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Vanitas_The Transience of Earthly Pleasures

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Published on Oct 13, 2010

Following the huge success of The Age of the Marvellous exhibition, which attracted over
4,000 visitors during Frieze Art Fair last October, All Visual Arts (AVA) is pleased to announce its
upcoming fall show Vanitas: The Transience of Earthly Pleasures. Conceived and curated by Joe La
Placa and Mark Sanders of AVA, the exhibition is a contemporary update on the four hundred year
old theme of the Vanitas first developed in Holland and Northern Europe in the mid to late 17th
century. The exhibition will take place in the sumptuous setting of the former Sierra Leone Embassy
on 33 Portland Place during this year's Frieze Art Fair from October the 12th until the 17th.
The Latin word vanitas has two different applications as does its English cognate 'vanity'. The
original Latin adjective vanus means both 'empty' and 'frivolous'. In the Vanitas tradition of the 17th
century, Vanitas paintings were considered by their owners to be both beautiful objects and works
of spiritual contemplation concerned with the impermanence of man and his earthly pleasures in
the face of the unavoidable and definitive nature of death. The most immediate and universal
symbol of mortality in the Vanitas tradition is the human skull but other objects also held special
significance as references to the passing of time and fragility of human existence. The book, candles,
hourglass, mirrors, flowers, insects, soap bubbles and shadows all combined to create both a literal
and abstract symbolism suggestive of the transience of life.

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