Isabelle Graw

  • OPENINGS: AVERY SINGER

    PAINTING, AS WE KNOW WELL BY NOW, has long since ceased to be regarded as dubious or even obsolete. Whereas artists painting in the 1970s and ’80s felt obliged to justify their medium in order to rescue it from its reputation of being a highly suspicious commodity fetish, painting has since the ’90s been regarded as an accepted—even radical—form of social, conceptual, and institutional critique. Entering a new, unbounded era, in part driven by the posthumous hype around the work of Martin Kippenberger and his disciples, the medium came into fashion yet again under the banner of “network

  • Isabelle Graw

    THIS EXHIBITION WAS A FEAST: both visually delightful and a work of solid scholarship. Curators Susan Alyson Stein, Gloria Groom, and Guy Cogeval demonstrated with unprecedented clarity that fashion was the secret operating system underpinning the development of artistic production in France in the pivotal period from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s. The show left no doubt that artists of the time were drawn toward the milieu of fashion, toward fashion itself as subject matter, and toward painterly techniques that emphasized the material qualities and textures that are clothing’s and painting’s

  • Martin Kippenberger

    Hi, here I am, that must be enough.

    —Martin Kippenberger

    ALL OF BERLIN IS DELIGHTED: Martin Kippenberger is back in town. Contrary to popular belief, it was not in Cologne but here that the artist launched his career. It was in Berlin that he opened Kippenbergers Büro (an “office” specializing in communication) and where he served as bustling manager to the legendary punk club SO36. Inevitably, mention of his name is accompanied by nods to his unbounded lifestyle—as is currently the case at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, where “Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut | Very Good” is framed (via

  • SOCIAL REALISM: THE ART OF JANA EULER

    YOU ARE YOUR NETWORK. This aphorism, freely adapted from theater director René Pollesch’s 2012 play Kill Your Darlings, trenchantly captures the new worth of connections and friendships in contemporary life. Of course, it is a well-known fact that social interactions have changed in the age of network capitalism (to use Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello’s term). We communicate more, assiduously accumulate the contacts that are now of such unprecedented value, and seize every opportunity to network that presents itself. And yet however well known or familiar this scenario is, it takes on a slightly

  • Ellsworth Kelly

    THROUGHOUT HIS CAREER, Ellsworth Kelly has continually worked in black and white, often in parallel to making the same forms in color. Devoted exclusively to his black-and-white works, this show, subtitled “Schwarz & Weiß” (Black & White), may have seemed intended to emphasize an elimination of the artist-subject in Kelly’s work. (The curator, Ulrich Wilmes, speaks of “eschewing the subjective, emotional weight resulting from the use of color.”) Yet the exhibition left no doubt that black and white can also create a sense of subjective, psychological space; and the inclusion of seventeen of the

  • ECCE HOMO: ART AND SUBJECTHOOD

    THE RESURGENCE OF THE HUMAN FIGURE in much recent sculpture cannot be separated from a renewed attention to the idea of the subject. Although it is so commonplace as to go unnoticed, the idea of the artwork as a kind of subject in itself was one of the epochal inventions of modernity, crystallized in the radical shift in aesthetic theory in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At that juncture, it was specifically tied to painting: For Hegel, sculpture was able to “create a unity between body and spirit,” but painting alone allowed in a more abstract “principle of subjectivity.” In recent

  • CHARACTER STUDY: THE ART OF MICHAELA MEISE

    THE HUMAN BODY—that ghost of monumentality and figuration inexorably haunting modernism—is ever present in Michaela Meise’s work. Whether, in her numerous films, she takes on the pose of a neoclassical sculpture (as in Étude Carpeaux, 2008) or presents herself as a ballerina trapped in a gated community in South Africa (as in Ballerina Diary, 2001), she always makes sure her body is what everything else must relate to. And although Meise’s sculptural objects at first glance appear dry and reserved, on closer inspection they no less distinctly refer to the figural. Usually made of plywood panels

  • Isabelle Graw

    WITH A SUMMER COLLECTION that applied clichéd markers of painting (drips, splashes, areas off leaking color) to shoes and clothes, Yves Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati once again proved himself a worthy successor to his house’s great namesake, to whom France bid farewell this year with a state funeral. In that country Saint Laurent is seen as the most important artist since Picasso—a striking demonstration of the ultimate victory fashion has won over the fine arts in Paris, where fashion seems not only to have stolen the idea of modern art but also to have an ever-expanding cultural

  • ART AND ITS MARKETS: A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

    EVEN AS GOLD rises and the dollar falls, the expansion of the global art market shows few signs of reversal. This growth has been characterized by incredible immediacy, liquidity, and transparency—but also by inequity, archaic ritual, and social spectacle. Indeed, the economy of art is now both wildly speculative and idiosyncratically regulated, with unparalleled levels of attention devoted to the work of contemporary artists. What are the diverse factors that have contributed to this radical extension of interest and investment in the art of our day? And to what extent have these elements either transformed or reinscribed historical relationships among art’s audiences, institutions, collecting practices, and criticism? How might we best distinguish our present moment from previously bullish episodes and their attendant redefinitions of the aesthetic and the commoditized?
     
    From the fiscal to the formal, multiple arenas of knowledge are implicated in answering such questions. With this complex set of interrelationships in mind, Artforum invited a cross-section of figures—ranging from collector and curator to art historian and auction-house expert—to discuss the ways in which different kinds of value accrue to works of art and affect their production, display, and circulation: Ai Weiwei, Beijing-based artist; Amy Cappellazzo, international cohead of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s; Thomas Crow, professor of modern art at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University; Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Isabelle Graw, a founding editor of Texte zur Kunst and professor of art history and theory at Städelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt; Dakis Joannou, collector and president of the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece; and Robert Pincus-Witten, scholar and critic, and former director of exhibitions at L & M Arts in New York. Scholar and critic James Meyer and Artforum editor Tim Griffin moderate the discussion.

    THE GLOBAL BOOM

    James Meyer: The extraordinary boom of the contemporary market in recent years, along with the globalization of art’s production and display—two related phenomena—are among the most pressing subjects in any discussion of current practice. The history of modernism is in part a history of the marketing of the new. The Peau d’Ours sale in 1914, which brought a record price for Pablo Picasso’s Family of Acrobats [1905]; the first Parke-Bernet auction of contemporary art in 1965, which featured Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture; and the sale of the Scull Collection

  • Josephine Pryde

    Josephine Pryde’s exhibitions always appear straightforwardly thematic, then become more and more perplexing the longer you think about them. Her recent show, “Hollow Inside,” was no exception: Her new diagrams of yoga positions—in chains mounted on Plexiglas—might seem clear enough, but then you started to wonder why multiple-exposure head shots of bewildered-looking sheep were hung on the walls around them. The photographs of staring sheep look blurry and hallucinatory; in some cases, the technique of multiple exposure creates more than two eyes. It is as if our own perplexity were materialized

  • PERIPHERAL VISION: THE ART OF JUTTA KOETHER

    FEW PEOPLE IN COLOGNE in the ’80s and early ’90s knew quite what to make of Jutta Koether’s paintings. Koether was admired for her astute theoretical essays on art and music, which appeared in the legendary German culture magazine Spex and elsewhere, but these writings seemed nearly irreconcilable with her deliberately clumsy, apparently crude pictures. How was one to understand a work like, say, Portrait Robert Johnson? Painted entirely in Koether’s then-signature blackish red pigments, this 1990 diptych—for the record, one of my favorite paintings—features on one panel a flatly rendered face,

  • Jörg Immendorff

    THE EMINENT SPEAKERS at the September opening of Jörg Immendorff’s Neue Nationalgalerie retrospective “Male Lago: Unsichtbarer Beitrag” (Male Lago: Invisible Contribution), included Gerhard Schröder, who just a few days earlier, on the eve of Germany’s federal elections, had made a remarkable appearance on national television. Clearly exhausted after weeks of campaign battles he still exuberantly claimed to be the only person in the country able to form a government. By the time of the opening, despite the fact that most voters had actually cast their ballots for the various parties of the Left,

  • Isabelle Graw

    1 JAN TIMME (GALERIE CHRISTIAN NAGEL, BERLIN) At first glance, this was a not-so-spectacular show in the tradition of the empty gallery, à la Yves Klein. But on closer inspection it packed quite a punch. A tile placed high on the wall bore the ambiguous inscription “Carrer qui no passa”—a phrase taken from a street sign on the island of Minorca that can be understood to mean “dead end” but could also be translated as “There’s no moving on here.” With this apparent acknowledgment of the dubious viability of simply “moving on” in one’s art career, Timme rejected the rampant careerism abounding

  • Merlin Carpenter

    Merlin Carpenter’s exhibitions are always attempts to step outside the bounds of the “realm of the possible”—that is, the current conventions of the art industry—the better to criticize them. His latest show continued this attack on art-world consensus but at the same time demonstrated that one still has to deal with the reigning norms, to engage them somehow. His attack this time was, in the first instance, one on the posthumous canonization of the Martin Kippenberger currently being hailed as a painterly genius at the expense of the “conceptual” Kippenberger, whose project was in essence not

  • “Regarding Terror”

    The history of the Red Army Faction may seem on first glance a closed book, not least because this terrorist organization announced its dissolution in 1998. But the process of legend-making continues unabated, and the RAF’s founding members—Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Ulrike Meinhof, Jan-Carl Raspe, and Holger Meins—have become saints, martyrs, or demons (depending on your viewpoint), mythical statuses produced by the German media no less than by the outlaws themselves. The extent to which the history of the RAF stretches into the present is shown by numerous recent books and films, Gerd

  • Berlin

    WHEN OUT OF TOWN, THOSE OF US WHO LIVE IN BERLIN regularly find ourselves confronted with the question, “So what’s it like there?” As if we were personally responsible for the city’s reputation as a “happening” place. Sometimes the question resonates with excited expectation, and other times a skeptical tone betrays reservations about all the hype. Depending on my mood, I either add fuel to the fire or adopt a strategy of demystification. For the residents of other major cities, Berlin has undoubtedly become an ideal surface for the projection of all sorts of fantasies: a city with a functioning

  • Andrea Fraser

    On returning home to Berlin from Hamburg, where I had seen Andrea Fraser’s midcareer retrospective, I was besieged with questions about the artist’s new “sex work,” a videotaped performance for which she was “commissioned” to have sex with a collector. “Did you like it?” I was repeatedly asked, and I found, even to my own surprise, that I had to answer yes, I liked it very much. This work, called Untitled, is clearly in keeping with a risk-laden artistic investigation that began in 2001 with two pieces: Kunst muss hängen (Art Must Hang), Fraser’s re-creation of an impromptu 1995 speech by Martin

  • Isabelle Graw

    ISABELLE GRAW

    1 Francis Picabia (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) For me, painting is interesting only if it shows an awareness of its own sheer meaninglessness and ridiculous claims. This well-curated exhibition demonstrated how Picabia not only reacted to the artistic conventions around him (Impressionism and Cubism, for instance) but also effectively changed their direction. The show’s ambition was to present the “whole” Picabia, revealing how each of the artist’s “turns” was about communicating with his peers as much as taking a unique position as a cultural producer. My favorite

  • Rosemarie Trockel

    ISABELLE GRAW: In the late ’70s you applied to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf but were rejected and ended up at the lesser-known Fachhochschule für Kunst und Design in Cologne. What kinds of artistic or social possibilities did you see developing at that time? That is, how was what Bourdieu called the “space of possibilities” taking shape?

    ROSEMARIE TROCKEL: Well, I had little “space” at my disposal: I suffered from a case of agoraphobia that more or less defined my life. For a long time I could leave my apartment only with great effort. My teacher Werner Schriefers, the former director of the

  • THE MOURNING AFTER: A ROUNDTABLE

    Few funerals have been as indecorous as the one held for painting in the early ’80s. Was the deceased truly dead, and, if so, in whose name could the death certificate be signed? Or was this a burial without a corpse, another instance of the ritual interments that seemed to recur throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as Arthur C. Danto suggests in his keynote statement? Artforum convened the roundtable that follows to offer our own reexamination of the Death of Painting debate and its legacy throughout the decade. In the April issue, a second group led by Robert Storr considers the afterlife of painting in the ’80s and beyond.

    In recalling a period of severe depression he underwent in the “melancholy winter of 1826–27,” John Stuart Mill wrote, in a famous passage of his autobiography, that he had been “seriously tormented by the thought of the exhaustibility of musical combinations.” Sooner or later, all the possibilities would have been used up, and music would be over with. There was no sense in Mill that this had already taken place, but the thought that it could or would deepened his distress. No composer of Mill’s time had, for instance, presented monotone works—a single note sustained for a substantial interval—nor