Kate Sutton

  • diary May 20, 2014

    Space Odyssey

    “HONG KONG has nowhere to go. Between the river and the sea, you can’t just add another suburb,” artist Lam Tung-pang declared, turning to the stalwart audience who showed up for Art Basel Hong Kong’s Saturday Salon. “We have to make use of the spaces we have.” His panel’s topic was “Artist Networks,” but it focused more on the twin pillars of real estate and finance than on social relations. To most of the crowd, Lam was known as one of the cofounders of the Fotanian Open Studios, the January festival that canvasses the burgeoning art scene of the industrial Fo Tan district, where studios have

  • picks May 14, 2014

    Teresa Margolles

    In her attempts to gauge the drug-related violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Teresa Margolles shifts from a human body count to an architectural one. The exhibition “El testigo” (The Witness) grounds Margolles’s more recent works with the gut-wrenching PM2010, 2012, a side-by-side survey of an entire year’s worth of covers of the popular newspaper PM. Cheesecake shots of Paris Hilton and Jennifer Aniston cushion front-page photos of decapitated heads and mutilated bodies, victims of drug violence in what would be the city’s bloodiest year ever. (The November 10, 2010, headline triumphantly

  • picks May 06, 2014

    “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South”

    Southern comfort comes at a cost. Or at least, so suggests Trenton Doyle Hancock’s Vegan Arm, 2006, a skeletal limb offering up a pail of what looks like Pepto Bismal at the entrance to “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South.” The group show of thirty-five artists subscribes to the Southern Gothic notion of a land of patched roofs and porch swings, where imagination is as fertile as the soil, and artistic production can be directly tied to visions. The danger with fetishizing the South as a spiritual intoxicant, however, is that those who drink too deeply risk indigestion.

  • diary May 03, 2014

    Make or Break

    FORGET “MOTOR CITY.” Detroit may yet gain a rep as a city of two wheels, not four, thanks in part to Shinola. The all-American-made luxury purveyor of watches and leather goods recently debuted a line of retro-inspired bicycles so luscious, they make metal mouth-watering. Founded in 2011, the brand has already garnered myriad admirers, including Bill Clinton, who was posing for pictures at the Detroit factory the same day I was touring Shinola’s outpost in the shopping district known as Cass Corridor, part of the itinerary for last weekend’s Culture Lab Detroit, a three-day festival celebrating

  • Neil Beloufa and Dorian Gaudin

    Reveling in the near-Duchampian turn of its title (which could be translated as either “Behind, After the Falls” or “Behind, After the Remnants”), “Derrière, Après Les Chutes” transformed Clearing’s town-house interior into an assembly line of bachelor machines, with a collection of contraptions by Dorian Gaudin and Neïl Beloufa. While Duchamp’s bachelors grind under the weight of stunted desire, these contemporary devices strive toward a more perfect pointlessness—operating, perhaps, but not producing.

    The first floor featured a suite of sculptures by Gaudin, centering around Untitled,

  • Marrakech Biennale 5

    In posing the question “Where Are We Now?” the Fifth Marrakech Biennale skipped over the perennially problematized terrain of geography and its discontents to concentrate instead on being in time. Rather than accepting the present as a fixed moment, the curator of the visual- and sound-arts program, Hicham Khalidi, brought together works that explore the experience of the contemporary as what philosopher Peter Osborne calls a “disjunctive unity of times.”

    This clash of temporalities structures the narrative of Shezad Dawood’s Towards the Possible Film, 2014. A mix of HD and Super 16 transferred

  • Manifesta 10

    For its tenth edition, the Manifesta Foundation will settle its itinerant biennial at the edge of a former empire, in one of the world’s oldest museums: the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Once touted as a “window to Europe,” Russia’s second city has recently drawn its shades, as domestic politics—notably, the criminalization of “homosexual propaganda”—have sparked international protests. Mindful of this context,König will address questions of the body, drawing on the museum’s treasured Matisse collection (which includes The Dance, 1909–10) to develop a politically

  • picks April 21, 2014

    Wilfrid Almendra

    Wilfrid Almendra operates in the space between modernist architecture and its best intentions, the utopian promises it failed to keep in the literal no-places of suburbia. The artist sets his latest body of work in Chelles, a Parisian suburb rebuilt in the 1970s under an urbanization plan that envisioned a streamlined future (via a series of social housing projects) with room for relics of the past: namely, two adjoining chapels, ostensibly the last remnants of Notre-Dame-de-Chelles, a seventh-century abbey destroyed during the French Revolution. Having spent centuries as storefronts, barns,

  • picks April 07, 2014

    Sarah Lucas

    For her first New York solo exhibition in nearly a decade, Sarah Lucas delivers a sangfroid, Freudian slip of a show, anticipating and upending the lurid expectations of her audience with a hard-edged humor much darker than her one-liner premise. The exhibition’s title, “Nud Nob,” refers to the artist’s 2009–2010 series of “Nuds,” anthropomorphic sculptures fashioned from panty hose. She has now cast similar forms in bronze, as if to trade fetish for finish and the weight of art-historical reference points. All sloppy sausage limbs and Brancusi-bird erections, the figures still carry on their

  • “Paradise Lost”

    “I believe it was God’s will that we should come back, so that men might know the things that are in the world,” Marco Polo claims in the preface to The Description of the World, a chronicle of his journey through Persia and the Caucasus to China. Whether or not the Venetian merchant ever uttered these words—or, for that matter, even ever set foot in China—can no longer be known. His tales were first transcribed in prison by Polo’s cell mate, the romance writer Rustichello of Pisa. These original manuscripts would soon disappear, but tales of Polo’s adventures would circulate throughout

  • picks March 05, 2014

    Nina Canell

    Nina Canell’s four-piece exhibition charges this one-room gallery with the kind of ionic imbalance sensed seconds before static electricity discharges—a phenomenon often only recognized after the fact. Canell’s aim, it seems, is not in release or neutralization, but rather in the suspension within this tension. In this sense, the exhibition echoes the semantic structure of its title, “(Near Here),” which floats its core within uncertain parentheses.

    Near Here, 2014, offers a small clear acrylic cube, embedded with a cross section of a thick cable wire, the silver pearls of its innards splayed in

  • diary February 06, 2014

    Paramount Importance

    IT WAS THE WEEKEND of the Big Game and tensions were high.


    “Where’s the Stoned team?”

    “Seriously, guys—get on the field! It’s game time!”

    Emerald-teed Team Stoned stumbled onto the part of a dusty parking lot marked up to resemble a soccer field, as their red-shirted opponents—Team Drunk—roared cheers from a formidable-looking huddle. Less than ten seconds after the first whistle, one of Drunk’s forwards sent an impassioned kick toward the Stoned goalie, who was casually chatting with a passing stranger. The ball flew by him, easily sailing through the parking cone goalposts. Team Drunk

  • diary January 24, 2014

    Eye for an Eye

    PUSSY RIOT was stopping traffic, literally, as they dashed across Singapore’s Raffles Boulevard, a PR handler hot on their flats.

    “I’m very sorry, but all the artists need to be on the bus for the red carpet!” the assistant called out, in breathless panic. “We prefer to walk,” Maria Alyokhina assured him, motioning toward the sprawling Suntec City complex. To be fair, it was only two blocks away. Considering his options (and heeding the gleam in Alyokhina’s eye), the handler glumly consented, turning back to the bus while Alyokhina and her comrade, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, traded smiles.

    The trip

  • diary January 22, 2014

    All the World’s a Stage

    “CAN YOU BELIEVE I’ve been in this country three months and still haven’t made it up here?” curator Ute Meta Bauer marveled from the terrace atop Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. Tapped as the founding director of Center for Contemporary Art Singapore, Bauer has spent most of her time at the Gillman Barracks, a reconverted army training facility now home to CCA as well as gallery franchises Arndt, ShanghART, Michael Janssen, and Pearl Lam. With CCA’s first exhibition—“Paradise Lost,” featuring videos by Zarina Bhimji, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Fiona Tan—slated to open just days later, it was understandable

  • diary November 28, 2013

    Jogja on My Mind

    “SO, HOW WAS the Singapore Biennale?”

    “Oh, I’m doing that next! I just came from Jakarta.”

    “Oh, so you saw the Jakarta Biennale?”

    “Well, thaaat, but also the South East Asia Triennale.”

    The conversation would be enough to induce biennial fatigue in anyone. All the more so given its setting: a VIP welcome luncheon for yet another biennial, Biennale Jogja, which opened November 16 in venues across Yogyakarta, Java’s effusive second capital. Nestled amid active volcanoes and ancient temples, Yogyakarta—known affectionately as Jogja (Jhog-jha)—is experiencing a major surge in its contemporary art scene,

  • diary November 06, 2013

    Agnès in Wonderland


    It was the Day of the Dead, and we had lost Agnès Varda in the procession trodding solemnly down Los Angeles’s Olvera Street, a pseudo-Pueblo tourist attraction. “She’ll come back,” her daughter, costume designer Rosalie Varda-Demy, said with a shrug, joining LACMA curator Rita Gonzalez and me for a pitcher of margaritas on the patio of La Golondrina. “She’s probably just found some new material.” Sure enough, fifteen minutes later, Varda returned, all smiles and silver-and-magenta color-blocked bowl cut. “I’ve found my next project,” the eighty-five-year-old filmmaker

  • diary September 30, 2013

    Immaculate Conceptualism

    “LOOK FORWARD and you should see a large spaceship.” Not a sentence one hears every day, but in the new urban paradise of Moscow’s Gorky Park, the Buran test shuttle is one of a few remaining anachronisms. Our crew of internationals—in town for the Moscow Biennale and banner exhibitions of Ilya Kabakov and John Baldessari—had boarded the sightseeing train and was now ambling slowly past the ping-pong courts, salsa-dancing platforms, co-working hubs, and the site of the future Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, a Rem Koolhaas/OMA venture due next year. Winds of change, indeed.

    In the current

  • picks September 22, 2013

    Işıl Eğrikavuk

    The title of Işıl Eğrikavuk’s latest project, “Reverse Corner,” denotes a football tactic in which the attacker fakes an approach, sending the goalie to one corner and the ball to another. The artist compares this to the footwork that has spun Istanbul’s recent Gezi Park demonstrations as an erratic clash of protesters and police—a dichotomy that presumes the latter is complicit in the orders they have sworn to enforce. Eğrikavuk does this by first marking out a field of play, carpeting the entire gallery in Astroturf. This field is manned by a tight cluster of police helmets hung at shoulder

  • diary September 18, 2013

    Winter Is Coming

    A FOUR-HOUR FERRY RIDE up past the Arctic Circle, Norway’s Lofoten Islands are a true anomaly, a polar archipelago with a California climate, an effect of the warm Gulf Stream waters. At 68º North, the landscape is Sublime, from the craggy, cloud-shrouded cliffs of the fjords to the white sandy beaches edging aquamarine bays. Home to Norwegian painter Gunnar Berg and muse to Edgar Allan Poe and William Carlos Williams alike, Lofoten eludes description. Almost. “It’s like my Windows 95 backdrop,” one artist marveled. “Cold Hawaii,” suggested another.

    Previously a mostly local affair, the eighth

  • diary September 08, 2013

    Weekend Warriors

    “TO BIENNIAL, OR NOT TO BIENNIAL?” That was the question back at the 2009 Bergen Assembly Conference. That gathering had been convened as a think tank for a city angling to become, as more than one public official assured me, the “most open, daring, creative, and innovative within the Nordic countries by the year 2017.” But as plans came together for a Bergen biennial, doubts starting to rise as to whether a grand-scale exhibition was really the kind of “open, daring, creative and innovative” maneuver the city needed. After all, three decades into a so-called biennial explosion, the term itself