Fabiola by Francis Alÿs, which is currently on show at the National Portrait gallery in London. It consists of 300 portraits of the same woman, hung side by side in two deep green rooms. The subject is Saint Fabiola, a 4th century woman who was married to a man so abusive she asked for a divorce. Thereafter she devoted her life and her wealth to the sick, building a hospital in Rome and waiting on the patients herself. She also gave large amounts of cash to the church. Jean Jacques Henner painted an idealized profile of her in 1885 (she died around 399). The painting was lost in 1912, and now Alÿs has gone around flea-markets, junk stores and private collections buying up copies of the image.
Belgian artist Alÿs reinvents a saint at LACMA (Christopher Knight of the LA Times):
“Francis Alÿs: Fabiola” is an analog exploration of digital experience. In analog culture, data is measured by physical variables, which is what a viewer catalogs in the presence of all these handmade Fabiolas hanging on the walls. In digital culture, by contrast, data is electronic, represented by notations of numerical digits; every digital image is a mutable copy with no fixed original. That’s also what a viewer sees here. These two cultures coexist in Alÿs’ surprising work, and the low-key collision is wonderfully destabilizing.