Tim Griffin


    THE IMAGE IS EPIC, iconic, alien: Massive rings of singed-orange fire belch from boiling waves that menace nearby drilling platforms, the conflagration dwarfing the vessels en route to douse its flames. And although the cause of the sublime blaze is concrete enough—a gas leak from an underwater pipeline in the gulf off the Yucatán Peninsula—the scene’s elemental yet unreal appearance would nevertheless prompt the New York Times to turn to cinematic description, opening its coverage by noting how the inferno “drew comparisons to Mordor, the volcanic hellscape from ‘The Lord of The Rings.’”


  • Ralph Lemon, Rant #3, 2020. Performance view, the Kitchen, New York, February 29, 2020. Ralph Lemon. Photo: Ralph Lemon.


    WHEN ARTFORUM generously invited me to contribute to the present issue considering the state of museums today, I suggested, as an alternative, a series of notes written from my perspective as director of the Kitchen, New York, a smaller nonprofit organization. While all arts institutions provide useful windows onto society more broadly—figured as they are within the latter’s contradictions, both economic and cultural—smaller institutions often embody such qualities in living proximity. Certainly, many prescient questions about how institutions may be oriented differently, and with an eye toward

  • Jutta Koether, 100% (Portrait Robert Johnson), 1990, diptych, oil on canvas, each panel 59 × 27 1/2".

    Tim Griffin’s top ten highlights of 2020

    Tim Griffin is executive director and chief curator of the Kitchen. In 2021, he will depart the organization after nine years and join the Ohio State University as a visiting professor in the departments of art history and English. Griffin is a contributing editor of Artforum.



    For me, even now, Baldessari is an artist hidden in plain sight. I remember visiting his retrospective at Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien in Vienna fifteen years ago and being staggered by the sheer volume of great unknown (to me) works he produced but left others to pursue: here a

  • Claire Fontaine, P.I.G.S., 2011, matchsticks, plaster wall, concealed corridor, HD-video projection (color, sound, 9 minutes 38 seconds). Installation view, ARTPLAY Design Center, Moscow, 2011. From the Fourth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2011. Photo: Yackov Petchenin.


    What Comes After Farce?, by Hal Foster. New York: Verso, 2020. 224 pages.

    SURVEYING OUR CULTURAL LANDSCAPE through the prepositional prism of after is hardly a new approach among critics and historians writing on art during the past quarter century. Yet, as articulated in the title of Hal Foster’s new book, the premise is newly intriguing for being tethered to—and eclipsed in blunt rhetorical force by—the sad comedy of “farce.” Here Foster borrows the term from Marx’s famous adage regarding the French bourgeoisie’s willingness in 1851 to cede democratic values to a second Bonaparte emperor some

  • Jacques Tati, Playtime, 1967, 70 mm transferred to 4K video, color, sound, 124 minutes.


    RECENTLY, I was in conversation with a film-studies professor who expressed consternation over her unanticipated difficulty convincing an incoming class of students of Dogme 95’s importance during the 1990s. More precisely, this professor was finding it nearly impossible to render for a younger generation just how transgressive this Lars von Trier–led group had been when it eschewed the staid conventions of studio camerawork in their films for an unfixed point of view. For these students, as she observed to me, it was simply proving hard to grasp how such technical shifts might ever have been


    FOR ME, few things in art have ever been so enjoyable as a conversation with Okwui—no doubt because however benignly one of our discussions began, it would inevitably end up, as he told me once while bursting out in laughter, “really trying to get to the bottom of things.” In part, I am certain, this pleasure arose just by virtue of a good relationship between editor and author; we worked together on different texts at Artforum and elsewhere for the better part of ten years. Yet the beauty of Okwui’s exhibitions was always underlined and enhanced by how their sweeping ambition—whether to “crack

  • Cover of Avalanche 6 (Fall 1972). Vito Acconci.

    Vito Acconci

    I FIRST MET VITO ACCONCI sometime late in the year 2000. By happenstance, a couple of local galleries had organized secondary-market exhibitions of his performance photography from the 1970s, and as a young writer then working for Time Out New York, I thought of going directly to the artist for comment. Acconci had recently forgone—or lost, depending on whom you asked—all gallery representation, having publicly declared his departure from the field of art for the disciplines of architecture and design. In light of such bold pronouncements (perhaps, I surmised, a polemical holdover from

  • The Young Pope, 2017–, still from a TV show on HBO. Season 1, episode 2. Center: Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law).

    HBO’s The Young Pope

    NEAR THE BEGINNING of The Young Pope, Pius XIII—the freshly elected pontiff played by Jude Law in this new HBO series directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino—is asked to meet with the Holy See’s chief marketing strategist, who expresses her deep alarm that the church has not yet begun production on its greatest piece of merchandise: the pope himself, whose likeness would generate billions in income through its appearance on everything from plates and ashtrays to key chains. Pius, however, refuses to allow his image to be exploited, suggesting that it cannot harbor such significance

  • View of “Zoe Leonard: In the Wake,” 2016, Hauser & Wirth, New York. From left: Total Picture Control (I), 2016; Untitled, 2015–16. Photo: Genevieve Hanson.

    Tim Griffin

    IF ROLAND BARTHES had a standard practice when it came to his theoretical writings, it was to engage an earlier period’s cultural production whenever he sought critical perspective on the culture of his own time—utilizing the distance afforded by considering, say, Racine’s ideation of literature in order to gain a fuller sense of the prejudices hidden within (and the historical debts owed by) contemporary formulations of writing. Such a contrapuntal approach would afford a new generation of theorists and scholars a genealogical grasp of their chosen discipline—as well as of its

  • Jacqueline Humphries, :-/, 2014, oil on linen, 9' 6“ × 10' 7”.

    Tim Griffin

    FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, the art world has been fascinated with Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello’s New Spirit of Capitalism (1999), making all the more striking the degree to which that volume’s single chapter devoted to art—more specifically, to the fate of artistic critique—has been ignored. For the predicament of critical models in contemporary art still finds a clear corollary in the authors’ description of corporate culture in France after May 1968.

    As Boltanski and Chiapello propose, corporations operating in the wake of that populist uprising genuinely sought to satisfy protesters’

  • Guillaume Nicloux, The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, 2014, digital video, color, sound, 92 minutes. Michel Houellebecq.

    Guillaume Nicloux’s Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

    TO TAKE THE NARRATORS of his various novels at their collective word, author Michel Houellebecq would seem to think few things are so banal—or, perhaps more accurately, so much a thing of the past—as people. In the opening pages of his first published volume, Whatever (1994), the writer deplored how “the world is becoming more uniform before our eyes,” such that “human beings are often bent on making themselves conspicuous by subtle and disagreeable variations, defects, character traits, and the like.” His most celebrated novel, The Elementary Particles (1998), subsequently portrayed

  • Monika Sosnowska, Untitled, 2013, steel, lacquer, 65 × 10 3/8 × 56 3/4".

    “Monika Sosnowska: Architectonisation”

    If the angel of history looks perpetually back at the accumulating wreckage of the past, Monika Sosnowska is undoubtedly that seraph’s guide for the last century. The artist repeatedly takes up the figures of modernism and their gestures toward utopia through art, architecture, and design, only to mark their fateful passing and our ever-increasing distance from them in time. Yet in this survey of both large-scale installation projects and smaller objects dating from between 2003 and 2014 (including the complete set of sculptures making up the “Market” series, 2012–14),