Multi-talented artist Francis Alÿs
Born in Antwerp in 1959, Francis Alÿs is currently one of the most exhibited living artists in the world, according to the latest Journal des Arts rankings.
The Belgian artist first studied architecture in Tournai and then in Venice, before travelling to Mexico City in 1986. The city had just been hit by an earthquake and Francis Alÿs took part in a Belgian government aid project. He finally decided to settle there and developed an intense and diversified form of art that included photography, video and documentary film, painting and drawing. His work is inspired by life in the city and its social aspect, which acts as the starting point for most of his projects and seeks to question our modern living conditions.
Art experts underline his phenomenal capacity for transcribing complex situations into simple, meaningful images that can be understood by everyone. The artist is constantly questioning the right way to witness the things he sees and experiences, and how to convey them. As an artist but also a traveller, he is always on the go and often leaves unexpectedly with his backpack as his only companion. According to Dirk Snauwaert, director of Wiels, this hiker who crosses the borders of nations, art forms and mediums, needs this constant movement to perceive and understand the world around him.
In 2017, he participated in the Venice Biennale, presenting works created during a stay in a Yazidi refugee camp and during an operation he witnessed on the front line as Peshmerga troops tried to retake Mosul from ISIS. In 2022, Francis Alÿs will represent Belgium again, with a nine-minute film shot in Mosul, in the midst of the war. He will revisit "Haram football", episode 19 of his famous "Children's Games", which is of great symbolic and political significance, as football was banned by ISIS in Iraq.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, this artist, who needs movement in order to create, walked round his Mexico City studio to retrace the Way of St. James.
© Picture: Frédéric de Smedt