Her hair color ....varies from blond to brunet across the collection
May 30, 2013 4:54 PM   Subscribe

"Fabiola has been a beloved subject for countless painters, most of them amateurs. The portrait’s format is almost always the same: Fabiola is seen in profile facing left, her head covered by a rich red veil. Mr. Alÿs, who was born in Belgium in 1959 and moved to Mexico City in 1990, began collecting Fabiola paintings — as the genre is called — about 15 years ago, buying them at thrift shops, flea markets and antiques stores primarily in Mexico and Europe. He has previously shown his collection three times, when it was much smaller; the current presentation includes more than 300 works. Photos of the exhibition
posted by The Whelk (18 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any in which she looks to the viewer's right?

Other than those hung upside down.
posted by notyou at 5:08 PM on May 30, 2013

I started looking through them to see if anyone had been a rebel and painted her facing right, just to be a rebel, and then I start seeing a few where her veil is green and I'm like whoa, and then there's the one where there's like three of her and I'm like aw yisss.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:09 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am against the spelling of brunette as brunet. That is all.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:11 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

(off topic) So that Photos of... link is one of those links that with Chrome hangs my entire fucking machine for like 50 seconds. What the hell can be on that page that would hang the entire OS??
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:16 PM on May 30, 2013

What the hell can be on that page that would hang the entire OS??

.....aaaalll of them....

...and then you can click around. Holodeck in amber. Cool, in a sort of creepy way. Can you tally those faces into a story?
posted by mule98J at 5:56 PM on May 30, 2013

I am against the spelling of brunette as brunet. That is all.

How do you feel about the spelling of blonde as blond?
posted by acroyear at 6:18 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel like this would be really really cool to see in person.
posted by threeants at 6:29 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fabiolous, even.
posted by threeants at 6:30 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Why, this collection is just Fabiolas!

posted by threeants at 6:31 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

i never really liked Francis Alys' work until i saw his show at MoMA a couple of years ago and now all i can say is curse the NYT and their cap on website views. especially since it's Roberta Smith who wrote the piece and not Carol Vogel.

for once i really think his museum shows are better than his gallery shows.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:07 PM on May 30, 2013

I was completely psyched to go uptown to see this until I realized that it had closed in April... of 2008.

posted by phooky at 8:08 PM on May 30, 2013

First, let me say that the Hispanic Society of America is one of New York's overlooked treasures. The only time I've visited when there's been more than a handful of people was for the Fabiola exhibit. On that busy day there were probably a dozen people at the museum.

The show itself was fascinating. One of the remarkable things about the paintings was how similar they were. Looking at my crappy photos, the folds in Fabiola's clothing were the same shape and in the same location in nearly every painting, the same amount of face and neck is exposed on each copy, the angle of her cloak across her head is consistent, etc. Since the paintings are all copies of an original, consistency is expected, but the degree of consistency was remarkable. After a while I would have expected the portraits to start drifting as painters made copies of copies, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

Lynne Cooke's essay on the Fabiola collection is a good read.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:41 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not to be confused with the impeccably coiffed Queen Fabiola.
posted by creeky at 10:51 PM on May 30, 2013

I've been frequenting antique shops and flea markets and collecting folk art and amateur paintings for years and I have never seen one of these before. Weird.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 1:23 AM on May 31, 2013

I saw this exhibition when it was at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2009.

I had the opposite impression from plastic_animals. To me, the divergence was incredible. That is, from far away they all look the same then as you approach each painting you know something is always off. They are different artists sure but things like the folds being entirely different, her chin or nose being very hooked or straight. Stuff like that. And yes there were green ones and ones where she faces the other way.

This is one of those few exhibitions that you really do have to see in person.

My wife has been an Alys fan for a long time so the is the one that led me to this exhibition which was otherwise low-key. The couple times we went, we were the only ones there. Alys did get a bit more exposure with an exhibition at the Tate Modern. He's an interesting guy, a Belgian that has made Mexico City his home. Much of his work has Mexico or Mexico city as a theme.
posted by vacapinta at 2:05 AM on May 31, 2013

Also, he's more of a performance artist. Here he is pushing a block of ice through Mexico City. His masterwork is probably the video "Cuentos Patrioticos". It is erie and beautiful and also a great social/political commentary. It is very long but here is a 30-second excerpt on Youtube.
posted by vacapinta at 2:15 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've long had the fantasy of becoming independently wealthy and then using my funds to travel the U.S., visiting small community theatres, summer stock theatres, high school drama departments and college BfA programs, to buy every copy of the "Harvey with Elwood" painting from their productions of the play Harvey that I can find. If you're unfamiliar with the play, early in the script Elwood arrives home with a portrait he has commissioned -- one of himself with his "imaginary" friend Harvey, a giant anthropomorphic rabbit. The plot of the show essentially requires each production to have this painting made, small enough to be carried around the set but large enough to read to the back of the audience, and there's not much use for the painting after the show is done.

I would have an enormous gallery, in which the walls are covered in these prop paintings of varying artistic merit, each one consisting of a seated man with a standing anthropomorphic rabbit behind him, a fluffy paw resting lovingly on his shoulder. The chair will, nearly always, be an overstuffed Victorian model. The rabbit will be white and nearly universally wearing a tie (color and pattern varying) -- and sometimes the rabbit will be wearing a hat, a bowler or fedora. The man will change significantly in each portait: in every case, the man is a close representation of the actor playing the Elwood Dowd role, so they may be young or old, tall or short, heavy or slight, and depending on the production design they may be dressed in the standard of a man from the 1920s to the 1980s (not much later than that, given Dowd's character, even for modern productions).

Unfortunately, I think customers would be lacking; I fear it would be to unsettling to get much further into the gallery than the front door.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:35 AM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I saw this at the Hispanic Society & it was wonderful, in part because of the setting. The catalogue is fantastic (though not quite worth what the gougers selling used copies are trying to get) – in particular, there's a story about how Alÿs showed the Fabiolas in Estonia, and when they were returned, a number of his original Fabiolas had disappeared and been replaced by bad copies, which Alÿs dutifully shows, in a special section. Here's a link to an old post about it.
posted by with hidden noise at 9:31 AM on May 31, 2013

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