Martha Buskirk

  • Gala Porras-Kim, 303 offerings for the rain at the Peabody Museum, 2021, color pencil and Flashe paint on paper, 72 × 72".


    ON NOVEMBER 20, 2021, the artist Gala Porras-Kim wrote a letter to Jane Pickering, director of Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology: “I am interested in objects suspended from their original function or purpose by being stored and displayed in institutions solely as historical objects,” she began. This could easily describe any number of the millions of objects held by the museum, but Porras-Kim’s focus was on the Peabody’s collection of thousands of artifacts found in a major sinkhole: the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The Maya peoples understood

  • View of “Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art,” 2015–16. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.

    Seth Siegelaub

    With more than a thousand objects, the colossal undertaking “Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art” fulfilled its title’s promise in an exhibition that traced not only Siegelaub’s early promotion and curatorial forays into one of the most prominent postwar art movements but also his later identities as publisher and textile researcher. A small forest of colorful, textile-based headdresses mounted on poles, followed by a reading table with radical classics, announced the eclectic purview, which continued with a vast array of display cases filled with fabric samples and associated rare books, more

  • Dominikus Baur, Daniel Goddemeyer, Lev Manovich, and Moritz Stefaner, On Broadway, 2014, mixed media. Installation view, Kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, Latvia, 2015.

    “Data Drift”

    TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY lives are inescapably defined by the data generated through an endless accumulation of transactions and actions, no matter how minor. Indeed, many denizens of the developed world find themselves enmeshed in a net of information gathering that they have willingly extended to every footstep and heartbeat. Access to data is a basic prerequisite for exploiting this ever-growing electronic treasure trove, but so, too, are techniques for sifting through and merging available information, including strategies for giving it visual form.

    This is the scenario addressed by the recent

  • Conrad Bakker, Untitled Project: eBay [Ding], [1960s Herman Miller Eames Rosewood Lounge Chair and Ottoman,
Caramel Leather US $4,300.00], 2014, oil on panel, 9 × 12". From “MetaModern.”


    Midcentury modernism might not be timeless, but it’s certainly current. Photo spreads of the open-plan offices of today’s media companies suggest that nothing says thriving start-up quite like molded-plastic Eames chairs. In the mostly recent sculpture, photography, and video works by the twenty artists in “MetaModern,” the iconic qualities of such high-design objects are highlighted and claims to functionality abandoned. Modes of homage range from William Cordova’s Brancusi-like column of lampshades to Conrad Bakker’s painted copies of photos

  • Doug Rickard, #40.805716, Bronx, NY (2009), 2011, ink-jet print. From the series “A New American Picture,” 2008–11.

    networked photography and copyright

    VISITING CHICAGO? Then surely one of your stops should be Millennium Park, to record your presence in the reflective surface of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. Officially unveiled in 2006, the polished-steel sculpture quickly acquired the affectionate nickname “the Bean.” And just as quickly, its allure became a source of controversy, as security guards attempted to enforce city policy requiring paid permits for professional photographers (identifiable, apparently, by their tripods).

    The injunction was purportedly intended to protect Kapoor’s copyright, though it soon became clear that the city had

  • Site-specific commission of Sadamasa Motonaga, Work (Water), 1956/2011, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2013. Photo: David Heald.

    the Year in “Re-”

    A reckoning is in order. Given the extraordinary number of returns, revisits, and repetitions of all kinds this past year, including the extensive refabrications of postwar art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition “Gutai: Splendid Playground” and the astonishing reboot in Venice of Harald Szeemann’s 1969 show “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form”—not to mention the steadily increasing interest in repeating historic works of performance art over the last decade—we offer here a provisional taxonomy of contemporary art-world keywords dangling from the prefix re. The

  • View of “Sherrie Levine: Mayhem,” 2011–12. Foreground: Bachelors (After Marcel Duchamp), 1991, six-part suite. Photo: Sheldan Collins.

    Sherrie Levine

    “MAYHEM,” SHERRIE LEVINE’S EXHIBITION at the Whitney, was a remarkably cool endeavor. Perhaps the restrained elegance could be interpreted as a reaction to recent museum-as-fun-house scenarios, filled with slides, massive mobiles, actors, and a gamut of other bells and whistles. But it is far from clear why this exhibition took the form it did—not a retrospective, but a series of spare juxtapositions.

    Early readings of Levine’s work emphasized its assault on traditions of authorship and originality via strategies of appropriation. In the version of his “Pictures” essay published in October

  • *View of “Marianne Mueller,” 2011.

    Marianne Mueller

    The popular strategy of inviting artists to interact with a museum’s collections has clear benefits for the institution, creating new and potentially unexpected juxtapositions among objects, and encouraging an audience for contemporary art to engage with historical holdings. It is also a situation in which an institution’s eccentricities become a virtue. Marianne Mueller’s sojourn at the Peabody Essex Museum gave her the opportunity to craft an installation in response to a collection that dates back to the end of the eighteenth century, when the East India Marine Society began to assemble

  • “Play Van Abbe”

    WHAT WILL THE MUSEUM of the twenty-first century look like? According to the Van Abbemuseum, it won’t present chronological arrangements against neutral walls and it will include numerous collaborative arrangements with artists. It will also serve as a vehicle for star curators, whose visionary installations will merit the same reconstruction and redisplay accorded ephemeral works of art. “Play Van Abbe,” a four-part cycle currently in its second stage, enacts this new model with an exhibition about exhibitions, looking to the past in order to envision the museum’s future.

    The decision to reanimate

  • Allan Kaprow and his son in the original Yard, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, 1961. Photo: © Ken Heyman/Woodfin Camp, New York.

    “Allan Kaprow: Yard

    “REARRANGE THE TIRES.” The repeated command, its authority bolstered by the familiar-sounding intonations of an Obama impersonator, was part of the sound track for William Pope.L’s 2009 reinvention of Allan Kaprow’s 1961 Yard—two proper names now attached to a pile of tires occupying the same town house on New York’s Upper East Side where the Martha Jackson Gallery hosted Kaprow’s original intrusion. The first version of Yard got its name from its outdoor location, in a courtyard that Kaprow filled with tires after covering over the modernist sculptures already on site. Many subsequent