Global Village

Dubai
03.29.15

Left: Global Art Forum director-at-large Shumon Basar with artist Cécile B. Evans. Right: Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi with Mathaf's Joanne Lisinski. (All photos: Kate Sutton)


IF THE OLD MCLUHAN adage holds true, first we shape our tools and then they shape us. At this stage in history, however, we face the very real possibility that our tools might soon evolve beyond us, a moment ominously dubbed “The Singularity.” This is the dilemma explored in The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, a pocket-size primer on our blossoming obsolescence, coauthored by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Douglas Coupland, and Shumon Basar. Modeled after McLuhan’s tenets, the book embeds images by Rosemarie Trockel, Taryn Simon, Hito Steyerl, Jon Rafman, Amalia Ulman, and Camille Henrot with bon mots, titillating questions, or irksome observations, like, “In Star Wars there is no shopping,” or “I miss getting emails from Nigerian princes.”

The guide served as unofficial muse to this year’s Global Art Forum. Now in its ninth year, GAF has come into its own as Art Dubai’s brainy twin—the Elizabeth Wakefield to the fair’s Jessica. And just as Art Dubai has matured, growing more elegant and steady in its purpose, so too has GAF branched out to find exactly what it does best, supplementing its traditional run at the fair with two-day jaunts to Gulf-area destinations like Doha or, beginning this year, Kuwait, where the forum spent the days preceding Art Dubai’s March 18 opening.

While Basar remains GAF’s director-at-large, this year’s event was programmed by Turi Munthe, founder of the “citizen newswire” Demotix, and Sultan Souud Al-Qassemi, the Dubai-based political commentator and all-around master of making Twitter matter. Under the blithe title “Download Update?,” the duo focused on the role of technology in the wake of the Arab Spring. Programs ranged from a series on digitizing archives and the persistence of paper-publishing to a panel outlining “The Arab Technocracy,” led by Roland Daher, head of business development for the entrepreneurial incubator Wamda. “It was surreal having a conversation about technology in the region and not discussing a three-hundred-billion-dollar economy next door,” Daher confessed during a break. One of his colleagues was less reserved: “If anyone has made a brilliant use of technology, it’s Israel… oh, and ISIS! ISIS is, like, the Airbnb of extremists.” “The Uber,” Daher corrected him. “It’s all outsourced, remember?”

Left: Artist Mehreen Murtaza. Right: Artists Payam Sharifi, Nanu Al-Hamad, Khalid Al Gharaballi, and Tiffany Malakooti.


For its home away from Art Dubai, GAF settled in Kuwait’s oldest concrete building, the Amricani Cultural Centre. Once an American hospital, the structure is now occupied by Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, the thirty-thousand-piece-strong art collection of the ruling al-Sabah family. The premises are festooned with the institution’s logo, a loopy little font, like someone making shadow puppets with their fingers. “Look familiar?” artist Payam Sharifi quizzed, gesturing toward the welcome banner, black with white lettering. “There’s only one other organization that publicly uses that font.”

Inside, the Amricani was studded with selected treasures from the al-Sabah Collection. We were struck dumb by these “Splendors of the Ancient East,” figurines of tigermen, conquered boars, interlocking scorpions, and several heavily dreaded warriors, all reputedly thousands of years old, but astonishingly intact and suspiciously shiny. “It looks like there’s been a lot of restoration on these,” a reporter mused. “No no, sir,” a guard assured us: “Laser cleaning.” The last gallery had been temporarily hijacked by “Jaykar: The Cheeky Video Scene of the Gulf,” a loop put together by Monira Al Qadiri, whose own video SOAP superimposed somber South Asian maids and chauffeurs into Gulf soap operas. The next video—by quirky Saudi spoofers Telfaz11—featured rapping migrant workers throwing down the ultimate boast: “I’m not afraid of my sponsor.” “That’s actually pretty gangsta,” designer Tiffany Malakooti said admiringly.

The next morning we loaded up into buses for a tour of the Arab Fund corporate headquarters. “It’s not a museum, but it’s by far one of the most beautiful buildings in the Gulf. Plus, the collection is fantastic!” Al-Qassemi raved, prepping us for the hand-tiled fountains, spiraling staircases, and the soaring, nine-story atrium, stocked with everything from contemporary paintings to ancient bureaus and intricately fashioned marriage beds from all corners of the Arab world. The mix of art and corporate culture made for the perfect prelude to our next stop, the historic Sultan Gallery, where the collective GCC had just unleashed their latest, A Wonderful World Under Construction. Set up to resemble an executive-level press conference, the exhibition staged the fictional launch of an app that would bring government-sponsored branding to its citizens as a kind of public service.

Left: Global Art Forum's Turi Munthe with Wamda's Roland Daher. Right: GCC's Barrak Alzaid with DIS's Marco Roso and David Toro.


“The Gulf loves its superlatives, but Sultan really was the first Arab art gallery,” explained writer Kristine Khouri, who has spent several months helping to scan the gallery’s tremendous archives. “Everything that’s going on now in Doha or Sharjah has shared roots in Kuwait.” Founded in 1969 by brother and sister Ghazi and Najat Sultan, the gallery provided a critical hub in a regional network that stretched from Kuwait to Casablanca. Having shown artists like Dia Azzawi, Saleh Al-Jumaie, and Etel Adnan, Sultan Gallery was forced to close with the 1990 invasion, only to be reopened in a new location by the Sultans’ younger sister Farida in 2006. “Farida Sultan’s really the reason any of us are here now,” Khouri told me. Scanning the GAF crowd for a possible patroness, I found myself unceremoniously poked by a waggish-looking woman with a wave of russet-colored hair. “Pose! I’m taking photos for Playgirl Magazine,” she winked. Khouri shot me a smile: Farida.

That night, we would be guests of another art-world lioness, when Sheikha Paula Al-Sabah flung open the many doors of royal residence Dar Noor for an elaborate buffet dinner. Every bit as jaw-dropping as the architecture was the Sheikha’s collection, with its concentration on the 1960s and ’70s, as spelled out in de Koonings, Rauschenbergs, Motherwells, Warhols, and a feisty Frank Stella. Apparently the collection had been decimated twice now—once in Beirut, once during the war—but both times the Sheikha has resolved to build it back up. I was drawn by a framed map of Kuwait, its coastline riddled with spiky red clouds, like cartoon sound-effect bubbles minus their KAPOW!s. “Joana and Khalil?” I wagered. Khouri laughed: “This is actually not an artwork; it’s a map left behind by the US army when they used this floor of the house as their command center during the invasion.” So, not Joana and Khalil?

Left: Dealer Priya Jhaveri. Right: MoMA associate curator Ana Janevski, Garage Museum director Kate Fowle, curator Luiza Teixeira de Freitas, and MoMA chief curator of media and performance Stuart Comer.


The next morning, all available units reported to Dubai, where the city was already rippling under the fair’s effect. And while the Sharjah Biennial may have consciously uncoupled with the fair (pushing its opening to Armory Week, and the March Meetings to the same week in May as Frieze New York, a not-so-subtle message to the transatlantic art world), there was more than enough distraction for a Monday evening, with Dubai Design Days, the Abraaz Art Prize, and a spate of openings in the Alserkal Avenue gallery district. Currently home to Ayyam, Lawrie Shabibi, Grey Noise, Green Art Gallery, and Carbon 12 (to name but a few), Alserkal has extended its holdings, taking on at least two more blocks of warehouses, soon to be occupied by the Third Line and a Leila Heller outpost, among others. For the fair week, the Third Line had set up a temporary pop-up program, screening an eight-channel video installation by Rami Farook in its new digs, while its present location featured Ala Ebtekar’s celestial cyanotype paintings, alongside a thoughtful installation by Abbas Abkhavan upstairs. (“Don’t bother, it’s lit by natural light,” a frustrated colleague huffed as she made her way down the shadowed steps.)

Outside yet another pop-up at Cinema Akil, Mehreen Murtaza’s Deep Earth Object, 2015, turned one of Alserkal’s newly acquired courtyards into a crash site, where a hulking, otherworldly orb had seemingly collided with the cobblestones. “Actually, none of this was paved last week, which might have been why they were even willing to let me do this,” the artist chuckled. The piece was one of the offsite commissions for Art Dubai Projects, curated this year by Lara Khaldi. In a space next door was another: Maria Thereza Alves’s Wake: The Flight of Birds and People, 2015, an elaborate time line tracking the botanical history of the UAE. Seeds, it seems, fear no borders.

Not so labor activists. The next morning, I left bright and early for New York University Abu Dhabi to catch Slavs and Tatars’ “Mirrors for Princes,” an exhibition packing power puns around the physical and spiritual grooming of one’s heart and tongue (as it seems the safest way to critique royalty is through metaphor). The walls of the first gallery are carpeted in Pepto-Bismol pink. (“It’s actually made to match the color of Avril Lavigne’s hair,” curator Maya Allison clarified. “That’s the photo they sent us.”) Viewers are then swallowed into a series of black-lit galleries before emerging in a tea parlor–reading room, which has become quite popular with the faculty. That day, all talk swirled around NYU professor Andrew Ross—part of the Gulf Labor Working Group—who had been denied entry to the UAE the night before. While the university has a policy guaranteeing unhindered access for its students and professors, Ross was technically on his spring break, which he planned to spend researching independently. “It’s funny,” one professor mused. “The university really tried to bring up the conversation by setting these labor standards, and while, yes, of course, they should have done more to uphold them, they also became the scapegoats for a truly widespread issue.”

Left: Curators Bana Kattan and Maya Allison. Right: Artist Hadieh Shafie, dealer Suzy Sikorski, artist Noor Ali Chagani, curator Shiva Balaghi, dealer Leila Heller, and artist Kambiz Sharif.


There was certainly a lot to mull over on the long ride back to Madinat Jumeirah (“an authentic recreation of ancient Arabia”) for the opening of Art Dubai. With last year’s introduction of Art Dubai Modern—relegated, along with GAF, to the tonier settings of the neighboring Mina A’Salam—the fair continues to grow, mingling international operators like Chantal Crousel, kurimanzutto, Galerie Krinzinger, Sfeir Semler, and Victoria Miro with potent presentations from Mor Charpentier, Canvas Gallery, and Jhaveri Contemporary, whose suite of Alexander Gorlizki miniatures brought a lump to my throat. While its geographic positioning draws in galleries from Lagos’s Art Twenty One to Moscow’s Pechersky Gallery to Tokyo’s OTA Fine Arts, it’s still heavy on regional players. Local staple Isabelle van den Eynde split her sizable booth in two, showcasing the quietly kooky Mohammed Kazem on one side, with Madame Tussaud, a boisterous total installation from Hesam Rahmanian and the brothers Haerizadeh—Ramin and Rokni—on the other, while over at Leila Heller—where art historian Shiva Balaghi had curated a four-artist show—I heard the dealer purr to one of her artists, “Getting into a museum! How’s that for a birthday present?”

In the second hall, Honor Fraser had decked out her booth in KAWS paintings of Snoopy characters. “Everyone here seems to know Charles Schultz,” Fraser grinned. I personally found Linus—x’s over his eyes, backpack slung low—a dead ringer for many a weary fairgoer, especially as art-world extremists (Princess Alia Al Senussi, collector Alain Servais, and Annette Schönholzer among them) began to arrive straight from Art Basel Hong Kong. They were greeted in the foyer by a roaming, compliment-dispensing robot. “You have to make eye contact with it first,” I overheard someone explain to a flustered guest, cornered by the machine. As if on cue, the robot piped up: “What a great color on you!” Perhaps those fears of the coming Singularity are a little premature.

Kate Sutton

Left: Artist Abbas Akhavan, dealer Sunny Rahbar, and artist Kamrooz Aram. Right: Dealer Honor Fraser.


Finer Things

Maastricht, the Netherlands
03.26.15

Left: Dickinson’s James Roundell. Right: Sydney Picasso and collector Jane Bobrow. (All photos: Julian Elias Bronner)


SO, YOU’VE BEEN to Art Basel and to Art Dubai, but have you been to Art Europe? With no air of irony, the twenty-eighth edition of the European Fine Art Foundation (diminutively, TEFAF) commenced Thursday, March 12, with the pomp and pageantry of all the Continent’s histories rolled into one. Selling antiques, classical antiques, design, haute joaillerie, painting (contemporary, modern, and premodern), sculpture, and works on paper spanning seven thousand years of art history, the VIP opening in Maastricht’s MECC building felt as fragmented and contrived as one could expect from any union of Europe’s cultural differentials. With a notoriously picky vetting committee (one dealer told me he was only accepted after seven years of rejections) which guarantees lifelong membership and the greatest concentration of connoisseurship in their particular fields, the dealers at TEFAF boast the most elegant objects chosen to delight private and institutional collectors who come to gawk at the spoils and exploitations of the occidental past.

An onslaught of wine and hors d’oeuvres held by benignly pretty Dutch waiters and waitresses flooded the aisles, while gentlemen in jackets and ladies in eveningwear took to the booths at noon. I stumbled into Dickinson’s stand and before an 1888 Van Gogh painting made early during his Arlesian sojourn. “This work speaks of a happy moment in Vincent’s life, before the arrival of Gauguin,” surmised Dickinson’s James Roundell, with no less than a ten-million-euro asking price to back it up. Here, romanticization and the market coexist better when the artists are dead. Offering so many posthumous sales, TEFAF felt less like watching one’s parents having sex and more like imagining your great-great-grandparents marrying young and living together happily ever after––a fantasy better fit for the airtight confines of the museum than the art-fair agora.

Left: Dealer Avi Keitelman. Right: Dealer Hidde van Seggen.


“Maastricht: where the most beautiful objects in the world go to die,” admired one London-based curator, in reference to a truly arresting 1882 seascape by Monet at Keitelman Gallery, made ever more invaluable by its troubled provenance. Owned by Paul Rosenberg, looted by the National Socialist Party, and passed on through several collections in Switzerland before being restored to its owner after international litigation, seeing this seven-million-euro painting once again in exchange stirred mixed emotions, for better or for worse. If the contemporary art world has any remaining taboos about an increasingly flagrant market, come to Maastricht to see how even the masters end their days.

With the road to institutional collections lined with trials, TEFAF felt like a purgatorial salle d’attente for objects awaiting a permanent resting place elsewhere. Agnew’s capitalized on the ambiance with a thematically Dantean booth, flanking its centerpiece, Burne-Jones’s Souls on the Banks of the River Styx, 1873, with video works from Bill Viola’s “Martyrs” series, 2014. More macabre was a stunningly gruesome terra-cotta statue at Merrin Gallery of Xipe Totec, an Aztec votary gowned in the flayed, drooping skin of a sacrificial victim. New to the artistic programming was “Night Fishing,” a “curated presentation” by Sydney Picasso––stepdaughter of Pablo––and conceived by dealer Hidde van Seggelen, which focused on sculpture by artists who had never been shown at the fair (Baselitz via Ropac, Cragg via Buchmann, and Paik via Hans Meyer were discoveries for many collectors here).

Left: Dealer Christophe van de Weghe. Right: Artist Ewerdt Hilgemann and collector Jo Eijk.


Friday evening’s dinner at the Hedgehouse Foundation, hosted by collectors Jo and Marlies Eijk, was centered around an overview of Expressionist paintings by Lithuanian artist Richard Vaitiekūnas. Attached to the three-century-old gardens of Château Wijlre in Gulpen, the Wiel Arets–designed cold, sharp interiors provided refuge from the even more hostile temperatures and wildlife awaiting outside. (Frédéric de Goldschmidt was aggressed by a swan in the garden upon his arrival.) The Silvers were in town from New York, as was artist Ewerdt Hilgemann, whose stainless steel sculptures graced Park Avenue last fall. Things eventually took a quick turn from polite to heated when one German dealer at my table posed the question, “What’s worse: dirty money or dirty sex?” Upon asking my neighbor if he was enjoying the fair: “Well, if you’re going to be raped, you’d might as well lie down and enjoy it.” Ready to extinguish any hot topics came a tall, handsome waiter with a limoncello-flavored zephyr which he sprayed on each invité with a ceremonial air that announced dessert. A zesty end to dinner indeed.

Sunday afternoon, on the road back to Brussels, I stopped by the sixteenth-century Château de Waleffe outside of Liège for a private screening of British artist Emily Wardill’s new film The Palace. Hosted by Brussels art space La Loge, where Wardill’s acclaimed When You Fall into a Trance exhibited last spring, the screening took place in the estate’s old kitchen and was presided over by the property’s owner, the Baron de Potesta de Waleffe. A gritty, silvered topography of architectural and texturally indistinct forms flooded the subterranean cookery while a voice described, without narrative cohesion, the experience of monochromatism. Sight restored, the group met upstairs for a discussion between Wardill and neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield surrounding color blindness and body image. “There is no such thing as landscape. There is no such thing as character. There is no such thing as color. Our entire sensory world is a consequence of a synthesis of stimuli,” Rosenfield assured us around the dining table, while we tried to swallow his ontological-isms with heavy doses of cake and tea. As the last glimmer of sunlight shone onto the transfixed faces of surrounding guests and portraits from a distant ancestry, our immediate sense of who we were and where we were going seemed simultaneously lost and under formation.

Julian Elias Bronner

Left: Neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield. Right: Dealer Philippe Jousse and art adviser Philippe Segalot.


Track Meet

Saint Moritz, Switzerland
03.24.15

Left: An outpost on Bernina Pass. Right: Camille Lacadée and François Roche. (All photos: Agnieszka Gratza)


STEPPING INSIDE the plush lobby of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina—a mere four miles from Saint Moritz in the Engadin valley—felt like walking into a time warp. The beautifully appointed Kronenhof, overlooking the Roseg Glacier and a pine-clad valley, is what the Grand Budapest Hotel in Wes Anderson’s film may have been like in its glory days. A bottle of champagne was chilling in my room, but alas, there was no time to wallow in the luxury of the place that evening, as the Schwarzenbachs were expecting our party for dinner at Villa Meridiana in Saint Moritz.

Champagne was being served at the preprandial drinks in the Schwarzenbachs’ reception room as we arrived. A Picasso hung salon style beside a Schnabel and a Basquiat. “That’s the largest Basquiat I’ve ever seen,” pronounced Financial Times Chinese correspondent Peifen Sung. Over an exquisite candlelit dinner, our hostess, who adamantly denied being a former Miss Australia (though she certainly looks the part), told us about the billionaire couple’s collections of Dutch masters, aboriginal art, Russian Constructivists—you name it—housed in as many homes, and at the privately owned Garangula Gallery in New South Wales.

This “informal gathering” was meant to introduce us to some of the actors in “What Could Happen,” conceived by the New-Territories’ “anarchitect” François Roche and his partner Camille Lacadée with the artist Pierre Huyghe. The last of these was conspicuous by his absence, and would remain so for the entire run of the performance staged and shot live on a vintage Alpine train over three consecutive days. But Roche and Lacadée were in attendance, as was Michèle Lamy of Owenscorp, who provided the refreshments for the train journey, as well as former Vogue editor Helen White and some of the sponsors, including Polish collector Ania Starak and LUMA Foundation’s Maja Hoffmann. (Once completed, the film will be shown at LUMA Westbau in Zurich.)

The stage was set for the “sparkling decadence of the train” catering to, as Roche put it, the “moneyed gregarious tribes.” We had been consigned to the first carriage, where the film shoot was to take place, and asked to wear dark clothing accordingly. No one told Norman Foster, apparently, who stood out in a white outfit with an off-white pullover; in contrast, Lady Foster sported a black fur hat that more than rose to the occasion. So did Lamy’s sculptural Comme des Garçons coat. A rakish nearly black headscarf with a skull motif completed the ensemble.

Left: LUMA Foundation founder Maja Hoffmann and style editor Gianluca Longo. Right: Norman Foster and Elena Foster.


Death and disease were on the agenda. Prior to boarding the train, we had been briefed by the perpetually grumpy Lacadée not to overact and to stay in character: “You are passengers en route for the sanatorium and your main subject of discussion, your only subject of discussion actually, will be your pathologies.” The sanatorium in question was the one where Thomas Mann penned his 1902 novella Tristan, a prelude to Magic Mountain. (The dates of “What Could Happen” coincided with the tragic denouement of the novella.)

Talk of pathologies kept us going for a while. Giorgio Pace, the event’s producer, looking snug in a wooly turtleneck with a black cape thrown over it, chose to talk about his depression (real or imaginary) just as we were being filmed. Something of an impresario with an extensive carnet d’adresses, he has taken upon himself to turn the Engadin valley into an art destination for the happy few.

Altitude made us giddy. Hunger kept us on edge. (Tucking into our “picnic” bags was not allowed during the filming.) I would occasionally glance over my shoulder to see what the heavily made-up actors in our midst—portraying a domineering mother and her rebellious teenage son—were up to, but the plodding dialogue punctuated by long silences did not hold my attention for long.

More intriguing was the bulbous glass object that the Son held in his hands and fiddled with obsessively. This was Huyghe’s McGuffin, in film noir parlance a term designating a coveted object or some other plot device that motivates the characters and moves the narrative along. This “riddle in glass,” as Roche put it, furnished the Son with an exit strategy, a means of weaning himself in a symbolic rite of passage.

As we reached a small frozen lake, Lago Bianco on the Bernina Pass, surrounded by snowy peaks and glaciers, the train suddenly ground to a halt. A piercing shriek was heard at the front of the train—an impression, no doubt, of the wailing she-devil after whom the Diavolezza mountain rising in front of us is named. Everyone rushed to the windows, through which we could see a path in the snow leading up to a crystalline structure, delicately etched out against the lake’s snowy expanse. Soon a naked man appeared on it and slowly, deliberately made his way toward the cavelike structure, before crawling into it to take his place among the piled-up congealed bodies of which it was constructed.

The transparent dome, gesturing toward the utopian glass and Alpine architecture of Bruno Taut and Paul Scheerbart, was made with a six-axis robot from bioplastic: starch, corn, wheat, and the like. “It’s coming from agriculture,” Roche explained to us as we huddled together drinking Glühwein outside a Rhaetian railway outpost and trying to shake off the morbid vision.

Left: Francesca Schwarzenbach and fashion editor Helen White. Right: Owencorp's Michele Lamy; Frith Kerr of Studio Frith, and curator and producer Giorgio Pace.


“I think it’s fascinating. I’m only starting to understand it,” Foster said, speaking for many, once we resumed our seats in the carriage for the return journey. It takes an architect, perhaps, to fully appreciate the fine features of design, the attention to detail, the sense of proportion, how the color of the outside echoed the wooden fittings inside the recommissioned Swiss train made in 1910. We came away fully convinced of its being a design marvel.

Those same qualities were everywhere in evidence at Chesa Futura, the Fosters’ Saint Moritz pied-à-terre, where we reconvened for drinks and canapés later that evening. The bubble-like, timber-clad building designed by Foster + Partners, naturally, does away with corners. Half of it is owned by Urs Schwarzenbach, who had hosted the dinner party on the previous night. The Fosters awaited us in the penthouse with its sinuous furniture and sweeping views of the town. Norman Foster had changed to a black outfit—too late for the shoot. There was more champagne on offer, along with an assortment of pinchos (Elena Foster hails from Madrid).

We happily mingled for an hour or two, in much the same rarefied company as the night before, with maybe one exception. At one point a softly spoken graying man, who looked strangely familiar, introduced himself to me. It was Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former president of Poland. Ah, the Elysian Fields of Saint Moritz.

Agnieszka Gratza

World Cliques

Hong Kong
03.20.15

Left: Philosopher Lu Xinghua. Right: Dealer Johnson Chang, philosopher John Rajchman, and artist Xu Longsen.


WHAT EXACTLY MAKES A “WORLD”? Maybe a heady topic for an art fair, but that was the one courted by infamous philosopher Lu Xinghua last Friday during a book launch for 3 Parallel Artworlds at Hong Kong’s Hanart TZ Gallery. “Alain Badiou once said that we all live in the same world, but one reigned by different logics,” Lu argued. “As a way of drawing equivalences, money has ruled us for the past five hundred years. If we could find a way to overturn the rule of money-logic, we may finally achieve communism.”

I’m not sure if that’s exactly how Badiou put it, but Lu’s speech was a perfect fit for its subject. 3 Parallel Artworlds began as a catalogue for the gallery’s thirtieth-anniversary exhibition in 2014, “Hanart 100: Idiosyncrasies.” A year later, after the addition of articles by Boris Groys, Gao Shiming, and Qiu Zhijie, the book has grown into a chunky, five-hundred-page tome. Lu didn’t neglect to emphasize the value of Hanart founder Johnson Chang’s storied art collection while he continued to elaborate on the concept of the “world” and its complications. Indeed context is key: Nothing could make us realize the ambiguity around our different views of “world,” as well as money’s power to bring together like and unalike, than art fairs.

Yes, art has no national boundaries. Neither do art fairs, especially Art Basel. But that doesn’t mean lines weren’t drawn in the massive sorting last weekend, as galleries and other institutions did their best to lure the (right) crowds to every manner of party, launch, and dinner around Hong Kong. After a spate of openings Thursday night, visitors from the Western hemisphere had trouble distinguishing between two symbiotic vertigos: jetlag and hangover.

Left: Artist Olafur Eliasson; Right: Collector Xue Bing and Vitamin Creative Space Zhang Wei.


Our trip began Thursday morning in Guangzhou, where Olafur Eliasson opened his exhibition “We have never been disembodied” at Vitamin Creative Space’s Mirrored Gardens. After enjoying congee with collectors like Yang Feng and Wang Wei, we strolled into the new galleries designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. Eliasson’s works focusing on space and perception integrated beautifully with the architecture, which had been specially adapted to the local ecology. In one of the rooms, an enormous bronze compass needle hung in the center, bathed in orange light. “If you stare at the needle long enough, you’ll find it gradually dissolving in your vision,” advised Vitamin Creative Space founder Zhang Wei. Alas, we didn’t have time to play hide-and-seek, as our 3 PM ride was taking us to Hong Kong. Though I did feel a little woozy walking out, a foreshadowing of what was to come.

By 6 PM we had already joined the army of art-spelunkers on the ground in Hong Kong. Starting with the “The Tell-Tale Heart” at chi art space, we eventually joined the excruciating long line to get into the Pedder Building galleries and finally walked to nearby Edouard Malingue Gallery, where Wang Wei’s solo show “Two Rooms” had transformed the space into a human zoo. (One could pick up the bananas on the floor and eat them.) I gave myself a pat on the back for making it to the final stop, Dinh Q. Lê’s show at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, just before they locked the doors.

By 10 PM, LEAP’s party at Wai Chai’s famous Pawn restaurant was the gathering place for the Beijing art dogs. Some expressed disappointment at the most recent interior renovations to the hundred-year-old building, but we had to take their word for it, as the limited second-floor space could barely fit the guests. Those lucky enough to score drinks enjoyed them outside by the street fences, a familiar atmosphere that made me think of eating lamb kebab on the sidewalks in Beijing. As I was chatting up Ned Levin, LEAP’s former star translator and now a Wall Street Journal Hong Kong correspondent, UCCA director (and former LEAP editor-in-chief) Philip Tinari suddenly arrived. Looking enthusiastic, Tinari pulled out his phone, gathered the crowds, and tried to take a group picture. “Everyone, try to look a little depressed, please. We don’t work for LEAP anymore!”

Left: LEAP publisher Cao Dan and UCCA director Philip Tinari. Right: Dealer Shugo Satani, artist Pio Abad, Paul Pfeiffer, and M+ curator Pauline J. Yao.


On Friday morning, Art Central, a new fair organized by the old ART HK crew and mostly geared to young Asia Pacific galleries, opened for a preview in the white tents at Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront. Only time will tell if it’ll find its groove alongside Art Basel. Because of the Hanart book launch in the afternoon, we couldn’t attend the preview for UCCA and PYE’s T-Shirts collaboration, and we were also a little late to Art Basel’s private preview, whose change in schedule from prior years had sent many galleries into a whirlwind of preparations. But somehow it all worked out, and, at least to those of us not here for the buying and selling, the fair seemed much neater than last year—and best of all, no flowers or skulls in sight.

Maybe it was Friday the 13th that brought bad luck to M+ curator Yung Ma, who seemed a little dispirited when we ran into him at the fair. “Why now?” asked Ma, who had just lost his phone. At which point the resourceful artist Heman Chong whipped out his backup iPhone 4 and offered it up. My friend and I left the surprised Ma and went off in search of festive chat and refreshments at the Long March booth, usually a champagne reservoir. Long March director Lu Jie generously looked as though he could provide, but as he pulled out the bottle, there was nothing left inside. I guess business was just that good.

It’s too bad. We could have used a drink to steel us through the weekend’s obstacle-course itinerary. On Sunday morning, Mobile M+: Moving Images had an opening at Cattle Depot Artist Village; in the afternoon, we attended the annual Intelligence² Debate, which ended with Christie’s Elaine Kwok and Artforum publisher Charles Guarino scoring the winning points against the motion that “the art world is a boys’ club.” Then there was a viewing at Spring Workshop for “Days push off into nights,” curated by Christina Li, Pékin Fine Arts for an Arik Levy show, and Para Site’s opening for “A Hundred Years of Shame,” or, as the proper Chinese translation has it, “The Edge of the World.” “World” remained the keystone for me, and I asked the curator of the last, Anthony Yung, how his show squared with 3 Parallel Artworlds, which Hanart so articulately delineated as 1) China’s premodern world, 2) China’s socialist world, and 3) the contemporary global capitalist world. “Hanart’s three worlds are too mainstream. You can’t possibly dig our ‘Edge of the World’ out of that, not until the end of time,” he explained in Mandarin with a thick Hong Kong accent.

So I guess “world” is an elastic concept. Especially around an art fair, land of a thousand-million worlds. To use a Buddhist term, it’s the great trichiliocosm. Too bad we only had three days to explore. But in any case, the same old friends will be seen again, in March 2016, still in the Convention Centre.

Du Keke

Left: Spring Workshop founder Mimi Brown and curator Christina Li. Right: PYE CEO Dee Poon.


Close Encounters

Hong Kong
03.18.15

Left: Modern Media's Shaway Yeh and artist Cao Fei. Right: Art Basel Hong Kong director Adeline Ooi and Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. (Photos: Kevin McGarry)


“IT WILL BE the first time that a vortex to the spirit world has been opened at Art Basel,” Alexie Glass-Kantor, the new curator of the fair’s Hong Kong Encounters section, promised me. “At least deliberately.” This was after we shared a sixteen-hour redeye from New York, in advance of a shamanic blessing planned for the aisles of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center Friday morning, as the finishing touches were being made to the premiere March edition of Asia’s most formidable art fair.

Thursday was gallery night in the Central district, where the blue-chip dealers opened shows clustered around the city’s highest concentration of watch and diamond boutiques. Predictably, a crush of bodies filed in and out of the elevator of the Pedder Building, where Hanart TZ, Pearl Lam, Simon Lee, Ben Brown, and the like are stacked on top of one another. Following White Cube’s opening for Beatriz Milhazes, Brazilian compatriot Bebel Gilberto played a show at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel around the corner. A couple dozen stories up, at a lounge atop the Princes Building, Lehmann Maupin hosted a cocktail reception for Alex Prager’s solo show. Illuminated by the sinister red-and-white flicker of the HSBC skyscraper, trays of curious, outsize beverages in triangular goblets caught the eye: martini milkshakes garnished with chocolate reproductions of one of Prager’s works. Was this an authorized reproduction? “Of course!” she gushed. “How could I resist?”

Left: Artspace Sydney's Michelle Newton (left) and Alexie Glass-Kantor (center). Right: Artist Alex Prager. (Photos: Kevin McGarry)


Hong Kong is a city ever in transition, and many of its most prominent institutions are in a state of flux—or, in the case of M+, the West Kowloon Cultural District’s MoMA-scale visual culture museum, under construction. Several of the exhibitions also opening on Thursday were pop-ups. As part of their Mobile M+ series leading up to the building’s projected 2018 debut, M+ took over two floors of Midtown POP, a towering mall in Wan Chai, for “Moving Images,” a show of recent acquisitions buttressed by curatorial selections, two highlights of which were commissioned for the 2013 Sharjah Biennial: the Indian collective CAMP’s cell-phone-shot odyssey From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf and Dilbar, a collaborative piece by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Chai Siris telling the story of a Bangladeshi migrant worker at sea in the United Arab Emirates. Another standout was local painter Firenze Lai, whose pinched-head portraits abstracting physical mannerisms into emotive forms have been making the biennial rounds and are currently on view in the New Museum’s triennial in New York. At her studio later that week, she expounded on the lived experience of a megacity that has been romanticized by the neon poems of Wong Kar-wai: “The subways have purple light—and no one cares.”

An endeavor of retail scion Adrian Cheng, the K11 Art Foundation has a penchant for cross-collaborations. At the Cosco Tower in Sheung Wan, K11 partnered with the Palais de Tokyo for “Inside China,” which traveled from Paris after its debut there last fall. Tucked away on the eighteenth floor of New World Tower 2 in Central, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is coproduced by London’s Pilar Corrias and Shanghai’s Leo Xu. Inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, the show tapped seven international artists whose works intersect with that narrative—new videos by Ian Cheng and Guo Hongwei, and a daily dumpling performance orchestrated by Rirkrit Tiravanija among them.

Left: Artist Chen Wei, K11 Foundation founder Adrian Cheng, and artist Cheng Ran. Right: Dealer Leo Xu. (Photos: Du Keke)


When Art Basel Hong Kong’s new director Adeline Ooi breezed into the press conference for the fair Friday morning, she ordered a hot water and commented on the festive vibe set by the string of openings around town. “I must say that Pilar Corrias made a very stunning dumpling lady,” Ooi said, speaking to her participation in Rirkrit’s culinary action. That afternoon, the convention center’s escalators began feeding Art Basel’s aisles with visitors from around the world. Some of the most memorable works were projects in the Encounters section, from Siobhán Hapaska’s Intifada, presented by Kerlin Gallery, for which an olive tree is harnessed into a wireframe machine that vigorously shakes it, to Yang Maoyuan’s forebodingly titled “THEY” are coming to Hong Kong, a suite of stuffed, hoofed mammals swollen into hide-upholstered globes, brought to town by Platform China.

On Saturday, Art Basel held a reception on top of the convention center for a viewing of arguably the world’s best skyline, which is where one of the fair’s specially commissioned works came alive. As dusk drew and the spires twinkled, an 8-bit sound track commenced and a nostalgic arcade animation by Cao Fei began to play on the face of the International Commerce Centre, the tallest building in the city. Later that night, Vitamin Creative Space, neugerriemschneider, and Esther Schipper cohosted a dinner at Duddell’s, the favored high-end haunt of the Hong Kong art world. The evening turned into Cao’s de facto birthday party, and when she arrived and received her rounds of dual congratulations, she smiled and said of the ICC, “It’s like a big candle.”

The next evening, the artist Amalia Ulman locked the door on fifteen participants selected for a twelve-hour sleepover at the Airbnb Art House. “It’s basically going to be like living inside one of my pieces—really uncomfortable and violent and cute.” Not to be confused with the Airbnb pavilion at last year’s Venice architecture biennial, this endeavor, for which two New York–based artists converted a storefront on Hollywood Road, was funded by Airbnb corporate and produced with Paloma Powers. Shawn Maximo provided virtual furnishings and ethereal decor by way of 360-degree projections of glassed-in penthouses, while item idem created a red, white, and black Ikea symphony described by the Swiss Institute’s Simon Castets as “Yayoi Kusama for Ligne Roset on acid.”

Left: Swiss Institute director Simon Castets and artist item idem. Right: Artists Wu Tsang and Boychild. (Photos: Kevin McGarry)


A counterpoint to the glitz and fun of such shows, earlier that day the venerable artist-run institution Para Site had held an open house to celebrate its new space in Quarry Bay. The exhibition, curated by Cosmin Costinas and Anthony Yung, brings a historical dimension to compelling new works by regional artists. Its title, “A Hundred Years of Shame—Songs of Resistance and Scenarios for Chinese Nations,” draws from a popular Chinese mantra (“a century of national humiliation”) that characterizes the Chinese experience of modernity as an asymmetrical one vis-à-vis the Western world—a conceit that continues to motivate global ambitions.

I rounded a hexagonal aquarium piece by Hong Kong artist Trevor Yeung, stumbling on an anonymous 1904–05 watercolor of a Japanese solider “buggering,” as the label read, a defeated member of the Russian army, which was described as the “West.” It was just one jarring moment amid the plenitude, but somehow it stuck. As the easternmost outpost of Switzerland’s presiding marketplace for contemporary art, Art Basel Hong Kong still provides not just a momentous shopping spree but, writing as a Westerner, a variety of transposed vantages on an art world composed of increasingly familiar landscapes.

Kevin McGarry

Left: Para Site curator Cosmin Costinas and Asia Art Archive's Anthony Yung. Right: Dealer Rachel Lehmann (left). (Photos: Du Keke)


Practice Makes Perfect

Los Angeles
03.14.15

Left: Danielle Brazell, Hammer director Ann Philbin, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, artist Mark Bradford, Amy Wakeland, A+P's Allan di Castro, artist Charles Gaines, and philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton. (Photo: Andreas Branch). Right: Art+Practice's Sophia Belsheim with curator Naima Keith. (Photo: Stephanie Keenan).


ON THE LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY, as yet another record(/will)-breaking snowstorm bore down on the frostbitten East Coast, Zurich-based dealer Karolina Dankow was perched on a terra-cotta-colored swing in one corner of a sunbaked cactus garden, in the backyard of an LA gallery space just east of Culver City. Inside, the walls were lined with breezy Juliette Blightman portraits, the first in a series of pop-up shows from Dankow’s Karma International, the latest gallery-in-residence to be arranged by art adviser Simmy Swinder, who had inherited the venue from Carmichael Gallery. “If I’m doing my job correctly, then people don’t see it as my space,” Swinder reasoned. Last year she invited London-based Ibid, who used the site as an incubator while they put finishing touches on their own project space in Boyle Heights. Next up after Karma International is Milan’s Brand New Gallery. And who wouldn’t want an excuse to come to California, even temporarily? “It’s so nice here,” Dankow beamed, carefully setting down her giant green juice before bounding over to greet a newly arrived collector couple.

With big name-brand imports like Hauser & Wirth and Sprüth Magers on the horizon, LA is looking more and more appealing to ambitious international galleries. But not everything in the art scene is arriving via LAX. Recently one of the city’s most historic institutions, the Brockman Gallery (1967–1989), saw a modest revival of its legacy as its former Degnan Boulevard storefront was relaunched as Art+Practice, a nonprofit initiative cofounded by artist Mark Bradford, social activist Allan DiCastro, and philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton, in partnership with the Hammer Museum. Shirking traditional models, A+P combines an artist residency and gallery space with social advocacy and community outreach. Partially sited in Bradford’s former studio (just around the corner from his mother’s old hair salon), A+P will soon occupy the better part of a block, in the heart of Leimert Park, a bucolic model community built in the late 1920s using designs drawn up by the son and brother of Frederick Law Olmsted, the urban planner responsible for New York’s Central and Prospect Parks.

Left: Dealer Karolina Dankow. Right: Artists Ana Prvacki and Sam Durant, A+P founder Allan DiCastro, EsoWon founder James Fugate, and curator Connie Butler. (Except where noted, all photos: Kate Sutton)


“This used to be what we called a ‘walk-through only neighborhood,’ ” recalled artist Dale Brockman Davis, referring to the city’s exclusionary zoning laws that prevented African, Asian, or Latin American families from moving into many of the more desirable middle-class neighborhoods. As these laws were repealed, the area evolved into one of the most affluent African American communities in the country, home to Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as the first (and only) black mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley (who stayed in Leimert Park for the first few years of his record twenty-year term), and filmmaker John Singleton, who inadvertently created the neighborhood’s tagline when he dubbed it “the black Greenwich Village.”

However you prefer to describe it, Leimert Park became a national nexus of black culture, and the Brockman Gallery was at its center. Founded in 1967 by Davis together with his brother Alonzo, the gallery boasted a jaw-dropping roster of talents from John Outterbridge, Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, Jacob Lawrence, and Noah Purifoy to Mildred Howard, Samella Lewis, and Carrie Mae Weems. “We were artists, we didn’t know anything about running a business. We just wanted to be able to show our work, and there wasn’t a place for black artists to do that,” Davis told me. The Brockman Gallery’s legacy figured prominently in the survey “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980,” which opened at the Hammer as part of the 2011 Pacific Standard Time festival and later traveled to MoMA PS1. “They were the first gallery to give David Hammons a solo show,” curator Jamillah James marveled. “That is a whole life’s worth of achievement in and of itself.”

Left: Studio Museum director Thelma Golden with artist Charles Gaines. Right: LAND's Maryam Hosseinzadeh, Laura Hyatt, and Shamim Momin.


Davis reconnected with Bradford a few years back when they both spoke at the California African American Museum. “I thought to myself, who was that tall, good-looking brother down from me on the panel?” Davis grinned. “Well, turns out, Mark was a kid from the neighborhood who remembered coming to our gallery.” Bradford invited Davis to be one of A+P’s inaugural artists-in-residence. Davis is spending his fourteen-month tenure scanning the Brockman Gallery’s extensive archives, which have spent the last thirty years in storage. A paper printout taped to the wall above one of his scanners reads, “Opportunity is the connection between preparation and timing.”

“Opportunity” might be Art+Practice’s motto. Next door to the artist studios, the complex hosts the RightWay Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at empowering former foster youth in the tricky transition period of eighteen to twenty-five years old, providing everything from counseling to career development. Their involvement began when RightWay placed one of its youth in the A+P office. “Originally Mark called and said he wanted a meeting,” founder Franco O. Vega recalled. “I said, okay, who is Mark Bradford? So I Googled him, and then in five minutes called him back and said ‘I can be there in three hours.’ ”

Left: Artist Malik Gaines and A+P Artist in Residence Dale Brockman Davis. Right: Dealer Susanne Vielmetter and artist Ruben Ochoa.


Now RightWay Foundation youths help staff the A+P’s exhibition space, which has been programmed by James and will feature upcoming solos from Outterbridge and Njideka Akunyili Crosby (one of the knockouts from the New Museum’s recently opened triennial). The gallery launched on February 28 with an exhibition by Charles Gaines, timed to coincide with a larger survey of the artist’s stunning early works currently on view at the Hammer. Titled Librettos, the series at A+P overlaps Manuel de Falla’s 1904 class-driven opera La vida breve (Life is Short) with a 1967 Stokely Carmichael speech briefing the young graduates at Garfield High on mainstream America’s contradictory stances on violence and the inherent dignity of being human.

The night before the opening, A+P’s friends and supporters gathered for a casual dinner at Post & Beam, where museum directors Philippe Vergne, Thelma Golden, and Annie Philbin; dealers Susanne Vielmetter and Sarah Watson; curators Connie Butler, Naima J. Keith, and Allison Agsten; artists Barbara Krueger, Sam Durant, Andrea Bowers, Ruben Ochoa, and Ana Prvacki; collectors Larry Marx, Ari Emanuel, and Heidi and Erik Murkoff; and actor Will Ferrell all gathered around plates of deviled eggs and smoked catfish, served family style. When it was Bradford’s time to speak, he shared a few heartfelt words in tribute to the beloved Leonard Nimoy before turning to Gaines, his former professor at CalArts. “I picked an independent study with Charles because I thought it would be easy,” Bradford confessed. (“I don’t remember that part of the story,” Gaines chuckled later.) “Charles is the next great LA teaching artist,” Durant told me. “You know, you have Baldessari—,” “Michael Asher,” Butler chimed from across the table. “Right,” Durant continued. “Baldessari, Michael Asher, and now Charles Gaines. We just need to get him his own building, like Baldessari.”

Left: Artist Edgar Arceneaux with Underground Resistance's Ray 7. (Photo: André Daughtry). Right: Curator Aram Moshayedi with Maria Hassabi's performance at the Hammer.


Saturday afternoon, it felt like Gaines had an entire neighborhood, as hordes flocked to Leimert Park for A+P’s grand opening. “For the first public program A+P hosted, they had to turn people away,” the Hammer’s Jennifer Green reported proudly. That shouldn’t be a problem once A+P opens its next installment, a two-story building soon to be home to a lecture space and the seminal Eso Won bookstore, which is moving from its current spot across Degnan Boulevard. I spotted Eso Won’s cofounder James Fugate in the crowd alongside the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and the mayor’s partner, Amy Wakeland. “Everyone’s here,” dealer Michelle Papillion smiled approvingly. Papillion is another new addition to the neighborhood, having moved her gallery into the space beside A+P more than a year ago. Her current exhibition, a solo by London-based Lakwena Maciver, includes a sixteen-foot painting with the sparkling, multicolored slogan JUST PASSING THROUGH, facing out the gallery’s big bay windows.

That evening, as the crowds thinned and the clouds gathered, I dodged the barrage of downtown openings and drove up to Glendale’s Riverside Studios where Los Angeles Nomadic Divison was hosting a special screening of Edgar Arceneaux’s latest film, A Time to Break Silence. Splicing Martin Luther King Jr.’s anti-Vietnam speech (given just two weeks prior to Carmichael’s Garfield address) with a riff on 2001: A Space Odyssey, and shot in an abandoned Detroit church, the film was flanked by smoke machines and visuals from the seminal Detroit techno-collective Underground Resistance. One of UR’s own, Ray 7 was there to provide a live sound track to the film, while DJ Dex was on hand for the afterparty. He had his work cut out for him after a film whose central image was a stark, illustrated cutout of Dr. King, passionate pleading for “a genuine revolution of values” that has yet to materialize fifty years later. “We’ve attempted this screening-to-dance-party transition a few times before, though never too successfully,” Arceneaux admitted. But just as King’s speech ends on a note of hope, the sudden deluge outside kept everyone in long enough for the rhythm to get them. “It’s always the one or two really committed ones that get it started,” Arceneaux grinned. It reminded me of something Thelma Golden had said the night before: “Sometimes it only takes a small conversation to influence a person for a long, long time.” Live long and prosper, Art+Practice.

Kate Sutton

Left: Will Ferrell with Hammer director Annie Philbin. (Photo: Stephanie Keenan). Right: Dealer Michelle Papillion.


Coming Up Rosen

New York
03.11.15

Left: Dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, artist Laurie Simmons, and Jewish Museum deputy director Jens Hoffmann. Right: Dealers Andrea Rosen and Shaun Caley Regen. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


OH, INDEPENDENT! Whither thou goest?

To Brussels, that’s where, in April 2016. Meanwhile, the 2015 edition of New York’s coolest fair opened last Thursday with a snowstorm and ended Sunday on the cusp of spring—a fitting farewell to Center 548, soon to be yet another soulless condo. Formerly the Dia Center in Manhattan, the building’s airy, unheated floors and impossibly narrow, Flavin-lit stairwells must hold more collective memories of unique art experiences than any other spot in Chelsea. With Moran’s already gone and La Luncheonette about to join it in art-world heaven, conviviality in the neighborhood is disappearing fast.

Then again, as the song goes, tomorrow is only a day away. “We’re getting close,” said Elizabeth Dee, Independent cofounder with Darren Flook, of the pair’s hunt for their next home base. It was a few minutes into the proceedings. Despite the snow, all three floors were filling with happy customers. “It’s been really nice,” said collector Anita Zabludowicz of the week thus far. “And the dinners have been really fun.”

Ironically, this was the year that everyone involved at last had sorted out the best places to put up walls and the most efficacious ways to install the goods. Gavin Brown cornered the market on gray monochromes by Silke Otto-Knapp and Fergus McCaffrey took to a closet to fill Hitoshi Nomura’s glass flasks with liquid oxygen. “This is the art object dematerializing before your eyes,” he explained. The Modern Institute’s Andrew Hamilton could hardly keep up with the demand for paintings by Nicolas Party. Dealer Johann König and art adviser Patricia Marshall competed for the same one. (They tossed a coin.) “What’s the artist’s name again?” Marshall asked.

Left: Art adviser Diane Ackerman and dealer Anke Kempkes. Right: Dealer Fergus McCaffrey.


“Let me tell you,” collector Marty Eisenberg said of Mike Cloud’s suspended paper paintings at Thomas Erben. “These are fabulous.” Micky Schubert did New Museum triennial artist Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili proud, and Broadway 1602’s Anke Kempkes set her stand apart with a three-dimensional 1960s canvas by Pop artist Marjorie Strider. “It’s my only painting with a breast size,” Kempkes noted. BQ put up an almost irresistible display of Dirk Bell paintings turned back-to-front on shelves. Even dealer Maureen Paley snagged one. “We’re having an amazing day,” she said of her own sales. And the Box’s Mara McCarthy furnished her stand with vintage vitrines of objects by Barbara T. Smith, whom Andrew Kreps happened to be showing right across the street.

It’s an unwritten rule of art-fair weeks that after hours, to cement good relations with artists and clients and draw clear lines of community and power, everyone must be entertained at all times. That evening, Barbara Gladstone threw open her West Twenty-Fourth Street doors to new portraits by Victor Man, named that day as one of six Gladstone artists whom Okwui Enwezor selected for “All the World’s Futures,” his show for the upcoming Venice Biennale. A few doors down, Andrea Rosen let curator Alison Gingeras loose to organize a show of paintings by Julian Schnabel, Martin Barré, David Ostrowski, and Reena Spaulings that somehow looked like a genealogy of the same family. “I’ve never seen that Martin Barré,” Jeffrey Deitch said. “I want it.”

Bob Nickas did the honors for Anton Kern with “The Painter of Modern Life,” a sweeping show that attracted a good crowd for the gallery’s party at Fig 18 on the Lower East Side, while Anicka Yi raised the flag for feminism in “You Can Call Me F” at the Kitchen. At the same time, Eva Presenhuber invited lots of Swiss people to join gallery artists like Joe Bradley, Wyatt Kahn, Valentin Carron, and Liam Gillick to her Armory Arts Week dinner in the penthouse of the Standard’s East Village hotel, high above the still-frozen city. “It’s nice up here, isn’t it?” Presenhuber said. It was.

Back on earth the following evening, more dealers reminded everyone that New York is first of all a gallery town, no matter how many art fairs are around. Friedrich Petzel inaugurated his new project space on East Sixty-Seventh Street with early-1990s paintings by Charline von Heyl, Keith Boadwee did a splishy-splashy at Shoot the Lobster on the Lower East Side, Matthew Higgs opened White Columns in the West Village with five new exhibitions, and Still House Group staged one of their collective openings in Soho.

Left: Dealer Andrew Hamilton with curator Clarissa Dalrymple and artist Adam McEwen. Right: Dealer Elizabeth Dee.


Even a surge-priced Uber couldn’t keep up with this byzantine geography, so I had only just enough time to catch writer Lynne Tillman’s launch of her first spoken-word vinyl at Printed Matter, and Michele Maccarone’s closing party for her Jack Pierson and Danny McDonald shows. The reception gravitated to her office, where Carol Bove, Ryan Sullivan, Beth Swofford, and Shaun Caley Regen joined Ellen Langan for drinks before a much bigger party with the artists at Maccarone’s Chinatown loft.

That was like a quiet night at home with a good book compared to Saturday. After a day of fair- and gallerygoing, Artists Space held an opening for a resplendent exhibition of Hito Steyerl’s films, and Gavin Brown hosted his first show with visual wordsmith Karl Holmqvist, attended by video outtakes of the artist reading from a film portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija. The walls of one room were covered, Warhol Factory style, with aluminum foil, and there were words and words, critical words, poetic words, scatological words, scrawled on them in Holmqvist’s homage to the punk spirit under the coat of the bourgeois blanketing our culture like the endless snow, which had finally started melting.

And so, with winter receding, a few hundred artsters—collectors, dealers, artists, writers, museum curators—boarded three chartered buses and an untold number of private cars for a field trip to Coney Island, a resort well known for its freak shows. It was there, at Romanoff, a Russian nightclub flooded with red light, that Andrea Rosen staged a full-tilt blowout to celebrate her gallery’s twenty-fifth anniversary.

Left: Artist/dealers John Kelsey and Emily Sundblad. Right: Dealer Emma Fernberger and artist Jordan Wolfson.


“This is like an old-fashioned burlesque house,” said Deitch, as arriving guests—including visiting dealers Regen, Jake Miller, and Stuart Shave, and artists no longer represented by the gallery like John Currin, Sean Landers, and Rita Ackermann—helped themselves to heaps of caviar and champagne. Deitch had that about right, but once the evening took shape, the place began to feel more like a Russian-themed La Cage aux Folles.

A band of five costumed singers and one suited guy on a laptop appeared to perform nonstop throughout the dinner, during which just about everyone hit the dance floor, the collecting couples (the Levines, the Horts, the Eisenbergs, the Cohens, the Lees, Mera Rubell sans Don, Andy Stillpass, Frank Moore), the colleagues (Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Stefania Bortolami), the curators (Donna De Salvo, Ian Alteveer, Massimiliano Gioni, Cecilia Alemani) and the art world’s “it” couple of the moment, Jordan Wolfson and Emma Fernberger.

In tributes to the dealer, at least three gallery artists, led by Matthew Ritchie, toasted Rosen’s lingerie. “When I first met Andrea,” Ritchie said, “Andrea was in a bikini and being gently flogged.” Katy Moran, after revealing that Rosen had given her underwear from Agent Provocateur, allowed that “it wasn’t long before I was pregnant again.” In an attempt to inject a more serious tone, which didn’t last, Josiah McElheny recalled: “Andrea told me that ideas were a matter of life and death, and that the job of an artist is to make those ideas visible.” Rosen seconded that in her own toast to everyone in the room, who included the family of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. “Mommy, my daughter said, art is not the world and the world is not art. But that is my world. The gallery would be nothing without artists. There is nothing without artists.”

Left: Dealer Stuart Shave and collector Mera Rubell. Right: Collectors Dianne Wallace, Susan Hort, and Michael Hort.


And the evening itself was nothing without the unforgettable, elaborate, Vegas-style floor show. It had can-can dancers, Cossack dancers, acrobats on trapeze and ring—really, everything but sword swallowers and snake charmers—and so many costume and wig changes that it seemed as if there were forty performers instead of ten. When they were done, out came the band of vocalists again to lead the remaining guests onto the floor with Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” the ultimate last dance.

What is a party without a gift bag? Rosen’s tote was an entire library—twenty-five volumes chronicling select group shows in the gallery over the twenty-five years and an additional index of all the exhibitions. Yet even this was not quite enough. A few blocks away was a Carvel ice cream shop, where Michael and Eileen Cohen, De Salvo, and I, having danced more than we’d dined, relived our childhood with Brown Bonnet nightcaps to take us back to Manhattan, where the clocks had sprung an hour forward.

Sunday is never a day of rest during a fair week. With the fairs winding down, it was open house for galleries on the Lower East Side, while Mexico City’s Labor gallery (an Independent participant) held a screening at Neuehouse for a new film by Jan Peter Hammer. This was a kind of documentary detailing how mad some scientists really are, especially when it comes to interspecies communication (including sex with dolphins) and killer whales.

Left: Dealer Cheryl Haines. Right: Artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist.


Up Park Avenue at the Harold Pratt House, a mansion I never knew existed, San Francisco dealer Cheryl Haines was launching a lovely new book of drawings by the Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, whose show at the Guggenheim just opened. The book includes an interview with the omnivorous Hans Ulrich Obrist. This may not mean much to anyone who arrived in New York after 1980, but I was astonished to learn that the nonagenarian Monir, who is known for her mirror paintings but was a fashion illustrator early in her career, was the person who designed the lilac logo for Bonwit Teller, and also gave Andy Warhol his first job drawing shoes for the same store. Historic!

I had one more fair to hit that day. “It’s not a fair!” protested artist Mikel Glass, an organizer of un(SCENE). “It’s a show!” Er, I guess it was, though it resembled an art flea market—refreshing! Spread over two vacant garages on West Fifty-Second Street, in the shadow of the Armory Show, the work of ninety artists was on view. It included Old Master paintings, cyborg art, graffiti art, kinetic sculpture, and some recognizably gifted talents. One canvas that caught my eye turned out to be a 1991 painting by Chris Ofili. Another wall piece was a massive, sleight-of-hand assemblage of plastic doll parts and other found objects by Thomas Deininger. Seen from a distance, the many parts magically composed themselves into a florid human face. Freaky.

By Monday, with out-of-town dealers returning home or heading off to Hong Kong, the eyes that were upon us were not just glazed over but painted on at the revivified Jewish Museum in “How We See,” an imposing show of new photographs by Laurie Simmons that ratcheted up her quest for the real-not-real a few more notches. It opened with “Repetition and Difference,” a group show curated by the museum’s deputy director, Jens Hoffmann, that juxtaposes multiples of Judaica and contemporary artworks in serial, and quite ingenious, fashion. (My favorite: the skullcaps on sticks.)

Which means that now things are back to normal.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Jacob Schillinger and artist Karl Holmqvist. Right: Artists Leo Villareal, Rachel Feinstein, and John Currin.


Private Eyes

Geneva
03.10.15

Left: Dealer Massimo Minini and Andrea Bellini, director of the Centre d'Art Contemporain Geneve. Right: One of the spinners in Ahmet Ogut's Fair Wage. (All photos: Agnieszka Gratza)


CONVENIENTLY LOCATED FOR THE CITY AIRPORT, if not much else, artgenève is a ten-minute walk from the arrival gate. Though styled as a salon d’art, there is nothing salon-like about the vast complex known as Palexpo—short for Palais des Expositions et des Congrès—which has housed the fair since its inception.

Now in its fourth edition, artgenève prides itself on being more intimate and “human-scale” than most fairs. For one thing, the number of exhibiting galleries is capped at seventy. These share the floor with private groups like the Syz Collection, local institutions, and nonprofit spaces, whose aim it is to show work rather than sell it. According to artgenève director Thomas Hug, this mix of commercial and noncommercial spaces has been there right from the start. “There are more things around which are not for sale this year,” one of the performers in Ahmet Ögüt’s Fair Wage for a Made Up Job told me. She and three other performers worked in shifts to spin portable monitors showing Ögüt’s film Sign Spinners for an hourly wage of fifty Swiss francs, exactly what the director of the fair is paid, not counting expenses and various other perks.

There was also an ambitious but underattended public program curated by Joanna Warsza and produced by the artist duo Lou Cantor. Kolja Gläser, one half of Lou Cantor, used to run a gallery in Berlin with Hug called COMA (Center for Opinions in Music and Art). A pianist by training, Hug is passionate about music, and “artgenève-musique”—framed as a conversation between art and music—is his pet project. As the second day of curated talks was winding down, a group of us headed to the nearby Villa Sarasin in time for some bubbly served in the Villa’s lobby, speeches, and performances by Anri Sala as well as the Swiss M/2 collective that could be heard from behind walls and closed doors.

Left: Artist Raphael Hefti. Right: Artist Ernie Gehr.


By then it was high time to head to the opening for Raphael Hefti, veteran filmmaker Ernie Gehr, and artist-in-residence Alfredo Aceto at the Centre d’Art Contemporain, a train ride away from the Geneva airport which I’d barely left. There in the dark, curtained space where Gehr’s mirrored images of misty rivers and strolling shadows were being projected on multiple screens in a retrospective of the artist’s digital works, I stumbled upon Bruce Haines, director of London gallery Ancient & Modern, who introduced me to Hefti.

The last time I visited the Centre, John Armleder had given me a circumstantial account of his brief sojourn in prison as a conscientious objector. Now it was Hefti’s turn to relate how pressing the wrong button on a radar-controlled device landed him with a five-year criminal record. The accident, which caused his car to blow up with all his equipment in it, would have been bad enough in and of itself. But it happened to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the firefighters felt obliged to call in the terror unit. A long story to explain why the artist, who is about to begin a residency in Soho, has not been allowed to travel to the States these past few years.

Snapshots of NYC’s busy squares and streets, in a complex interplay of digital images, one lodged inside another, were displayed all around the space as if to taunt us. These works demand and reward sustained viewing, but it was getting late, and dinner at the Cercle des Bains beckoned. Luckily, I was seated next to Gehr. Over wine—selected for us by “Président” Pierre Keller, who presides over the Office des Vins Vaudois as well as the Fondation du Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève—we talked about New York, the city where Gehr has lived since 1965, and Harry Houdini, whose feats he strives to emulate with his own insubstantial acts of magic. “I don’t make things that are commodities,” he confided.

Left: Kolja Gläser of Lou Cantor and composer-conductor Ari Benjamin Meyers. Right: Curator Joanna Warsza, artist Alexandra Pirici, and Jozefina Chetko.


Commodities and valuables, things one can put a price tag on, were the order of the following day. The afternoon kicked off with a visit to Pictet & Cie, one of the oldest Swiss private banks, which houses a fine, if necessarily subdued, collection of modern and contemporary art firmly focused on Swiss artists. More daring stuff by the likes of Pipilotti Rist was to be seen, hung salon style on every available wall surface, in the home of the mother and son collectors Jocelyne and Fabrice Petignat.

A brisk tour of the Neon Parallax project (drifting snow is hardly an ideal condition for viewing neon signs placed on top of buildings) and several visits to anonymous contemporary art/design collections later, dealer Jose Castafial told me, over a martini, that the fair’s branding itself as a salon fits in perfectly with Geneva’s image as a “private city.” It’s the city of private banks, private dealers, private collectors. “People like to keep things secret,” he said. “Look at the VIP program. They give you an address but never the collector’s name.”

We were at Le Verre à Monique—a self-styled saloon serving cocktails in teapots and cups—where Esther Schipper (whose spare booth won my vote for the best gallery presentation at the fair) hosted its party that evening. Schipper herself was not in Geneva. Armleder, that Genevan institution, may not have been physically present either, but he was with us in spirit, via limited-edition watches gracing the wrists of collectors like Manuel Emch and certainly at the Temple de la Fusterie, where everyone headed after for the artgenève bash. His son, Stephan Armleder (aka the Genevan Heathen) of Villa Magica Records, was DJing that night.

Left: Dealers Julia Dziumla and Bruce Haines of Ancient & Modern, London. Right: Watchmaker Manuel Emch and curator Nicolas Trembley.


An eagerly anticipated excursion to CERN the next morning, organized as part of Warsza’s program, turned out to be something of a letdown. After sitting through a particle-physics-for-dummies lecture delivered in scientific English, the artgenève group was whisked off to the Atlas Experiment site, only to be told that we would not be able to access the tunnel, which was about to be closed off to the public as scientists gear up for the second three-year run of the Large Hadron Collider. We had to content ourselves with a virtual 3-D tour and yet more lecturing.

By the time we left, my head was abuzz with talk of protons, neutrons, electrons, and quarks. Back at Palexpo, the founder of arts@CERN, Ariane Koek, talked to us about artists, filmmakers, choreographers, and fashion designers moved by particle theory, who got to hang out at CERN with no expectations thanks to her residencies program. The end results, which ranged from kidnapping scientists to creating a fashion collection inspired by magnetic fields to turning the Collider into a musical instrument, struck me as lacking the simplicity of artist Gianni Motti’s own gambit.

In 2005, long before arts@CERN was set up, Motti walked the length of the seventeen-mile LHC tunnel where protons are accelerated. Documented on film in a single tracking shot, the five-and-a-half-hour-long action was continually projected on four monitors dotted round the artgenève salon. The artist’s quest to transform himself into a particle continues with the planned sequel to Higgs: In Search of the Anti-Motti, something only Motti could dream up. But in this matter I have been sworn to secrecy.

Agnieszka Gratza

Left: Artist Gianni Motti. Right: Inside the Atlas Experiment at CERN.


Spring Forward

New York
03.06.15

Left: ADAA president Dorsey Waxter with Armory Show director Noah Horowitz. Right: Dealer Eva Presenhuber and artist Valentin Carron. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


WE HAD SOHO. We had the East Village. We have Chelsea and Williamsburg, Bushwick and Red Hook. What will become New York’s next art neighborhood?

“I guess all of these artists live in the Bronx?” the actor Alan Alda surmised on Monday, during the cocktail hour for the Bronx Museum of Art’s annual benefit gala. We were far south of that borough, on the outer planet of the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park City. Some of the artist-donors to the impressive silent auction, at least, were from the Bronx, as reported by Alan’s wife, Arlene Alda, an honoree and the author of an oral history, Just Kids from the Bronx. “It came out today and it’s number one on Amazon,” her husband said, proudly. “This is the night of the comedians,” one guest commented, inclining her head toward the standup comic Robert Klein. Prominent among the other 350 guests was the fulsome facial hair on Tony Feher. “It has its own ZIP code at this point,” the artist conceded.

And so began a week of fairs and openings that has served up freezing rain, black ice, snow, and slush with that other bitter pill of New York life, real estate. Time and again, there were tales of opportunity and woe, as artists and gallerists told of forced relocations around and beyond Manhattan, sometimes for the better.

Left: Dealer Andreas Gegner and artist David Malijkovic. Right: MoMA curators Quentin Bajac and Roxana Marcoci with dealer Cristian Alexa.


A few of the younger curators at the Museum of Modern Art made good use of their second-floor allotment that evening, when Ana Janevski and Sarah Suzuki joined Quentin Bajac and Eva Respini—future chief curator at the ICA Boston—to show off their rotation, “Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection,” for contributing artists, their dealers, and friends. The hundred or so viewers on hand enjoyed a pleasure rare for MoMA—space and time to properly experience the art. David Maljkovic was one. Titled after his video installation, the show felt like it had more clarity and evenhandedness than is usual for such surveys.

The space it took up was the height of luxury compared with the cramped quarters that the museum gave to “Björk,” the most embarrassing exhibition at MoMA for as long as the living can recall. That is the most notable quality of this WTF “retrospective,” a burden that curator and MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach evidently carried around for fourteen years before the Icelandic pop star—surely one of the most original, tech-savvy, and fashion-forward performers to come out of the suddenly voguish 1990s—relented.

Perhaps for good reason, the show’s subject was uncharacteristically shy at the press preview on Tuesday morning, forbidding photographs, interviews, or even visibility. That was a condition of her appearance in the two-story, black-box projection room now taking up the museum’s atrium, where Black Lake, her latest, and possibly most pedestrian, music video is getting its debut. Reportedly—I couldn’t make her out in the foam-padded room’s total darkness—she was wearing a cactus headdress. Her other, better-known costumes—familiar from videos, performances and appearances past—are on display with a few notebook pages in cubicles set off by heavy black curtains. A time line of videos anyone can see at home on YouTube line a hallway. The whole thing suggests something closer to a world’s fair pavilion than a show at the Museum of Modern Art. Following the one-two-three punch of its Sigmar Polke, Christopher Williams, and Robert Gober exhibitions, “Björk” is a shocking reminder that, to borrow a phrase from Some Like It Hot, nobody’s perfect. As if we needed reminding.

Left: Swiss Institute director Simon Castets, dealer Marcus Rischgasser, and artist Tobias Pils. Right: Bronx Museum director Holly Block with collector Dillon Cohen.


There is hope—there is always hope—for a better curatorial future. Some of it was on tap that very afternoon at the surprising SPRING/BREAK Art Show. Though this is founders Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly’s fourth edition, it is not a dealer’s fair. Instead, it features youngish art selected by forty independent curators. Each, sometimes with the help of an artist, conceived their installations in a warren of seedy former offices on two floors of New York’s central post office, now Moynihan Station. (Someday the building will replace Penn Station.)

This was the fun fair of the week. The decrepit quarters and bootstrapping presentations reminded some visitors of the first Gramercy Art Fair. The atmosphere was eerily similar. I don’t know if anything was selling, but Maurizio Cattelan and Ali Subotnik gave it a thumbs up, and adventurous collectors and dealers like Anita Zabludowicz and Magda Sawon roamed the dim halls in the early hours, clearly enjoying the experience of never being prepared for what turned up next.

Arielle de Saint Phalle brought vintage 1960s issues of Hara-Kiri—the satirical magazine that inspired Charlie Hebdo—to a room that also featured a carnivalesque live performance of drawings-on-demand by “The DMZL.” Kathleen Cullen had Drew Dominick’s soft-rubber cast of an equestrian bronze by Frederick Remington, another inspired object. In Maureen Sullivan’s rooms, artists Eve Sussman and Jimbo Blachy placed their art within a fictional gumshoe’s office—actually the location of a scene in the Coen brothers’ movie Inside Llewyn Davis. In another room, Brent Birnbaum bolted together eleven treadmills and replaced their moving belts with textile paintings. Fake wood paneling lined a room where artist-curator Jo Shane made clever use of discarded pharmaceutical bottles. “Art is a great excuse for hoarding,” she said.

At least two curators chose filthy lucre as a subject—to elevating, rather than numbing, effect. Each of the four artists in Tess Sol Schwab’s room devalued gold or folding money in collaged artworks that included push brooms and flowers. But Dustin Yellin went all out, Mike Nelson style, to shred, as only he could, $10,000 within a fictional landscaping business specializing in the removal of “whatever grows on trees.”

Left: Artist-filmmaker-author John Waters. Right: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning with artists Michael Stipe and Erik Hanson.


Meanwhile, the barren trees outside were taking on fresh snowfall, making the icy steps to the Park Avenue Armory treacherous for the high-heeled crowd arriving for the 5:30 PM opening of the Art Show, the Art Dealers Association of America’s annual exposition. Collectors like Jane Holzer and Donald Marron anxiously stood by while New York City cultural affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl prepared to cut the ribbon for the opening, a benefit for the Henry Street Settlement. “It’s five thirty-one!” Marron called out. The ribbon-cutting commenced, and when it was done, I asked Finkelpearl if our art-indifferent mayor Bill de Blasio was ever going to give his attention to artist housing. “Yes!” Finkelpearl replied. “And soon!”

But the Art Show, at least, is always worth a wait. For one thing, it serves up the tastiest hors d’oeuvres of any art fair anywhere. And with thick carpeting, lighting that flatters both artworks and people, a gorgeous setting, and tightly focused presentations, it has more the feel of an old-world salon than a polished trade show for modern and contemporary art.

Mostly contemporary, though, as one patron standing before a Grandma Moses painting at Galerie St. Etienne remarked, “How can you look at that and not smile—especially today?” Marian Goodman really turned it out for Tony Cragg, David Zwirner for Forrest Bess, Cheim & Read for Al Held, Tanya Bonakdar for Haim Steinbach, Galerie Lelong for Etel Adnan, and Janet Bordon for Jan Groover—and these were only a few of the standouts among the seventy-two stands. “We’re here,” Irving Blum told dealer Susan Sheehan. “We’ll take them all,” he said of her suite of Brice Marden drawings. And so it went, as the snow kept falling and the Ubers kept arriving.

Left: Curator Arielle de Saint Phalle. Right: Artist Marco Brambilla.


Meanwhile, back at MoMA, the “Björk” opening was in full swing for what appeared to be a thousand or more admirers, but so it goes wherever there’s an open bar. “MoMA is the new nightclub,” one clobbered patron offered. Long lines formed outside the screening room and the exhibition, while the star stood off to the side of the atrium clad in a handmade white dress of origami silk petals, an outfit from the threeASFOUR collective’s exhibition at the Jewish Museum a couple of years ago. Biesenbach stood guard close by, making sure that, once again, no one raised a camera phone in Björk’s direction or spoke to her unless invited. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just that we’re so tired.” That was disappointing not just for the crowd, but to threeASFOUR as well. “It’s okay,” said designer Adi Gil. “Björk is a very good customer. The best.” After a little hop and a twirl, the singer made her way through the unseeing crowd and went home.

It was all of 9 PM, time for a dinner that the Swiss Institute was hosting with Eva Presenhuber, 303 Gallery, David Kordansky, and Kammel Mennour galleries for Valentin Carron at Il Buco Alimentari. Swiss Institute director Simon Castets toasted the artist for “Work Hard: Selections by Valentin Carron,” the group exhibition he had organized with work by Swiss artists who mean something to him—Meret Oppenheim, Latifa Echakhch, Fabrice Gygi, Daniel Spoerri, and Jean Tinguely among them. With the weather very Swiss, and the Italian food abundant, the evening took a turn for the jolly—but it wasn’t over yet.

At 11:57, Marco Brambilla achieved liftoff with the premiere of his three-minute rocket film “Apollo XVIII,” filling five big screens in slushy Times Square. The film, which will play in the same place and at the same time every night for a month, attracted an only-in-New-York assortment of well-wishers. They included Uma Thurman, the turbaned jeweler Waris Ahluwalia, Creative Time director Anne Pasternak, artists Andro Wekua and Sarah Morris, and New York Times scenester Bob Morris. All eyes drifted upward as images of a digital countdown rose up buildings in a variety of hot colors that jointly turned crimson in the final moments. It was better than New Year’s Eve and, in the chill of the night, quite a bit more exclusive.

Far more so than the VIP preview of the Armory Show on Wednesday. Though Piers 92 and 94 are among the most inhospitable venues in town, people came in waves throughout the day, proving once again that a fair where art rarely shows its best side can still be a convenient place for collectors, curators, artists, and dealers from all over to meet.

Left: Collector Donald Marron. Right: Artists Katie Holten and Tony Feher.


The food at this fair is still overpriced and awful, the lighting is murderous, and the aisles so long it’s hard for much of anything to register. “The forced march,” reflected ADAA executive director Linda Blumberg, staring into the distance. And yet. Dealers were flush with the excitement of sales, people confabbed everywhere, and there were enough Instagram-ready installations to keep up the spirits. Glenn Kaino’s flying brass arrows at Honor Fraser’s stand made one; biologist-artist Brandon Ballengée’s cutout collages of extinct American species at Ronald Feldman was another. “I’m happy we took this out of Berlin,” said dealer Thomas Schulte of artist Michael Müller’s Robert Musil–inspired, pink-walled installation in his booth. “It’s one thing to show it to 1,500 people there and another to 50,000 people here.”

By evening, as untold numbers trekked to MoMA for its Armory party, all was quiet in Chelsea, where Stefania Bortolami and Green Tea Gallery (Ei and Tomoo Arakawa) collaborated on the lone opening, an exhibition commemorating the fourth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima.

Fortunately, the earth didn’t crack, but neither did the ice outside. With more snow on the way, and the week only half gone, the business of art took a back seat to Bortolami’s party at Boxers, a gay sports bar where waiters wear red boxer shorts, and quiet dinners at Bottino.

Slipping into a puddle of deep slush, I suddenly felt like Björk must have in Black Lake, when she pounds her chest with alarming force, and wails.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Björk doll. Right: Artists Eve Sussman and Jimbo Blachy.


Barely Legal

New Haven, Connecticut
03.04.15

Amar C. Bakshi, lead organizer of “The Legal Medium: New Encounters of Art and Law,” with artist Mary Ellen Carroll. (Photo: Elizabeth Bick)


INTERDISCIPLINARY CONFERENCES require extra signage. I’ve been to symposia at Yale before, but last Saturday’s was my first at the law school, so it was only by grace of several fluorescent red posters that I found the auditorium and the gratis coffee. An enormous freestanding placard marked the check-in desk: “The Legal Medium: New Encounters of Art and Law.” There, four graduate students sat in a row tending to stacks of name tags, each of them, jarringly enough, dressed in red—a swatch-book’s worth of clashing hues. When I opened the program they handed me, I half expected to find a Valentine’s card.

Too easy a punch line? Perhaps, but that early-morning salvo of color coordination—to my eyes, an overzealous collective commitment to the conference’s “brand identity”—was the harbinger of things to come. “The Legal Medium” brought together artists and art historians, lawyers and legal scholars. As panelists talked to (or past) one another, it became evident that interdisciplinary dialogue negotiates more than knowledge gaps or specialized jargon. There’s also, well, style, small manners of presentation that over time accrue legitimacy. I chafed at how the lawyers ate into their allotted minutes with lengthy preambles, usually inaugurated with the phrase “I will now provide an overview of…” Conversely, others in the audience—around a third of whom identified as law students or lawyers when asked for a show of hands—likely had little patience for poet Kenneth Goldsmith’s gnomic pronouncements, spoken in a tone that hybridized John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing” and Sunday NPR. Between art and law, there’s an attraction, for sure, but first dates can be awkward.

In opening remarks, lead conference organizer Amar C. Bakshi, a third-year law student, summarized the basic proposition: that increasingly artists are engaging with the law, either by deliberate strategic choice or as a consequence of moving between multiple sites and institutions. That is, when art sheds the pretense of autonomy, it becomes enmeshed in law. Like art, however, law can be notoriously difficult to locate or define. Does it reside in written statutes, social norms, enforcement mechanisms? The task of “Legal Medium,” then, was to bring multiple expertises to bear on the question of how artists approach law as a material, a process, a readymade, a target.

Left: Architect and urbanist Keller Easterling. (Photo: Elizabeth Bick) Right: The greeting at the conference dinner at the New Haven Lawn Club. (Photo: Colby Chamberlain)


NYU law professor Amy Adler addressed the most familiar version of art encountering the law, the copyright-infringement trials of Richard Prince and Jeff Koons. (Her explanation of why Prince lost the first round of Cariou v. Prince whereas Koons emerged victorious in Blanch v. Koons was both revealing and entirely unsurprising: Apparently Prince did himself no favors by shrugging off serious questions, whereas Koons ably parroted exactly what the court needed to hear.) By and large, though, “The Legal Medium” pointed away from these high-profile (and big ticket) cases and toward more subtle engagements, like the yearlong performances of the conference’s first presenter, Tehching Hsieh. By pledging to imprison himself in his studio, or to punch a time clock at hourly intervals, or to stay outdoors, Hsieh imposed on his own body strictures that reverberated with wider regimes of control: incarceration, labor, homelessness (and perhaps, in the case of his collaboration with Linda Montano, marriage).

A session concerned with laws of the built environment was the strongest of the day, since each panelist extracted significant insights from the typically stultifying topic of zoning. Architect and urbanist Keller Easterling pointed to the free economic zones that have facilitated the mirage-like appearance of megacities across the globe. Artist Mary Ellen Carroll discussed her ongoing project Prototype 180, 1999–, which performed a 180-degree rotation of a house in Houston, a city notorious for its complete lack of zoning. Artist and lawyer Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento connected his “clandestine construction” pieces to the seizure of Chavez Ravine, the Los Angeles neighborhood where his family lived until it was bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium.

“I live in a world where copyright doesn’t exist,” uttered Goldsmith. I believed him, in part because I was fairly sure that, in Goldsmith’s world, New Haven didn’t exist either. Goldsmith and several others radiated the Teflon aura of Perma-Panelists, those in-demand speakers who appear impervious to context. Liam Gillick dropped references to the Schengen Agreement, Third Way politics, and Pol Pot’s show trial while clicking through slides of convivial seating arrangements. YLS’s Jack Balkin launched into a nimble précis on the origin of right-to-publicity laws with the friendly, polished patter of a TED talk. Midafternoon, choreographer Jonah Bokaer performed a solo dance, stretching, bending, balancing his body—not to mention arching his bare feet—over the dais furniture. How this inflected the conversation, beyond literally warping the conference table, I couldn’t tell you.

Left: Choreographer Jonah Bokaer. (Photo: Elizabeth Bick) Right: View of “Irregular Rendition.”


When American Studies professor Laura Wexler discussed Frederick Douglass’s belief that photography would help integrate former slaves into the American body politic, it was the closest any panelist came to touching on the recent grand jury verdicts in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Perhaps that should have been expected from a lineup that was largely white and tenured, but it was just the previous month that one panelist, art historian David Joselit, was asking in Artforum what pressures and obligations the Garner case placed on artistic practice, and it was difficult to watch footage of Hsieh’s physical confrontation with the police during his outdoor performance without recalling other such recordings. (As I began writing this text, video of LAPD officers shooting an unarmed homeless man on Skid Row was popping up on Facebook.) Also hanging over the conference was its absent panelist, Tania Bruguera, who remains in Cuba awaiting the release of her passport.

After closing remarks, everyone decamped to a nearby gallery for the opening of “Irregular Rendition.” Curated by Yale doctoral candidate Lucy Hunter, the show brought together historical works by Gordon Matta-Clark and Mierle Laderman Ukeles with more recent instances of artists wrangling with regulation, like Park McArthur’s hilarious documentation of her struggle to improve wheelchair access at a residency, or Alexandra Lerman’s sculptures based on proprietary touchscreen gestures. As I left, I picked up a copy of the exhibition pamphlet for perusing on the train. No Valentine’s card in there either, but it did contain the complete record of Mary Ellen Carroll’s multiple applications for permission to film the Federal Building in Los Angeles—which, when it comes to art and law, likely qualifies as a courtship.

Colby Chamberlain

Ghost in the Machine

Dallas
03.01.15

Left: Dallas Museum of Art director Maxwell Anderson with dealer Paul Schimmel. Right: Curator Gabriel Ritter. (Photos: Tamytha Cameron/DMA)


“BETWEEN ACTION AND THE UNKNOWN,” the Shiraga/Motonaga show at the Dallas Museum of Art, is studded with death and damage, or at least with simulations. One of the highlights of the exhibition tour I attended a couple weeks ago was Kazuo Shiraga’s painting Wild Boar, 1963, in which a real boar hide is splayed across a six-foot canvas and covered in red paint meant to simulate entrails. Gabriel Ritter, who curated the show with Koichi Kawasaki, tells us that Shiraga, frustrated with his inability to hunt and kill a wild boar on his own, ended up buying the hide at a market. Next we shuffle around a reinstallation of Please Come In, an eight-foot-tall conical structure made of painted wooden logs whose interior surface Shiraga hacked with an axe in 1955 to simulate brushstrokes. Disappointingly, it’s walled off to the public: “In this case, Please Don’t Come In,” Ritter jokes. We laugh, but I wonder who among us is masking their impulse to come right in, axes swinging. For a second we’re all wedged between punk rock and a bit of Deliverance.

That evening’s conversation with Paul McCarthy, Axel Vervoordt, and Ming Tiampo turns to other risky ventures like falling and fluids. “What connects [my work to Gutai] is the subject of liquid, or the subject of goo. They kind of cross over,” says McCarthy. (We all wonder somewhat archly if any of this will extend to the catering, but it doesn’t.) At dinner, Ritter and I speculate about connections between Gutai and the American punk ethos. It will not surprise you that such connections are tenuous to nonexistent. McCarthy is jammed into my table and seems unconvinced or uninterested in this conversation. Instead he offers other insights on death and crime: how to photograph someone being lynched and make it look real, for instance. “You’ve got to really hang them by the neck,” he insists. No one challenges this, especially not me since I have eaten not only my own dinner but also that of my absent tablemate (canceled at the last minute) and am waiting to be told I am in trouble for it. I stand by my claim, though, that a salad cannot sit without an owner.

Themes of death and damage continue apace during a tour of the Melvin Edwards show at the Nasher Sculpture Center. We’re agog in front of the works, which look like dynamic but eerily purposeless machines or like staring faces. Edwards’s scythe-y “Lynch Fragments” from the late 1960s and his barbed-wire installations are especially haunting. During the tour, the art historian in me prattles on about steel and metal representing an elemental twentieth-century American conflict—“Y’know, because during Vietnam, the tools of prosperity are also the tools of imperialism.” The headbanger in me quietly realizes that death metal is about all of these things too: making the objects of productivity (chains, sickles, saws, etc.) signal destruction.

Left: Artist Kate Jarboe. (Photo: Katie Anania) Right: Paul McCarthy next to a reinstallation of Please Come In in “Between Action and the Unknown The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga.” (Photo: Tamytha Cameron/DMA)


Lunch at the Warehouse (a collaborative gallery space that is the brainchild of several collectors in Dallas, and where dealer Paul Schimmel briefly grooves out on Richard Tuttle) and dinner at Cindy and Howard Rachofsky’s house help propel us from this sensibility for a minute, but not before we learn three crucial facts about Dallas art and culture during our tour of the downtown area. Number one: The seats in the Winspear Opera House are padded with an acoustically responsive textile that simulates the presence of human bodies, so even during rehearsals when the space is empty, musicians and vocalists have the sensation of playing to a packed house. (In other words, Dallas is rife with ghost listeners.) Number two: The Dallas Museum of Art houses a reinstallation of Coco Chanel’s former home in the South of France. The reinstallation includes Chanel’s staircase, which was originally built to Chanel’s specifications and was later discovered to be the same staircase as the one in the orphanage where she grew up. (Ditto ghost orphans.) Number three: Downtown Dallas has over ten thousand underground parking spaces, which are convenient for visitors but also make the streets of downtown Dallas look oddly deserted. (Ditto ghost transit.)

I sneak away to meet artist Kate Jarboe at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. She has declared herself the artist-in-residence there and has been making work based on engagements with the space for the past year and a half. On the day we meet she’s paying her fortieth out of forty-three planned visits to this museum. She gives me a tour and tells me about her work: a replica of an archival box full of redacted official documents and a sound installation with a megaphone similar to the one Bush used when he was a Yale cheerleader and when he made his famous Ground Zero speech. Sadly, these are all exhibited off-site. I wish her interventions had included firing-range headphones, because the single salient characteristic of the George W. Bush Museum is its total aural cacophony. Each section of the museum relies mostly on TV clips to narrate the historical crests (or troughs) of Bush’s presidency: Katrina, 9/11, and so on. The TVs have speakers but no headphones and the exhibits have no spatial boundaries, so we’re assaulted with sound. Swelling sound tracks and journalists’ voices pulsate into gelatinous aural goo, laying bare the notion that the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum contains, above all, no facts. At least not ones we can hear.

Katie Anania