Cathryn Drake

  • diary February 16, 2010

    Holland Tunnel


    THE ELEVENTH EDITION of the Art Rotterdam fair took place in the armpit of the world’s largest oil port, in the airy Holland-America Terminal, which gave it the jolly frisson of a harborside carnival. At Wednesday’s preview, burly men in leather aprons served up juicy oysters and smoked herring by the barrels with an impressively choreographed professionalism. There was even a sideshow: American artist Abner Preis told stories from a colorful handmade stage set, like the heartwarming one about famous actor Timothy Teardrop, who finds happiness only after he saves a pigeon’s life.

    Before the doors

  • diary February 10, 2010

    Bologna Process

    Bologna, Italy

    JUST IN TIME for Arte Fiera, the biggest art fair in Italy, Bologna was blanketed in dazzling white snow, a more cheerful vestment than the city’s typical winter gray. The spectacular storm caused delays for some dealers arriving by plane, but once there, the frigid weather made the city’s gigantic exhibition center feel all the more convivial. The economic climate of the fair was also relatively hot, at least compared with last fall’s Frieze, FIAC, and even Artissima fairs. Italy was hit relatively late, and less in extremis, by the world financial bust, and in Bologna—its richest as well as

  • diary November 16, 2009

    Silence Is Golden


    A CARPET OF GOLDEN AUTUMN LEAVES paved the somber streets of Turin on my drive from the airport to the Golden Palace hotel. Little did I know then that these were augurs of more fantastic golden showers to come. But not yet. That evening, the Turinese patroness Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (recently “knighted” by the French minister of culture) teamed with Italian Vogue editrix Franca Sozzani to host a screening of Chiara Clemente’s recent documentary Our City Dreams. A comedic highlight in the poignant portrait of five female artists—Swoon, Ghada Amer, Kiki Smith, Marina Abramovic, and the

  • diary October 27, 2009

    About Face


    IT WAS RAINING CATS AND DOGS when I landed in Turin last Wednesday for “Investigations of a Dog,” an exhibition at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Inspired by Kafka’s eponymous short story, the show is the inaugural collaboration of FACE, a newly formed group of five European art nonprofits that also includes Athens’s DESTE Foundation; the Ellipse Foundation of Cascais, Portugal; Paris’s La Maison Rouge; and Magasin 3 of Stockholm.

    Turin has a homey, sepia-toned feeling, especially when seen through the lens of a bottle of Barbera d’Alba, courtesy of an overworked hotel clerk (who was

  • the 2nd Athens Biennale

    THE ORGANIZERS OF THE Second Athens Biennale, “Heaven,” were perhaps hoping for divine intervention when they proposed transforming a hulking onetime parking garage, with salmon pink walls, into a paradise. Part of the disused Faliro Olympic Complex, the meandering space, more evocative of the underworld, imposed its own aesthetic on the biennial. Nevertheless, whether through administrative acumen or the will of the gods, artistic directors XYZ (Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Poka-Yio, and Augustine Zenakos) managed to pull together an edgy and distinctive exhibition on a minuscule budget.

    The garage’s

  • diary September 29, 2009

    Minute Made


    ITALIANS WORSHIP NEW YORK CITY as though the Statue of Liberty were the Madonna. So it was little surprise that the opening of the exhibition “New York Minute,” on a recent rainy Saturday night at MACRO Future (a former slaughterhouse), was a smashing social event that attracted a hodgepodge of Roman high society, actors, fashionistas, and art-world denizens.

    I had just landed in Rome fresh from the mad crush of Chelsea’s fall art openings, and it was surreal to encounter an American art assault on the Testaccio quarter, which would be—if you can compare the two cities at all—the trendy equivalent

  • Michal Helfman

    An ideal title for Israeli artist Michal Helfman’s recent show might be “Mirage,” since it seemed to revolve around the distortion and inversion of images. Upon entering the ground floor of the gallery, visitors were greeted by a sequence of jagged mirrors, cut and arranged low on a wall to evoke a range of desert mountains. Above this work hung a glowing yellow “sun” too Pop to be realistic; it was, in fact, an Eero Saarinen–esque Tulip table mounted horizontally and loosely covered with a yellow tablecloth. This installation, titled The Lesson, 2009, extended into an adjacent room, which was

  • John F. Simon Jr.

    The centerpiece of John F. Simon Jr.’s exhibition “Outside In: Ten Years of Software Art,” seems to be an explosion of the guts of the machine. The multicolor cabinet housing Visions, 2009, is painted in vivid acrylic with dynamic diamond motifs that transfix the gaze on a bright focal center, while the rest seems to whirl in a kaleidoscopic vortex. The mesmerizing illusion is deepened by continually changing geometry projected from an interior LCD screen onto mirrors visible through apertures on either side. As you are drawn closer and peer inside, you can see your own face reflected back as

  • diary May 21, 2009

    Life or Something Like It


    MILAN WAS STRANGELY SULTRY for May last Tuesday when Tacita Dean’s exhibition “Still Life,” organized by the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, opened at the Palazzo Dugnani. In front of the faded yellow palace, a group of journalists mobbed a statuesque redhead who turned out to be Milan’s mayor, Letizia Moratti, while under the vaulted portico the hip young Milanese—dress code for men: skirts and dreads—leaned against columns and chatted before joining the enormous line snaking up the staircase.

    There didn’t seem to be much sense in hurrying, so I bode my time and greeted the visitors dribbling in.

  • diary February 14, 2009

    Rrose Sélavy’s Baby


    THE OPENING OF FRANCESCO VEZZOLI’S “GREED” at the Gagosian gallery in Rome last Friday was inevitably a cause célèbre, drawing luminaries of the Italian art and fashion worlds along with a handful of international bigwigs. Dressed to the nines (and sometimes tens), the crowd crushed the entrance of the grand Neoclassical former bank, vying to enter as if it were the hottest club in town. Ladies perched on spike heels outside the door were saying into their mobiles, “Roman Polanski is arriving!” At the top of the stairs, attendees were greeted by a fake commercial, directed by none other than

  • diary January 01, 2009

    Fire in Cairo


    ARRIVING AT THE CAIRO AIPORT somewhat late on December 17, I barreled through the thick, anarchic traffic of Heliopolis in my friend’s desert-worthy Land Rover Defender and arrived miraculously at my downtown hotel within an hour. Navigating the few blocks to the Townhouse Gallery, one of the fourth Photo Cairo’s venues, however, was not so simple. The concierge had run out of maps, and by the time we arrived at the space, after exploring every dark side street between the hotel and our destination, the exhibition’s title, “The Long Shortcut,” seemed all too appropriate. Set in an alley lined

  • Cathryn Drake

    AS ORSON WELLES’S CHARACTER famously observed in The Third Man, “In Italy . . . they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” Indeed, long after the Renaissance, Italian modernism continued that love affair with trouble—from Futurism’s romanticization of war onward. And at present, Naples is much like a city at war; Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently deployed troops to

  • diary November 19, 2008

    Reale Deal


    LAST TUESDAY EVENING in Milan, the Neoclassical Villa Reale became the sumptuous backdrop for a retrospective of Tino Sehgal’s living sculptures, set in motion among gesturing Canova marbles and an impressive assortment of nineteenth-century masterworks. Organized by the nomadic Trussardi Foundation and curated by Massimiliano Gioni, the selection of eight “situations” is billed as the “most ambitious and complete” assemblage of Sehgal’s “deproduced” objects, all but one of which were first presented in other contexts. Once home to Napoleon and the king of Naples, the palace’s cavernous salons

  • diary October 05, 2008

    Show and Tel

    Tel Aviv

    In Israel especially, politics are never far from one’s mind. The day before I arrived in Tel Aviv for the first edition of the citywide art exhibition Art TLV, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in the face of corruption charges. He punctuated his exit with a radical message, characterizing the aggressive Israeli defense strategy as shortsighted and arguing that a withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem was the only way to peace. “The time has come to say these things,” he said in an interview for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. “We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion

  • Simon Starling

    Nicknamed the Fetta di Polenta (“slice of polenta”), the eccentric yellow palazzo housing Franco Noero’s new space, Casa Scaccabarozzi, is meant to serve as an experimental architectural laboratory and point of departure for the gallery’s artists. The inaugural exhibition, Simon Starling’s “Three Birds, Seven Stories, Interpolations and Bifurcations,” engaged the building as a character in an epic architectural drama that collapses time and place by merging different spaces and contexts, fact and fiction.

    Seven stories high, with only one room per floor, the wedge-shaped nineteenth-century palazzo

  • diary September 22, 2008

    Happi Campers


    The eleventh edition of Geisai, an art fair started by Takashi Murakami in 2001 to allow artists without galleries to peddle their own wares, commenced last Sunday at Tokyo Big Sight in a joyful explosion of Japanese subcultures. At the opening assembly, a kimono-clad woman with a big Minnie Mouse bow on her head gave a long introduction in Japanese, after which Murakami kicked things off by leading the crowd of artist-exhibitors in cheers, instructing them to pose for a mass portrait, and concluding: “This is the biggest Geisai ever. We must make a revolution!”

    Needless to say, with roughly

  • Basim Magdy

    For the exhibition “On a Better Day Than This,” Egyptian artist Basim Magdy assembled more than thirty drawings and paintings produced over the past six years, along with two sculptures and a site-specific mural. Alternating between humorous and ominous, the small images—rendered variously in graffiti-style spray paint, gouache, stencil, and collage, among others—were hung in groups to resemble cryptic comic-strip narratives. The simplistic style and acid colors of the pictures, at once bold and opaque, were meant to both parody and underline the absurd messages of mass media.

    The scenes bear

  • diary July 24, 2008

    Italian Hours

    Bolzano-Bozen, Italy

    The title of this year’s Manifesta, “100 Miles in 100 Days,” seemed more logistical caveat than curatorial mandate. The impressive exhibition, which, along with parallel events, includes more than four hundred artists, is a veritable endurance marathon. This is the first time the roving biennial has been based in more than one city: the Italian towns of Rovereto, Trento, and Bolzano-Bozen. Perhaps the director, Hedwig Fijen, wanted to make up for the cancellation of the 2006 edition, scheduled for Nicosia, Cyprus, which was abandoned because of political discord among the curators and local

  • diary July 10, 2008

    Roman Holiday


    As soon as I arrived at the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina in the sultry Roman evening and looked down into the ancient ruins, I experienced something like an LSD-induced time warp: Bedouin transvestites had taken over four ancient temples dating from the fourth century BC. “It is a discotheque!” exclaimed an Italian passerby as he looked upon the colorful, pulsating encampment below. His female companion said, “It is not possible!” But there it was: Eli Sudbrack’s assume vivid astro focus collective was making its debut in Rome. Flashing neon hieroglyphs adorned the walls of the Temple of Juturna,

  • diary May 25, 2008

    Amazing Race


    As people arrived from all over the world to attend the opening weekend of the Reykjavik Arts Festival and participate in Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Olafur Eliasson’s “Experiment Marathon Reykjavik,” the mood resembled a summer camp—albeit one attended by Björk, who was on my flight from London, and the country’s president, Olafur Ragnar Grímsson. Festivities kicked off with receptions at both the president’s residence and at Reykjavik city hall, where mayor Ólafur F. Magnússon spoke with guests. Iceland’s intimate social landscape, along with its intimidating physical landscape, brought the eclectic