Lisa Liebmann

  • passages April 04, 2014

    Rene Ricard (1946–2014)

    RENE: A light fantastic

    A week before Rene died, my husband, our fifteen-year-old daughter, and I visited him at Bellevue Hospital. He was sporting a “Van Dyke” beard, as had generally been the case lately, and seemed pretty vigorous, though ashen.

    He looked—and I mean literally—like a seventeenth-century, Franco-Iberian grandee: Specifically, the cold and brilliant Cardinal de Richelieu (1585–1642), as represented in several portraits by Philippe de Champaigne (1602–1674), and a bust by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680). There was an El Greco saintly scholar in there somewhere, as well. A

  • diary January 31, 2010

    Love in the Ice Age


    THE ANNUAL MONUMENTA EXHIBITION at Paris’s Grand Palais is the opportunity, on today’s international scene, for singular artistic exercises of unfettered, state-funded grandiosity within walls. Given the proportions of the venue (Cathedral of Industry, etc.), getting up to scale is the a priori challenge here. For Anselm Kiefer and Richard Serra, the first two Monumentalists, this particular defi was catnip. Never mind that whole sections of French highway had to be closed off for the perilous transport of unprecedented lengths of uncut steel (Serra), or that Bill Katz, an architect-designer of

  • diary March 03, 2009

    Opium for the Masses (Kouroi for the Few)


    IT CANNOT HAVE BEEN A COINCIDENCE that the public viewing of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection was slated for the height of what in Roman Catholic Europe is widely celebrated as Carnival Week, and that the auction itself, which began last Monday evening and continued day and night through Mardi Gras, concluded on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent—which in France is the perfumey-sounding Carême.

    As news reports have proclaimed, this was an extraordinary event in terms of its demographics (more than thirty-three thousand people waited as long as five hours to wind their way

  • diary April 13, 2007

    Fairy Tale Ending


    On the evening of Wednesday, April 4, at the New Player's Theatre in balmy, spring-struck London—a former music hall next door to a walk-in teeth-whitening-and-body-waxing shop in a cheesy little mall on the Embankment called the Arches—I attended a one-time-only performance of Sleeping Beauty + Friends, a whirlwind of a ballet conceived and co-choreographed by the artist Karen Kilimnik. Kilimnik’s exhibition of paintings and thematically related mise-en-scènes was in the closing days of a deservedly well-attended, well-received six-week run at the Serpentine Gallery, which produced this event.

  • Anselm Kiefer

    Although he settled firmly (and one hears grandly) in the south of France thirteen years ago, Anselm Kiefer is still underknown, as they used to say, in his adopted country. Now, the Collection Lambert, situated in Avignon’s Hôtel de Caumont not far from Kiefer’s own primary nest, is mounting his first major French exhibition in over twenty years, a retrospective of the artist’s work from the 1970s to the present. The show includes one hundred huge paintings, gouaches, lead books, and monumental sculptures, as well as “specially created” new works. Will France fall for him?

  • Lisa Liebmann


    1 “La Révolution surréaliste” (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) Werner Spies’s grand summation, abloom in the midst of a too Surreal season, was nevertheless the visual dazzler of the year. A pull-out-all-the-stops case was made for the prodigality of Max Ernst. Often dismissed as an art-school heartthrob, Ernst (paintings, sculptures, collages, frottages, etc.) withstood onslaughts from the heaviest hitters here, including the Spaniards. Among rarities on view was his Histoire naturelle, 1923, a mural surprisingly like Francesco Clemente’s early-’80s frescos, which was transferred


    A year ago this month NAN GOLDIN’s retrospective began a six-venue tour at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. As the exhibition draws to a close this winter, LISA LIEBMANN reexamines the career of an artist whose oeuvre is inextricably bound up with her biography.

    Nan Goldin is more than a good or significant photographer, more than a widely celebrated one. She has over the past couple of decades become nothing less than a cultural force majeure—a “monstre,” in the sense of sacré, as she was described in Connaissance des arts last fall when her current traveling retrospective opened in Paris at the Centre Georges Pompidou. In America, Goldin’s vast and relentlessly personal body of images has often been jokingly referred to as “The Family of Nan,” in part because so many of the pictures convey, and even awaken, feelings, at once empathic and vicarious,

  • Lisa Liebmann


    1 New York Times Photo Editing Beginning with local shots on September 12 and moving on to Afghanistan, with a steady succession of scenes involving soldiers of the Northern Alliance, refugees at the Pakistani border, and children in harsh surroundings, dire circumstances, and brilliant clothes, the New York Times’s images have been packing the dramatic and chromatic punch of paintings by Delacroix. Needless to say, many photojournalists deserve individual praise, but my year-end kudos goes to the paper’s photo editors and printers, whose decisions concerning scale, tone, and

  • Boogie-Woogie

    THIS BOOK IS A ONE- OR TWO-GULP READ, and there are in fact a couple of blow jobs in it, though its best sex scenes, including the opening sequence, are lesbian. It's about the New York art world of the '90s—about seizing opportunities by the throat in other words. The author, described in the jacket copy as a dealer and curator on both sides of the Atlantic, is also the son of Rodrigo Moynihan, the British painter, so it is doubly safe to say that he comes naturally, as well as preparedly, to the subject at hand.

    Moynihan fils demonstrates the gimlet eye, funnel ear, and situational flair

  • Lisa Liebmann


    1 “1900: Art at the Crossroads” (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) I haven’t traveled much this year, so without this wonderful show I might not have met my quota of far-flung museum discoveries and strange reencounters in art. The exhibition, curated by Robert Rosenblum, Norman Rosenthal, MaryAnne Stevens, and Ann Dumas, inspired some remarkable off-the-record reactions. One normally sanguine colleague confessed at least half-seriously to feeling that certain people shouldn’t be allowed to see it: too dangerous for the uninitiate. “Maybe Alfred Barr was right,” she added. (


    Gary Hume has created a New Look for painting with the satin-gloved fist of a militant. “New Look” capitalized, because of its contagious fashionability: The devotional appeal of his nullified subjects, from the quizzical doors of the late ’80s and early ’90s to the more recent Pop-ish figures and slivers of freeze-framed landscape, has made its inexorable way westward from London to Los Angeles, which at present is witnessing a burgeoning painting style whose abstracted attitude and offhand panache seem indebted to Hume’s nacreous palette and freedom with regard to subject.

    I say “satin” rather


    I FIRST SAW WORK by the Belgian artist Thierry de Cordier in 1992 at Jan Hoet’s Documenta IX—the “Belgian Documenta,” if you will—and I experienced one of those critical all-systems-alert responses. The objects in question were sculptures: three rank, shaggy, dirt-caked structures shaped as oblong mounds, a bit like Hungarian Puli dogs, onto which objects more or less suggesting reliquaries had been affixed. Two of the mounted contraptions looked quasi-scientific and recalled the test-tube-and-burner gizmos of eighteenth-century genre scenes in which an experiment is being conducted

  • Lisa Liebmann

    1. ALEX KATZ (P.S. 1, New York; Saatchi Gallery, London) It’s been a big, big year for the hep-Katz. A formidable retrospective of his landscapes at P.S. 1 this spring lent support to the notion that there are more than four seasons; and a display last winter at the Saatchi Gallery—twenty-six big-to-huge canvases in all genres from 1972 to 1996—was one of the most spectacularly scenic painting installations this viewer has seen.

    2. JORGE PARDO (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) His covered lakeside pier was a lovely place in which to while away a rainstorm two summers ago in

  • Sigmar Polke

    The essential point to be made about Sigmar Polke—his extraordinary and enduring relevance—has been apparent for two decades in this country and for at least ten years longer in Europe. Indeed, were it not for his singularity and long-held stance of flamboyant apartness, one might say that he has been jostling with his old friend Gerhard Richter for center-stage in the Beuysian afterglow since around 1963, when both were students at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, where the mythic master presided. That was the year that Polke, Richter, and Konrad Lueg (another student at the academy, who would

  • Lisa Liebmann

    1 Platée (The Royal Opera at the Barbican Theatre, London): Mark Morris directed and choreographed Rameau’s rarely performed, rococo delight—a fête galante set to music, concerning a soulfully vain and froglike naiad wronged by Roman gods. Dancer-members of the Morris Group seemed at times to be singing their steps, while the singers moved with intelligence, humor, and verve. The costumes, by Isaac Mizrahi, were expressive and friendly rather than, say, Beatonesque. With sheer enthusiasm and a few ribald turns, Mizrahi warmed up a rather low-rent set, and, most important, unbuttoned the characters,

  • Nan Goldin

    There can be little doubt that Nan Goldin has over the last decade become a cultural and commercial force majeure. Whether in galleries or museums, Goldin’s dramatically naturalistic pictures of herself, her friends, and their variously charmed and scabrous, festive and tragic lives draw rapt crowds. If The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1981–96, the artist’s evolving slide-show-set-to-music, is on the program, a fervor of expectancy seems to permeate the environment as viewers—many of them young, many looking like would-be members of Goldin’s elective bohemian “family”—flock into a dark sanctuary

  • Kennedy Fraser’s Ornament and Silence

    Ornament And Silence: Essays on Women’s Lives, by Kennedy Fraser. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. 247 pp. $25.

    With The New Yorker for a finishing school and, as taskmasters, an editorial gaggle of deeply idiosyncratic, “more or less elderly” men led by William Shawn, the young Kennedy Fraser, a veritable ’60s English rose amid brambles, was a stylish and rigorously cossetted debutante in the most exclusive, most lavishly indulgent precinct of literary New York. By the age of twenty-two, she had been assigned the magazine’s fashion column. Over the next fifteen years or so, she brought an

  • Kelly’s Green

    In 1992 I had an Ellsworth Kelly eureka! experience in Kassel, Germany, in a room, off discreetly to the side, in almost all senses apart from the rest of Documenta IX. Kelly has a reputation for being extremely exacting when it comes to the physical placement of his work—for the unimpeachable reason that walls are in essence the grounds of his paintings. Here, in his chambre à part at the Freidricianum, the dynamically curved, eccentrically positioned, single-color canvases instantly produced what can only be described as a “ping” effect: the sensation that would ensue if one suddenly came upon

  • Guy Trebay’s In the Place to Be

    Guy Trebay, In the Place to Be, with photography by Sylvia Plachy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 367 pages, 17 black and white illustrations.

    WITH ITS PERFECTLY FUSED connotations of fabulousness and flux, the title of this collection of newspaper columns, written for The Village Voice between 1981 and 1993, magnanimously invokes New York City, worms and all. The reportorial stance here is one of relaxed, often seemingly egoless suavity, sanguine and judiciously observant, yet full of the raking angles and astringent detail that bespeak a flâneur engagé. Guy Trebay’s interests