“B” Here Now

Brussels
04.28.16

Left: Art Brussels artistic director Katerina Gregos. Right: Dealer and Independent cofounder Elizabeth Dee (middle) with artist collective Leo Gabin (from left to right: Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem, and Robin De Vooght). (All photos: Julian Elias Bronner)


WHETHER BRUSSELS IS THE “NEW BERLIN,” your “B-sides” (ŕ la artist Megan Marrin), or a “hellhole” (ŕ la Trump), it’s certainly a destination, especially in the spring, when the de facto capital of Europe draws thousands to its annual Brussels Art Week. Just ask newcomer (but not outsider) Elizabeth Dee, who enthusiastically jumped the gun this year by inaugurating Independent on Wednesday, twenty-four hours before the preview of its more established competitor, Art Brussels. Held in the modernist Vanderborght building––beautifully renovated by Bart Biermans of HUB architecture––in the heart of downtown Brussels, the first Belgian edition of New York’s international club of cool galleries and their artists wowed visitors with its attention to detail and its unorthodox open plan.

Following artist Sarah Ortmeyer’s suggestion, I went straight to the top––where else?––and made my way down Guggenheim NY style. Like in that Frank Lloyd Wright–designed edifice, sight lines bled from one into the other in well-curated conversations among booths, bodies, and works and across the central five-story atrium. Among those that held most in my mind were Melike Kara’s oil-stick and acrylic Plexiglas paintings suspended in space at Peres Projects; Joël Andrianomearisoa’s deconstructed tapestries made in Creuse, France, at MAGNIN-A; Lukas Trevisani’s diptych addressing fantasy and extinction––bought by supercollector Gil Bronner––at Mehdi Chouakri; publisher Triangle Books’ editions of Jacques André books in “unemployment-stamp blue” exhibited with price tags and receipts; and Doug Ashford’s scanned and Photoshopped September 11, 2001 issue of the New York Times, using abstraction as a tool for consolation and solace with tragedy and instability at Wilfried Lentz. In short, Independent could hardly be considered a satellite fair (or a colonial invader); rather, it was a gathering of like minds that run according to their own stellar orbit.

Left: Independent artistic director and director of White Columns Matthew Higgs with dealer Maureen Paley. Right: C L E A R I N G’s Olivier Babin and artist Daniel Dewar.


Nevertheless, I love a good comeback story, and in her final year as Art Brussels’s artistic director, Katerina Gregos delivered. Having left her post to devote more time to independent projects, the curator (who just last year managed both Venice’s Belgian pavilion and the Thessaloniki Biennial) is leaving an improved fair in her wake. Moved out of its old location near the faraway Atomium to a more easily accessible home at Tour & Taxis, the thirty-fourth edition of the fair surprised many who thought the previous day had already determined the winner of the supposed territorial catfight. “There seems to be room enough for everyone in Brussels,” remarked 11R Gallery’s Augusto Arbizo at the VIP opening, where visitors were greeted first with the “Discovery” section of young and newly participating galleries. Having shed more than fifty booths from last year’s edition, Art Brussels looked tighter in content and quality than the two previous years. And trust me, it’s a cute look.

“It makes the galleries nervous when someone walks into a booth with black fingernails,” said newly manicured artist Kendall Geers, on this year’s jury for best stand. Winner BWA Warszawa was certainly striking, with Karol Radziszewski’s paintings which proffer the Aryan ubermensch as a homoerotic object for the viewer’s gaze, while Ewa Axelrad’s partially figurative sculptures explored the limitations between protection and aggression of the body. Sexy. Krištof Kintera’s sixteen-foot-tall sculpture of Saint Christopher made with 350 lamps at D+T Project was not to be missed, as well as Levi van Veluw’s illusory, optical installation of tumbling spheres at Ron Mandos. There was also Shaun Gladwell’s homage to Minimalism and skateboarding at Analix Forever, complete with a recurring performance around the perimeter of a square ŕ la Bruce Nauman, and Philipp Birch’s sculptures of Cronenberg body horror meets Ed Atkins–esque hyperreality. But the highlight was the elegant selection of gems from the collection of recently late curator and SMAK founder Jan Hoet. Curated by Gregos, “Cabinet d’amis: The Accidental Collection of Jan Hoet” featured works made mostly through the enthusiast’s close relationships with artists. It was an elegant meditation on a life that’s contributed so much to what Belgium’s contemporary art scene is today.

Left: Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick with artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood. Right: Curators Marc-Olivier Wahler and Andrea Bellini.


At a local costume party celebrating one month since the attacks in Brussels––tragicomedy is a Belgian specialty––I lost both my credit card and my voice. But when drinks are free and talk is cheap, who cares? A dinner for Marina Pinksy and her surveillance-conscious photography at C L E A R I N G was made the more mirthful by an impromptu, slapstick performance by dealer Charles Antoine Bodson. A pizza party for Mark Dion’s new phosphorescent sculptures at Walburger Wouters was the prelude to party at collector Tobias Arndt’s, and a traditional dinner of Belgian fare at the classic Taverne du Passage applauded Sahra Motalebi’s haunting performance at Foundation Boghossian at the Villa Empain. Brunch at Almine Rech gallery to view Jean-Baptiste Bernadet’s new series of beautifully installed paintings transported me to the light and atmosphere of Monet’s panoramas at L’Orangerie. And a dîner ŕ l’aise downstairs at chez Gladstone and in its adjacent garden for Ugo Rondinone and his forty-seven plaster fish in bronze brought some real feelings to the table: “In New York there’d be more artists at this dinner. Here it’s mostly rich, older white men,” lamented Taylor Trabulus of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Gurl, I feel your pain.

Those in the know found respite at 10 Galerie de la Reine, where local artist-run space Établissement d’En Face set up shop as a secret restaurant and dance party for the week in the apartment of artist Alex Morrison (who took it over from Lucy McKenzie). Rachida Ait-Ali acted as doorwoman and a force to be reckoned with, while artist Filip Gilissen mixed drinks and DJ’d old-school Prince (RIP) and hip-hop so good a cameo from the police couldn’t shut us down. Frequent faces included local artists Pieter Vermeersch, Zin Taylor, and Sean Crossley, as well as Gavin Brown’s table-dancing Thor Shannon––art dealer by day, art cheerleader by night (not my words). By Saturday, the secret had got out, and I overheard one young, fashionable curator from New York whine, “We don’t know anybody here. Let’s go.” While the tourists trickled out, the insiders, including the inimitable Gregos herself, stuck around and danced till sunrise. And wouldn’t you have too, if only you were that cool?

Julian Elias Bronner

Left: Dealers Thor Shannon of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Francesca Kaufmann of Kauffmann Repetto. Right: Frances Fuchs-Young, artist Ann Grimm, and dealer Chantal Crousel.


On the Ball

New York
04.23.16

Left: Artist Mickalene Thomas. Right: Artist Tom Sachs, philanthropist Stephanie Ingrassia, and Swizz Beatz. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


THE KEY WORD for the sixth Brooklyn Artists Ball was vanilla.

It’s not that Wednesday’s annual gala at the Brooklyn Museum was a white-bread affair. Diversity, if not parity, distinguished the 750 collectors and artist guests. I am referring to the evening’s dress code: WHITE HOT.

“You’ll see why when we go in for dinner,” said Anne Pasternak of her first gala since becoming the museum’s director. After twenty-five years’ experience heading up fundraisers for Creative Time, Pasternak was accustomed to the rigors of New York social life. But Brooklyn’s requires some getting used to.

“It’s too early for white,” wailed the collector Jamie Hort, echoing the sentiments of a number of others present, most of whom complied. “I can’t even imagine you in white,” Jeffrey Deitch told Vito Acconci, the Brooklyn-based artist-turned-architect who appeared in his uniform black-on-black. (Deitch wore a navy blue suit, as did the other man in Acconci’s party, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach.)

Kasseem Dean, the Bronx-born board member better known as Swizz Beatz, split the difference with a black-and-white, floral-patterned dinner jacket with lapels so wide and pointy that they nearly grazed his shoulders. “Tom Ford,” he said, sounding as if he were apologizing for his extravagance. (He must still be unaccustomed to the art world.)

Left: Collector Tiffany Zabludowicz. Right: Artists Pattie Cronin, Fred Tomaselli, and Deborah Kass with Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak.


Other gala-goers also bucked the crema tide but not enough to imply that this was the tide-bucking Brooklyn of Bernie Sanders, who had rallied so many thousands in the borough before losing the New York primary to Hillary Clinton just the day before. “I’m tired after yesterday,” said Laurie Cumbo, who represents the museum’s district on the New York City Council. “But it’s all great.”

It was only a week into Nancy Spector’s job as the Brooklyn Museum’s chief curator, and a day after news broke that one of her parting shots from a seventeen-year run at the Guggenheim Museum was to bring Maurizio Cattelan out of retirement to install (permanently) an eighteen-karat gold toilet in a rotunda bathroom. She flashed a broad grin. “The timing was incredible,” she said, referring to Donald Trump’s taste for gold bathroom fixtures. What will she bring to Brooklyn?

This was not my first Artists Ball. Yet at no time in the evening could I shake the feeling that I had crossed from Manhattan to Brooklyn and somehow landed out of town.

“We live in Long Island,” said Jill Bernstein, another board member and, according to Tiffany Zabludowicz, the person who got her mother started as an art collector. “It’s true,” Bernstein told the younger Zabludowicz. “And your father is still speaking to me.”

Left: Con Edison arts and culture manager Alton Murray and New York City Council member (35th District, Brooklyn) Laurie Cumbo. Right: Brooklyn Museum chief curator Nancy Spector and artist Duke Riley.


We were standing in the museum’s lobby, where curator Eugenie Tsai had arrayed the eighteen, jerry-built works in “Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective, 1999–2016,” and where they looked better than anywhere else to date.

Super huge plywood speakers stood on either side of a bar that bore the presidential seal, kitted out for the night with the decks where Swizz Beatz would guest DJ the after-dinner dance party. The speakers, dealer Sarah Hoover (Sachs’s wife) told me, replicated the ones Hitler used for rallies. Same dimensions, different materials—cut-up wooden barriers stolen from Con Edison construction sites. I wondered how Alton Murray, Con Ed’s arts and culture manager, felt about that?

Off the lobby, artist Will Cotton manned a booth to make Polaroid portraits of guests, while cocktails were served by waiters in white Tyvek lab coats contributed by Sachs, who was enjoying his de facto opening despite having to shepherd his parents through the crowd. Such is the life of a man in demand. Sachs currently has another exhibition at the Noguchi Museum, where his “Tea Ceremony” represents the institution’s first solo by an artist other than Noguchi. And coming up he has yet another show, “Nuggets,” with Deitch.

“Hi, Tom!” shouted out Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and his wife Karin, both dressed in twin Tyvek suits in Sachs’s honor.

Left: Artist Sanford Biggers with photographer Mangue Banz, and Westfield World Trade Center Art Initiative director Isolde Brielmaier. Right: Courtney Crangi and Jenna Lyons.


Yet this Artists Ball weirdly had no artist honorees. Instead, accolades went to collectors Tim and Stephanie Ingrassia. She is the museum board’s president. He cochairs the global mergers and acquisitions division of Goldman Sachs. They live in Brooklyn.

Why did that feel clubbier than the Artists Ball I attended a few years ago, when a troupe of Brooklyn-based female artists not only anchored the dinner tables but also created the sculptures that were their centerpieces? This time out, a professional event designer, David Stark, fulfilled that task—with towering, Brancusi-inspired columns of stacked rolls of toilet tissue and paper towels. All would be remaindered to the museum’s bathrooms once the dinner was done.

That was economical, at least—they were actual rolls, not gold ones—but they caught the spirit. Many people thought Sachs had done them—at his studio, visitors ring a doorbell labeled BRANCUSI—but if he had been the hand behind the columns, no doubt he would have fashioned his own toilet paper out of duct tape and Styrofoam. After all, he’s an artist. The idea is not to pander but to transform.

And transformation is what Pasternak has been after. Already, she announced, the museum’s staff had reconfigured the Egyptian, European, and American art wings, which were open for the evening. The install is certainly cleaner—the American galleries seemed almost austere, not counting the large glitter portrait of a reclining woman by Mickalene Thomas that so dominates one of the galleries that the older paintings there look inconsequential. (They’re not.) The collection show spilled out into an exhibition of raucous color by graffiti artist Stephen Powers.

Left: Collectors Jay Bernstein and Jill Berstein. Right: Actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia.


Anyway, this was a fundraiser and it got the job done, bringing in $2.2. million. (Tables went from $15,000 to $100,000; individual tickets, for $1,500.) And Pasternak carried over a booster video of a sort that sometimes featured at her Creative Time benefits. This one was shot at the museum and featured the director, dealer Lucien Terras, and Sachs cavorting through white-walled galleries with white-garbed dancers.

That was fun, and most of all, very professional.

When I left, DJ Runna was on the decks, Swizz Beatz was holding the mic, and the dance floor back in the lobby was filling up with young people. That was fun too. And felt a little more like home.

Linda Yablonsky

Big Game

Dallas
04.22.16

Left: Artist Paola Pivi, Karma Lama, and Massimo De Carlo's Ludovica Barbieri at Dallas Contemporary. (Except where noted, all photos: Alex Fialho) Right: Dallas Art Fair cofounder Chris Byrne. (Photo: Kelly Cornell)


ANSWERS TO MY QUESTION “What’s the biggest thing at the Dallas Art Fair?” ranged widely: “Socialite updos.” “Plastic surgery bills.” “Howard Rachofsky’s impressive art collection.” “Howard Rachofsky’s checkbook.” “Paola Pivi’s airplane sculpture.” “The Dallas Arts District.” “Stefan Simchowitz’s ego.” “Dan Colen’s paintings.” “Dan Colen’s…” well, let’s just say feet. All, save the last, were on exorbitant display during the eighth Dallas Art Fair last weekend. Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Early talk around the fair dilated on outfits for Thursday night’s preview gala. “I just came from Art Basel Hong Kong, and by comparison Dallas—the colors, the dresses, the bling—feels like being on LSD,” joked Gagosian’s George Armaos. With the first season of Real Housewives of Dallas premiering on Bravo earlier in the week, you could have mistaken opening night for a Season Two casting call.

Over-the-top outfits aside, the Dallas collector community should be commended for its civic-minded disposition and collaborative attitude to charitable causes. The Rachofskys lead the way in this regard, hosting the longstanding annual TWO x TWO fundraiser supporting AIDS research. And in 2005, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky, along with other mega-collectors Deedie and Rusty Rose and Marguerite and Robert Hoffman, announced the eventual donation of their collections to the Dallas Museum of Art. This energy of coming together to lift up the city’s art scene was an ebullient throughline to the weekend.

Left: Collector Howard Rachofsky with his Thomas Schutte sculpture at The Warehouse. Right: Cernuda Arte’s Luisa Lignarolo.


An influential new initiative, the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition Program, extended the synergy between collectors and the Dallas Art Museum. The program provides the DMA with $50,000 in acquisition funds, from which they made a smart selection of works from four artists / galleries: Lina Puerta’s collagraphs from Geary Contemporary in New York City, Merlin James’s gorgeous frame painting from Kerlin Gallery in Dublin, Michelle Grabner’s bronze sculpture from Green Gallery in Milwaukee, and Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s gridded funerary relic from Lawrie Shabibi in Dubai.

Lawrie Shabibi cofounder William Lawrie said the DMA initiative brought incredible amounts of attention to their booth (weavings by Farhad Ahrarnia were also noteworthy). He extolled Dallas collectors’ real investment as well as sense of humor and lack of pretension. “They are really into taking the piss here in Dallas.”

But the weekend’s most talked-about moment came Saturday afternoon with the Nasher Sculpture Center’s star-studded “Agents, Advisors, Devils, and Apostates: The New Art World,” a panel featuring dealer Paul Schimmel, Amy Cappellazzo, and collector Stefan Simchowitz, moderated by writer Sarah Thornton. One got the sense that Cappellazzo and Schimmel would have happily towed the party line had it not been for lightning rod Simchowitz challenging them (or, more accurately, cutting them off) at every turn. On-stage eye-rolling abounded, including during Schimmel and Thornton’s important defense of traditional channels for scholarship and legitimation via public institutions, against Simchowitz’s posturing for an amoral art world “flattening” cultural distribution between collectors and museums. Despite Simchowitz’s imploring the panel to talk about something other than Warhol and Jeff Koons, the conversation continually returned to none other than… Jeff Koons. “Koons turns those fabricators into his bitches,” at one point Schimmel said, unfortunately, to which Cappellazzo coolly quipped: “God bless the bitches.”

Left: Collector Stefan Simchowitz, dealer Paul Schimmel, Amy Cappellazzo, and writer Sarah Thornton. Right: Artist Dan Colen with dealer Sam Orlofsky.


Unsurprisingly, Cappellazzo’s intelligence and economic acumen impressed throughout, and at one point she described the free-for-all as a “semiotic unfolding of the theatrics of a panel.” Yet she lost points with some when she claimed, “I feel sorry for lots of artists. Just because you weren’t good at math doesn’t mean you don’t need to understand the laws of supply and demand and business tenets to help the way you strategize your making of things.” Talk after the event was divided: Multiple artists said they left early, one calling it “soul-sucking.” Art advisor John Connelly called it “seminal.” More than anything, I found myself questioning the central perspective: If “The New Art World” is one of “Agents, Advisors, Devils and Apostates,” where exactly are the artists?

I was rushed off to Southern Methodist University by Noah Simblist, whip-smart chair of the university’s art department, to answer just that question. The SMU MFA thesis show, with tongue-in-cheek, absurdist performance-based work and a collaborative exhibition model, could not have felt more removed from the fair. I just missed Andy Davis’s performance, but was partly relieved for the scheduling conflict; perhaps without hearing Cappellazzo’s strategizing “advice,” the bank accounts of these young artists won’t rival those of their more commercially minded counterparts. But I left encouraged by their distance from the up-front commodification just down the road.

Artist-run spaces are vital in Dallas—the fair probably could have done a better job incorporating these local voices, platforms, and programming. Most impressive was CentralTrak, an artist residency and exhibition space now in its tenth year, partly affiliated with the University of Texas Dallas. Run by the charismatic Heyd Fontenot, CentralTrak’s “visual arts roast” exhibition of longtime Dallas artist duo and couple Brian Scott and Brian Jones displayed camaraderie and community perspective. Fontenot hilariously equated the Dallas art scene’s communal vibe with Amish barn-building: “I can’t build a barn on my own, so this week let’s build my space, and next week I’ll help build and support yours.”

Other notable on-the-ground spaces included the artist-run Beefhaus, the Power Station exhibition platform, the Reading Room project space, and the Wilcox Space, dedicated to the legacy of late Dallas-based artist John Wilcox. And this was just in the Fair Park/Deep Ellum neighborhood; other Dallas artist haunts include the Bishop Arts District and the Cedars. An Uber Hummer (only in Texas) delivered us back to the area for the “That That” party on Saturday, bringing the locals together until the wee hours of the morning.

Left: The Brians in their exhibition at CentralTrak. (Photo: Wayne Scott McDaniel) Right: CentralTrak’s Heyd Fontenot.


At the other end of the spectrum, the ritzy spectacle of the Joule Hotel’s Eye Ball rubbed many the wrong way. Can we all agree that gala planners should stop the rampant “people-as-sculptures” performance “concept”? Thanks in advance. A more creative party came in the form of artist Oliver Clegg’s rotating table sculpture for dealer Erin Cluley’s dinner, changing positions every twenty minutes and providing a welcome reprieve from unideal seating assignments.

By the end, every dealer I spoke with seemed happy with sales, and most were keen to return. A standout moment was self-taught Joe Minter’s assemblage sculpture from his expansive yard show “African Village in America” in Birmingham, Alabama, exhibited by Shrine’s Scott Ogden. Positioned at the fair’s entrance, Minter’s recast metal sculptures from basketball hoops, shovels, iron links, and more foregrounded the insidious history of slavery, described by Minter as the “trail of chains and shackles of American history.” The Met corroborates Minter’s significance, having recently acquired multiple Minter sculptures from the visionary Bill Arnett’s Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Cernuda Arte’s display of Cuban art including Wilfredo Lam and Robert Fabelo was another highlight, contexualizing their artists with labels and photographic portraits. I learned more in their booth alone than I did at the hip opening at Dallas Contemporary, whose trio of exhibitions of Dan Colen, Paola Pivi, and Helmut Lang filled the former factory with large-scale work. There we got to consider the range of Colen’s painting practice and also take in one of the first installations of Pivi’s Untitled (airplane) since Pivi was awarded the Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Biennale.

There’s still much to learn when it comes to these freewheeling social and speculative affairs. As Cappellazzo concluded at the Nasher: “The marketplace is the most interesting place right now. There isn’t a single area of cultural production unaffected by this moment of wild transition. The music industry already had it. Publishing, boy have they had it. The art world is next. Stay tuned.”

Alex Fialho

Left: Helmut Lang Sculpture at Dallas Contemporary. Right: Dallas Art Fair cofounder John Sughrue, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, and Dallas Museum of Art's Gavin Delahunty. (Photo: Daniel Driensky)


Seventh Heaven

Glasgow
04.20.16

Left: Actors Ande Pramuk and Catalin Jugravu with playwright/designer/director Leila Hekmat and actors Magdalena Mitterhofer and Roman Ole. Right: Glasgow International director Sarah McCrory. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


NO VIP TOUR. You picked up your map and your program on your own time and devised your own hunt for treasure among the ninety exhibitions and events taking place in the seventh Glasgow International.

In her second outing as director, former Frieze Projects curator Sarah McCrory worked with a staff of six to construct a bootstrapping, urban exposition in seventy-five sites around this hilly, Charles Rennie Mackintosh–appointed city on the River Clyde. No frills. No usual suspects.

The biennial revealed itself slowly—not just in art spaces like the Common Guild and the Kelvingrove or Hunterian galleries but in shop windows, the ruin of a church, a public library, a graveyard, a roller rink, in drafty warehouses, storage units, bars, schools, theaters, and even in private apartments.

In fact, this sprawling festival of visual art may be the homiest biennial ever to hit the world stage—through almost entirely local means. Actually, it was more like a referendum on biennials. And why they matter to small cities like this.

Most of the free-admission show’s two hundred artists come from the UK, evidently a requirement of its civic and arts council funders. That left it to galleries and to exhibitions that McCrory organized for her Director’s Program to bring in the foreign nationals.

Left: Artists Alexandra Bircken and Monika Sosnowska. Right: Artist Anne Hardy.


Mostly, this GI was about giving someone else a chance. No matter where they came from, that someone usually was a woman.

Quite literally, in the days following the April 7th professional preview, I could have counted the male artists selected to show on one hand. McCrory insisted that her biennial was not estrogen-heavy by design. “But,” she said, “I’m not against it.”

Nor was anyone else who came for the opening weekend that followed. Collectors and dealers were a small minority. Mainly, visitors were curators— – from Europe, Africa, and the US as well as the UK—or artists. That kept the general conversation focused on the subjects at hand—art, Glasgow, biennials—rather than the market. For Americans like me, the experience came with a bonus: For the first time in many months, I did not hear Donald Trump’s name mentioned once.

In the magnificent central hall of the Mitchell Library, the Canadian-born nomad Tamara Henderson had erected a garden of tall scarecrows to represent the seasons and phases of the moon. Each was sprouting plants and was costumed in hand-sewn, embroidered, and collaged fabrics that Henderson accumulated at residencies from Istanbul to Hospitalfields in Arbroath, Scotland. “You use what’s around,” she said, ducking into a hut with canvas walls that she painted to look like scratched negatives and that she made into a darkroom for developing images taken on site by a pinhole camera hidden in a pail.

Her show quickly became a popular social arena, no drinks allowed. There was a coffee bar, at least, at the festival hub, where several galleries were clustered. A new, dystopian sculpture by Monika Sosnowska—the black steel bones of a collapsed house by the utopian Polish architect Oskar Hansen—filled the Modern Institute space on Aird’s Lane with constructivist melancholy.

Left: Art patron Charles Asprey and artist Martin Boyce. Right: Dealer Toby Webster.


On a street corner in front of the gallery was an Instagram-ready road sign planted by Jeremy Deller. It read, BRIAN EPSTEIN DIED FOR YOU. That got a nod of recognition from Mary Zlot, the San Francisco–based collector and art advisor, who was visiting Glasgow for the first time in thirty years, accompanied by Gagosian director Robin Vousden.

It’s a wonder more people don’t come this way more often. Glasgow may be off the beaten track, but that’s one of its attractions, along with hundreds of artists—many of them graduates of the storied Glasgow School of Art—and occasional sunshine.

At the Glasgow Print Studio, Nicolas Party had painted the walls not in his customary bright colors but with gray and black designs to offset his first-ever show of mezzotints. Down the hall was Project Ability, a nonprofit for adults with mental or physical disabilities equivalent to San Francisco’s Creative Growth and New York’s Healing Arts Initiative.

From the latter, White Columns director Matthew Higgs brought portraits of bearded men by Derrick Alexis Coard to a show designed by Jim Lambie, who set colored balls into the walls to echo the drawings. But it was the affable Project Ability artist Cameron Morgan who took the cake with paintings of television shows like Tarzan, The A-Team, and Teletubbies. There was a show for each decade since the 1930s, each depicted on TVs that Morgan painted on wallpaper patterns he adapted from the style of each period. “I’m obsessed with television,” said the artist, who also makes ceramics and obviously has a feel for décor.

At Mary Mary, where dealer Hannah Robinson was showing popish paintings by New Yorker Emily Mae Smith, I ran into dealer Curt Marcus and Marrakech Biennial founder Vanessa Branson before moving next door to Matthew Smith’s debut with Koppe-Astner.

Left: Dealer Sylvia Kouvali and Jupiter Artland Foundation program coordinator John Heffernan. Right: Artist Cosima von Bonin.


Across a pedestrian bridge that would suit any cold-war spy movie was, by all accounts, the festival’s biggest surprise: a galvanizing loan show of paintings and books by the early twentieth-century eccentric, Louis Michel Eilshemius.

What was this doing here? Well, said artist Merlin James, who took it upon himself to bring the show to the house he shares with the unjustly underrecognized painter Carol Rhodes, “I think of Eilshemius as our eternal contemporary.”

Rhodes was also in the International. Andrew Mummery presented her paintings ( aerial views of construction sites), in a former courthouse undergoing inevitable conversion to gentrified apartments. It was right across the road from a forbidding, Brutalist jail. Talk about human intervention in nature.

After hitting a two-man show of sculpture and video by Toby Christian and Duncan Marquiss that took up an unheated townhouse, we reached the Glasgow Sculpture Studios in time for the cocktail opening of “You Be Frank and I’ll Be Earnest,” an ingenious pairing (by the nonprofit’s director, Kyla McDonald) of two women in residence, the veteran Liz Magor (another Canadian) and a young New Yorker, Alisa Baremboym. “It’s all about permeability and leakage,” Baremboym said of her vaguely feminine, steel, resin, and shrink-wrapped sculpture. “Can you guess which is Frank and which is Earnest?” McDonald quipped.

I hustled through an April shower to the Gallery of Modern Art, where McCrory was opening a mini-retrospective of deep sea–themed sculpture by Cosima von Bonin. The artist, in a hot pink fright wig, was recording a performance by a dance company called HotNuts on her iPhone, while Jamie Crewe (aka Poisonous Relationship) serenaded the large crowd while strolling through it.

Left: Dealer Nicky Verber. Right: Artist Duncan Campbell and Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi.


An impromptu cocktail party was soon underway at Regano, a nearby pub that reminded me somehow of Harry’s Bar in Venice. It must have been the crowd—the Modern Institute’s Toby Webster and Andrew Hamilton, dealers Sylvia Kouvali and Nicky Verber, Nottingham Contemporary curator Sam Thorne, The Gentlewoman editor-in-chief Penny Martin. Most would be among the thirty guests (including artists Alexandra Bircken, Sosnowska, and Deller) whom Webster and Hamilton invited to an informal dinner at an Indian restaurant that served long, thin tubes of the biggest papadums I’ve ever seen.

This was more like an art-fair social. At 10 PM, we peeled off for the GI’s opening party, a blowout at the School of Art that featured a psychedelic performance by Mega Hammer. Choreographed and designed by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, it suggested an evening at Burning Man crossed with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Next morning, a Friday, I woke up just in time for the lunch that Verber was giving at Gandolfi Fish for Bircken, whom McCrory had included in the group show opening that evening at Tramway. We arrived there in the silent hour before the opening, so we had the vast central hall of the former rail hub more or less to ourselves.

As the exhibition’s designer, artist Martin Boyce had divided the space into a generous maze of corrugated fiberglass screens. At one end were Bircken’s “trollies”—shelving systems of reclaimed steel rods, tree branches, nets, and wood planks set on the old tracks. They lead to a floor-to-ceiling, primary colored “chandelier” of gathered wool by Sheila Hicks, who also filled the old rails with red, yellow, and blue threads and sandbagged a wall with thick mounds of the wool. Pretty great.

Left: Artists Lawrence Lek and Amie Siegel. Right: Stedelijk Museum curator Bart van der Heide.


An animation by Lawrence Lek that was playing in an alcove told the story of a fictional voyage of the QE2 cruise ship from the Suez Canal, past boatloads of Syrian refugees, and back to Glasgow, where it was built, and replaces the School of Art’s Mackintosh building, which nearly burned down in a 2014 fire. (It’s now undergoing restoration.) Videos by Amie Siegel and Mika Rottenberg round out the show. Previously seen in New York, they were a revelation to fresh eyes here.

The evening brought openings curated by Lambie for two storage spaces beneath the arches of a railroad bridge in Finnieston, an industrial wasteland. For one, he contributed cut-up pieces of furniture and a silver foil couch to photographs by Royal Trux vocalist Jennifer Herrema, who also sent a scatter of wigs and doll parts. Every picture had a sculpture extending from it like the choo-choo flying out of the fireplace in René Magritte’s painting.

After Sosnowska’s opening at the Modern Institute, the gallery hosted the biggest dinner of the week in a decommissioned church designed by Mackintosh. Need I say it was gorgeous? I’ll say it anyway. It was gorgeous. And the farm-to-table food by a local caterer was delicious. Anyone not too drunk to go on made off for Lambie’s Poetry Club, a double-height nightclub in another arch down the street from his gallery, the Voidoid.

The rest of the weekend was about flaneuring through neighborhoods east (where Sol Calero outfitted David Dale Gallery with a set for a telenovela serial) and west, where Crabshakk emerged as the best seafood lunch counter on earth.

Saturday morning found me in Asprey’s company at Kelvin Hall, where the sound of a fife-and-drum parade on the street outside elevated our visit to a sculptural installation by Claire Barclay and a show of suspended paintings on unstretched canvas by Helen Johnson that—with Henderson’s exhibition, the one at Tramway, and a group of ceramics by Aaron Angell in a botanic garden—won the consensus as the top draws of the biennial.

Left: Glasgow Sculpture Studio director Kyla McDonald with artists Liz Magor and Alisa Baremboym. Right: Dealer Pauline Daly.


My own favorite moments came with under-the-radar biennial projects that summed up the whole experience: Young artists unaffiliated with any galleries doing it for themselves.

First, I stumbled on ’Scape, a startling installation of painting, photography, and sculpture in a townhouse near the University of Glasgow, where three young women (former schoolmates Ruth Switalski, Marion Ferguson and Belinda Gilbert Scott) had established a nonprofit exhibition space to show the work of other emergent talents as well as their own. I thought it was fabulous.

Even more fun was Sam Venables, a young woman with a mop of yellow hair who calls herself a “visual merchandiser.” She was launching a new company, It’s Friday, by inviting four young collectives from around the UK to make work for the windows of vacant, street-level storefronts below a parking garage next to a McDonald’s.

“This one got me into so much trouble with the tabloids,” Venables said of a storefront full of cardboard boxes by Littlewhitehead of Glasgow. Flopped between them were the bodies of four men in jeans and hoodies, either passed out or dead. (They were actually dummies, but they looked mighty real.) “Kids love it,” Venables told me, “but the neighbors called the police and tried to put up barriers.”

This is a good kind of trouble. “I think the biennial gives you a feeling of optimism,” said Sylvia Kouvali on Sunday afternoon, when curator John Heffernan drove us to Jupiter Art Land, a sculpture park outside of Edinburgh on the 120-acre estate of collectors Nicky and Robert Wilson. Stedelijk Museum curator Bart van der Heide rode shotgun.

Left: Hospitalfield director Lucy Byatt and artist Tamara Henderson. Right: DJ Johnnie Wilkes.


The idea, Heffernan said, was to commission site-specific work from artists who have never made work for outdoors or are new to the scene. They didn’t all fit that bill, but it didn’t matter. Among the park’s works was a cemetery (by Nathan Coley) that van der Heide deemed “creepy,” a Temple of Apollo by Ian Hamilton Finlay, and an earthwork by Charles Jencks. Our hands-down favorites were the stones Andy Goldsworthy set into coppiced trees, and a ravishing cave of amethyst crystals topped with obsidian rocks by Anya Gallaccio.

After a rapid tour of the once-every-five-year British Art Show in Edinburgh, I raced back to Koppe-Astner in Glasgow to join Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi for the final performance of The French Mistake, a three-character musical play directed and designed by the Berlin-based American, Leila Hekmat. It owed a considerable debt to the camp of Jack Smith, but what the hell. I’m all for keeping transgression alive and well.

That evening, McCrory invited visiting curators and artists to a farewell dinner with local dealers at Drygate Brewery. It felt like a meeting of great minds dedicated to a common purpose—advancing contemporary art over beer and burgers.

“The point isn’t just to shake things up,” McCrory said of her youthful show. “The point is to show what’s already here.”

Linda Yablonsky

Fifty Shades of Great

Cologne
04.20.16

Left: Curator Kasper König with artist Julia Scher. Right: Coco Schmitz. (All photos: Arielle Bier)


“ARE YOU HERE to buy a car?” asked a dapper Frenchman waiting in line last Wednesday for the fiftieth anniversary of Art Cologne.

He was referring to Stuart Ringholt’s compact automobiles bearing cynical license plates like CURATOR or ART CRITIC parked at the entrance to the shiny Koelnmesse. There was a time when such “critical” gestures weren’t just de rigueur but actually meant something. Like in 1970, when Wolf Vostell, Helmut Rywelski, and Joseph Beuys staged a protest demanding rights for artists and publishers to be allowed into the fair, literally banging on the windows with keys and pushing their way in past a flabbergasted Rudolf Zwirner, setting the stage for new models of bringing artists into conversation with the business of art.

Consider that Art Cologne was the first ever contemporary and modern art fair in the world, one that has survived and succeeded through five decades of peaks and nadirs. After German reunification in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the art market crashed. “Imagine, you’re at the top of the scene and when you fall, you fall the hardest. The art market was dead for six years,” said fair director Daniel Hug who took the reins between 2007–2008, during another market dip, and reestablished Art Cologne as an international touchstone.

Left: Outside the fiftieth Art Cologne. Right: Dealer Max Mayer and Art Cologne director Daniel Hug.


Amid the recent disclosures around the Panama Papers and the “Nazi-looted” Modigliani seized at the Geneva Freeport, I was prepared for conversations about money-laundering and tax evasion. But the closest reference was the inclusion of Panamarenko’s Panama: Aeromodeller I (Model for aircraft), 1984, part of the fair’s featured exhibition “Eins, zwei Wechselschritt,” curated by Ellen de Bruijne and Stella Lohaus, surveying fifty years of avant-garde art across Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. “That was a happy coincidence,” de Bruijne said. The curators articulated the path from a male-oriented art world that once spotlighted Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, and Stanley Brouwn to a woman-oriented present with Sine Van Menxel, Melanie Bonajo, and Nora Schultz. De Bruijne and Lohaus slipped in their own agenda, arguing that, as the popular Otherwild T-shirt has it, the future is female.

“I’ve been coming here with my parents since the ’70s,” said dealer Alex Duve, asserting his family ties with Art Cologne. He went so far as to bring an old fair catalogue from 1986, proudly displayed at his booth. But there were also relative newcomers, like New York’s Kate Werble, who first exhibited here two years ago, bringing small works in a suitcase to save on transportation, and who recently joined the selection committee for the fair’s “New Contemporaries” section. Part of what’s maintained Art Cologne’s success is Hug’s emphasis on new faces and youthful energy. Since 2012, the “Collaborations” section, run with NADA, has itself become a signature. Blood doping may be taboo in sports, but in the art world it’s a necessity.

At Deborah Schamoni, I caught a glimpse of AA Bronson and Keith Boadwee’s red-and-brown tartan paintings and Judith Hopf’s concrete snake sculptures. Are those from their collaboration at the Salzburger Kunstverein, where they shat paint onto canvases? “Yes, they’ve been very popular,” Schamoni said. “I would have sold two more, but then I show people the book and they are disgusted.”

Left: Dealers Filippo Weck, Peter Currie, and Daniel Buchholz with artists Richard Hawkins and Isa Gensken. Right: Artist Jacqueline Humphries.


Further along, I ran into Julia Scher who ran into the legendary Kaspar König who was promoting his new book Best Art: The Life of Kaspar König in Fifteen Exhibitions. He guided her to his table so he could personally sign and gift her a copy. “Where are you off to Julia?” König asked. Assuming her most convincing Dinglish accent, Scher replied, “Vee have to go to Ludwig Museum so vee can see ein film, und dann parties later.”

But even before that we were off to catch Anne Imhof’s choreographed Overture, at Galerie Buchholz’s Elisenstraße location. Zombie crowds followed entranced performers conducting banal gestures, slo-mo, to a moody Game of Thrones–style soundtrack. Terrified falcons were tied to poles, Pepsi cans were opened in sequence, gum was chewed, skin was shaved, and collector Mera Rubell shot a video of her husband Don watching it all.

Around the corner, Richard Hawkins’s exhibition opened at Buchholz’s other location behind the Antiquariat. Ogling the fine wares in the bookstore, a young woman whispered, “You have to be quiet here, this place is sacred.” Ancient Antonin Artaud publications and works on paper dotted the countertops in alignment with Hawkins’s exhibition “Being and its Fetuses,” featuring densely textured ceramic wall works influenced by an eponymous Artaud drawing. We finished up with Jacqueline Humphries’s show of luscious abstract paintings at Gisela Capitain.

After, we retired to the Wolkenburg for an elegant dinner hosted by Capitain, Buchholz, and David Zwirner. The medieval monastery-cum-hospital-cum–music school–cum–restaurant now boasts “modern lighting and air conditioning,” according to its website. Who could pass up such a treat? We gathered under a tent in the courtyard until a hefty gong rang and Capitain gracefully waved the guests inside.

Left: Mera Rubell films Anne Imhof's Overture at Galerie Buchholz. Right: Anne Imhof's Overture at Galerie Buchholz.


Juicy conversation accompanied the succulent steaks. I spoke with model agent Eva Gödel, who staffed Rick Owens’s runway with young men willing to don genital-exposing tunics during Paris fashion week. “You should have seen the email thread titled Rick’s Dicks!” Talk quickly turned to more serious topics, with Brussels-based artist Lucy McKenzie speaking about the safety issues facing visitors heading to Art Brussels and Independent this week. “I just came to see Hawkins’s show. Traveling to Brussels is still a mess.”

Suddenly a video message popped up on my phone of Kasper König dancing at the Gürzenich banquet hall, site of the official Art Cologne party. “Who’s DJing?” asked ex-Forsythe Company dancer Josh Johnson. I had no idea, but decided the chandeliers were worth the trip. Anyhow, the Gürzenich was the site of the first Kunstmarkt in 1967—it seemed appropriate to pay homage. By the time we arrived, the crowd had mostly retired, leaving a few stragglers still hashing out sales.

When the emptiness got to be too much, we gathered a posse and repaired to MD Bar, passing ruins of former Roman city walls and under the thirteenth-century Hahnentor castle gate. There we found retired curator Veit Loers lurking in the darkened cocktail bar at 3 AM, just arrived from Venice with the Fridericianum’s Susanne Pfeffer. “In my generation, I worked with Kippenberger, Koons, and Förg,” he said. “Nobody cares about these people anymore,” though he finished on an optimistic note, describing his admiration for Neďl Beloufa.

Left: Artists Christian Jankowski and Thomas Zipp. Right: Dealer Deborah Schamoni and artist Jonathan Penca.


I decided to brave the basement of COCO Schmitz down the road, where I found a hot-tub-sized dance floor full of sweaty artists and writers grinding to 1990s soft rock and disco. “I’ve got a drunk artist sleeping in my bed,” said a desperate dealer perched at the bar. “Do you have an extra hotel room?” Another girl leaned over, “Sorry buddy. Better try your luck with the coat-check trick and take whatever’s left at the end of the night.”

Finally, at 5 AM, we rolled up to Schampanja, a dive bar where some of the Buchholz crew headed after dinner. The door opened to expose a topless dance party inside as a young reveler fell onto the street.

“Where are you going?” we asked, offering our cab.

“Düsseldorf.”

“Now? Well, we’re going inside.”

“Ok, never mind, I’m coming with you.”

We’ll remain mum about further transgressions, but will mention that even at this late hour we indulged in some lively banter about the growing American love affair with Broodthaers since his retrospective opened at MoMA. “It’s all in the language. He’s closer to a stand-up comic than anything else!” shouted one Belgian curator as a sportive bartender deep-throated a bottle of Kölsch. I raised my own glass: “Prost”—to fifty more years.

Arielle Bier

Left: NADA organizers Heather Hubbs, Thomas Ahlgren, and Zack Tornaben. Right: Artist Christopher Williams.


Whatever Works

North Adams, Massachusetts
04.18.16

Left: Americo Da Corte and artist Alex Da Corte. Right: Alex Da Corte's “Free Roses.”


MORE NIGHTS THAN NOT THIS PAST WINTER, Amanda Bates, a bartender at Public in North Adams, Massachusetts, would see her favorite new customer, Alex Da Corte. He would walk in from the museum across the street, where he and his two assistants and a team of seven workers were installing his eight-room survey, “Free Roses,” and order a glass of sangiovese or a mezcal with ice, depending on his stress levels. By the time it got to be spring, she was pouring a fair amount of mezcal, but she never saw him drunk. She would ask him about work; he would complain, gently, about a lack of sleep or a supply problem or a color or a part that wasn’t working. Then he’d say, tell me about you. A bartender is often a therapist, historically speaking, but it was Bates who began to catch transference. The girls at Public would go, “Why don’t you just ask him if he’s gay?” Bates wouldn’t do that, but she did tell me, with her bright admixture of sincerity and deadpan exaggeration, that she’s “irrevocably in love with the man.”

Bates knew she wasn’t alone. We were standing in a great long hall Saturday night at MASS MoCA, one of the biggest and best-looking museums in the country, with “Free Roses” and Sarah Crowner’s “Beetles in the Leaves” open upstairs and the party for Da Corte and Crowner all around. Twenty-nine minutes out of thirty, someone or other was hugging or kissing Da Corte or thanking him profusely, and in the thirtieth minute, Da Corte, who at thirty-five is young for his success, was drinking from the secret tequila the bartenders were keeping for him behind the wine. A group of his friends from New York—the artist Sam McKinniss, the writer Al Bedell, the artist Elaine Cameron-Weir, the artist Borna Sammak (Da Corte’s collaborator), and so on—were joking-ish about how they would propose to him, a sudden tinkling of glasses, an announcement to make, we’ve never known anyone as kind and tall and patient and like a hot dad who’s also a genius as you, Alex Da Corte, so will you marry us, what do you say.

Left: Jayson Musson. Right: Musician Naeem Juwan aka Spank Rock and artist Scott Ross.


It did feel like a wedding reception. There was a white-clothed buffet table of chicken tacos with what a sign referred to as “Latino-spiced rice and beans,” a liberally seasoned upgrade, you presume, from the erstwhile Hispanic-spiced variety. There was the slow-drifting tinsel noise of adult pop from elevated speakers. Plus, there was the fact that half the guests were in from out of town. A good few, like the rapper Naeem Juwan aka Spank Rock, had come from Philadelphia, where Da Corte lives. Da Corte’s family, in which three different males are named Americo, had come from New Jersey. Several top curators were in attendance, like Chrissie Iles from the Whitney and Massimiliano Gioni from the New Museum and the High Line’s Cecilia Alemani, and so was a contingent from Luxembourg & Dayan, where Da Corte had a big-hit solo show last year. Susan Cross, the curator at MASS MoCA, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a massive rose, which looked in the middle like a vulva when she pinched it and stretched it out, laughing. Bates’s gift for Da Corte was a T-shirt that said SHOW ME YOUR KITTIES, because he specializes in the terrible pun, as well in the sexualized pet.

Like a lot of the people who know him and a few who don’t, Bates lasted less than ten minutes in the show before getting emotional, and another fifteen or twenty before deciding to come back the next day, or the day after that, to try to absorb the whole saturnalia in peace. One of Da Corte’s collaborators, Jayson Musson, spent most of the night leaning against walls, mostly because leaning against walls is just what he likes, but also because the installations are vertiginous enough to make giants reel. Da Corte is the greatest to ever do it, which is a direct quote from another of his collaborators, Dev Hynes, sent to me by text from LA. The “it” that Da Corte is doing, with all the hot trash at his disposal, all the compromising evidence of youth, is as much for people who never really go to see art as it is for people who only ever seem to see art. People floated up from the dinner, getting stuck in front of the three malevolent videos of “Night in Hell / Delirium,” a room laminated in jagged black-and-white-and-purple tessellations, or the absurdly sad 2010 Chelsea Hotel No. 2, named for the Leonard Cohen song that soundtracks its splashes of meat and stuff. 

Alex Da Corte, A Season in Hell, 2012.

“I’m going to cry again,” said Bates, thinking about the white plastic swans holding candles in a neon pink-lit, Plexiglas pond. “My grandmother had those exact swans in a pond in her front yard, with all these hydrangeas, and she’d always let the hydrangeas die, and she’d never throw them out. Every piece in the show gives me a memory like that. It’s all these things I thought were dead or forgotten or no one else remembered them, but that’s just like Alex. He remembers everything.”

When Bates first got to know Da Corte for real, it was when a guy on Tinder was messaging her all the time, and she thought she was into it, but she didn’t know how to respond. The guy lived an hour away. “I’m outgoing, but I’m not that spontaneous,” she said. “But I told Alex about the guy, and he was just like, do it! Whatever! But do it now! It’s hard to explain, because it’s not what he says, it’s like, he says it and you feel like you can do it. He brings out the whatever in you.” Bates says whatever in the voice you would use to order another bottle of champagne at T.G.I. Friday’s before the strip club. She’s now in mad happiness with the Tinder guy, like five-hours-on-the-phone, drive-to-see-him-at-four-in-the-morning happiness. Recall the first time you felt that alight in your head, but imagine you also knew that feelings cause cancer, albeit a form of cancer curable by ecstasy: I can’t better describe the sensations of Da Corte’s work.

Left: Artist Borna Sammak. Right: Curator Linda Norden.


Da Corte himself walked through the door of the Mohawk Tavern, another bar right across the street, a few minutes after the opening ended, and bowed a little like a young Marc Jacobs at the sweetest applause. Bates handed Da Corte a drink, and Da Corte, for whom it was already too much, insisted I have it. The next morning, in the parking lot of the museum, he would take a bouquet he’d been given and toss it out the window of his van as he drove away: “Free roses!” Whatever! Rolling her eyes, Bates said, “He introduced me to his mom tonight, and I can’t even buy him a drink.” Da Corte put his number in her phone.

I asked her, when Da Corte was elsewhere again, what she had said to his mom. You’re probably not going to believe this, but I did. She wasn’t exaggerating. “Oh,” said Bates, “I told her he changed my life.”

Sarah Nicole Prickett

Left: Artist Sam McKinniss. Right: Writer and dealer William Pym with Alex Da Corte.


Party Politics

Săo Paulo
04.16.16

Left: Dealer Nara Roesler and collector Ella Cisneros-Fontanals. Right: SP-Arte director Fernanda Feitosa and Heitor Martins. (Photos: Denise Andrade)


IN BRAZIL, when things go badly you make it into a party. Take the infamous 1919 carnival after the Spanish Flu, or the recent protests calling for impeachment—or protests of those calls for impeachment—which often devolve into long, beer-soaked nights. So perhaps it’s no surprise that this year’s SP-Arte, Latin America’s largest art fair, held in the middle of the country’s worst recession in decades and political upheaval, charged on with a determined gaiety.

The lines of communication appeared aggressively open to the friendlier, more stable market in North America: The fair’s talks program focused on the Americas, with forums on the Cuban art scene and the Getty’s LA/LA initiative for 2017. The weekend before the fair, Nara Roesler opened a show of Cuban artist René Francisco, his first with the gallery, curated by collector Ella Cisneros-Fontanals.

“I had never curated a show before,” Cisneros-Fontanals told us. Would she ever do it again? “No!” The opening was followed by a lavish party at Nara’s Ruy Ohtake–designed home. On the roof deck, complete with a lap pool, director Daniel Roesler mused about Brazil’s current drama—which from that particular perch seemed very far away. “It’s a messy time.”

Left: Dealers Pedro Mendes, Magę Abŕtayguara, and Matthew Wood. Right: Pivô founder Fernanda Brenner. (Photos: Alexandra Pechman)


So look away. Roesler has a new space in New York’s Flower District. Mendes Wood DM joins them on the Upper East Side in the fall, and during the fair Mendes Wood and Michael Werner (say that five times fast) had a joint booth and also cohosted a party at the Copan Building Monday night.

Despite the downturn, new efforts continue to pop up on the domestic front: The week saw the opening of Luciana Brito’s new jewel of a gallery space in a former 1950s modernist home; Galeria Vermelho’s cinema space; and the opening of three shows at Videobrasil, just inaugurated last year. “Everyone is asking about the crisis,” Alexandre Gabriel of Fortes Vilaça told me on Monday night. “But here, life goes on.”

Later that night we landed a tour of Erika Verzutti’s new show “Swan, Cucumber, Dinosaur” at lodestar nonprofit Pivô. “They’re different notes to the idea of feeling the space with monsters,” Verzutti said of the massive, painted Styrofoam forms. Maybe a fairy-tale is the best response to a crisis. Another worthy example was South African artist Haroon Gunn-Salie’s show at Videobrasil. The exhibition recreated testimony about the mining dam break and resulting catastrophe in Mariana last year, which has been somewhat lost in the storm of other troubles. A victim donated a ruined home that stands in the middle of the space. “There's nothing more urgent,” Gunn-Salie said of the disaster.

Left: Artist Emmanuel Nassar. (Photo: Denise Andrade) Right: Sao Paulo Bienal curator Jochen Volz. (Photo: Pedro Costa Barros)


At the fair’s opening on Wednesday, blissful ignorance was more the norm. At the entrance, a Maison Perrier-Jouët–sponsored installation spurted bubbles onto entrants. The Open Plan sector of commissioned works, curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, billed itself as an “exception area– as Visconti said, there was no defining theme. Rather, the section was a way to invite international dealers who may have been worried about the moment in terms of sales. A fine showing of foreign galleries still came—thirty-eight, some for the first time, such as Michael Werner and Simon Preston. White Cube, which had recently closed its Săo Paulo space, also brought a booth.

Săo Paulo Bienal curator Jochen Volz arrived at the fair on his way to Accra for a site visit. He spoke of “the contamination” of certain words meant to illuminate Incerteza Viva (Live Uncertainty), the title of this year’s show, given the political turmoil. “A lot of the words we’ve used have changed,” he said, noting that the word “measure” has come to characterize governmental measures—or, one could argue, inefficacy. “The word ‘uncertainty’ is more in use.”

Stephen Friedman’s booth focused on David Shrigley, who has never had a major show in Latin America. A drawing of a dirty pig announced: I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE / FOR THE MESS THAT I MAKE. The artist’s simplification of chaos into cartoonish ignorance struck a chord.

Some Brazilian galleries addressed the day more head on. At Casa Triangulô, Ivan Grilo’s plaque announcing AMANHA VAI SER MAIOR (TOMORROW WILL BE BIGGER) was a callback to Brazil’s 2013 protests—now gold-plated and for sale. Rio de Janeiro’s Portas Vilaseca showed photographs by Iris Helena of crumbling buildings in the northern state of Paraíba—inkjet on toilet paper. “If we sell everything, we can party,” Jaime Portas Vilaseca told me.

Left: Dealers Simon Preston and Paula Naughton. Right: Thereza Farkas of Videobrasil. (Photos: Alexandra Pechman)


SP-Arte founder and director Fernanda Feitosa wore a star-spangled dress and galactic diamond-and-pearl earrings as she admitted it was the first year the fair did not increase in size. She noted the year had brought, if not the biggest fair, the largest number of visiting journalists. “Everything now is political,” she said. “The topic this week will be art.”

And so art it was, as much as politics can be divorced from it. A party on Thursday at the home of Feitosa and her husband Heitor Martins, president of the Museu de Arte de Săo Paul (MASP), followed that museum’s opening of “Histórias da infância,” a show literally about naiveté, uniting images of childhood from every corner of art history.

The fair’s wildest parties though were held over the weekend. Friday saw collectors Maguy and Jean Marc Etlin as well as Fabio Faisal and Tera Queiroz hold back-to-back celebrations—easy enough to navigate since they live almost next door to each other. The Etlins honored Dalton Paula’s solo project at Sé Gallery (winner of the fair’s Illy Sustain Art Prize) with a dinner, while Faisal’s late-night dance party didn’t begin until midnight. We heard from artist Marcos Chaves that the latter didn’t end until almost 7 AM—and of course there was the requisite mass dip in the pool. Things showed no sign of slowing down Saturday, when Mendes Wood held its much-anticipated annual party. Usually held at Wood and Mendes’s home, this year the gallery opted for a meaningful, and more massive, choice of venue: Lina Bo Bardi’s exquisite experimental space Teatro Oficina. It’s one of Bo Bardi’s few high-profile buildings—her leftist politics put her at odds with the military dictatorship and its supporters. So that party was maybe a tip of the hat to her spirit, in the wake of pro-democracy protests against a potential coup—though by midnight it was all but anarchy.

“This is a curation of one thousand people. I looked at hundreds of names,” Wood told me at the party, as people flooded onto rafters and beams and into the sprawling backyard. “These are the one thousand people you want to meet in Săo Paulo.”

I only met a dozen or so that night—a daunting enough task in itself. By the time I left, it was a little after 5 AM. I was just in time to miss the sobering light of day, or something like reality.

Alexandra Pechman

Left: Dealer Jaime Portas Vilaseca. Right: Artist Erika Verzutti. (Photos: Alexandra Pechman)


Mi Oh Mi

Milan
04.14.16

Left: Artist Sheila Hicks and Pier Luigi Loro Piana. Right: MiArt deputy director Alessandro Rabottini with MiArt artistic director and Walker Art Center curator Vincenzo de Bellis.


LANDING IN MILAN LAST WEEK for the twenty-first edition of MiArt, the city seemed lit by a new fire. Had last spring’s opening of the gilded new Fondazione Prada ignited a fresh fervor? Or had the influential galleries enlivening Italy’s financial center simply struck a golden mean between the historic and the contemporary?

The excitement was more than evident among the crowd at Wednesday’s opening for Carsten Höller’s survey at HangarBicocca, the massive exhibition space in a former Pirelli plant on the far north side of town. I was practically swallowed up by the scores of locals queuing up to enter an illuminated tunnel leading to a funhouse of the artist’s most memorable works: mushrooms, amusement-park rides, and all. 

I fought my way through the hoi polloi and back to the city center, where two generations of galleries were inaugurating new spaces on the eve of the fair. Massimo De Carlo launched a Rudolf Stingel show in his second Milan space, near La Scala, in a palazzo designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, and Federico Vavassori opened an elegant exhibition of Emil Michael Klein on the first floor of an apartment building near the Castello. I dipped into Gió Marconi to catch a healthy suite of Günther Förg paintings from the early 2000s before heading off to De Carlo. Arriving at the strike of 8 PM, a posse of late-comers was politely turned away. “What, are we in Zurich now?” one joked.

Left: Dealers Cora Muennich and Emanuela Campoli. Right: Dealer Chiara Repetto.


Thursday morning was game day: the opening of the fair. While MiArt is something of a regional event, with Italians comprising roughly two-thirds of its 150-plus participating galleries, the crowd (curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Jens Hoffmann and artist Sheila Hicks, among others) and creative layout projects an impressive cosmopolitanism and curatorial cogency. News broke just the other week that this would be the last edition helmed by artistic director Vincenzo de Bellis, who has been appointed curator of visual arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I caught the Warhol Foundation’s Joel Wachs taking a breather during the preview, who shared that the efforts of Alessandro Rabottini, MiArt’s deputy director, justified the jaunt from New York. Indeed de Bellis and Rabottini engineered a system that exceeds expectations.

Two curated sections in particular offered more than the standard, siloed merchandising. THENnow featured sincere syntheses between “historical” artists and those working today, via pairings made by LACMA’s Jarrett Gregory and the Walker’s Pavel Pyś. A standout was Campoli Presti and Galleria dello Scudo, respectively showing Nick Mauss and the late Viennese-born Milanese painter Gastone Novelli. The more ingenious section was Decades, selected by Alberto Salvadori of the Museo Marino Marini in Florence. As the name suggests, participating galleries presented group shows of work, culled from their own stables, representing bygone pockets of the twentieth century. Richard Saltoun’s “The Body as Language,” featuring 1970s works by twenty female performance artists, was a superlative survey for a fair. However, it was bested for the Premio Herno prize by Wilkinson’s more succinct and interdisciplinary presentation of ’80s works by Jimmy De Sana, Joan Jonas, Laurie Simmons, and others, inspired by a cover of the short-lived ZG Magazine.

Left: Dealer Maggie Kayne and Hammer curator Aram Moshayedi. Right: Dealer Paolo Zani of Galleria Zero (left).


With just three long halls, time was the organizing motif of MiArt, which ran from the earliest decades of Decades to the principal contemporary section of the fair to the new galleries in the Emergent section—and onwards with the subsequent furniture area, Object. 

As for the present, on Thursday night dealers wandered toward Porta Vittoria for MiArt’s state dinner–style banquet held inside a cavernous decommissioned palazzo–cum–ice-skating rink. I sat with the Hammer Museum’s Aram Moshayedi, dealer Maggie Kayne, and curators Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath. A towering curtain of white fringe separated the main field of tables from the peripheral ones. Ethereal blue spotlights washed over the scene, blending everything together in the same icy hue. The negronis flowed freely—there and onto the unofficial afterparty at Bar Basso, the perennial local end up.

Around town, a string of special exhibitions played tricks with time. The final, 1940s home of the Futurists was the site of an apartment show organized by Galleria Zero featuring Dan Finsel, Mario Dellavedova, Renzo Martens, and Christine Sun Kim, among others. Unsurprisingly, the building is in the process of being converted into luxury condos, and our trip up the stairs was like an archaeology of gentrification. Another construction-zone exhibition was a solo show organized in a former Montessori school north of Porta Venezia, future home of a new project space called The Classroom. Videos by Italian-Libyan artist Adelita Husni-Bey documented workshops she had organized for pre- and post-pubescent students to role-play situations related to autonomy, cooperation, and social power structures. Meanwhile, down the street and underground in the posh catacombs of the Albergo Diurno, the Fondazione Trussardi staged a tourist-friendly show of abject creations by Sarah Lucas using commonly available Freudian ingredients such as pantyhose and eggs. 

The next night, Kaufmann Repetto and Sadie Coles hosted a dinner with the Fondazione Trussardi in the equally ancient Bistrot Giacomo, a tony fish restaurant. Collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Fogle, and the new American curator of the Pompidou Florence Derieux mingled amid the intimate interlocking leather-bound libraries and velvet salons. Standing amid the crowd to toast Lucas, Trussardi artistic director and New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni christened her the “new Madonna of the Bathroom.”

Left: Serpentine chief curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and collector Nicoletta Fiorucci. Right: Dealer Hélčne de Franchis.


Saturday saw a second wave of openings on MiArt’s side of town. A younger crowd swarmed de Bellis’s space Peep Hole, showing paintings from the 1960s by septuagenarian Paolo Gioli, and across the street Lia Rumma had installed a new projection by William Kentridge. The Toilet Paper party that night seemed as if it might send me down the drain, worn out and overwhelmed by the storm of design people descending for the massively popular furniture fair Salone del Mobile.

Right now Milan feels effervescent, not always the case for the sober, fashionable city. My coda to MiArt week was a cocktail Tuesday night celebrating the Serpentine on the roof of the Rinascente department store, where news had yet to break about Yana Peel’s appointment as the storied galleries’ new CEO. The art crowd was heading out, supplanted by the stylish design wallahs, but MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, one of the visionaries straddling the worlds of ostensibly functional and functionless beauty, was there. She told me a story about returning to Milan, her hometown, years ago after having relocated to the states. As if they could smell it on her, shopkeepers all spoke to her in English. Why? She was smiling.

Kevin McGarry

Crisis Management

Vienna
04.12.16

Francesca von Habsburg and Olafur Eliasson at the Green Light Project. (Photo: Sandro Zanzinger)


IN HIS TUESDAY op-ed for the New York Times, U2 frontman/iTunes spammer Bono encourages readers to “think bigger” about the refugee crisis, even going so far as to suggest a new Marshall Plan. “For as hard as it is to truly imagine what life as a refugee is like, we have a chance to reimagine that reality—and reinvent our relationship with the people and countries consumed now by conflict, or hosting those who have fled it.”

It is also difficult to make artwork about this kind of crisis. After all, it’s a very fine line that separates empathy from insensitivity. One solution is to allow asylum seekers to tell their own stories. This was the motivation for Bouchra Khalili’s The Mapping Journey Project, 2008–11, which opened this weekend at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Khalili’s short films show migrants tracing their personal journeys onto printed maps. Serbian collective шkart has pursued a similar strategy, handing out blank books for refugees to record their experiences and impressions, as well as collaborating on “migrant maps,” illustrated diaries that plot routes through Europe. In other contexts, the cartoon format of these hand-drawn atlases might recall that summer-camp song about a bear hunt (“Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go through it—have to go around it!”) Except this isn’t a bear hunt. The tales shared by шkart are ones of determination, desperation, and life savings spent for a spot in a truck.

For every work that resonates, there are countless others that draw criticism, despite (or because of) their earnestness. The highest profile among them may be Ai Weiwei. In February, the artist brought fourteen thousand life jackets from the shores of Lesbos to Berlin, where he used them to Christo the front columns of the Konzerthaus. When the venue hosted its annual Cinema for Peace Gala, guests had to pass through the columns and around an inflatable dinghy with a sign advertising SAFE PASSAGE. Inside, the already glittering gala-goers received shiny Mylar emergency blankets. Ai then encouraged attendees like Charlize Theron and Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova to take selfies draped in this same protective covering, as an exercise in “empathy” and “awareness.” The gesture seemed to suggest that social-media shares could be acceptable substitutes for action.

“There’s a lot of talk in the world right now as to what is the shape of activism—what does it look like when it’s on the table,” artist Olafur Eliasson told the full house at “15 Acts of Participation,” a twelve-hour public program running from noon to midnight at Vienna’s TBA21-Augarten last Thursday. Eliasson joined TBA21 founder Francesca von Habsburg for the opening act, an introduction to the institution’s ongoing Green Light project. The three-month workshop recruits volunteers from Vienna’s refugee community to help assemble eco-conscious lamps, designed by Eliasson and sold to benefit Vienna-based charities. Chicly polyhedral and outfitted with emerald-colored LEDs (“the shade of hospitality,” apparently), the lamps are modular and can be used either individually or combined into sculptural objects. “You could build a whole city out of these,” Eliasson laughed. Of course, it would be a city of useless walls, but maybe that was the point.

Green Light participants Milad Amiry, Liya Kasa, Majid, and Qasim Tahmasebi with TBA21 curator Franziska Wildförster. (Photo: Kate Sutton)


“There’s that quote about how politics are creative, so why can’t art be political,” von Habsburg chimed in. “But where is that line in the sand between art and politics? I know wherever it is, I may have stepped over it a few times in the past, but I am not a public institution. I am a private individual who is struggling to deal with the situation. When I see how this country has neglected…” she paused, her voice wavering. Catching the audience’s concern, von Habsburg turned to one of the Green Light participants: “Don’t worry Paymon, I always get emotional.”

“We need to understand that we don’t step into the art world to step out of reality,” Eliasson continued. “We step into the art world to step closer to the real world.” The artist pointed out that “reality machines” like TBA21 have a unique ability to “nurture the sense of being together, without being the same,” a claim he supported by citing his frequent disagreements with von Habsburg when it came to other artworks. “The cultural sector already has a framework for inclusion,” he concluded. “The question now is how do we scale it?”

According to Eliasson, first you must drop the pretense that there can ever be a “perfect” response. “There’s always the question, ‘Am I doing enough?’ ” the artist admitted. “The moment you say, ‘Maybe I’m not the best, but I’m OK, and this is enough,’ is the moment when people can step out of fear and step into the courage of saying, ‘I’m OK.’ This is the moment when true encounters can occur.”

Not that these encounters don’t face other, more tangible obstacles. “The Green Light workshop was conceived at a moment when the euphoria of compassion was at its height,” explained project curator Daniela Zyman. “Sadly, this moment has passed. There are new regulations and restrictions every day.” To counter this “process of bordering,” Zyman advocates for Paolo Virno’s strategy of “engaged withdrawal.” “If any of you practice yoga, you understand that sometimes you need to make one part of your body really strong, so you can make another part of your body flexible. We need to withdraw from certain parts of civil society’s limitations so we can be flexible in others.”

The Green Light project was designed with this flexibility in mind. Under current laws, TBA21 cannot pay workshop participants. Instead, proceeds from lamp sales are funneled into the Georg Danzer Haus, the Red Cross, and Caritas Vienna, organizations directly involved with providing food and shelter to the refugee community. As additional, unofficial compensation, the workshop provides German language classes—particularly crucial, as unaccompanied minors older than fifteen are ineligible to attend Austrian schools—and communal meals. The volunteers take turns menu planning, a little touch that is surprisingly meaningful when one considers that for the length of their processing—up to a year or more—asylum seekers are banned from earning (and thus spending) income and must eat whatever they are served at the shelters. “Someone even cooked African food,” project coordinator Anahita Tabrizi told me, beaming. “That was a real hit.” (“I missed African food?” one of the volunteers howled later, lamenting that he only ever thinks to make chicken and rice.)

Left: Green Light project coordinator Anahita Tabrizi. Right: TBA21-The Current curator Damian Christinger with director Markus Reymann and Georg Eder. (Photos: Kate Sutton)


Naturally, communal meals were the centerpiece of “15 Acts of Participation,” with lunch and dinner both served in the TBA21 courtyard. But rather than home in on the communities involved with the Green Light workshop, “15 Acts” took a broader look at the “processes of bordering” that Zyman had mentioned. The introduction by Eliasson and von Habsburg was supplemented with a screening of Neďl Beloufa’s Kempinksi, 2007. The film is a kind of science fiction, where figures living on the fringes of Bamako, Mali, describe visions of the future, including a scenario where buildings are made of light, and one can enter where they please. Coincidentally, Beloufa’s protagonists are lit by the lime-green glow of handheld neon lights, not entirely dissimilar to the ones made in the workshop.

Also screening was SUPERFLEX’s stunning new film Kwassa Kwassa. Shot in the Comoro Islands of the Indian Ocean, the narrative follows a boat through the stages of its construction through its eventual use as a transport shuttle to the neighboring archipelago of Mayotte. Thanks to France’s spot on the UN Security Council, Mayotte is, as of 2011, an official Department of France, and, as of 2014, an Outermost Region of the European Union, meaning that all that separates the inhabitants of the Comoran town of Anjouan from Europe is forty miles of deep blue sea. Kwassa Kwassa is rooted in a reexamination of the myth that gave the continent its name. In this particular instance, Zeus took the form of the white bull to carry Europa, the daughter of a Phoenician king from Tyre (now modern-day Lebanon) off to Crete, making Zeus, in the narrator’s reasoning, “the first coyote”—the local slang for passage providers.

Another of the “15 Acts” was the debut of selected output from a two-day workshop headed by Raqs Media Collective’s Shuddhabrata Sengupta. Young asylum seekers Anas Al Jajeh and Qasim Tahmasebi shared their own short films, expounding on what freedom means for them, before Tawab Baran took to the mic to share a poem in his native Dari. He’s posted over one hundred videos of his poetry on YouTube, tracking his progress from Afghanistan. Now that he has made it to Austria, however, his future remains uncertain. “They tell me my country is safe,” he shrugs.

Over one of the breaks, artist Atif Akin (“Act 8”) filled me in on his research into radiation as a transnational phenomenon. He also prints a zine on apricots, which he sees as an ideal model for migration flows. “Apricots can be traced from China to Azerbaijan to Turkey and Greece,” Akin informed me. “These routes have existed for centuries before us. This isn’t a new thing.” What mattered most to the artist, however, was terminology. In particular, he objected to the mischaracterization of what is going on in Europe as a “crisis.” “When you say ‘crisis,’ you delegate power to the authorities. You are saying it’s out of your hands. It should be in our hands.”

I responded the only way I knew how: I took his picture and posted it online.

Kate Sutton

Left: SUPERFLEX's Rasmus Nielsen with TBA21 chief curator Daniela Zyman. Right: Artist Atif Akin. (Photos: Kate Sutton)


Odd and Evenly

Sydney
04.11.16

Left: Victory over the Sun. (Except where noted, all photos: Sherman Sam) Right: Biennale of Sydney curator Stephanie Rosenthal with artists Alexis Teplin and Noah Sherwood. (Photo: Penelope Seidler/Biennale of Sydney)


RAISING THE DEAD seems to be the hot trend in biennials. So it should come as no surprise that Stephanie Rosenthal’s first such exhibition should have a work by Malevich as its centerpiece. The London-based curator’s doctoral thesis took its cue from the Russian’s black square, and at the twentieth edition of the Sydney Biennale, she one-upped her curatorial colleagues by reconstructing a 1913 modernist Russian opera. Victory over the Sun originally had costumes designed by Malevich and music by Mikhail Matiushin, but here in Sydney, Australians Justene Williams and Huw Belling stepped in to fill their shoes. Add a new libretto by Pierce Wilcox and it’s no wonder that all three outstanding performances sold out in fifteen minutes flat. Those lucky to catch one could see its two female leads, the Strongwomen, belting out the libretto as they strutted athletically in high heels up and down the tiny Cockatoo Island warehouse.

Instead of national pavilions or venues at the Sydney Biennale, there are—in Rosenthal’s phrasing—“embassies of thoughts,” each with its own attaché. The embassies—Non-participation, Translation, Spirits, Transition, and the Real—provide a thematic focus to each venue. “I developed the subthemes by visiting artist all over the world and suddenly realizing that I met a lot of people who are talking about things which are disappearing or transforming through disappearance,” she said at the biennial’s opening. “You could say that I felt these clusters.”

Left: Artists Ming Wong and Heman Chong. Right: Artist Bo Christian Larsson.


The exhibition’s title, “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed,” was gleaned from William Gibson, so it should come as no surprise that science fiction also plays a role. Cult author Stanislaw Lem gets his very own embassy—a mobile bookstore. The project belongs to Singaporean artist Heman Chong, but his Embassy of Stanislaw Lem was originally intended to exist in an actual store. “That was the initial idea, but then the bookstore collapsed,” he said incredulously, pondering the store’s bankruptcy. “Even before I touched it.” “My folks are really Hougang [Singaporean heartland] parents. They would just say, ‘Hey! Do you need money? You’re selling old books.’ ”

Chong closed his work by choice during the vernissage, thinking that performances at openings were too much of a spectacle. Good thing Rosenthal saw things differently. The week of vernissages across Sydney was rife with actions and activities. At Cockatoo Island, aka the Embassy of the Real, Rosenthal warned me that Korakrit Arunanondchai’s collaboration with boychild would involve thrown paint. “I see the big bottles of paint and the plastic on the floor,” said Auckland-based artist Dane Mitchell. “It’s forming a kinda exclusion zone.” In fact the slow vogueing motions of the charismatic performer (“a queer cyborg body,” as she put it) didn’t involve much paint flinging.

Left: Mike Parr's BDH. Right: Artist Dane Mitchell.


Another zone of demarcation was installed for Mike Parr’s temperature-raising performance BDH. Originally kept secret, it entailed a threat of “extreme violence,” as the Australian was to set some of his old work on fire. To the boom boom boom of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House,” Parr hurled a lump of burning material to ignite a spread of work laid flat outside the Carriageworks warehouse. He claimed that the performance was about highlighting climate change and carbon emissions, but the very rapid vaporization of his work seemed to be more culprit than solution. “I’m afraid of performance people,” said Swedish artist Bo Christian Larsson, who spent the month in Sydney making white covers for tombstones at the Camperdown Cemetry. “I do performance sometimes, but I’m afraid of myself too!”

“We don’t need to be from the same language, the same nation, or the same culture, but we still might come together to discuss the same subject matter,” said Rosenthal, and amid the strong showing of Singaporeans and Colombians and Berliners, she has plenty of evidence. The ensuing mishmash also inspired new subjects. Japanese artist Taro Shinoda spent some time with the aboriginal community in Yirrkala, leading to his installation Abstraction of Confusion. There he created an empty chamber which was covered first with local red clay then a white one, then allowed to dry. A floating platform of tatami mats allowed us to contemplate this mud void. To cover the walls, he used a Scottish plasterer whose accent was so thick that the Japanese artist was obliged to employ a Scottish-to-English translator, who unfortunately couldn’t understand everything. “Amazing what abstract patterns nature makes,” said Mami Kataoka of the Mori Art Museum, attaché for the Embassy of Spirits.

In the end, the international commingling at the opening brought about familiar joys: artists complaining about their galleries, dealers happy to be on holiday from the art-fair conveyor belt—Rodney Hill of Marc Foxx Gallery, for example, sold a work by the artist he was representing, a first for him at a biennial. Artist Aura Satz got to ride the ferry with Apichatpong Weerasethakul. “That’s made my whole trip.” We forget that artists can be fans too. And alongside the art-world love-in, the public lapped up the opening at Cockatoo Island, queuing for food trucks and prosecco, getting lost in the dusk, and strolling down forbidden tunnels with no artworks. For the majority it was all part of a grand night out—perhaps something was evenly distributed after all.

Sherman Sam

Left: boychild's performance. Right: Dealer Rodney Hill.


A Moment Like This

Los Angeles
04.04.16

Left: LACMA director Michael Govan introducing the documentary Look at the Pictures. Right: Dealers Manuela Wirth and Iwan Wirth. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


“IS LA REALLY ON FIRE?” a friend asked the other day. It definitely felt that way a couple of weeks ago, when planeloads of art players joined their counterparts in Los Angeles for a two-day romp through an art scene that seemed to expand with every breath.

Yet, the new Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel gallery’s inaugural VIP dinner was so exclusive that even a local legend like John Baldessari could not get in. The flummoxed artist stood outside the gallery with Keith Sonnier and Doug Aitken, other rejects, commiserating with his plus-two too many, artist Meg Cranston and print dealer Joni Weyl. “Joni wasn’t allowed in with me,” huffed the iconic Angeleno. “They wouldn’t serve me even one drink.”

Evidently, with just one hundred thousand square feet at their disposal, the hosts somehow couldn’t find room.

Perhaps Paul Schimmel hadn’t hipped his Swiss partners—Ursula Hauser, and Iwan and Manuela Wirth—to the Angeleno social custom of showing up for a dinner with an uninvited entourage.

Left: Artist Paul McCarthy. Right: Artist Meg Cranston with dealer Joni Weyl and artist John Baldessari.


Collector Eli Broad, Schimmel’s old nemesis at LA MoCA, where he used to be chief curator, freely entered with Mrs. Broad, just as bouncers gave way for a solo Maurice Marciano, Broad’s successor on the MoCA board. Schimmel’s replacement at MoCA, Helen Molesworth, was also welcomed (with her wife, curator Susan Dackerman), as were MoCA’s current director, Philippe Vergne, and his wife, the Pompidou’s adjunct curator Sylvia Chivaratanond. Vergne had the slim red badge of a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur pinned to his lapel. “Why not?” he said. It made him feel dressed up.

Certainly, there was reason for all to celebrate the humongous gallery’s arrival, just a hop and a skip from one of the worst skid rows in America. (Trust the art world to sort out the ironies that give class a bad name.) The reason was “Revolution in the Making,” an exhibition surveying seventy years’ worth of sculpture by a cross-generational group of thirty-four different women, from Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Asawa, and Lee Bontecou to Sheila Hicks, Jessica Stockholder, and Kaari Upson.

I took it in the following day, March 13, at an invitation-only brunch that preceded a public opening that promised a big barbecue. Inside the gallery, converted from a former flour mill by architect Annabelle Selldorf, I found a bookstore, a printed-matter “lab” anointed with drawings and notebook pages scrawled by Bourgeois, and twenty-four thousand square feet of exhibition spaces named not for collectors, as in museums, but for departed figures like Allan Kaprow and Philip Guston. Well, it’s not a museum.

Left: Filmmaker Beth B with her mother, artist Ida Applebroog. Right: Hauser & Wirth publications chief Michaela Unterdorfer and dealer/curator Paul Schimmel.


“It’s insane is what it is,” said Schimmel, curator of the show with art historian Jenni Sorkin. “This is not a gallery,” he added. “Or a museum. It’s a social space for art.” Isn’t every gallery? “We’re calling it an art center and education program,” he replied. “But I would not have been able to persuade Iwan and Manuela to do this if they hadn’t already had the idea.”

He was speaking of the thriving Hauser & Wirth compound in Somerset, England. It includes a working farm. In Los Angeles, its urban sister is growing a garden that will supply its forthcoming restaurant, Manuela, with fresh produce. The restaurant will be deployed in a courtyard between the buildings that is open to the sky. A twenty-foot-tall needlelike sculpture of thirty bound trees by Jackie Winsor, ca. 1972, stood like a maypole in the center, while artists, dealers, and curators at picnic tables chowed down on oysters.

The filmmaker Beth B accompanied her mother, Ida Applebroog, one of many gallery artists on hand for the preview. “I’m shocked that this never happened before,” she said of the all-female show. “But it’s fantastic!” Astonishing, actually, in its many parts, which underscore how powerfully female artists have wrested an uncanny beauty from wire, wool, resin, hemp, soil, paper, latex, concrete, and steel. As LACMA curator Stephanie Barron put it, “That Eva Hesse and Mira Schendel room is so beautiful it made me cry.”

“Want to see the secret tower?” Mary Weatherford proposed. How could I refuse?
The “tower” was actually a six-story building that once must have been offices or workrooms. Selldorf had given them a very light touch, leaving them scraped and raw for life as private viewing rooms. They felt secret because fire laws restricted the number of people allowed, but that didn’t keep out artists like Mungo Thomson, Matthew Day Jackson, Jacob and Samantha Kassay, or John Armleder and Mai-Thu Perret.


“So this is where they stashed the boys,” Weatherford noted. With the exception of a scary piece by Isa Genzken, all of the works on view in the attic-like warren were by men. They included Paul McCarthy, who seemed surprised to have a whole room dedicated to him.

“What’s this?” wondered Armleder, indicating a Karla Black–type bubble of clear plastic that was marked with bits of colored tape and hung like butchered meat from a hook in a closet-size room. “That’s not art!” said Cristopher Canizares, a senior director at the gallery, hustling us out. “Funny,” Armleder said. “That’s the best piece I’ve seen here today.”

We left and joined the “public” swarming the galleries, as a trio of musicians imported from Basel performed on long horns in the courtyard. “I love the first-time visitors,” Schimmel confessed. “You set the bar high enough and it changes their lives.”

His words came to mind the following night, when the biggest crowd that the Getty Museum ever attracted to a photography opening—around a thousand people—showed up for its half of “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium.”

Left: Photographer Edward Mapplethorpe. Right: Getty Museum entrance.


The title, of course, is a pun on “The Perfect Moment,” the 1988 Mapplethorpe retrospective that started the culture wars of the 1990s, when an apoplectic senator, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, denounced the work on the floor of the United States Congress. Supposedly, times have changed. “Robert Mapplethorpe is no longer a controversial figure,” LACMA director Michael Govan had said earlier, a statement that I found immediately suspect.

In his lifetime, Mapplethorpe never had much of a footprint in Los Angeles. He was a child of New York, and everything that inspired him came from that city. So it seemed unusual that the foundation established in the photographer’s name would turn over his life’s work to the shared stewardship of the Getty Research Institute and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Formidable as they are, it seems more appropriate for his archives to reside in New York. On the other hand, it was past time for Mapplethorpe’s West Coast close-up, and both the Getty and LACMA commemorated their acquisition with back-to-back exhibitions. I was curious to see if what they made of this cache, which included a number of images printed long after his death, was better than anything the Whitney or the Guggenheim could have done with the original Mapplethorpes already in their collections.

At the Getty, Mapplethorpe subjects Dovanna Pagowski and Robert Sherman (aka Bar Marmont hostess Constance Cooper), the artist’s brother Edward Mapplethorpe, friends like photographer Lynn Davis, and former assistants Dimitri Levas and Brian English were all on hand to see what difference passing time had made. “Oh my God!” said Sherman when he spotted Davis. “You haven’t changed a bit in twenty years!”

Left: Photographer Lynn Davis and Dimitri Levas. Right: Juan Carlos Menendez with film producer Laura Bickford and architect Peter Marino.


In the galleries, Mapplethorpe’s portraits of celebrities, black male nudes, and erotic flowers precede the thirteen hardcore s/m pictures in his “X Portfolio,” which were displayed in a waist-high vitrine at the back of the show. Visitors who queued to view it resembled mourners passing by a casket. The leathered-up architect Peter Marino, an obsessive collector of Mapplethorpe’s work, was livid at the museum’s limp-wristed approach. “The show I put together last year at Ropac in Paris had the X, the Y, and the Z portfolios,” he hissed. “And I assure you, none of it was discreet!”

The idea, said Getty photography curator Paul Martineau, was to “humanize” Mapplethorpe for the uninitiated heading into the show, which was paired with a selection of vintage prints from a collection that his onetime lover, Sam Wagstaff, donated to the museum years ago. (It was the bequest that created the Getty’s photography department.)

Humanize? They don’t get more human, or more sensitive to forces that beguile us, than Robert Mapplethorpe, bullwhips and biceps and all. That much was clear the following evening at LACMA’s advance screening of the digestible Look at the Pictures, a documentary by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato premiering tonight on HBO. Perhaps most surprising is its account of Mapplethorpe’s domestic sex life—pretty tame, according to his former boyfriends.

Since then I’ve been trying to work out why it, and two perfectly respectable exhibitions, should leave me feeling depressed. But that was it—they were so respectable! Too much was left unseen and unsaid.

Left: Getty photography curator Paul Martineau and LACMA chief photography curator Britt Salvesen. Right: Former Mapplethorpe model Dovanna Pagowski and her daughter Camille.


Because the show at LACMA, organized by its chief photography curator, Britt Salvesen, included a greater variety of Mapplethorpe’s output—not just the usual photographs of Patti Smith but also some wacky early sculpture, jewelry, drawings, films, and such memorabilia from the archive as his membership card to the Mineshaft—it had the greater interest, and drew an even larger, resolutely art-world (rather than strictly photo) crowd on opening night.

Probably, Smith would have become a star without Mapplethorpe’s help. But nowhere in either show, nor in the film, was there any indication that he had produced the 7-inch vinyl on Mer (his own label) that jumpstarted her career. And nowhere was there any indication that he had ever photographed children, naked and clothed. “It’s an odd thing,” said attorney John Thomas, of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. “You can show fist-fucking and no one blinks. But put a naked baby on a beach and you’re a pornographer.”

In an election year when the radicals are no longer artists but dick-swinging politicians, living artists would be wise to think carefully about the future condition of their works. Meanwhile, a new generation can get at least a taste of a vital, irreplaceable, divalike personality. As Edward Mapplethorpe, also a photographer said, “I miss him every day.”

Linda Yablonsky

For additional coverage of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition, please see Vince Aletti’s preview in our January print issue here.

Left: Filmmaker Randy Barbato. Right: Artists Mary Weatherford and Mungo Thomson with dealer Frank Elbaz.


Drama Club

Athens
04.01.16

Marina Abramović leads the crowd in a moment of silence. (All photos: Cathryn Drake)


CRISIS DRAWS GAWKERS AS WELL AS REVOLUTIONARIES, but more than anything it really rallies the gurus. To wit, the reigning diva of performance art, Marina Abramović, recently arrived in the birthplace of drama to apply her “method” to its madness.

The exhibition “As One,” a coproduction of the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) and NEON, a nonprofit founded by collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos, is occupying Athens’s Benaki Museum for seven weeks, taking the form of a scientific performance clinic featuring durational performances by young Greek artists. Yes, the artist is here to discipline the Hellenic thespians (cut to statuesque Serbian with whip in hand).

At the entrance of the MAI laboratory, just inside the museum, black-clad facilitators gently instructed us to shed our possessions in a locker and proceed to a series of three rooms, where we could stay as long we wanted to perform simple breathing and stretching exercises. Arriving in a large open space with various activity stations, I was given noise-canceling headphones and told that no talking was allowed, seemingly the only rule. The first challenge was apparently to walk as slowly as possible toward a white ribbon, and I failed miserably—winning the race! Looking back at my facilitator for feedback, I was met with somber nonexpression, in which I read disappointment. I passed up the area where blindfolded participants wandered aimlessly and spotted the series of beds lined up along the wall. A lovely red-haired woman tucked me in, and I meditated on the overhead lights before closing my eyes for a pleasant nap.

Left: Dealer Gerasimos Kappatos. Right: Artist Yiannis Pappas.


As I rose, a man attempted to steer me back to the blindfold chamber. I shook my head and walked to a table where people sat in front of piles of rice and lentils—signs dictating “Separate and Count”—some recording the task on pieces of paper, others arranging geometric compositions. The fluorescent lights, minimal furniture, and drugged demeanor of the participants evoked a psychiatric ward. Without the guidance of the artist, it was up to you to figure out the rules, or to imitate those around you. The point is that the artist does not need to be present—but you very much do. Your level of participation reflects your level of return, just like in life.

In the café, inspirational videos screened while artist Thodoris Trampis, one of several Greek artists performing eight hours daily, could be heard hammering at a large rock. Upstairs, where artists were confined in individual spaces doing their own things, was very Dogtooth: Nancy Stamatopoulou communed with a turtle, who regarded her from a corner; Yiannis Pappas touched on social exclusion versus self-confinement by breaking through a series of cells, which he would ultimately escape only when a visitor inserted a key to open the final compartment. Special events included Martha Pasakopoulou’s reperformance of the Serbian artist’s indelible Art Must Be Beautiful; Artist Must Be Beautiful. Outside the museum, a hooded Thanassis Akokkalidis sat on a rooftop looking down as if contemplating suicide. “We don’t have a tradition of performance in Greece,” said Abramović’s Greek dealer Gerasimos Kappatos. (The Greeks are very good at making a cup of coffee last for hours, though.)

That evening Abramović was greeted like a rock star by the throngs in the museum courtyard, whom she addressed from both stage and giant video screens. “I feel very emotional to be here tonight. Greeks are passionate and emotional and dedicated, and you have the most difficult names on the planet,” she joked. “How many performance artists does it take to change a lightbulb?” I never found out the answer: as many as possible? After a rousing talk espousing Alexander Dorner’s idea of the museum as a power station—“a place to pump yourself with psychic fuel”—she closed her eyes and led everyone in a moment of silence. “She looks younger than she did in the ’70s,” said a curator. Was it really Abramović standing up there, or was it the artist performing Marina Abramović?

Left: Curator Sotirios Bahtsetzis, artist Georgia Sagri, and curator Alexios Papazacharias. Right: Collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos.


A group of us tripped down the street to a party thrown by artist Greg Haji Joannides, who the night before had confined himself in a blinding-white space for several hours with ex-partner Guillaume, in a performance titled Light and Sound Reaction, at Atopos. “It is the first time we met since our relationship ended more than a year ago,” the artist explained, “and I did not know what to expect.” The palpable tension between the former lovers, both naked, progressively dissolved after the artist bent down to deliver a reassuring caress—a sort of flipside to Abramović and Ulay’s 1978 performance Light/Dark.

In what was scheduled as her farewell appearance, Abramović screened The Space in Between, a film documenting her journey around Brazil to spiritual healers in the hopes of mending a broken heart, to a rapt audience of several hundred. “Unsolved problems become companions that follow us wherever we go,” warns a shaman in the film. Thus we watch Abramović violently expel demons from various orifices after drinking ayahuasca in Chapada Diamantina. We learn that the artist’s constant travel companions are bulbs of garlic and onion, whose healing properties she explains while eating one of each with a humorously pained expression: “The best of the Marina Abramović method!” I watched through my fingers as the artist witnessed a medium at Vale do Amanhecer scrape a man’s eye with a knife, telling us it cured her fear of having her eyes touched, while the woman next to me passed out and slid off her chair onto the floor.

Left: Thanassis Akokkalidis's Don't Look Down. Right: Atopos director Vassilis Zidianakis, writer Clo’e Floirat, and artist Greg Haji Joannides.


Afterward Abramović assured the audience: “I am not a spiritual leader: I am an artist, and performance is my tool.” She is an easy target for criticism, but her presence certainly takes on even more power, has more influence, because of her notoriety. Yet by proscribing our behavior and having others mimic her performances over and over again, has she not perpetuated the legacy of her controlling mother, become her in some sense? If her work is her own therapy, it certainly triggers catharsis in the audience. And I can say that, although I was not the best disciple, performing the communal exercises with strangers did inspire a feeling of elation—perhaps testifying to the fact that, as Susan Sontag said, “Art is a form of consciousness.”

I moved on to the birthday celebration of Greece’s most famous performance artist, Georgia Sagri, at H Ύλη (“Matter”), a new “semipublic, semipersonal” space she runs with a collective of artists, curators, activists, and scientists that could be mistaken for an apartment when not hosting an art exhibition or special guests to talk about their practices. “We are new materialists working with the immaterial,” Sagri quipped. After a few glasses of wine, Sagri described her installation on behavioral currencies for the upcoming Manifesta, for which she is collaborating with a Swiss banker. Curator Sotirios Bahtsetzis interjected with Oscar Wilde’s wisdom: “When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss Money.” So what do artists talk about with bankers? I guess we’ll have to go to Zurich in June to find out.

Cathryn Drake