Café des Artistes is an inspired series of public discussion evenings focused on the ARTIST ROOMS collection jointly owned and managed by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. The series is organised by the ARTIST ROOMS Research Partnership, based at the University of Edinburgh and directed by Professor Neil Cox. The French name suggests that there will be an informal art event. At each event, not only will there be a talk on an artist but also a discussion where everyone speaks up, accompanied with a glass of wine in their hand. Very French and very arty indeed!
I am a Postgraduate Art History student working also as an intern for the ARTIST ROOMS Research Partnership. There are six interns; two of us in particular were in charge of Café des Artistes organisation, Hannah Hamblin and Maria Koutouzi, who were responsible for delivering the events. These public participatory discussions are always hosted by a professor or art professional and a PhD student. The first four Café des Artistes took place at the Talbot Rice Gallery which is part of the University of Edinburgh. The fifth Café moved to a new venue, The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.
Even though Café des Artistes for me always involved tasks which were part of my internship work, I still managed to enjoy each of them. I find it a great way of bringing art closer to everyone, even to people who do not have much previous knowledge of art. We have so far discussed Ian Hamilton Finlay, Richard Long, Johan Grimonprez, Andy Warhol and Anselm Kiefer.
The Café des Artistes on Johan Grimonprez was a particularly lively one. It was led by Professor Neil Cox and a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh, Harry Weeks, and took place in February 2014 at the Talbot Rice Gallery. The discussion was complemented by a vote to solve a moral dilemma. After screening a segment of the video and a talk, a question was posed to the audience: Would you or would you not show Grimonprez’s work Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y + Inflight (1997), immediately after the events of 11 September 2001? The majority of the audience voted yes, as they believed it was a good way to raise awareness of media coverage of hijackings. The Café des Artistes on Andy Warhol was entitled ‘Warhol on Death’ and took place on April fool’s day. This event looked at Warhol’s fascination with death and mortality over many years and his work’s lasting ability to disturb the viewer.
The most recent Café des Artistes was on Vija Celmins, the Latvian-American artist whose work was on show at Taigh Chearsabhagh in North Uist. This event was hosted by Catherine Spencer from University of St. Andrews and Stephanie Straine from Tate Liverpool and featured a live link-up to a group in the gallery in North Uist participating in the discussion via Twitter. During the next academic year Café des Artistes intends to travel to other places around the UK with ARTIST ROOMS On Tour so we will hopefully host an evening close to you in the future.