Francis Alÿs: The Fabiola Project

Francis Alÿs: The Fabiola Project

Courtesy of The Menil Collection


Sat., May 21, 2-3 p.m. and Wednesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28 2017
Francis Alys has taken the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” adage to a whole other insane level. Nearly 20 years ago, the Belgium-born, Mexico City-based artist started collecting amateur portraits of Saint Fabiola, a fourth-century Roman saint who’s often cited as a precursor to Mother Teresa. French academic Jean-Jacques Henner painted the original portrait, a side headshot perspective of the nurse who spent her life caring for the poor and sick, in 1885. The original has since been lost. In its place: a countless number of copies. When the salon-style Francis Alys: The Fabiola Project is installed “like votive images in a church,” says Toby Kamps, curator of modern and contemporary art at The Menil Collection, Alys’s Fabiola count will be a crazy 514 copies. It’s not only paintings. Alys has also unearthed bas-relief wood carvings, Fabiola needlepoint and jewelry, and a mosaic constructed from rice and beans. “We thought it would be perfect for the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, a former Greek Orthodox chapel and a favorite place in Houston for quiet contemplation,” says Kamps. “We hope visitors might come and spend some real time in the space thinking about some of the things The Fabiola Project calls to mind — subjects like faith, devotion, originality. We hope they’ll come several times.”

There’s a talk with curator Lynne Cooke and the artist from 2 to 3 p.m. on May 21 in the Menil foyer, 1533 Sul Ross. Regular viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays, Byzantine Fresco Chapel, 4011 Yupon. Through January 28. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit Free.


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