Cathryn Drake

  • diary October 27, 2011

    Crisis Management

    FLOODS IN ROME, riots in Greece, a despot deposed in North Africa—the days leading up to the Third Athens Biennale, “Monodrome,” inspired by Walter Benjamin’s 1928 book Einbahnstraße, brought forth biblical allusions. In practical terms, the biggest strikes yet had shut down the Greek capital, so my flight from London was delayed by a day and biennial cocurator Nicolas Bourriaud came from Paris three days after he was scheduled to arrive, also landing just the night before the opening. The denouement of the trilogy that started with “Destroy Athens” and “Heaven,” in 2007 and 2009 respectively,

  • diary October 04, 2011

    Friends in High Places

    THE LATEST NEW YORK INVASION of Rome took the form of “Three Amigos,” a suite of solo shows by Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, and Dash Snow at three local venues: the Palazzo Rospigliosi, the American Academy in Rome, and MACRO, respectively. The brat pack is hardly new to the Roman scene: They all participated in the Depart Foundation’s irrepressible “New York Minute” survey two years ago (back when six-figure auction records for these artists were an exception rather than the norm). The trilogy opened on the heels of Lisson’s inauguration of a new space in Milan, which took cues from two prior

  • diary September 28, 2011

    Fresh Start

    ARRIVING IN MILAN at rush hour the Thursday before Fashion Week proved to be a logistical adventure. All of the galleries were open late for “Start Milano,” a collective inauguration of the fall shows. “The fashion traffic chaos has already begun,” Massimo De Carlo explained when I finally arrived at his gallery, in the former industrial district Lambrate. “It is no problem getting around with a bike!” shared artist Cristian Bugatti, aka pop star Bugo, who arrived breathless a few moments later. In the context, Massimo Bartolini’s installation upstairs—an entire room laced with pulsating religious

  • diary September 19, 2011

    Rama Lama Ding Dong

    THE OPENING OF THE ART-O-RAMA fair in Marseille on the first Friday of September was a great way to ease into the swing of the coming fall frenzy, with only thirteen galleries invited to show and the glistening Mediterranean within reach. Many of the booths took the form of curated solo exhibitions, such as Antonio Rovaldi’s fractured landscapes appropriated from magazines, comprising a tribute to Richard Prince, at Rome’s Monitor gallery, and the Bendana Pinel gallery’s pristine presentation of Steven Le Priol’s striking black-and-white cutouts warning against the violence augured in the current

  • diary May 06, 2011

    Collectors’ Call

    THE TWENTY-NINTH EDITION OF ART BRUSSELS was certainly the place to be last week for a breather between the Royal Wedding in London and Pope John Paul’s beatification in Rome. Brussels is elegantly retro and understated, cool and multicultural, and doing just fine without a national government—ironic considering it is the seat of the European Parliament. In any case, the art market here is robust and dependable, and Belgium has some of the most sophisticated collectors in Europe.

    Inside the Brussels Expo during the fair preview, the hallways were bustling with an urbane crowd resembling the

  • Marisa Albanese

    Naples stands in the shadow of a time bomb, Mount Vesuvius, and the chaotic, colorful city itself is a memento mori. Marisa Albanese’s double exhibition, “Spyholes” and “Grand Tour 2.0,” was a meditation on the passing of time at different scales through the strange wormhole of personal experience under the volcano, a potent symbol of mortality.

    “Spyholes” was introduced by Partiture per mani sole (Score for Hands Only), 2005, three small videos, each framed in a hardback book, that chart blurry spatial paths as pairs of hands move in time to unheard musical compositions. A metronome clicking

  • diary March 23, 2011

    Back to the Future

    THERE WAS A BUZZ in the air last week at the fifth edition of Art Dubai, with a new director, journalist Antonia Carver, and the fair’s proximity to regional regimes toppling one after another. I arrived at midnight on Sunday and my Syrian taxi driver sped us down the nearly empty multilane Sheikh Zayed Road through a corridor of skyscrapers, with the two distinctive towers, Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, lit up on either side like alien beacons. Built from the desert up within the past decade—kitschy new villas, high-rises, luxury hotels, and an overwhelmingly multinational population—it looks

  • diary February 09, 2011

    First Family

    NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW, Italian economic crisis nor Egyptian revolution, could stop Bologna’s Arte Fiera, the biggest and oldest art fair in Italy, from opening its thirty-fifth edition on the last Thursday of January. Clutches of elegantly dressed collectors chatted cheerfully in the expansive aisles of the city’s exhibition center, giving it the familial atmosphere of a reunion rather than a marketplace. Neapolitans seemed to have the majority, among them Aurelio De Laurentiis, nephew of film producer Dino and chairman of the SSC Napoli football team. A former resident offered a possible

  • diary January 21, 2011

    Grand Designs

    EVERYONE KNOWS THAT FLORENCE is a venerable has-been, renowned for its icons of Western art history and top designer shops. So it was fitting that the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi chose the city to celebrate the centennial of its fashion house and to showcase its contemporary art program through the exhibition “8 1/2,” the number of years it has been producing site-specific shows in various evocative Milanese spaces.

    The occasion was the men’s fashion trade show Pitti Immagine Uomo, which has produced art exhibitions since 1999. The opening-night crowd, an esoteric cross section of art and fashion,

  • diary December 27, 2010

    Pluses and Minuses

    STILL LINED with ominous black hooks that once carried meat carcasses, the gargantuan Roman ex-slaughterhouse that hosts MACRO Future seemed almost cozy on December 17, the opening day of “Plus Ultra,” a selection of works from Turin’s Sandretto Re Rebaudengo collection curated by Francesco Bonami. “There has been a mistake—we are in Moscow, not Rome!” collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo sighed, clutching at her snappy red coat as she exited the press preview. But things haven’t seemed too normal in Rome lately: Violent demonstrations against Prime Minister Berlusconi had destroyed the

  • diary December 21, 2010

    Good Clean Fun

    THE OPENING LAST WEEK of the Twelfth Cairo Biennale was punctuated by disasters, both natural and cultural. Only the most dedicated made it to the Opera House for the official inauguration on Sunday: A sandstorm buffetted the city with wind that made the hijab de rigueur, if futile. And on a good day it is an endeavor only for the brave and the foolish to wade through the giant mess that is Cairo’s chaotic traffic. While the mighty desert wind blew many would-be VIPs to the opening of the new Mathaf museum in Qatar, a bureaucratic glitch meant there was no government leadership to oversee the

  • diary October 20, 2010

    Moor the Merrier

    ON THE THURSDAY before Frieze, I hopped on the last public bus out of Cartagena to Murcia, Spain, where the opening-night party for Manifesta 8 was being held in a giant Moorish-style plaza. Enclosed by a former artillery barrack, the site is one of the venues for this roving show, which is known for examining the intersections of diverse cultures, a kind of metaperformance as exhibition. Huge plates of bland vegetarian paella—paid for by the city of Limburg, Belgium, the site of the next Manifesta—were being served to a long line of people while we were serenaded by human beat box Kenny Muhammad.

  • diary August 27, 2010

    Talking Turkey

    TO A TRAVELER arriving from steaming hot Istanbul on the second weekend in August, the Black Sea seemed like an ideal place for a late-summer getaway. The third Sinop biennial, “Sinopale 3: Hidden Memories, Lost Traces,” is either the ridiculous or sublime extreme in the proliferation of such exhibitions around the world. (With eight curators and thirty artists, it also reflects the worldwide proliferation of curators.) Founded by an Amazon queen, the Sinop seaport is located in the northernmost point of Turkey and was once a thriving crossroads connecting the ancient world. Curator Vaari Claffey

  • diary July 31, 2010

    Lisbon Earthquake

    Lisbon

    THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL Portugal Arte biennial—touted as the country’s biggest exhibition of contemporary art ever—blew into town last week so fast that it surprised even the denizens of its intimate art scene. With a population slightly larger than that of New York City, Portugal is home to people who all seem to know one another, but nobody seemed to know exactly what was about to hit them. “Usually biennials are embedded in the community,” Kunsthalle Lissabon director Luis Silva said. “We have no information whatsoever. It’s like a UFO that just landed and we don’t know what’s inside.” I flew

  • diary June 03, 2010

    Buildings Roman

    Rome

    AS THE CLOUDS PARTED and a chorus of angels rang out, God looked down from heaven and said, “Rome shall be the capital of contemporary art for one week.” And so it was last week, when the unusually torrential spring rain stopped just long enough to oblige a remarkable flurry of Roman contemporary art events, including the inaugural shows at the explosive new Zaha Hadid–designed MAXXI and the edgy expansion of MACRO, as well as the Rome art fair, in its expansive new premises at the ex-slaughterhouse in Testaccio.

    The first of many American-sponsored events was on Tuesday, with an unprecedented

  • diary May 19, 2010

    Starter Pack

    Istanbul

    I THOUGHT ROME was the most beautiful city in the world, but then I saw Istanbul. The occasion was the highly anticipated inauguration on May 7 of the new Arter space, a showcase for the Vehbi Koç Foundation’s contemporary art collection and a platform for artistic production launched by scion Ömer Koç.

    Located on the bustling pedestrian Istiklal Street, which runs from Galata Tower to Taksim Square, the foundation’s elegant historic building reflects the influence of the Koç family, owners of the largest conglomerate in the country as well as the first private cultural institution, the Sadberk

  • Terry Adkins

    Terry Adkins’s “Meteor Stream,” the culmination of a ten-year cycle on abolitionist John Brown, opened on the 150th anniversary of Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry—his legendary attempt to seize a government arsenal and initiate a slave revolt, the failure of which led to his hanging. From the John Brown House, in Akron, Ohio, the exhibition sequence moved across the United States via places associated with Brown’s life. In each location, Adkins collaborated with members of the local community and incorporated newly found objects into the installations, referencing the influence of context and

  • diary April 14, 2010

    Disco Inferno

    Venice

    LAST WEEKEND Venice opened its sleepy eyes to witness a flurry of openings framed, more or less, by the absence of Damien Hirst. Disembarking from the vaporetto on Friday evening in front of the San Stae church, I went straight to the Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo for the inauguration of Tristano Di Robilant’s “Otto Sculture” (Eight Sculptures). Now a museum of period domesticity and costume, the dusty seventeenth-century palazzo feels as if its residents have just gone out, leaving their shoes next to chairs and bath towels draped over the claw-foot tub.

    The translucent glass sculptures, displayed

  • diary March 29, 2010

    Street Wise

    Naples

    ON A RECENT FRIDAY in Naples there were openings at three different galleries scattered across town. Getting from one to the next was a challenge to anyone without a motorcycle and the nerve to mount the pedestrian walkways, a customary mode of travel for Neapolitans, who are in the habit of taking their wives and a couple of children along too—without helmets. (If you wear one it means you have reason to hide.) As it was, we took our chances on foot, dodging the aforementioned vehicles en route to our first stop, Galleria Raucci/Santamaria, on the hill behind the city’s Archaeological Museum.

  • diary March 12, 2010

    To Be Continua

    San Gimignano, Italy

    THE WEEKEND BEFORE LAST, a massive crowd of art-world denizens made the ascent to the Italian hill town of San Gimignano by plane, train, bus, and auto for the opening of five solo exhibitions at Galleria Continua: Berlinde De Bruyckere, Luca Pancrazzi, Arcangelo Sassolino, Nedko Solakov, and Chen Zhen. The tranquil Tuscan town, once a medieval Manhattan with one hundred towers signaling familial power, is the somewhat surreal site of the internationally prominent gallery. If you didn’t know it was there, you might pass right by its discreet door on the cobblestone street to enter the Museum of