Volcano Lovers


Left: Joan Jonas's Moving Off the Land. Right: Poet Anne Carson and artist Joan Jonas.

THESE DAYS, most flights from New York to Iceland’s main airport are red-eyes that land just before dawn. The benefit, until the darkness lingers longer, is that you’re forced to reckon with the rocky landscape through an astonishing sunrise. Last weekend I watched that crimson blaze lift over mountains and slowly illuminate the treeless, moss-covered terrain as my bus puttered along a winding and empty highway to Reykjavik’s eighth edition of Sequences, a ten-day biennial spread out over the city. It was shocking.

Not so shocking: The show’s “honorary artist” was Joan Jonas—whose recent work is inspired by Halldór Laxness’s 1972 novel Under the Glacier. The mercurial environment of Iceland has long haunted Jonas’s output. “I’m so happy to be here,” she told me. “I love Iceland. It’s a place where you always feel closer to the center of the earth because it’s bubbling up through the cracks. It’s so bare, stark, and awe-inspiring.”

One of her early 16-mm pieces, Volcano Film, 1976, stood out in her minisurvey at the Living Art Museum, expertly organized by the biennial’s curator, Margot Norton. The black-and-white film is a compilation of eruptions, which are, of course, not infrequent in Iceland. Across the city at the Culture House (not part of the biennial), a wall text in an excellent show about Icelandic art advised me how “[i]n the middle ages, the country’s main claim to fame in Europe was the volcano Mt. Hekla, which was reputed to be the gate to Hell and spewed massive ash clouds that could even cause crop failure in mainland Europe.”

Left: Björk (center). Right: Artist Ragnar Kjartansson, Sequences curator Margot Norton, and Sequences' Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir.

I had wanted to ask Anne Carson, who happened to be in town, for her thoughts on volcanoes as an apt (if inadequate) symbol of our volatile times, since she has a thing for painting them. (I had also just edited a smart 500 Words interview with Cauleen Smith on volcanoes as noncolonized land: “So, really, the only place you can arrive at and settle in without doing harm is at a lava berg.”) But those images of molten earth too easily slipped my mind as we entered an intimate performance by Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson and Ásta Fanney Sigurđardóttir at the project space Harbinger on Saturday evening. Here, a viewer (in this case Carson) selects a drawing of a calendar page made by Ólafsson, and then both artists improvise a witchy song.

So much of Sequences invoked serendipitous alliances, usually with the artists attempting to conspire with natural forces. Eduardo Navarro’s performance at Kling & Bang was conceived as a collaboration with the sun, but when his partner didn’t oblige, each performer, dressed in gold from head to toe, popped a squat on the floor. During David Horvitz’s Watering a Glass Flower, a sound bath he performed at Mengi with the emerging Icelandic musician JFDR, they discovered a ghost shrimp in the resonating hourglasses. (Horvitz had accidentally scooped it up in the ocean water he poured into the vessels.) And in (From) Memory, Helena Aőalsteinsdóttier’s video in the basement of Ekkisens, a hand interacts with a stone as if it were a smart phone. The work was shot in area of northern Iceland known for its great levels of magnetic energy that emit high frequency sounds. During a cozy panel discussion one afternoon, the artists discussed these material aspects of their work while Björk waxed eloquently from the audience about the new kind of magic needed to get through these dark days. “We went from atoms to the cloud and now we need something else.” NBD.

At the theater Tjarnarbíó on my last night in town, Jonas performed Moving Off the Land, a by turns uplifting and depressing lecture-demonstration on mythmaking and the oceanic realm. By uplifting I mean that she deals in the miraculous and by depressing I mean climate change, though she never uses that phrase in the piece. “I’m not proselytizing,” she told me. “I don’t have to talk to my audience that way. I don’t want to make Channel 13, you know?” Moving Off the Land revolves around recent works she’s performed in Venice, Vienna, and Kochi, and for this version she teamed up with Icelandic composer and violinist María Huld Markan.

“We all come from the sea and we have memories of it in our minds and bodies,” Jonas began, slipping in quotes from Italo Calvino, Rachel Carson, Herman Melville, and Emily Dickinson, among others. In my favorite section, Jonas stands before a video projection of sea life and goes full mystic, her body convulsing with the divine love of some invisible entity, which seemed to be vigorously shaking the bells she held in each hand. In a flash on stage I was sure that Björk’s something else appeared, then left. Bless bless.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Deep Frieze


Left: Dealer Nicholas Logsdail. Right: Dealer Agnieska Rayzacher, artist Nalalia LL, and curator Alison Gingeras. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

THE GREAT GIFT Frieze London bestowed on art aficionados this year was to propel them into galleries and museums.

Not that Frieze itself didn’t offer benefits. Female artists were notable for their quantity and, in the case of a special section curated by Alison Gingeras, historical impact as well as stick-it-in-your-face, pro-sex feminism. In the age of Trump the Aggressor, that’s risky business. It may not be entirely profitable business, but it is, at least, desirable.

The fair also had an especially good program of talks put together by the estimable Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, who no doubt welcomed the task while his museum undergoes extensive renovations.

But if you wanted to be absorbed by art, or cozy up to it unmolested by surging crowds and deafening chatter, then you ventured to the institutions beyond Regent’s Park.

Left: Artists George Passmore and Gilbert Prousch (aka Gilbert & George). Right: Dealer Johann König.

In other cities—New York is one—fairs and exorbitant rents are pinching the gallery ecosystem, and while they’ve taken a toll here too, dealers are also establishing or expanding beachheads in increasing number. (Brexit be damned.)

In other words, London is hot. London is healthy. And Frieze London is the sparkplug that sends its art world into overdrive.

The eve of the fair’s VIP preview offered nearly as many options as there were people taking them, as galleries north, south, and east opened exhibitions to meet every taste.

Stuart Shave’s Modern Art introduced a second venue—the dealer’s “six-thousand square-foot project space”—in the former Wilkinson Gallery on Vyner Street, with a three-part show by the clearly maturing Josh Kline. Appropriately titled “Civil War,” it addressed the consequences of our current economic divide by balancing the rubble of class war with its spoils and forcing together high- and low-end appliances in the manner of a Koonsian Split-Rocker.

Thanks to traffic in London, where (as one cabbie noted) it’s always rush hour, I missed Haroon Mirza’s installation at the Zabludowicz Collection, the Idris Khan opening at Victoria Miro, the blast of performances at KOKO bidding farewell to the David Roberts Art Foundation’s Camden home, and the Douglas Gordon opening at Gagosian Britannia Street.

Left: Filmmaker, artist, and writer John Waters. Right: Artist Glenn Ligon, curator Aphrodite Gonou, and designer Duro Olowu.

As it was, I had to hire a car even to get around Mayfair, which really had it going on.

Jake and Dinos Chapman continue their romance with Goya and contemporary violence at Blain|Southern, their new gallery in London. In his first outing at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, Brice Marden hung by the door while friends and fans from New York and London took in the unashamed beauty of ten new paintings in his terre verte series.

From there I could walk around the corner to the Almine Rech outpost, where Berlin dealer Aurel Scheibler was showing Bernard Picasso the Ernst Wilhelm Nay abstractions from the 1960s and earlier. I also footed it downstairs to see salacious drawings by Tom Wesselmann, whose female objects of desire were also objectified in a show at Gagosian Davies Street, hard by the T.J. Wilcox video portraits at Sadie Coles.

Continuing the sweep of American artists in London, Sherrie Levine took up the David Zwirner townhouse for a variety of appropriations, including new monochromes that distilled the colors of van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. These were very cool, though perhaps not quite as cool as Rirkrit Tiravanija’s show at Pilar Corrias, whose gallery featured an impressive, overscaled steel cast of a Victorian oven that the artist used to cook a medieval stew consumed in his bucolic new video—and also served to game dinner guests at Carousel. “It’s delicious, I promise you,” said Corrias.

Left: Kunsthalle Basel director Elena Filipovic. Right: Accessories designer Monica Zwirner and dealer David Zwirner.

But the biggest winner that night was at the London branch of Lévy Gorvy, which somehow pulled together all twenty-three of the room-swallowing, multipanel drawings that comprised The General Jungle or Carrying on Sculpting, the 1971 exhibition (and maybe still their best) by Gilbert & George at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York. This was the drawings’ first showing in the artists’ hometown, and the duo appeared very pleased. “So nice to see it all again,” said Gilbert, with a giggle.

So, if the art horde converges on London for Frieze, it’s not so much about the fair. But everyone goes anyway. Dealers at Wednesday morning’s preview had to brace for an onslaught. During my own first minute in the chaotic tent, I was treated to conversations with Tate director Maria Balshaw, collector Maria Baibakova, artist Cerith Wyn Evans, and filmmaker John Waters, before diving headlong into the maw of the most scattershot Frieze to date.

Not that anyone ever thought a fair was good for the integrity of art. It’s good for galleries, and even better for connecting with other people. “I’m convinced that I’m doing something meaningful,” said a wistful Anton Kern, who brought only paintings and sculpture by the women on his gallery’s roster. “And then I get to a fair and it’s all so social. It’s good, I guess, in the end.”

Yep. It was an hour before I got past the galleries clustered near the entrance, where a tall, Ugo Rondinone bluestone figure announced the stand for Sadie Coles. A spruced-up and supercharged Johann König, yet another dealer opening a branch in London, scheduled a daily changeover of his booth with a different solo presentation for the run of the fair. “We’re having an especially splendid day,” reported dealer Maureen Paley, whose wares included a video by the white-hot, Abraaj Art Prize–winning Lawrence Abu Hamdan bought by the Frieze Tate Fund. “This is the most international Frieze we’ve seen yet,” noted Max Hetzler, who has galleries in Berlin and Paris but not in London (yet). “I mean success no longer depends on dollars.”

Left: Delfina Foundation director Aaron Cezar. Right: Dealer Sylvia Kouvali, artist Christodoulos Panayiotou, and Fiorucci Art Trust director Milovan Farronato.

Back to art. Sculpture by Amalia Pica and Michael Dean at the Herald St stand, and a provocative Thomas Bayrle collage in the theater of Gavin Brown’s booth each stopped my progress to the far-off quarters housing Gingeras’s “Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics.”

Here, the walls were pink and penises vied with vulvas among the dozen galleries showcasing explicit, own-it imagery by now senior women who were castigated or marginalized for making it in previous decades.

Marilyn Minter’s porn paintings of the nineties, for example, from Baldwin Gallery (and later crotch paintings from Salon 94 and Regen Projects), still bothered some people, who revisited the tired old antifeminist feminism argument of the ’80s. So did the closely observed phalluses of Betty Tomkins (Galerie Andrea Caratsch). Other grazers marveled at expository self-portrait collages by Penny Slinger (Blum & Poe).

“I love this work,” gushed MoMA curator Laura Hoptman over the Dorothy Iannones at Air de Paris. Dealer David Lewis scored by selling a Mary Beth Edelman spread to Tate Modern. I wished that the tactile and progressive Birgit Jürgenssen works at Hubert Winter were getting more of the attention they deserved, but was rather amazed to see a photo grid of gender stereotypes by another Austrian artist, Renate Bertlmann (presented by Richard Saltoun) that anticipated Cindy Sherman’s “film stills” by nearly a decade. Another discovery came at Warsaw’s Lokal 30, where the carnal photography of Natalia LL lost nothing in the translation from Polish.

Left: Dealer Stuart Shave. Right: Dealer Gavin Brown.

Aggressive though this section was (especially for men), it might better have suited Frieze Masters, where the secondary market reigns supreme. Likewise the Hauser & Wirth booth, which could have been the gift shop for the Concorde, were it still flying one-percenters over the Atlantic.

The gallery worked with classicist Mary Beard to create “BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2017,” replete with small bronzes by big names and fictive ones, because it could. (The booth’s gift shop raised roughly $13,000 for UK regional museums.) This was a little too Disney for my taste, though it was so crowded with art tourists that I couldn’t actually get in.

So I went to Masters, where soft lighting, carpeting, and spacious aisles provide a more user-friendly ambience. The always industrious, Bologna-based P420 Gallery, in the Spotlight section, literally glowed with neon “subway” paintings (1966–68) by the ripe-for-rediscovery Laura Grisi. Once a core artist in the Leo Castelli Gallery, the paintings skirt the edges of Process Art and Arte Povera without resting in either.

Venus Over Manhattan brought back tire works from the late Colin de Land’s John Dogg (aka Richard Prince) exhibition at American Fine Arts in 1986. (One collector bought a piece without knowing what it was.) And Alexander Gray hung 1950s abstract paintings by the legendary dealer Betty Parsons, who started out as a student of Alberto Giacometti.

Left: Serpentine Gallery curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, dealer Pilar Corrias, and artist Koo Jeong A. Right: Dealer Casey Kaplan.

That’s as far as I got before closing. Not that the clock stopped for recounting the pleasures of the past. At the Store on the Strand, a former office building turned exhibition and performance space by the Vinyl Factory, dealer Nicholas Logsdail was celebrating his fiftieth anniversary in the business with “Everything at Once,” an exhibition of fifty large-scale works by twenty-four gallery artists—Lawrence Weiner, Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramović, Nathalie Djurberg, Richard Long, Cory Arcangel, Susan Hiller, and Anish Kapoor among them.

How does an astute person make an impact throughout five decades of shifting paradigms and prejudices in the art world? “Never give up,” the stoic Logsdail said. “It doesn’t get easier, but it does get bigger.” Kapoor, who has been showing with the gallery for nearly three of those decades, agreed. “Nicholas struggled for twenty-five years,” he said. “It’s hard here in London for a gallery to maintain a space where artists are free to be themselves and do whatever they want. But he did it.”

After a few hours’ sleep, I taxied with dealer Sylvia Kouvali to Kingston University’s Stanley Picker Gallery on Richmond Park. Here, gallery program director Stella Bottai led about a dozen sleepy-eyed diehards to The Hollow of Your Hand, a sound piece by Christodoulos Panayiotou in the private Picker House, a perfectly preserved example of 1960s architecture with an interior designed by Terence Conran.

It included a hi-fi on which an assistant played vinyl recordings chosen or made by the artist while he and the rest of us stood around and listened. (The sofas were off-limits.) It was an odd, and oddly mournful, program that progressed from a scratchy old record from the Picker collection to a doubling of Judy Garland’s first and final renditions of “Over the Rainbow” and an approximation of the sound from James Dean’s car crash.

Left: Dealer Dominique Levy and Marta de Mello. Right: Designers Zoe Eckhaus and Mike Latta.

Another cab took us back to Frieze, where Kunsthalle Basel director Elena Filipovic was launching the latest of three new books, The Artist as Curator, published by Mousse, in a illuminating conversation with Obrist about David Hammons and Marcel Duchamp, the subjects of Filipovic’s other new volumes.

Clearly, art requires tireless attention. During Frieze Week, fortunately, that’s what there is to do. Since the fair’s Reading Room was near the Focus section for galleries younger than twelve, I took it in, stopping first for a chat, naturally, with dealers Malin Stahl and Lisa Panting. Their spunky Hollybush Gardens gallery harbors not just one but two of this year’s Turner Prize nominees, Andrea Büttner and the always appealing Lubaina Himid.

Focus, meanwhile, really lived up to its name, yet it was the least populated. Something was wrong with this picture. Aren’t collectors still pursuing emergent talents? They’re making a mistake not to support these galleries, the first rung of the ladder to stardom, and the hardest to keep up.

It sent me back out to catch shows I’d missed earlier in the week. The sun was up, the temperature mild, and the art in every gallery seemed happiest in quiet, domestically scaled environments.

It was civilized, and reminded me of something Filipovic had said about the way the ephemeral makes history and accumulates value—not by putting a big price on an object but by putting it in a context that creates meaning.

Art fairs have their place.

London’s is bigger.

Now let’s see what Paris has to offer.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: MoCAD senior curator Jens Hoffmann. Right: Frieze cofounder Amanda Sharp and collector Andrew Hale.

Left: Dealer Lorcan O'Neill and architect Luca Cipelletti. Right: MoMA chief curator Stuart Comer and dealer Peter Currie.

American Pie


Left: ICA London director Stefan Kalmár and dealer Sadie Coles. Right: Artist Sarah Lucas and dealer Sarah Watson. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

BREXIT OR NOT, London has thrown open its arms to American artists in what may be their biggest embrace since Pop.

On the cusp of the current Frieze Week, the Royal Academy featured Jasper Johns, the Serpentine Gallery had a show imported from Munich’s Museum Brandhorst by the increasingly captivating Wade Guyton. Tate Modern entered the home stretch of “Soul of a Nation,” its deeply satisfying survey of African-American art. The Barbican had the spirited and atmospheric “Basquiat: Boom for Real,” while the ICA prepped for Seth Price and Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery readied a full-on survey for Dan Colen.

It was no different in the galleries. Gagosian, David Zwirner, Thomas Dane, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, Maureen Paley, Herald St, Timothy Taylor, Alison Jacques, and The Sunday Painter had Brice Marden, Sherrie Levine, Catherine Opie, Josh Kline, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Jessi Reaves, Alex Katz, Sheila Hicks, and Cynthia Daignault, respectively.

Left: Artist Wade Guyton and Museum Brandhorst curator Achim Hochdörfer. Right: Artist Seth Price.

To inject some national pride into this unofficial Festival Americana, Tate Britain offered the open-plan embrace of a Rachel Whiteread retrospective, with the Chapman brothers on tap at Blain Southern and Gilbert and George at Lévy-Gorvy.

But it was Gary Hume who spearheaded the pushback as the artist inaugurating Sprüth Magers Gallery’s newly expanded quarters in Mayfair. The opening, last Thursday, brought out a starry cohort of smoking YBAs like Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk, Fiona Banner and Whiteread, along with Michael Craig-Martin, Anthony Gormley, Paul Simenon, Don Brown, Rebecca Warren, Nicola Tyson, and such institutional top dogs as the Whitechapel Gallery’s Iwona Blazwick, the Heyward’s Ralph Rugoff, and the ICA’s Stefan Kalmár as well as Frieze cofounders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp.

“It’s not about me,” said the modest Hume, whose new enamel-on-crinkly paper paintings invited a wholesale reconsideration of work that skitters between formalist abstraction and flat-out sentimentality with utter joy. “It’s not about the gallery,” countered Rugoff.

It was both. By taking over the Georgian townhouse where they used to have hardly more than a storefront, dealers Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers opened up and exposed to natural light domestic spaces friendly to viewing art. “We worked so hard!” said Magers, clearly pleased with the splendor of her surroundings. “Can you believe we’re standing in a basement?” remarked Craig-Martin, of a lower-level gallery with such high ceilings that what might once have been a bomb shelter felt like a grand salon.

Left: Artists Georgie Hopton and Rebecca Warren. Right: Artists Brice Marden and Gary Hume with Royal Academy exhibitions director Tim Marlow.

The mood was just as bubbly at the dinner for two hundred, catered by Arnold & Henderson at One Belgravia. The Berlin-based gallery, which also has a huge outpost in Los Angeles, attracted a few Germans, mainly Thomas Ruff (on show at the Whitechapel) and Andreas Gursky, and collectors Dayana Tamendarova and the Rubells, but mostly this was an evening of artists’ artists who all collect each other.

Like several of his formerly bad-boy-and-girl friends, Hume is now an esteemed member of the Royal Academy of Arts. There, on Saturday morning, he waxed both funny and poetic in an exclusive talk with Marden and RA exhibitions director Tim Marlow. Marden, clad in his signature navy watch cap and bright orange socks, confessed that he likes to touch paintings in museums and recommended the experience, while Hume told the crowd of about sixty patrons that he became an artist because, he said, “Painting has problems that are all soluble by feeling.”

Thus stimulated, I headed out to discover a developing neighborhood of a dozen galleries in the Bermondsey area of Southwark, where Tyson had large and small-scale drawings at the stalwart Drawing Room, Damien Ortega had pride of place at White Cube, and Marianna Simnett impressed with the syringe-inflected Worst Gift, a comic/creepy video installation at Matt’s Gallery. (“Clearly an artist to watch,” Serpentine Gallery artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist would tell me later.)

Left: Artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Catherine Opie. Right: Graphic designer Peter Saville.

From there it was off to Clapham to meet artists Sam McEwen and Pablo Bronstein at Studio Voltaire, where Glaswegian curator Paul Pieroni had mounted a heart-stopping show of cartoon drawings by the little-known Vittorio Scarpati, who was married to writer Cookie Mueller and made them in 1989 as both were dying of AIDS in New York.

Nearby, Daignault was opening The Sunday Painter’s new location with alpine imagery and the always edgy feminist dominatrix Cosey Fanni Tutti, formerly of Throbbing Gristle, debuted new video animation of her hometown, Hull, that was so hypnotic that we stayed past closing time.

Just as compelling, by the way, is Bronstein’s show at the Royal Institute of British Architecture, where his eyebrow-raising drawings enhance shoddy, low- and high-end “developer rubbish” in London dating from the 1960s–1990s. (Think Grenfell Tower.)

With McEwen at the wheel, we raced across London to The Approach, a gallery optimally situated above its own downstairs pub, and then to the packed Reaves and Rollins openings at Herald St and Maureen Paley. The two galleries cohosted a bibulous buffet at St. John Bread and Wine that went late, got loud, and spilled out into a typically English downpour.

Left: Choreographer Michael Clark. Right: Dealer Maureen Paley, artist Tim Rollins, and dealer Chantal Crousel.

To brace myself for the fair week ahead, I spent my so-called day of rest lunching on Yorkshire Pudding with Sarah McCrory, director of a promising future gallery at Goldsmith’s, and writer Charlie Porter and his artist fiancé, Richard Dodwell at the East End’s Marksman Pub before diving into “The Grime and the Glamour,” a film program accompanying the Barbican’s Basquiat show. (Its tagline, “Films about the wild days and nights of New York’s coolest era,” made me feel special.) But the Basquiat show, which focuses on early works that rarely appear in museum surveys of the artist, actually does quite a good job evoking a sense of the downtown Manhattan that birthed him. I liked it a lot.

By Monday, I was starting to feel as if Frieze Week was already anticlimactic. Then Tate Modern literally sent the pendulum swinging the other way with this year’s Hyundai Commission for Turbine Hall: “One Two Three Swing!” by the all-media, Danish collective, SUPERFLEX.

The public can now lie on a carpet striped with the color of British paper money—the “Zone of Apathy”—and pray that the five-hundred-pound gazing ball swaying above them with to the rhythms of the planet doesn’t drop on them. “You can actually hear it breathe,” said a gleeful Frances Morris, Tate Modern’s director.

That turned out to be true, sort of, when I previewed it with Tate performance curator Catherine Wood, and could hear this shiny wrecking ball of an artwork strain against its anchoring chains. Or were we hearing it gasp at the Switch House wing’s American-style renaming as the Blavatnik Building? (Unusual for here.)

Left: Tate Modern curator of performance art Catherine Wood with Tate Modern director Frances Morris. Right: Artist Geumhyung Jeong.

We felt less anxious on the three-person, cork swings that SUPERFLEX has made for both the hall and the plaza outside, where they hope people will gather around the clock. (A video of Morris swinging like a Fragonard damsel with Tate Gallery overall director Maria Balshaw was already going viral.) It’s all about community.

“There are enough one-person swings in the world,” observed SUPERFLEX’s Jakob Fenger, explaining at a press conference that more swing parks are in the works for sites all over the city, or as many cities everywhere that will take them.

The collective’s three artists have been collaborating since meeting in school, and as SUPERFLEXer Rasmus Nielsen said, they don’t even believe in individual expression. They want strangers from alien cultures to get chummy in public space, help forge a less divisive world that, he admitted, seemed to be “living in the last hours of the Titanic.”

In the Age of Trump, all I can say is good luck with that.

Meantime, it was back to individual vision, specifically that of the young Korean performance artist Geumhyung Jeong, another artist Obrist was keen to watch. She gave an amusing, totally perverse minidemonstration of massage techniques in the beauty spa she had installed in the Tanks by swinging from an orange leather sling and rubbing her flesh against upright brushes sprouting from a male sex doll.

Left: Artists Michael Craig-Martin and Jeremy Deller. Right: Artists Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky.

Over at White Cube Bermondsey, artist Eddie Peake was running his troupe of four dancers through Relinquish, a new piece of looping choreography to what Performa director RoseLee Goldberg cited as “great deejaying,” and Francesco Vezzoli was welcoming guests to a dinner on the Astroturf grounding his absolutely credible evocation of de Chirico’s world at Nahmad Projects.

After visiting Opie’s show of truly magnificent artist portraits at Dane, where a few subjects—Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Isaac Julien, Duro Olowu—were seeing themselves through her eyes for the first time, I hopped a ride with Sprüth and her London gallery’s director Andreas Gegner to Kalmár’s first benefit gala as ICA director.

Somehow, we arrived an hour early—unheard of! But so did Craig-Martin and dealer Chantal Crousel, who passed the time till cocktails by donning headphones and intently watching the many videos in “Seth Price: Circa 1981,” installed in the darkened, freshly renewed, ground-floor gallery, a sunken living room of a space that previously presented itself more like a barrier than a welcome mat.

Kalmár clearly has wasted no time remaking the ICA, bringing in Richard Birkett, his curator from Artists Space, opening up ceilings to skylights, and installing a new bookstore and a regular bar and restaurant helmed by Arnold & Henderson in what used to be a small café.

Left: Artist Tracey Emin and Stefán Kalmar. Right: Artist Pablo Bronstein.

Despite all this, some locals have been grumbling about his program. Not radical enough! Not British enough! Too commercial!

That was because the evening’s honoree was Bryan Ferry, the rude boy–turned–artisto rock star. (“I love him,” said one guest, “but his politics are rubbish.”)

Some people are never happy. Which is, after all, the way of art. Contrariness is welcome, including by Kalmár, who characterized the ICA in opening remarks as, “A site of examination, experimentation and production, giving agency to new forms, progressive ideas, marginalized voices, and opposing opinions.”

Because dinner was served in two separate rooms, opinions divided according to placement. Many people inevitably felt as if they were in the wrong seat—particularly those who weren’t anywhere near the guest of honor. Meanwhile, the lionized, handsome Ferry expressed his radicalism by declining to be photographed, nor did he want to speak or be spoken to. “He’s very shy,” Kalmár said. He was not, however, averse to taking selfies with friends like Peter Doig. And after a toast by Michael Bracewell, who named him the ultimate collagiste by recalling Ferry’s stated influences as Smokey Robinson and Marcel Duchamp, the singer rose to say, “I’m not gonna sing,” before thanking, first, Lanvin, the evening’s sponsor, and then Kalmár.

Price sat quietly by his side, happily talking about his show. The artist had seen it only that afternoon, already in place and looking supreme in its mutual beneficial setting. “I told them to think of me as a dead artist,” Price quipped, “and to go ahead to do their thing.”

Now Frieze is here and we’re all doing it. And once again London is swinging.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artists Gavin Turk and Joseph Kosuth. Right: Artist Phobe Greenwood and Claire Rouen Books founder Lucy Moore.

Forest for the Clouds


Left: Moscow Biennale curator Yuko Hasegawa. Right: Moscow Biennale Expert Council Members Semyon Mikhailovsky, Zelfira Tregulova, and Joseph Backstein. (Except where noted, all photos: Kate Sutton)

AS TITLES GO, “Clouds ⇄Forest,” Yuko Hasegawa’s for the seventh Moscow Biennale, was lyrical, if a little typographically challenging. While clouds and forest may intertwine, the former will never know what it means to take root, just as the latter will never take flight. Hasegawa meant this as a metaphor for a generational shift between what she terms “Forest Tribes”—artists using more or less traditional media—and “Cloud Tribes,” the children of this recent rootless era of networked communications and digital technologies. (The Cliff Notes version might call this “89plus.”)

Hasegawa’s brand of quiet grace and observation has earned her remarkable loyalty from the artists with whom she works closely, but professionally she holds a reputation as one of the few who can pull together a cohesive biennial in eight months—which was how much she was allotted for Moscow. In practice, it was hard to pry the “tribes” apart. Video installations by Cécile B. Evans, Susan Schuppli, Rohini Devasher, and Ryan Trecartin settled smoothly alongside Louise Drulhe’s Bitchain topographies, Aurora Sander’s sculptural ode to the woes of the AirBnB maid, or Gauri Gill’s gorgeous collaborative drawings, made together with Warli artist Rajesh Vangad. This synthesis was summed up smartly by artist Justine Emard and dancer Mirai Moriyama’s Co(AI)xistance. The film captures Moriyama interacting with an anthropomorphic robot, their movements wavering between courtship and confrontation. “I told him to just act like a human,” Emard shrugged when asked about the process. “It was important to me that this wasn’t sci-fi. I wanted to work with what we already have.”

But the wispy elegance of “Clouds ⇄Forest” couldn’t help but snag in the gnarly limbs of Moscow’s museum infrastructure, inadvertently revealing the discrepancy between the mistier denizens of the art scene, who cherish international mobility and visibility, and the more stationary institutions that would prefer to double-down on their respective traditions.

Left: Critic Egor Sofronov with artists Anastasia Potemkina and Alina Gutkova. Right: Artist Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov.

The Moscow Biennale paradoxically contains both impulses. As a rule, the character of each edition has been inextricable from its location—whether that be the shiny, half-built skyscrapers of Moscow City; the cavernous hulls of Artplay; the bland hotel-lobby-like promenades of the New Manege; or the grand pavilions of the V.D.N.Kh., a sort of World’s Fair for the former Soviet Republics where curators Bart de Baere, Defne Ayas, and Nicolaus Schafhausen hunkered down in September 2015 for the ten-day art bootcamp that was the sixth biennial. While suited to the occasion, the V.D.N.Kh. is currently undergoing a transformation into a “Museum Island”–style complex centered around a showcase space for ROSIZO, the Ministry of Culture’s exhibition export arm, which is, as of last spring, also directly overseeing Russia’s National Center of Contemporary Art and its network of regional outposts. (Those in the know can only give thanks that ROSIZO gained curator Alisa Prudnikova in the bargain, as there could be no better guiding light for an otherwise dimly lit bureaucratic beast.)

With V.D.N.Kh. occupied, and progressive-minded institutions like Garage and V-A-C preoccupied with their own programs, it wasn’t quite clear that there would even be a seventh Moscow Biennale until late January, when the Ministry of Culture launched a two-day volley of press releases announcing both the roster for the Russian Pavilion in Venice (another looming uncertainty) and the Moscow dates, curator, advisory board, and location: the State Tretyakov Gallery’s modern and contemporary wing, just opposite Gorky Park on the Krymsky Val.

The New Tretyakov (as it’s commonly known) wields a formidable—often mind-blowing—collection, picking up with the clear-cut jawdroppers of the Russian Avant-Garde and carrying through the greatest hits of Socialist Realism, the cheap shots of Sots Art, and a tepid attempt at the present. Alas, institutional might does not always translate to available power outlets. The building was designed to showcase paintings and the occasional pedestal-bound sculpture, not the complex multimedia installations Hasegawa required. Blackout curtains were brought in to carve out narrow corridors between viewing spaces, enhancing projections but rendering navigation treacherous. The biennial’s supposed centerpiece was Björk Digital, a series of six VR experiences departing from the singer’s 2015 Vulnicura album, but each time I circled back to the installation it was either not functioning or comically over capacity.

Left: Dishon Yuldash at ISSMAG Gallery. Right: Artist Gauri Gill.

As Hasegawa explained, Björk is someone who makes very personal work using cutting-edge technologies, which meant she was neither forest, nor cloud. This might explain her perplexing billing in the original announcement as a “Special Guest,” a designation shared with her ex, Matthew Barney, and Olafur Eliasson, ostensibly the most famous artists on the roster (It made one wonder if the branding had been workshopped with the artists before it hit the presses.) For whatever reason, shortly after the press blast, Barney canceled a performance that would have bridged the September 12th grand opening of Cai Guo-Qiang’s “October” at the Pushkin Museum and the biennial’s September 18th launch. Instead, visitors had to negotiate the sudden downtime, making me long for the days when the Moscow Biennale’s parallel program pumped the city with bright red banners and bad reception wine.

Speaking of signage, on the biennial’s opening day the façade of the New Tretyakov was branded with the massive slogan the pride of russia—referring not to the biennial but to the metallurgical expo lumped in the other half of the building. Meanwhile, across the street at Gorky Park, Beyoncéd strains from Frank Ocean’s “Pink and White” sailed over the streams of young hipsters, still a week too early for the Garage’s epic Takashi Murakami solo. This stark generational divide reverberated even more strongly at the biennial’s Monday morning press conference, when Tretyakov director Zelfira Tregulova trumpeted the exhibition as one “of art, not artistic illustrations of social or political issues.” Which would be… bad?

Left: NCCA curator Sasha Burenkov. Right: ROSIZO NCCA's Alisa Prudnikova and Masha Gurnina.

This clash of muddled conservatism with international ambitions had coursed through the previous evening’s lecture by esteemed art historian Sergey Khachaturov, part of the biennial’s educational program. Tasked with answering whether there is such a thing as “pure art,” Khachaturov turned to Orest Kiprensky’s beloved 1827 portrait of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, the muse strumming in his ear. The critic then proceeded to tick off three “pure” geniuses of our time—James Turrell, Bill Viola, and William Kentridge—before venturing a fourth: Kirill Serebrennikov, the prominently dissident director of the Gogol Center, currently in prison facing trumped-up charges of embezzlement and fraud. Serebrennikov’s “Little Tragedies”—a staging of four of Pushkin’s plays—had opened to unequivocal raves days before the biennial’s opening, despite the pronounced absence of its director.

If Khachaturov’s definition of “genius”—Serebrennikov excepted—rang distinctly of the “forest” (or perhaps a privileged suburban garden park in Phoenix), it is reassuringly far from representative of the tastes of Moscow’s “Cloud Tribes,” which are graduating in ever-higher numbers from institutions like the Rodchenko School, the Institute of Contemporary Art (launched in 1991 by Biennale founder Joseph Backstein, but now primarily fronted by artist Stas Shuripa), and Anatoly Osmolovksy’s BAZA institute. The question is, what are all these young art students to do, now that the financial sucker-punch of international sanctions and heightened visa restrictions has added ever more obstacles to the game of Frogger that is “making it” in the international scene (or, at the very least, to an e-flux)?

Left: Artist Dashi Namdakov. Right: Artist Sayaka Shimada.

To shed some light, I met enterprising young curator Sasha Burenkov at the Moscow NCCA, where the choreographic collective Isadorino Gore’s Alexandra Portyannikova and Daria Plokhova were just wrapping up a performance workshop. Burenkov guided me through the show on the Shiryaevo Biennale (a one-day progressive exhibition on the shores of the Volga, not far from Samara), before we ventured to ISSMAG, a project space specifically conceived by Dishon Yuldash to cater to emerging artists. Run more as a labor of love than a gallery, the venture is on its third location in three years. As Yuldash confessed, there is such a thing as too much success. After opening in a ritzy window vitrine in downtown Moscow, ISSMAG moved to the empty NIIDAR factory, where flocks of the young and beautiful would descend just to hang out. “After all the good clubs closed, there hasn’t been anywhere to go, so we would open an exhibition and have three hundred people there to party,” Yuldash recounted. The move to a two-story garage was partially intended to shift the focus back to the work itself, though ISSMAG is still struggling to find a sustainable format. “In a moment like this, you don’t have a right to close this kind of space,” Burenkov reasoned. “It has to keep going somehow.”

On my way back to the New Tretyakov, I detoured through Zaryadye Park, the thirty-two-acre “urban wilderness” designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, landscape architects Hargreave Jones, and Russian bureau, Citymakers. Moscow’s first new park in several decades, Zaryadye occupies the empty lot directly across from Red Square and the Kremlin. Until 2006, the site had been host to the three-thousand-plus-roomed Rossiya, once the world’s largest hotel and arguably also one of its most soul-sucking. (Granted, most of my memories of the place involved having to routinely produce my passport and keycard while wandering through its labyrinthine halls to prove I wasn’t a prostitute—an accusation my twenty-year-old self found mildly flattering.) A High Line on steroids, Zaryadye Park features four climate zones, representative of Russia’s various regions, as well as an outdoor amphitheatre, a panoramic bridge, the site of the future philharmonic, a 4D theater, and an ice cave containing an installation by artist Alexander Ponomarev—the grizzled “Captain” of this year’s Antarctica Biennale.

Left: Artist Michael Najjar. Right: Artist Siji Krishnan.

The park had rushed to open in time for the September 9 “City Day” commemorating Moscow’s 870th birthday. Putin made a point of driving his own golf cart from the Kremlin across Red Square to preside over the festivities. The enormous fanfare might have been aimed at taking the edge off the park’s cost: supposedly to the tune of some $250 million—a number nearly echoing the 250 million visitors recorded in the park’s first weekend. Alas, amid the frenzy ten thousand exotic or endangered plants were destroyed or pocketed. Just two days after the opening, administrators soberly announced that the park would be undergoing immediate restoration, opening several hours late that first Monday, and that entrance from here on out would be allowed only in fifteen minute intervals. (And the ice cave? “Come back in October!” a security guard scoffed.)

By the time I reached the New Tretyakov, a similar entrance system was in place, with security guards attempting to temper the surge of guests, who pooled around the museum mezzanine’s model of Tatlin’s tower. Biennale organizer Tatiana Nemirovskaya spotted me in the crush and expertly extracted me from the champagne-fluted masses, spiriting me off to an elevator with a direct connection to the fourth floor. While this meant working backwards through the exhibition, the route allowed me to follow the logical progression of the collection, from Aristarkh Lentulov’s prismatic rooftops, Boris Kustodiev’s voluptuous absurdities, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s brooding portaits, to Aleksandr Deineka’s melancholic monuments to the human form, where I ran into Garage chief curator Kate Fowle admiring the strapping goalkeeper mid-save. “It’s actually really great that everyone has to exit through the collection,” she mused.

The path also allowed me to catch the handful of biennial works installed within the collection. In particular, I appreciated the two Hussein Chalayan suspended sculptures of torsos melting into motion just in front of Lyubov Popova’s 1915 relief The Jug on the Table. Their harmonious coexistence gave an inkling of the exhibition Hasegawa might have delivered with more time, had she the luxury of playing to the museum’s strengths rather than fighting its limitations. As it were, I contented myself with admiring the clouds nestled within the forest, grateful I didn’t have to pick sides.

Kate Sutton

Left: Artists Bahar Behbahani and Aurora Sandor's Ellinor Aurora Aasgaard with Moscow Biennale assistant Atsuhiro Miyake. Right: Moscow Biennale's Nick Molok-Tolstoi with artist Marie-Luce Nadal.

Liquid Dreams


Left: Artists Daniel Steegmann Mangrané and Armando Andrade Tudela. Right: Critic Cédric Aurelle, artist Julien Creuzet, and Antonin Creuzet.

“CONGRATULATIONS! IT’S PACKED!” I shouted to Magalie Meunier, assistant curator at Lyon’s Institut d’Art Contemporain (IAC), as we squeezed through the crowd at the opening of the exhibition “Rendez-Vous.”

The Lyon Biennial, now in its fourteenth edition, is the brainchild of Thierry Raspail, and “Rendez-Vous” is the section that he continues to cocurate. Since 2002, this part of the biennial has been a platform for promoting up-and-coming French artists and their equally dewy international counterparts, invited by the directors of ten biennials across the globe.

In the courtyard at IAC, this création internationale was presented entirely in French by its matrix of organizers. Thomas Teurlai, an alumnus of Lyon’s school of fine art, was honored for his masculine installation involving a filthy shower and strobe lights, and the crowd was introduced to Bose Krishnamachari and Jorge Fernández Torres, curators of the Kochi-Muziris and Havana Biennials, respectively, who had traveled many miles for the occasion. From Cuba, Torres selected artist Duniesky Martín, who here probes the collective memories of Cuban and American society through film synopses presented on six iPads.

Left: Arists Marco Godinho and Lara Almárcqui; Philippe Quesne, codirector of the National Dramatic Centre at Nanterre-Amandier; Biennale de Lyon's Thierry Prat; Floating Worlds curator Emma Lavigne; and artists Elizabeth Clark, Ari Benjamin Meyers, and Eva Reiter. Right: Artist Christodolous Panayiotou.

I ran into Martín and Torres at the Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC) in the company of the collector Francisca Viudes, who runs an artist’s residency in Nice. MAC is one of two main venues for the biennial, “Floating Worlds,” guest-curated by Emma Lavigne of Centre Pompidou Metz. Lavigne’s title references Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of “liquid modernity,” also a nod to the “modern” theme that defines this and the previous biennial. The works center around language, form, and music as they are made transient, or “liquid,” through the impact of time and the elements.

For a new work by Rivane Neuenschwander, titled Bataille, we followed the Brazilian artist’s invitation to piece together phrases from words beautifully woven onto scraps of fabric made to look like clothing labels. Also from Brazil, Viudes is alert to the ongoing ecological and ethnic crises caused by deforestation in the region. Fastened to her shawl were the words “Protect the people of the Amazon.”

The other half of Lavigne’s exhibition is at La Sucriére, a former sugar factory scenically located on a tip of land where the Saône and Rhône Rivers meet. With a massive sheet of silk, courtesy of Hans Haacke, flowing at its center, the space is dominated by white works of the same generation as the late Bauman. (As one French critic joked, “Floating Worlds” sometimes looks like an advertisement for laundry detergent.)

Left: Jorge Fernández Torres, director of the National Gallery Cuba and of the Havana Biennial, with collector and curator Francisca Viudes and artist Duniesky Martín. Right: Critic Isabelle Harbison with Mary Cremin, director of VOID Art Space, artist Camille Norment, and José da Silva of the Art Newspaper.

At Monday’s vernissage soiree, the whites were broken up by the circulation of Lyon’s characteristic pink praline cakes. Upstairs, Ari Benjamin Meyers had enlisted local art students for a band named the Art, which jammed their way through a themed track list, including the aptly titled “The Opening.” On the rooftop of the factory, Meyers’s indie rock was replaced by techno beats, and artists, curators, and critics alike threw their coats and tote bags in a pile and danced into the wee hours.

At three in the morning I made a French exit and, failing to find a taxi, left the remote location in a stranger’s rugged Renault. “I like to do coke and just drive around,” my chauffeur told me. Why not? A white-powdered finish to my bright night in Lyon.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen