1 of


Frieze Masters, Regents Park, London
17.10.13 > 20.10.13

Anna Zemankova was not an actress like her cousin, nor an opera singer like her grand-daughter, nor a sculptor like her son. She was a humble housewife with a private mid-life hobby. Yet what began as a hesitant revival of youthful creativity, matured into an essential means to channel the breadth, complexity and conflict of daily living.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Zemankova drew. Inspired by Janacek and Beethoven, every day before dawn, she would channel her energies into a near-devotional custom, fearing black, favouring yellow, as she sketched, shaded and stitched her botany into being.

If Zemankova called her creations flowers, what they contained was more complex than the shorthand implied. For their beauty seemed to both seduce and resist, with a poetic and automatic finality.  Local exhibitions introduced her to the Czech creative community, artist Jiri Anderle, filmmaker Jan Svankmajer and playwright Vaclav Havel became collectors. The mediumistic overtones attracted artist Arnulf Rainer and the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne. Yet for most outside the Eastern Bloc, Zemankova remained unknown and unseen.

Everything changed in 2011 when curator Massimiliano Gioni featured Zemankova in Ostalgia at the New Museum in New York. Two years later and he installed over a dozen works on paper in their own gallery in The Encyclopaedic Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. 

It is no coincidence that Zemankova reminds us of the pioneers of 20th century women's art. The ghosts loom large be they Georgia O'Keefe, Louise Bourgeois or Unica Zürn. They remind us that the invisibility of this gifted maker, born in another time and place, enabled an urgent, expansive practice to flourish, uninterrupted by the demands of art.

Today, critics describe Zemankova’s work as an illustrated inner life, replete with psychic symbols and erotic metaphors. Yet for the artist herself, the truth was as simple as it was profound: I see something, a sort of deep feeling inside, it stays with me and later, I put it onto paper.

With a career spanning over thirty years, ACM is the acronym of the mythic and reclusive French sculptor, whose miniature architectures have long been prized by a select group of collectors and museums.

Originally trained as a fine artist, ACM quit his studies to find the philosophical roots of his practice. Together with his wife, who he incorporated into his creative identity, he settled in the remote village of his childhood, constructed a home and studio from the ruins of his father’s warehouse and embarked on a life of accumulation and investigation.

Foraging in the forest for natural materials, ACM started to organise whittled fragments of chalk into imaginary archaeologies. His fascination with the rejected and forgotten developed, as found objects and discarded machinery parts were offered the opportunity of life anew.

As ACM’s metamorphoses evolved, so disembodied typewriters, telephones, radios and clocks were resurrected into dizzying multi-part constructions, where elaborate towers and intricate alleyways recalled the grand temples of lost civilisations and dense Amazonian jungles.

ACM modestly described these monumental sculptures not as artworks, but as boulots or jobs. When they caught the attention of Madeleine Lommel of La Collection de l’Aracine, the hitherto unknown artist found his creations donated to the Musee d’Art Moderne de Lille, who then commissioned him to create a major installation for the institution.

ACM’s works were soon being acquired by contemporary collectors like Antoine de Galbert of Maison Rouge and exhibited across Europe. Yet it was a 2013 retrospective at Marc Olivier Wahler’s Chalet Society in Paris which finally revealed the true breadth of ACM’s practice.

Today ACM lives and work in relative isolation, with interviews as rare as the objects he creates. For just as he cannot accept the formality of an aesthetic education, so he cannot put into words what he considers his mission: to bring life to his boulots - not artworks, but children.