Rhonda Lieberman

  • diary August 15, 2017

    Dog Days of Summer


    Last Sunday my dog Rulo and I caught the final afternoon of dOGUMENTA, a three-day event promoted as “America’s first art show for dogs,” organized by NYC-based art critic Jessica Dawson and Mica Scalin, a creative development consultant and partner at Another Limited Rebellion, an art and innovation studio.

    It was a slick operation, as one would expect in a highly branded environment like the Waterfront Plaza at Brookfield Place, a luxury retail and housing development on the North Cove Marina. Dog-friendly art aficionados might recall Brian Jungen’s elaborate Dog Run designed

  • diary July 27, 2016

    Out of Seasons

    ANOTHER NEW YORK ICON BITES THE DUST—or in this case is auctioned off—as Gotham is made over for the convenience of global capital, entitled frat-type party people, and conspicuous consumers eager for the next buzzy “spot.” I am used to mourning the chic midcentury NY of my fantasies. This one is especially tragic, as even this yard sale is beyond my price point.

    I attended the press preview last week for the auction, by Wright, of everything in the Four Seasons Restaurant not landmarked, down to the pots and pans in the kitchen. The art is long gone: Le Tricorne, the Picasso stage curtain

  • diary May 22, 2014

    House of Cards

    DECADES PRE-RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE, in the days when men in “dresses were arrested by men in black dresses,” Flawless Sabrina, aka Jack Doroshow, produced and MC’d scores of camp “Miss All-American Beauty Pageants” and shot to fame in the 1968 documentary The Queen, an ur-text of midcentury fabulosity. (Decades pre–Paris is Burning, Crystal Labeija throws shade on-screen at the winner of the Nationals at Town Hall: “She doesn’t equal me… LOOK AT HER MAKE-UP!!! She looks terrible!”) While she’s the first to say she “didn’t make this stuff up,” the Flawless Mother was waving her freak flag and enabling

  • diary January 11, 2014

    Mind Your Language

    SHOWCASING BUDDHAS in the former Barneys New York Chelsea flagship, the Rubin Museum conjures brilliant programming to connect its timeless stash with current tastes in enlightenment. Adding a few ascetics to the mix, its popular Brainwave series offers “celebrities and scientists [to] discuss the mysteries of the mind.” As perky programmer Tim McHenry proudly presented “how our brains function sponsored for a fourth year by MetLife,” my brain and I settled in for an illuminating evening last Monday. Isabella Rossellini (“The Performance Artist”) and animal behaviorist Diana Reiss of Hunter

  • slant December 30, 2013

    Rhonda Lieberman

    AS CORPORATOCRACY darkens our collective door, income inequality soars the highest since 1928, and journalism is chilled if not altogether frozen out by the aforementioned factors, this year’s Best celebrates underdogs, whistleblowers, and rays of light (who aren’t Madonna).

    “Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store” and “Claes Oldenburg: Mouse Museum/Ray Gun Wing,” Museum of Modern Art, Apr. 14 – Aug. 5, 2013. Not an underdog at all. But still Fabulous. Morphing between knickknacks, commodities, blobs, and Art, the mishmash of found and made things in the Mouse Museum and the Ray Gun Wing

  • diary February 14, 2013

    Suffer the Children

    I KNEW A MUSEUM SHOW ABOUT “NYC 1993” would be creepy, I just didn’t know what kind of creepy. When the nostalgia train hits a time when you were actually an adult, you palpably experience the constructedness of history. Younger colleagues quizzed me “how it really was” like I was a stegosaurus hanging around the Museum of Natural History. (I guess I’d better get used to that…)

    In the crowd in the New Museum lobby at the opening, a forehead tagged for Ash Wednesday was an apt harbinger of the evening: The implicit theme seemed to be “the suffering body of 1993.” The show was heavily skewed toward

  • slant December 31, 2012

    Rhonda Lieberman


    “Matisse: In Search of True Painting” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dec. 4, 2012 – March 17, 2013); “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feb. 28 – June 3, 2012). Any opportunity to see Matisses from out of town is a treat and this show, which emphasizes his serial treatments of various themes, including photos of his tableaux-in-progress, is a stunner. In a landscape dominated by so much “relational” art and performance, Matisse’s drawing, composition, and painting chops—and of course his color choices—hit

  • Rhonda Lieberman on Barbara Kruger’s “Remote Control”

    BARBARA KRUGER is an excellent close reader of the idiot box—formally, aesthetically, and politically. From 1985 to 1990, she wrote a column on television for Artforum called “Remote Control.” I must admit I dipped back into these texts with trepidation. This is going to be dour, I dreaded—even strident. Lectures about power and the constructedness of everything, hectoring “you” in direct address. Indeed, she sounds just like Barbara Kruger: the pedagogical priestess of the ’80s confronting Reagan-era mediatization, armed with her casserole of Frankfurt School seriousness, slick

  • diary June 04, 2012

    Projection Runway


    On Thursday I was present at the latest mythologization of Marina Abramović at the Museum of Modern Art: a screening of Marina Abramović The Artist Is Present, the HBO doc chronicling the performance artiste as she prepared for her well-publicized MoMA show of the same name (which closed exactly two years ago). If you are a Marina cultist—like the fans who waited hours for a personal stare-down with the Artist who was indeed present in the MoMA atrium for the entire three-month run of the exhibition—you will eat up this classy reality show glamorizing, valorizing, and all

  • diary May 12, 2012

    Venus Extravaganza


    Back in the trenches with the 1 percent! On Wednesday, my beat started at the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening auction. A seasoned scribe prepared me: “There’s a press pit, so we’re kept separate from the really rich. The merely somewhat rich have to stand at the back of the room, while the press enjoy a side view. It’s a real hierarchy.” I got my hair did for the occasion anyway—but a blob of water defiled my blowout as I exited the cab. My entry into the 1 percenter’s shopping club was eloquently greeted by a lively picket line of union art handlers who Sotheby’s, in a

  • diary May 02, 2012

    What’s Love Got to Do with It?

    DEAR ARTFORUM DIARY, your brave correspondent spent May Day with the 1 percent.

    In the trenches! First was the press preview for Courtney Love’s art show at Fred Torres Collaborations. Who doesn’t love celebrity vanity art? Especially if there’s some wreckiness involved. The odds of that were good, if Love’s prolific Twitter activity and outfit-blogging (which I enjoy on www.whatcourtneyworetoday.com) and her general history are any indication. I wasn’t expecting her to actually attend this thing, so when I arrived I was surprised to be told she was on her way.

    There were a lot of works on paper.

  • diary January 01, 2012

    She’s Still Here. . . Damn It!

    LAST WEDNESDAY, I attended the first of an “unprecedented eight” back-to-back holiday shows by Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub. “So great to be back again and again and again,” the sassy celeb quipped of her return to the downtown venue. “I wasn’t going anywhere—literally or figuratively.” Festive!

    The space, newly renovated to squeeze in more bodies, was packed with fans. My friend and I took our places and were dismayed to be seated across from a glum tween. She was there with her mother to see her piano teacher play with Bernhard, who scanned the room from her little perch: “Looking out at you

  • diary December 17, 2011

    Taylor Made

    ELIZABETH TAYLOR has been a legend for so long she’s always been undead to anyone alive enough to read this. So the availability of her actual stuff—for mere millions and millions of bucks—is vaguely surreal. This week, I went to the cult of Liz at Christie’s—on Monday, a “museum caliber” viewing of “The Elizabeth Taylor Collection” (looky-loos could get a ticket for thirty dollars), and on Wednesday, the third of six auctions: “The Icon and Her Haute Couture, Evening Sale.”

    I’ve always found Liz fabulous in spite of the ostentation rather than because of it. There’s something nauseating and

  • diary November 03, 2011

    Power Play

    TUESDAY NIGHT, Performa 11 launched with the world premiere of Happy Days in the Art World, a play by Nordic performance artistes Elmgreen & Dragset, followed by a gala “live retrospective” (performance installations by the duo) plus cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Skylight Soho.

    There was a buzz in the air as the stylish-looking crowd of culture vultures settled into their seats at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts to await the evening’s first act. Curators, editors, artists, art accumulators, and yentas like moi had ample time to kibitz and gawk at one another. I thought of

  • diary April 18, 2011

    Class Act

    LAST THURSDAY was the ninety-ninth anniversary of the crash of the Titanic. How did you observe it? At the Guggenheim, to commemorate the disaster, artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster staged T.1912, billed in detail as “a site-specific staged audience experience in the museum’s rotunda. Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic will be at the core of the installation, performed by The Wordless Music Orchestra. Boarding closes at 8:40 PM and 10:40 PM.” The wreck-fest nicely links to “The Great Upheaval,” a current exhibition featuring the Titanic-era tableaux of Der Blaue Reiter.

    I attended the

  • diary April 02, 2011

    Father Figure

    SO OFTEN WHEN I STROLL around Union Square, I marvel that I am walking in the steps of the Factory, that it was from here that Andy Warhol changed artmaking forever with the radical notion that to reproduce is to produce and vice versa. This was the fertile void where Andy and his surrogates manufactured “superstars”: where they taped, snapped, hustled, social-climbed, starfucked, painted, “brought home the bacon,” and ordered from Brownie’s (the health food store frequently mentioned in the Andy archive). How fitting to have a monument right here. And how hilarious and slyly apt to commemorate

  • diary March 11, 2011

    Of Two Minds

    I’M A FAN OF THE RUBIN MUSEUM. The former Barneys flagship in Chelsea has rebirthed itself, Shiva-like, from a temple of high-end schmatas to a sanctuary of Himalayan art. Seekers of retail therapy can now “transcend” by communing with a lavish trove of icons, mandalas, and ceremonial tchotchkes as rare as couture. In keeping with the integrative project of Eastern thought, fab programming animates the collection with contemporary practitioners and mavens. “To reach enlightenment in the Buddhist sense, you need to have total control over your mind,” the charming producer Tim McHenry announced

  • diary December 10, 2010

    Second Best

    “IT’S BACK!” my editor e-mailed me. “Seems it’s going to be an art-world ritual after all. Any interest in going for round two?”

    My first thought? No! I should get an award for covering this award show again. I gave my take on it the first time. If the second piece comes out blah, it’ll be humiliating! Plus, “It’s horrible to see other people validated.” Just kidding! I really couldn’t be more delighted to see people recognized for their work. After all, what is the writer, according to John Gregory Dunne, but the person with “their nose pressed up against the glass”?

    In this case, I was seated

  • diary August 06, 2010

    Stuff of Dreams

    AS HISTORY IS ERASED BY DEVELOPERS, I walk around downtown in a constant state of loss, always wondering about the few pockets of aura that remain. Last week, on a brilliant sunny Friday, I had the chance to enter a bohemian time capsule. Soon packing up, after remaining basically unchanged since 1974, the Uranian Phalanstery on Fourth Street in New York is like the interior of a moldering Joseph Cornell piece the size of two crumbling brownstones. (One has electricity; one has water.) The buildings are crammed with every kind of spiritual icon, art, tchotchkes, toys, esoteric books, personal

  • diary June 25, 2010

    Our Hustler

    New York

    ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1971, The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol was a real-time oral history of the Factory compiled by John Wilcock, a cofounder of the Village Voice, publisher of Interview, downtown scribe, and Factory regular himself. (“It’s not an autobiography and there’s no sex in it.”) I remember being a young Pop-obsessed weenie and gobbling up the book in the school library, where I learned to confuse postwar aesthetics with gossip. Quaintly DIY-looking and strangely neglected considering Warhol’s robust afterlife, the groovy period piece was discovered in the early 1990s