Bright Prospects

New Orleans
10.31.14

Left: Prospect 3 Biennial curator Franklin Sirmans with Joan Mitchell Center director Gia Hamilton. Right: Solange and artist Kerry James Marshall. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


THERE’S ALWAYS A GOOD REASON to be in New Orleans. Last weekend, the draw was “Prospect 3: Notes for Now,” or P.3, the resonant third edition of the international biennial that Dan Cameron created in 2007, two years after Hurricane Katrina doused city and spirit. Under artistic director Franklin Sirmans, P.3 opened with work by fifty-eight artists from the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East planted in eighteen venues around town. On Thursday, October 23, a few visiting dealers and collectors joined a veritable congress of American museum curators to track them down.

During a press conference at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, where Sirmans and P.3 executive director Brooke Davis Anderson introduced the biennial, the first people I saw were the Museum of Modern Art’s Stuart Comer and Thomas Lax. Spread across the room were the Whitney's Christopher Lew, Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner, Bronx Museum director Holly Block, and Carnegie Museum curator Dan Byers. The Speed Museum curator Miranda Lash, ICA Philadelphia exhibition director Ingrid Schaffner, and Jewish Museum deputy director Jens Hoffmann would soon appear, along with both Rita Gonzalez and Christine Y. Kim of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Sirmans heads the department of contemporary art.

All gave the same reason for being there: “Franklin.” Despite the support, Sirmans seemed nervous when he spoke of the anchors for his citywide show: Walker Percy’s 1961 New Orleans novel of displacement, The Moviegoer; a Gaugin-in-Tahiti painting; and the cultural cannibalism of the early-twentieth-century Brazilian Antropofágico movement. “The exhibition is about trying to understand ourselves through others,” Sirmans said. Remembering the late Terry Adkins, a biennial artist, he choked back tears.

Left: Artist Carrie Mae Weems. Right: MoMA curators Thomas Lax and Stuart Comer.


But New Orleans is a city that elicits strong emotions. The events following Katrina made that clear. If the Crescent City is now beginning to prosper as a convention and music center—Win Butler and Régine Chassagne (of Arcade Fire) and Solange Knowles have moved here—it is also stuck in a romantic, nineteenth-century vampire haze that masks (or excuses) racial and economic inequalities as well as violence. None of that is unique to New Orleans, just more visible—and also more deniable—here. “What does the art do?” Sirmans asked. “That’s the most important question.”

Kerry James Marshall’s response was to fill two of the Ashé center’s display windows with gift-wrapped boxes and mirror every surface to reflect the street. Initially, this was baffling, but that was before I knew that the building was in a neighborhood that was once the only one in town where blacks could do their shopping. The area also saw action in the early 1960s as the birthplace of the city’s civil rights movement. The mirroring gaiety, Marshall told me later, was one way to counter the dark past without pretending to escape it.

Some of that history was on display a few blocks away in a “P.3+” satellite (i.e., independently financed) exhibition of vintage news photographs at the Myrtle Banks Building housing the Creative Alliance of New Orleans and Alembic Community Development. Outside, the activist New Orleanian Robert Tannen, who is not in Sirmans’s show, was posting a sign that would appear at nearly every venue. It said: “Elect Robert C. Tannen Artist.”

Left: Artist Dawn DeDeaux. Right: Artist Charles Gaines and dealer Steve Henry.


Registered VIPs wearing hot-pink P.3 buttons spent the rest of the day shuttling around institutional sites, beginning with the Contemporary Art Center, where the largest concentration of biennial works are installed. A number of them dated from years, sometimes decades, past. This made the show old news for some people and welcome information for others. “It’s not looking like the usual biennial,” ventured Lew. Sirmans included few market darlings (Theaster Gates, Lucien Smith) and many lesser-knowns (Douglas Bourgeois, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Pushpamala N.), representing a wide variety of political and social behavior as well as media and style. “It’s nice to see art that engages with the world, for a change,” observed Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg. White artists are the minority.

David Zink-Yi’s two-hour video collaboration with Cuban musicians performing voodoo rituals was quite hypnotic, but the sexiest entry is a 1973 painting by the nonagenarian Lebanese artist Huguette Caland. The most Instagrammed work was probably Glenn Kaino’s set of aquariums. Installed on low pedestals under Gulf Stream–blue light, each housed an armored tank fragment encased in resin and barnacled with species of live coral fighting each other for territory. “They’re organisms reclaiming the instruments of their displacement and creating the borders of their own nations,” he said.

Next door, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art had a peculiar stand-alone show of Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings—an odd addition to the biennial, though something of a coup for New Orleans. Next to it were painted reliefs by the late outsider artist Herbert Singleton, and next to that a series of photographic portraits of inmates at Angola (the notorious Louisiana prison) by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick, New Orleans natives. “We gotta talk about the new slavery,” Calhoun said. “Our schools are incubators for the prisons.” Louisiana, he said, has more prisons per capita than any other state—five in the town of Monroe alone.

What gave Cameron’s Prospect 1 show its pulse were the many works artists created on site in devastated areas, or in direct response to the cultural and political conditions of New Orleans. The same is true for P.3. The farther afield one went, the more life it had. If you weren’t on a shuttle, exploring meant calling a taxi, only to be told there were none available. (Fair warning to future visitors: Rent a car.) For “Home Court Crawl,” Lisa Sigal painted pastel Tyvek scrolls with quotes and stage directions from plays by Suzan-Lori Parks and mounted them on derelict houses in four blighted neighborhoods. When I went to see those in Midcity, I was stranded. During the long wait for transportation, I studied lines like, “Man: It’s Burning. Woman: Mmm,” while occasional passersby asked after my health and kept me company but took no notice of the art. (The Junebug Theater will perform on the porches of Sigal’s houses later on in the biennial.)

Left: Artist Lisa Sigal. Right: 2015 Venice Biennale artistic director Okwui Enwezor with artist McArthur Binion.


At last, P.3 artist Mary Ellen Carroll sent an assistant to bring me to Public Utility 2.0, her inspired project at the AIA New Orleans Center for Design. It is vaguely set up as a broadcasting station, and she is lobbying for the use of old UHF/VHF television channels as free WiFi networks for people too poor to pay for online access. “It’s treating white space as architecture,” she said, pointing to charts that map all the places where such a transformation could take place.

After an Uptown pit stop at Tulane University’s Newcomb Art Gallery (where Sirmans installed a tactile group exhibition), it was dusk—time for an opening-weekend performance by Tavares Strachan (pronounced “Strawn”). After listening to Timothy “Speed” Levitch, a professional tour guide, spiel about the origins of the po’-boy sandwich and other local histories, about a hundred people gathered on Esplanade Avenue Wharf to sip prosecco and witness the launch of Strachan’s bright P.3-pink neon on a donated, 120-foot-long Mississippi River barge. YOU BELONG HERE, it said. Sweet words they were, too. The citizens liked it. “We’re used to moving heavy equipment, not neon signs,” said Porter Randall, a representative of the barge company. “So working with Tavares has been a lot of fun.”

Next morning, I worked up an appetite by romping through the P.3 galleries at the New Orleans Museum of Art, where I also discovered “Reparation,” an unaffiliated, thunder-stealing show of 4-by-4-inch paintings by 180 local artists organized by the New York–based curator Diego Cortez. Hitching a ride in a friend’s car, my next stop was Delgado Community College, where the Los Angeles–based Conceptualist Piero Golia was working with students to carve a mold of the nose of George Washington’s face on Mount Rushmore—a bronze that he admitted may never be cast. “I live in Hollywood,” he shrugged, “where fiction is more powerful than reality.”

By then I was ravenous. Fortunately, the Joan Mitchell Center was hosting a delicious gumbo lunch for the New Orleans artists currently working in the foundation’s Rampart Street studio residency program, where a P.3+ group show, “Convergence,” curated by Deborah Willis, is on view. One of the most soulful, and melancholy, works in the biennial was also the least visible: a ghostly spoken-word sound installation by Zarhouie Abdalian in the shuttered former servants’ quarters of the beautiful house that is the New Orleans African American Museum, now going to seed for lack of funding. Tragic.

Left: Yona Backer and artist Mary Ellen Carroll. Right: Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg and Jewish Museum deputy director Jens Hoffman.


The evening was far jollier. After a Julia Street gallery walk came “Miss Vesta’s Swamp Galaxy Gala,” a sprawling P.3 fundraiser that brought about a thousand guests, including all of the biennial artists, to a cavernous space adjacent to the CAC. An open-air cocktail party with live music—a feature of just about every gathering in New Orleans, even the press conference—warmed up the crowd for a dinner honoring the absent theater director Robert Wilson, the present 2015 Venice Biennale director Okwui Enwezor, film producer (and P.3 board chair) Susan Gore Brennan, art historian Robert Farris Thompson, and the New Orleans artist Dawn DeDeaux, a Prospect 2 legend whose design for the party turned a cold-blooded expanse of concrete into exactly what was advertised—a cosmic swamp garden. “We think Prospect is worth saving,” she said, referring to years of financial stress and political squabbling that preceded Prospect 3. “So we do what we can to help.” Cameron, now chief curator of the Orange County Museum, took some pride in the biennial’s survival. “It’s all very satisfying,” he said.

Saturday, Prospect 3 opened to the public with a ribbon-cutting and second-line parade in Washington Square Park. It was also the day that the scope of the biennial (and the character of New Orleans) truly revealed itself. The morning began with a visit to Longue Vue House and Gardens, a magnificent estate where Camille Henrot’s Silver Lion–winning video, Grosse Fatigue, has its best installation yet. Driven to the McKenna Museum of African American Art by another friend, Tulane architecture school professor Grover Mouton, I was both captivated and disturbed by the holographic ghosts in Carrie Mae Weems’s powerful Lincoln, Lonnie and Me. With no time to recover, we scooted over to the Uno St. Claude Gallery of the University of New Orleans, where the Vietnamese Propeller Group collective’s film with Christopher Myers had surprising parallels with the bayous, voodoo grief rituals and the second-line funeral music of New Orleans.

Emotionally spent, we headed back to NOMA for Not just a few of us, an absolutely spellbinding performance by Andrea Fraser who had a sold-out house on the edge of its collective seat. In just under an hour, without changing clothes or putting on makeup, she inhabited the voices of nineteen distinct speakers recorded during a heated 1991 City Council hearing called to vote on a proposal to desegregate Mardi Gras krewes. “I know all these people!” Mouton exclaimed. “This is exactly the way it was.” (The ordinance passed but didn’t make much difference.)

Personally, I wasn’t aware that such a confrontation over race, class, power, religion, and love had ever taken place in New Orleans. Every city in every state in the country could use such debate today. “I was surprised at how often people laughed,” Fraser said later, during a reception for the P.3 artists in a private Lower Garden District home. I was even more surprised to hear that she had put the piece together only two weeks earlier.

Left: Orange County Museum curator and Prospect 1 director Dan Cameron. Right: Beans performing at Treme Market Branch.


Meanwhile, there was an all-out P.3+ block party going on in crime-ridden St. Roch. It began with a gun buyback sponsored by Kirsha Kaechele, a former New Orleans producer of nonprofit art events, and her husband, the Tasmanian collector David Walsh. Police on the scene told me they had collected four hundred working guns ($75 for a handgun, $150 for a rifle, $250 for automatics). Curators Claire Tancons and Delaney Martin organized the opening ceremonies, which featured rappers recording in a makeshift studio (a car wash), Mardi Gras Indians and the Betty Squad Gumbo dancers performing in the street, preachers preaching against violence and for the unjustly incarcerated, and four men dancing on horseback wearing orange vests imprinted with the words “Don’t Shoot Me/I’m a Man.” This was New Orleans at its carnival best.

That evening, a slightly more demure block party developed in the St. Claude Art District, where young galleries threw open their doors to all comers. I had just enough time to take in a bit of biennial artist Tameka Norris’s four-screen, feature-length film at May Gallery, an ambitious nonprofit founded by Keene Kopper, who has established residencies for visiting international artists as well as a vigorous publication and exhibition program. Shot in New Orleans, the film stars Norris as her stylish alter ego, Meka Jean. She seemed to be in character at the opening, which I was sorry to leave but I didn’t want to miss the speed-rapper Beans, who was performing at biennial artist Gary Simmons’s invitation at Treme Market Branch, a beautifully decrepit old bank.

Somehow, the night still felt young. I joined Comer for a visit to a “secret site” on Elysian Fields, where DeDeaux is building her version of a space station within the remains of a house where trees are growing through the roof. With just a few lights, many long shadows, and several sculptural installations spotlighted in the garden, it felt very haunting, very sensual, and very right.

Prospect 3 continues through January 25. Don’t bring a map. Let it find you.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artist Tavares Strachan. Right: Artist Andrea Fraser.


Future Lovers

Kiev
10.28.14

Left: FGAP shortlisted artists Rossella Biscotti and Carlos Motta with writer Adam Kleinman. Right: PinchukArtCentre deputy artistic director Björn Geldhof. (Except where noted, all photos: Kate Sutton)


TWO DAYS BEFORE a pivotal parliamentary election would cement Ukraine’s European future, in the lobby of Kiev’s Premier Palace Hotel the instrumental version of Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)” was the sole clue that we weren’t in pre–Orange Revolution 2004. Minigarchs in bomber jackets and buzz cuts corralled their plate-faced, ponytailed girlfriends into the restaurant for the “His-and-Hers Menu,” while bodyguards—uniformly better dressed than their bosses—sat slumped over smartphones, throwing the occasional eye to the hostesses busy luring expense accounts to the erotic cabaret upstairs.

I was waiting for writer Adam Kleinman and artists Rossella Biscotti and Carlos Motta, all in town for the exhibition of shortlisted artists (Biscotti and Motta among them) for the PinchukArtCentre’s third Future Generation Art Prize, slated to open the next day. My companions arrived just as a lobby habitué strutted by, all teased hair and tight red dress, with one of those fur coats where you can still make out the tiny arms and legs of the pelt’s former owner. “Cats,” Kleinman observed offhandedly. “Probably,” I conceded, assuming he meant the source of the fur. He was actually referring to the Broadway musical.

That this kind of cartoon Kiev can still exist after Maidan was one of the key talking points of the October 26 elections, which ended in securing the country’s pro-Euro coalition—though it should be noted that the rebel-held Eastern territories abstained, announcing a separatist vote the following week. In the run-up to the elections, the Ukrainian capital was plastered in campaign posters that coupled the anticorruption agenda with a more ambiguous patriotism, ŕ la yellow-and-blue banners trumpeting “Glory to Ukraine!” Maidan Square had been cleared of the outsider art installations (e.g., the sculpture of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych on his notorious gilded toilet, caged beside a judge’s bench) in favor of a series of sandwich boards bearing an ideologically muddled mix of cheaply printed images: crowd shots of Maidan activists, wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and a baffling set of pro-military shots, picturing fully armed soldiers chatting gamely with old men on bicycles or hugging blond toddlers to their rifled chests.

Left: Photo displays on Maidan Square. Right: FGAP shortlisted artists Allyson Vieira and Kudzanai Chiurai.


The perimeter was lined with “Photographic Evidence of Russian Terrorism,” ranging from meticulously identified ration cards to a cellphone photo of a tank flying a Russian flag, emblazoned with the slang equivalent of “Donbass or Bust.” When a man approached me asking money “for the soldiers,” I didn’t know which ones he meant. As I shifted away toward the handmade memorials to the Heavenly Hundred (the fallen heroes of Maidan), the subzero temperatures got the best of me and I started to rummage in my bag for a Kleenex. “Zoom in, zoom in!” I heard someone hiss in English. I turned to see an American news crew, their camera trained directly on me. They had thought I was crying.

“If you watch international news, Kiev looks like some kind of dead zone,” artist Zhanna Kadyrova told me as we defrosted over lattes in Na Stanislavskogo, a hip café that models itself after the Soviet intelligentsia, with vintage couches and shelves full of quirkily omnivorous reading materials. Last year, Kadyrova had won the PinchukArtCentre’s award for emerging Ukrainian artists, and she was shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize. I asked her if the association with the center’s founder, Victor Pinchuk, came with any backlash in a time when oligarch bashing was all the rage. She didn’t hesitate with her reply: “I wouldn’t have been able to make a single work this year without Pinchuk’s support. Besides, no one really has any beef with Pinchuk. He keeps a low profile. He’s not trying to run the country, like these other guys.”

Once known for throwing lavish bashes (who else could have Daniel Craig and Nicholas Serota rubbing elbows in a marionette museum?), the art world’s friendliest oligarch has indeed dialed down on extravagance, avoiding the power grabs of national politics and shifting his focus on his charities and art—itself an increasingly unpopular pastime. According to PinchukArtCentre’s deputy artistic director, curator Björn Geldhof, attendance has dropped by 40 percent over the past few months. “There’s this misconception that art is unnecessary or frivolous right now,” Geldhof lamented. “Thankfully, it seems people are beginning to realize that they need to breathe, too.”

Left: Artist Konstantin Starodub, FGAP shortlisted artist Zhanna Kadyrova, and artist Vadim Kusch. Right: FGAP shortlisted artist Aslan Gaisumov.


The PinchukArtCentre hoped to provide some fresh air with the third edition of its Future Generation Art Prize. A selection committee including Geldhof and curators Sun Dongdong, Simon Castets, and David Riff fielded over 5,500 applications from 148 countries to produce a roster of twenty-one artists and collectives hailing from locales as widespread as Zimbabwe, Peru, Cuba, Kuwait, and the Chechen Republic of Russia. The final decision—and the $100,000 prize—will be announced December 6, after deliberations by a jury that comprises curators Adam Szymczyk, Philip Tinari, Francesco Bonami, and Bisi Silva, and artists Jan Fabre and Doris Salcedo.

The exhibition of shortlisted artists was preceded with a survey of works by the prize’s mentors—Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Takashi Murakami—drawn from the collection. “We wanted to show the continued support of our Patron Artists, but we also understood that we had to be sensitive to the context,” Geldhof explained, as we surveyed the pairing of one of Gursky’s photographs of prison interiors with Hirst’s The History of Pain, 1999, which enlists a giant air blower to keep a beach ball hovering over a battalion of butcher knives. My eye landed on a photo of Murakami’s strumpy-looking candy striper, coyly lifting her syringe. “And you know,” Geldhof added sheepishly. “A nurse.”

I entered the main show just as Pinchuk was being ushered out. “He actually had some pretty good comments on the work,” Motta mused. Impressive, perhaps, considering the grit of Motta’s project, which involved teaming up with local advocates to compile a timeline of repression of Ukraine’s LGBT community. Posters of the final product were installed in light boxes around Kiev and distributed in Ukrainian and English at the exhibition, alongside a gallery dedicated to a body of work that explored sexuality in the Americas and the insidious impact of Western morality on fluid, pre-Columbian mores.

Left: FGAP shortlisted artists James Bridle and Jon Rafman. Right: FGAP shortlisted artist Pilar Quinteros.


A few galleries over, Cécile B. Evans resurrected ghosts with a CGI model of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman narrating Hyperlinks or It Didn’t Happen (2014), a twenty-minute film exploring the psychological consequences of life without a body. An online version of “Phil” conversed with visitors via mobile devices. The collective GCC manned their gallery with another avatar, a projection that spoke in the baubly neo-Zaum of first-class lounges and luxury watches, while a meaningless crystal trophy rotated on a nearby pedestal. On the dark side of digital, Jon Rafman hijacked domestic spaces (an armchair, a shower stall, a wardrobe) to project hypnotic flows of images plundered from the Deep Web. “You can relax. It’s supposed to be trance-inducing,” he assured me, as I sank deeper into my chair, mesmerized by a video of tourists floating in China’s Daying Dead Sea. “It’s just Chinese people trying to swim,” I heard a Ukrainian woman behind me complain to her companion.

The youngest of the nominees, twenty-three-year-old Aslan Gaisumov, got real with a film that alternated glistening money shots of Grozny spliced with images of the same footage projected against the ruined walls of the city’s former House of Culture. In a similar vein, Chilean artist Pilar Quinteros used her gallery as an open studio, where she fit bits of cardboard together in an attempt to rebuild Maidan Square’s Friendship of Nations fountain, which was relocated to the provinces to make room for the glass-domed atrium of an underground shopping center. In November, the artist has planned a procession that will take the surrogate monument from the PinchukArtCentre back to the square, where it will be reconstructed. “How did you get permission?” I marveled to Geldhof. “This new mayor”—he means Vitali Klitschko, the half of the celebrity boxing brother duo not responsible for knocking up Juliette Barnes—“is incredibly understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Quinteros’s piece may have been the only work that directly addressed Maidan, but there was plenty of political tension within the exhibition, from Neďl Beloufa’s World Domination, 2012, to Nástio Mosquito’s no-holds-barred video manifesto, to a searing Africanized Pietŕ by the Zimbabwe-born, Johannesburg-based (following fallout from his portraits of Robert Mugabe) Kudzanai Chiurai. When I mentioned how intense his piece was, Chiruai shrugged: “Is that why no one stays in the room very long?” More crowd-friendly was Nikita Kadan’s installation, which planted a taxidermied deer in a kitchen interior marred by hoofprints and scrapes. I inquired as to the significance of the deer: “If I used a moose,” Kadan reasoned, “it would have been humorous.”

Left: Public Movement's Saar Szekely and Michael Rosman with curator Katya Degot Michael. Right: FGAP shortlisted artist Cally Spooner.


Forsaking the wild bashes of yore, this Pinchuk opening concluded in a tastefully restrained reception on the top floor, where I grabbed a sea bass skewer and joined artists Cally Spooner, Allyson Vieira, and He Xiangyu. One table over, curator Katya Degot chatted with Public Movement, whose opening day performance—a procession tracing the escape route for protesters—had to be postponed at the last minute after a tiny fender-bender spooked the company providing the rental car.

Rentals, it seems, were all the rage for this crowd. The previous evening, GCC had taken it upon themselves to secure a party bus as a special birthday welcome for Rafman, who had arrived on a midnight flight from Paris. “If you get on that bus, you will be on it until four in the morning,” Motta had warned me. (“More like 10 AM,” GCC’s Aziz Al Qatami corrected later, his shades firmly on.) The following night, standards were sky high as some fifty revelers took to the frigid streets in search of an afterparty. After multiple attempts at finding adequate space in a bar (Kadyrova and Kadan led the way while Geldhof pulled crossing-guard duties), we were finally directed to Dush, an after-hours club that opened early to accommodate our herd. “When we all come back in December, it’s going to be all Party Bus, all the time,” GCC’s Amal Khalaf resolved. “And the winner can pick up the tab!” Gaisumov added. After all, doesn’t Kiev deserve a democratic Future?

Kate Sutton

Left: FGAP shortlisted artist Nikita Kadan. Right: In search of an afterparty.


The Giving Tree

Paris
10.24.14

Left: Paul McCarthy's Tree being inflated in the Place Vendôme. (Photo: @lalyjward) Right: Alain Seban, president of the Centre Pompidou, and Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, at the opening of Paul McCarthy's Chocolate Factory at La Monnaie. (Except where noted, all photos: Jason Farago)


EVEN UNDER THE MOST CLEMENT CONDITIONS it can be hard to talk about butt plugs with the requisite subtlety. But to debate the aesthetics of anal dilation bilingually, and while jetlagged…well, that takes some effort. Nothing to be done, though, for those of us who crashed into Paris this week for the start of FIAC and found ourselves knee-deep in a morass of sexual and political controversy. Paul McCarthy, invited by the fair to install a temporary artwork, placed in the swank Place Vendôme a giant inflatable green cone on a tapered cylindrical base. Its title, Tree, gave just enough plausible deniability to the fair, the city government, and the local business association, who had all approved the butt plug outside Cartier and the justice ministry. But at its unveiling an unknown man slapped McCarthy in the face, and then, overnight, vandals detached the sculpture’s air source and sliced the support cables. McCarthy declined to replace them. The butt plug, which any habitué will tell you should be expelled slowly, was withdrawn all too fast.

“It really shows the ugliest face of France,” said Martha Kirszenbaum, who directs Fahrenheit, part of the Los Angeles–based French Flax Foundation. “Anyway, my mother said that it really looked like a Christmas tree.”

France is the fifth-richest country in the world. It has the planet’s best health care system, unrivaled cultural clout, a booming luxury industry. The Airbus that flew me here was made in Toulouse. This month the Nobel Prizes for literature and economics both went to Frenchmen; the Silver Lion of last year’s Venice Biennale went to a Frenchwoman; they even gave the last Turner Prize to a frog. In comparison with much of the rest of this dying continent, France is not doing all that bad.

Left: Dealer Chantal Crousel. Right: Jack Lang, former French culture minister.


And yet the country faces its worst political crisis in decades, as a resurgent extreme right profits from idiotic European/German austerity policies, a hapless president, and the same increasing wealth inequality taking hold from Lisbon to Sarajevo. Things were already looking hairy in 2012, when Marine Le Pen’s successful “dédiabolisation,” or undemonizing, of the hard-right Front National won her 20 percent of the presidential vote. But last year, as the new Hollande government introduced gay-marriage legislation, a furious homophobic reaction metastasized into an all-purpose populist movement, opposed not just to gays but to Muslims, immigrants, women’s rights, the EU, banks, taxes, you name it. At last spring’s European elections the FN came out on top for the first time ever, and outside the Palais de Tokyo, which opened a wan group show and a more impressive solo presentation by David Maljković, the trees were plastered with posters in Pétainist graphic style proclaiming the FN as “premier parti de France.”

This new hard right speaks to itself in an echo chamber of social media in the same way that an earlier American right used talk radio and chain letters, and McCarthy got ensnared in its thicket. Photos of his butt plug ricocheted across the hard-right badlands of Twitter and Facebook, often captioned with homophobic remarks. (I pause here to remind readers that butt plugs, and indeed Christmas trees, are enjoyed by people of all genders and sexual orientations.) As the curator Anne-Sophie Dinant told me, over a very necessary drink, the McCarthy affair is particularly worrying because “even if the movement is not so big, in a moment of crisis for France they get amplified.”

On Tuesday, with the wind whipping down the Seine, I took another look at Camille Henrot’s “The Pale Fox,” her killer anthropology of the present on view at Bétonsalon, before lining up for OFFicielle, FIAC’s new second fair for young galleries. There was strong work from Paula Doepfner, whose love letter encased in ice seduced at Galerie Tanja Wagner, and from Estefania Penafiel Loaiza, who presented effaced newspapers and undone atlases on Alain Gutharc’s booth. Much of the young art coming out of Paris seems underpowered at a moment of political crisis, but that’s just as true in New York or London—and anyway there was Chéri Samba, the always incisive Congolese painter, who at Magnin-A was presenting his ambitious tableaux of climate change, employment abuses, and financial misdeeds.

Left: Nicolas Bourriaud, director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Right: Charlotte Rampling.


Maybe it’s because I’m American, maybe it’s for more lascivious reasons, but all anyone in the booths and aisles wanted to talk to me about was “le plug anal,” in the local parlance: what today’s France has in common with Mapplethorpe’s America, how Le Pen sounds in the land of the Tea Party. I needed to recharge, but I only had time for one picon at the Café de Flore, where Nicolas Bourriaud was kibitzing with colleagues from the nearby École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, before having to hoof it to a pleasantly worn bistro where Gavin Brown and Sadie Coles held a dinner for an eclectic mix of anglophones and francophones. (Charlotte Rampling, installed on a cramped interior banquette, was holding it down for both sides.) The dealers, facing a twelve-hour day at the fair, were lamenting FIAC’s exiguous food offerings after a week at the food court known as Frieze, while two French collectors insisted that the best way for McCarthy and FIAC to stick it to the FN would have been to leave the deflated plug in the Place Vendôme, like at a crime scene. Politics, as it so often does in Paris, turned very quickly into sexual gossip, and I’m afraid I am sworn to secrecy as to which curator’s father allegedly slept with Le Pen in her youth. (“They met at Keur Samba, the African club in the eighth.” Allegedly!)

FIAC opened Wednesday morning, under a sky so blue that even Peter Brant was happy to queue to get into the Grand Palais. There’s no doubt that FIAC is a first-tier fair, but it fits into the ecosystem in an ornery fashion: not as blue-chip as the Basels, not as keen on experimentation as Frieze, but confident, unfussy, and very worthwhile. Selfie opportunities are few; in any case, the crummy wireless meant that most of the collectors and chancers had their eyes on art and not Instagram. And FIAC offers a rare opportunity for Paris’s much-improved young galleries, many of which are clustered in Belleville, to get to the front of the pack. The tone among them tends away from research-oriented practice and toward poetic, provisional sculpture, from Olga Balema, say (at High Art), or Katinka Bock (at Jocelyn Wolff). The young galleries this year were stationed upstairs, reached via a slick ornamental staircase on which numerous stiletto-shod visitors wiped out.

Le Pen, of course, was not there. But half of the rest of the French political establishment seemed to be under the glass canopy of the Art Nouveau palace, surely the least rat-maze-like of any of the big fairs. I swung into Minipalais for lunch, and there holding court was Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille (and presumed presidential candidate in 2017). Fleur Pellerin, the with-it new culture minister, was doing the rounds. Even the prime minister swung by. Manuel Valls, the young, reformist head of the government, is actually the son of an artist (the Catalan still life painter Xavier Valls), and he and his entourage strutted past the Roni Horn photographs of Isabelle Huppert in Hauser & Wirth’s space to hit up Daniel Templon’s booth. The French dealer had one of the rare trashy works in this high-minded fair: a big Pierre et Gilles image of Zahia, who came to fame as an underage prostitute involved with multiple members of les Bleus, the national soccer team. Now Zahia, twenty-two, is a lingerie designer, and the prime minister smiled knowingly at the image depicting her as who else but Marie-Antoinette. Then who should appear by his side but Zahia herself, looking uncommonly demure. Laughter, flashbulbs. I did not hear myself what Valls said next, but a microphone captured it: “So you’re the work, then? Don’t be shy!” Zahia promptly put her photo with the prime minister on Twitter, hashtagged with her own name.

Zahia's tweet featuring herself with French minister of culture Fleur Pellerin, French prime minister Manuel Valls, and dealer Daniel Templon.


The week wore on, leavened with numerous excellent museum exhibitions: a revelatory Duchamp-as-painter show at the Pompidou, a dark exhibition at Orsay that recast nineteenth-century art history through the lens of the Marquis de Sade, a joyous Sonia Delaunay retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne. But the attack on McCarthy, and the political disaster that birthed it, hovered over the Paris art world and would not lift. McCarthy was still in town, preparing to relaunch his Chocolate Factory as the inaugural exhibition of La Monnaie: the French Mint, more than a thousand years old and housed in a grand riverside pile, which is the latest institution to decide that its salvation lies in contemporary art.

He canceled an interview with me three times, but when I arrived at the postponed opening on Thursday night I realized why. Until the last moment he was reworking his chocolate factory, which still featured bewigged laborers casting butt plugs and Santas in edible form—but which now featured on almost every wall videos of McCarthy, marker in his non-dominant left hand, scrawling endlessly the question his aggressor asked him: “Are you the artist?” McCarthy droned the phrase over and over, sometimes in a horrible growl, sometimes in a piercing keen, as the marker screeched across the page like a skidding car. What once functioned as an alienated industrial enterprise had been transformed into a far more corporeal and punitive experience, self-abnegating but also contemptuous, and ceding nothing to either Le Pen’s brigade or the establishment politicians that stand against her. If there were any risk that McCarthy, like his fellow anal obsessive Sade, was going to be coopted as an innocent advocate for free speech, the artist destroyed that with one of the most abrasive works in a career already full of them.

Left: Fleur Pellerin; Christophe Beaux, president of the Monnaie de Paris; and Anne Hidalgo. Right: Architect Jean Nouvel.


And yet outside the galleries it was all luxe, calme et volupté. Christian Lacroix cracked a joke I didn’t understand, Cindy Sherman and Annette Messager smiled warmly, while Fleur Pellerin gazed at the butt plug–shaped chocolate molds, nodding sagely as if she were touring the Renault factory. Alain Seban, Laurent Le Bon, and the rest of the Paris museum apparatchik bumped up against Zahia, her curves barely contained in a skin-tight black dress, her iPhone snapping shot after shot of sex-toy confectionary. The other France, where the FN is the leading party, felt very far away. But McCarthy’s voice droned from the galleries behind us, a reminder that the French populist right will not be silenced.

At the last presidential election someone asked Marine Le Pen, “Do you like contemporary art?” Her answer was “No.” I thought of that as I swanned over to Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, who had finished her necessary glad-handing and was surveying the factory with polite forbearance. “I found it magnificent,” she said. “Contemporary art is here to stimulate, to provoke, or make us reflect, and also to make us think about the world we live in. And McCarthy had the intelligence and the audacity to transform the ordeal he faced, including a physical attack, into an element of his art.” Hidalgo was planning to buy one of the chocolates: a Santa, she told me, not what she called “the Christmas tree.” What did she plan to do with her chocolate Pčre Noël, gripping in his hand a three-tiered butt plug? “I'm going to eat it, of course,” the mayor said. “I’m a gourmande.”

Jason Farago

Love for Sail

Paris
10.23.14

Left: The Fondation Louis Vuitton. Right: LVMH owner Bernard Arnault. (Except where noted, all photos: Nicolas Trembley)


AFTER SIX YEARS of pharaonic construction, the long-awaited Fondation Louis Vuitton building, imagineered by Frank Gehry, emerged during FIAC week in Paris with a succession of openings that kept crazy-busy an army of PR and various other sergeants of protocol.

Visits to the site-under-construction began already years ago, and an initial press preview of the empty but finished building took place in early September. As Suzanne Pagé, the artistic director, explained, “This is the first chef d’oeuvre of the collection,” a collection that belongs to the foundation and to Bernard Arnault, owner of the luxury conglomerate LVMH and the richest man in France.

Info on the collection, as well as all images of the building, was kept totally under embargo until October. Press had to sign an agreement of nonproliferation while tourists took selfies in front of the architecture in the Jardin d’Acclimatation.

Left: Artist Cerith Wyn Evans. Right: Architect Frank Gehry.


Built at the border of the Bois de Boulogne, famous from Proust and for its busy transgender prostitution scene, the “sailing boat” or “iceberg” or “crystal palace,” as people have begun to call it, is a champion of superlatives: more steel than in the Eiffel Tower, dozens of innovation patents requiring aerospace technology, and the best view of Paris from the terraces. As Jean-Paul Claverie, adviser to the Fondation’s chairman, said, “When this building was imagined, we didn’t have the tools to construct it; we had to invent them. It is a new architectural reference for the twenty-first century.”

Monday was the big day: Under the high patronage of Monsieur François Hollande, Président de la République (meaning France), la crčme de la crčme of industry and politics and fashion and show business landed for a first, exclusive, super-VIP preview.

If I’m very good at recognizing friends like Sarah Morris, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Taryn Simon, Olafur Eliasson, or Cerith Wyn Evans—all showing newly commissioned works—I wasn’t sure to recognize the Aga Khan, Michelle Williams, or Mrs. Mori. But Alain Delon, Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, and Suzy Menkes—yes! It’s Paris fashion week, baby, as star DJ Michel Gaubert put it. They were all here like a brigade of house stylists (some accompanied by their actress muses, like Ricardo Tisci/Noomi Rapace, Raf Simons/Marion Cotillard). There was Nicolas Ghesquičre, who organized his recent Louis Vuitton show a few weeks ago in the still-empty building, Phoebe Philo, J. W. Anderson, Kris Van Assche, etc., etc.

Left: MoMA director Glenn Lowry with Fabrice Hergott, director of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Right: François Hollande.


In fact, with FIAC on, it was Paris art week, so all the principal directors of the world museums were also present, from Glenn Lowry (MoMA), Sir Nicholas Serota (Tate), and Richard Armstrong (Guggenheim) to the French Laurent Le Bon (Musée Picasso), Alain Seban (Pompidou), and Fabrice Hergott (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), as well as star artists like Koons and Boltanski.

You can imagine that having the right invitation for the right night (openings ran every day) became a survivor mission for some people not invited. It got so crazy that we saw on Instagram scratched invitations (for another day). Artists like Jérôme Bel or Claude Lévęque did the same on Facebook, advertising the hashtag #fuckyoulouisvuitton. But that was for other reasons, a sign of solidarity with a text, “Is Art Only a Luxury Product?,” published on mediapart.fr by Pierre Alféri (son of Jacques Derrida) and cosigned by a roster of philosophers like Giorgio Agamben, Georges Didi-Huberman, Marie José Mondzain, and Jean-Luc Nancy. (Maybe they didn’t know that Vuitton has a long history with contemporary art, beginning more than ten years ago with Murakami reinventing its logo and continuing through recent bags designed for the brand by Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama, and Cindy Sherman.)

François Hollande in his speech didn’t criticize the abolition of transgression in contemporary art in favor of its absorption into the liberalist luxury industry, but he instead paid vibrant homage to Arnault as among the most important private mécčnes in the arts. He was also very happy to announce that in fifty years the building will fall into the hands of the City of Paris. In a good mood, he even did jokes on fiscal matters in front of a crowd that was not very sympathetic to his cause. (Only 13 percent of the population trusts his program.) He expressed solidarity not with Isa Genzken’s wonderful rose (symbol of the socialist party), which was standing in the lobby, but with Paul McCarthy, who was slammed a few days before by a group (probably neo-Catholic activists) who deflated the giant anal plug he installed on the Place Vendôme in front of the Ritz. “France will always stand with artists, as I am with Paul McCarthy.”

Left: Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. Right: Artist Christian Boltanski.


Gehry, in wonderful shape for his eighty-five years, apologized, in French, for not being able to speak French unless he drinks red wine. Continuing in English, he said his inspiration came from his memory of Proust and Château de Marly. He is the darling of the media these days, having just opened a big retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, in addition to the big room in the Fondation showing all the sketches for the building (he also recently designed windows for the Louis Vuitton shops worldwide) and a little bag that you can buy for three thousand euros in the bookshop. (There is, alas, no retail boutique in the Fondation.)

After the talk, we were all invited to go outside and see the twelve veils of glass lit by a stroboscope while soprano Natalie Dessay sang over Rachmaninoff’s “La Vocalise,” played by violoncellist Henri Demarquette (with a Stradivarius that is part of the LVMH collection), after which we were able to start our visit. The first accrochage is very minimal; the idea is to see the building. From Pierre Huyghe’s video shot in the Antarctic to the monumental Mann im Matsch sculpture by Thomas Schütte and the main room fueled by Richter paintings, there is a very contemplative feeling. “Art has to be an emotion,” Pagé told me herself, very moved. “But in the future we will show also expressionist themes and artists like Wolfgang Tillmans, Polke, or Ed Atkins, as well as historical works like Giacometti.”

Following the cocktail, dinner was held in the empty auditorium where a site-specific work by Ellsworth Kelly is installed. The artist couldn’t be present, but was following the event live at home on a video screen. I hope he was able to follow along with the menu too: velouté de potimarron aux truffes blanches, joue de veau de lait aux girolles, and Petit Cheval Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2005 in magnum!

Nicolas Trembley

Left: Fondation Louis Vuitton artistic director Suzanne Pagé. Right: Natalie Dessay and Henri Demarquette perform. (Photo: Rindoff/Charriau/French Select/Getty Images)


Roller Models

Buenos Aires
10.22.14

Left: Curator Ximena Caminos with Venice Biennale curator Okwui Enwezor. (Photo: David Prutting/BFA) Right: The Assume Vivid Astro Focus roller disco. (Photo: Carolina Bonfanti)


AFTER TWENTY HOURS of cramped airplanes and layovers, moving gradually from stark Los Angeles freeways to the leafy boulevards of Buenos Aires, I found myself sitting next to Ximena Caminos, director and chief curator of the Faena Art Center in the baroque interior of El Mercado restaurant. Caminos was helping to host the tenth anniversary of the Faena district with a celebratory roller disco by the ever-energetic Assume Vivid Astro Focus and a coterie of international travelers to show off the charm of Argentina’s capital. Perpetually clad in all white with a variety of cowboy hats sporting a single brown feather, hotelier Alan Faena sat across the table beyond platters of steaming meat. Faena funds the kunsthalle that bears his name with a fortune built mostly from his reinvention of the barrio, carving a luxury neighborhood out of an abandoned BA port. In hiring a seasoned curator to run his center, he also found a wife; from the Peróns to the Kirchners, Argentina has a historical penchant for power couples.

Like a darting sparrow, Caminos winged gracefully from topic to topic, telling me about the center’s program. Though it sponsors some projects with Argentine artists (and with only a few institutional competitors in town), the center is explicitly international in character, with exhibitions thus far featuring Ernesto Neto, Richard Long, and Franz Ackermann, as well as a new sister space, Faena Forum, opening soon in Miami. “The South colonizing the North,” she declared, before launching into a discourse on the magic of asado, or cooking with smoke. She assured me that the master of the form, Francis Mallmann, would make me smoked vegetables when we had lunch at his house.

I left one meal for another, skipping openings for Henrique Cesar at URRA and Rosana Schoijett + Guido Yannitto at Zaveleta Art Lab to arrive at the Villa Crespo home of dealer Teresa Ancorena for a dinner in honor of Okwui Enwezor, who was passing through Argentina on his global trot. Circling around the ceviche and panqueques were the elite of the Argentine art world: MAMBA director Victoria Noorthoorn and Alejandro Corres, director of the popular ArteBA fair, as well as collectors Teresa Bulgheroni and Ricardo Esteves. A crowd of younger artists and writers helped polish off the champagne, including Juliana Laffitte and Manuel Mendanha of the artist collective Mondongo, Ancorena’s artist daughter Luna Paiva, and novelist Pola Oloixarac. Throughout the elegantly remodeled tenement building hung the Ancorenas’ collection; Enwezor toured the rooms accompanied by a white-haired painter, who was giving an impromptu studio visit and a hard sell on a tablet computer.

Left: Zé Celso of Teatro Oficina with Jorge Fontevecchia. (Photo: Carolina Bonfanti) Right: Artist Eli Sudbrack, Kathryn Spellman Poots, Park Avenue Armory artistic director Alex Poots, and Ximena Caminos. (Photo: David Prutting/BFA)


The following day, I met artist Gala Berger to tour the last days of her museum’s tenure in the basement of MALBA, a private foundation for Latin American art. Given the need in Buenos Aires for an international contemporary art museum, Berger, along with a gang of collaborators, founded the La Ene—Nuevo Museo Energía de Arte Contemporáneo—with a robust collection of works and, almost as important, a sparkly logo and nickname. The entire collection’s storage sat under plastic on a white plinth in the middle of the gallery on a single, sleek hard drive surrounded by poetic works that are remade from instructions and digital files each time they’re exhibited.

We meandered through the bustling streets, stopping briefly for a group show of gallery artists at Miau Miau, then making our way through a warren of tiny galleries, bookstalls, chic occult shops, and artist studios called Patio del Liceo. We ran into Berger’s collaborator Marina Reyes Franco and a gang of artist-gallerists celebrating that the museum had—for the first time in its history—enough money to pay a whole year of rent in advance. Together we split for a long bus ride to Fundación Proa, arriving just in time to miss the show and watch the guard locking the front door for the day.

Steeling ourselves, we headed to the roller disco. Suited young men and their elegantly dressed dates slipped and slid across the floor in rollerblades and custom skates, weaving into the group of flexible skate-princesses voguing in identical black costumes with colorful sashes. First performed a decade ago in New York’s Central Park, avaf revived the roller disco for Faena’s anniversary. NYC drag legend Lady Bunny DJ’d as the early-on fashion crew gave way to artists who ruled the floor with deft moves. Writer-editor Marcelo Samuel Dansey and his boyfriend, artist Guido Ignatti, slipped in and out of the crowd like it was butter. The only known injury was avaf artist himself, Eli Sudbrack, spotted sporting a blue wrist brace from a spill.

Left: Alan Faena gives his toast at dinner. (Photo: David Prutting/BFA) Right: Artist Gala Berger. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)


The dinner after took place at Faena Hotel in a long room with white, silk-clad walls lined with the heads of taxidermied unicorns. The flickering candelabras glimmered through the pendulous crystal chandeliers over the banquet table as Alan Faena stood before the packed room in his white suit and white cowboy hat to thank the crowd. Watching his toast from the opposite end of this witchy tableau, I remembered the essay in the promotional schwag by occult director Alejandro Jodorowsky praising the hotel. But no Holy Mountain greeted us as we repaired to the bar. Instead we watched a white-haired, white-suited leader direct a modish gang of rockers in identical black-and-white striped shirts in a wicked version of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou.” I half expected David Lynch to wander in and start bartending.

Out on the patio Natalia Slyz, co-owner of SlyzMud Gallery, ecstatically sung the praises of the small, hardy scene of galleries, making me a list of her favorites, including Ignacio Liprandi, Ruth Benzacar, and Isla Flotante. When asked to describe the art scene in Buenos Aires, she bent her head and said, sotto voce, “Undercover.”

A gang of drunk, young gatecrashers chimed in: “It’s very good, except when it’s awful,” their leader said. No independent international contemporary art museum or magazine, they complained, and few commercial galleries. So what makes it “very good”? “The moment you stop caring and you’re free to do whatever you want.”

Andrew Berardini

Live and Let Live

London
10.17.14

Left: Musician Neil Tennant with dealer Maureen Paley. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky) Right: Dealer Marian Goodman. (Photo: Toby Stoneham)


BECAUSE ART FAIRS are truly the context of no context, the best part of Frieze London is what isn’t there. Over the last week, the fair’s greatest by-product has been the surfeit of exhibitions in the city’s galleries and museums. For fairgoers on the prowl, it’s been all about dressing up with everywhere to go.

With Frieze opening to VIPs on Tuesday, a day earlier than usual, the week began on Monday afternoon with a chops-whetting dash across London from the ICA (for a complex show by Neďl Beloufa), north to the Zabludowicz Collection’s new installation of Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s Priority Innfield, and east to tea at Victoria Miro, where shows by Wangechi Mutu and Eric Fischl were opening.

All week, several people, mostly English, would remark on the big play that London is giving German painters. Anselm Kiefer (Royal Academy), Gerhard Richter (Marian Goodman), and Sigmar Polke (Tate Modern) are all holding prominent positions in the current British artscape. But so many Americans are showing in galleries here that it was easy to forget we weren’t in New York.

Left: Artists Kerry James Marshall and Wangechi Mutu with Studio Museum director Thelma Golden and artist Hank Willis Thomas. Right: Dealer Victoria Miro.


Even more striking was how many black artists were having shows. Not just Mutu, but also David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, and Steve McQueen too. “It’s very exciting to see artists I’ve been following from the beginning of their careers all showing at the same time,” said Studio Museum director Thelma Golden, who stopped into Mutu’s show at the same time as Hank Willis Thomas. “It’s a great moment,” agreed Laura Hoptman, who came to Frieze from a show by Julie Mehretu in Berlin. “Best painting of Julie’s ever,” she said.

In Miro’s upstairs gallery, Fischl was showing canvases based on photographs he took of visitors at art fairs and gallery openings caught in the act of not looking at art. “I made going to an art fair fun,” he said, speaking for himself. Camera slung around his neck, he was at it again during the opening, snapping surreptitious pictures of guests across the room.

In Mayfair that evening, McQueen was showing a short film at Thomas Dane. It was shot in 2002 on Super 8 by cinematographer Robbie Müller, and McQueen added a voice-over interview memorializing the film’s subject, a young man named Ashes. Nearby, with her mother on the scene as well as fellow dealers Paula Cooper and Marianne Boesky, Dominique Lévy opened a bespoke London outpost with a Stella-Judd-Castellani show organized by art historian Linda Norden.

Left: Dealer Dominique Lévy with her mother, Evelyn Lévy. Right: Artists Reinhard Mucha and Andro Wekua.


As the drizzle turned to a downpour that would last all night, Monica Sprüth emerged from the compact Sprüth-Magers, umbrella in hand, to join Reinhard Mucha and a crowd on the sidewalk surrounding Andro Wekua. His debut with the gallery features a compromised female robot that is nothing like Jordan Wolfson’s but is just as disturbing, despite the bright pink carpeting beneath her feet. Weirdly, it was the same pink in Mucha’s racing jacket. For her part, Sprüth kept to a black-and-white ensemble. “You look like a show of mine!” quipped Joseph Kosuth. Nate Lowman showed some color in the shaped canvases of his solo debut in London with Massimo De Carlo, breaking from the reception to hide out in the gallery’s Günther Förg/Lucio Fontana pairing of bronzes upstairs. “I’ve been here for hours,” he said.

By now the rain was torrential, but a little weather can’t stop the march of art. Back in the East End, Gillian Wearing was premiering We Are Here, a new film so emotional and so imbued with the tragic that it moved the hearts of many into their throats. On-screen, one after another, people cast for the film in Wearing’s native Birmingham describe the best moment in their lives and then how it fell apart.

Guests quickly recovered for dinner at St John, which was, in writer Kirsty Bell’s words, “a real London event.” Wine flowed, cigarettes were smoked, and one course of delicious food after another came to long tables occupied by all manner of curators, artists, writers, and Wearing’s other dealers, Shaun Caley Regen and Tanya Bonakdar. The evening went so late that by the time dessert was served, the exhausted rain had retired for the night.

Left: MoMA curator Stuart Comer with artist Gillian Wearing. Right: Venice Biennale artistic director Okwui Enwezor.


It returned the next day, when Frieze opened under a new tent and a new configuration that was often confusing to negotiate. That’s OK. Getting lost is the shortest route to discovery. If the food was as bland and pricey as ever, carpeting tamped the usual, headache-inducing noise level, and the better, softer lighting was almost as flattering to people as it was to art.

Most conspicuous was a concerted attempt by Frieze cofounders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp to make the fair seem less like a trade show than a carnival. Live events commissioned by Frieze Projects curator Nicola Lees both on site and off definitely provided refreshment.

Just inside the fair entrance, Shanzhai Biennial collective members Cyril Duval, Avena Gallagher, and Babak Radboy sat in their ersatz real estate office all day, nervously awaiting a visit from Jay Z and Beyoncé—the most promising potential buyers for the $51.5 million house the artists were selling in partnership with an actual brokerage, Aston Chase. (The stars arrived eventually, but after hours.) “I don’t know why more artists don’t get into real estate,” Duval said. “People really like what we do with a property.”

Left: Artist-musician Kim Gordon in performance. Right: Artist Cyril Duval.


French dealer Jocelyn Wolff presented the re-creation of performances by Franz Erhard Walther last seen in 1969 and 1977, with the artist watching. “They’re doing very well,” he said of performers wrapping their heads in a long piece of fabric and pulling it taut. Things really picked up when spontaneity entered the picture. With collectors Dakis and Lietta Joannou, hotelier Andre Balazs, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, and artists Emily Sundblad and Darren Bader looking on, crimson-haired dealer Lia Rumma strode onto the stage of Nick Mauss’s installation, where young ballet dancers in T-shirts performed throughout the day and literally pulled the plug on Kim Gordon’s meditative drone-guitar performance while screaming, “You’re too loud!”

Other dealers took it upon themselves to do some showboating as well, though with a bit more subtlety. Michael Werner Gallery director Gordon VeneKlasen sent a troupe of ten young things around the fair bound by a single pink sash wound around their heads. It was James Lee Byars’s Ten in a Hat. (I wonder what happened when they came across the Walther.) On the Lisson stand, which Cory Arcangel provided with a spectrum-spanning carpet, dealers wore muddied sneakers designed by Ryan Gander (for Adidas).

Infant in hand, Mélanie Matranga, winner of the first Frieze Artist Award, sold cigarettes and coffee from a cubicle café—her attempt to create an underground economy within the fair. “This is the moment for extreme gestures,” observed dealer Alex Zachary from the Greene Naftali stand. He could have been talking about Hauser & Wirth. Mark Wallinger outfitted the gallery’s booth with a two-room replica of Sigmund Freud’s cluttered studio that was made for oversharing, with available works by gallery artists illustrating the division between the rational and the unconscious.

Left: Dealer Sadie Coles. Right: James Lee Byars performance troupe.


This welcome shift away from white-cubism continued at Sadie Coles, where all-around, red wallpaper by the late Angus Fairhurst framed both drawings by the artist and one of his mirror-gazing gorilla bronzes. Quite arresting. For her booth, Esther Schipper chose a cherry blossom-patterned wallpaper by Thomas Demand. Very optimistic. Anton Kern put down a wood floor, erected gray walls with diamond-shaped portholes, and augmented his display of Mark Grotjahn sculptures with a collection of antique, beaded African masks. At Salon 94, the floor was a buttercup yellow and the walls had cartoony, smiley-face paintings. Yellow was also the color of Dan Gunn’s cinder block walls at the back of Frieze’s ghetto for its younger or smaller galleries.

Gunn’s stand, opposite Robert Breer’s slowly rotating, igloo-like dome for Frieze Projects, was actually a “government-approved” bomb-shelter installation from 1983 by the dependably droll Michael Smith, parts of which came from Nelson Rockefeller’s fallout shelter beneath the former New York governor’s townhouse opposite the Museum of Modern Art. (Sculptures by Michael E. Smith—no relation—were nearby in the Clifton Benevento booth.)

Actually, a number of dealers who generally bring only new work arrived at Frieze this time with historical pieces. Hollybush Gardens, for instance, showed—and sold to the Tate—an installation by Lubaina Himid first shown by the ICA in a exhibition of black artists in 1985. So either artists are refusing to make new work on demand in time for fairs or the older stuff really is more compelling. Then again, Freedman Fitzpatrick had no trouble selling works on unstretched canvas that resulted from performances by Mathew Lutz-Kinoy. Across the aisle, screams emanated from the Mathew Gallery booth, where dealer David Lieske was auditioning professional actors for a film by Villa Design Group to be shot on the art-appointed set.

Left: Artist-dealer David Lieske. Right: Dealer Daniel Buchholz and artist Simon Denny.


For those who could not take these strenuous efforts to relieve fair fatigue seriously, Frieze Masters opened the same afternoon. Yet here, too, were theatrics. Helly Nahmad chose to hang small, zillion-dollar works by Matisse, Picasso, Calder, Dubuffet, and other modernists in a fully furnished, Instagram-ready, one-bedroom apartment supposedly owned by a fictional collector who stuffed every room (including the kitchen and bath) with a chaotic scatter of art, antiques, books, and magazines—shades of Elmgreen & Dragset’s Nordic and Danish pavilions for the 2009 Venice Biennale!

Whatever. Peter Freeman went the cabinet-of-curiosities route with small works ranging from fifteenth-century Dutch objects to palm-size sculptures by Eva Hesse and Richard Tuttle. Paula Cooper had a pristine Judd/Flavin installation that was beyond cool, Marlborough was all Bacon all the time, and Fergus McCaffrey had unique copy-machine prints by Sigmar Polke. In the Spotlight section for neglected contemporary artists, Hubert Winter turned it out for eighty-seven-year-old Minimalist Marcia Hafif, whose 1970s star was eclipsed by her relationship with Robert Morris. And Anke Kempkes devoted her Broadway 1602 stand to the undersung but significant talents of Rosemarie Castoro, Carl Andre’s first wife.

It was great to see these women emerge from the shadows, but if the night belonged to any person it was the pint-size powerhouse Marian Goodman. Widely regarded as the world’s top dealer, the eighty-six-year-old New Yorker opened her four-story Soho gallery with a show of new works by eighty-four-year-old Gerhard Richter—and tout le monde showed up for it. Certainly, no artist was ever served better by a gallery and vice versa. Designed by David Adjaye, the two exhibition floors are unpretentious and grand all at once. Kind of like Goodman. Among those paying respects were just about every artist on the gallery roster, collectors like the Rachofskys and the Kramlichs, museum directors and curators galore, family and friends.

Left: Artist William Kentridge. Right: Artist Julie Mehretu and dealer Lissa McClure.


Marian Goodman comes to London and she doesn’t play around,” said Julie Mehretu as the car bringing her to dinner with Tacita Dean and Matt Saunders rolled past the topiaries lining the long drive to the Orangery in Kensington Palace Gardens. Seated between William Kentridge and Jeff Wall, Goodman welcomed her 240 guests with enormous grace. “Every one of you have given us in the gallery a wonderful time in the art world,” she said, before letting on that it was Kentridge’s desire to be in London that started her looking for space there. “I didn’t know that,” he confessed when he volunteered to give the toast, during which he cited Goodman’s lack of cynicism and her power to turn even the most resistant artist’s “no” into a definitive “yes” as two of her most attractive qualities. When he concluded, the applause for Goodman was thunderous.

Yet the evening held another adventure. Bidoun, the Middle Eastern arts and culture quarterly, was celebrating its tenth anniversary at Shishawy, a restaurant where patrons seated at outdoor tables were smoking hookahs while readings by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Stuart Comer, Dana Farouki, and Sunny Rahbar were taking place inside. Yet they were drowned out by the chatter of friends and supporters drinking an unidentified red liquid that seemed to help propel them onto a beckoning dance floor, where they spent the rest of the evening.

Still, Frieze week is given more to business meetings and art viewing than wild parties—London isn’t Miami. Wednesday morning, VIPs had private access to the peak Phyllida Barlow installation at Tate Britain, which contrasted sharply with the most baffling Turner Prize show to date. (To my mind, there isn’t a winner among them.) Fortunately, one could go straight from the Tate’s show of late Turners to the National Gallery for its exhibition of late Rembrandts, possibly the most pleasurable, if least challenging, show in London right now.

Left: Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover. Right: Curator Abaseh Mirvali and artist Cerith Wyn Evans.


But Frieze is never just about Frieze. Instead of the product promotions that blight Art Basel Miami Beach, international biennials and other nonprofit entities introduce themselves through social events and symposia. Before a vegan lunch on Thursday, curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev laid out the principles behind the fourteenth Istanbul Biennial, which she is organizing, for interested patrons and several of the artists involved, Theaster Gates, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Ed Atkins among them.

Another treat was the Thursday afternoon performance inaugurating Cerith Wyn Evans’s new neon for Frieze Projects in Regent’s Park—at the zoo. The neon is suspended on a diagonal wire over a picturesque canal by the Snowden Aviary and spells out a misquoted line from a poem by James Merrill: “So, I came to know what the Japanese puppets taught us, namely, what it means to be moved.” The aviary is a mesh and steel structure designed in 1964 by Cedric Price, Frank Newby, and Antony Armstrong-Jones (then the First Earl of Snowdon) and one of the most peaceful places in London. It was also the spot Wyn Evans gravitated toward in the ’70s, when he arrived in London.

While a hundred guests, including Tino Sehgal and Frances von Hofmannsthal (a daughter of Armstrong-Jones) looked on from a bridge, a boat carrying Wyn Evans’s musical collaborator, the flutist Susan Stenger, passed under it and left the scene, the sound of her flute rising through the trees. Reportedly, Wyn Evans was inside the cabin, but he didn’t appear. He didn’t have to. The quiet beauty of the moment transcended personality.

Left: Artist Ed Fornieles. Right: Dealer Pauline Daly and artist Sarah Lucas.


Besides, an opportunity to let loose was waiting at two separate events that followed: a party at the David Roberts Foundation in Camden, where Sarah Lucas performed by frying eggs and pinning them to the breasts of female volunteers; and Anal House Sit-Down, a record release party hosted by artists Eddie Peake, Prem Sahib, and George Henry Longly, sponsored by the Vinyl Factory at Hoi Polloi in the Ace Hotel, Shoreditch.

This spinoff of the artists’ roving Anal House Meltdown parties started quietly enough, with dinner, including a seminude performance carried out in total darkness, and developed into a tail-wagging party that attracted young art people from dinners in other parts of town. What was nice was the seamless mix of sexual identities—gay, straight, and much that lies between, in the birthplace of the new world. If one should emerge.

Linda Yablonsky

Happily Ever After

Stockholm
10.15.14

Left Artist Charles Ray and writer Charlotte Birnbaum. Right: Artist Jeff Koons and Moderna Museet director Daniel Birnbaum. (Except where noted, all photos: Photo: Ĺsa Lundén/Moderna Museet)


ALL THE PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS were there: the Madonna and Metallic Venus, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, the Fall ’91 career woman, Frau mit Hund, the boy with his toy car, the resourceful Young Man, a spectacularly pert red Balloon Dog. And then there were portents: an apple, a tractor, a ghost with a pool of blood, a herd of Hoovers. There was one elephant in the room, and it was green.

And then a family of mortals: Moderna Museet director Daniel Birnbaum and Stedelijk director Beatrix Ruf; curators Jack Bankowsky and Scott Rothkopf; dealers Matthew Marks and Jeffrey Deitch; Anne Wagner, Helen Marden, Wade Guyton, Alex Israel, Joseph Logan, and like others. All—excepting Birnbaum, who presided like a happy admiral with his troops come home—had journeyed to Stockholm for the inauguration of Bankowsky’s “Sculpture After Sculpture” at the Moderna Museet. It seemed less like an opening than a four-day wedding, one that united three artists, each born around the time of Pop’s advent in the 1950s, each committed to three-dimensional figuration. It’s no mistake that this exhibition takes place at an institution which houses one of the world’s largest collections of Duchamp, and one that was an early and key supporter of the American Pop movement. Bankowsky admits it is an “aggressive act.” The show will not travel.

Each artist was set to give a talk about their work, though Fritsch, not fond of such public encounters, canceled hers. But she did come for the opening, with a posse of her students from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Last Thursday, the night before the formal inauguration, at an intimate seated dinner hosted by Marks at Restaurant Sturehof, her students drank beers in the garden outside, coming in halfway through dinner bearing gifts—brightly colored balloon dogs—for their teacher.

Left: Artist Alex Israel and curator Jack Bankowsky. (Photo: Allese Thomson) Right: Collectors Lietta Joannou and Dakis Joannou with Stedelijk Museum director Beatrix Ruf.


Ray’s talk was slated for Friday night at 6 PM. As it began, I caught a look at Israel’s profile before spotting Koons, who had touched down just in time for the main event. The artist sat perched on the edge of a front-row seat, distinguishable by his silhouette, all ski-jump nose and imperishable smile, worn like a logo.

To talk about sculpture’s significance, Ray talks about sex and ghosts—in other words, the physical and metaphysical. “I believe if a sculpture can move you physically, it can move you mentally. You have to visit a sculpture, you can’t just see it. I don’t believe in ghosts—but if we prove or disprove their existence, a beautiful thought-experiment would evaporate.” Maybe this is why his pared-down, minimal figures are so potent—they give us the ghost as readymade.

The day before, I had gone to the exhibition early in the morning. Only a few people were there—Wagner, Israel, Marden, Marks, Bankowsky, Birnbaum. Nobody talked much; everyone spent what seemed an inordinate amount of time sitting, standing, and circling the art. Bankowsky took down all the gallery’s interior walls so that each sculpture commands a common ground, like chess pieces on a board. Two works are placed in a short hall immediately preceding the central gallery: Ray’s Young Man and Fritsch’s apple, lavender and perfect. Koons’s salacious Venus directly faces the two. As you turn into the room, you confront Fritsch’s Madonna, whose hands are clasped in prayer, her back turned away from her fellow archetypes, which seem like portals to a history of materiality. Pallid Michael, beaming with Bubbles in his yellow suit, is just to her right.

Left: Collectors Keith Sachs, Katherine Sachs, and dealer Matthew Marks. Right: Artist Lars Nilsson and Moderna Museet assistant curator Jo Widoff.


Touring the museum’s permanent collection, Israel and I took a seat in front of its latest acquisition, a video by Helen Marten. Her camera hews the curves of 3-D objects like they’re bodies, looking for sensuality in the inanimate. A perspicacious but arcane narrative voice-over backs the video.

Israel removed his sunglasses: “It might be better without the words. Then we could really see. Do you have headphones?” I plugged mine into my iPhone, and we each took an earbud.

“What do you want to listen to?” I asked.

“Do you have Taylor Swift?”

I didn’t. We went with Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

The shiny veneer of the pop song aligned itself immaculately to the seamless, impenetrable surface of Marten’s objects. Her images are also ghosts: Like Koons’s Michael Jackson and Bubbles, Fritsch’s Elephant, or Ray’s Fall ’91, sculptures based on other objects (mass-produced figures of saints, taxidermy, a mannequin), her work, like that of many other young artists, uses fabrication to point toward fabrication. That weekend, Ray remarked that Koons’s Balloon Dog seemed like a hundred thousand birthday celebrations. He would like, however, to see it someday with three legs. Which is a nice way of saying it will stand the test of time.

Left: Designer Joseph Logan and Whitney Museum curator and deputy director for programs Scott Rothkopf. (Photo: Allese Thomson) Right: Helen Marden and Scott Rothkopf with Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog.


Deitch has already planned his next show. It’s called “After Pop,” which we discuss toward the end of Friday night’s dinner for around a hundred people, held at the museum’s restaurant. We’ve already had Bankowsky, Alison Gingeras, and Catherine Wood’s “Pop Life”; what about a Pop avant Pop? (Call it “Snap, Crackle.”) The point should be lost on no one. Judging from JPEG email previews for Frieze, derivative, scumbled painting and sharp HD video were to drive this year’s booths. An adviser told me he wouldn’t attend. “I can see it all on my iPhone.” I count on one hand the emerging artists invested in Pop and sculpture, in objects which demand physical presence to really be seen.

“Oh Jeff,” Deitch hailed Koons as he walked by. “There is a painting downstairs you must see. A Picabia—two lovers. His nose looks like a penis and they’re about to kiss. I know you’ll love it.”

“I’ll make sure to see it,” Koons replied.

Koons’s voice is so gracious that I can’t tell if he’s the most sincere person I’ve ever met or if, perhaps like his sculptures, it’s laminated anxiety. “I hope for transcendence,” Koons had told me earlier as we shared a coffee and looked out of the Moderna Museet’s floor-to-ceiling windows. It sounded like a stock phrase and I wanted to ask him what that meant but stopped short. That’s a thing about Pop—it’s often a bubble you don’t want to burst.

Allese Thomson

First Wave

London
10.13.14

Left: Dealer Sadie Coles with artist Anish Kapoor. Right: Dealer Shaun Caley Regen with artist Matthew Barney. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


FORGET RADICAL THINKING. To be avant-garde today means being first out of the gate. Last Friday in London, for example, the Sadie Coles, David Zwirner, and Herald Street galleries threw the switch on Frieze Week three days early. Absent the nattering crowds and competitive pressures of the art fair, all three openings—for shows by Matthew Barney, Kerry James Marshall, and Ida Ekblad, respectively—were actually fun, and definitely put best feet forward.

Marshall’s emblematic debut with Zwirner at the dealer’s Grafton Street townhouse made the art of figurative painting seem vital again, even stylish. Ekblad is personally very stylish. “I love the shoes,” collector Paul Ettlinger enthused when he saw her at Herald St’s new satellite space in Soho. “Especially with the brocade mini!” Hanging out in the basement office, the artist was surrounded by male admirers of her epigraphic paintings and drawings as well, while the small storefront on the ground floor filled with young people on hand for a live set by the Norwegian singer Nils Bech.

Around the corner on Kingly Street, Barney had painted the walls of Coles’s floor-through gallery a tasteful gray, all the better to frame the exhibition’s forensic centerpiece, Crown Victoria, the exposed underbelly of a Crown Victoria chassis cast in zinc, entrails and all. Barney has an uncanny ability to eroticize both death and machinery, and this was a case in point. Think Alien monster in postcoital exhaustion, or rather postmortem mummification, vulnerable, regal, and terrifying all at once.

Left: Dealers Barbara Gladstone and Allyson Spellacy. Right: Tate Modern director Chris Dercon with Metropolitan Museum curator Sheena Wagstaff.


Barney held court in Coles’s VIP room, er, office, where dealers Barbara Gladstone and Shaun Caley Regen hobnobbed with artists Sarah Lucas, Andro Wekua, Anish Kapoor, Jürgen Teller, and Angela Bulloch, and the married chefs Fergus and Margot Henderson, off-duty for a change—the only night they would be in the foreseeable future.

The dealers were also en pointe. “Five of my artists have shows in London right now,” said Gladstone, a Frieze holdout. The one (besides Barney) stirring up the most buzz was Kai Althoff and his show at Michael Werner, while Regen could boast of Walead Beshty’s over-the-top solo turn at the Barbican’s Curve Gallery.

But this night belonged to Barney, whom Coles feted with a pass-around dinner in the gilded-and-mirrored Louis XVI environs of the Pompadour Ballroom in the Hotel Café Royal on Regent Street. The hotel, recently restored and updated by architect David Chipperfield, who was present, was once the epicenter of the London social scene and the stomping ground of Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, and Arthur Conan Doyle, Coles said.

Left: Artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. Right: Artist Kerry James Marshall and designer Duro Olowu.


It wasn’t the same, of course—what is?—but the dinner provided something of a contemporary-art-world version. The nonprofits were well represented, by Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick, Chisenhale Gallery director Polly Staple, and Serpentine Gallery codirector Julia Peyton-Jones, who worked the room from one end to the other like an unusually charming politician. Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover, having handed the reigns of the fair to Victoria Siddall, seemed quite relaxed in this company, while Siddall promoted the business by promising a new tent with carpeting and low lighting to replace the shabby, noisy, and teeth-gnashing old one. (“We’ll see,” was the general response.)

With sun in the sky and the air warmish, Saturday proved a lovely day to tour the galleries. And early arrivals for Frieze were out in force. Fresh off the plane from New York, New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni and High Line Art director Cecilia Alemani went straight to the Serpentine to see a blissful Cerith Wyn Evans show and another even sparer one by Trisha Donnelly. Christian Marclay and Barbican curator Lydia Yee were checking out the David Hammons show at White Cube in Mason’s Yard. In the back, hanging out in designer Duro Olowu’s salon-like boutique, was an ebullient Kerry James Marshall, while New York dealer Casey Kaplan and soon-to-be London dealer Dominique Lévy took considerable pleasure in Marshall’s show at Zwirner. At Hauser & Wirth, I spotted Magasin 3 director David Neuman at Pierre Huyghe’s show and SF MoMA curator Gary Garrels at Paul McCarthy’s almost literally shit-faced show of paintings.

The evening brought the opening of an inspired new slide show by Anne Collier and a loopy, crime-drama video installation by Marvin Gaye (formerly Spartacus) Chetwynd at Studio Voltaire in far-off Clapham, and the opening of former Istanbul dealer Sylvia Kouvali’s new Rodeo gallery above a sex bookshop on Charing Cross Road. “It’s great to see galleries return to Soho,” said Frieze coeditor Jennifer Higgie, citing Herald St, Coles, and Marian Goodman, who is opening her new London gallery on Tuesday. “And it’s wonderful to see such a cross-section of people here,” Higgie added, gazing upon a crowd of the young and the grizzled chowing down on pizza between works by Tamara Henderson or climbing the stairs to Banu Cennetoğlu’s archive of bound newspapers published all over the UK on September 4, 2014. The capsule view it gives of Great Britain is surprisingly expansive. (Weirdly, front-page headlines on The Times of London, The Guardian, and The Independent the day before each called out a different disease, not just Ebola but also HIV and diabetes.)

Left: Artist Richard Tuttle with Tate Modern curator Achim Borchardt-Hume. Right: Dealer Sylvia Kouvali.


Sunday brought a nasty, all-day rain and exclusive, very VIP previews of Richard Tuttle’s Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern and his five-decade retrospective at Whitechapel. “It was wonderful to see the disbelief on people’s faces when we announced that Richard had accepted this commission,” Tate director Nicholas Serota told a crowd that included former Tate curator Sheena Wagstaff and her current Metropolitan Museum colleague Ian Alteveer, Pace Gallery founder Arne Glimcher, Miami collector Craig Robins, and the elegant Praful Amichand Shah, the Indian textile manufacturer who produced the fabrics for “I Don’t Know . The Weave of Textile Language,” Tuttle’s buoyant installation in the vast Turbine Hall.

It was indeed curious to see an artist better known for the eccentric shape and the delicate object take on the colossal scale of this commission, paid for by privately donated funds. (Hyundai’s on tap to sponsor next year.) Suspended from the ceiling, the work consists of large, cylindrical and otherwise vaguely four-rigger-like pieces of shaped wood either wrapped in crimson or pinned with saffron cloth by the artist over six weeks spent on site. “My first dealer, Betty Parsons, made the point that a work of art should be alive,” Tuttle said. “I didn’t know what she meant then. Now I do. The artist’s job is to make something that’s alive.”

It’s billowing here, that’s for sure. “The secret of this work is the indigo fabric underneath,” Shah whispered. It is not visible. “You have to see the whole thing from above,” said Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, admitting that the upper floors were closed for the evening. “And wait till you see the catalogue,” he added. “It’s the third part of the show.”

Left: Dealer Ash L'ange and Chisenhale Gallery director Polly Staple. Right: Artist Anne Collier and dealer Liz Mulholland.


The second, in case you’re wondering, is the supremely well-paced exhibition at Whitechapel, which focuses on Tuttle’s use of fabric in his sculpture and in which everything is visible while remaining mysterious. Works that have never been shown in America are here, including the almost cartoony Clutter from 2008–12, and the rather daring Ten Kinds of Memory and Memory Itself from 1973. It consists of a few squiggles of rope on the floor. “Why can’t the floor be used for drawing?” Tuttle asks in one of the elegiac but straightforward poems he wrote as wall text for the show. “The textile should be as free / On the floor as on the wall – more free / If textile has love.”

“I think Richard is a very good artist,” said Tuttle’s understated wife, the poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Speeches at the dinner, hosted by dealer Stuart Shave in the baronial hall of 2 Temple Place, were also poetic, particularly Blazwick’s. She described the indescribable Turbine Hall installation as “a gigantic, winged structure” where color becomes “a measure of time.” She also characterized the work as “the most dramatic shift of scale ever done by one artist.” Dercon quoted Tuttle as saying, “Once the order has been found, everything can be changed around”—a useful aphorism for understanding this enigmatic and influential artist. But Tuttle, of course, said it best, when he concluded his own speech by charging the assembled guests with the words, “Go home. Figure it out. And may God protect you.”

With that, let the Frieze Week games begin.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Frieze Art Fair director Victoria Siddall. Right: Dealer Stuart Shave with David Roberts Art Foundation curator Vincent Honoré.


Tomorrow Never Dies

Vienna
10.10.14

Left: President Heinz Fischer with ViennaFair's artistic director Christina Steinbrecher. Right: Mumok director Karola Kraus, artist Cosima von Bonin, and the 3 Ypsilons' Mary Messhausen. (All photos: Kate Sutton)


THOSE TEMPTED to compare the art world’s fall fair calendar to a roller coaster might reconsider the metaphor after meeting artist Julijonas Urbonas. The son of a Soviet theme-park manager, the Vilnius-based artist has parlayed his childhood fascination with the thrill rides into his proposal for “The Euthanasia Coaster.” “It’s designed to deliver the passenger the most pleasant and perfect death possible,” he beamed, while talking me through a scale model, one of the main attractions at Galerija Vartai’s booth at last week’s ViennaFair.

Now a decade old, the Austrian fair has recently careened through its share of loop-de-loops. In 2012, it was purchased by Russians Sergey “Skate” Skaterschikov and real estate developer Dmitry Aksenov, who brought in ArtMoscow director Christina Steinbrecher and dealer Vita Zaman to oversee the fair’s program. One year in, Skaterschikov ceded his share. Then this September, a month before the fair, Zaman stepped down to focus on her own curatorial pursuits—namely an LA-based initiative called “The Perpetual Experts.” “The fair has built up such a strong team now,” Zaman told me. “I just felt like I had given what I could and now it’s time to take on new projects.”

One thing that’s staying put is the fair’s accent on central and southeastern Europe—a “Europe” that, notably, includes Russia. This emphasis may set ViennaFair apart from cookie-cutter competition, but it also left some wondering if the dozen or so Russian galleries and nonprofits would make the trip. Rumors of impending capital controls (aimed at damming up the floods of foreign investment leaving the country) have sent the ruble plummeting. These economic woes ostensibly caused the collapse of ArtMoscow, but on the other hand, this September saw a successful second coming of Cosmoscow, resurrected after a four-year hiatus. “The only problem I had at Cosmoscow was keeping enough Tanya Akhmetgalieva works to show here in Vienna,” Saint Petersburg–based dealer Marina Gisich reported. “It’s about to get really rough in Russia,” a noted Moscow-based collector confided to me later. “But right now we still don’t feel it.”

Left: Artists Heimo Zobernig and Florian Reither. Right: Artist and activist Ilya Budraitskis with curator Viktor Misiano.


As for Aksenov, his money is tied up in the RDI Group, an art-friendly development company that has underwritten exhibitions and even collaborated with Moscow’s plucky Ad Marginem to publish titles by Boris Groys, Katya Degot, and Viktor Misiano. RDI received a boost earlier this fall when Sberbank stepped in with an increased credit line to help RDI fund its ambitious, architecture-driven suburb Yuzhnaya Dolina (“Southern Valley”). The announcement went out just a week before Japan joined the US, the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, and Canada in slapping sanctions on what is Russia’s largest lending bank; in the week since, Sberbank reported their worst quarter in years.

Of course, the foremost bank at ViennaFair remains Erste, who for ten years has picked up the tabs for many of the exhibiting Central and Southeastern European galleries. The fair is not shy about tracing emerging art scenes back to natural resources; its OMV oil company–sponsored series is bluntly titled “New Energies.” This year’s spotlight was on Romania, with a selection of seven spaces including Cluj pioneer Plan B and Bucharest’s Anca Poterasu. (Others like 418 Contemporary and Ivan came on their own steam.) The danger of the boutique sensibility of these special programs is that it drives some of the Viennese galleries into the cheaper “Zone 1,” solo stalls prime for token participation. As critic Sabine Vogel pointed out, “It’s great to have something unique about the fair, but what does it mean if the local galleries aren’t willing to pay for the real booths?” Still, with roughly one-third of the exhibitors coming from Austria and the largest plots filled by Krinzinger, Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, George Kargl, Gabriele Senn, Ernst Hilger, and Christine König, Vienna was at no risk of underrepresentation.

Speaking of representation, during the fair’s Wednesday preview, I was at König’s booth admiring a Thomas Hartmann painting when who should arrive but Austrian president Heinz Fischer, a radiant Steinbrecher on his arm. I trailed the president’s entourage over to Viktor Bucher, where Fischer started ribbing artist Justin Lieberman about his willingness to let artist Alfredo Barsuglia suspend him from the ceiling for a performance. Afterwards, a visibly stoked Lieberman assessed the blasé attitude of other onlookers. “It’s like, in Vienna, everyone has met the president…” “I’ve met him twice,” Barsuglia corrected, in complete earnest. (“Austria has a chancellor who does most of the actual governing,” one of my dinner companions would explain later. “The president’s job really is just to go places and be really friendly, like those people outside Walmart.”)

Left: Dealers Thomas Krinzinger and Ursula Krinzinger. Right: Kunsthalle Wien curator Nicolaus Schafhausen with artist Liam Gillick.


Fischer certainly would have provided a warmer welcome than Vienna’s new branding campaign, which plasters airport escalators and city guides with the curiously ominous slogan “Vienna: Now or Never.” Fatalism aside, the phrase jives well with the burgeoning scene of upstarts and artist-run spaces, many of whom pronounce “Christian Rosa” like it was “Carcosa.” I encountered some of these sensations-in-waiting that night at Neuer Kunstverein Wien, where collector Amir Shariat had put together “Eye Know,” a group show of artists like Alex Ruthner, Lilli Thiessen, Mario Nubauer, Jannis Varelas, and JPW3. “I guess these are the names I should know in two years?” I teased Shariat. “Are you kidding?” he shot back playfully. “These artists are already on ArtRank! The Rubells have bought them! You should know their names now.” As conversation slipped more seriously into sales, I edged in the direction of a kindly older gentleman, whom I wagered might not be the ArtRank type. “You’re American?” he began. “My daughter has been to Silver Spring in Maryland.” Relief came only down in the basement, where Gerald Matt had organized a gleeful Mary Reid Kelley show, packed with a more palatable perversity.

Thursday morning, the fair’s talks program kicked off with “Biennial Culture: What can the Spectator learn from a Biennial?,” which saw curators Kasper König, Adam Budak, and Nicolaus Schafhausen bickering over Artur Żmijewski’s Berlin Biennale and Manifesta—“I’ve seen every one except for yours,” König apologized. “I didn’t see yours,” Budak shrugged—with just the skimpiest mention of the newly revamped Vienna Biennale. As the three men duked it out onstage, collector Alain Servais intervened to reminded them that the discussion was supposed to be about the spectator, not the curator. Schafhausen chuckled, “Here’s our dilemma in a nutshell: Do we give the audience what it thinks it wants or what we think it needs?”

Servais would have his own chance at the mic, for an hour-and-a-half talk that Bozar adviser Rita Janssen proclaimed “absolute brilliance!” First, however, the intellectually scintillating Beatriz Colomina headed up “The Century of the Bed,” a panel that explored her thesis that technology has gradually eradicated the Industrial Revolution’s divide between home and the workplace, giving way to a whole generation of freelancers who toil in bed. “The place that used to be the most intimate, the most private, has become a public space for exposing yourself through social media,” Colomina observed.

Left: “Curated by” curator Luca Lo Pinto. Right: “Curated by” curator Beatriz Colomina and artist Dorit Margreiter.


This thesis was to serve as the basis for the sixth edition of “curated by vienna,” an initiative that mobilizes Vienna’s gallery network, recruiting curators to mull over a given theme. At Galerie Meyer Kainer, Liam Gillick and Rachel Harrison’s self-curated entry was haunted by the spirit of the Murphy Bed, while holding court in the upstairs speakeasy were John Kelsey’s watercolors of Lindsay Lohan and James Deen, screen stills from The Canyons. Sex and superficiality were the main motifs at Kerstin Engholm, where Carson Chan’s “Surface Modeling” paired Britta Thie and Jon Rafman with Jeremy Shaw’s eight-channel video of revelers coming off DMT. Over at Christina König, Luca Lo Pinto’s exhibition-as-image, “In Real Life,” reduced the installation of works from the likes of Darren Bader, Antoine Catala, and Adriana Lara to a single life-size photograph spanning the length of the gallery. “We had to stage it in the Generali Foundation, so there would be enough room to get the scale right,” Lo Pinto admitted. Too late to get into Galerie Nächst St. Stephan (“They have old clients, they close early,” an artist reasoned), I ended the evening at Emanuel Layr’s, where curator Egija Inzule opted for five mini-exhibitions, including a franchise of Sarah Staton’s SupaStore and a sneakily riveting, Japanese bathhouse–inspired installation by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster.

Friday morning, curator Viktor Misiano moderated a conversation on protest in contemporary Russian culture. Those who came expecting PowerPoints on Pussy Riot were greeted with a theory-heavy reckoning of Moscow’s failed protest movement, which, as artist and activist Ilya Budraitskis explained, basically boiled down to “atomized individuals” momentarily united by the neutered abstractions of “free elections” and “peace” but had, ultimately, nothing substantial to bind them.

The adjective “atomized” stuck with me as I made my way through Parallel Vienna, an alternative fair set in an old customs building in the third district. Inside, collectives, galleries, and individual artists crammed into five floors of tiny office spaces that all smelled of eau de unplugged refrigerator. Amid the sensory overload, I did brake for Bar du Bois and Tutti Frutti, which was showing recent paintings by Béatrice Dreux. More of Dreux was on view at “Let’s Mingle,” a group show put on by Zaman in a private riverside space just across from the Jean Nouvel–designed Sofitel. I walked in while Zaman was showing an adviser one of Rosa’s spare paintings. “This isn’t from the new series you were talking about?” the advisor asked, her brow knit. “No, this is an old one!” Zaman assured her, turning the frame slightly so we could see the signature and date. “See? 2013.”

Left: Dorotheum's Martin Böhm and dealer Gabriele Senn at a dinner at Dorotheum. Right: Perpetual Experts' Vita Zaman with artist Béatrice Dreux.


So maybe Cosima von Bonin was spot on when she subtitled her latest exhibition “Hippies Use the Side Door” with the conclusion “The Year 2014 Has Lost the Plot.” The spunky survey opened Friday night at mumok with performances by “Canadian-German neo-drag” collective the 3 Ypsilons and the Ypsilon Five, a group comprising artists Oliver Husain, Claus Richter, Sergej Jensen, Stefan Müller, and Simone Junker. I lingered as long as I could before returning to the Messe Hall, where Sberbank was hosting an elaborate “collector dinner” that doubled as a birthday party for Aksenov.

With a guest list six hundred strong, the organizers gave up on seating plans, encouraging new arrivals to “Please, feel free to sit where you choose.” Surveying the room full of Sberbank, I was relieved to spy an unclaimed chair beside a few international critics and one of the more prominent Viennese dealers at a table near the front. Just as we were about to dig into our Arctic char, however, we were interrupted by an elegant Russian-accented brunette, flashing a Post-it note inscribed with the number seven: “I’m truly sorry, but I believe this is our table?” In the name of graciousness, we decamped to a large vacant table in the back corner to pick up where we left off. As our new digs filled out, however, we started to field increasingly hostile glances from our Sberbank-speaking tablemates, who had come up a few seats short for their late-arriving acquaintances. Eventually, a brusque blonde came over to deliver our eviction notice: “This is not your table. You need to leave.” “Oh, how quaint, an annexation-themed dinner party…” one of my companions purred, as we considered our options. Thankfully, a flustered fair organizer caught wind of our situation and rustled up seven spots around curators Iara Boubnova, Hedwig Saxenhuber, Russia’s National Center for Contemporary Art director Mikhail Sidlin, and bon vivant Nic Iljine. (Incidentally, we got seconds on char.)

After the meal, a macaroon-encrusted birthday cake was wheeled out for Aksenov, who took to the stage to thank his wife for her support before encouraging diners to enjoy their coffee and dessert out in the fair aisles. (The announcement prompted a few shocked looks from participating dealers. “To the booth!” one barked at his director, only half in jest). As guests filed out and plates were cleared, I noticed our place settings were in fact ViennaFair “Save the Date” cards. Impressed at the fair’s resolution to press on despite economic uncertainty, I pushed the card toward my companion, who promptly pointed out that it was for the current edition. Now or Never?

Kate Sutton

Left: Collector Alain Servais. Right: Dealer Christine König with collector Carter Pottash.


Polish and Shine

Warsaw
10.09.14

Left: Collectors Inge Maier-Oswald and Peter Maier-Oswald with Piktogram/BLA's Michał Woliński. Right: Leto Gallery's Marta Kołakowska and artist Wojciech Puś. (Photos: Pola Tyszowiecka)


THE FOURTH WARSAW GALLERY WEEKEND saw organizers redoubling their efforts to encourage the Polish art world—and beyond—to join in the three-day-long celebrations. The event, featuring over twenty galleries, spotlights Poland’s developing private sector in the arts. Each year it proves to be a popular and much-needed exposition of the galleries’ commitment to self-organization and collaboration, a fairly recent quality of the local scene.

This edition kicked off, rather unexpectedly, at the Presidential Palace on Krakowskie Przedmieście in central Warsaw, with “Missing Link,” a talk on private collectors and public collections. Scores of smartly dressed dealers and critics turned up to hear about possible points of contact between the two, but unfortunately the discussion, moderated by Propaganda Gallery’s Paweł Sosnowski, steered clear of this potentially interesting subject and toward taxes on acquisitions and donations. Prosecco soothed our disappointment.

Galleries began their programs at teatime on Friday and kept their doors open late. I began my journey at SVIT, a Prague-based gallery run by Michal Mánek. In Warsaw, Mánek had installed a sensible pop-up exhibition by Erwin Kneihsl in a luminous apartment on Aleje Jerozolimskie, the city’s main artery. The artist was present and willing to share his love for the “alchemy of analogue photography,” as well as his fear that Foma, the last factory of photosensitive materials in the Czech Republic, will soon be gone. Charmed by the simple beauty of his black-and-white photographs, I headed toward the galleries Leto and Piktogram/BLA, which share the same building in the postindustrial Soho Factory complex.

Left: Opening party at Zachęta - National Gallery of Art. (Photo: Bartosz Górka) Right: Hanna Wróblewska, director of the Zachęta National Gallery of Art. (Photo: Sylwia Serafinowicz)


Leto had an atmospheric exhibition, “Touched for the Very First Time,” curated by Wojciech Puś, an artist represented by the gallery and a lecturer at the Polish National Film School in Łódź. The one-room show features work by his students, a group of graduates and debutantes in the vulnerable stage of defining themselves as artists. Behind the wall, Piktogram/BLA presented another group show, “Zombie Formalism,” which was chosen by the local arts magazine SZUM as one out of nine most interesting venues of the gallery weekend—even before any information about it was available. The silence from Michał Wolinski, curator of the show and cofounder of the WGW, in the days preceding the opening was seen as calculated and “avant-garde.”

However, as a person much more interested in words expressed than those suppressed, I welcomed at last the introduction of a page-long text, written to accompany the show, with applause. There were even footnotes. “Zombie Formalism”—which takes its name from Walter Robinson’s term, popularized by Jerry Saltz, to describe a much-maligned style of vacuous, market-flattering painting—juxtaposes abstract works by several generations of artists. All share a fascination with chemical processes behind photography and experimental matter in painting. In contrast to the landscape drawn by Saltz, the selection includes artists who are not necessarily alumni of fine arts academies, including the young Szymon Małecki, more known in Warsaw for the unique tattoos he makes at Tusz za Rogiem, a tattoo parlor he co-owns. The conversation at the ensuing cocktail reception at the Neon Museum, also in the Soho complex, involved collective efforts to respond to such poignant questions as how snakes copulate and, subsequently, why “love juices” are so little appreciated.

The last stop of the night was a party at Zachęta National Gallery. At most parties the crowd ends up in the kitchen, but this time everybody gathered on the stairs outside, ready to embrace the chilly evening. Meanwhile, DJ Maciek Sienkiewicz got things warmed up indoors, and although his attempts were not appreciated by the majority of the attendees, there was one dancer who made up for the small crowd: Roman Dziadkiewicz, an artist invited for WGW by the gallery Monopol to work with the archives of artists Zbigniew Warpechowski and Andrzej Partum. His expressive moves were very much in line with his take on the fathers and mothers of the neo-avant-garde depicted in vintage photographs, prints of which he has been cutting into pieces. For the show at Monopol, Dziadkiewicz reworked the archival matter in a series of collages where the cutouts of hands, arms, and butts were joined in an orgiastic entity.

Left: Zuzanna Sokalska and Anna Ciabach of Monopol gallery. (Photo: Sylwia Serafinowicz) Right: Artist Erwin Kneihsl. (Photo: Pola Tyszowiecka)


Indeed, everything this weekend in Warsaw was a collage of old and new, sexy and nostalgic, including Aneta Grzeszykowska’s photos at Raster gallery. The title of the series and the show, “Selfie,” of course refers to the Internet craze for self-documentation. But her works go deeper than the glib and too-cute appellation might at first suggest, into the history of autorepresentation of Polish female artists, most notably the sculptor Alina Szapocznikow, with Grzeszykowska depicting casts—covered in pigskin—of different parts of the artist’s body. The material’s uncanny resemblance to human dermis, and its embellishment with penetrating needles and black thread, gave me goose bumps.

Of course, Warsaw Gallery Weekend also had its share of failures, like the broken elevator that stood in my way to Zuzanna Janin’s exhibition at lokal_30. En route to the airport, I considered the five-floor walkup against the weight of my books and shoes and heavy suitcase—and here my sense of duty conceded to fatigue. (Sorry, Zuzanna!) But in the end, we do what we can, and the Warsaw art world keeps on turning. As collector Osman Djajadisastra succinctly put it at one of the weekend’s panels: “I love Polish art, and it’s good!”

Sylwia Serafinowicz

Left: Patrick Komorowski of Pola Magnetyczne gallery. Right: Artist Zbigniew Warpechowski performing at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art. (Photos: Sylwia Serafinowicz)


Cage Match

Mexico City
10.06.14

Left: Artist Pedro Reyes and designer Alejandro Fernández Dominguez. Right: Artist Damián Ortega and Mónica Manzutto. (Except where noted, all photos: Kevin McGarry)


IT WAS 2 AM Saturday morning in Berlin—peak party time for the ABC fair—when Gallery Weekend Mexico, organized by the art magazine Código, was scheduled to begin its second edition. While Berlin and DF are occasionally compared to each other for their artist-friendly grit and ease, punctuality is different in Germany than it is in Latin America. Hoping to hit the twenty-one synchronized openings scattered around town in one seamless socio-path, I was rapping at the gates of the Galería OMR mansion on Plaza Río de Janiero at the stroke of six when a figure behind the door moving a bucket of Perrier bottles squinted through the crack and said, “Mmmm… siete.”

An hour later, people began to trickle into Julieta Aranda’s “If a Body Meet a Body,” her 3-D exploration of necks, heads, and the color blue. Inspired by a museum’s locked-off room of Genoese busts, the show riffs on the corporeal divide between the “thinking” part of the body and the costumes of “work,” with shirts dyed blue and white (connotative collars and all). There’s also a guillotine blade in Klein Blue and abstracted re-creations of the germinal heads. In OMR’s adjoining gallery, the Tijuana-based collective Torolab presented new work related to El Laboratorio La Granja Transfronteriza, or Lab Transborder Farm, their urban farm in Camino Verde, one of the border town’s neighborhoods most blighted by poverty and crime. Positing the gallery as a town square–cum-laboratory, the opening kicked off several weeks of workshops to continue as an extension of La Granja’s work on urban renewal and community building.

Good luck trying to zoom around the largest city in the new world during a rainy Friday rush hour. My taxi slowly crawled to San Miguel de Chapultepec, where I made an extracurricular stop at design nonprofit Archivo to check out its exhibition “Copies,” which pairs iconic furnishings from around the world with their Mexican facsimiles, whether bootlegged, tweaked, or improved. The show was curated by Jorge Gardoni and Cecilia León de la Barra, sister of curator Pablo León de la Barra. “She wanted to include the Gabriel Sierra in the show,” said Archivo’s Regina Pozo, indicating a photograph standing in for a fruited interpretation of a famous Eames coatrack “But her brother has it at the Guggenheim.”

Left: Torolab's Raúl Cárdenas Osuna and Ana Martínez. Right: Labor's Pamela Echeverria and artist Ernesto Mallard.


Next we crossed the street to Labor, where an intergenerational two-person show by Mexican artists Ernesto Mallard and Pedro Reyes was gathering steam. Titled “Join the Dots,” the exhibition links Reyes’s work with one of his inspirations, Op art pioneer Mallard, who stopped showing in commercial contexts in 1974. A suite of Mallard’s wall-mounted sculptures made in 1969 and 1970 are complemented by Reyes’s own woven works, the largest of which, Capula Klein’s Bottle, is a biomorphic, translucent cage fit for a half-dozen people, hanging from the corner of the room. “You should go in,” encouraged Labor founder Pamela Echeverria. “But I think to enter you need to bring Pedro another beer.” The artist held court inside his cocoon throughout the opening. If someone joined, you could count on them taking a photo shortly afterwards. “Selfie art,” Reyes joked, though the piece had been built in 2007, somewhat predating the #artselfie movement.

Cages were a running theme of the night. Roman Ondák had concatenated several dozen former birdcages as the centerpiece of his show opening at Labor’s San Miguel de Chapultepec neighbor Kurimanzutto. Stepping into the gallery, a reclaimed chimney housing an empty bird’s nest hangs overhead. To the left, the Kurimanzutto bookshop hosted a project by Damián Ortega, a temporary edition of the Alias library in homage to Russian Constructivism. “They tease me like I’m a biology professor with this outfit,” confessed the nebbishly attired Ortega as he pushed his glasses up his nose and pantomimed flipping pages. Dork or not, he and a hundred or so others retired to the cage-free courtyard where Elena Reygadas, chef of art-world hangout Rosetta, served up ceviche, oysters, edible flowers, and a foam of yerba santa for dessert.

Left: Roman Ondák's “Signature” at Kurimanzutto. Right: Artist Roman Ondák and dealer José Kuri.


After hitting up four galleries on Friday, I had only reached a fifth of my quota, but there was still the rest of the weekend to explore. A handful of newer spaces put on good shows. Marso, named for its founders MAR-ina Magro and SO-fía Mariscal, opened up shop in a palatial French-style mansion in Juárez about two years ago. The old, ornate building once housed a computer school, but now it’s filled with a standout show by the New York–based Korean artist Jong Oh. Deft, geometrically precise threads are weighted at perpendicular angles, suspended from the ceiling or pulled from off the wall, in a suite of site-specific architectural interventions.

Far south in Escandón is the artist-run space Bikini Wax, which recently relocated to DF from León in the state of Guanajuato, some four hours away. In this venue—part gallery, part art frat house—visitors navigated a multilevel homage to the classic American film Home Alone. The brainchild of artist Gabriel Escalante, the exhibition featured rooms that Bikini Wax founders Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba and Cristóbal Gracia had contributed to transforming into installations evocative of iconic booby traps from the movie—a shoe impaled by a nail on the fire escape, a bedroom with a tarred-and-feathered painting, and the ominous and scream-inducing combination of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” underscoring the movements of a live tarantula kept in the entry.

Saturday night, all roads led to the National Music Conservatory for Gallery Weekend Mexico’s big dinner. With an elegant setting and elegant guests, all was as expected, except for the musical accompaniment: live smooth jazz. “We’re about to go under for root canals in five, four, three…,” joked scholar Arden Decker. Rather than general anesthetic, everyone fell under the spell of dancing, and later, dreams of what’s left to come in DF’s ever-expanding calendar. Bring on the biennial!

Kevin McGarry

Left: Guests hang out in Pedro Reyes's sculpture at Labor. Right: Marso's Marina Magro, artist Jong Oh, and Marso's Sofía Mariscal.


Birds of a Feather

Berlin
10.04.14

Left: Phillips’s director and international contemporary art specialist Martin Klosterfelde (left), Phillips’s director of international exhibits Brittany Lopez Slater (second from right), artist Marco Brambilla (right). Right: Dealer Michael Fuchs. (All photos: Allese Thomson)


DIS IS NAMED CURATOR OF THE 2016 BERLIN BIENNALE. It’s the first time an art collective will curate the event. I find out in Berlin. The city’s annual fair—Art Berlin Contemporary, now in its seventh edition—is set to open in two days. Its premise is the booth as solo show: Privilege the art by giving it ample space. This makes sense in a city known less for its market than its mayor’s mantra: “Poor but sexy.”

Or does it? That night, Phillips’s Martin Klosterfelde hosts a dinner at Paris Bar, Martin Kippenberger’s fabled watering hole. Old legends die hard. Phillips has a special stake in the emerging market and it is the first of the auction-house trinity (Phillips, Christie’s, Sotheby’s) to open an office and gallery in Berlin.

“There is so much potential here—the landscape is completely changing,” says Klosterfelde. Artist Marco Brambilla and dealer Michael Fuchs smile for a picture. We look at Kippenberger’s painting Paris Bar—or a version of it, Daniel Richter’s hangs on the restaurant wall—and talk about the cult of the artist, how it erupted in this city, how it bankrolls the contemporary art market.

Left: Artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s birds at Galerie Neu. Right: Marc Camille Chaimowicz and dealer Alexander Schroeder.


Marc Camille Chaimowicz does not like solo shows. Which is why he asked Klara Liden and Manfred Pernice to contribute work to his latest exhibition, “Forty and Forty,” at Galerie Neu’s new space in a GDR housing complex. I meet him there the next day, just before the opening, and just after he released forty canaries into the gallery—one bird for each of the shapely vases he produced. We watch them flit about the space. “There is more comfort in the collective,” he says.

That night, sixty of us gather to celebrate Chaimowicz at a family-run restaurant called Edd’s, which boasts the best Thai in the city. On the street outside, young girls in short Lycra skirts pace the road, waiting for men to pull over in their cars. Prostitution is regulated in Berlin, but these girls look underage, and are supposedly trucked in from places like Moldova.

Unregulated markets. Do you know that it’s illegal for a dealer to sell work and deposit the payment into a personal bank account? At the dinner, a former dealer and a few artists balk at this. In the US, law stipulates that funds must be placed in an escrow account until a work is sold and all parties are paid.

“That’s a law? That never happens,” says one artist. “So many of us don’t see the money for… sometimes years.”

Left: ABC director Maike Cruse, Société Berlin's Daniel Wichelhaus, art adviser Eleanor Cayre, Société Berlin's Hans Bülow, and collector Bobby Cayre. Right: Dealer Javier Peres of Peres Projects.


Across town, Sprüth Magers hosts a party for two doubting Thomases—Scheibitz and Demand. Scheibitz’s grand paintings of “Radiopictures” are on the first floor; upstairs, Demand’s eerie “Dailies”—photos of things like a hairband on a saucer, a sponge on a sink—feel more isolated than ever.

Ryan Trecartin is behind. He and Lizzie Fitch collaborated on “Site Visit,” a manic, multichannel film and installation curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Ellen Blumenstein that opened at KW on the Sunday before ABC. Or at least it was supposed to. They’re still working (fast) to finish it, but they’ve invited viewers in anyways. The viewers like what they see. Screens overlook an audience of lawn chairs and recliners; on the screens, his familiar tribe of actors smash mirrors and dodge animated cats and run frantically about the labyrinthine Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Los Angeles, which Maurice and Paul Marciano gave over to Trecartin for a shoot before they began to build their art foundation. Like DIS, part of Trecartin and Fitch’s appeal is the sense that they’re channeling a collectivism unique to the world the Internet built. And like DIS, Trecartin is also valued for his gimlet eye, to be tested in a different way in February 2015 at the New Museum Triennial he’s curating with Lauren Cornell.

By the day the fair opened, the collective, the collaborative, seemed everywhere. Those galleries that pioneered the work of artists also interested in group-think (“community”) are still running, showing the same artists. They’re practically institutions now. At the fair, Neugerriemschneider presented an enormous mural by Tobias Rehberger (Rirkrit Tiravanija and Ai Weiwei kept up the gallery’s flagship). Esther Schipper showed glittering layers of curtains by the Brazilian artist Daniel Steegmann Mangrané. There was something different in the millennials’ stake in the collective. It seemed less meditative. Maybe it’s a logical reaction to the age of the art fair and the way it privileges—and sometimes cheapens—the idea of the artist as unique creator.

Which posed a question about the merits of the solo show as fair: Is Art Basel Unlimited a good model for Berlin? ABC is lesser known than its spring counterpart, Gallery Weekend Berlin, which rejects the centralized fair model in favor of a week of events based around brick-and-mortar galleries. With the exception of Berlin-based galleries (Sprüth Magers, Neugerriemschneider, Esther Schipper, Daniel Buchholz), ABC’s roster mostly features younger spaces and, not counting Greene Exhibitions and Night Gallery, was largely regional. It’s a catch-22: The breadth of galleries doesn’t galvanize a substantial international collector base and, in turn, there isn’t enough of a collector base to attract the international spaces that share the astute programs of fresh artists that would lure those collectors.

Left: Curators Fanny Nina Borel, Myrto Katsimicha, and Elisabetta Rabajoli. Right: Dealer Esther Schipper.


The fair did have a strong showing: Brendan Fowler (Tanya Leighton), Camille Henrot (Johann König), Jürgen Krause (Bischoff Projects), Haegue Yang (Wien Lukatsch), John Patrick Walsh III (Night Gallery), Davis Rhodes (Société). And solid shows around Berlin—Van Hanos at Tanya Leighton, Mike Bouchet at Peres Projects, Ken Okiishi at Mathew, “Pictures, Before and After – An Exhibition for Douglas Crimp” at Buchholz, and Martin Kippenberger at Capitain Petzel.

All said, a reported eighty thousand visitors attended the fair and the week’s extensive performances, readings, and events. If the audience resembled that of ABC week’s opening night exhibition—“Vertigo of Reality,” at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste, where thousands trampled up stairs, literally fighting each other to see the art—I’d wager it was a mostly Berlin-based crowd. And maybe this speaks to the strength of a regional focus, of just any reason, really, to get people together around art.

A canary can go three days without water, food, or company. Or so says Chaimowicz. This is one of the reasons he became interested in the animals and their negotiation of captivity—they have adapted to the condition of loneliness. Which is not to say they’re sociopaths: Their jubilance when together seems real. “It is impossible,” a collector tells me, “to be within Marc’s world and not feel better. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but the only word I can think of is ‘uplifting.’ ”

Allese Thomson

Left: Artist John Patrick Walsh III (left). Right: Dealer José Freire of Team Gallery.


Left of Center

Istanbul
10.03.14

Left: Artist Sarkis and dealer Mehveş Arıburnu. Right: Collector Füsun Eczacıbaşı with ArtInternational cofounder Sandy Angus. (All photos: Kate Sutton)


“IS IT ME, or are quail eggs everywhere these days?” Witte de With director Defne Ayas wondered, waving away a tray of said canapé from our spot onboard the Halas, a hundred-year-old yacht. It was Wednesday evening, and we were cruising up Istanbul’s Haliç (“Golden Horn”) as part of the opening festivities for the sophomore edition of the ArtInternational fair, a cosmopolitan challenger to local lovefest Contemporary Istanbul, which is scheduled for November.

Ayas and I didn’t recognize our fellow passengers (let alone the language they were speaking), so we struck up conversation with Chef Gazi Koyun, who eagerly filled us in on the vessel’s vaunted history, as a passenger ferry built in 1914 in Glasgow for the Ottomans, but commandeered by the British for the duration of the war. It eventually reached the Bosphorus, where it was used for public transport (and nicknamed “The Express” for its remarkable ability to reach cruising speeds of up to ten miles an hour) until the 1980s, when it embarked on a private life as a fifteen-cabin superyacht for the Simavi clan. Its current renovation is thanks to new owner, Çiğdem Simavi’s son Mustafa Koç. In short: a brief history of Empire in a boat.

Alas, very little Turkish was spoken on board, which was stocked with international collectors in town for the fair. “Who are all these people?” Ayas asked Sandy Angus, one of the fair’s cofounders. He glanced around, casually pointing out the groups of Saudi, Indian, and Austrians, before hitting a colorful cluster designated only as “friends of Pearl Lam.” (“I’m a hanger-on,” an LA-based member of that club informed me at the buffet.)

Left: Dealers Leyla Tara Suyabatmaz and Esra Sarigedik Öktem. Right: SAHA's Merve Çağlar and Yavuz Parlar with artist Banu Cennetoğlu.


“The diversity this fair brings in is incredible. There’s so much opportunity in Istanbul, if we do this right,” Angus continued. “The art world doesn’t need another factory experience.” Unfortunately, not everyone got that memo. We capped off the boat ride with a stop by Le Petit Maison, where the IstanbulArtNews party was in three-quarters swing, with a bar manned by Absolut and the entrance flanked by bodyguards and display cases of luxury watches from party sponsor Schaffhausen. As if the suggestion of wealth weren’t implicit enough, I’m pretty sure the DJs accidentally played “Mony, Mony” twice.

“Do you want red, red, or yellow?” Gagosian’s Georges Armaos asked me when we finally reached the cocktails. Clearly no stranger to these situations, he read my dismay and disappeared, only to reemerge with a vodka soda, plain and simple. It was only later that I would stumble upon the full bar a floor below, where “99 Luftballons” blasted as waiters walked around with trays of French fries and bowls of mayonnaise. “My kids would love this,” dealer Thomas Krinzinger cracked. Critic Stefan Kobel was more skeptical: “Have you noticed that none of the watches are working? And they’re all set to different times?”

Time was of the essence for the next afternoon’s press conference, when the trickle of tote-bagged journalists had to fight their way through the streams of art handlers and construction crews. (“Paint! White paint!” one gallery director frantically yelped at every third passerby.) On the whole, however, the fair looked clean and open, thanks to architect Erhan Patat’s undulating floorplan. Echoing the currents of the Haliç, the asymmetrical layout flowed through the five separate wings, carving out space for the fair’s seventy-five galleries, which ranged from city staples Rampa, NON, and Galeri Manâ, to cross-continental powerplayers Pace, Lisson, and Kukje, to New Yorkers Leila Heller, Lehmann Maupin, Robert Miller, and Paul Kasmin, the last of whom reportedly sold out his solo presentation of Taner Ceylan’s sleek elaborations on the myth of Apollo and Cyparissus.

Left: Dealers Manfred Wiplinger and Thomas Krinzinger. Right: SALT's Vasif Kortun.


“It’s truly a miracle, especially if you had seen us this time last year,” Angus admitted at the press conference, before ceding the mic to a veritable parade of speeches from ArtInternational director Dyala Nusseibeh, artistic director Stephane Ackermann, and SPOT’s Tamsa Mermerci Ekşioğlu, Başak Şenova, and the duo of Özge Ersoy and Merve Ünsal, who had curated the fair’s talks, video offerings, and section of alternative spaces, respectively. While nothing strayed too far from the routine blanket optimism and cheerily cadenced statements of the obvious (Nusseibeh thanked the exhibitors, “as so much of the fair is the galleries and what they present”), things got punny with the introduction of one of the fair’s main sponsors, renowned Greek ophthalmologist, Dr. Ioannis G. Pallikaris. “A good artist requires good vision,” he declared, giving us all a moment to let it sink in. The good doctor also announced the newly minted Dünyagöz Art Prize, which recognized the work of Banu Cennetoğlu with five thousand euros and a printed certificate.

As the sun started to dip, VIPs swarmed the banks of the Haliç for rosé and selfies with the Steven Naifeh limestone sculpture. I had little time to linger, slipping instead into a cab with dealer Ursula Krinzinger and writer Sabine Vogel for the quick commute to the Rahmi M. Koç Museum—a dockyard sprawling with industrial relics from fighter jets to oil drills to the Imperial Coach of Sultan Abdulaziz—all inspired by Koç’s visit to Dearborn’s Henry Ford Museum. Strung up between tugboats and old submarines were garlands of multicolored lanterns, lighting an elaborate buffet hosted by patroness (and Koç’s former wife) Çiğdem Simavi.

Mid-fillet of an expertly grilled fish, phones and social media feeds began broadcasting neon-lit debauchery from the various charter ferries taking guests up to the old shoe factory–cum–movie set Beykoz Kundura for the premiere of Halil Altındere’s latest video, Angels of Hell. Altındere had stolen the show at the 2013 Istanbul Biennial with Wonderland, a punchy, eight-and-a-half-minute video featuring rappers Tahribad-ı İsya, who express a real, raw anger over the city’s historically Romani but rapidly gentrifying Sulukule neighborhood. Determined not to miss the boat, Nigel Rubenstein, Metin Ilktekin, and I abandoned our baklava and raced to our designated two-decked ferry to find it completely deserted. Thankfully, the boat made a second stop at Kabataş, where we were joined by a guy who had created an app that reads prophecies in your coffee grounds. Alas, nary a Nescafe on board. “Yeah, party boat…!” Ilktekin cheered down the empty aisles.

Left: Dealer Yeşim Turanlı. Right: Artist Taus Makhacheva with dealer Asli Sümer.


After an hour along the Bosphorus, we pulled up to a dock teeming with hopeful return passengers—never a soothing sight—but we pushed on to the factory, where we were promptly greeted with not red, red, or yellow, but whiskey, neat. We needed it. Packed with references to Yeşilçam (Turkish Hollywood), Altındere’s new film features a cast of grizzled veterans of gangster roles, led by the three-foot-ten-inch actor Miraç Bayramoğlu, as they tussle in a campy fight scene filmed on site at the former factory. The melee ends when “Miss Turkey”—champion bodybuilder Işıl Aktan—opens fire with a machine gun, her generous breasts jiggling with every discharge. These Angels were just as in-your-face as Wonderland, but the new work was infinitely more gratuitous and thus a fraction as exhilarating. Partygoers were saved from having to comment, however, when the artist trotted out Tahribad-ı İsya for a surprise performance, well worth the trek to the Asian side.

The fair’s Artist-of-the-Day for Friday, Erdem Taşdelen, proposed a different type of crossing over with “A Petition of the Left Hand,” a project that departs from Walter Benjamin’s warning that “no one should rely unduly on his competence… All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.” While the artist himself is no southpaw, that didn’t stop him from embarking on several months of research to uncover the ways that cultural mores have subtly privileged the right hand, from calligraphy to table settings. Taşdelen preached his leftist politics with a “lunch in honor of your left hand” that convened collectors, curators, and fellow artists in a cozy café not far from the fair. Those eager to dig in were stymied by the artist’s stipulation that everyone primarily use his or her left hand for eating. “If you’re left-handed, congratulations, this should be easy for you,” he announced. “If you’re right-handed, don’t worry. We tried to pick foods that wouldn’t make too much of a mess.”

While the lunch brought with it no dire spills, later that afternoon, three days of ideal weather came to an end when the skies opened up, unleashing a downpour that threw competing rooftop soirees—Pi Artworks, Athr, and Gallery Zilberman had joined forces to throw a bash at 360, while Füsun Eczacıbaşı was hosting a cocktail of her own on her sixth-floor terrace overlooking Galata Tower—in peril. Sticking to the Karaköy district, I haggled for an umbrella and dashed over to the Eczacıbaşı residence. There, platters of king figs and chocolate-covered orange rinds had been brought down to the fifth floor, where collectors Haro Cumbusyan and Andy Stillpass; dealers Rachel Lehmann, Derya Demir, and Sylvia Kouvali; Protocinema’s Mari Spirito; SAHA’s Merve Çağlar; and artists Cennetoğlu, Cevdet Erik, and Sarkis all chatted comfortably, despite the differing stages of drenched.

Left: Bodybuilder Işıl Aktan with artist Halil Altındere at the premiere of Angels of Hell. Right: ArtInternational Director Dyala Nusseibeh.


Of course, no art event would be complete these days without a designer afterparty, and so ArtInternational imported the now near ubiquitous pop-up Tolga’s Fair Club, which settled not in some seedy after-hours club (though Istanbul has those in spades) but rather in Gaspar, a classy Karaköy joint run by Ferit Sarper, the man responsible for art-world culinary must Münferit, who just so happens to have grown up with Tolga Albayrak in İzmir. “It’s unsettling to think of Tolga having a childhood,” Armory Show director Noah Horowitz observed, and I found myself agreeing.

More evidence that ArtInternational has reached full-fledged status was the ready selection of satellite events planned for the week. The city was host to both the Moving Image Art Fair and the Moving Museum, a somewhat cruel coincidence given that “movement” is not Istanbul’s strong point. The prospect of heavy traffic would keep me from both events, as well as from a reception at the Borusan, where SF MoMA’s wonderful video curator Rudolf Frieling had selected a traveling show of “West Coast Visions” from the museum’s collection. In any case, the rain that had broken out Friday night continued through most of Saturday, giving fair visitors time to stop and read their coffee grounds.

Kate Sutton

Left: BSI's Francesca Martinoli with Borusan's Kathleen Forde. Right: Promoter Tolga Albayrak.


Head of the Class

New York
10.01.14

Left: Jeffrey Deitch. (Photo: Casey Spooner) Right: The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black with a friend. (Photo: David Velasco)


THAT UNFAMILIAR FRESHMAN FEELING sets in annually at the New York Art Book Fair, where, in the corridors of MoMA PS1, it feels as crowded and disorienting as school again. The summer is long in retrospect, and everyone looks older under the lights. “Do you know Dorothy Iannone?” says a girl in a purple backpack to another in Illesteva shades as they survey the octogenarian eroticist’s reprinted oeuvre in the Dome. “No,” says the girl in Illesteva, “but I think we’re like friends on Facebook.”

Downstairs the radio station Know-Wave is airing live-to-Net all weekend, and I’m on Cheap Talk with Piper Marshall, the curator, and two of her artist friends, Rochelle Goldberg and Karin Schneider. Topics include: feminism, climate change, transitional objects, Ratstar Press, the way an iPhone 6 bends under heat. At 6:28 PM, Schneider lights candles for Rosh Hashanah, which started on Wednesday. It’s Friday. By the time I get in an Uber to the New Museum it’s Friday night, and the driver looks at his phone, saying baby, you’re already late.

A few minutes before 8:00 PM, poet du nuit Andrew Durbin finishes reading the slickest and best piece—“You Are My Ducati”—from his new book, Mature Themes (Nightboat), to a packed-full New Museum Theater. The doors reopen, the audience shuffles itself, and Hans Ulrich Obrist slips in behind me as Jacolby Satterwhite’s mostly animated, sometimes live-action video, Reifying Desire 6, begins to play.

Left: Ange and Adi from ThreeASFOUR. Right: Writer Andrew Durbin. (Photos: David Velasco)


Satterwhite is both the main character and most of the characters in the game of the video, the objective of which is to not stop moving, bouncing, squatting, shopping, fucking. The scenery is of change; the landscape, of a land after time. It’s very hot. In one splitting second, as Satterwhite and a partner make sex in several iterative GIFs, we see the partner stop to position his dick, glitchily sticking it in, and the fantasy bursts to reveal something sexy, a feeling so glistening dark that my fingernails dig into my skin. This is why going out is hard: After all the pains you take to cover up, you can’t know when you will be jostled back into your body.

Across the water, another launch is getting into swing, this one for a book it’s tempting to call Immature Themes. In the mid-’90s, Jeffrey Deitch opened his SoHo garage-cum-gallery and became, with his precocious, childlike taste, the art scene’s top idiosyncrat. In 2010 he absconded for Los Angeles and MoCA, only to return in late 2013 with talk of opening, as Linda Yablonsky reported, “a ginormous new space in Red Hook.” So far, no space, but we are in Red Hook, at Pioneer Works, celebrating fifteen years of Deitch’s projects as collated in perhaps the fairest art book of the fall: Live the Art (Rizzoli), which weighs 8.1 pounds and has a blank plastic plate for a cover.

If hunger and plasticity are leitmotifs of Deitch’s career, so too is the champagne populism implied by such a wink at the white cube. In lieu of hierarchical seating, the party boasts two buffet tables with food by Frankies and a long runway, on which the Citizens Band, Santigold, and Total Freedom all perform. Outside, Kembra Pfahler’s merry band of she-devils, dressed in head-to-toe red paint and nothing under, scamper past Deborah Harry and Kehinde Wiley, who between them manage a half-smile at the burlesquish antics. “It’s not that hard to be smart in the art world,” says the young painter Jamian Juliano-Villani, at whose Bed-Stuy studio Deitch recently spent three inquisitive hours. “It’s hard to not be boring in the art world, and this isn’t boring.” Quickly, she adds: “Not that Jeffrey Deitch isn’t smart. He is. He’s really fucking smart.”

Santigold and friends. (Photo: Kristy Leibowitz)


Dustin Yellin, the artist who bought Pioneer Works in 2011, tells me that both the building and the neighborhood have more of a “community feeling,” something he hopes to bring back to the art world. Next to him, Deitch smiles reassuringly, then launches into a disquisition on New York real estate prices and interest rates. A third guy, dressed in chambray and New Balance sneakers, is introduced as “Jeff” and is so nice that I assume he is a young artist’s sugar daddy. He turns out to be Jeff Koons. I turn out to be an Artforum correspondent who doesn’t know what Jeff Koons looks like.

“This could be a party in the 1990s,” observes Visionaire’s Cecilia Dean, who lives five blocks away. “Except with people who were born in the ’90s!” More like in the ’80s, but then again, to seniors in high school the freshmen might as well be kindergarteners. “Everyone I follow on Instagram is here tonight,” sighs one of the new kids, Bertie, a Pomeranian party animal and plus-one to the Hole’s Kathy Grayson. I ask what Bertie’s favorite part was. “Oh, the meatballs,” says Bertie, who must still be celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

Sarah Nicole Prickett

Left: Artists Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons. Right: Bertie with dealer Kathy Grayson. (Photos: Kristy Leibowitz)