Francis Alÿs

Exihibition Outline

Francis Alÿs (born 1959) charges into a tornado kicking up swirls of dust with a hand-held camera. He pushes a huge block of ice around the streets of Mexico City from morning till night until it melts. Though seemingly reckless and absurd, Alÿs presents each of these actions as an allegory of the society in which we live, and in doing so elucidates facets of reality that cannot be overlooked.

Alÿs wanders around the city to uncover issues that inhere in our daily lives. Currently residing in Mexico, he has conducted a range of projects around the world that point to these issues in real life contexts, from actions performed on city streets to large-scale projects that involve several hundred participants. These actions are documented in the form of videos and photographs, presented as enticing narrative paintings, drawings, and sometimes postcards, among other forms of expression.

Many of Alÿs' works explore the societal and political issues of his immediate environment: Mexico; but his humorous and poetic delivery of such site-specific issues engage many viewers regardless, which explains why he is recognized internationally.

The exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, reviews Alÿs' oeuvre from his earliest works to his most recent works, through two stages. The first stage will provide an overview of his artistic activity, introducing approximately fifteen projects that were held in Mexico, mainly through videos and also through photographs, paintings and sculptures. The second stage will focus on his new, large-scale project held in the Strait of Gibraltar, Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River. This section will include a total of approximately one hundred pieces, ranging from documentary footage, paintings, drawings, installation, sculptures and photographs.

As our society faces a pivotal moment of change, the role of art in society is once again being questioned and challenged. Francis Alÿs' approach of making artistic interventions in reality by translating social issues into narratives filled with allegory will provide an opportunity to explore anew the potential of art in confronting the real world.

April 6 (Sat) - June 9 (Sun), 2013

Part 1 gives an overview of Alÿs' oeuvre, focusing on works he has created in Mexico where he is currently based. These include Turista (1994), a humorous work in which he brandishes his status as an artist and Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing) (1997), a document of the artist pushing a huge block of ice through the city until it melts.

June 29 (Sat) - September 8 (Sun), 2013

Part 2 introduces Alÿs' new, large-scale project that took place across the Gibraltar Strait, which separates Africa and Europe. Alluding to the issue of immigrants, Alÿs engages in an imaginative attempt with children to connect the two continents. The project will be presented through videos, installations, paintings and drawings.

1. A long-awaited and first-time solo exhibition of one of the most important contemporary artists of our time, Francis Alÿs
The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is proud to present the first solo exhibition of critically acclaimed artist Francis Alÿs. Alÿs has been highly appraised internationally through solo exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

2. A two-part exhibition that together provide an overview of Alÿs' oeuvre
The exhibition is comprised of two parts that are different in content. Together they will cover the artist's oeuvre, from his earliest works to his newest project, using the large gallery spaces of the museum.

3. Part 1 - a presentation of Alÿs' representative works filled with wit
Alÿs' projects include pushing around a huge block of ice around the city until it melts, repeatedly charging into a sand storm with a hand-held camera and strolling around downtown Mexico with a gun in his hand and getting caught by the police. As such, the scenarios of Alÿs' works are non-sensical, even comical. The slender physique and detached demeanor of the artist, who is the performer of these actions, also add an element of humor to the works. Part 1 focuses on some of his early pieces, which reveal the humorous and suggestive nature of Francis Alÿs.

4. Part 2 - a presentation of Alÿs' new project
The large-scale project Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River was held in the Strait of Gibraltar in 2008 but has not been presented in a comprehensive form for a while. Part 2 will be the large-scale presentation of this project through approximately one hundred pieces, including video, paintings, drawings, installations and sculptures.

5. An opportunity to ponder on the relationship between art and society
Francis Alÿs has continued to create work not only in Mexico where he is based, but also London, Peru, Israel, and the Strait of Gibraltar. His works are allegories of the social circumstances that are particular to the area in question. Alÿs inserts intriguing stories into his socially conscious work and in so doing provides viewers with an alternative viewpoint in understanding those issues. The exhibition highlights Alÿs' artistic approach in confronting the real world.

Exhibition Information

Period: Part 1: MEXICO SURVEY
April 6 (Sat) - June 9 (Sun), 2013
June 29 (Sat) - September 8 (Sun), 2013
Closed: Mondays (except for April 29, May 6, July 15), April 30, May 7, July 16
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (10:00-18:00)
Please note that we have long opening hours(10:00-21:00) on the following dates (all Fridays)
July 19, July 26, August 2, August 9, August 16, August 23, August 30, September 6,
*Last admittance to the exhibition gallery- 30 minutes before closing.
Admission: Adult: ¥1,100 (¥880) / University & College Student, Over 65yrs old: ¥800 (¥640) /
High School & Junior High School Student: ¥600( ¥480) / Free for Elementary School & Under
*( ) Price for a group, over 20 people
*Free entry to MOT Collection for ticket holders
Special Offers! When you purchase a ticket for "Part 2 GIBRALTAR FOCUS", you will get a huge discount if you show a used ticket for "Part 1 MEXICO SURVEY".
Adult ¥1,100→ ¥500
University & College student, over 65yrs old ¥800→ ¥400
High school & Junior high school student ¥600→ ¥300
Organized by: Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
Supported by: Embassy of the United Mexican States
Flanders Center
NEC Display Solutions, Ltd.
Exhibition Catalogue: To be published in the end of June 2013
Travelling schedule: Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
October 26(Sat), 2013- January 26(Sun),2014
Related program

ABCDF Exhibition: Portraits of Mexico City

With the support of Mexico's National Council for the Arts (CONACULTA), the Embassy of Mexico presents ABCDF, a graphic dictionary of Mexico City curated by Jeronimo Hagerman and Cristina Faesler. Gathering the work of 250 artists, ABCDF poetically displays the unique ways in which city dwellers have learned to coexist with one of the largest cities of the world. As a vivid context to Francis Alÿs adopted hometown, this exhibition reveals the humor, sarcasm and fun behind unseen aspects of Mexican life. Previous venues include Moscow, Warsaw, New York, Washington and Paris.
Period: April 6 (Sat) - June 9 (Sun), 2013
Venue: Foyer Gallery (Next to the museum shop)
Closed: Mondays (except for April 29, May 6), April 30, May 7
Opening Hours: 10:00-18:00
Admission: Free
  • Tornado 2000-10, Milpa Alta Video documentation of an action Photo: Jorge Golem

  • Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing). 1997, Mexico City, Video documentation of an action 5'00", Photo: Enrique Huerta

  • Patriotic Tales (Cuentos Patrióticos), 1997, Mexico City, In collaboration with Rafael Ortega, Video documentation of an action 24'40", Film still

  • Turista, 1994, Mexico City, Photographic documentation of an action

  • Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River, 2008, Strait of Gibraltar Video and photographic documentation of an action, Photo:Jorge Golem

  • Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River 2008, Strait of Gibraltar Video and photographic documentation of an action Photo:Jorge Golem

  • Untitled (Coyote, 2006-2008) (Study for Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River), 2006-08 Oil and encaustic on canvas on wood

  • Untitled(Study for Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River), 2006-08 Oil and encaustic on wood

Concurrent Exhibition

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Past Exhibitions