PAE: $119,912-$179,868
Francis Alÿs, Untitled (London)
Francis Alÿs, Untitled (London), signed, titled and dated 1999 on the reverse of the second panel, oil and encaustic on canvas laid on board, in two parts, each: 21 by 28cm.; 8 1/4 by 11in. © Images are copyright of their respective owners, assignees or others.

Born in Belgium in 1959, relocating to Mexico City in the mid 1980s, Francis Alÿs is a performance artist whose works extend to painting, photography, video, writing and animation. Since the early 1990s his performance mostly includes the filming of him walking. In “The Collector” (1991) Alÿs walks a magnetic dog-like toy on wheels through the streets of Mexico City, picking up debris as he travels. He films this and other performances, financing them not with the sale of the film (which he posts on his website for free download), but with the sale of paintings and drawings that are often not entirely his own. Conceived partly as a prank to escape financial hardship, Alÿs began the “Sign Painting Project” in 1993, employing local sign painters to recreate his Magritte-like drawings, into large-scale paintings. Alÿs then made copies and improvements to the paintings, fueling more copies. This project lasted four years and was initially, as Alÿs remarks, “an attempt to sabotage the market by invading it with a massive and unlimited number of paintings”. However, the market, unharmed, acquired the works insatiably, increasing their value. His best-known work “When Faith Moves Mountains” (2002) involved the participation of 500 volunteers who shoveled one side of a dune in Lima, Peru, to the other, shifting the landscape of the dune by a couple of inches. Seen as transcending ephemeral works, (works that simply disappear), Alÿs’s performances affect a local community and become a part of the local oral tradition, a strategy involving memory that he shares with his contemporary Gabriel Orozco. His work engages everyday life. “The Green Line” (2004) is a film of Alÿs walking a leaking can of paint past guards along the contested Israel/Palestine border. In another work, Alÿs, inspired partly by the proliferation of surveillance cameras around London, released a fox into London’s National Portrait Gallery at night. Titled “Nightwatch” this video (similar to Alÿs’ walks) documents the fox’s confused wanderings through a completely artificial environment, recorded and tracked by the gallery’s CCTV cameras. Other works of note are the exhibition of his collected portraits of Saint Fabiola. He currently lives and works in Mexico City and is represented by David Zwirner Gallery.

Video: Francis Alÿs - The Green Line: Interview with Rima Hamami