Frieze Burn

New York
05.06.16

Left: Artist Nicole Eisenman with W magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi and fashion designer–collector Miuccia Prada. Right: Choreographer Michael Clark and Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár.


LET’S FACE IT. When Frieze New York comes to town, everything else happens. It’s not that we can’t find openings, parties, performances, sex, politics, bad manners, and good art—even great art—around here at all times. Only that when this week began, more paths crossed in more ways than they ever do when it’s just us folks, and more often than not they were artists.

Artists Space, in fact, set the tone last Saturday, when it introduced the dapper Lukas Duwenhögger to the scene with “Undoolay,” a fetching retrospective for the German-born, Istanbul-based artist, but his first show in New York. Alas, it also marks the nonprofit’s farewell to its longtime home in SoHo, which it soon will leave for parts yet unknown—probably Brooklyn.

Before you could say Gee whiz, on Sunday the London-based Lisson Gallery ushered its new 8,500-square-foot building into Chelsea with an exhibition of recent works by Carmen Herrera—and none too soon! Though she is one hundred years old (soon to be 101), this is the unjustly neglected Herrera’s solo gallery debut in America. In the fall, the Whitney will present her first major museum show since one at El Museo del Barrio in 1998.

“Carmen made all of these paintings in just the last two years,” marveled dealer Alex Logsdail, who is running the New York operation for his father, Lisson founder Nicholas Logsdail. “She cried,” the younger Logsdail said of the wheelchair-bound artist’s private visit two days earlier. “Because she was so happy.”

Left: Artist Anish Kapoor. Right: Dealer Alex Logsdail.


Small wonder. One could easily think the gallery had been built just for her, so perfectly did its austerity complement the purity of Herrera’s refined, geometric abstractions. One might have expected this necessarily low-rise structure—it’s tucked under the High Line on West Twenty-Fourth Street and runs through to Twenty-Third—to be a long, dark hut, but as built from the ground by architect Marcus Dochantschi’s Studio MDA with Studio Christian Wassmann, the exhibition space is actually cathedral-high and wide, with skylights on either side.

If anyone deserves credit for rescuing Herrera from obscurity, however, it’s Tony Bechara, a close friend and former president of El Museo del Barrio, who in the early 2000s helped bring her to the attention of Metropolitan Museum board chair Daniel Brodsky and his wife Estrellita. They bought three paintings, as did Agnes Gund. “Ella Cisneros bought five,” Bechara said, turning to greet another enthusiast, Iolanda Santos, from Monterrey, Mexico.

Many other people will discover Herrera here for the first time, but not Nigel Prince. Currently director of Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, it was Prince who introduced Herrera to the UK by including her in a widely praised 2009 show at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. “He gave me my first museum show,” said Ryan Gander, who flew in for the occasion to join nearly all of the fifty other living artists on the Lisson roster, including recent adds Susan Hiller, Joyce Pensato, and John Akomfrah, and the entire Logsdail family. (Youngest son Max is now on board to work with Ai Weiwei.)

All repaired to Cedar Lake for an extravagant (and rather good) dinner, accompanied by the recorded strains of Dvorák’s Symphony no. 9, From the New World, played at earsplitting volume. It’s the most popular symphony of all time, Nicholas Logsdail claimed in remarks that preceded impromptu encomiums from the artists, initiated by performance queen Marina Abramović, with Liu Xiaodong, Anish Kapoor, Rodney Graham, and twenty others following close behind. Each told a personal anecdote that doubled as an affectionate roast.

Left: Artist Goshka Macuga and Paracelso proprietor Luxor Tavella. Right: Artist Marina Abramović and Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume.


“Alex is the future, the next generation,” said Shirazeh Houshiary. “We’re terrified,” confessed Stanley Whitney and Akomfrah, who spoke together. “Nicholas!” Kapoor called out. “I want to kiss you!” Logsdail, as several artists noted, is hardly the emotive or sentimental sort. “This is a first,” he admitted, while giving in to the buss. “Everything we do is for you,” Alex Logsdail told the artists. “We wouldn’t be here without you.”

As if to spite Monday night’s Met Gala, 260 stylish, if less outrageously dressed, guests who have earned the right to be called bohemian filled the Ukrainian National Home for the annual Friends of Artists Space dinner honoring the founders of Semiotext(e), Sylvere Lotringer and Chris Kraus, and its current editor, Hedi El Kholti.

Here, in this alternative universe—not a $300,000-a-table fund-raiser like the Met’s but a thank-you to supporters—Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár made the gallery’s impending move “to a neighborhood more appropriate for its activities than today’s SoHo.” Meanwhile, he said, Artists Space Books & Talks on Walker Street will stay open.

Books and talk livened up the event, already animated by artists and writers who far outnumbered collectors and dealers, though this being Frieze week, they were nonetheless out in force. The dinner, designed by London’s Arnold & Henderson, served Monk’s Beard to the monk-bearded Michael Stipe, saw Barbara Gladstone dig in with the gold-toothed Michele Lamy, and hosted Irving and Lucy Sandler, who helped found the gallery, progenitor of the Pictures generation, way back in 1972.

Left: Artists Stanley Whitney and John Akomfrah. Right: Semiotext(e) founding editor Sylvere Lotringer.


First up to toast Lotringer was the actor Jim Fletcher, a Semiotexte(e) author who confined his speech to listing favorite Semiotext(e) titles like A Hot Mess and Pornocracy, which he cribbed from notes written out on his palm. The suddenly “it” lesbian poet Eileen Myles jumped in next to toast Kraus, whose novel I Love Dick is soon to be an Amazon TV series penned by Myles’s special friend, Transparent creator Jill Soloway. Writer Veronica Gonzalez Peńa wound up the speeches with an affecting appreciation of El Kholti’s liberating pressure to take risks, the binding thread of every Semiotext(e) book. “To think I was once this boy from a small town in Germany reading Baudrillard’s Kool Killer,” said Kalmár at evening’s end. “Tonight was like meeting my heroes.”

This was the aperitif that braced me for the rush of events taking place all over town on Tuesday. In Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Public Art Fund lit up Understanding, a new sign by Martin Creed; at both of her galleries in Chelsea, Gladstone presented what may be Kapoor’s most surprising show so far, including sculptures of viscera inspired by Rembrandt’s paintings of butchered carcasses—“They’re Biblical!” hooted philanthropist Shelby White—and a giant new sculpture made of dirt and resin that Nicholas Logsdail dubbed “the Cloudgate to the ancient world” and that Paula Cooper, passing by from her gallery next door, correctly pegged as the tits of Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus.

Back in the present, at Bookmarc in the West Village Francesco Vezzoli signed copies of an extraordinarily elegant catalogue of his career just published by Rizzoli. (Full disclosure: Yours truly wrote one of the essays.) Right here, I had to stop and think through my itinerary. (Despite the absence of an underground to liven up the culture, New York is still the spinning point of the art world.) Should I head to the Upper East Side to catch Ryan McNamara’s Battleground at the Guggenheim? Then I could hop over to the Jewish Museum for its opening of Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx’s garden designs. Or should I continue to the Lower East Side for Josh Kline’s buzzed-about opening at 47 Canal? Or forget all of that and head to the Rolls-Royce of the evening, the Oscar de la Renta– and car company–sponsored Tate Americas Foundation dinner at the IAC building in Chelsea honoring forty artists?

I didn’t have the right designer clothes, or the stamina, so I opted for the New Museum, which was offering a more manageable, and estrogen-powered, presentation of just five exhibitions, each by an artist who happened to be female.

Left: New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni with Giacomo Alemani Gioni. Right: Poet Eileen Myles, artist K8 Hardy, and the Wooster Group’s Kate Valk.


In other words, phalluses were everywhere. At least, they were prominent as the struts on the craggy, “dick-climbing” walls, or “Alps,” that Andra Ursuta constructed to transform the yawning volume of the fourth floor into human-scale rooms featuring chairs that functioned as pedestals for tooth-baring obelisks poked with suggestive holes. More dicks appeared in a retrospective of paintings by Nicole Eisenman. “Is that a man going down on a woman or a woman going down on another woman?” asked dealer and publisher Brendan Dugan, as he stood in front of one painting with Francesco Bonami, who didn’t reply with more than a raised eyebrow.

“Who was that?” asked Eisenman, after being introduced to a diminutive woman on the arm of W magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi. “I didn’t catch the name.” It was Miuccia Prada, actually on hand to support Goshka Macuga, whose show for the Prada Foundation continues into June. Here, for her first major exposure in this country, she put up a caustically political installation of large-scale tapestries and cutout sets for her Aby Warburg–inspired play Preparatory Notes for a Chicago Comedy, which include faces belonging to Angela Merkel, Dasha Zhukova, Marcel Duchamp (as Rrose Sélavy), Richard Artwschwager, Andrea Fraser, and more against backdrops copied from the homes of New Museum trustees. “What a lineup!” commented dealer Pilar Corrias.

In all the excitement, I missed Beatriz Santiago Munoz’s show on the fifth floor, but was struck by Cally Spooner’s taming of the unforgiving ground-floor exhibition space. Behind the glassed-in enclosure, a company of dancers trained for the show by rugby players and a film director to stay bound together while chasing an invisible ball. “It’s about aggression and defense, power and submission,” Spooner said.

It may be Frieze week, but how can an art fair ever compete with all of that?

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover and Frieze Art Fairs director Victoria Siddall. Right: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch.


My So-Called Weekend

Berlin
05.03.16

Left: Artist Christian Jankowski (left). Right: Dealer Daniel Wichelhaus and artist Petra Cortright. (Except where noted, all photos: Paige K. Bradley)


I WAS EXPECTING A WARM WELCOME in Berlin. But instead, the schizophrenic weather beckoned me into more of a winter formal for the city’s twelfth annual Gallery Weekend. Carly Fiorina was announced as Ted Cruz’s running mate for the GOP nomination—meanwhile I entered into the running for Most Precocious Chickadee on the Berlin art-world circuit.

Run by Maike Cruse, formerly of the Art Basel Circus Circus Incorporated, Gallery Weekend is meant to promote the vitality and diversity of Berlin’s gallery scene, with openings and happenings across the city’s best Bergs “bringing people back into the gallery spaces.” Ballooning to about fifty participating galleries this year, the weekend seems to have reached the point where it’s trying to strike the balance between exciting and overwhelming, to say nothing of the redefinition of the word “weekend,” considering that the weekend began as early as last Tuesday.

Being a working girl myself, my weekend started on Thursday with a stop at Johnen Galerie for an exhibition by German sculptor Martin Honert, whose softly luminous Schlafsaal, Modell 1:5, a wooden diorama of glowing electric lights hidden behind models of radiators and wardrobes was, as senior director Cornelia Tischmacher explained, based on a dormitory from a boarding school the artist attended as a young Honert. Lovely as it was, one couldn’t dawdle here with a reminder of precious rest—soldier on, young art worker! Next was Tomás Saraceno at Esther Schipper, soon to be merging with Johnen, where an Arachno Concert dangled a live spider at the center of a web for a “chamber performance where wave frequencies extend from the vibratory world of the spider throughout the cosmos.” And you thought Berlin artists were lazy. Even the dead can muster something up for a Gallery Weekend—Michel Majerus’s estate hosted a group exhibition in far-flung Prenzlauer Berg, where his own work in video and painting came together with memorable art by Ida Ekblad and Karl Holmqvist.

Left: Artist Anri Sala. Right: Critic Kolja Reichert and artist Angela Bulloch.


The totally bipolar skies complemented the mood of Isa Genzken’s retrospective at Martin-Gropius-Bau, a terrific spritzer prior to the official opening reception at the Hebbel am Ufer. Chatting with KOW’s Raphael Oberhuber outside the lobby of that awkward mixer, we compared notes on New York versus Berlin and the relative quality of artists in LA. Us toilers in the field of culture adore discussing everywhere we aren’t, but we agreed that, as far as Berlin goes, “you can drift here.” Dealer Guido W. Baudach popped up to enthuse endearingly on the vulgarity of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis’s show of portraits, as curated by Jeff Koons, opening at a “concept store” called The Corner, just around the corner. “She’s the new Elizabeth Peyton!”

Uber-ing to Société for a book launch by Kaspar Müller, I was also treated to a preview of Petra Cortright’s latest paintings and videos, with one of the former merging the two into something between a screensaver and a real-time finger-painting session. Cortright expounded on her “mother files” of Photoshop layers used to make her pieces, while a clipped and collaged video of herself dressed in Stella McCartney threads parallel the artist’s own chic, mesh Stella-embroidered jacket.

Later at the Esther Schipper and Johnen dinner at Crackers—formerly known as Cookies in the 1990s, how taste buds change—Neue Nationalgalerie director Udo Kittelmann gave me a teaser of its upcoming George Condo exhibition, which includes Picasso and Matisse—“not a dialogue, but a confrontation.” Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s Anselm Franke occupied the wall nearest the bar with Tomás Saraceno, who made an invite to his studio—filled with tanks of spiders—sound more like a Fear Factor contest than an aesthetic investigation.

Left: Johnen Galerie’s Cornelia Tischmacher, artist Martin Honert and Berlin Nationalgalerie director Udo Kittelmann. Right: Artist Tomás Saraceno and dealer Esther Schipper.


A couple artists from Esther Schipper’s stable seemed (mistakenly) under the impression that I was a representative from Getty Images sent to immortalize their bad fashion sense in high resolution. Leapfrogging over their heads to the König Galerie afterparty, the local Drift became more of a March of the Aggro Penguins, as DJs spun something repetitive and Manifesta curator Christian Jankowski swayed in time alternating between nodding in affirmation and shaking his head in cheerful denial. Oh, and there was free roaming around the exhibitions of Annette Kelm and Claudia Comte. The vibe was dark through and through—why couldn’t we just twitch to Aphex Twin or grind to Beyoncé instead of this simulacra of a party? I scooted to await the daybreak from the safety of my own artisanally-reclaimed-whatever hotel room.

Friday morning I peeled off to Anne Collier at Galerie Neu, where selections from her “Women Crying” series felt relevant to this sleep-deprived lady. Neugerriemschneider staged an exhibition by Tobias Rehberger comprising works from such esteemed figures as Andreas Gursky, Isa Genzken, and Wolfgang Tillmans, among others, but the suffocating installation made everything look generic, flat, and uninspired—plus I was hungry. Thankfully, Tanya Leighton’s lunch at the legendary Paris Bar came just in time to soothe my pain, and assuage my offended sensibilities. Thrown in honor of Aleksandra Domanović’s latest show for the gallery, Belgian collectors Mimi Dusselier and Bernard Soens slid in and I took a seat with Matt Moravec from New York and Düsseldorf’s Off Vendome, Karen Roth from NPR Berlin, and Tanya’s right-hand man and good luck charm Patrick Armstrong.

Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s Rachel Harrison show in the Berliner Zeitung office building featured a conference table of colorful wood, polystyrene, and cement sculptures in a bland, gray room—as if convening to discuss their own projected profit margins. Some resembled fitness bells, deformed by their casting, with one sporting a pencil stabbed into the top. Harsh. A crew of rubber gym balls congregated below the tables, all hemmed in by black office chairs and a sterile atmosphere. Some people even live like this. The German culture minister Monika Grütters, she of the controversial push for a law to curtail exports of art and antiquities from the country, stopped by to have a gander with an accompanying entourage of officious looking peeps. Collectors Karen and Christian Boros seemed charmed by the install as well.

Left: Texte zur Kunst editor in chief Carly Busta. Right: DIS's Marco Roso and Lauren Boyle.


Twilight! Mathew Gallery opened an exhibition of new paintings by Richard Phillips that engage the legacy of Gerhard Richter, and while women still haunt the pictures, now they’ve been pushed into the background, drifting underneath a highly complex over-layer that takes on “a veil of valuation about an artistic language.” I bounced to Isabella Bortolozzi for Oscar Murillo’s latest diegesis, where a major queue had already formed for his boot-camp menagerie with a pungent environmental aroma surrounding bare metal bunk frames, shoving the beds we don’t have to sleep on into our faces. I walked a few blocks to Ed Fornieles’s show at Arratia Beer, where I found a video—which also watches you via a surveillance camera—a vegetable cart, and backlit, 3-D-printed figurines in glass cases. The vegetables will be replaced throughout the show and the old ones will be made into new works, as he told me later over a glass of still water at the spa. I went to Buchholz, where Wolfgang Tillmans was showing photos based on his own studio, only to discover that my own battery was kaput. Sometimes the soul wants to party but the body just screams and dies anyway.

Saturday morning: Alive but just barely, I slouched to KW Institute as I heard there was to be a performance. Finding none, I took time to be entranced by Lawrence Lek’s video and accompanying video game installation, Berlin Mirror (2042 Retrospective). Down the road, Hiwa K’s show at KOW featured videos of the artist dancing flamenco on the grounds of a former Iraqi prison used by Saddam Hussein as a base for torture. Dealer Raphael Oberhuber gave us the backstory: The artist emigrated to Germany via the same route refugees are taking today through Greece, and a pair working for the Red Cross happened to come into the gallery a few days prior and recognize the man who filmed the second video in the gallery of the last day of Iraq’s own protest movement during the Arab Spring. That man was since captured by ISIS, and now is forced to do photography and propaganda for them, but the gallerygoers have vowed to try and find and rescue him.

Back around KW and the galleries on Mitte’s Linienstraße, the ambling crowds blended in well with the al fresco diners. I was surrounded by leisure—terrifying. But on to dinner! Waiting to ascend the boat that would take a motley assortment of artists, dealers, and collectors to the Altes Kraftwerk on the outskirts of town for the annual Gala, Société’s Daniel Wichelhaus handed down from on high a Petra Cortright x Société energy drink—or prosecco, who can tell the difference?—which held me through the normally triggering experience of boating.

Left: Chateau Shatto's Nelson Harmon and artist Hayal Pozanti. Right: Silberkuppe's Michel Ziegler and Dominic Eichler.


After disembarking and securing passage through several checkpoints, Cruse gave a welcome speech applauding this year as “the strongest edition yet,” saying “we’re here to celebrate the artists” in a place abandoned for twenty years. Plunking into a seat across from Texte zur Kunst’s editor in chief Carly Busta and nearby DIS’s Marco Roso, and Lauren Boyle—who recently had twins!—I learned that the upcoming Berlin Biennale—or simply BB9—would be titled “The Present in Drag.” Charming, and we were certainly all in our best adult professional drag that night. As the night wore on, though, it started to feel a little heavy, too creasy and oily, so I shucked mine and ran off with DIS’s Ada O’Higgins and Ed Fornieles to the afterparty next door.

Partying in Berlin, like dying, is an art, and Berliners do it especially well. One doesn’t fuck around here. Instead one must stride forward with purpose and fortitude and find out who your man’s going to be—this is the First Quarter. After you’ve had your fill of a current setting’s social potential, to say nothing of dessert, you roundly denounce the scene into which you’ve been cast and decamp for higher—or lower, depending on how you roll— ground. A site of historical trauma and betrayed ideology works well for the latter, as in the case of Bortolozzi and Galerie NEU’s afterparty at Funkhaus, which used to be the very unfunky GDR communications headquarters. The lobbies were fantastic—those Reds had a way with interior design—and the music was DJ WOF.

I wandered out to the back and powwowed with some locals and their campfire. Not up to fetch another dried Christmas tree from the nearby dark, leafy grove to stoke the fire, I slunk back to the shindig which had not more than a few similarities to an open-studio night at a grim but highly conceptual art school. We were in the waxing gibbous phase, that time of night when one simply affirms, you’ll say yes to anything. At dawn, the remainders sashayed away with the confidence that only comes to those who have spent the entire night making merry, or Schadenfreude, all over a grave marker to a totalitarian regime.

Now it was that time of a night (and morning) when you enter denial. It was also May Day. I taxied to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 6:30 AM Brutally Early Club meeting down the block from Gorlitzer park in Kreuzberg. I arrived (too) early. Fornieles wouldn’t shut up about duvets, and eventually it seemed too brutal to stay, so I left only a token of global capitalism’s hegemony behind for the woke to contemplate. Workers of the world unite and take over.

Paige K. Bradley

Left: Artist Richard Phillips and Mathew Gallery's David Lieske. Right: Texte zur Kunst publisher Isabelle Graw with architect Jakob Lehrecke. (Photo: David Lieske)


“B” Here Now

Brussels
04.28.16

Left: Art Brussels artistic director Katerina Gregos. Right: Dealer and Independent cofounder Elizabeth Dee (middle) with artist collective Leo Gabin (from left to right: Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem, and Robin De Vooght). (All photos: Julian Elias Bronner)


WHETHER BRUSSELS IS THE “NEW BERLIN,” your “B-sides” (ŕ la artist Megan Marrin), or a “hellhole” (ŕ la Trump), it’s certainly a destination, especially in the spring, when the de facto capital of Europe draws thousands to its annual Brussels Art Week. Just ask newcomer (but not outsider) Elizabeth Dee, who enthusiastically jumped the gun this year by inaugurating Independent on Wednesday, twenty-four hours before the preview of its more established competitor, Art Brussels. Held in the modernist Vanderborght building––beautifully renovated by Bart Biermans of HUB architecture––in the heart of downtown Brussels, the first Belgian edition of New York’s international club of cool galleries and their artists wowed visitors with its attention to detail and its unorthodox open plan.

Following artist Sarah Ortmeyer’s suggestion, I went straight to the top––where else?––and made my way down Guggenheim NY style. Like in that Frank Lloyd Wright–designed edifice, sight lines bled from one into the other in well-curated conversations among booths, bodies, and works and across the central five-story atrium. Among those that held most in my mind were Melike Kara’s oil-stick and acrylic Plexiglas paintings suspended in space at Peres Projects; Joël Andrianomearisoa’s deconstructed tapestries made in Creuse, France, at MAGNIN-A; Lukas Trevisani’s diptych addressing fantasy and extinction––bought by supercollector Gil Bronner––at Mehdi Chouakri; publisher Triangle Books’ editions of Jacques André books in “unemployment-stamp blue” exhibited with price tags and receipts; and Doug Ashford’s scanned and Photoshopped September 11, 2001 issue of the New York Times, using abstraction as a tool for consolation and solace with tragedy and instability at Wilfried Lentz. In short, Independent could hardly be considered a satellite fair (or a colonial invader); rather, it was a gathering of like minds that run according to their own stellar orbit.

Left: Independent artistic director and director of White Columns Matthew Higgs with dealer Maureen Paley. Right: C L E A R I N G’s Olivier Babin and artist Daniel Dewar.


Nevertheless, I love a good comeback story, and in her final year as Art Brussels’s artistic director, Katerina Gregos delivered. Having left her post to devote more time to independent projects, the curator (who just last year managed both Venice’s Belgian pavilion and the Thessaloniki Biennial) is leaving an improved fair in her wake. Moved out of its old location near the faraway Atomium to a more easily accessible home at Tour & Taxis, the thirty-fourth edition of the fair surprised many who thought the previous day had already determined the winner of the supposed territorial catfight. “There seems to be room enough for everyone in Brussels,” remarked 11R Gallery’s Augusto Arbizo at the VIP opening, where visitors were greeted first with the “Discovery” section of young and newly participating galleries. Having shed more than fifty booths from last year’s edition, Art Brussels looked tighter in content and quality than the two previous years. And trust me, it’s a cute look.

“It makes the galleries nervous when someone walks into a booth with black fingernails,” said newly manicured artist Kendall Geers, on this year’s jury for best stand. Winner BWA Warszawa was certainly striking, with Karol Radziszewski’s paintings which proffer the Aryan ubermensch as a homoerotic object for the viewer’s gaze, while Ewa Axelrad’s partially figurative sculptures explored the limitations between protection and aggression of the body. Sexy. Krištof Kintera’s sixteen-foot-tall sculpture of Saint Christopher made with 350 lamps at D+T Project was not to be missed, as well as Levi van Veluw’s illusory, optical installation of tumbling spheres at Ron Mandos. There was also Shaun Gladwell’s homage to Minimalism and skateboarding at Analix Forever, complete with a recurring performance around the perimeter of a square ŕ la Bruce Nauman, and Philipp Birch’s sculptures of Cronenberg body horror meets Ed Atkins–esque hyperreality. But the highlight was the elegant selection of gems from the collection of recently late curator and SMAK founder Jan Hoet. Curated by Gregos, “Cabinet d’amis: The Accidental Collection of Jan Hoet” featured works made mostly through the enthusiast’s close relationships with artists. It was an elegant meditation on a life that’s contributed so much to what Belgium’s contemporary art scene is today.

Left: Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick with artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood. Right: Curators Marc-Olivier Wahler and Andrea Bellini.


At a local costume party celebrating one month since the attacks in Brussels––tragicomedy is a Belgian specialty––I lost both my credit card and my voice. But when drinks are free and talk is cheap, who cares? A dinner for Marina Pinksy and her surveillance-conscious photography at C L E A R I N G was made the more mirthful by an impromptu, slapstick performance by dealer Charles Antoine Bodson. A pizza party for Mark Dion’s new phosphorescent sculptures at Walburger Wouters was the prelude to party at collector Tobias Arndt’s, and a traditional dinner of Belgian fare at the classic Taverne du Passage applauded Sahra Motalebi’s haunting performance at Foundation Boghossian at the Villa Empain. Brunch at Almine Rech gallery to view Jean-Baptiste Bernadet’s new series of beautifully installed paintings transported me to the light and atmosphere of Monet’s panoramas at L’Orangerie. And a dîner ŕ l’aise downstairs at chez Gladstone and in its adjacent garden for Ugo Rondinone and his forty-seven plaster fish in bronze brought some real feelings to the table: “In New York there’d be more artists at this dinner. Here it’s mostly rich, older white men,” lamented Taylor Trabulus of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Gurl, I feel your pain.

Those in the know found respite at 10 Galerie de la Reine, where local artist-run space Établissement d’En Face set up shop as a secret restaurant and dance party for the week in the apartment of artist Alex Morrison (who took it over from Lucy McKenzie). Rachida Ait-Ali acted as doorwoman and a force to be reckoned with, while artist Filip Gilissen mixed drinks and DJ’d old-school Prince (RIP) and hip-hop so good a cameo from the police couldn’t shut us down. Frequent faces included local artists Pieter Vermeersch, Zin Taylor, and Sean Crossley, as well as Gavin Brown’s table-dancing Thor Shannon––art dealer by day, art cheerleader by night (not my words). By Saturday, the secret had got out, and I overheard one young, fashionable curator from New York whine, “We don’t know anybody here. Let’s go.” While the tourists trickled out, the insiders, including the inimitable Gregos herself, stuck around and danced till sunrise. And wouldn’t you have too, if only you were that cool?

Julian Elias Bronner

Left: Dealers Thor Shannon of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Francesca Kaufmann of Kauffmann Repetto. Right: Frances Fuchs-Young, artist Ann Grimm, and dealer Chantal Crousel.


On the Ball

New York
04.23.16

Left: Artist Mickalene Thomas. Right: Artist Tom Sachs, philanthropist Stephanie Ingrassia, and Swizz Beatz. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


THE KEY WORD for the sixth Brooklyn Artists Ball was vanilla.

It’s not that Wednesday’s annual gala at the Brooklyn Museum was a white-bread affair. Diversity, if not parity, distinguished the 750 collectors and artist guests. I am referring to the evening’s dress code: WHITE HOT.

“You’ll see why when we go in for dinner,” said Anne Pasternak of her first gala since becoming the museum’s director. After twenty-five years’ experience heading up fundraisers for Creative Time, Pasternak was accustomed to the rigors of New York social life. But Brooklyn’s requires some getting used to.

“It’s too early for white,” wailed the collector Jamie Hort, echoing the sentiments of a number of others present, most of whom complied. “I can’t even imagine you in white,” Jeffrey Deitch told Vito Acconci, the Brooklyn-based artist-turned-architect who appeared in his uniform black-on-black. (Deitch wore a navy blue suit, as did the other man in Acconci’s party, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach.)

Kasseem Dean, the Bronx-born board member better known as Swizz Beatz, split the difference with a black-and-white, floral-patterned dinner jacket with lapels so wide and pointy that they nearly grazed his shoulders. “Tom Ford,” he said, sounding as if he were apologizing for his extravagance. (He must still be unaccustomed to the art world.)

Left: Collector Tiffany Zabludowicz. Right: Artists Pattie Cronin, Fred Tomaselli, and Deborah Kass with Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak.


Other gala-goers also bucked the crema tide but not enough to imply that this was the tide-bucking Brooklyn of Bernie Sanders, who had rallied so many thousands in the borough before losing the New York primary to Hillary Clinton just the day before. “I’m tired after yesterday,” said Laurie Cumbo, who represents the museum’s district on the New York City Council. “But it’s all great.”

It was only a week into Nancy Spector’s job as the Brooklyn Museum’s chief curator, and a day after news broke that one of her parting shots from a seventeen-year run at the Guggenheim Museum was to bring Maurizio Cattelan out of retirement to install (permanently) an eighteen-karat gold toilet in a rotunda bathroom. She flashed a broad grin. “The timing was incredible,” she said, referring to Donald Trump’s taste for gold bathroom fixtures. What will she bring to Brooklyn?

This was not my first Artists Ball. Yet at no time in the evening could I shake the feeling that I had crossed from Manhattan to Brooklyn and somehow landed out of town.

“We live in Long Island,” said Jill Bernstein, another board member and, according to Tiffany Zabludowicz, the person who got her mother started as an art collector. “It’s true,” Bernstein told the younger Zabludowicz. “And your father is still speaking to me.”

Left: Con Edison arts and culture manager Alton Murray and New York City Council member (35th District, Brooklyn) Laurie Cumbo. Right: Brooklyn Museum chief curator Nancy Spector and artist Duke Riley.


We were standing in the museum’s lobby, where curator Eugenie Tsai had arrayed the eighteen, jerry-built works in “Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective, 1999–2016,” and where they looked better than anywhere else to date.

Super huge plywood speakers stood on either side of a bar that bore the presidential seal, kitted out for the night with the decks where Swizz Beatz would guest DJ the after-dinner dance party. The speakers, dealer Sarah Hoover (Sachs’s wife) told me, replicated the ones Hitler used for rallies. Same dimensions, different materials—cut-up wooden barriers stolen from Con Edison construction sites. I wondered how Alton Murray, Con Ed’s arts and culture manager, felt about that?

Off the lobby, artist Will Cotton manned a booth to make Polaroid portraits of guests, while cocktails were served by waiters in white Tyvek lab coats contributed by Sachs, who was enjoying his de facto opening despite having to shepherd his parents through the crowd. Such is the life of a man in demand. Sachs currently has another exhibition at the Noguchi Museum, where his “Tea Ceremony” represents the institution’s first solo by an artist other than Noguchi. And coming up he has yet another show, “Nuggets,” with Deitch.

“Hi, Tom!” shouted out Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and his wife Karin, both dressed in twin Tyvek suits in Sachs’s honor.

Left: Artist Sanford Biggers with photographer Mangue Banz, and Westfield World Trade Center Art Initiative director Isolde Brielmaier. Right: Courtney Crangi and Jenna Lyons.


Yet this Artists Ball weirdly had no artist honorees. Instead, accolades went to collectors Tim and Stephanie Ingrassia. She is the museum board’s president. He cochairs the global mergers and acquisitions division of Goldman Sachs. They live in Brooklyn.

Why did that feel clubbier than the Artists Ball I attended a few years ago, when a troupe of Brooklyn-based female artists not only anchored the dinner tables but also created the sculptures that were their centerpieces? This time out, a professional event designer, David Stark, fulfilled that task—with towering, Brancusi-inspired columns of stacked rolls of toilet tissue and paper towels. All would be remaindered to the museum’s bathrooms once the dinner was done.

That was economical, at least—they were actual rolls, not gold ones—but they caught the spirit. Many people thought Sachs had done them—at his studio, visitors ring a doorbell labeled BRANCUSI—but if he had been the hand behind the columns, no doubt he would have fashioned his own toilet paper out of duct tape and Styrofoam. After all, he’s an artist. The idea is not to pander but to transform.

And transformation is what Pasternak has been after. Already, she announced, the museum’s staff had reconfigured the Egyptian, European, and American art wings, which were open for the evening. The install is certainly cleaner—the American galleries seemed almost austere, not counting the large glitter portrait of a reclining woman by Mickalene Thomas that so dominates one of the galleries that the older paintings there look inconsequential. (They’re not.) The collection show spilled out into an exhibition of raucous color by graffiti artist Stephen Powers.

Left: Collectors Jay Bernstein and Jill Berstein. Right: Actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia.


Anyway, this was a fundraiser and it got the job done, bringing in $2.2. million. (Tables went from $15,000 to $100,000; individual tickets, for $1,500.) And Pasternak carried over a booster video of a sort that sometimes featured at her Creative Time benefits. This one was shot at the museum and featured the director, dealer Lucien Terras, and Sachs cavorting through white-walled galleries with white-garbed dancers.

That was fun, and most of all, very professional.

When I left, DJ Runna was on the decks, Swizz Beatz was holding the mic, and the dance floor back in the lobby was filling up with young people. That was fun too. And felt a little more like home.

Linda Yablonsky

Big Game

Dallas
04.22.16

Left: Artist Paola Pivi, Karma Lama, and Massimo De Carlo's Ludovica Barbieri at Dallas Contemporary. (Except where noted, all photos: Alex Fialho) Right: Dallas Art Fair cofounder Chris Byrne. (Photo: Kelly Cornell)


ANSWERS TO MY QUESTION “What’s the biggest thing at the Dallas Art Fair?” ranged widely: “Socialite updos.” “Plastic surgery bills.” “Howard Rachofsky’s impressive art collection.” “Howard Rachofsky’s checkbook.” “Paola Pivi’s airplane sculpture.” “The Dallas Arts District.” “Stefan Simchowitz’s ego.” “Dan Colen’s paintings.” “Dan Colen’s…” well, let’s just say feet. All, save the last, were on exorbitant display during the eighth Dallas Art Fair last weekend. Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Early talk around the fair dilated on outfits for Thursday night’s preview gala. “I just came from Art Basel Hong Kong, and by comparison Dallas—the colors, the dresses, the bling—feels like being on LSD,” joked Gagosian’s George Armaos. With the first season of Real Housewives of Dallas premiering on Bravo earlier in the week, you could have mistaken opening night for a Season Two casting call.

Over-the-top outfits aside, the Dallas collector community should be commended for its civic-minded disposition and collaborative attitude to charitable causes. The Rachofskys lead the way in this regard, hosting the longstanding annual TWO x TWO fundraiser supporting AIDS research. And in 2005, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky, along with other mega-collectors Deedie and Rusty Rose and Marguerite and Robert Hoffman, announced the eventual donation of their collections to the Dallas Museum of Art. This energy of coming together to lift up the city’s art scene was an ebullient throughline to the weekend.

Left: Collector Howard Rachofsky with his Thomas Schutte sculpture at The Warehouse. Right: Cernuda Arte’s Luisa Lignarolo.


An influential new initiative, the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition Program, extended the synergy between collectors and the Dallas Art Museum. The program provides the DMA with $50,000 in acquisition funds, from which they made a smart selection of works from four artists / galleries: Lina Puerta’s collagraphs from Geary Contemporary in New York City, Merlin James’s gorgeous frame painting from Kerlin Gallery in Dublin, Michelle Grabner’s bronze sculpture from Green Gallery in Milwaukee, and Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s gridded funerary relic from Lawrie Shabibi in Dubai.

Lawrie Shabibi cofounder William Lawrie said the DMA initiative brought incredible amounts of attention to their booth (weavings by Farhad Ahrarnia were also noteworthy). He extolled Dallas collectors’ real investment as well as sense of humor and lack of pretension. “They are really into taking the piss here in Dallas.”

But the weekend’s most talked-about moment came Saturday afternoon with the Nasher Sculpture Center’s star-studded “Agents, Advisors, Devils, and Apostates: The New Art World,” a panel featuring dealer Paul Schimmel, Amy Cappellazzo, and collector Stefan Simchowitz, moderated by writer Sarah Thornton. One got the sense that Cappellazzo and Schimmel would have happily towed the party line had it not been for lightning rod Simchowitz challenging them (or, more accurately, cutting them off) at every turn. On-stage eye-rolling abounded, including during Schimmel and Thornton’s important defense of traditional channels for scholarship and legitimation via public institutions, against Simchowitz’s posturing for an amoral art world “flattening” cultural distribution between collectors and museums. Despite Simchowitz’s imploring the panel to talk about something other than Warhol and Jeff Koons, the conversation continually returned to none other than… Jeff Koons. “Koons turns those fabricators into his bitches,” at one point Schimmel said, unfortunately, to which Cappellazzo coolly quipped: “God bless the bitches.”

Left: Collector Stefan Simchowitz, dealer Paul Schimmel, Amy Cappellazzo, and writer Sarah Thornton. Right: Artist Dan Colen with dealer Sam Orlofsky.


Unsurprisingly, Cappellazzo’s intelligence and economic acumen impressed throughout, and at one point she described the free-for-all as a “semiotic unfolding of the theatrics of a panel.” Yet she lost points with some when she claimed, “I feel sorry for lots of artists. Just because you weren’t good at math doesn’t mean you don’t need to understand the laws of supply and demand and business tenets to help the way you strategize your making of things.” Talk after the event was divided: Multiple artists said they left early, one calling it “soul-sucking.” Art advisor John Connelly called it “seminal.” More than anything, I found myself questioning the central perspective: If “The New Art World” is one of “Agents, Advisors, Devils and Apostates,” where exactly are the artists?

I was rushed off to Southern Methodist University by Noah Simblist, whip-smart chair of the university’s art department, to answer just that question. The SMU MFA thesis show, with tongue-in-cheek, absurdist performance-based work and a collaborative exhibition model, could not have felt more removed from the fair. I just missed Andy Davis’s performance, but was partly relieved for the scheduling conflict; perhaps without hearing Cappellazzo’s strategizing “advice,” the bank accounts of these young artists won’t rival those of their more commercially minded counterparts. But I left encouraged by their distance from the up-front commodification just down the road.

Artist-run spaces are vital in Dallas—the fair probably could have done a better job incorporating these local voices, platforms, and programming. Most impressive was CentralTrak, an artist residency and exhibition space now in its tenth year, partly affiliated with the University of Texas Dallas. Run by the charismatic Heyd Fontenot, CentralTrak’s “visual arts roast” exhibition of longtime Dallas artist duo and couple Brian Scott and Brian Jones displayed camaraderie and community perspective. Fontenot hilariously equated the Dallas art scene’s communal vibe with Amish barn-building: “I can’t build a barn on my own, so this week let’s build my space, and next week I’ll help build and support yours.”

Other notable on-the-ground spaces included the artist-run Beefhaus, the Power Station exhibition platform, the Reading Room project space, and the Wilcox Space, dedicated to the legacy of late Dallas-based artist John Wilcox. And this was just in the Fair Park/Deep Ellum neighborhood; other Dallas artist haunts include the Bishop Arts District and the Cedars. An Uber Hummer (only in Texas) delivered us back to the area for the “That That” party on Saturday, bringing the locals together until the wee hours of the morning.

Left: The Brians in their exhibition at CentralTrak. (Photo: Wayne Scott McDaniel) Right: CentralTrak’s Heyd Fontenot.


At the other end of the spectrum, the ritzy spectacle of the Joule Hotel’s Eye Ball rubbed many the wrong way. Can we all agree that gala planners should stop the rampant “people-as-sculptures” performance “concept”? Thanks in advance. A more creative party came in the form of artist Oliver Clegg’s rotating table sculpture for dealer Erin Cluley’s dinner, changing positions every twenty minutes and providing a welcome reprieve from unideal seating assignments.

By the end, every dealer I spoke with seemed happy with sales, and most were keen to return. A standout moment was self-taught Joe Minter’s assemblage sculpture from his expansive yard show “African Village in America” in Birmingham, Alabama, exhibited by Shrine’s Scott Ogden. Positioned at the fair’s entrance, Minter’s recast metal sculptures from basketball hoops, shovels, iron links, and more foregrounded the insidious history of slavery, described by Minter as the “trail of chains and shackles of American history.” The Met corroborates Minter’s significance, having recently acquired multiple Minter sculptures from the visionary Bill Arnett’s Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Cernuda Arte’s display of Cuban art including Wilfredo Lam and Robert Fabelo was another highlight, contexualizing their artists with labels and photographic portraits. I learned more in their booth alone than I did at the hip opening at Dallas Contemporary, whose trio of exhibitions of Dan Colen, Paola Pivi, and Helmut Lang filled the former factory with large-scale work. There we got to consider the range of Colen’s painting practice and also take in one of the first installations of Pivi’s Untitled (airplane) since Pivi was awarded the Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Biennale.

There’s still much to learn when it comes to these freewheeling social and speculative affairs. As Cappellazzo concluded at the Nasher: “The marketplace is the most interesting place right now. There isn’t a single area of cultural production unaffected by this moment of wild transition. The music industry already had it. Publishing, boy have they had it. The art world is next. Stay tuned.”

Alex Fialho

Left: Helmut Lang Sculpture at Dallas Contemporary. Right: Dallas Art Fair cofounder John Sughrue, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, and Dallas Museum of Art's Gavin Delahunty. (Photo: Daniel Driensky)


Seventh Heaven

Glasgow
04.20.16

Left: Actors Ande Pramuk and Catalin Jugravu with playwright/designer/director Leila Hekmat and actors Magdalena Mitterhofer and Roman Ole. Right: Glasgow International director Sarah McCrory. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


NO VIP TOUR. You picked up your map and your program on your own time and devised your own hunt for treasure among the ninety exhibitions and events taking place in the seventh Glasgow International.

In her second outing as director, former Frieze Projects curator Sarah McCrory worked with a staff of six to construct a bootstrapping, urban exposition in seventy-five sites around this hilly, Charles Rennie Mackintosh–appointed city on the River Clyde. No frills. No usual suspects.

The biennial revealed itself slowly—not just in art spaces like the Common Guild and the Kelvingrove or Hunterian galleries but in shop windows, the ruin of a church, a public library, a graveyard, a roller rink, in drafty warehouses, storage units, bars, schools, theaters, and even in private apartments.

In fact, this sprawling festival of visual art may be the homiest biennial ever to hit the world stage—through almost entirely local means. Actually, it was more like a referendum on biennials. And why they matter to small cities like this.

Most of the free-admission show’s two hundred artists come from the UK, evidently a requirement of its civic and arts council funders. That left it to galleries and to exhibitions that McCrory organized for her Director’s Program to bring in the foreign nationals.

Left: Artists Alexandra Bircken and Monika Sosnowska. Right: Artist Anne Hardy.


Mostly, this GI was about giving someone else a chance. No matter where they came from, that someone usually was a woman.

Quite literally, in the days following the April 7th professional preview, I could have counted the male artists selected to show on one hand. McCrory insisted that her biennial was not estrogen-heavy by design. “But,” she said, “I’m not against it.”

Nor was anyone else who came for the opening weekend that followed. Collectors and dealers were a small minority. Mainly, visitors were curators— – from Europe, Africa, and the US as well as the UK—or artists. That kept the general conversation focused on the subjects at hand—art, Glasgow, biennials—rather than the market. For Americans like me, the experience came with a bonus: For the first time in many months, I did not hear Donald Trump’s name mentioned once.

In the magnificent central hall of the Mitchell Library, the Canadian-born nomad Tamara Henderson had erected a garden of tall scarecrows to represent the seasons and phases of the moon. Each was sprouting plants and was costumed in hand-sewn, embroidered, and collaged fabrics that Henderson accumulated at residencies from Istanbul to Hospitalfields in Arbroath, Scotland. “You use what’s around,” she said, ducking into a hut with canvas walls that she painted to look like scratched negatives and that she made into a darkroom for developing images taken on site by a pinhole camera hidden in a pail.

Her show quickly became a popular social arena, no drinks allowed. There was a coffee bar, at least, at the festival hub, where several galleries were clustered. A new, dystopian sculpture by Monika Sosnowska—the black steel bones of a collapsed house by the utopian Polish architect Oskar Hansen—filled the Modern Institute space on Aird’s Lane with constructivist melancholy.

Left: Art patron Charles Asprey and artist Martin Boyce. Right: Dealer Toby Webster.


On a street corner in front of the gallery was an Instagram-ready road sign planted by Jeremy Deller. It read, BRIAN EPSTEIN DIED FOR YOU. That got a nod of recognition from Mary Zlot, the San Francisco–based collector and art advisor, who was visiting Glasgow for the first time in thirty years, accompanied by Gagosian director Robin Vousden.

It’s a wonder more people don’t come this way more often. Glasgow may be off the beaten track, but that’s one of its attractions, along with hundreds of artists—many of them graduates of the storied Glasgow School of Art—and occasional sunshine.

At the Glasgow Print Studio, Nicolas Party had painted the walls not in his customary bright colors but with gray and black designs to offset his first-ever show of mezzotints. Down the hall was Project Ability, a nonprofit for adults with mental or physical disabilities equivalent to San Francisco’s Creative Growth and New York’s Healing Arts Initiative.

From the latter, White Columns director Matthew Higgs brought portraits of bearded men by Derrick Alexis Coard to a show designed by Jim Lambie, who set colored balls into the walls to echo the drawings. But it was the affable Project Ability artist Cameron Morgan who took the cake with paintings of television shows like Tarzan, The A-Team, and Teletubbies. There was a show for each decade since the 1930s, each depicted on TVs that Morgan painted on wallpaper patterns he adapted from the style of each period. “I’m obsessed with television,” said the artist, who also makes ceramics and obviously has a feel for décor.

At Mary Mary, where dealer Hannah Robinson was showing popish paintings by New Yorker Emily Mae Smith, I ran into dealer Curt Marcus and Marrakech Biennial founder Vanessa Branson before moving next door to Matthew Smith’s debut with Koppe-Astner.

Left: Dealer Sylvia Kouvali and Jupiter Artland Foundation program coordinator John Heffernan. Right: Artist Cosima von Bonin.


Across a pedestrian bridge that would suit any cold-war spy movie was, by all accounts, the festival’s biggest surprise: a galvanizing loan show of paintings and books by the early twentieth-century eccentric, Louis Michel Eilshemius.

What was this doing here? Well, said artist Merlin James, who took it upon himself to bring the show to the house he shares with the unjustly underrecognized painter Carol Rhodes, “I think of Eilshemius as our eternal contemporary.”

Rhodes was also in the International. Andrew Mummery presented her paintings ( aerial views of construction sites), in a former courthouse undergoing inevitable conversion to gentrified apartments. It was right across the road from a forbidding, Brutalist jail. Talk about human intervention in nature.

After hitting a two-man show of sculpture and video by Toby Christian and Duncan Marquiss that took up an unheated townhouse, we reached the Glasgow Sculpture Studios in time for the cocktail opening of “You Be Frank and I’ll Be Earnest,” an ingenious pairing (by the nonprofit’s director, Kyla McDonald) of two women in residence, the veteran Liz Magor (another Canadian) and a young New Yorker, Alisa Baremboym. “It’s all about permeability and leakage,” Baremboym said of her vaguely feminine, steel, resin, and shrink-wrapped sculpture. “Can you guess which is Frank and which is Earnest?” McDonald quipped.

I hustled through an April shower to the Gallery of Modern Art, where McCrory was opening a mini-retrospective of deep sea–themed sculpture by Cosima von Bonin. The artist, in a hot pink fright wig, was recording a performance by a dance company called HotNuts on her iPhone, while Jamie Crewe (aka Poisonous Relationship) serenaded the large crowd while strolling through it.

Left: Dealer Nicky Verber. Right: Artist Duncan Campbell and Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi.


An impromptu cocktail party was soon underway at Regano, a nearby pub that reminded me somehow of Harry’s Bar in Venice. It must have been the crowd—the Modern Institute’s Toby Webster and Andrew Hamilton, dealers Sylvia Kouvali and Nicky Verber, Nottingham Contemporary curator Sam Thorne, The Gentlewoman editor-in-chief Penny Martin. Most would be among the thirty guests (including artists Alexandra Bircken, Sosnowska, and Deller) whom Webster and Hamilton invited to an informal dinner at an Indian restaurant that served long, thin tubes of the biggest papadums I’ve ever seen.

This was more like an art-fair social. At 10 PM, we peeled off for the GI’s opening party, a blowout at the School of Art that featured a psychedelic performance by Mega Hammer. Choreographed and designed by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, it suggested an evening at Burning Man crossed with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Next morning, a Friday, I woke up just in time for the lunch that Verber was giving at Gandolfi Fish for Bircken, whom McCrory had included in the group show opening that evening at Tramway. We arrived there in the silent hour before the opening, so we had the vast central hall of the former rail hub more or less to ourselves.

As the exhibition’s designer, artist Martin Boyce had divided the space into a generous maze of corrugated fiberglass screens. At one end were Bircken’s “trollies”—shelving systems of reclaimed steel rods, tree branches, nets, and wood planks set on the old tracks. They lead to a floor-to-ceiling, primary colored “chandelier” of gathered wool by Sheila Hicks, who also filled the old rails with red, yellow, and blue threads and sandbagged a wall with thick mounds of the wool. Pretty great.

Left: Artists Lawrence Lek and Amie Siegel. Right: Stedelijk Museum curator Bart van der Heide.


An animation by Lawrence Lek that was playing in an alcove told the story of a fictional voyage of the QE2 cruise ship from the Suez Canal, past boatloads of Syrian refugees, and back to Glasgow, where it was built, and replaces the School of Art’s Mackintosh building, which nearly burned down in a 2014 fire. (It’s now undergoing restoration.) Videos by Amie Siegel and Mika Rottenberg round out the show. Previously seen in New York, they were a revelation to fresh eyes here.

The evening brought openings curated by Lambie for two storage spaces beneath the arches of a railroad bridge in Finnieston, an industrial wasteland. For one, he contributed cut-up pieces of furniture and a silver foil couch to photographs by Royal Trux vocalist Jennifer Herrema, who also sent a scatter of wigs and doll parts. Every picture had a sculpture extending from it like the choo-choo flying out of the fireplace in René Magritte’s painting.

After Sosnowska’s opening at the Modern Institute, the gallery hosted the biggest dinner of the week in a decommissioned church designed by Mackintosh. Need I say it was gorgeous? I’ll say it anyway. It was gorgeous. And the farm-to-table food by a local caterer was delicious. Anyone not too drunk to go on made off for Lambie’s Poetry Club, a double-height nightclub in another arch down the street from his gallery, the Voidoid.

The rest of the weekend was about flaneuring through neighborhoods east (where Sol Calero outfitted David Dale Gallery with a set for a telenovela serial) and west, where Crabshakk emerged as the best seafood lunch counter on earth.

Saturday morning found me in Asprey’s company at Kelvin Hall, where the sound of a fife-and-drum parade on the street outside elevated our visit to a sculptural installation by Claire Barclay and a show of suspended paintings on unstretched canvas by Helen Johnson that—with Henderson’s exhibition, the one at Tramway, and a group of ceramics by Aaron Angell in a botanic garden—won the consensus as the top draws of the biennial.

Left: Glasgow Sculpture Studio director Kyla McDonald with artists Liz Magor and Alisa Baremboym. Right: Dealer Pauline Daly.


My own favorite moments came with under-the-radar biennial projects that summed up the whole experience: Young artists unaffiliated with any galleries doing it for themselves.

First, I stumbled on ’Scape, a startling installation of painting, photography, and sculpture in a townhouse near the University of Glasgow, where three young women (former schoolmates Ruth Switalski, Marion Ferguson and Belinda Gilbert Scott) had established a nonprofit exhibition space to show the work of other emergent talents as well as their own. I thought it was fabulous.

Even more fun was Sam Venables, a young woman with a mop of yellow hair who calls herself a “visual merchandiser.” She was launching a new company, It’s Friday, by inviting four young collectives from around the UK to make work for the windows of vacant, street-level storefronts below a parking garage next to a McDonald’s.

“This one got me into so much trouble with the tabloids,” Venables said of a storefront full of cardboard boxes by Littlewhitehead of Glasgow. Flopped between them were the bodies of four men in jeans and hoodies, either passed out or dead. (They were actually dummies, but they looked mighty real.) “Kids love it,” Venables told me, “but the neighbors called the police and tried to put up barriers.”

This is a good kind of trouble. “I think the biennial gives you a feeling of optimism,” said Sylvia Kouvali on Sunday afternoon, when curator John Heffernan drove us to Jupiter Art Land, a sculpture park outside of Edinburgh on the 120-acre estate of collectors Nicky and Robert Wilson. Stedelijk Museum curator Bart van der Heide rode shotgun.

Left: Hospitalfield director Lucy Byatt and artist Tamara Henderson. Right: DJ Johnnie Wilkes.


The idea, Heffernan said, was to commission site-specific work from artists who have never made work for outdoors or are new to the scene. They didn’t all fit that bill, but it didn’t matter. Among the park’s works was a cemetery (by Nathan Coley) that van der Heide deemed “creepy,” a Temple of Apollo by Ian Hamilton Finlay, and an earthwork by Charles Jencks. Our hands-down favorites were the stones Andy Goldsworthy set into coppiced trees, and a ravishing cave of amethyst crystals topped with obsidian rocks by Anya Gallaccio.

After a rapid tour of the once-every-five-year British Art Show in Edinburgh, I raced back to Koppe-Astner in Glasgow to join Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi for the final performance of The French Mistake, a three-character musical play directed and designed by the Berlin-based American, Leila Hekmat. It owed a considerable debt to the camp of Jack Smith, but what the hell. I’m all for keeping transgression alive and well.

That evening, McCrory invited visiting curators and artists to a farewell dinner with local dealers at Drygate Brewery. It felt like a meeting of great minds dedicated to a common purpose—advancing contemporary art over beer and burgers.

“The point isn’t just to shake things up,” McCrory said of her youthful show. “The point is to show what’s already here.”

Linda Yablonsky