Cathryn Drake

  • 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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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

  • 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