Cathryn Drake

  • diary December 11, 2015

    Search and Destroy

    THE OPENING DAY OF “OMONOIA,” the fifth Athens Biennale, was typical for the ancient city: Traffic was disrupted by the latest in a series of anti-austerity demonstrations at Syntagma Square—this time the pharmacists, followed the next day by the farmers. It was an auspicious backdrop for the inaugural forum, “Synapse 1: A Laboratory for Production Post-2011,” a series of panels organized by anthropologist Massimiliano Mollona debating alternative solutions to capitalist problems like “precarious work.” This edition of the biennial builds off the last, titled “Agora,” where a series of performances,

  • picks July 31, 2015

    Paul McCarthy and Georg Baselitz

    This exhibition is a strangely sympathetic dialogue between a pair of perennial rebels whose work transgresses and lampoons popular norms through approaches that surf seamlessly between mediums to critique and contaminate artistic conventions. Paul McCarthy and Georg Baselitz have both long been occupied with exorcising their devils in various stylistic expressions—the American a hysterical clown acting out the hypocrisy of a capitalist society, the German an angry antihero expressing the guilt of history.

    The Sturm und Drang is introduced immediately by two monumental sculptures: McCarthy’s

  • diary July 04, 2015

    For Love or Money

    THE ISLAND OF MYKONOS has absolutely everything for the discerning bon vivant and has managed, in spite of its popularity with twenty-four-hour party people, to remain largely unspoiled and, well, absolutely fabulous. Marina Vranopoulou, who manages the Deste Foundation’s slaughterhouse project space in Hydra, upped the ante last weekend with the opening of the new residency and exhibition space Dio Horia (Greek for “two places”). After a devastatingly early five-hour ferry voyage from Athens, I arrived bleary-eyed with a group of curators, artists, and writers for the inaugural event, the

  • diary April 17, 2015

    Chill Factor

    MILAN IS THE FASHION and design center of Italy and yet until recently its fair, MiArt, had been a poor stepchild to the grandfather Artefiera Bologna and elegant Artissima. Since director Vincenzo De Bellis took it under his wing in 2013 MiArt has matured into a cosmopolite with a fresh viewpoint. Previously a truly Italian affair, it has grown to include nearly 50 percent foreign galleries, largely American and British—just big enough to be confident and not yet full of itself.

    The relaxed tempo of the preview last week was the calm before the coming storm, as the fair was a warm-up for the

  • diary February 21, 2015

    Ice Age

    LONGYEARBYEN IS THE ULTIMATE FRONTIER TOWN, the northernmost settlement in the world and jumping-off point for the North Pole, complete with coal miners, extreme filmmakers, polar scientists, a seed vault for the apocalypse, a newspaper called Ice People, and even former Berlin art dealer Elda Oreto. And now there is a contemporary art museum: Kunsthall Svalbard chose to make its debut in the coldest of winter, just days after Solfestuka, the festival celebrating the return of the sun and the end of the polar night, with “Glacier,” an exhibition of works by Joan Jonas.

    “The Arctic is the new

  • 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