Brooks Adams

  • diary March 03, 2009

    Opium for the Masses (Kouroi for the Few)


    IT CANNOT HAVE BEEN A COINCIDENCE that the public viewing of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection was slated for the height of what in Roman Catholic Europe is widely celebrated as Carnival Week, and that the auction itself, which began last Monday evening and continued day and night through Mardi Gras, concluded on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent—which in France is the perfumey-sounding Carême.

    As news reports have proclaimed, this was an extraordinary event in terms of its demographics (more than thirty-three thousand people waited as long as five hours to wind their way

  • Robert Rosenblum

    A pioneering critic of the past fifty years and a revisionist scholar of the preceding two hundred, Artforum contributing editor Robert Rosenblum will be remembered for the stunning breadth of his erudition and taste. In the issue, a trio of his colleagues—and, above all, his friends—recall a protean figure whose love of art was matched only by his joie de vivre.


    IT IS HARD not to be lighthearted when remembering Robert Rosenblum. Bob was himself one of those rare people who, though deeply serious, was never ponderous or solemn. His was a quintessentially blithe spirit. From the very

  • diary June 20, 2006

    Surreal Life


    The “Hommage à Julien Levy Part 2” sale at Tajan on June 8 was laid-back yet stately, a schvitzy, slacker minuet. Levy (1906–81) is most famous as the dealer who brought the Surrealists to New York in the ’30s and ’40s. He exhibited Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and Frida Kahlo, among others, many for the first time in the US, and “discovered” Joseph Cornell, who was working for him at the time. The transition between Surrealism and AbEx could be said to have occurred in his gallery at 15 East Fifty-Seventh Street.

    Why was this material for sale in Paris? According to Marcel Fleiss, who, along with

  • Malcolm Morley

    The show, which includes recent paintings, such as those of model-plane kits and current events in Afghanistan (most never before shown in the States), should reveal an oeuvre marked by radical switches but also by a deep inner consistency.

    Malcolm Morley stands among the preeminent living American painters, but the historical scope of his work is too little known in the US, his adopted country since 1958. This survey of forty paintings from the mid-'60s to the present is long overdue; it is, in fact, the artist's first in the US since 1983, when he was recast as a neo-expressionist (having first been pigeonholed as a Superrealist). Now, the grandeur of his work puts it far beyond mere labels: “Only when Morley's work is taken out of the movement of Photorealism do his interests come into focus,” maintains

  • diary November 18, 2005

    Fantastic Voyage


    Paris is awash with visions of melancholy and esoteric variants of romanticism this autumn, both of which tend to put me in a very good mood. There's “Mélancolie” and “Vienne 1900” at the Grand Palais; the first retrospective of the neglected Girodet at the Louvre; and now a contemporary group show devoted to new manifestations of Symbolism in the work of young artists (mostly based in London and Paris) at Espace EDF Electra. (The cultural exchange between the two cities is also an amuse-gueule to the roughly twenty exhibitions of French contemporary art to be held simultaneously in London next

  • diary February 14, 2005

    Reductio Ad Rirkrit


    We hopped in a cab last Wednesday night and headed over to ye olde sixth arrondisement, where Rirkrit Tiravanija's “Une Retrospective (tomorrow is another fine day)” was opening in the venerable Couvent des Cordeliers. The Couvent, a beautifully delapidated thirteenth-century gothic hall (and the site of a French Revolutionary club, where Marat's dead body lay in state), is the interim headquarters of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris/ARC, whose building on Avenue du Président Wilson is closed for restoration. We've seen some good shows at the Couvent in the last year, including ones

  • diary December 10, 2004

    International Style


    On a freezing December evening, we rose from a winter’s nap and, automatonlike, lumbered out to our Twingo and drove up to Le Plateau for the opening of “Ralentir Vite” (Slow Down Fast), the first exhibition curated by the space’s new director, Caroline Bourgeois. A mixture of altruism and curiosity had led us to brave the cold. The two-year-old venue Le Plateau is one of those alternative spaces that one feels obliged to support, and we were hoping that the advent of Bourgeois would lend some spark to what has been, it must be said, a lackluster program. The drive—up the Canal Saint Martin

  • diary November 29, 2004

    Family Style


    Pavel Pepperstein's opening last night at the Centre du Diamant, a glitzy wholesale jewelry showroom in the rue de la Paix (two steps from the Opera and Place Vendôme), was quite charming: little watercolors of dollars and euro symbols exhibited on the wall and in vitrines alongside the ugliest diamonds you ever saw. The art world conduit to such an unlikely venue was the Galerie Iragui (in the Marais) which deals with Russian artists and, apparently, with French jewelers. And you could try on the jewelry—Lisa, my wife, tried a big, citrine dinner ring. The champagne glass in her other

  • Francesco Clemente

    BROOKS ADAMS: Why do you think we’re talking about the ’80s now? Was it a heroic age?*

    FRANCESCO CLEMENTE: [Laughs.] New York had an extraordinary texture at the time, when I first came from India in April of 1980. In India I was familiar with the word tantra, which means texture, weave. The city itself was this weave of diverse experiences.

    BA: Who were the first painters you became friends with here?

    FC: David Salle and Julian Schnabel.

    BA: What affinity did you see with Salle?

    FC: I was very fond of the early Salles, where you have just the monochrome canvas with the charcoal drawing and one other

  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

    The most haunting and seductive of the German Expressionists, Kirchner was a founder of the Dresden-based Die Brücke in 1905 and the group’s most ardent apologist. With thirty-five paintings, five sculptures, and eighty-plus works on paper, this retrospective curated by Jill Lloyd, Magdalena Moeller, Andrew Robison, and Norman Rosenthal is the artist’s first in the US since 1968 and the first in Britain ever. Look for naturist bacchanals, primitivist totems, out-there bohemian studio scenes, scarecrow-chic Berlin women, grim self-portraits as a soldier, and eerie Alpine snowscapes. Having lived

  • Marc Chagall

    The art of Marc Chagall (1887–1985) isn’t all bright colors and fiddlers on the roof. His pre–1910 Russian works, with their shtetl imagery of women giving birth, look ever more raw and bracing, and his 1920 murals for the State Jewish Chamber Theater in Moscow, first seen ten years ago, reveal him to be a lean, mean designer with a mordant wit. Now the biblical paintings from the late ’30s to the ’60s shed new light on the apocalypse of World War II, not to mention the advent of AbEx. As curated by Jean-Michel Foray, director of the Musée Nationale Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice (one of

  • Max Beckmann

    Born in Leipzig, schooled in Weimar, Max Beckmann might have turned out to be another Bauhaus artist had he not set his sights on Paris and, later, Berlin. As a belated Symbolist in the tradition of Hans von Marées, he produced an unforgettable series of devotional triptychs. As an incisive Neue Sachlichkeit portraitist and chronicler, he nailed the decadence of the Weimar Republic. And as a political exile in St. Louis, he practiced a neo-mannerism that puts Thomas Hart Benton to shame and presages early Pollock. Now this first French retrospective, curated by the

  • Transavanguardia

    In the early ’80s, with a new interest in things non–New York School, the Transavanguardia—critic Achille Bonito Oliva’s catchall word for the return to figurative painting—was a big deal. Francesco Clemente’s portable frescoes, Sandro Chia’s great Palio restaurant murals, and Enzo Cucchi’s weird, elongated anatomical drawings were the ones to beat in the go-get-’em atmosphere of the moment. This show, curated by Ida Gianelli, backed by advisers Pier Giovanni Castagnoli, David Ross, Nicholas Serota, and Rudi H. Fuchs (who heavily promoted the three C’s), looks at the period

  • Jean Dubuffet

    Jean Dubuffet (1901–85) was a big deal to an adolescent art lover in Chicago in the ‘70s. His monumental black-and-white civic sculptures were the epitome of bland buoyancy, a kind of European Pop-old master gold standard. His championing of art brut and children's art, not to mention his own funky dirt-, gravel-, and cement-filled canvases, looked to be the very lodestars of the local Hairy Whos’ obsessions. Chicago collectors of Picasso and Ivan Albright took to Dubuffet like one of their own, just as their forebears had embraced French Impressionism, to which Dubuffet's work provided many

  • The Surrealist Revolution

    Inspired by Douglas Cooper’s 1983 show “The Essential Cubism,” Werner Spies sets out to do “The Essential Surrealism,” a rich if conservative overview, with more than 650 objects, including about 30 loans from MoMA alone.

    Inspired by Douglas Cooper’s 1983 show “The Essential Cubism,” Werner Spies sets out to do “The Essential Surrealism,” a rich if conservative overview, with more than 650 objects, including about 30 loans from MoMA alone. It’s fascinating to see how dueling European art institutions are pulling off mega-exhibitions of Surrealism in a single season. Tate Modern’s “Surrealism: Desire Unbound” was thematic and sexy. Beaubourg’s themes, such as “Dream,” “Night,” “The Flaneur,” and “The City” are a bit more tried-and-true. Spies, the ex-director of the Musée d’Art Moderne,

  • Victor Brauner

    Victor Brauner is less familiar than his Romanian compatriot Constantin Brancusi, yet his work in many genres—Cubist- and de Stijl–inspired abstraction, Dadaist collage, Surrealist furniture, and encaustic painting—has an ineffable Balkan pungency to it and should be better known. His great painting Force de Concentration de Monsieur K., 1934, is an unforgettable Botero-esque send-up of a porcine bourgeois seen in the nude, while his unique Loup Table goes Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup one better with its bland carpentry and snarling taxidermy. If at times his ’40s painting seems discouragingly

  • Luigi Ontani

    LUIGI ONTANI IS THAT RARE BIRD OF ART: an unforgettable face, a world-class dandy, and a redoubtable if lovably eccentric presence on the international art-world circuit. In this first US retrospective of his multifaceted output—painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, ceramics, and fabric pieces—we saw the filmed and photographic image of the artist nude and partially draped, alone and accompanied by younger genii figures (usually boys or men of color), many, many times. Yet something more than narcissism emerges from all this Body Art. Ontani's work makes his own

  • Tate Curators

    With the opening next month of the Tate’s Herzog & de Meuron–designed megabranch, Tate Modern, just down the Thames from the museum’s Millbank base, the exhibition space accorded modern and contemporary art at the institution will double. As the museum assumes its newly central role in the contemporary arena, Artforum looks in on the team that will shape the museum’s view of the present in the century to come.



    In the early ’90s, I asked the astute British critic Stuart Morgan what he thought of the work of Lars Nittve, then director of the

  • “Off-Limits: Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963”

    In 1959, when Lucas Samaras was a flamboyant, patchwork-dressed undergrad at Rutgers, his senior thesis show included a concrete poem with the word “Fuck fuck fuck fuck . . .” inscribing a neat square with a concluding “you” appended at the end. Samaras’s brilliantly jejune production resulted in a huge administrative commotion, which led to his teacher Allan Kaprow being passed over for tenure and, in 1961, leaving the school. Such incidents are entirely characteristic of the wild and crazy mood at Rutgers in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Roy Lichtenstein, perhaps under Kaprow’s influence, made

  • “Fame after Photography”

    In the wake of Di's death, MOMA'S photo chief, Peter Galassi, asked the freelance curators Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman to conceptualize an exhibition exploring the complicitous relationship between photography and celebrity. Exploding the bounds of the still image, the pair bring together all manner of artifact, from an ancient Roman coin to Gilbert Stuart's George Washington to Victorian cartes-de-visite to a cache of nude photographs of George Bernard Shaw. One intention: to show how such varied cultural production feels to the consumer when held in the hand or seen in the pages of