COLUMNS

  • Retreat Yourself

    THE QUARANTINI IS THE DRINK OF THE MOMENT. It’s just like a martini, except you have it alone. The Californian pop star Lauv, by the sound of it, has been downing quarantinis for a while. His is a songbook of solitary anguish, with titles like “f*ck, i’m lonely,” “Lonely Eyes,” and “Sad Forever.” Take the chorus for “Modern Loneliness,” the lead single for the twenty-five-year-old’s new album, released a couple weeks ago: “We’re never alone / But always depressed / Love my friends to death / But I never call and I never text.” Lauv might just have missed the mark on this one: Now, many of us

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  • Something in the Air

    TO KISS OR NOT TO KISS: This was, at the beginning of the week of ARCOmadrid, more or less the tacit issue at hand, as the coronavirus had arrived in the capital just as the wings of the international art world were descending. But here in Spain, we are indiscriminately effusive with intimates and strangers alike, so as the fair—this year excellently led for the first time solo by Maribel López—took cruising speed, kisses and hugs and explosive laughs and close whispers in the ear won the war against demurer modes of interaction. For better or worse, each culture is born, develops itself, and

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  • Berning Love

    “COMBS ARE FOR PUSSIES!” declared comedian Sarah Silverman. “I’m trying not to use that word that way––it’s super negative. Combs are for McConnells!” Silverman, along with Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, actor Dick Van Dyke, and yes, Chuck D of Public Enemy, gathered Sunday night with approximately fifteen thousand people at the Los Angeles Convention Center for one of the more unusual and weirdly dreamy lineups in political history, all there to stump for one tousled-hair Vermont senator ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries. 

    The day before the rally, a huge crowd joined writer

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  • X-Files

    “MASHA’ALLAH,” exclaimed my fellow travelers upon learning that I was headed from Jeddah to the holy city of Medina: the Pakistani driver, the jolly Saudi desk agent, my Sudanese seatmate with bloodshot eyes. When I explained, in broken Arabic, that I would continue on to Al ‘Ula, a speck of a town more than a hundred miles away, they were less impressed. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set up the royal commission of Al ‘Ula (RCU) to develop the backwater’s breathtakingly preserved, UNESCO-anointed carved rock art of the ancient Lihyan and Nabatean kingdoms into a premier tourist

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  • Pleasure Dome

    SMASHED BETWEEN adult-film star Sasha Grey, filmmaker-artist Miranda July, and underground legend Ian Svenonius in the space of Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago on the Sunset Strip, a weird claustrophobia set in. So I skipped outside to watch magickian-artist Brian Butler, sword in hand, hollering Luciferean incantations in a bloodred glow as the moon rose above him. I half expected a demon to leap out from the Hollywood sign and eat us all in a single, wet gulp. The second edition of Frieze Los Angeles launched last week, along with cluster of ride-along art fairs, from the long-standing Art Los

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  • Continental Drift

    A CLOUD OF SMOKE rippled around Dhaka’s Shilpakala Academy late in the afternoon. Through it, we could see the occasional flame. Everyone continued chatting, unsure of what we were looking at, until a group in silver hazmat suits ascended a mound of dirt. We watched as the moonmen tended to the fires, part of a smelting performance by Swiss artist Raphael Hefti. Originally commissioned for a volcano in Milan, the heavy-metal presentation was meant to convey “part of the epic story of human civilization,” per the exhibition notes. Unluckily for me, it only prompted platitudes and non sequiturs

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  • Friend Zona

    “IS SOMETHING SPECIAL HAPPENING in Mexico City this week?” Rachel Kushner asked. I introduced myself to her during Laura Owens’s opening at House of Gaga, a day before Material and Zona Maco began. Kushner, in town to support her friend, was somewhat surprised to be running into so many other Angelenos. Owens’s dreamy abstractions, atypically small, hung well in the modest gallery—paintings and watercolors the size you’d hang in a breakfast nook, set off by custom wallpapers bearing cartoonish lemons and stripes in rogue geometries. A tiny rat in a hat and coat was painted in the corner. “It’s

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  • Retail Therapy

    “WHAT I LOVE ABOUT RACHEL IS she has this alchemy,” said the former Olympic swimmer Casey Legler, by way of introduction to Rachel Comey’s Fall/Winter 2020 runway show on Thursday evening at the SoHo restaurant/showroom La Mercerie. “Her art form lends itself to people who not only do things, but do really powerful, impactful things.” She was referring primarily to the time her wife, Siri May, the United Nations program coordinator for the LGBT rights group OutRight Action International, wore a Comey dress at the UN Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, giving the New York label a diplomatic

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  • Nacht Fever

    “I'M NOT FUCKING WITH THIS,” declared Lafawndah, as she rushed backstage, upstairs at Griessmuehle after an hour-long sound check before her Saturday-night performance at Berlin’s CTM Festival. “I want to go back to the hotel,” she told one of the managers trailing behind her. There wasn’t enough time. I had been sitting with the night’s other performers in the backstage lounge when one of the festival organizers came in and announced that everyone had to leave: Lafawndah needed the room to herself, “for her voice.”

    Banished downstairs, we watched an opening DJ warm up the floor. “I kind of want

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  • Stayin’ Alive

    “WHEN I EAT, I EAT MY OWN DEATH,” proclaimed a pile of bright green stickers, injecting a gloomy note into what otherwise promised to be a lively opening. However dour, artist Atul Bhalla’s warning was not going to keep me from India International Centre’s famed samosas and a cup of hot tea on a cold winter’s day. Curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala, the site-specific exhibition bore the sanguine title “We Are Still Alive: Strategies in Surviving the Anthropocene.” I spotted the statuesque Shalini Passi, the collector and founder of MASH (My Art Shalini, a digital platform that sponsored the project),

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  • Last Resort

    TO GET TO THE ALPINE VILLAGE OF VERBIER, I cabbed to the airport at five in the morning, flew to Geneva, and from there took the train two hours along the north side of Lac Léman. Then I transferred to a smaller train for another half hour before catching a ski lift into the clouds. This trek was thrilling at first—magical, really—and, finally, somewhat absurd, given that this year’s Verbier Art Summit is titled “Resource Hungry: On Our Cultured Landscape and Its Ecological Impact.” I had come solely to attend this event—for which the Dia Foundation’s Jessica Morgan had asked an array of artists,

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  • Singapore Fling

    I FOUND MYSELF on a recent Sunday evening in a Singaporean mall, at a dinner hosted by ShanghART gallery, meeting the country’s arts impresarios over Peking duck and century eggs. Dealer Lillian Wu and Rosa Daniel of the National Arts Council spoke of the country’s expanding arts scene—words such as “global platform” and “art hub” were as plentiful as the bonnes bouches on offer. And such talk is warranted. For readers unfamiliar with Singapore (as I was a couple weeks ago), I hereby report that the city-state is booming, enjoying new streams of money diverted from Hong Kong. On January 12, the

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