Cathryn Drake

  • Helidon Gjergji

    The titular centerpiece of Helidon Gjergji’s show “e-mages,” at the National Gallery of Arts, is a slide show in which fragmented photos of Joseph Stalin’s family and friends are projected onto a shattered mirror lying on the floor in front of the projector and, in turn, reflected onto the wall. According to Gjergji’s fictional narrative, Stalin’s mother, Ketevan Geladze, has chosen the pictures for a Facebook album—a wink at social media as a form of personal propaganda. The intimate nature of the black-and-white snapshots only enhances the disconcerting effect of seeing a tyrant dandling

  • diary June 04, 2014

    Creative Representation

    GETTING FROM GENEVA to the eleventh edition of Dak’Art, the oldest biennial in Africa, was like an endurance rally of yore. From a confusing new visa policy to organizational tumult, the required skill was sheer determination, which would serve well on the ground too.

    The central exhibition at the Village de la Biennale, former television studios in an industrial area north of the city center, was inaugurated a day late, the venue made available to the curators and artists only four days before the scheduled opening date, early last month. “I have never seen curators work so hard for any exhibition

  • the 4th Thessaloniki Biennale

    Conveying the complex movement, conquest, persecution, and integration of people, the Fourth Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art is centered on the trope of the Mediterranean itself—a nexus of flux, trade, and conflict linking peoples of different religious and cultural traditions—and installed in historic spaces around the city. The central exhibition of the show, “Everywhere but Now,” curated by Adelina von Fürstenberg, speaks of widespread diasporas and the binding myth of the fatherland through stories of populations that have been dispossessed and victimized.

    Nigol Bezjian’s

  • diary October 11, 2013

    Occupational Hazards

    “THIS IS NOT A BIENNIAL,” said Athens Biennale codirector Poka Yio as he introduced its fourth iteration, “Agora.” “It is not an exhibition.”

    This nonbiennial nonexhibition is the result of a collective experiment carried out by a “nameless and ephemeral group of artists, curators, theorists, and practitioners,” and seeks creative alternatives to a state of bankruptcy. Starting months before with weekly meetings of three teams, it ended with the occupation, fittingly, of the former Athens Stock Exchange building. The whole thing is a sort of ongoing performance: The point is, you have to be here.

  • “Cyclicités”

    The exhibition “Cyclicités,” curated by the collective On the Roof (Elise Atangana, Yves Chatap, and Caroline Hancock), presented three research-based projects examining historical patterns through elements of the local urban and cultural context. Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop’s ongoing series “Architextures,” 2011–, portrays Dakar as a rural village evolving organically through the grid imposed by Western colonization. Several striking photographic blowups suspended in the cavernous space compared, in close-up detail, the pure geometry and repetition in natural growth with that of

  • diary May 28, 2013

    Local Warming

    AFTER A YEARLONG HIATUS, the eighteenth Art-Athina hit the ground running on the evening of Thursday, May 16, and the former Olympic “Tae Kwon Do” Pavilion was packed with enthusiastic party people. The fair had a more national flavor than ever this year under its new director, Alexis Caniaris, the son of recently deceased artist Vlassis Caniaris, whose iconic modern work has recently found great success on the international market. Of the very few foreign galleries exhibiting, most were Greek-owned. The Breeder gallery was dealing with the perceived drop in the market by selling fantastic

  • diary April 30, 2013

    Global Entry

    THIS IS A LOVE LETTER TO BRUSSELS, despite—no, because!—of its myriad contradictions. From the moment I arrived for Art Brussels weekend, everyone was trying in vain to define the city, the latest to be touted the “new Berlin.” But Brussels is hardly Berlin, or it’s all that and more—or maybe it’s just . . . the new Brussels?

    I headed straight from the airport to a buzzing dinner hosted by artists Beat Streuli and Marie Le Mounier, where scores of other artists living in Brussels, both foreign and Belgian, mixed with visiting curators: Dobrila Denegri, Antonia Alampi, Elena Sorokina, Chris

  • diary April 06, 2013

    Neighboring Sounds

    ALTHOUGH LAST FRIDAY was not yet Good Friday in Orthodox Athens, a spiritual sort of ritual took place in the Tzisdarakis Mosque on picturesque Monastiraki Square. There rang the melancholy tones of a theremin played by Theodore Pistiolas, part of a performance orchestrated by artist Athanasios Argianas for the inauguration of “Silent Space Stand Still,” curated by Maria Thalia Carras and Sophia Sofia Tournikiotis, a weekly series of four visual art and sound installations by artists from around the politically discordant Eastern Mediterranean region. Next up, Lebanese Tarek Atoui, Turkish Cevdet

  • diary March 04, 2013

    Cold Day in Hell

    WHEN I ARRIVED in Paris for the Palais de Tokyo show “Soleil Froid” (Cold Sun), the oxymoron could have doubled as the weather forecast. It was frigid as hell, yet the city seemed more convivial and fun than ever.

    The festivities began on the last Sunday in February with a cocktail party at the Tokyo Art Club in honor of Argentine artist Julio Le Parc, whose retrospective of optical illusions was the main attraction among the eleven exhibitions that opened that evening. Pleased as punch, Palais head Jean de Loisy exuberantly greeted guests as they poured into the raw space at the top floor of

  • Tula Plumi

    In her recent show “Interspace,” Tula Plumi flirted with the duplicity of perception in both sculpture and works on paper. The ensemble was introduced by multicolored upright cylinders, two untitled 2012 works from her “Lines and Circles” series, 2011– , standing against a flat two-tone backdrop: DIY wallpaper constructed with sheets of paper forming the profile of a charcoal mountain on a light-gray background, a blown-up photo detail. The slender freestanding objects, made of metal spray-painted in matte tones, resembled layered rolls of construction paper, appearing more ephemeral than they

  • diary November 23, 2012

    Tri, Tri Again

    IT WAS ALREADY a heady atmosphere by the time the Georgian capital of Tbilisi opened its fifth annual Artisterium, a series of exhibitions and public art projects, and the first Tbilisi Triennial, “Offside Effect,” curated by Wato Tsereteli and Henk Slager. The small mountainous country had concluded hotly contested parliamentary elections the week before, selecting billionaire and art collector Bidzina Ivanishvili as prime minister. In Berlusconi style, the richest man in Georgia happens to own one of three national TV stations, which aired videos depicting rampant prison abuse shortly before

  • diary August 27, 2012

    Samo Samos

    THE ISLAND OF SAMOS was the scene of a recent summertime détente between Greeks and Germans on the occasion of Harun Farocki’s “Between Eye and Hand,” the inaugural exhibition of the Culture Hotel Pythagoras art museum and residency. Munich-based entrepreneur Kurt Schwarz and his Greek wife, Chiona Xanthopoulou-Schwarz, bought and renovated the abandoned hotel, long an eyesore on the quaint touristic harbor of Pythagoreio, where the eponymous mathematician lived. Also initiating that weekend was the Samos Young Artists Festival, a series of concerts taking place every August in the ancient

  • diary August 01, 2012

    Midsummer Night’s Dream

    A SMALL BUT DIVERSE ART CROWD representing nearly every continent recently invaded the obscure city of Donetsk, Ukraine, on the tails of European football fans, for the opening of “What Is the Time?” at the Izolyatsia Art Centre. Undeterred by the political boycott and charges of national racism that plagued the Euro Cup 2012 matches here, this particularly unlikely incursion of the Ukrainian frontier was led by Italians, namely the intrepid principals of San Gimignano’s Gallery Continua, who invited six artists to create site-specific installations at the former communist insulation factory.

  • diary June 21, 2012

    Pride and Prejudice

    The opening of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival the Friday before last was initially surreal: The dearth of people in the balmy courtyard of the former Tsaousoglou office furniture factory gave the impression that we had arrived at the wrong place at the wrong time, a kind of Wild West sensation. The explanation for the late arrivals was reassuringly banal: “They’re all watching the Greece-Poland match,” curator Olga Hatzidaki speculated. But then Greeks are not known for their punctuality, and in sultry weather lateness is just common sense. At sundown they started pouring in.

    Inside Building A

  • diary June 02, 2012

    Street Smarts

    THE DAY I LANDED for the Printemps de l’Art Contemporain, outgoing and incoming French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande crossed paths on the red carpet at the Elysée Palace in Paris, national politics took a left, and the headlines read: “Le Bling-bling, c’est fini.” Yet the Côte d’Azur was aglitter with stars farther east as the red carpets were rolled out for the Cannes Film Festival, demonstrating the perennial glamour of France. As the car radio started to announce the newly appointed government ministers, our driver summed up the European state of affairs: “My brother is

  • diary April 30, 2012

    Double Vision

    THE FORECAST FOR THE THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY of Art Brussels was an unpromising series of raindrop icons all lined up in a row. But fortunately the local weather is as undependable as the country’s collectors are dependable, and when I arrived for the opening day of the fair, April 19, the sun was actually shining on the silver lining.

    At the fair that evening, I stopped by Peres Projects to get the scoop: “The high-octane beer here is dangerous!” a director informed me. Otherwise everything was going well: Javier Peres himself was off at a meeting with an important collector, and the Rubells and

  • diary February 08, 2012

    Small World

    ALTHOUGH THE BIG WINTER STORM had not hit Italy in time for the thirty-sixth Bologna Arte Fiera, it was clear that the European crisis had already put a freeze on the art economy. But the striking dearth of visitors at the preview on January 26 was more likely the result of the slew of national transport strikes. (Artist Michelle Rogers told me that even the fishermen were boycotting, so no one would be eating fish on Friday.) Indeed it seemed that only the most dedicated—a rarefied group of collectors, artists, and curators—had made it to Italy’s biggest fair, in the venerable old university

  • Kalliopi Lemos

    “Navigating in the Dark,” a trilogy of exhibitions by Kalliopi Lemos, was installed in three far-flung locations, suitable to its theme of psychic and geographic exploration. Curated by Maria Marangou, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete and curator of the Greek Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale, it was initiated at the Benaki Museum in Athens, where four large-scale biomorphic steel sculptures were placed around a honeycomb-shaped pool of water dotted with steel-mesh human heads slowly attaining various patinas. Bear All Crawl, 2009, is a wriggling larva split to reveal

  • diary December 13, 2011

    Playing with Fire

    WHILE SOME IN THE ART WORLD continued the party in Miami Beach, an adventurous few chose to dry out on an eastern peninsula on the Persian Gulf, in the sleepy kingdom of Qatar. The occasion that Sunday was the opening at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art of Cai Guo-Qiang’s splendid exhibition “Saraab,” which the artist put together during a fifty-day residency in the fall.

    Getting around Doha invariably entails a cruise along the Corniche, and on the drive to the museum that morning we inched past a panorama of the city skyline, freshly punctuated by Jean Nouvel’s sleek, bullet-shaped Tower Qatar.

  • diary November 20, 2011

    All in the Rist

    AFTER A GENTLE RAIN Tuesday evening, Milan was shiny and ethereal for the opening of Pipilotti Rist’s “Parasimpatico,” produced by the Trussardi Foundation. In my haste to make it into the former Cinema Manzoni, the 1950s movie palace in the center of the city that was hosting the show, I mistakenly entered the burlesque cabaret William’s Club le Roi next door. In any case, Rist’s demure incandescent underwear (Cape Cod Chandelier) hanging in the cinema’s lobby would have been perfect in either venue.

    The theater had been made into its own kind of erotic carnival. Up the red-carpeted steps, people