Turning points

Since the invention of photography in the mid-nineteenth century, western art has taken a leap into the abstract. Cameras did away with the scenes of religious piety, moral allegories and flattering portraits produced since the Middle Ages. Artists were at last free to basically do as they pleased. Think Kandinsky, Delaunay, Picasso and Braque. The movements followed in quick succession: abstraction ran in parallel to surrealism and fauvism, followed by Op and Pop art, then abstract expressionism. Then came conceptualism and minimalism, just before performance art sprung up twenty years before internet.

And now with internet, we’re not looking at art, we’re looking at value. We’re looking at the artists who garner the greatest attention, not all of them without talent. Take your pick, we know everything about them and how much their works are worth, some of which are bought before they are finished…

A fresh start

With the Fabienne Levy Gallery we’re allowed back into a sphere where art reconnects with emotion. And we don’t need to blush or dither: before photography, that’s exactly what art did. It’s so good to be returning full circle, into a land where visual artists don’t feel the need to compete with social media, where creativity is no longer embarrassed to be both articulate, sentimental and beautiful.

“Art has to be free to bring questions to people, it is a bridge that gathers people to think differently. It is the visual encounter of an emotion with an idea or a concept.”

F.L.
Andrea Galvani © The End [Action #1]_Fabienne Levy Photo by Andrea Galvani Studio

Elevation

Italian-born Andrea Galvani inaugurated the Fabienne Levy gallery in October 2019 with a show that dipped equally into science and art. The artist, who lives and works in New York and Mexico City, throws questions at the universe: what are the physical properties that have governed our past and present, and that we can transfer to the future? How has the human mind devised tidy mathematical formulas on which our knowledge rests? Will the sun always rise in the east?

In “The Subtleties of Elevated Things” (October –  November 2019), the live performance with physicists from #EPFL,Andrea Galvani used scientific evidence to wake our thirst for the beauty of art. On the opening night of the gallery, the mesmerizing video of a sun elevating into a new day was accompanied by a dawn chorus: ambling around the screens, performers from the Haute École de Musique de Lausanne (HEMU) sang in harmonies that dispelled the fear that art could ever cease.

Andrea Galvani © Instruments for Inquiring into the Wind and the Shaking Earth. Photo Julien Gremaud

Andrea Galvani is the recipient of the prestigious Audemars Piguet ARCOmadrid 2019 prize for his piece Instruments for Inquiring into the Wind and the Shaking Earth (another query from science to art).

“We need to think alone to emphasize the uniqueness of human beings. I like working with artists who open so many possibilities.”

F.L.

The poetry of shells and cypresses

Yuval Yairi, “Cyphers and Cypresses” at the Fabienne Levy Gallery © Guillaume Baeriswyl: each image is composed of thousands of photos taken at different times.

The second invited artist,  Yuval Yairi, is the counter-cliché of a media-obsessed performer. Like Amos Oz, his work quietly registers the complexity of being an Israeli in a country that he both loves and distrusts; he talks about the things he knows best, but in a way that makes his message universal.

In “Cyphers & Cypresses” (until 18.01.2020), Yairi peels away the layers of reality to expose the beauty of a land littered with shrapnel and empty shells. His semi-fictional alter ego, The Surveyor, captures moments that are there and that are already the next: when his son Roy enters the picture, the photographer is anchoring the images into a suspended timelessness; he is creating an illusion to replace reality, perhaps he is resisting the erosion of war. As he lets the light into a camera, he also invites the transparency of time. That’s exactly what art should do.

Yuval Yairi, Camera Obscura, 2019, Fabienne Levy Gallery, © Guillaume Baeriswyl: many of Yairi’s compositions have the rich textures of a 17th century Flemish still-life.

New windows

Levy’s international whirlwind continues with the Bulgarian Vikenti Komitski, a new-age Marcel Duchamp who tweaks our sense of reality with poetic derision, Mexican-American photographer Daniela Edburg, whose use of color races the wind, and the Spaniard Jorge Conde whose ethical yearnings inspire captivating images.

She then moves closer to home with the delightfully named “Space invasions”, where 11 creative hot-heads from the local art schools will invade the generous two-floor gallery space on one of Lausanne’s busiest thoroughfares. Not bad in terms of visibility for first-time artists!

“I believe profoundly that art has to be a message between people. It is a vision of our times.”

F.L.

Art goes beyond the visual, Levy reminds us, it becomes more interesting when different fields collaborate.

Lead, don’t follow

The point is Fabienne Levy likes to mix different worlds, younger and older artists, culture vultures and culture refuseniks, passersby and intentional visitors. She has chosen a perfect laboratory: in Lausanne, biases are few, unlike in so many over-sophisticated metropolises. She can start new dialogues, she’s good at it.

“I’m convinced that we have to start from scratch to learn again to think outside the box, close our eyes to trends and the mass media so that we can make our own decisions.

Somehow internet didn’t open the doors to the world, it shrank our dreams to a very limited place. We need to step out from this small village we live in.”

F.L.

As we slip into a new decade, the question Levy is asking is: are we happy to be followers, with a press on the “like” button to exist, or are we looking for something more exhilarating and more profound? Something that art can bring when it is meaningful again.

The Fabienne Levy gallery will be present at artgenève (30.01.20 – 02.02.20) with a double billing: Andrea Galvani and Vikenti Komitski , a first for so young a gallery.

#FabienneLevy
#FabienneLevyGallery
#Lausanne
#andreagalvaniselectedworks

Michèle Laird, née Haffner, was an international arts administrator (visual arts and theatre), successively in Paris, New York and London, before moving to Switzerland and becoming an arts journalist.

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