15 June – 5 September 2010 (Press view: 14 June 2010)

Tate Modern will present a major exhibition of work by the celebrated artist Francis Alÿs (born Belgium 1959). Using diverse poetical and allegorical approaches, Alÿs explores political subjects such as contentious borders and economic crises. The exhibition will present iconic works alongside new pieces which have never been shown before in the UK. Working in a variety of mediums including painting, video projection, animation and sculpture, Francis Alÿs is one of the most important artists of his generation.

Francis Alÿs’s work often starts with a simple act, either by him or others, which is then documented in a range of media. Working in urban settings and dramatic landscapes, he creates interventions which frequently address a historical or political concern attached to a specific site. Alÿs moved to Mexico City in the mid 1980s at a time of political unrest. He began to make work which recorded every day life there, capturing images of street sleepers and workers. In Paradox of Praxis 1 1997 Alÿs pushed a block of ice around Mexico City until it melted. The work stood as an allegory about failed modernisation strategies in the region and dramatised the idea of applying maximum effort for minimum results.

Alÿs has carried out actions across Latin America, addressing economic and political crises through extraordinary acts. When Faith Moves Mountains 2002 is described by Alÿs as ‘land art for the landless’.The work involved organising a line of 500 Peruvian students walking over a sand dune in Lima, digging as they went, shifting the dune by a few centimetres. While the alteration of the mountain was minimal, the event explored the power of communal action. The exhibition will also feature The Green Line 2004. Over two days, Alÿs walked through Jerusalem trailing a line of green paint from a can as he paced along the route of the armistice border, known as ‘the green line’, drawn between Israel and Jordan in 1948. In this work he questioned whether a poetic act could have relevance in a highly charged political situation.

Alongside video and film installations, the exhibition will include Francis Alÿs’s dream-like paintings Le Temps du Sommeil  1996-present and different objects that he makes with various fabricators in Mexico. The exhibition closes with the first ever display of Alÿs’s powerful video Tornado 2000-10.  

Francis Alÿs was born in Belgium in 1959. His work has been included in biennials including São Paulo (1998, 2005), Istanbul (1999, 2001) and Venice (1999, 2001, 2007). He has had solo exhibitions at major international institutions including the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (2004) and the UCLA Hammer (2007). Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception is curated by Mark Godfrey, Curator, Tate Modern and Kerryn Greenberg, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with WIELS where it will be curated by Dirk Snauwaert and The Museum of Modern Art, New York where it will be curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Cara Starke.

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