Kristian Vistrup Madsen

  • 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

  • Andreas Eriksson

    “Nite Flights” is a 1978 song by the Walker Brothers. It describes nocturnal journeys as having “only one promise / only one way to fall,” and the darkness as “dug up by dogs.” “Nite Flights,” 2019, is also the title of a new series of paintings by the Swedish artist Andreas Eriksson, and of his most recent exhibition. The paintings, which are quite murky, feature blotches of dimmed greens, reds, and purples reminiscent of landscapes seen through the window of an airplane at night. Eriksson achieves his own kind of dug-up darkness by allowing a thick layer of oil to respond negatively to the

  • diary April 03, 2020

    Retreat Yourself

    THE QUARANTINI IS THE DRINK OF THE MOMENT. It’s just like a martini, except you have it alone. The Californian pop star Lauv, by the sound of it, has been downing quarantinis for a while. His is a songbook of solitary anguish, with titles such as “f*ck, i’m lonely,” “Lonely Eyes,” and “Sad Forever.” Take the chorus for “Modern Loneliness,” the lead single for the twenty-five-year-old’s new album, released a couple weeks ago: “We’re never alone / But always depressed / Love my friends to death / But I never call and I never text.” Lauv might just have missed the mark on this one: Now, many of us

  • diary February 06, 2020

    Last Resort

    TO GET TO THE ALPINE VILLAGE OF VERBIER, I cabbed to the airport at five in the morning, flew to Geneva, and from there took the train two hours along the north side of Lac Léman. Then I transferred to a smaller train for another half hour before catching a ski lift into the clouds. This trek was thrilling at first—magical, really—and, finally, somewhat absurd, given that this year’s Verbier Art Summit is titled “Resource Hungry: On Our Cultured Landscape and Its Ecological Impact.” I had come solely to attend this event—for which the Dia Foundation’s Jessica Morgan had asked an array of artists,

  • Michaela Meise

    You never know what you’re looking for until you find it. In my case, I found it in the reference to the late-1990s sitcom Frasier in the new works by Michaela Meise for this exhibition, titled “Guten Tag” (Good Day). The show began with this greeting and finished with the line that the fictional psychotherapist Dr. Frasier Crane always used at the end of his call-in radio show—GOODNIGHT, SEATTLE AND GOOD MENTAL HEALTH—scrawled across the last of Meise’s seven collages on paper or paperboard. The modest display followed the palatable format of a radio show or TV episode: Each collage offered a

  • picks December 09, 2019

    Mikael Brkic

    Too famous and too beige, Paris has turned into so overpowering an image, it’s impossible not to feel trapped by it. A black-and-white stock photo of two lovers promenading the Seine is duplicated thrice in Mikael Brkic’s work Paris – A Love Story, 2019, which borrows its name from former NPR correspondent Kati Marton’s memoir as well as the book’s cover image. Marton lived in Europe during the 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia while her late husband, American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, negotiated the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, but this backdrop is mostly absent from her romantic

  • Sophie von Hellermann

    Sophie von Hellermann’s exhibition “Swirls and Circles” was like a trip to a funfair. Like the ghost house or the freak show, her large, brightly colored canvases were fictions sustained not by their credibility but, quite the opposite, by their total fancy and one’s willingness to indulge it. There were centaurs, a sleeping beauty, and women in yellow hovering around a giant eye, everything wrapped in pastel hues and fluorescent flashes. These apparitions were easy to get into and hard to hold on to.

    In all the paintings, but especially in the larger, more elaborate compositions such as Urania

  • diary November 13, 2019

    Basic Extinct

    I SPENT THE WEEKEND IN A FORMER CREMATORIUM thinking about death. The occasion was a two-day symposium organized by SAVVY Contemporary as part of their exhibition “The Long Term You Cannot Afford: On the Distribution of the Toxic.” The colloquium coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, and though it had already been a month since David Hasselhoff made his traditional appearance for the official reunification day, a kind of kitsch-comedown still weighed on the festivities. I’ll admit that I hadn’t exactly looked forward to contemplating the apocalypse over

  • “Rust & Bones”

    While some things deteriorate with time’s passing, others resist its effects. Or so the title “Rust & Bones” seemed to remind us. But this tight gathering of works by Ulf Aminde, Nilbar Güreş, Laurel Nakadate, and Justin Liam O’Brien was more oblique than that. It was an exhibition about relationality and confrontation that asked viewers to privilege efforts at reconciliation and togetherness over the conflict and isolation that often seem their inevitable outcome.

    In Nakadate’s short video Exorcism in January, 2009, the artist, a young woman, visits an older man in his messy, gray apartment.

  • diary September 26, 2019

    Coup de Graz

    “STYRIAN AUTUMN SOUNDS LIKE BEER TENTS AND NATIONALISM,” a bike messenger said to me upon my return to Vienna from Graz, where I attended the Fifty-Second Steirischer Herbst, Europe’s oldest contemporary art festival. “It’s precisely the opposite,” I retorted. “Think cool graphic design and radical leftist politics—you can add quotes around ‘radical,’ depending on your temperament.” But is this time-honored event actually so incongruent with its rustic surroundings, the undeniably progressive typeface aside? Graz is a place where everything, including Ekaterina Degot’s program, walks the line

  • Veit Laurent Kurz

    “The principles of life are to be found in shit,” wrote Veit Laurent Kurz in the text that accompanied this recent exhibition “Nutrition and Drama.” Here, Kurz told of a freaky tribe of dwarfs called the Dilldapp, whose excrement was said to flow through the pipes we saw in the gallery. The pipes connecting various Styrofoam structures were filled with a grass-green liquid known as Herba-4, the cure for all sorts of ills. Present in various shapes and sizes, the Dilldapp themselves were of a crumbling plaster-white texture and opulently dressed in Biedermeier silks, though dripping sickly pus

  • picks July 12, 2019

    Yalda Afsah

    In Yalda Afsah’s video Vidourle, 2019, a mass of youngsters sift around in murky water, stirring with anticipation. One wears a statement T-shirt that reads, “DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.” What’s the hype? We don’t know. As the boys run out of the frame, waves glistening, the video cuts to a cropped image of their absence, then to their audience: girls clutching at a fence and biting their lips. A guy whips the ground with a green pool noodle. Afsah has set a scene at once totally disjointed and completely captivating.

    Vidourle and another short video, Tourneur, 2018, are shown opposite and, in turn,

  • diary June 12, 2019

    Mixed Emotions

    FOR TEENAGERS, there is no such thing as too much angst, too much pain, too much love. No emotion is ever enough. This is what made the Norwegian web series Skam (2015–17) such a sensation: It illustrated perfectly the simultaneous intensity and mundanity of adolescence. Most of the time, you’re torrenting Romeo + Juliet in bed and shedding a single tear. At some point, life stops being (as) boring, emotions become burdens, and we cordon them off somewhere. I met Isak from Skam, in real life known as Tarjei Sandvik Moe, at Kunstnernes Hus and momentarily returned to a pubescent state of elation.

  • Torsten Andersson

    It’s circa 1960, and some people are once again starting to say painting is dead. In its terminal state, the monochrome, it has transformed into an exercise in rendering space and void. But at the same time, in Sweden, Torsten Andersson (1926–2009) is frantically attempting a resuscitation. His painting Molnen Mellan Oss (The Clouds Between Us), 1966, although not on view at Galerie Nordenhake, lent its name to this exhibition, in testimony to the decisive role it played in concluding a period the artist termed his “struggle for language.”

    Among the works on display, Ljuskrona av trä (Chandelier

  • diary May 01, 2019

    Shark Tank

    ON FRIDAY, I FLEW TO CÔTE D’AZUR in a private jet, and I am happy to confirm that the Alps are still snowcapped—it’s not all over quite yet, then. The lunch excursion was to Art Monte Carlo, an event that inserts itself into Berlin Gallery Weekend by making available a private shuttle. A luminously beautiful girl who sat with me on the plane got several hundred likes for a selfie taken in its cream leather interior. “Instagram is like alcohol: It manufactures the lack that drives it,” said a Greek collector with indigo eyeshadow who otherwise kept quiet. Her gold bangles rattled as our Mercedes

  • Norbert Schwontkowski

    In Norbert Schwontkowski’s painting Ohne Titel (Dach) (Untitled [Roof]), 2009–12, a group of birds sit on a grid of white roof tiles. These birds are dotted so casually onto the canvas they hardly register as living beings—we wouldn’t wait for them to take off. Schwontkowski’s paintings dip in and out of figuration in the way life does: Sometimes we understand what’s going on around us, but most of the time everything’s a bit of a blur.

    Die von Da” (Those from There) presented an outtake of the late German artist’s works across three decades. The principle behind the selection seems to have been

  • Poul Gernes

    Herlev Hospital, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, is the tallest building in Denmark, and Poul Gernes’s complete interior decoration of that structure remains the largest painting in the country, perhaps in the world. Yet few of the patients who experience it may recognize it as art, for Gernes’s work is as resistant to categorization as it is eye-catching. Not only does his painterly world cut across the borders among Fluxus, Pop, Op, Minimalism, and Conceptual art, it also effaces the distinction between art and design. Gernes (1925–1996) championed the decorative, and insisted on popular access

  • picks February 13, 2019

    “Bubble Metropolis”

    The gallery is bathed in dust-blue light and the tremor of Calder Harben’s sound installation Bodies of Water, 2017–, which is audible only through the excision of everything else. Entering “Bubble Metropolis,” you’re given not just earplugs, then, but also a second layer of over-ear protection. Five recordings, each from a different location, document the auditive consequences of industry and traffic on marine environments. From a highway bridge by Umeå in the north of Sweden, vibrations shoot through the concrete pillars into the river below, unleashing a series of gut-wrenchingly deep

  • Simon Fujiwara

    Rules are made to be broken, they say, but sometimes obeying is just as good a way to cop a thrill. Entering Simon Fujiwara’s installation Empathy I, 2018, you had to draw a number, then sit down on an airport-style chair and wait your turn. The room was totally non-descript, furnished only with the chairs, a table, a water cooler, and some reading material: two dozen copies of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), all bookmarked at the page listing the rules of engagement between the novel’s submissive protagonist and the dominant Mr. Grey.

    What visitors were waiting to enter, two at a

  • Mathis Altmann, Bonnie Camplin, Salvo, Lucie Stahl, Amelie von Wulffen

    Arguing against reductive reason, the German Jewish art historian, poet, and anti-fascist of the interwar period Carl Einstein wrote,  “Every structuring is a complex function.” Whether that structuring takes the form of a city or a group show, his statement (included in the press release to this exhibition) continues to ring true. Since 2009, as part of the “Curated by” initiative, Viennese galleries have invited guest curators to mount exhibitions under a given theme—last year’s was the somewhat unwieldy “Viennaline.” In response, Melanie Ohnemus