Alexander Nagel


    Reclaiming Art/Reshaping Democracy: The New Patrons & Participatory Art, edited by Estelle Zhong Mengual and Xavier Douroux. Paris: Les Presses du Réel, 2017. 432 pages.

    UPON ITS PUBLICATION in 2012, Nato Thompson’s exhibition catalogue Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011 was duly recognized as a landmark roundup of the participatory, dialogic, and relational experiments of the preceding twenty years. Reclaiming Art/Reshaping Democracy: The New Patrons & Participatory Art—a productively expanded English edition of an anthology that appeared in French in 2013—stands as

  • Left to right: Alexander Nagel, Xavier Douroux, and François Hers, 2009. Photo: Alexander Nagel
    passages August 30, 2017

    Xavier Douroux (1956–2017)

    THE WORLD IS SUDDENLY POORER without Xavier Douroux, who recently succumbed to cancer at the age of sixty-one. A curator first of all, his engaged practice led him to also became a community organizer, a book publisher, a film producer, and a friend to many inside and outside the art world, including me.

    Xavier had a remarkable knack for starting improbable projects, well outside existing institutions, only to have them become indispensable to the larger world they touched. In the late 1970s, at the age of twenty-two, he and Franck Gautherot founded a center for contemporary art in Dijon, resisting

  • Glass floor covering soil said to be brought by Saint Helena from Jerusalem, Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, 2006. Photo: Holly Hayes.


    When, in 1968, Robert Smithson loaded the back of a station wagon with rocks from New Jersey and brought them across the Hudson to New York’s Dwan Gallery for one of his non-sites, he was performing a material relocation that would have been familiar to countless medieval pilgrims returning home with relics from holy sites. How can the logic of one such destabilization of place and time elucidate the logic of the other, despite radically disparate circumstances? The seed of this question was planted in 2010 by art historians Alexander Nagel and Christopher S. Wood in their landmark text Anachronic

  • Giotto, The Crucifixion (detail), ca. 1305, fresco, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.

    Alexander Nagel

    BEFORE IT WAS a record-player needle, a stylus was a tool used to write or draw. We go from stylus to style when we shift from reading these marks in a drawing as symbols and begin looking at them seismically, as traces of an activity. But even that is not enough. To say that a line must have been produced by a vigorous stroke of the hand is still a forensic, not a stylistic, observation. When we say that such a stroke indicates a fiery mood or temperament in its maker, or that it embodies an ideology of freedom, then we are talking in terms of style. If you extend this mode of interpretation

  • Tintoretto

    TINTORETTO was born in Venice in 1519, making him a member of the first generation to take for granted something that can be called an art world. People had started dropping the names of artists—like Raphael, or Michelangelo, or Dürer—who were famous and awesome figures understood to be contending with one another in a common field. Paintings now typically came packaged with references to other works of art, and buyers had developed the skills to read them that way. Moreover, the innovations of Leonardo and Giorgione had brought about a fundamental change in the status of the picture. The