COLUMNS

  • Love, Lagos

    LAST WEEKEND, Ahmadu Bello Way was without chaos, surprising for a road routinely choked with bumper-to-bumper congestion. The facilitators of this calm were none other than the Nigerian army and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, deployed to ensure that everything remained smooth on the thoroughfare for the fourth Art X Lagos, West Africa’s preeminent art fair, now doubled in size from previous editions. For a private art event, the muscle was surprising. Or maybe not. Past iterations of the event have aspired to and often achieved organizational excellence—in the scale of their

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  • Gulf Clap

    “THIS CAMEL, we waited a long time for it to be born,” museum development specialist Karen Exell told members of the press one morning at the stunning new National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), which opened this March. We were touring an installation on traditional Bedouin life, watching footage of the fuzzy creature lurch itself onto its feet for the first time. The same might be said for the long-awaited museum, superbly designed by Jean Nouvel to mimic the angular planes of a gypsum rosette, or desert rose crystal, small specimens of which are available in one of two gift shops. Some of the floors

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  • Seoul Cycle

    ARRIVING OFF A FOURTEEN-HOUR FLIGHT from New York, I couldn’t remember the code to my grandmother’s apartment, until it came back like a muscle memory: 1945, the year of national liberation for my grandparents, who were in middle school when the Japanese occupation ended. The persistence of the country’s ancient Confucian moral codes are refracted and jumbled through memories of imperial rule and aspirational neoliberalism in modern Seoul, and compounding deep-rooted hostilities against our former colonizer are the recent trade standoffs; the astonishing sense of kinship among Koreans manifests

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  • Monster Mash

    LET’S BEGIN WHERE MY FAIR WEEK ENDED, feeling left for dead lying on a bed, under an eldritch green glow emanating from some mysterious source (art?) at the Normandy Hôtel, a Haussmannian relic under partial renovation in the first arrondissement, where the Finnish collective the Community were hosting their inaugural salon. Evocative of something between a haunted house, a Kubrick film set, and, less excitingly, an art fair, the salon’s setting promised to channel the wicked fun of art’s unruliness, theatricality, and imaginative displacements. Yet as I moved through the hotel’s narrow corridors,

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  • Time Sensitive

    IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT during the opening weekend of the Icelandic arts festival Sequences, and I’m at a food hall in Reykjavik along with a dozen or so members of the tight-knit creative scene on this island of roughly 360,000 people. One of the show’s cocurators, the sixty-three-year-old artist Ingólfur Arnarsson, is expressing his love for the experimental black-metal band Liturgy, as well as the intense, clavicle-rattling ambient noise of Tim Hecker. I’m surprised, a little, that Arnarsson’s musical tastes veer so aggressive; he’s a fairly subdued guy, known for making modest pencil-on-paper

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  • In the Wind

    ENCOUNTERS, BY DEFINITION, occur unexpectedly. Woven within the fabric of everyday life, like a tear, an encounter cracks the familiar. But how do you prompt this experience when the “encounters,” as the title of Timișoara’s current Art Encounters Biennial suggests, are expected to happen? One answer: You entwine the mystery of place. Located within the Banat, a geographical and historical region divided between Romania, Serbia, and Hungary, Timișoara has been defined by centuries of migration, both forced and voluntary, and is home to a deeply rooted, at times conflicted, ethnic diversity. (

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  • Sashay Away

    I HAD FORGOTTEN how brutal London can be. Brutal in the sense that there is nothing effortless about everyday life in this gray world capital. After four days of tubing, training, queuing, and sprinting around the seventeenth edition of Frieze London, I was back on a flight across the big pond. Sinking into my seat, finally feeling somewhat at rest, I opened Benjamin Moser’s Susan Sontag biography to page forty-nine, where I had left off when my plane touched down at Heathrow a few days prior: “I’m only interested in people engaged in a project of self-transformation,” read the Sontag quote.

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  • Fan Dancers and Marabou Prancers

    AS A DRAG QUEEN, it’s easy for me to relate to the burlesque scene. Both worlds abound with larger-than-life exhibitionists, dazzling musical numbers, campy humor, punny names, and flashy female artifice. The big difference, of course, is that burlesque displays a heck of a lot more bouncing boobs, many of which were on display at the recent New York Burlesque Festival and its climactic Golden Pasties Awards.

    Founded by one of the scene’s most accomplished performers, Angie Pontani, and events promoter Jen Gapay, the festival dates back to 2002, several years after the modern-day burlesque scene

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  • Dear World

    Part I. Youth Climate Strike in NYC

    September 19

     “Fossil Fuel to the Climate Strike? We should take public transport.”

     “We have a drag queen in heels in a 40 lb. wig. Tell her that.”

    STRIKING WITH GRETA’S MOM requires its own hair and makeup detail. Aside from Greta, only New York’s reigning drag queen Lady Bunny could part the sea of young strikers during last week’s blistering Friday, when #ClimateStrikeNYC protestors marched from Foley Square to Battery Park. It was as if Bunny’s presence completed the unfinished third act of Moses and Aaron by Arnold Schoenberg, who laconically noted about

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  • Desperately Seeking Sublimation

    I CAME TOO EARLY.

    Sex, like going out, carries the risk of the anticipation being a more visceral experience than consummation. Art is supposed to save us from this sad gambit, but when you mix all three—as at the opening of the Pornhub-sponsored exhibition “The Pleasure Principle” at Maccarone in Boyle Heights—you may end up sitting in your car for twenty minutes, wearing a strapless top that smooshes your boobs, waiting for the place to fill up, trying to feel the vibe.

    I had a sexting appointment with Karen Finley, one of the original NEA Four, as part of her Sext Me If You Can performance,

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  • Coup de Graz

    “STYRIAN AUTUMN SOUNDS LIKE BEER TENTS AND NATIONALISM,” a bike messenger said to me upon my return to Vienna from Graz, where I attended the Fifty-Second Steirischer Herbst, Europe’s oldest contemporary art festival. “It’s precisely the opposite,” I retorted. “Think cool graphic design and radical leftist politics—you can add quotes around ‘radical,’ depending on your temperament.” But is this time-honored event actually so incongruent with its rustic surroundings, the undeniably progressive typeface aside? Graz is a place where everything, including Ekaterina Degot’s program, walks the line

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  • Blurred Lines

    WHERE IS THE LINE between ideas and feelings? I dwelled on this blur when I arrived in Bogotá—an eleven-hour hop from London—to plunge straight into ARTBO 2019, the city’s fifteenth international art fair. The short-circuiting effects of jet lag, plus Bogotá’s infamous soroche, left me drifting between the booths, yet I quickly found this porousness mirrored in the fair itself, which showcased contemporary art from across South America. Certain themes began to emerge across the Corferias convention center: border crossings, loopholes in consensual reality (both political and bodily), counter-narratives

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