COLUMNS

  • Passages

    GERMANO CELANT

    PARIS, JUNE 1981. Germano Celant and I are drinking at a bar after the opening of his exhibition “Identité italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959” (Italian Identity. Art in Italy Since 1959) at the Centre Pompidou. He points to a young woman on a banquette, engaged in intense conversation. “That’s Ingrid Sischy, the new editor of Artforum,” he said. “I’ll introduce you.” That introduction transformed my life.

    Germano and Ingrid changed the magazine forever. They were perfect partners, truly phenomenal, each bringing out the best in the other. She: street-smart, a voracious consumer of the present

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  • Passages

    GERMANO CELANT

    THERE ARE ENDLESS STORIES about Germano Celant, the truly imposing impresario who died of Covid-19 in April at the age of seventy-nine. Since his passing, he has been called the “North Star of contemporary art,” and “one of the last, if not the last, great myth-maker[s].” He has been compared to Zorro and dubbed a God. But he was also a contradictory figure. While some describe him as an extraordinarily sensitive curator, one who was always on the artist’s side, others saw him as an art-world player who could be utterly ruthless when pursuing his ambitions. “I don’t feel like a man of power,”

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  • Books

    REALITY TESTS

    What Comes After Farce?, by Hal Foster. New York: Verso, 2020. 224 pages.

    SURVEYING OUR CULTURAL LANDSCAPE through the prepositional prism of after is hardly a new approach among critics and historians writing on art during the past quarter century. Yet, as articulated in the title of Hal Foster’s new book, the premise is newly intriguing for being tethered to—and eclipsed in blunt rhetorical force by—the sad comedy of “farce.” Here Foster borrows the term from Marx’s famous adage regarding the French bourgeoisie’s willingness in 1851 to cede democratic values to a second Bonaparte emperor some

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  • Slant

    OCCIDENTAL TOURISTS

    ORIENTALIST PAINTING dates back at least to the Renaissance but was especially popular from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth, a period that tellingly coincided with the heyday of colonialism. Intent on displaying “Oriental” (read: Ottoman and Arab, mostly) life in all its strangeness and colorfulness, artists working in this subgenre of academic painting espoused a number of thematic categories that accounted for most of their output. These included portraits of Oriental stereotypes (tribal chieftains, guards, or mystics), street views or interiors, sun-drenched picturesque

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  • Interviews

    1000 WORDS: CY GAVIN

    ON WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, night three of New York City’s curfew, the mayor’s gutless try at repressing the conflagrant uprisings for Black lives, Cy Gavin and I checked in on each other.

    Cy was upstate, where he’d moved a few years back to live and paint more or less as he wanted. He was excited about some paintings he was finishing and I asked if I could see them. One depicted a Saxon blue sofa that belonged to the enslaver George Washington. Cy kept him out of the picture but perched his rotting dentures on a cushion. To simulate the little brass tacks in the upholstery, he used the tip of his

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  • Passages

    Germano Celant (1940–2020)

    GIUSEPPE PENONE

    For Germano:

    Often the memories we have of friends are tied to small things that are marginal in the history of the friendship but which promptly come to mind the moment we remember them.

    I met Germano in 1968. I had just made my works about the growth of trees in Garessio, a small town on the border between Piedmont and Liguria.

    Germano asked me to send him material for a book he was preparing, the Arte Povera book published by Mazzotta.

    It was only later that he told me that part of his family was from Leca d’Albenga, a Ligurian town twenty kilometers from mine.

    This chance geographical

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  • Passages

    Luther Price (1962–2020)

    I FIRST HEARD OF LUTHER PRICE long before I saw him in person. Sodom (1989), his film juxtaposing Gregorian chants and gay porn footage that he had mutilated with a hole punch and then painstakingly put back together, earned him a legendary reputation in experimental film circles. We met in 2006 at Cinematexas, a disorganized festival on its last legs, and he was livid when his films were not presented as he wished. A negligent projectionist nearly destroyed one, which would have been a disaster, as the print was irreplaceable. Luther refused the convenient reproducibility of photographic media;

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  • Interviews

    Lynn Hershman Leeson

    As a young artist in Berkeley during the 1960 and ’70s, Lynn Hershman Leeson’s involvement with issues of civil rights, community, and the conditions for defining a public—most notably through the Floating Museum, 1974–78—helped ground her political and social consciousness. The “museum” platform pooled community resources to commission and exhibit site-specific art in public spaces, first in the San Francisco Bay Area and then more widely in the United States, Italy, and France. She has since spent her career collaborating with scientists and technologists to challenge how we construct identity

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  • Slant

    American Degeneracy

    SOME HAVE BEEN INCLINED to view the recent removal of Civil War monuments as a turn away from the past. To many of us, however, it is a prompt not for less but rather for more history—which is to say more clear-eyed, more unflinching, more detailed historical inquiry—that would help us better understand the circumstances under which those markers were erected in the first place, often decades after the war’s end.

    This is just one of many stories comprising that history, one that I think should be better known.

    In 1916, a new monthly magazine appeared on the US art scene. Published in New York,

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  • Music

    Madame Butterfly

    FOR MANY WISHFUL LISTENERS, Arca sounded trans long before she publicly identified as such. Even if the Venezuelan-born producer and vocalist hadn’t named her debut album, Xen (2014), after a feminine alter-ego she’d cultivated since childhood, the music, which writhed and oozed like a pupating insect, would have invited such a reading: It stirred with unstable and viscous electronic tones, hinting at identity in flux. Mutant, in 2015, followed suit; both were tellingly illustrated by computer-generated images of ambiguous bodies spilling, tumorous, from their own skins. Before she changed her

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  • Interviews

    Monument Lab

    Over the last few weeks, public statues and monuments representing the violent histories of slavery, colonization, and racism have been defaced, toppled, and disassembled through the direct actions of global protestors. Since 2012, the Philadelphia-based art and history studio Monument Lab, founded by curator and historian Paul Farber and artist Ken Lum, has worked with individual practitioners, museums, and municipal governments in cities across the US and Europe to reconsider the role of monuments in public space. Here, Farber and Lum discuss Monument Lab’s research-driven process and the

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  • Slant

    Square Roots

    FOR MOST OF US, the threat of disease is a largely invisible one. This is what makes it so pernicious: Often we cannot even see its symptoms. Coronavirus could be anywhere. But the pandemic has rapidly developed a distinct visual culture. The oddly beguiling 3-D visualization of the virus created by Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins at the Center for Disease Control has become the default symbol for Covid-19, and as Americans have grown more accustomed to covering their faces, parody images of masked public statuary and even topiary circulate widely. But perhaps the most pervasive of Covid imagery

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