Ever desired to meet someone born on the same day and year as you? Singapore-based conceptual artist Guillaume Levy-Lambert developed this desire from the artwork, Desk Calendar, by the late Roy Lichtenstein.

The artwork is very special in Levy-Lambert’s eyes because, coincidentally, it has his birth date, 21 May 1962, on it. Now, excited about it, he is going ahead with a unique project to be held on his 60th birthday on 21 May 2022.

Cosmic Siblings: A unique idea takes shape

Guillaume Levy-Lambert
Image credit: Redhill

Cosmic Siblings is a project designed to bring together those born on the same date 60 years ago. But this is not the first Desk Calendar-inspired project by Levy-Lambert, who is famous as the co-founder of The MaGMA Collection and Art Porters Gallery.

In 2011, he acquired a phone number that is visible on the artwork. For the next five years, he collected the voicemails on the number before deciding to respond to them. Excerpts from the conversations were included in his project named Evidence — a five-minute film co-created with Romy Engel for the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco.

For the Cosmic Siblings project, Levy-Lambert is inviting everyone born on 21 May 1962 to join the project via the 21May1962.com website.

In an email interview with Manas Sen Gupta, Levy-Lambert throws more light on the meaning of Cosmic Siblings, the influence of Desk Calendar on him, bringing art to the masses and his favourite Asian artists.

How would you describe your project, Cosmic Siblings and what do you aim to achieve with it?

Have you ever wondered how many people on the planet were born on the very same day as you, Manas? I did, for the first time 23 years ago. I calculated then that there were about 300,000 humans born on the same date as me, 21 May 1962. With Cosmic Siblings, I hope to reconnect  with all and invite each of us to become more aware of our shared humanity.

The world is fraught with so much tension. There are wars in almost every corner and major humanitarian catastrophes occurring with a scary regularity. In what ways do you think projects such as Cosmic Siblingscan bring people closer?

There are tensions, pandemics, wars and catastrophes. Media and social media as we know it share a lot of this news. There is also a lot of beauty, compassion, poetry, small and big miracles out there if we care to notice. Cosmic Siblings can contribute to bringing all of us closer together. We are all over the planet and come from all walks of life. In the first meeting I organised, in 2020, we had participants from Colombia, Mexico, Canada, France, the USA, Ivory Coast, Dubai, The Philippines, Singapore. And that was only a small group of pioneers.

Desk Calendar, the artwork by the late Roy Lichtenstein, has had a profound influence on your life. Can you describe for our readers how it transformed you and expanded your vision of the universe?

I’ve built my life and a whole body of work around my encounter with Desk Calendar. There are many dimensions to my transformation: mystical (from agnostic to knowing), romantic (it cemented my relationship with Moonbeam, as my life partner is named in The Calendar Story, leading us to create a family where art takes the centre stage), professional (from advertising executive to collector, gallerist, art dealer and conceptual artist). My vision of the universe evolved from strictly Cartesian and Darwinist to one encompassing a fascinating spiritual dimension, anchored in Judaism and illuminated by other traditions.

How significant a role does pop art play in shaping a society? And does it help give a future direction to it?

Pop art has shown that beauty can and should be present in everyday objects. It has invited us to observe the mundane of supermarket shelves and appreciate the works of industrial designers. I am not an art historian, but Lichtenstein was one of the leading proponents of pop art and as a conceptual artist, whilst I owe him lots and lots, I am of a different school.

Art appears to be one of the most inclusive fields but maybe there is scope for more. For instance, a lot of artworks end up in private possessions and museums in Europe or the US — far beyond the reach of millions in other parts of the world. We do have virtual tours, but that is nothing before a real experience. How can then we bring art closer to the common people and help the masses relate to them?

Lots can be done beyond consuming art on the internet (which is awesome already!). Everyone can be an artist so ‘the common people’, as you call them, can create art and bring it to the world.

And art will take new forms. Here are two of my initiatives, hoping they will inspire others.

From late 2011 for about five years, I collected voice mail messages from people who had called [+1] 212-288-4820, the phone number on Desk Calendar. One of them was homeless. Another had been suicidal. It is heart-warming that both of them had visited a museum where Desk Calendar was on show, perhaps on a night with free admission and called into the unknown of a phone number inscribed on a painting from 1962.

Cosmic Siblings aims to unite people from every country and every walk of life. Magic is bound to happen.

The MaGMA Collection and Art Porters Gallery, both of which you co-founded, focus on Asian artists and their works. If asked to choose three Asian artists, who would be your pick?

This is such a tricky question…it’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! If I had to answer, I would mention Jamie Teo and Jamie Tan, two young Singaporean artists represented by Art Porters. Each of them have their own practice, however, they have collaborated on multiple occasions and the results have been magical.

And you were an investment banker before becoming an illustrious name in the world of art. How did that happen?

In between both careers I was an advertising executive. Now I preach for reinvention.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in Singapore?

It’s growing in spectacular ways (Singapore Art Week this year included hundreds of events, many of great quality). And it’s time for the Singapore art scene to bloom globally (please visit Art SG in early 2023). I feel some pride that as collectors we inspired others by being public early on, notably with Fairy Tales: Selections from The MaGMA Collection curated by Wang Zineng in a scenography by Jean Francois Milou in 2010 at Opera Gallery, which travelled in an expanded version to Paris at Sotheby’s in 2014, the year we also started Art Porters — which is trailblasing in its own way.

Currently , several artists are releasing their works in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). What are your views on NFT artworks? Do you have any such plans of your own?

For now, I am observing and thinking.

***

Those wishing to join Cosmic Siblings event can do so on 21 May 2022 via the Facebook page of the project.

(Main and Featured images: Redhill)

written by.

Manas Sen Gupta

Manas enjoys reading detective fiction and writing about anything that interests him. When not doing either of the two, he checks Instagram for the latest posts by travellers. Winter is his favourite season and he can happily eat a bowl of noodles any time of the day.
 

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