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Francis Alÿs

Belgian / Mexican  •  b. 1959

Biography

Born in Belgium, Francis Alÿs traveled to Mexico in 1986 as part of a French program to assist in the aftermath of the tragic 1985 earthquake, and has lived there ever since. Throughout his career, the artist has analyzed facets of everyday urban life using a variety of media including video, drawing, installation and public action. Sign Painting Project (1993-'97) is a prime example of the artist's interest in the sprawling urbanization of Mexico City. In this early series, Alÿs drew inspiration from professional Mexican sign painters (rotúlistas) who painted large billboard advertisements throughout the city. In response to these large colorful compositions, Alÿs employed a similar style in creating small-scale paintings of familiar objects and places.  Alÿs asked various rotúlistas to copy and enlarge his paintings, displaying his work and that of the rotúlista side-by-side. This series, like many of Alÿs' other works, illustrates the artist's concerns with such themes as collaboration, banality and originality.

Insights

  • Alÿs participated in the Venice Biennale in 1999, 2001 and 2007, and the Carnegie International in 2004.

  • Alÿs is represented by David Zwirner in New York and Galerie Peter Kilchmann in Zurich.

  • In 2011, Alÿs had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art New York.

"The contexts I interact with are very charged politically...what I try to do is introduce some poetic distance...so we can see them from the outside."

Past Lots

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