COLUMNS

  • Unidentified Fabulous Objects

    AS WINNER OF season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2017, Sasha Velour distinguished herself as a cerebral contestant, a Vassar graduate who regards drag as an artistic expression. So when she was asked by New York’s Queer/Art/Film screening series to present a movie of her choice, she decided to boldly go where no other drag queen has gone before. On February 4, she arrived at IFC Center in green face paint and a bejeweled headpiece to pay homage to the 1991 cult favorite Vegas in Space. (The event was part of the “Winter is a Drag” program, which continues through April.)

    “I discovered Vegas in

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  • Such Great Heights

    I HAD TWO RIDE OPTIONS to the third iteration of “Elevation 1049,” produced by Luma Foundation with the involvement of Maja Hoffmann, and again curated by local artist Olympia Scarry and Neville Wakefield (the number refers to the ski resort’s altitude): driving with artist Sylvie Fleury in her new Tesla (the brand is popular in the Alps and it’s easy to find charging stations) or flying with Hans Ulrich Obrist in an Airbus helicopter (also very popular, with many local landing areas). But an unexpected snowstorm forced me to take a regular train from the Geneva airport to Montreux, and then to

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  • Sharp Critique

    THE MOST LAVISH PARTIES coinciding with India Art Fair are the midday brunches: As the sun pelts through the now characteristically hazardous air pollution, attendees reach for the Bloody Marys. At one such event, hosted at the home of Shalini Passi, founder of the Shalini Passi Art Foundation, banners shifted in the wind, declaring: Lunch is Cancelled. In a performance, artist Mithu Sen paraded out of the house, followed by a marching band, and servers were wearing anti-lick recovery cones for pets around their necks. Sen wore a cone with a special blond frill. Passi’s black pug, adorned with

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  • Sea Change

    THIS YEAR’S EDITION of Singapore Art Week (SAW) saw the country earn the celebrity trappings of an established art metropolis, with the first exhibition of Lucy Liu’s art alongside that of local artist Shubigi Rao at the National Museum of Singapore. There was also the sudden demise of Art Stage Singapore—a fair that was once the key event of Singapore’s annual visual-arts calendar and the catalyst for the development of SAW as a platform for events.

    The country’s art scene banded together in the aftermath. Galleries offered up exhibition spaces, and individuals opened their homes or gave legal

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  • The Dreamhouse

    THE SPECTRUM WAS ONE OF THOSE RARE PLACES in the world where you could feel totally free. It was an art space, illegal nightclub, and ephemeral proof in the possibility of building an alternative queer utopia. From residence of the cofounder, the artist gage of the boone, to spiritual home for a generation of New York artists, club rats, and orphans, the Spectrum lived for seven defiant years before the Dreamhouse—its second iteration in Ridgewood, Queens—closed in fabulous, Dionysian excess this month.

    While many DIY spaces have been predictably crushed in this city’s capitalist gears, the

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  • Cartel Cowboy

    ON THE AFTERNOON of January 16, a group of reporters assembled in the overflow room across the hall from where Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Sinaloa cartel leader, known as “El Chapo,” was being tried. There are drawbacks to watching the trial there—the grainy quality of the live video feed, the fact that viewers can’t see the defendant react to explosive testimony— as opposed to the courtroom, but outside the purview of the judge, the atmosphere is also more relaxed. As a Homeland Security agent stepped down from the witness stand, in the overflow room a reporter from El País jumped to his feet

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  • Smize Demise

    ONCE UPON A TIME, for most of the art cognoscenti, Hong Kong resembled a Wong Kar-wai film still. Then Art Basel happened. So it was all the more exciting to visit the city for a brand-new occasion: the inaugural edition of Booked, launched by Tai Kwun Contemporary. Since officially opening its doors to the public this past June, Tai Kwun, which is housed in the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts—a major redevelopment project in the former Central Police Station backed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club—has welcomed more than a million people. According to the museum’s statistics, one-fifth

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  • On the Brink

    THE PLAN FOR THE FOURTH EDITION OF THE BIENNALE INTERNATIONALE DE CASABLANCA, held from late October to early December, was to raise the profile of the event in a manner befitting the economic and cultural significance of Morocco’s biggest city. In prior editions, initiated by the Moroccan photographer Mostafa Romli and run through a foundation called Maroc Premium, the biennial wasn’t really achieving that. Its quality was middling; it had neither the means nor the glitz to rival the Marrakech Biennial, which was founded in 2004 by the British entrepreneur Vanessa Branson. This year, however,

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  • Train Spotting

    WE HAVE A BIENNIAL, what are we to do with it? It is so indivisible and so . . . ours.

    If Osip Mandelstam rejoiced to see his body blow warm breath against “the window glass of eternity,” it still remains to be seen what kind of mark our globalized art world may leave on the Future. The millennial explosion of biennials and large-scale exhibitions has paved a global highway for the circulation of contemporary art, giving rise to an international community with its own vernacular—instead of shibboleth, we have Szymczyk. We’ve effectively achieved the “platform for international discourse”

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  • Lure of the Local

    WELCOME TO THE DREGS OF THE YEAR, when all we want—or need, given the chaos of 2018—is something socially nourishing. And no, I’m not talking about Art Basel Miami Beach.

    On Saturday December 8, an afternoon of overlapping talks, workshops, film screenings, and performances was brought together under the banner of “Access and Agency” at the Queens Museum in conjunction with “Queens International 2018,” the eighth edition of the truly local group show that spotlights a set of artists working in the most royal borough. This year, a lively intergenerational dialogue on abstraction, chance

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  • …And Justice for All

    AFTER ESCAPING THE GLORIES AND GLAMOURS OF SHANGHAI ART WEEK, I landed in Taipei on November 13, during election season, catching a break from the circuit of fairs and events for global art superstars. The subject more likely to be discussed among my art-world friends in Taiwan wasn’t who you bumped into at West Bund but who you were planning to vote for. If it’s true that Shanghai touches upon everything but local politics, Taipei is the opposite: There’s no way—and no need—to shun civics, anywhere.

    Last December, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed the Act on Promoting Transitional

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  • Happy Birthday, Zayed!

    THE SAME DAY Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan aggressively implicated the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, his royal highness was busy headlining the second annual Future Investment Initiative—dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” for its congregation of mega-executives and heads of state—at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. Despite cautious last-minute cancellations from many, the prince appeared ebullient and pithily announced the success of the conference: “More people, more money.”

    The inverse—“more money, more people”—is

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