Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki reopens on Monday 31 August with a celebration of musician Leonard Cohen in Candice Breitz’s I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen).
‘Love, loss, impermanence and mortality – these universal experiences are at the heart of Candice Breitz’s poignant video-portrait, I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen)’, says Kirsten Lacy, Auckland Art Gallery’s Director.
‘Throughout the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded of the comfort of community to be found in sharing music; an impulse which is at the very heart of this powerful 21st-century artwork.’
Globally renowned South African artist Candice Breitz’s ambitious multi-channel video portrait, I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen), 2017, celebrates Cohen’s musical contemplations of life and the importance his devotees find in his music in a work that is an emotionally immersive experience.
Cohen, known as a poet as much as a musician, was the writer of quintessential early ballads ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Suzanne’ with a career spanning from the 1960s until his death at the age of 82 in 2016.
Often referred to as Cohen’s great comeback album, I’m Your Man (1988) was a critical success and a departure from the classical folk style for which he was known with the inclusion of 80s synth-pop style music. The album is revered as a modern masterpiece for its sobering reflections on aging and losing love.
I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) is a spectacular posthumous tribute to Cohen and an homage to the album. The video installation brings together a community of 18 ardent Leonard Cohen fans from his hometown of Montreal – all over the age of 65 – each of whom has cherished Cohen's music for over half a century.
These men interpret and perform I’m Your Man in individual recordings that merge via a multi-channel video installation. As the group of men dance, sway and croon, the work reflects on a youthful passion for music, as well as on the poignancy of time passing. The work incorporates backing vocals sumptuously re-interpreted by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, an all-male choir from the Westmount congregation that Cohen belonged to all his life.
Kirsten Lacy continues:
This extraordinarily moving artwork is one to which I have found myself both professionally drawn and personally attached. I first saw this work when my stepfather lay on his deathbed and found great solace in connecting with its reflections on love and loss. I care deeply about its message and am compelled to share it now – and to invite everyone back to Auckland Art Gallery to experience this moving, nostalgic and humbling work for themselves.
Presented for the first time in New Zealand, this remarkable work now exists in perpetuity in Auckland Art Gallery’s collection thanks to the Friends Acquisition funds, and confirms the Gallery’s intention to substantially grow its collection of key works by artists of global repute and significance.
I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) will be followed by presentations of two other works by internationally acclaimed video artists recently acquired by Auckland Art Gallery: Angelica Mesiti’s Mother Tongue and Julian Rosefeldt’s, My home is a dark and cloud-hung land.
Candice Breitz I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen), 2017, Shot at Phi Centre, Montréal, May-June 2017, Commissioned by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.