Kristian Vistrup Madsen

  • Max Beckmann’s Selbstbildnis gelb-rosa (Self-portrait yellow-pink), 1943, was sold at Grisebach in Berlin on Thursday.* Photo: Urban Zintel.
    diary December 02, 2022

    Max’s Hammer

    IT TOOK TWO MINUTES and forty-eight seconds to settle on twenty million euros as the hammer price of the most expensive artwork ever sold in Germany. It was a self-portrait by Max Beckmann from 1943 that hung behind an impressively soft-spoken auctioneer on Thursday night. A piece of theater at once slight and dumbfounding, it was all very German. Grisebach, it said on the lectern in red sans-serif font that recalled the logo of the Deutsche Bahn. It is an unlikely house for such a sale, the kind usually taken to Manhattan or Mayfair. But we were in Charlottenburg, and the room was packed.

  • Cecily Brown, Reclining Blonde with Nudes, 2021, oil on UV-curable pigment on linen, 113 × 87".

    Cecily Brown

    Confronted with Cecily Brown’s enormous Straw Hat with Nudes, 2021, I couldn’t help but feel that in this lineup of four naked men the artist has finally found a subject adequate to her own big dick energy. Here, beyond the bloated confidence sometimes associated with that term, it stands for a generous madness, an ampleness of life force, the courage of youth, and masculinity’s creeping potential for violence. The motif of the four men appeared in four of the works that were shown as part of her recent exhibition “The Spell,” building a scaffold around the three other, apparently unrelated

  • The exterior of the renovated Royal Museum of Fine Art. Photo: Wouter Bollaerts.
    diary October 04, 2022

    Just Like Heaven

    IT WAS DURING THE PRESS PREVIEW of Antwerp’s newly reopened Royal Museum of Fine Art, and we were in front of one of Berlinde de Bruyckere’s almost-human lumps, poignantly placed in front of Antonello Da Messina’s 1475 picture of Jesus and his fellow convicts similarly twisting in agony. “Flesh on pole! How very Flemish!” remarked the man next to me, and, as I would find out at lunch, he was right. For fashion in Flanders is for small servings of raw animal: thinly sliced scallops, ceviche, carpaccio, and steak tartar, one after the next, presented as the set menu to parties of thirty and more.

  • diary June 22, 2022

    Bah Lumbung

    DURING THE PREVIEW DAYS, riders on the international art circuit seemed excited about Documenta 15, mostly on the grounds that it was not the Berlin Biennale (“too depressing”) or because they were relieved to no longer be paying ten francs for water at Art Basel. Having gone to neither, I remained unenthused. “But it’s fun!” people said, in reference to the “relational” food offerings, generous beanbagged chill-out zones, and never-ending jam sessions. There were even “quiet rooms” where the fatigued could go and collect themselves, though the only occupied one I saw was being used by a

  • Artists Calum Bowden, Claire Tolan, Luzie Meyer, and Billy Bultheel. All photos: Kristian Vistrup Madsen.
    diary May 05, 2022

    Normal People

    PEACHES SERENADED HEATHCLIFF from atop a table at the Julia Stoschek Collection last Wednesday after Caique Tizzi’s “singing dinner,” where, in the name of art, I ate a raw leek and was triggered by a live rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Next door at Sweetwater, Luzie Meyer read her Lacanian poetry to hundreds of Städelschule alumni, and across town at CFA, Francesca Facciola distilled all the sex and kitsch of Catholicism into a deranged painting of Jesus certain to appear in my nightmares. As for celebrities, in lieu of Kanye or Keanu, over the weekend someone somewhere spotted Wolfgang

  • Merril Wagner, Untitled (#14 June), 1997, oil on linen, 24 × 30".

    Merrill Wagner

    The two bodies of work by American artist Merrill Wagner, shown on two floors, appeared so distinct as to be almost irreconcilable. Downstairs, glossy fields of dark browns and greens on large steel plates hung on the walls. In one such painting—Finnegans Lane, 1990, an imposing work of eight by twelve feet—a layer of emerald, a green of an otherworldly density, was flanked by strips of raw steel that looked like cross sections of an agate. On the floor sat Untitled, 1996, a cluster of stones marked with blue paint, and Crooked Strait, 1995, a narrow path of irregular pieces of slate shot through

  • A still from The Andy Warhol Diaries, a TV show on Netflix. Andy Warhol.
    slant April 14, 2022

    The Nothing Special

    “When things actually do happen to you, it’s like watching TV,” Andy Warhol once observed. But what is that like? Last month, Netflix released The Andy Warhol Diaries, a six-episode adaptation of the eponymous 1989 book compiled by Pat Hackett, who received the artist’s dictations over the phone almost every morning during the last decade of his life. Unsure of what to make of this intimate, fragmented portrait, we invited Bruce Hainley and Kristian Vistrup Madsen to talk it out.

    KRISTIAN VISTRUP MADSEN: Episode 1 is haunted (first by the E! True Hollywood Story format of the interviewees, their

  • Raoul De Keyser, March 7, 1990, 1990, pencil, ink and gesso on paper, 13 1/2 x 10 3/4"
    picks April 05, 2022

    Raoul De Keyser

    The title centerpiece of Raoul De Keyser’s exhibition at Galerie Barbara Weiss is “March 7, 1990,” a series of twelve works on paper created on the eponymous date. Each is executed in a monochrome scheme of pencil, ink, and gesso, and while most refer to paintings the artist had already made, a couple of the motifs would not find their way onto canvas for another few years. These formations of hard-angled shapes have the fast, gestural quality of calligraphy or signage. You start to suspect they make up a kind of language, a suspicion that extends to the accompanying twelve paintings, all more

  • Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, Wet, 2022. Performance view, Kraftwerk, Berlin, 2022. L-E-V Dance Company. Photo: Nadine Fraczkowski.
    performance February 10, 2022

    Dancer in the Dark

    “WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DANCE CRITICS,” said one art critic to another as they cycled through Berlin, bodies juddering as if struck by a frying pan. We were on our way home from Kraftwerk, a power plant turned club turned performance venue where, on the invitation of Light Art Space, Sharon Eyal, an Israeli choreographer and long-time dancer for the renowned Batsheva Dance Company, recently presented a number of the works she has produced with Gai Behar for their company, L-E-V. Soul Chain, 2017, the piece we saw that night, was a thing of beauty, but the kind of beauty that is exposed like bone

  • Bob Law, Drawing 29.4.59, 1959, pencil on handmade paper, embossed, 10 × 14".

    Bob Law

    Throughout his life as an artist, Bob Law (1934–2004) was on a “road to nothing and nowhere,” curator Douglas Fogle wrote in a 2015 essay, quoting Scottish broadcaster Fyfe Robertson, who had castigated Law’s work on the BBC. But as we learned from the five decades of work on view in this exhibition—to accompany which Thomas Dane Gallery republished Fogle’s text—nothingness was not something Law chased after, but something he simply found in what was already there. Rather than the outcome of a teleological idea of progression, it was a way of being in the world.

    In the 1950s, Law lay down in a

  • 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