I simply loved everything about the Arik Levy exhibition at Galerist in Istanbul. The way my friend Aylin surprised me with the invitation a few hours before the opening, the imperfectly painted gallery walls serving as a sophisticated backdrop to his magnitizing oeuvres, the curious fans at the opening, my companion to the exhibition and of course the emotions his brilliant artwork evoked in me.
The exhibit was undoubtedly meticious. There was absolutely nothing below par except of course not meeting Mr Levy in person – that would have been the icing on the cake.
A genious and a design superstar with striking looks, the 50 year old Arik Levy’s skills stretch across many disciplines and cultures. He is hailed as a designer, technician, artist, photographer, filmmaker, writer, poet, architect, set designer and the list goes on and on.
Most probably best known for his signature rock sculptures which he apparently began in 1999, respected for his furniture and light designs on all continents, he also creates hi-tech clothing lines and accessories, perfume bottles, jewellery, designs sets for dance performances, zipping between high-art and the mass market.
Perhaps the less known facts about him are that he has three kids, is dyslexic, originally left-handed, he trained his right hand to write and draw after losing his left index finger in a 1992 circular saw accident during a wood workshop in Paris. He does not wear ties, nor wool.
With a reputation as a very punctual artist, he apparently provides multiple hanging points for his art and does not sign in front or aligned to one side so that the owner can domesticate the oeuvre in any way desired.
His works for Desalto, Frag, Ligne Rosset, Zanotta, Swedese, Serralunga Vitra, Molteni, Baccarat, Vibia, Gaia and Gino and Swarovsky are known all over the world. He’s exhibited in galleries such as the Pascale Cottard-Ollsson Gallery, Stockholm and ISART Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst, Munich, in fairs (Vienna Design Week, Art Fair Paris, Stockholm Furniture Fair), and in some of the world’s most renowned design institutions and museums including Georges Pompidou, MoMa in New York, the Istanbul Modern and the V&A. He’s also a familiar face in design magazines such as Dezeen, *Wallpaper, and Designboom.
He obviously has it all except for limits.
I remember reading one of his interviews where he discloses ‘working passionately, all the time… and a lot… on 200 projects at a time, inside out, one above, one under, not sleeping much, dreaming awake, projecting and extrapolating, calling it all a beautiful madness’. His studio is apparently a wild pressure cooker of all ideas.
I consider his first solo exhibition in Istanbul to be long overdue. But better than never, his magnificent art is finally in Istanbul.
Albeit being enough to allow a taste for the sophistication and sleekness of his work, the exhibition at Galerist is fairly modest in terms of the number of work displayed, leaving the visitor craving for more.
I am of course in no position to interpret his work, nor challenge his art, not that there is any reason to. The exhibit awakened a sense of direct engagement within me, firing up my imagination. I can definitely admit to envying his genius, his talent, his creative mind.
His approach undeniably defies conventional boundaries. I am not sure if it is the work,I had physically encountered for the first time, that I loved or the feelings his art evoked in me.
His work looks so easy, the visual characteristics so simple, yet so modern , the outcome so stunning. There is that strong Arik Levy signature exuding from his ouevres.
Optics are very much at work in the exhibition, the mirror-like surfaces reflecting the surroundings and absorbing and injecting the energy of the visitor into the sculptures, the lighting installations creating the impression of dancing in space, the hammers exploding off the walls arousing some uneasiness, a sense of bodily pain.
His sculptures own the spaces they occupy, inviting the visitors to walk around them, to experience them from all angels. Had it been allowed, I would have loved to touch and feel the texture of especially the rock sculptures.
I remember reading an interview where he was asked what advice he would give to the young.
His response was as brilliant as his art:
the world is about people.
it's not about objects, and it's not about buildings, and it's not about milan and it's not about parties and it's not about openings,
it's not about articles… it's about people, and what we do for people. and what we should try and do or make to improve everyday life.
1%, 100%, whatever, but even 0.1% is an improvement. and, self-criticism is the best tool one can have. garbage can is number two.
so, put in the garbage what's not good, if one can. don't fall in love with your work, and design is not a golden egg. it's a lot of work,
a lot of effort, physically, mentally and emotionally.
In fact the garbage can seems to have had some significance early on in his professional life.
After graduating from the Art center Europe in Switzerland he lands a contract as a professor at ENSCI Les Atelier in Paris in 1992. At the end of his first year teaching, his students present their work in honeycomb cardboard which apparently ends up in the trashcan. Arik Levy recounts of recovering the material at night, and with the help of a few pounds of glue, a knife and a silicone gun manages to furnish his new one-room apartment.
And with his mantra “to observe, sense and invent” that idea apparently gives birth to many others. He is then inspired to take further advantage of honeycomb properties, launching a series of lamps, one of his first.
This extraordinary artist is certainly passionate about what he does and does it with dedicated effort.
I end my note with Arik Levy’s words: every birth is satisfactory and every failure is an instruction.
So if you are in Istanbul until December 7, 2013 please do visit, this remarkable exhibition should not be missed.
Please note that all the photographs are from the the current Activated Nature exhibition.
Where is it?
Mesrutiyet Caddesi, No: 67/1
Tepebasi – Beyoglu – ISTANBUL
Gallery is on same Street as Pera Museum, approx. 50 metres down
How can I reach the gallery via phone?
(90) 212 252 18 96
When can I visit?
Activated Nature Exhibition is on between 8 November and 7 December 2013
What are the visiting hours?
Tuesday – Saturday
11:00 – 19:00