Daniel Birnbaum

  • Renzo Piano’s Pontus Hultén Study Gallery

    THE MACHINERY IS QUITE LOUD, and that is something that the architect Renzo Piano, its designer, likes. In fact, as he explained to me this past summer, standing in a gallery of Moderna Museet in Stockholm—where his contraption was making walls of artworks descend from the ceiling along metal tracks—he would not have minded it being even noisier. However cool his architecture, Piano has a taste for extravagant machines, something he shared with his longtime friend Pontus Hultén (1924–2006), at whose behest and in whose spirit this unique apparatus was created. In 2005, Hultén, head of the Moderna

  • Fischli & Weiss

    IN HIS ESSAY on the uncanny, Freud tells the story of a young couple who move into a house in which there is a wooden table with carvings of crocodiles. “Toward evening,” he writes, “an intolerable and very specific smell begins to pervade the house; they stumble over something in the dark; they seem to see a vague form gliding over the stairs—in short, we are given to understand that the presence of the table causes ghostly crocodiles to haunt the place.” Something similar happened this past winter at the Palazzo Litta in Milan, a stunning Baroque building in which the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi

  • André Cadere

    ACCORDING TO ONE of modern art’s favorite legends, Constantin Brancusi arrived in the City of Light in 1904 on foot, having walked most of the way from Munich, his first stop after leaving Romania the year before. This is the kind of story that impressed curator Harald Szeemann, as it perfectly fitted his shamanistic idea of the artist as bearer of a personal mythology. Indeed, the anecdote must have been on Szeemann’s mind when he decided to include the Romanian artist André Cadere in his Documenta 5, in 1972, but only under the condition that the artist arrive on foot—and carry his

  • Simon Starling, Autoxylopyrocycloboros, 2006, color transparency, dimensions variable.

    Simon Starling

    Simon Starling is the master of productive detours. By changing or recontextualizing objects of various types, he grants them the power to tell new stories in which personal histories are rerouted to intersect with broader cultural currents.

    Simon Starling is the master of productive detours. By changing or recontextualizing objects of various types, he grants them the power to tell new stories in which personal histories are rerouted to intersect with broader cultural currents. Starling does the same with his latest project, a site-specific commission for the Power Plant, which involves submerging in Lake Ontario, a copy of Warrior with Shield, 1953–54, by British sculptor Henry Moore—whose Archer, 1964–65, has stood, despite much controversy, outside Toronto's City Hall since 1966—so that it will become

  • Pauline Boty, The Only Blonde in the World, 1963, oil on canvas, 88 5/16 x 60 1/4". © Estate of Pauline Boty, 2007.

    “Europop”

    The lollipop-wielding bodybuilder in Richard Hamilton's iconic 1956 collage may explain why Hamilton is often credited with inventing Pop art, but the artist was hardly mining that vein alone.

    The lollipop-wielding bodybuilder in Richard Hamilton's iconic 1956 collage may explain why Hamilton is often credited with inventing Pop art, but the artist was hardly mining that vein alone. Indeed, in the early 1960s a new Pop sensibility was emerging not only in London but across Europe: In Frankfurt, for example, Thomas Bayrle was making paintings that celebrated mass production and a sense of flatness, while in Iceland, Érró was producing his own inimitable Pop imagery. Through some eighty works by twenty-four artists—including Pauline Boty, Öyvind Fahlström, Raymond

  • Daniel Birnbaum

    DANIEL BIRNBAUM

    1 “André Cadere: Peinture sans fin” (Painting Without End) (Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany) For years, artists I admire, like Gabriel Orozco and Saâdane Afif, have told me about the work of Cadere (1934–1978), and here I finally had the chance to see it. This retrospective made clear that the Romanian-born, Paris-based artist was a huge pain in the neck—he would insert his signature striped “barres de bois rond” (bars of round wood) into any show he felt could use them, often uninvited. But he was nonetheless a great practitioner of a colorful new form of “peinture

  • OEI

    JORGE LUIS BORGES, who populated many of his most famous works with fictitious Swedes (with names like Runeberg and Lönnrot), and whose interest in the Scandinavian soul was readily apparent, drew attention to the strange predicament of Nordic culture, rich and advanced yet almost unknown to the rest of the world:

    In universal history, the wars and books of Scandinavia are as if they had never existed; everything remains isolated and without a trace, as if it had come to pass in a dream or in the crystal balls where clairvoyants gaze. In the twelfth century, the Icelanders discovered the novel—the

  • Il Tempo del Postino

    For a joint commission between the Manchester International Festival and the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist and artist Philippe Parreno orchestrated a series of performances by artists, which premiered last July at the Opera House in Manchester, UK. Artforum asked two of its regular contributors to give their impressions of the works presented onstage.

    MARTIN HERBERT

    FOR “IL TEMPO DEL POSTINO (The Time of the Postman), which took place on three evenings this past July in Manchester, curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno offered contemporary artists not previously

  • Daniel Birnbaum

    DOCUMENTA 12 IS A WEIRD THING. What, after all, is one to make of the exhibition’s wacky interior decors with heavy curtains and dark olive or bright salmon walls; of the idiosyncratic mix of contemporary work and historical material from around the globe (Persian calligraphy from the sixteenth century, an Iranian carpet from around 1800, Japanese avant-garde art of the 1950s, to cite but a few examples); or of the apparent obsession with meshes, threads, and textiles in general? And what is one to think of the organizers’ downplaying of the geographical, biographical, and cultural contexts of

  • THE ART OF EDUCATION

    1. “Ignorance is a treasure of infinite price” (Paul Valéry). Most of us have a lot to unlearn.

    2. Key artists who are also great teachers are rare. Find them, and much else will follow.
    They don’t need to agree on anything and should represent only themselves.

    3. Wonderful things can happen between disciplines, but you don’t need to tear down the walls. There are doors. (Just leave them unlocked.)

    4. Something happens to a thing when it is displayed. An art school is not an exhibition, but students should be close to exhibitions.

    5. Food can be as important as philosophy; the best teaching may

  • Steven Parrino

    Perhaps more than any other New York artist, Steven Parrino—who died in a motorcycle accident in 2005—had a punk-rock attitude in art as well as in life. Wahler’s tripartite exhibition, “La Marque Noire: Steven Parrino/Retrospective, Prospective,” aims to capture the richness of the artist’s frantic activities, which ranged from painting and making music to staging collaborative multimedia performances. A retrospective component, curated by Fabrice Stroun and based on an exhibition he organized in Geneva last year, is complemented by two group shows through

  • Pontus Hultén

    To remember Pontus Hultén, legendary curator and director of six art institutions in Europe and America, Artforum asked three of Hultén’s colleagues to reflect on the man and his work.

    DANIEL BIRNBAUM

    AT A DINNER I attended some years ago, an artist friend of mine asked Harald Szeemann whether “Les Machines Celibataires” (The Bachelor Machines), a legendary 1976 exhibition inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass that treated the theme of obsession in contemporary art, hadn’t been a project by Pontus Hultén. Clearly pained at this younger individual’s mistake—the show was Szeemann’s own brainchild—the