Stage and Screen

Singapore
01.30.16

Left: NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore director Ute Meta Bauer and artist Joan Jonas. Right: Dealer Lorraine Malingue and Asia Art Archive's Claire Hsu. (All photos: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva)


LAST WEEK in Singapore the flow of the art was as inconsistent as the tropical downbursts. The slew of events and exhibitions—including the sixth edition of Art Stage Singapore—evoked mushrooms sprung up after the rain: hard to spot but fun to hunt and with a dizzying array of potential effects.

In July, the city-state came under criticism from international human rights groups after sixteen-year-old blogger Amos Yee was sentenced to four weeks of detention for posting collaged videos of Singapore’s recently deceased founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. That thought lingered in my mind on Tuesday at the second edition of the Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art. “Welcome to Eagle Crest, the official United States Ambassador’s residence in Singapore,” said ambassador Kirk Wagar nonchalantly as guests awaited the languorous speeches. The first to intervene was Joan Jonas, in town to open her show at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art. “It’s better to be independent and free, although it is very difficult,” she said. “I have a seated dinner I probably should go to now,” murmured one of the soigné guests poolside, impatient with the hot evening. Eventually, the $15,000 prize (three times last year’s) went to flamboyant local artist Lee Wen, whose touching acceptance speech, fueled by his generous temperament, suddenly forced attendees’ humility.

Left: Art Stage's Tom Tandio and Pablo Espinel R. with Aurora Espinel. Right: Artist Heman Chong and Singapore Tyler Print Institute director Emi Eu.


I followed the elegant Emi Eu and Rita Targui from the Singapore Tyler Print Institute to crash the next party, at the Corner House restaurant in the botanical gardens. Larys Frogier, director of Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum, greeted me with a gentle smile, as he would again the next day when I bumped into him at the National Gallery of Singapore, where he was getting acquainted with art from the region. The dinner was held in honor of local artist Heman Chong, en route to Shanghai to open his “Ifs, Ands, or Buts.” Even later, the cosmopolitan Russian dealer Irina Stark and I listened to Hou Hanru’s accounts of his jet-set lifestyle and residences in Paris, Rome, and San Francisco before he jumped into a car with Chinese colleagues to visit an artist’s studio in the middle of the night. Move over, HUO.

By the time I ran into Spring Workshop’s Christina Li the next day, in town to pick up the venue’s Prudential Art Award for Best Asian Contemporary Art Institution, she was already on her way to catch a plane back to Hong Kong. Arriving at the fair preview, I took in the mood established by director Lorenzo Rudolf, a mix of celebratory expectation and caution about a slowing market. There has been some rotation in the gallery roster this year, and a greater emphasis on theme (Urbanism), with an impressive guest list for talks, from Rem Koolhaas to sociologist Saskia Sassen. At the Southeast Asia Forum, Sàn Art curator Zoe Butt claimed that “there are more nonprofits in Southeast Asia than anywhere else.” Who knew?

After attending the launch for Tiffany Chung’s The Galapagos Project, a book that touches on urbanization and environmental tragedy, I joined Lorraine Malingue for the live events at ICA Singapore. “This is so much fun,” said Rachel Rillo from Silverlens, sitting with Isa Lorenzo while watching skateboarders perform on sculptures by Zarka, part of “Beneath the Moon,” curated by the Palais de Tokyo’s Khairuddin Hori. Before bed I quickly dropped by the fair’s afterparty at Chijmes, a former convent and school–cum–restaurant complex mixing seafood, performances, and pub crawl.

Left: Spring Workshop curator Christina Li and writer Aimee Lin. Right: Curator Enin Supriyanto, dealer Michael Janssen, and artist Ho Tzu Nyen.


Thursday night’s party at Lewin Terrace was lively, as art consultant Cheryl Ho gathered works and crowds from Japan and Singapore. Collector Daisuke Miyatsu was in good spirits and talked about his upcoming collaboration with the Hong Kong Art Center. The canapé reception at the National Gallery was relaxed as curators Enin Supriyanto and Agung Hujatnika chatted away with artists Moe Satt and Tintin Wulia and collector Melani Setiawan and Wibi Triadi from Bandung’s Ruang Gerilya sampled the local delicacies.

Friday at Gillman Barracks felt stale compared to last year, with many galleries next to NTU now gone. Up the road, Mizuma Gallery mixed works by Indonesian artist Nasirun and Japanese artist Tanada Koji. Sundaram Tagore showed Steve McCurry photographs in line with the National Geographic aesthetic he’s know for, and Pearl Lam featured Yinka Shonibare’s 2005 Odile and Odette. Ebullient dealer Can Yavuz had an extensive list of Australian artists, and ShanghArt showed Chinese Pop artist Xue Song. Yeo Workshop was the most experimental in the neighborhood, with videos and a ceramic installation by Quynh Dong and an outdoor hut transformed during a six-month residency by Australian artist Merryn Trevethan. But it was sitting down in a shipping container curated by the nonprofit Scout that will stay with me. They had the good idea to include nude drawings by Aqilah Hassan and Megan Miao’s interactive video mimicking a casting-couch experience. “When did you first start watching porn?” the director asks in the latter. If art can’t break local taboos, what can?

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Left: Curators Suman Gopinath and Louis Ho. Right: Art Stage Singapore president Lorenzo Rudolf, US ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar, and auctioneer Simon de Pury.


National Treasure

Singapore
01.30.16

The Singapore National Gallery of Art.


AFTER A DECADE OF GESTATION, with numerous architectural ebbs and flows, Singapore’s own National Gallery of Art has finally arrived. Created out of two colonial-era architectural icons, the City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, and connected by a glass roof covered with water and seemingly held up by a large central pillar, the museum is the work of the Singapore-based architect Jean Francois Milou of Studio Milou. Running $378 million and offering some 700,000 square feet of floor space to showcase Singaporean and Southeast Asian art, one couldn’t have planned a more auspicious occasion. As part of the country’s SG50 celebrations, the nation’s yearlong golden jubilee, the two-week festive launch rode in on a wave of national positivity.

The excitement among the staff was palpable. I suppose if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong performs the ribbon cutting—actually it wasn’t a ribbon, he had to hold a very large electronic paintbrush in both hands—then the event is significant, even if he’s joked in the past that the hubble bubble of Tate Modern sounded “too modern for me.” It was the gallery’s chairman, Hsieh Fu Hua, that convinced him that the British institution’s buzz was a necessary part of today’s modern museums. And with a wave of that paintbrush the week kicked off with a delightfully kitschy animation, inspired by images drawn from the gallery’s collection and accompanied by a live songstress.

Left: Artist Amanda Heng and Delia Pvlicki. Right: Heri Dono performing his Wayang Legenda. (Photos: Sherman Sam)


It was the first of several gala openings, and although the local artists and art workers had their own special evening a week prior, there were still many of the nation’s senior artists about: Teo Eng Seng, Amanda Heng, and Milenko Pravcki, to name a few. Pravcki took delight in explaining the joys of not waxing his large and bushy moustache, while his wife, Delia, showed off her beautiful Peranakan top—a trade for some artwork. Not every artist was having fun with their ‘tache: Heri Dono, another hirsute artist, who represented Indonesia at the last Venice Biennale, was there to perform his Wayang Legenda, 1988, part of the museum’s collection.

The politicians seemed to be working the hardest though. Grace Fu, Minister of Culture, officially opened the museum to the public the next day by cutting an actual ribbon, while that evening Singapore’s President, Tony Tan, dedicated a plaque and sat with the public on the field outside as they watched the same animation, this time projected onto the museum’s entire façade. Most enjoyable was a hut where visitors can take Malay lessons. The recreation was drawn from National Language Class, a 1959 painting by Chua Mia Tee of students learning Malay. Written on the blackboard in the painting are the words “Siapa Nama Kamu?” (What is my name?), which is also the title of the inaugural exhibition of Singaporean art. Eugene Tan, the museum’s soft-spoken and self-effacing director, says it’s all part of, “thinking about how Singapore links with Southeast Asia, and how Southeast Asia links to other parts of the world. The public have understood Singapore art largely through the contemporary, through art fairs and biennials. This is the first time they’ll be able to see how our art has developed.”

In his speech, the Prime Minister pointed out that Singapore very much needs its own Rijksmuseum or National Gallery. All this is a culmination of a thirty-some-year master plan to develop the cultural economy, which includes the Singapore Art Museum, a commercial gallery district, an art fair, and a Center for Contemporary Art. “It’s just that we’re a small country and nobody pays much attention to us,” said Tan with a big grin. “But I think that’s slowly changing.”

Sherman Sam

Quiet Riot

New York
01.24.16

Left: Outsider Art Fair director Andrew Edlin and dealer Stuart Parr. Right: The LAND Gallery at the Outsider Art Fair. (All photos: Casey Kelbaugh)


“DID ANYONE TEACH YOU or did you just...know?”

“Oh, he just knew.”

The subject of this admiring if ultimately rather uncomfortable exchange was artist Kenya Hanley, whose funny and engaging drawings were on display in the LAND Gallery booth at the Outsider Art Fair’s Thursday evening vernissage. Hanley, seated rifling through some papers between his two fans, didn’t seem especially taken aback by being discussed in this way, but nor did he feel the need to chime in. Was this perhaps outsider art’s elusive delimiting factor—not a lack of formal training, a sidestepping of irony and fashion, or a clinically skewed worldview, but just a serene unwillingness to confirm or deny? Either way, Hanley’s restraint felt monumental.

But however one defines outsiderdom just now, the crowd at the Chelsea event—its twenty-fourth annual installment—couldn’t be said to share Hanley’s quietude. By the time I arrived at 6:30 PM, just half an hour in, the Metropolitan Pavilion was already packed with visitors to its sixty-odd exhibiting galleries. Strangely—unless I’ve somehow lost touch with developments in masculine style—a disproportionate number of these were men with unusual facial hair in pork pie hats. (“If I find the guy with no eyebrows,” I overhear, “I’ll point him out to you.”) The rest were pretty much indistinguishable from your usual Manhattan crowd—a little older, perhaps, but no more or less eccentric. Senior scribe Anthony Haden-Guest fitted right in, while noted thrift-store shopper Jerry Saltz drifted past, in heaven.

Of course, the fair’s popularity should come as no surprise, outsider art’s stock having been on the rise for some time. Christie’s just held its first dedicated sale in over a decade, selling a recently unearthed 1937 sculpture by William Edmondson for a startling (and way over estimate) $785,000, and White Columns chief Matthew Higgs’s ongoing support for organizations such as Long Island City’s Healing Arts Initiative has resulted in terrific shows by the likes of Derrick Alexis Coard. That a number of galleries at the event this year, including Louis B. James and Morgan Lehman Gallery, aren’t known as specialists in the field seems to signal an increasing level of interest from outside the outsiders, and the recognition of a submarket on the rise. At one point I heard a smartly dressed older gentleman boast to his companion: “I have thirty-eight visas, baby, that I bought from your brother!” There was money here for sure.

Left: The Babel-curated booth at the Outsider Art Fair. Right: Art Production Fund's Doreen Remen and Casey Fremont at the Outsider Art Fair.


In terms of the work itself, the joy of outsider art is that—as late great radio DJ John Peel was fond of saying about wayward postpunk icons the Fall—it’s always different, always the same. Become an outsider buff and you’ll never want for graph paper (Susan Janow at Creative Growth Art Center, say), paperweights (Momoka Imura at Yukiko Koide Presents), or scrap metal (Hawkins Bolden at Shrine). There’s always a cadre of apocalyptic visionaries in the house (I particularly appreciated Daniel Martin Diaz’s dire warnings at American Primitive Gallery/Aarne Anton), and a goodly amount of colored pencil will have been expended by day’s end (too many artists to name). Henry Darger, while no Liam Gillick (there was one banner year when every other booth at the Armory seemed to boast an example of the Brit’s work), will be well represented.

But not everyone relied on these rickety templates. Critic Paul Laster and curator Renée Riccardo raved with some justification about Cuban artist and cigar roller Felipe Jesus Consalvos’s large, kaleidoscopic paper collages at Philadelphia’s Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, while dealer Sean Horton pointed me without hesitation toward Winter Works on Paper. The Brooklyn gallery’s most intriguing wares were arguably beyond the realm of art altogether, credited as they were to the likes of “Chicago Police” in the case of some outsize vintage mug shots, and “Sayre & Fisher Brick Co.” in the case of some rigorously deadpan photos of walls. Care to step outside?

Michael Wilson

Left: Serena Altschul with Siri Von Reis and Craig Knobles at the Outsider Art Fair. Right: Critic Jerry Saltz at the Outsider Art Fair.


The Simple Life

Punta del Este, Uruguay
01.19.16

Left: Martin Craciun and Este Arte director Laura Bardier. Right: Artist Leandro Erlich.


THE SUN NEVER SETS on the international art-fair circuit. In fact, in the southern hemisphere, it blazed down on the first such event of 2016: Este Arte, whose second edition opened a fortnight ago in an abandoned disco a mile or so inland from La Barra, a trendy village thirty minutes up the shore from Punta del Este. 

Known as the Saint-Tropez of Uruguay, Buenos Aires’s Hamptons, and other glossy—I must say, accurate—blue-blooded superlatives, Punta del Este would seem to have the bare materials for sustaining a small fair: far-flung mystique, perfect weather, and, most important, a seasonal population that is filthy rich. Uruguay’s reputation as “The Switzerland of South America” was popularized in the 1950s when it adopted Swiss-style banking laws. The nation of three million people and twelve million cows ballooned with European émigrés after the war and is roundly considered the most tranquil corner of Latin America. Este Arte itself was even dreamed up in Switzerland: Its Uruguayan director, Laura Bardier, has been based in Geneva for five years. 

Unlike Helvetia, Uruguay is an all-day trip from any art capital other than São Paulo or Buenos Aires, and as Argentine collector Marlise Jozami pointed out, it’s wondrously flat. “The sky is the best thing here,” she told a small group who had come for dinner to her and her husband’s elysian estate overlooking a 250-acre preserve. “Landscapes have a profound influence on the personality,” she said, comparing the local calm to the craziness of her hometown, Rio de Janeiro, where mountains plunge into the sea. As a fluffy golden retriever wove through their formal dining room, her husband, Anibal, chancellor of the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, explained the ambitious plans for a new biennial spanning South American called UNASUR, “one south,” whose principal exhibition in BA will be excerpted and reprised around the region.

Left: Principe Eric Ioan Sturdza and Afshan Almassi. Right: Artist Artur Lescher and dealer Piero Atchugarry. (Photo: Kevin McGarry)


Dinner began at nine and wound down around two in the morning. This was Monday. Fortunately, the bulk of Este Arte was held after peak sun. Tuesday’s preview was scheduled for 5 PM to midnight. At dusk I arrived to the forest glade hiding the concrete complex still emblazoned with the words “MADAME DISCO GROUP.” As I stepped through the booths, I recognized a small number of European galleries among the twenty participating in the fair: Continua, Carroll/Fletcher, and Xippas, whose Renos Xippas is Greek-Uruguayan and has an outpost in both Montevideo and the La Barra–adjacent hamlet of Manantiales. 

A local outfit with an international profile, Xippas had perhaps the most success during the preview. About a dozen brushy drawings of rotund figures by Robert Lazzarini were sold during the first hours. My favorite works belonged to Robinson Mora at the Santiago gallery Factoriá de Arte Santa Rosa. From his home in southern Patagonia, the seventy-year-old painter translates intellectualized impressions of the Aurora Borealis into moody, hard-edged geometric compositions. By the end of the week, Continua had sold an Antony Gormley that promises to end up as a public artwork in the neighboring state of Rocha. With a handful of other sales paced throughout those four days, one figured that most dealers took a gamble on the fair partly as an opportunity to meet new collectors on their home turf, partly as a sure bet for a slice of vacation for themselves. “You have to see this year as an adventure,” said Geneva-based dealer Sandra Recio. “It’s like coming here to conquer—actually, as a Spaniard I probably shouldn’t say that.”

Around 11 PM I found Bardier as she was completing her rounds. Happy in the new space—last year the fair was held at a country club on the highway between La Barra and the moneyed hippie village of José Ignacio—she was optimistic. “It’s a fair on a human scale,” she said. “Nothing is in large quantities here in Uruguay—throughout Latin America, there’s a big poor and a small rich, but here it’s more even.” The analogy may not hold up as well in Punta del Este, with its lime Lamborghinis parked on dusty dirt roads, but it’s true that even here the gestalt is one of personal whims and unbridled fluidity. Case in point: By the time word of the fair made its way around town, three people had spontaneously volunteered their mansions to host an afterparty for the preview. Then, once the disco’s doors shut at midnight, the lucky collector charged with hosting duties decided to cancel.

Left: Designer Lucia Venturini with artists Juan Pablo Campistrous and Paola Monzillo. Right: Cao Guimarães talk at La Huella restaurant. (Photos: Kevin McGarry)


The next night we made up for lost time, as two newlywed patrons of the fair, Prince Eric Ioan Sturdza and Afshan Almassi, opened their summer home for a huge party. The courtyard of the mission-style compound was flanked with twenty-some daybeds, reinforcing the twenty-first-century notion that a home in the style of a hotel is the ultimate expression of luxury. A troupe of traditional Candombe drummers kept beat as artist Jonathan Van Dyke crept around the grounds with two accomplices, holding bluntly colored shapes up as masks and freezing before guests in quasi-cubist formations. 

The rest of the week was taken with outings around the region: a restaurant built into sand dunes whose reservations are dominated by Argentine celebrities, for a talk by Brazilian artist Cao Guimarães; the pastoral studio and foundation of Uruguayan sculptor Pablo Atchugarry; and the exceedingly remote gallery of his son Piero Atchugarry, for an installation by Brazilian artist Artur Lescher, located on the outskirts of a one-hundred-person village called Pueblo Garzon. 

This town of roughly ten square blocks, nearly an hour’s drive from any form of civilization apart from multimillion dollar estates, was discovered for luxury purposes by celebrity chef Francis Mallmann, who opened an all-inclusive $600 a night hotel here in 2009. On the opening day of the fair, Garzon was named to the New York Times’ Fifty-Two Places to Go in 2016 list. As if Punta del Este weren’t a good enough example, this municipality hovering between the scale of a tiny village and huge installation is an uncanny demonstration of how far people with complicated fortunes will go to simulate simplicity.

Kevin McGarry

Forever After

New York
01.14.16

Raúl de Nieves, Nathan Whipple, and Jessie Stead of Haribo. (All photos: Walter Wlodarczyk)


1 PM ON A SUNDAY felt unreasonably early. Given the circumstances, maybe it made more sense to think of it as the after-after-afterparty. Or maybe just “after.” “XPRM/E/N/TAL,” Raúl de Nieves and gage of the boone’s Sunday Sessions program at MoMA PS1, celebrated New York’s cutest after-hours family with an artist-curated marathon in the cozily carpeted VW Dome, ranging from witchy to bitchy, noise to cabaret. The name came from a series de Nieves had been organizing for some months at the Spectrum, a queer, community-supported Brooklyn venue gage founded with performer Nicolas Gorham in 2011 that was forced from its location in the wee hours of January 1, after LGND, its final, last-call, all-out New Year’s Eve brawl.
                                     
The line between party and performance always blurred at the Spectrum, aka the Dreamhouse. By day you could find offbeat yoga and self-defense classes, but by night the crowd turned looks that rivaled whatever was on the tiny, makeshift stage. Once the artist Sadaf H. Nava showed up with Björk in tow. Wolfgang Tillmans seemed to be there all August, happily snapping away. There was a rotating cast of characters living above it; they created a barrier to noise complaints on the quiet South Williamsburg street and helped gage keep things in relative (dis)order. When my friend Joe moved out, months later, he still had flakes of glitter buried in his scalp. Last summer, we started to hear rumblings of an expiration date decided by ominous (real estate) forces. There were stories of strange visits from cops. And then there was word that the rage would wind down with 2015, gossip made official by Facebook invite.
 

Left: gage of the boone. Right: MarinaObamaWitch.


I first stumbled into the Spectrum on a foggy January night, or morning, I should say. The front door of a generic row house with white vinyl siding led to a skinny hallway. A second door at the end opened onto a haze of colored lights and throbbing bass. Nocturnal creatures in sparkle and face paint rubbed against shirtless or naked bodies of all colors and dimensions. In the years since Spectrum opened, countless DIY spots have been eulogized, but none have given me pause like the shuttering of this one. Think of all the dear friends you met, the good times you had, the hand jobs you gave!
 
It feels like a loss for the city’s queer arts scene, but no doubt the community will continue to blossom and mutate. That was de Nieves’s sentiment, anyway, as he emceed the MoMA PS1 show, wearing a headset mic and dress of his own design, brunette locks cascading down his shoulders. His voice dipped into devilish octaves as he introduced each act, seamlessly switching between absurd quip and heartfelt avowal, intermittently telling us Spectrum was a group of people not a space, an ongoing collaboration rather than a venue that was over.
 
It’s a weird negotiation whenever an institution recontextualizes “the underground.” The museum can fossilize, lending legitimacy when things have stopped breathing—for example, the screening of Agathe Snow’s decade-old party footage featuring her late husband at the Guggenheim this summer, or Berlin’s New Theater performances at the Whitney in October. And then there’s the whole vertical trajectory embedded in the thinking that DIY spaces are where art is incubated before it gets bankable. (Though, to be fair, MoMA PS1 is less a museum than a massive exhibition space, messily in conversation with the communities it represents, as these things go.) Sunday, Jake Dibeler’s performance gestured at the latter. During the one-act farce, Macy Rodman valley-girled into her iPhone, “I’m at PS1.” Later, all three auburn-wigged “Jake Dibelers” cooed like a deadpan Grecian chorus, “I hope there are some fancy museum people in the audience today. I do see a lot of my fans.”
 

Left: “Jake Dibeler.” Right: Jake Dibeler with two “Jake Dibelers.”


Whether or not institutional success or whatever is the (or simply a) point, the community that’s grown out of the Spectrum is having some right now. De Nieves’s contribution to the current “Greater New York,” a kaleidoscopic beaded sculpture, has brought him well-deserved attention. And in the last year, Juliana Huxtable, who though not involved Sunday was a frequent host at the Spectrum, has morphed from nightlife princess to art-world It Girl. At any given edition of Spectrum parties like Dagger or Ova the Rainbow you might see Hood By Air’s Leilah Weinraub and Shayne Oliver or Venus X or artists Xavier Cha or Jacolby Satterwhite or Stewart Uoo or Ryan Trecartin or Ryan McNamara or A. K. Burns or Katie Hubbard or Ulrike Müller rooting for some often untested talent. And in this vein, the names of many of Sunday’s acts were decidedly not “names”: serpentwithfeet, FREEMEATCOUPON, MarinaObamaWitch.
 
The PS1 program closed with Haribo, the operatic post–thrash metal band de Nieves fronts with Nathan Whipple and Jessie Stead, and opened with his new duo, SOMOS MONSTROS (a collaboration with Erik Zajaceskowski), which was even weirder, if that’s possible. Two freaky hooded popes banged on a metal wheelbarrow, sign, and chair. De Nieves chanted. It was perverse, and a blessing. 

Whitney Mallett

Chibi Cherry.


Early Daze

New York
01.12.16

Left: Art Production Fund cofounder Doreen Remen and artist Robert Melee. Right: Artist Coco Fusco. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


AT MIDNIGHT ON DECEMBER 31 the ball dropped in Times Square as usual. Last week, the New York art world met 2016 by waiting for the other foot to do likewise.

Despite performances to kick up a little fairy dust, the mood was anxious, almost becalmed. Galleries opened shows in what felt like a holding pattern, as if they were planes circling an airport until a threatening storm has passed.

That would be the real world, which has now surpassed the art world for madness and danger. That’s one reason why we take refuge in art and ideas. The question is whether the market-ready material that is so prevalent is up to the task. To stay relevant in a landscape of H-bomb tests, mass killings, violent rhetoric, pronounced bigotry, and corporate trickery, artists need to call on their nerve.

Left: Artist Larry Poons and dealer Loretta Howard. Right: Artist Guido van der Werve.


“January is the Monday of months,” observed dealer Andrew Kreps of the season’s desultory start. Several galleries appeared more eager to catch up to the neglected but time-tested past than embrace the unpredictability of the here and now.

Peter Freeman brought the octogenarian Alex Hay back from Bisbee, Arizona for his opening and included recent drawings and sculptures as well as process works made just a few blocks away in the SoHo of the 1960s. Larry Poons, who keeps fit by racing vintage motorcycles, was on foot at Loretta Howard, where he had paintings from the ’70s. And at David Zwirner Gallery, dealers Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal and David Leiber brought together paintings and sculpture from ’50s Cuba by The Ten, a group of nearly forgotten artists who gave themselves to hard-edged, geometric abstraction and showed together in a formidable gallery run by one of them in prerevolutionary Havana.

The two still living, Pedro de Oráa and José Angel Rosabel, were at the opening and the dinner at Il Buco Alimentari with family, friends, and interested parties like collectors Catherine Petitgas and AC Hudgins and art historian Abigail McEwen, whose book on Cuban art of the period is due out from Yale University Press any minute. Everyone was happy, and I’m happy for them—and for all of these artists. Their work deserves reconsideration and recognition. But in the context of now, it looked a bit worn out.

Chelsea began to feel awake on Friday, when Guido van der Werve tested spectators at Luhring Augustine by rustling up that old saw of provocation, pornography. At least, that’s what he called it. Perhaps he was kidding. His three-channel, twelve-part, fifty-minute film, Nummer zestien, the present moment, is an orgy of young, aging, corpulent, stooped, and obedient bodies eating and kneeling and fucking, Santiago Sierra style, but in less orderly fashion. Set to music of van der Werve’s own composition that emanated from a player piano, it was an aching and meditative experience rather than titillating.

Left: Artist Tauba Auerbach and dealer Jeffrey Deitch. Right: Artist Judith Bernstein.


In his last film here, which I loved, the artist performed a surrealistic triathlon while following the route that Frédéric Chopin’s sister traveled to bring the dead composer’s brain from Paris to Warsaw. “That was about my body,” van der Werve said. “This one is more about the mechanics of the mind.”

For enormous male organs, one had to see the feisty Judith Bernstein’s show of new phallus paintings at Mary Boone’s West Twenty-Fourth Street location, “Dicks of Death.” Bernstein is another senior artist enjoying the spotlight after decades in the shade. “I hit it out of the ballpark,” she boasted during dinner at Bottino. “Sorry,” she added, without actual apology. “I waited so long for this that I have no modesty.”

The button-pushing Robert Melee has no truck with modesty, either. His riotous opening at the Kreps gallery was a winter carnival of bright color, sequins, and gold lamé. “It’s about opulence, excess, and depression,” he said of a show that features an almost seething mass of party paraphernalia tucked under a translucent aboveground swimming pool turned upside down.

Left: Artists Julie Mehretu and Maria Elena González. Right: Artist Sarah Meyohas.


Another pathology was operating at Paula Cooper, where Tauba Auerbach attracted the largest crowd all weekend with a performance by her favorite Brooklyn noise band, ZS. Buried in the crowd were platforms displaying unidentifiable 3-D-printed instruments worthy of a futuristic David Cronenberg horrorfest. Auerbach made them to produce the equally mysterious paintings on the walls. “Tauba is a high-tech artisan,” said her former dealer, Jeffrey Deitch, who planted himself front and center before the band. “I didn’t know of them,” he said. “But I was totally absorbed.”

That was a sign that things were returning to their normal level of madness. But the season only began to recover fully with another Cuban-born artist, Coco Fusco. Her searing installations of books, films, and facsimiles of secret documents at Alexander Gray illuminate the ways any government’s abuse of power affects human life—and art—on a daily basis.

Finally, someone had put the past in the context of now. Fusco is a messenger who makes it clear that no matter how long we look over our shoulders, we can’t afford to keep turning back—or stand still for whatever comes next.

Linda Yablonsky