COLUMNS

  • Mechelen Stars

    IT’S GOT TO BE THE FULL MOON clouding my judgment. Otherwise, I would not have had a mini-heart attack each time the French information screens on the Brussels-Antwerp Intercity line read “This train is headed to Anvers.” As far as I knew, I had boarded from the correct platform in the direction of Antwerp just in time to catch the press tour of the Contour Biennale 9’s “Full Moon Phase,” and would be pissed if I ended up in Anvers—a sad little corner of Wallonia bordering France?—or Malines, which certainly could not be the Latinized name—look at it!—of the Flemish town of Mechelen. In this

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  • As the World Turns

    PREVIOUSLY ON Days of Our Outrage, the Whitney Biennial was a political disaster in medias res. (And the first takes had made it all look so hunky dory.) In the lead-up to the current edition (the seventy-ninth!), there was controversy over stunning revelations that extremely wealthy people—maybe the only ones who would buy your elaborate video installations and enormous paintings—don’t tend to come by their riches by doing good. #Notsurprised, I suppose? Taking an ethical position these days seems to be like picking and choosing from an entirely rotten buffet—it’d be lovely not to have a tumbler

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  • Persons of Interest

    INTERESTING. Few words have such angular ambiguity, signifying both a viewer’s interpretive generosity while subtly acknowledging that the thing in question just might not be that good. Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of the fifty-eighth Venice Biennale, which opened Tuesday to select press and professionals, played on the word’s double meaning in the title for his show, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” a phrase attributed as an “ancient Chinese curse,” but, like, the Ivanka Trump/fortune cookie variety, with no actual “ancient” or “Chinese.” The dash of Orientalism was either snarkily

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  • Poetic Justice

    “WHAT HAS MORALITY WON US?” This provocative question, posed by Bryan Stevenson—a lawyer, activist, and professor at New York University School of Law—lingered in the room on the second day of the “Vision and Justice” conference at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. It was asked during the “Mass Incarceration and Visual Narratives” panel, one of numerous events in the daylong symposium, organized by professor Sarah Lewis and whose ambitious programming took on the archive, gentrification, the prison-industrial complex, police states, Flint, racialized AI disparity, and the

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  • Brain Frieze

    THE PURE WHITE TENT of Frieze New York is all-too-readily seen as a temple to the quasi-religion of contemporary art’s makers and markets, so it made a kind of sense that at least one of its satellite events would take place in an actual church. Presented by avant designer Grace Wales Bonner at the rigorously modernist Saint Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan, last Thursday’s Devotional Sound evening continued the Serpentine Galleries–organized concert series that was inaugurated at London’s Saint John’s Church this past January. Framed as an accompaniment to Wales Bonner’s Serpentine exhibition,

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  • Happy Campers

    THIS YEAR’S JEREMY SCOTT-FILLED MET BALL MOODBOARD seems to be confusing those who have yet to get through “Notes on Camp,” Susan Sontag’s 6,000-word listicle. Will attendees be obliged to drench themselves in swans and safety pins? Is camp simply a bouffant of sky-high wigs and sequined shoes? Or is it some kind of insider code that fashion’s worst-dressed victims don’t understand yet seem to indulge in regularly? “The best gossip I’ve heard in LA is that celebrities are declining Met Ball invitations due to the ‘weird theme’ and ‘ugly clothes,’” Patrick Sandberg, creative director of CR fashion

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  • Shark Tank

    ON FRIDAY, I FLEW TO CÔTE D’AZUR in a private jet, and am happy to confirm that the Alps are still snowcapped—it’s not all over quite yet, then. The lunch excursion was to Art Monte Carlo, an event that inserts itself into Berlin Gallery Weekend by making available a private shuttle. A luminously beautiful girl who sat with me on the plane got several hundred likes for a selfie from its cream-leather interior. “Instagram is like alcohol: it manufactures the lack that drives it,” said a Greek collector with indigo eyeshadow who’d otherwise kept quiet. Her gold bangles rattled as our Mercedes

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  • Mad Scramble

    CULTIVAR EL SUELO ES SERVIR A LA PATRIA. This phrase, meaning “to cultivate the soil is to serve the homeland,” is bannered between the stands of the belle epoque stadium of La Rural, built in the late nineteenth century for La Sociedad Rural Argentina’s annual trade shows, when livestock was one of the country’s most lucrative exports. For twenty years, La Rural has been the site of arteBA, Argentina’s largest art fair, which this year coincided with the first Semana del Arte, organized by the Gobierno de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, and Art Basel’s third “activation” of its “Cities”

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  • Just Dessert

    THESE DAYS, Milano Art Week lasts for about a month. By Monday, April 1—when Fondazione Adolfo Pini hosted the kickoff event for this year’s edition—my yesterdays had already been filled with dozens of openings. Indeed, the density of programs by the art fair Miart is pushing many institutions and galleries to advance their events in order to take better advantage of the wealth of excitement (and, simply, wealth) in the city.

    A very Milanese sense of discretion emerged at this year’s Art Week. A quiet Marco Tronchetti Provera was seen alongside Sheela Gowda at the presentations at Pirelli Hangar

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  • Chillida Session

    “WE ARE always returning to the House of the Father.” This verse of Novalis, the über-romantic German poet, haunted me as I approached Chillida-Leku, the sixteenth-century caserío, or farmhouse, on the leafy outskirts of Donostia-San Sebastián, in Spain’s Basque Country. This is where the now legendary Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (1924–2002) achieved his dream of finding a permanent home for his works from 1983 onward. His ashes rest there as well. Chillida may well be considered the father figure of Basque art during the twentieth century: After the Spanish Civil War, the man and his work

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  • Funeral Parade of Roses

    BACK IN THE 1980s, drag queens worldwide were stuck in a time warp, impersonating all the familiar divas in dowdy gowns. One major exception to this sorry situation was the counterculture of Manhattan’s East Village, where drag was being wildly reinvented. Outfits were pieced together at Salvation Army, and nobody cared if your wig was askew or your lip sync imprecise. What mattered was unleashing your eccentricities and raw talent.

    Among the prominent personalities to emerge during this liberating era was Hattie Hathaway. As tall as a basketball player and with a wry sense of humor, she often

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  • Animal Collective

    WHEN I ATTENDED THE ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS AND WRITING PROGRAMS CONFERENCE recently in Portland, Oregon, my thoughts turned to H. P. Lovecraft. Perhaps it was the clammy, fertile, haunted quality of the Pacific Northwest; perhaps it was the unearthly horror of having no agent and few prospects. Really, though, I blame Jeff VanderMeer, whose book Annihilation (2014) I had bought for the airplane. While the justly praised novel is typically described as ecological sci-fi, VanderMeer pulls a classic trick at its climax that I associate with Lovecraft: In a scene that takes place deep in the bowels

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