Christen Sveaas Art Foundation: PORTAL DE PLATA, Selected by Donna Huanca
26 August 2022 – 1 January 2023
Gallery 7, Free
Donna Huanca (b. 1980, USA), known for her immersive painterly and multi-sensory installations, concludes Whitechapel Gallery’s series of artist-curated displays drawn from the collection of the Christen Sveaas Art Foundation with an invitation to enter PORTAL DE PLATA (Silver Gate).
In this final display, Huanca brings together paintings and sculptures paired with a specially commissioned scent and sound work by the artist to address the entangled relationship between colonialism, displacement, and the state of self-recognition.
On entry into the PORTAL DE PLATA, a large circular curtained structure conceived by Huanca, viewers will encounter a dark blue wall pierced with antique silver spoons, a reference to Huanca’s Bolivian heritage. In Bolivian folklore spoons represent the womb, however here they are inverted – a spear rather than a receptacle. Silver mining was a crucial part of the colonial economy in Bolivia and it is still home to some of the largest silver mines in the world. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, 80% of the world’s silver supply came from the “CERRO RICO” mine in Potosi, where the artist’s father was born. With this gesture, Huanca weaves together broader histories of European colonial wealth accumulation, exploitation, and resource extraction with her personal family history.
Central to the space is Louise Bourgeois’ (1911-2010) Torso (Self-Portrait), a totemic marble sculpture which sits atop a pile of white sand, resembling an altar. The work is positioned between a painting by Huanca, Amyruca (2017) and a large, mirrored surface, at once reflecting the viewer and folding them into direct dialogue with the artworks, emphasising the relationship of the human body to its surroundings.
The surrounding works, Låst dør (Locked Door) (1989) by Else Hagen (1914 – 2010, Norway) and Åpen kvinne (Open Woman) (1990) by Bjørn Carlsen (b.1945, Norway), allude to contemplative isolation and the presence or traces of the artist. While not all works are considered to be explicitly self-portraits, each work gestures to the processes of self-creation and autobiography in artmaking.
Extending this hushed, immersive environment is a new scent and sound work created by Huanca which permeates the gallery; an earthy and smoky olfactory diffusion containing cedarwood and vetiver, and a recording of the artist’s father teaching her mother his native language, Quechua, a language indigenous to the Andes.
Together, these works transform the gallery architecture into a meditative space, each work playing a part in a constellation of intimacy and reflection.
Notes to Editors
The display is generously supported by the Norwegian Embassy
About Christen Sveaas
Christen Sveaas is a Norwegian businessman, collector and philanthropist who has collected art and antique silver for more than 40 years. He began his art collection with late 19th century and early 20th century Norwegian artists including Johan Christian Dahl, Edvard Munch and Harald Sohlberg. In the early 1990s he was introduced to the work of Howard Hodgkin which inspired him to start collecting international contemporary artists. The collection’s focus is primarily painting with some sculpture and photography and is made up of more than 2000 works of art by over 300 artists. In 1996 Christen Sveaas founded the Kistefos Museum on the grounds of his grandfather Anders Sveaas’ old wood pulp mill at Jevnaker, north of Oslo. The wood pulp mill was active from1889 until 1955 but is still intact. The museum has one of the most important sculpture parks in Europe, an industrial museum and two exhibition spaces for contemporary art. The museum building, The Twist, which straddles the river that divides the park was designed by BIG–Bjarke Ingels Group architects, opened in 2019. The same year, Christen Sveaas established the Christen Sveaas Art Foundation which the following year received some 800 works of art from his personal collection to be made available to Kistefos as well as other Norwegian and international museums.
About Donna Huanca
Donna Huanca (b. 1980 in Chicago, USA. Lives and works in Berlin) studied at Städelschule, Frankfurt and was the recipient of the DAAD Artist Frankfurt and a Fulbright research grant. Recent solo exhibitions include CUEVA DE COPAL, Arnolfini, Bristol, UK; ESPEJO QUEMADA, curated by Daisy Nam at Marfa Ballroom, Marfa, USA; OBSIDIAN LADDER, curated by Olivia Marciano at the Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles, USA; LENGUA LLORONA, curated by Aukje Lepoutre Ravn at Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen, Denmark; PIEDRA QUEMADA, curated by Stella Rollig at the Belvedere Museum, Vienna, Austria and the Yuz Museum, Shanghai. Huanca currently has a major solo exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. In addition, she is participating in the group exhibition ARS22: Living Encounters at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki.
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