COLUMNS

  • Memento Morra

    “MUSEUMS ARE DEAD,” Andrea Viliani, artistic director of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, said over dinner my first night in Naples. “White cubes are devouring white cubes.” It was a daring declaration coming from a longtime museum curator who is collaborating on art projects sited among the literal ruins of Pompeii. We were at the raucous Ristorante Europeo Mattozzi with curator Milovan Farronato and artist Maria Loboda, both in town casting for “Death,” this summer’s Stromboli Volcano Extravaganza. Here for the reopening of the Morra Greco Foundation, I thought my own days would

    Read more
  • The Custom of the Country

    IN EDITH WHARTON’S THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, society girl Lily Bart spends the “long gilded hours of the day” moving from one Hamptons estate to another, venturing out occasionally to a Monte Carlo hotel. Though impeccably trained to move among nineteenth-century New York’s upper crust, Lily cannot afford her lifestyle independently and must rely on the goodwill of better-endowed friends and sponsors. They, of course, expect certain favors in return, whether it’s writing letters or keeping a bothersome husband amused.

    Lily falls from society’s grace when she ceases to be useful and overstays her welcome,

    Read more
  • Blood Moon

    THE ISLAND PROCESSION began around 8 PM on a muggy night. A long queue of people ceremoniously walked—there are no cars here, only mules for transport—from the old town that hugs a crescent-shaped harbor up a steep, craggy road. After passing olive, pine, and cypress trees, and whitewashed buildings creeping up the cliffs, everyone arrived at a small structure overlooking the sea, with wind-whipped flags under a Sagittarius full moon.

    This is where Kiki Smith unveiled her winsome show “Memory,” for Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation project, in a small, erstwhile abattoir on the Aegean Sea. It was

    Read more
  • Vienna Calling

    IT WAS IN THE DAIRY AISLE I FIRST SPOTTED HIM. Warned there was a dancer on the loose in Lidl, I had quickly closed in on the likeliest suspect, a wispy blonde boy wearing cropped pants and a Fjällräven backpack. I trailed him as he inspected a bunch of bananas, delicately extracting a single one, before moseying over to peruse the canned coffee drinks. It was only when he shot a withering look at me and my expectant camera that it occurred to me he might not be there to perform. Indeed, the dancer I was looking for turned out to be a man with a sensible shirt and a silvery mane (“our Július

    Read more
  • Mixed Emotions

    FOR TEENAGERS, there is no such thing as too much angst, too much pain, too much love. No emotion is ever enough. This is what made the Norwegian web series Skam (2015–17) such a sensation: It illustrated perfectly the simultaneous intensity and mundanity of adolescence. Most of the time, you’re torrenting Romeo + Juliet in bed and shedding a single tear. At some point, life stops being (as) boring, emotions become burdens, and we cordon them off somewhere. I met Isak from Skam, in real life known as Tarjei Sandvik Moe, at Kunstnernes Hus and momentarily returned to a pubescent state of elation.

    Read more
  • 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 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 I would have been 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

    Read more
  • As the World Turns

    PREVIOUSLY ON Days of Our Outrage, the Whitney Biennial was a political disaster in medias res. (And the first takes 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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 two-day symposium “Vision and Justice,” organized by professor Sarah Lewis. The convening’s ambitious programming took on the archive, gentrification, the prison-industrial complex, police states, Flint, racialized

    Read more
  • 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 took 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 concert series organized by Serpentine Galleries that was inaugurated at London’s Saint John’s Church this past January. Framed as an accompaniment to Wales Bonner’s Serpentine exhibition,

    Read more
  • 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 six-thousand-word listicle. Will attendees be obliged to cover themselves with 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,’” Patrik Sandberg, creative director

    Read more
  • Shark Tank

    ON FRIDAY, I FLEW TO CÔTE D’AZUR in a private jet, and I 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 taken in its cream leather interior. “Instagram is like alcohol: It manufactures the lack that drives it,” said a Greek collector with indigo eyeshadow who otherwise kept quiet. Her gold bangles rattled as our Mercedes

    Read more