COLUMNS

  • Max’s Hammer

    The banal spectacle of buying a Beckmann

    IT TOOK TWO MINUTES and forty-eight seconds to settle on twenty million euros as the hammer price of the most expensive artwork ever sold in Germany. It was a self-portrait by Max Beckmann from 1943 that hung behind an impressively soft-spoken auctioneer on Thursday night. A piece of theater at once slight and dumbfounding, it was all very German. Grisebach, it said on the lectern in red sans-serif font that recalled the logo of the Deutsche Bahn. It is an unlikely house for such a sale, the kind usually taken to Manhattan or Mayfair. But we were in Charlottenburg, and the room was packed.

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  • Plus Ça Change

    Inside Art Basel’s bustling new Parisian fair

    CORSETED IN CONSTRUCTION SITES, Paris may be visibly bracing itself for the 2024 Summer Olympics, but there’s been another kind of restructuring going on in its art world. While the city has nourished (or indulged) its homegrown scene for decades, the recent arrival of blue-chip transplants like Gagosian, Zwirner, and soon, Hauser & Wirth (which is plotting an Olympic-scaled takeover of a hôtel particulier) has ushered in the much-ballyhooed resurgence of the city as an international art hub. More specifically, the continental set see it as an alternative to London in the post-Brexit world (a

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  • Herding Katz

    Linda Yablonsky at the opening of “Alex Katz: Gathering”

    LAST FRIDAY EVENING, a sudden commotion interrupted the opening of “Alex Katz: Gathering” at the Guggenheim Museum.

    It was not a protest or a stunt. Just as outgoing director Richard Armstrong informed the New York Social Diary photographer Jill Krementz that the ninety-five-year-old artist was not expected to appear, he materialized—seemingly out of nowhere—on the bottom ramp of the rotunda. Once spotted, the sound of applause and cheers erupting in the lobby gained decibels as the hundreds of people on the upper tiers joined a spontaneous demonstration right out of Hello, Dolly!

    Looking swell

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  • Just Like Heaven

    A new lease on life for Belgium’s Royal Museum of Fine Art

    IT WAS DURING THE PRESS PREVIEW of Antwerp’s newly reopened Royal Museum of Fine Art, and we were in front of one of Berlinde de Bruyckere’s almost-human lumps, poignantly placed in front of Antonello Da Messina’s 1475 picture of Jesus and his fellow convicts similarly twisting in agony. “Flesh on pole! How very Flemish!” remarked the man next to me, and, as I would find out at lunch, he was right. For fashion in Flanders is for small servings of raw animal: thinly sliced scallops, ceviche, carpaccio, and steak tartar, one after the next, presented as the set menu to parties of thirty and more.

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  • Stranger Than Fiction

    Agnieszka Gratza at LIAF and the 2022 Bergen Assembly

    LYING JUST NORTH of the Arctic Circle, Bodø is the gateway to the Lofoten peninsula. A regional hub, the town is gearing up for its stint as the European Capital of Culture in 2024. A two-and-a-half-hour layover at Bodø airport en route to Svolvær—the headquarters of the Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF)—left me with enough time to take in the opening ofBodø Biennale, coinciding with LIAF’s. The airport is, after all, only a fifteen-minute walk from the city center.

    Curated by Elise Cosme Hoedemakers and Hilde Methi, who was the chief curator of LIAF’s last edition, the inaugural Bodø

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  • Open City

    Rejection and rebirth in New York

    A LOT WAS GOING ON LAST WEEK. The opening of the season sloughed off the last couple years’ tentativeness for something that verged on overcompensation. Wednesday, for example, was VIP day at the Armory Show and Independent 20th Century. Thursday saw the Wolfgang Tillmans opening at MoMA; a reception for Nan Goldin at the Swedish Consulate in honor of her exhibition at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet; various downtown gallery openings and fêtes by and for places like Company, Essex Street/Maxwell Graham, Derosia, and Housing, the last at newly designated hotspot Skinos; and a rave, loosely defined,

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  • Politics by Other Means

    On the front lines of Ukraine’s art world

    A FEW DAYS before his battlefield death, the French poet and World War I soldier Charles Péguy wrote that “Homer is new this morning, and perhaps nothing is as old as today’s newspaper.” Hidden within his immortal sentiment is a question I was confronted with over and over while attending the opening of two exhibitions, one nested inside the other, in an embattled Kyiv: How do representations of war in journalism and art compete as means to draw attention to conflict and the plight of citizens?

    “Russian War Crimes” and “When Faith Moves Mountains” opened in mid-July at the PinchukArtCentre, a

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  • Spoor de Force

    Eva Díaz at the World Perfumery Congress

    A FEW WEEKS AGO, I mentioned I’d be attending the World Perfumery Congress—WPC—to a colleague.

    How very David Foster Wallace of you, he said, teasingly.

    It’s not a cruise! And I’m taking O Chem!

    I was WPC-bound to investigate an often-implicit presupposition in the history of aesthetics and reinforced nearly every day in the “fine” arts: that the authority of visual judgment ranks above all in a hierarchy of the senses, with sound as runner-up. I was there to explore how studying a nonvisual experience such as olfaction could help explain the overvaluation of certain experiences in culture (vision

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  • Sun Worshippers

    Linda Yablonsky around Athens and Hydra

    WHAT A RUSH to arrive in Athens and find it in the throes of a cultural renaissance! What else to make of the June 16 opening of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), where the number of first-nighters topped five thousand? Of the new gallery district near the port of Piraeus, where Rodeo, Balice Hertling, and The Intermission were cohosting a show by Camille Blatrix, while such proudly post-crisis spaces as artist Angelo Plessas’s P.E.T. Projects are standing up for the local avant-garde?

    Then there was “Brice Marden and Antiquity” at the Museum of Cycladic Art. This compact survey of

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  • Bah Lumbung

    Kristian Vistrup Madsen at Documenta 15

    DURING THE PREVIEW DAYS, riders on the international art circuit seemed excited about Documenta 15, mostly on the grounds that it was not the Berlin Biennale (“too depressing”) or because they were relieved to no longer be paying ten francs for water at Art Basel. Having gone to neither, I remained unenthused. “But it’s fun!” people said, in reference to the “relational” food offerings, generous beanbagged chill-out zones, and never-ending jam sessions. There were even “quiet rooms” where the fatigued could go and collect themselves, though the only occupied one I saw was being used by a

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  • Reborn this Way

    Andrew Berardini at the RenBen 2022

    “THE SLEEPER MUST AWAKEN.”

    On a banner trailing an airplane circling the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago, this message read mysteriously to all who spied it in the soporific sunset heat, including those like me coming to the Renaissance Society’s first benefit under its new director Myriam Ben Salah and orchestrated under an impresario, the grandly sly Italian artist Piero Golia.

    After too many buses and trains from the airport, I walked through the deepening dusk under rounded terracotta arches alongside the long drive leading up to the front doors of the 1909 Mediterranean Revival former

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  • Italian Job

    Laura McLean-Ferris at the reopening of the Pinacoteca Agnelli

    I WATCHED as a battered gray car sailed off the Umberto I Bridge and into the hot spring air before landing with a terrific crash in the Po river below. Last Saturday in Turin, a large American and Italian crew had closed off part of the city to film Fast X, the tenth and finale installment in the Fast and Furious series, featuring a suite of muscular A-listers including Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, Cardi B, Brie Larson, and Jason Momoa, among others. These are, for readers unfamiliar, lucrative and patently idiotic movies which celebrate fuel, family, and franchise with technically

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