« Art Critics' Reading List


Louise Déry lives and works in Montréal. She holds a PhD in art history and is the director of the Galerie de l’UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). She has curated many projects in Canada, Europe and Asia featuring major artists, including Daniel Buren, Giuseppe Penone, Michael Snow, Nancy Spero, Shary Boyle, Dominique Blain and Artur Żmijewski, amongst others. She was the curator of the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007 (David Altmejd). She is now working on an exhibition with Graham Fagen. Déry received the Hnatyshyn Award for curatorial excellence (2007) and the Governor General Award in visual arts (2014).

Elvan Zabunyan. Black Is a Color. Paris: Dis Voir, 2004.

In Black Is a Color, Elvan Zabunyan develops a rich approach to explore the practice and contribution of black American artists to contemporary art history in its various forms of representation, including sculpture, painting, photography, video and performance. From the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and the progressive transformation from “negro” to “black,” the French art historian and curator establishes a context of analysis based on historical study (slavery, racial discrimination), enlightened with close readings of many works by artists such as David Hammons, Adrian Piper and Renée Green. In her exploration of the aesthetic and political realities of black culture, the author examines the figure of Hammons and the role of the African-American women artists as central in the expression of the black consciousness. The essay is enriched with a section on archives and genealogy, an imposing bibliography and numerous illustrations.

Marianne Alphant, Nathalie Léger and Amarante Szidon. Objet Beckett. Paris: Centre Pompidou and IMEC, 2007.

This is one of my favorite catalogues, related to an exhibition on Samuel Beckett at the Centre Pompidou (2007) in a unique way. It reveals an amazing part of Beckett’s work, published in French by Éditions de Minuit, after the author had decided, in 1938, to live in France. Bringing a treasure of documentation, including manuscripts, letters, photographs, references to audio-visual recordings, and essays from Paul Auster to Georges Didi-Huberman, the publication explores the contribution of Beckett as an author, a theatre director and a filmmaker. These documents and writings are juxtaposed with artworks of his friends, such as Bram van Velde and Geneviève Asse, and also with many works by contemporary artists, including Stan Douglas, Mona Hatoum, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra, Robert Ryman and Claudio Parmiggiani, to name a few. Interesting echoes are proposed between these artists and the explorations of the notions investigated by Beckett around language, voice and scene.

Uwe Fleckner and Sarkis. The Treasure Chests of Mnemosyne: Selected Texts on Memory Theory from Plato to Derrida. Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1999.

This book, a hybrid of art and philosophical anthology, stems from a rich collaboration between the Berlin art historian, Uwe Fleckner, and Sarkis, the Paris-based Armenian artist. It gathers an outstanding selection of relevant texts on memory and sorrow by ancient and modern philosophers, historians and writers from Plato to Derrida, including Aristotle, Cicero and Thomas Aquinas; Diderot, Hegel and Nietzsche; and Proust, Benjamin and Warburg. The book is illustrated with photographs taken in Sarkis’ studio in Paris, which creates a specific understanding of reminiscence and human suffering, and a unique exploration by a visual artist of the Aby Warburg’s theory of memory. The book becomes an “installation space” from which this treasure of writings can be seen and read as an artwork by itself. Sarkis gives it a role in his own memory and artistic oeuvre. Indeed, The Treasure Chests of Mnemosyne was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1998.