Francis Alÿs‘s art is centered around observations of, and engagements with, everyday life. His multifaceted projects include public actions, installations, videos, paintings, and drawings; the artist himself has described his work as “a sort of discursive argument composed of episodes, metaphors, or parables.” Across these different media, Alÿs presents his distinct, poetic and imaginative sensibility towards anthropological and political concerns. His actions have involved traveling the longest possible route between locations in Mexico and the United States to highlight the increasing obstacles imposed along the border; pushing a melting block of ice through city streets; commissioning sign painters to copy his paintings; filming his efforts to enter the center of a tornado; carrying a leaking can of paint along the contested Israel/Palestine border; and equipping hundreds of volunteers to move a colossal sand dune ten centimeters.
Born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium, Alÿs originally trained as an architect. He moved to Mexico City in 1986, where he continues to live and work, and it was the confrontation with issues of urbanization and social unrest in his new country of adoption that inspired his decision to become a visual artist. Since 2004, his work has been represented by David Zwirner, where he had his critically acclaimed solo exhibition, Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic, in 2007. His second solo show, Francis Alÿs: REEL-UNREEL, was on view at the gallery January 10 – February 9, 2013.
Alÿs was recently the subject of a major survey, Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception, which was on view from 2010 to 2011 at Tate Modern, London; Wiels Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York. Over the past decade, he has had several solo exhibitions at prominent venues, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2010); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2008); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2007); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Portikus, Frankfurt (both 2006); among others.
In 2012, Alÿs’s work was featured in dOCUMENTA (13), where a selection of his new color bar paintings was installed in a former bakery in Kassel’s city center and a new video, REEL-UNREEL, was screened at a satellite venue in Kabul, Afghanistan. He has participated in a number of international group exhibitions, including the São Paulo Biennale (2010, 2004, and 1998); Venice Biennale (2007, 2001, and 1999); Shanghai Biennale (2002); Istanbul Biennial (2001 and 1999); and the Havana Biennial (2000 and 1994).
Work by the artist is found in public collections worldwide, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; The Art Institute of Chicago; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Gallery, London.