Kristian Vistrup Madsen

  • Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, c. 1657–59, oil on canvas, 33 × 25 1/2".
    slant December 20, 2021

    Okay Cupid

    IN DRESDEN, a city renowned for the picture-perfect restoration by which it looks the same and yet entirely strange, an old tale of love and deception is playing out. 

    Since Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, c. 1657–59, arrived in the Saxon capital from Paris in 1742, a girl in a green dress has been intently studying a letter by pale daylight against a white wall. As other of the Dutch master’s pictures, and indeed many of those made by his contemporaries, tend to do, the unadorned interior offers no clue as to what she might be thinking. Instead, what long impressed viewers

  • Phung-Tien Phan, Mid-Thirties, 2021, table, circular saw blade, 28 1⁄2 × 27 1⁄2 × 27 1⁄2".

    Phung-Tien Phan

    “Stop Dreaming,” commanded the title of Phung-Tien Phan’s exhibition. But this imperative was only the first card in the deck of language that made up the tight presentation. What followed added both contradiction and humor but—in the best way—offered no resolution. Girl at heart 2 (all works 2021) consisted of eight white sheets of fabric lining the walls and blocking the entrance, each with a letter burned onto it with a flat iron. In different shades of toast and with a still-fresh scent of fire on fabric, they spelled out the word TRIPLETS. Or, read the other way: LET STRIP or LETS TRIP. I

  • View of “Paradis,” 2021. Photo: Marie Angeletti.
    picks October 13, 2021

    “Paradis”

    Marseille

    A recent union strike in Marseille meant that municipal garbage had not been picked up for over a week. The massive pile of trash blocking the entrance to what is usually an auction house on Rue de Paradis seemed, when I visited it, somehow telling of the exhibition inside: an accumulation of pure energy, the natural outcome of resistance to any ruling logic. Trés Marseillaise. Curated by artist Marie Angeletti and named for its street address, the group show “Paradis” offers a manic assemblage of all the art you ever liked. The fifty-two artists include younger talents like Olga Balema,

  • Alexander Calder, Têtes et queue, 1965, sheet metal, bolts, paint, 216 1/2 x 185 x 130". Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Stephanie von Becker.
    diary August 24, 2021

    Neue Normal

    WINDSWEPT AND SOAKING WET, I took a seat on a Barcelona chair. Around me wall text was still emerging from behind sheets of protective plastic, and a bright red crane extended to fix a light in the ceiling. I’d been circling the expansive terrace of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie for a while, searching for a way into Mies van der Rohe’s immense glass box, which is finally reopening after a six-year overhaul led by David Chipperfield architects. Amid the rainstorm, the building’s inhuman proportions and impossibly clean lines seemed alienating and defiant. A huge, newly polished Henry Moore

  • David Ostrowski, F (Taylor Swift), 2020, acrylic and lacquer on canvas and wood, 16 1⁄8 × 12 1⁄8".

    David Ostrowski

    Imagine earnestness in a painting. It’s not pretty. Or maybe it is, actually, and that’s the problem: It’s kitsch. With the group of new, modestly sized works on view in the exhibition “So kalt kann es nicht sein/It can’t be that cold,” David Ostrowski appeared to have miraculously circumvented this impasse. The battered objects were gray, heavily layered and textured—some with collage elements barely discernible through the paint—and each titled with the artist’s customary “F” (which stands for what you think it does) followed by the name, in parentheses, of a prominent pop-music act (Toni

  • Övül Ö. Durmusoglu and Jörn Schafaff with a work by Rirkrit Tiravanija. Photo: Die Balkone.
    diary May 08, 2021

    Computer Love

    ON A WEDNESDAY NIGHT, during Berlin Gallery Weekend’s mostly digitized preview days, Hannes Schmidt of Schiefe Zähne and I were about thirtieth in the queue for chili cheese fries, which we were to bring back to the gallery where Richard Sides was putting finishing touches on “The Matrix,” an exhibition he made about being immersed in a technological world of uncertain boundaries. The show includes a crude cardboard homage to Spot, a robot dog offered by Boston Dynamics to the tune of $75,000. Killing time during the long wait for provisions—facing a 10 p.m. curfew, most of the nearby restaurants

  • The Humbolt Forum in Berlin. SHF © Photo: Christoph Musiol.
    architecture March 16, 2021

    Grand Facades

    “DARLING, AT A CERTAIN POINT ONE MUST STOP BITCHING and get to work,” Detlef Weitz told me when we met at a sun-showered Humboldt Forum shortly before Christmas. He had a point. My bad-mouthing the reconstructed Baroque Royal Palace had stopped being interesting. For years, every mention of the project has sparked animated discussions of the sort where each statement lights a fire under the next, resulting in extraordinary conflagrations of fury. In that way, the Humboldt Forum is a bit like Donald Trump or Brexit: I don’t know a single person who thought it was a good idea. Yet here it is, 766

  • Malmberget, Norrbotten County, Sweden. All photos by author.
    diary December 02, 2020

    On and On and On

    ERIK MET ME for dinner in Stockholm, where I had a few hours to kill before my night train north. We sat alone in the large and self-consciously old-fashioned restaurant in the central station while a second wave of Covid-19 ravaged the Swedish capital. Unlike in Germany, establishments—and, crucially for my visit, exhibitions—remain open here. Throughout the pandemic, the state has declined to enforce the use of masks and social distancing, appealing instead to people’s sense of civic responsibility to control the virus, though the government is now reconsidering this strategy. “It sounded

  • film November 11, 2020

    Dance Dance Revelation

    I TRAVELED TO SEE Jeremy Shaw’s Phase Shifting Index, 2020, at the Frankfurter Kunstverein after I’d had my “mind blown”—I keep describing it that way—by his Quantification Trilogy, 2014–18, currently on view at the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin, where Shaw is based. For nearly two decades, the Vancouver-born artist has made work that very much sets out to blow your mind while also thematizing mind-blowing as such. His 2004 video DMT shows close-ups of people’s faces as they come up on the psychedelic drug and try to describe what it feels like. This Transition Will Never End, 2008–, also

  • Rirkrit Tiravanija, Morgen Ist die Frage (Tomorrow Is the Question) at Berghain. All photos: Kristian Vistrup Madsen.
    diary September 16, 2020

    Rave New World

    “THE DANCE FLOOR is so much smaller than I remember.” This is the main feedback you’ll hear from visitors to the recently opened Boros x Berghain exhibition that fills Berlin’s old power plant–cum–legendary nightclub until it’s safe for techno-heads and leather-gays to return to their natural habitat. It used to take hours to get from one end to the other, or so it seemed. Now a small, wonderful Andro Wekua painting lends the space an almost domestic atmosphere. One of Anna Uddenberg’s mannequin sculptures humps the counter in the upstairs Panorama Bar; Sandra Mujinga’s tall hooded figures lurk

  • View of “Georges Adéagbo,” 2020.

    Georges Adéagbo

    Georges Adéagbo is a one-trick artist. But the outcome of that trick is endlessly variable. His method consists of making assemblages of objects: mostly books, magazines, newspaper articles, record covers, and wooden sculptures, but also the occasional pair of underwear. These items are pinned to the wall, as in a teenager’s bedroom, with what looks like a contrived messiness: Everything’s askew, with no apparent relation between one thing and another. So open does Adéagbo’s structure appear that for a second you might think you can just pick anything up, perhaps even take it home. But then it

  • Sarah Theurer, Catherine Wang, Amadeo Kraupa-Tuskany and Nadine Zeidler.
    diary May 06, 2020

    Hello Again

    IT’S BERLIN GALLERY WEEKEND, or week seven of corona quarantine, which means face masks are obligatory on public transport and in shops, and I’m busy with the third volume of Proust and how-tos for making schnitzel zu Hause. Meanwhile, leaving the house is the new Instagram: potentially bad for your health, but a great source of affirmation, where sanitary salutations—foot and elbow pumps—accumulate like Likes. “We are walking on thin ice,” reminded Mutti Merkel as galleries started reopening last week. But everyone is so happy to see you. At Galerie Barbara Weiss, Bärbel Trautwein and Daniel