Full Circle


Left: Artists Anthea Hamilton and Helen Marten. Right: Choreographer Michael Clark. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


You might be tempted to say, “Art,” but that’s not always the case. The highest purpose of a fair is to generate bonding opportunities for people who make art go.

When the fair is Frieze and the city is London, they come in great number from across the globe, the trouble spots and the tranquil ones (if such places still exist). Paths cross constantly, whether by intention or chance. The more incestuous the fraternity, the greater its success.

On Tuesday night, for example, a line formed outside the gallery that Brussels- and Paris-based dealer Almine Rech was opening with an exhibition by Jeff Koons. The new space is on Grosvenor Hill, just steps from Gagosian, Koons’s primary dealer. Yet one of the first visitors to pay his respects was David Zwirner, the artist’s other dealer in New York, where Rech will soon open another venue with a show of Picassos and Calders. Its two curators are her husband, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the only legitimate grandson of you-know-who, and Sandy Rower, grandson of Alexander Calder.

May the circle be unbroken—that’s the fair week mojo.

Left: Dealer Almine Rech and artist Jeff Koons. Right: Artist Ed Ruscha and Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff.

Zwirner didn’t stay with Koons longer than it took to shake hands. The dealer had to get back to his Grafton Street outpost, where he was opening exhibitions by Neo Rauch and new collaborators Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama. Gagosian had new paintings by Ed Ruscha.

The Koons and Ruscha shows were crowded with people shuttling between the two galleries. Rech had several Koons “Gazing Ball” paintings, plus two new stainless steel sculptures based on porcelain figurines of Degas ballerinas, but made so smooth and glossy that they looked as if they would liquefy at a glance. In fact, Koons said he had photographed the porcelain models underwater before making them tall and large. “The David’s not bad either,” he remarked, indicating his gazing ball–attuned appropriation of Jacques-Louis David’s Intervention of the Sabine Women. Personally, I wish he would return to contemporary subjects. “How were these paintings made?” asked French art blogger Judith Benhamou-Huet. Koons hesitated a moment. Wasn’t it obvious? “By hand,” he replied, gently.

The droll Ruscha, meanwhile, can still make word paintings that surprise. These were the color of a desert and juxtaposed the values of words like “mile” and “inch” through changes in scale. One canvas, however, had only arrows pointing in different directions. “They’re showing the way,” Ruscha said, breaking from a conversation with Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff, curator of “The Infinite Mix,” a show of music-driven video art that many people, Rugoff included, told me was not to be missed.

Left: Artists Nathaniel Mellors and Tala Madani with dealer Mara McCarthy. Right: Dealer David Zwirner.

But this night, the night before Frieze, belonged to the new. Dealer Bill Powers speed-walked me through Mayfair to Claridge’s, where Parisian dealer Kamel Mennour was opening a show of new work by Latifa Echakhch in a new, shoebox-size outlet on the opposite side of the hotel’s lobby from design dealer Patrick Seguin’s equally compact shop. Cognizant of a certain threat underlying the current American election, Echakhch had broken an oxidized, bronze liberty bell and scattered the pieces. “It’s a vintage bell,” she said. “I may have a smile on my face, but my heart is crying.”

We continued our walk. At the Pilar Corrias gallery, extended family associations gave added dimension to “Shitty Disco,” Tala Madani’s darkly feminine update on cave painting. By her side were Nathaniel Mellors, her artist husband, and her Los Angeles dealer, Mara McCarthy (daughter of Paul), as well as Bidoun editor Negar Azimi and MoMA curator Stuart Comer. On the way to dinner at Dickie Fitz, they stopped at Carroll/Fletcher to catch the closing minutes of a reception for Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, of New York and Ramallah, where there were small objects on tables and on the floor, which young artists now seem to prefer to walls.

At the urging of White Columns director Matthew Higgs, Powers departed for Tramps, where Peter Doig had organized a show of paintings by Denzil Forrester, soon to appear in New York. When the dinner for Madani turned out to be mainly truffle rice balls in no great supply, I taxied to the Kensington Palace Gardens home of Valeria Napoleone, a collector of art by women, who was hosting a heartier buffet for Jamian Juliano-Villani’s installation at Studio Voltaire. Among the guests was Anthea Hamilton, the lone Turner Prize finalist braving the market without gallery representation—no small feat during Frieze.

Fair organizers deserve praise for dispensing with weighty show catalogues—a waste of paper in this age of the JPEG—in favor of well-written journals put together by editors of Frieze magazine, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth year this week.

Left: Collector Valeria Napoleone. Right: Dealer David Cabrera, artist Joan Semmel, and dealer Alexander Gray.

The weather in London also went against custom, when bright sunlight and clear autumn skies accompanied thousands of VIPs to the fair’s fourteenth edition and to its younger sibling, Frieze Masters, opening on Wednesday at opposite ends of Regents Park. Due to the miscalculation of an Uber driver, I started at the latter, and was instantly baffled.

Hauser & Wirth’s presentation of modern works by the likes of Philip Guston with medieval religious paintings was confusing. “We’re collaborating with Moretti Fine Art,” explained gallery director Marc Payot. But why? “It’s interesting,” he said. Collaboration here was common. Chicago’s Corbett vs. Dempsey and London’s Thomas Dane combined to show 1960s collages and paintings by American and British artists. Dominique Lévy and Marianne Boesky joined forces with Sprüth-Magers for an all-Frank Stella arrangement that included a “stripe” painting—his first—from the Whitney’s Stella retrospective. The secondary market sure is quick.

Zwirner’s spare installation of signal works by Blinky Palermo, On Kawara, and Donald Judd, among others, was especially suave. “The committee gave us the prize for best booth!” Zwirner said, proudly. The Helly Nahmad corner was even simpler. It had just three paintings—all late Picassos. I needed lunch.

After spinning back several hundred years to the illuminated manuscripts at Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books, I stood impatiently in the twenty-first century line at the understaffed and inefficient Locanda Locatelli, praying the sandwich supply wouldn’t run out. The line happened to form at the top of the aisle for Spotlight, the section reserved for neglected ’60s and ’70s art resuscitated by galleries that Menil Collection curator Toby Kamps selected for the fair. “It’s good this year, isn’t it?” he said. Any fair that features paintings by Joan Semmel (at Alexander Gray) is fine with me.

Left: Sharjah Biennial curator Christine Tohme and Serralves Museum director Suzanne Cotter. Right: Sharjah Biennial artistic director Hoor Al-Qasimi.

In this carpeted, relatively pleasant place, one could actually focus on art—whenever people didn’t distract. I found LACMA director Michael Govan and his wife Katharine Ross at the Michael Rosenfeld stand, studying fetishistic, black leather heads by Nancy Grossman. “We already have one,” he said. He seemed to want more.

Frieze Masters, in fact, seems to be catnip for museum professionals. Geneva’s Centre d’Art Contemporain director, Andrea Bellini, was in the photo booth that Bologna’s P420 Arte Contemporanea brought to its restaging of Franco Vaccari’s “Photomatic d’Italia” (1972–74). Fondation Beyeler director Sam Keller stopped in at Freymond-Guth to see the latex wall and window sculptures that the late Swiss artist Heidi Bucher made by literally skinning the rooms of her grandmother’s condemned house. And Art Institute of Chicago deputy director Ann Goldstein was examining every Spotlight booth with Wexner Center director Sherry Geldin, the woman who gave Goldstein her first job, in the early years of LA MoCA.

On their exit, they passed Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi and National Portrait Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan, who was making tracks from the Frieze tent so quickly that no one had a chance to ask if the rumors circulating that pegged him to replace retiring Tate museums director Nicholas Serota were true—or if Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick would get the nod.

The only person missing when I crossed the threshold into Frieze was Charon. All hell seemed to have broken loose, there was so much art and so many people buying it that I couldn’t help but wonder if a day would come when all of this would end up in a Xanadu well beyond Charles Foster Kane’s wildest dreams.

Left: Dealer Mehdi Chouakri with artists Mai-Thu Perret, Sylvie Fleury, and John Armleder. Right: Dealer Marian Goodman.

Basically, there are two kinds of dealers here: those that sell, and those that “place” work in select collections. I couldn’t tell if the galleries participating in a special section devoted to solo shows of the ’90s were doing either one, but it was fun to see what its curator Nicolas Trembley thought worth remembering of the time before the internet, before globalization, before Frieze, and before filthy lucre wiped out experimentation.

Galerie Neu’s Thilo Wermke and Alexander Schröder were standing by their Daniel Pflumm presentation and handing out little stickers. Stepping into the exact recreation of Wolfgang Tillmans’s first gallery show of photographs, at Daniel Buchholz’s Cologne space, in 1993, Tate Modern curator Mark Godfrey exclaimed, “I had no idea that the gallery was this small!” The photos featured plenty of people on Ecstasy. Remember Ecstasy? Remember exercise videos? At Mehdi Chouakri’s stand, Sylvie Fleury recreated her ’93 scatter of TV monitors playing the videos by such fitness gurus of the period as Jane Fonda and Raquel Welch. “That’s where I started finding sculptures in the old days,” Fleury said of the videos, “when the fashion world started making things that looked like art.”

Back in the aisles, Serpentine Gallery curator Hans Ulrich Obrist was handing out flyers for his “Miracle Marathon” this weekend. It focuses on magical thinking and turns on something he termed “fuckosophy.” I was intrigued. “It’s an urgent word, no?” he said.

At the Kurimanzutto booth, a jungle gym of a sculpture by Leonor Antunes hung like vines over the desk, where two bottles of champagne were on display—clear evidence that the Mexico City gallery had taken the Frieze stand prize, sponsored by Ruinart. “I’ve never won anything in my life before!” exclaimed an excited Mónica Manzutto. “Nothing! Never. This is great.”

Left: Artist Ingar Dragset. Right: Artist Laura Owens and Whitney Museum chief curator Scott Rothkopf.

This was the first Frieze I can remember where I spotted not a single carpetbagging celebrity, but I did see artists like Martin Boyce, Jim Lambie, and William Kentridge, some with work in the fair, others just looking. In the Focus section for young galleries at the far reaches of the tent, Ingar Dragset was studying the soft-penis paintings by Celia Hempton hung on thick walls she painted more abstractly at Southard Reid. And in a live performance, Darja Bajagić and Lloyd Corporation artists set up a faux internet café and teased fairgoers with luxury goods they couldn’t buy for all the money in the world.

Darkness fell, and it was on to Soho, where Laura Owens was showing an astonishing number of new and varied paintings at Sadie Coles HQ. “It took twelve art handlers to install the show,” reported Ryan Sullivan, one of many other artists in attendance, including Jordan Wolfson, Sam Falls, Magali Reus, Hillary Lloyd, Anthea Hamilton, and Helen Marten, who is definitely on a roll as a Turner Prize finalist with a concurrent solo show at the Serpentine.

Marten has mixed feelings about her sudden prominence. “If you win the Turner, you have to go on TV and speak!” she protested. “People think artists want the limelight, but it’s horrid.” I’m not sure Hamilton, who was beside her, agreed. Nonetheless, with curators like the Whitney’s Scott Rothkopf, Chisenhale Gallery director Polly Staple, and MoMA colleagues Laura Hoptman, David Platzker, and Comer joining dealers Carol Greene and Gavin Brown and Gisela Capitan, both artist got plenty of attention at the resolutely vegan, communal dinner at One Belgravia that Owens requested from chef Margot Henderson.

Matthew Higgs, an avatar of disco music from around the world—see his Instagram account—took to the decks with Andrew Hale to spin for dancers who wanted to stay up all night. (Apparently, quite few.)

Left: Dealer Sadie Coles. Right: Dealers Erika Weiss, Kathryn Erdman, and Maureen Paley with artist Maureen Gallace and dealer Cristian Alexa.

For those without hangovers and not required to stay in the Frieze tents, Thursday was a good day for walking around town to look at art in galleries and museums. First, at the ICA, Sharjah Art Foundation president Hoor Al-Qasimi announced the artists and locations (Sharjah, Beirut, and online) and discussed the connective tissue of the thirteenth Sharjah Biennial, opening in March and curated by Ashkal Alwan director Christine Tohme. “Everything we do is an experiment,” Al-Qasimi told me, speaking of the unsettled conditions in her part of the world—or, actually, everywhere.

I strolled down the Strand to the Store, a vacant office building where I watched all ten videos in Rugoff’s show, coproduced by the Hayward (currently closed for rehabbing) and the Vinyl Factory. Among the films—every one a standout—were a new, holographic piece by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Bam Bam’s Dream, a partly animated documentary that Jeremy Deller and Cecilia Bengolea made for the current Săo Paulo Bienal. It follows a female daggering champion in Jamaica and is by turns ecstatic and horrifying.

The evening brought even more joy in dance—with Maureen Paley’s hubbub of an East End party for Maureen Gallace at St John Bread and Wine coming right on the tail of the premiere, at the Barbican, of three new works by choreographer Michael Clark. Set to the music of Erik Satie, Patti Smith, and David Bowie, with gorgeous lighting by Charles Atlas and perfect costumes by Stevie Stewart, this was the happiest experience of my week—one shared with a predominately art-world audience (think Sarah Lucas, Jarvis Cocker, Charles Asprey, and ICA director-elect Stefan Kalmár).

“No frills beauty,” said Tate Modern curator Catherine Wood. “I loved being in Michael’s theatrical darkness—such an antidote to two days of overexposure in the fair!”

Context is everything.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár. Right: Artist Jeremy Deller and dealer Toby Webster.

Fish Tank


Left: Composer and conductor Esmeralda Conde Ruiz with Tate museums director Nicholas Serota. Right: Serpentine Gallery curator Hans Ulrich Obrist with artist Philippe Parreno, dealer Pilar Corrias and LA MoCA director Philippe Vergne. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

FRIEZE WEEK IN LONDON isn’t just about an art fair. It’s a marathon of social rubbernecking fraught with FOMO. One has to ease into it.

Last Friday afternoon, I had the good luck to find Pablo Bronstein at Tate Britain, admiring the stamina of the three women performing his suave meld of pedestrian and Baroque movement with “Historical Dances in an Antique Setting,” a commissioned show that has been going on continuously for six months. “The more I see these women, the more I love them,” Bronstein said, before I slipped into the 2016 Turner Prize exhibition and found ICA curator Matt Williams making a stealth visit with filmmaker Jeffrey Hinton. Judging from the always-illuminating (and unexpurgated) comment board, Helen Marten and Michael Dean have the odds.

That evening, Cabinet Gallery set the stage for the rest of the week by opening its new, purpose-built home in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens—a public park that was once the joy of the Victorian leisure class. No worries that decamping from scruffier headquarters in the East End will corrupt the gallery’s subversive character. Few others defy the white cube as boldly as this five-story dodecahedron.

Cabinet has a history of minting game-changers. (Think Jeremy Deller, Martin Creed, Mark Leckey, and Ed Atkins, among other Turner Prize winners and nominees.) Now it means to game the system. “A page is turning for London,” said collector and PICPUS publisher Charles Asprey. “It’s grown boring. Its art is boring. So if you’re going to do something new, you want to make it magical and beautiful, and not be afraid of those words.”

Left: Artist Jim Nutt. Right: Collector Norman Stone with Tate Modern director Frances Morris and collector Nora Stone.

Asprey “facilitated” (i.e. financed) the erection of the gallery he loves best as well as collaborated on its design with Cabinet founder Martin McGeown, his partner Andrew Wheatley, and architect Trevor Horne. They gave the building an additional boost by inviting gallery artists Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Lucy McKenzie, and John Knight to add both structural and decorative elements—specifically windows and, in McKenzie’s case, terracotta murals for balconies that flip the bird to MI6 headquarters across the park.

With Damien Hirst’s Newport Street behemoth just a few minutes’ walk away, the elegant, gray brickface building is expected to gentrify the area, which was hastily and none too prettily rebuilt after its bombing during World War II. For the moment, however, its nearest neighbors are farm animals. “Just wait,” Asprey said, with the confident smile of a man who knows he did something very right. “This is only the beginning.”

For the inaugural show, McGeown could not have made a more brilliant match than to tap Chicago Imagist Jim Nutt, whose surreally geometric portraits harmonize perfectly with the zigzag of the walls and Chaimowicz’s eccentrically angled windows. Knight’s single, tall “zip” of a window peeks out at the park between paintings that startled many first-nighters even more than the building.

Strangely, at least for an American, Nutt is relatively unknown in the UK. The last time he soloed in London was well before many guests were born. “I think he started out as a comic book artist,” one young visitor said. “I’ve never seen your paintings in the flesh before,” another told Nutt. “You really painted the hair!” Nutt smiled. “I did,” he replied. What else could he say?

Left: Artist James Richards and ICA London director Gregor Muir. Right: Artist Ed Atkins.

“Openings at the old Cabinet were never this big,” a regular told me, glancing at the many faces in a crowd that included dealers David Nolan and Isabella Bortolozzi, artist Michael Craig-Martin, Tate Modern curator Catherine Wood, collectors Andy and Christine Hall, and Nutt’s fellow Hairy Who veteran, Gladys Nilsson, his wife. “They’d be lucky to get more than twenty-five people.”

At least sixty came to dinner at St. John, where they seated themselves in cozy claques. Leckey and Atkins occupied a corner with Asprey, and outgoing ICA director Gregor Muir hung with James Richards, the artist on show at his institution right now. Emily King arrived with her spouse, Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover, dressed in notable designs by Anthony Symonds, an art-fashion crossover that Cabinet shares with Bortolozzi, the designer’s dinner partner. Knight, who came from Los Angeles for the opening, pulled up a chair between art historians T.J. Clark and Anne Wagner. Chaimowicz was on hand too, still riding high on the previous night’s opening of his show at the Serpentine Gallery.

“I paid my dues for twenty-five years,” said the proud McGeown, who started Cabinet in an apartment in Brixton, and was first to show Elizabeth Peyton in London—in a pub. Now he’s betting on the duo Max Pitegoff and Calla Henkel, creators of New Theater, which had its American debut only last fall at the Whitney Museum. Stay tuned.

Left: Artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz. Right: Artist Lynn Hershman Leeson and dealer Rachel Williams.

Richards popped up again Saturday night, at Rodeo Gallery in Soho, where dealers Sylvia Kouvali and Janice Guy combined forces to present his engrossing film collaboration with Leslie Thornton (Kouvali), and Leidy Churchman premiered new paintings (Guy). Weirdly, crocodiles were among the subjects of both presentations. Dinner was Indian and held at a hotel on the Strand that was just this side of postcolonial shabby. “Did you see the bar downstairs?” asked Walker Art Center curator Fionn Meade, who has worked with all three artists. “You don’t see bars like that anymore. (It was caged within a clubroom where past presidents of the establishment’s curry club were listed on the wall.)

Next afternoon, an unusually warm and sunny day, pretty much everyone who attended the opening—Richards, Meade, Kestner Gesellschaft curator Milan Ther—came to the ICA for a talk by Thornton, who condemned Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage (a mentor) for separating experimental film from the art world for too many decades. Zing!

At the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, artist Ryan Sullivan and Bard CCS director Tom Eccles were checking out Helen Marten’s big solo just as Vancouver-based collector Bob Rennie walked up, on his way to Chaimowicz’s exhilarating art-meets-design exhibition at the main gallery. During a week like this, you run into art people from everywhere no matter where you go. That evening, Paris-based curator Zoe Stillpass and Glasgow dealer Emma Astner were exiting the elevators at Shoreditch House, just as that cute-as-a-button artist couple, Eddie Peake and Celia Hempton, were entering for an early Sunday dinner. The fries were good.

Left: Dealer Isabella Bortolozzi. Right: Dealers Janice Guy and Sylvia Kouvali.

On Monday, a day after Prime Minister Theresa May committed the UK to exiting the EU by March, there was all sorts of hopeful speculation in the press and on the street about how many Americans at auctions or at Frieze would take advantage of a precipitous drop in the British pound. In this atmosphere, it was hard not to see Brexit impinging on Peter Wächtler’s invigorating, musical animation at Chisenhale Gallery. “I agree,” said gallery director Polly Staple. “But he could also be referring to the end of any relationship, or just a desire not to be trapped.” Whatever Wächtler meant by it, the top-hatted character making tracks in the film can’t get away fast enough—and yet never actually runs anywhere but in place.

Angst-ridden characters longing for comfort were also in Sanya Kantarovsky’s show of paintings opening at Stuart Shave/Modern Art. And in her “Trans Genesis” solo at Vilma Gold, Lynn Hershman Leeson had a video sculpture featuring Synthia, a woman whose moods were entirely dependent on the real-time ups and downs of the Dow Jones, visible in a ticker at the bottom of the tiny screen. “When the news is depressing, she stays home in the kitchen,” Hershman Leeson told me. “When it’s good, she goes shopping.” That day, she could have had a bargain.

At Tate Modern, meanwhile, there were hoards of happy people but not enough fish. Inflatable, Mylar fish, that is—the kind Philippe Parreno unleashed at Gladstone Gallery this past spring and that are currently wafting through the Brooklyn Museum’s entrance pavilion as well as the Turbine Hall, where his Hyundai Commission, “Anywhen,” was evolving by the minute, as directed by the actions of microorganisms squirreled away in a bioreactor at the back.

Left: Tate Modern curators Andrea Lissoni and Catherine Wood. Right: Artist Shadi Habib Allah.

“Boundaries are always porous in Philippe’s work,” dealer Pilar Corrias noted. Real life and fiction intersect. Screens and loudspeakers rise and fall, a film of a cuttlefish—narrated by a ventriloquist—unfolds, marquees flash on and off, the very realistic illusion of a thunderstorm occurs, Mylar fish hover at random, a radio program comes on to interrupt sound from the street outside—all to choreography designed by Isabel Lewis and Tino Sehgal, two of Parreno’s many collaborators on this project.

In my opinion, it’s one of the most thoroughly immersive and successful exhibitions this unforgiving space has seen yet. “That’s because there are no objects,” Gladstone said. “Philippe’s work is his brain. It’s not a product.”

Nor were there many collectors at the dinner she hosted with Corrias in the Colony Grill Room of Mayfair’s Beaumont Hotel. At least not the speculative kind, but the Nora and Norman Stone, Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner kind, with longtime Parreno supporter Maja Hoffmann and younger patron Dayana Tamendarova, who was out with Easton Foundation president Jerry Gorovoy. “I love it,” Westreich said. “I love it,” Nora Stone said. “It’s great, isn’t it?” said Hoffmann. “I nearly got killed by the artwork,” joked New Museum deputy director Massimiliano Gioni, of the show’s lowering screens.

Left: Moderna Museet director Daniel Birnbaum and Pinault Foundation curator Caroline Bourgeois. Right: Frieze Art Fair director Victoria Siddall.

The head-spinning crowd spoke loudly of Parreno’s appeal to museums and absence from the auction block. Around us were Stedelijk director Beatrix Ruf, LA MoCA director Philippe Vergne, Moderna Museet director Daniel Birnbaum, Pinault Foundation curator Caroline Bourgeois, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, Serpentine chief curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, Beyeler Foundation director Sam Keller, and, of course, Tate Modern director Frances Morris and Tate museums director Nicholas Serota with the exhibition’s curators Andrea Lissoni and Vassilis Oikonomopoulos.

It felt like a conference, except that there were no speeches or toasts or even other artists or any reps from Frieze. “The speeches all happened today at lunch,” Corrias reported. That was business. “Tonight,” she said, “We’re celebrating.”

Linda Yablonsky

Candy Shop


Left: viennacontemporary artistic director Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt with viennacontemporary managing director Renger van den Heuvel. Right: Dealer Gregor Podnar and viennacontemporary board chair Dmitry Aksenov.

ON FRIDAY MORNING, everyone arrived utterly exhausted—yet somehow still intact. “In Vienna we live as people aspire to: We drink mineral water from tap, we swim in drinking-water-quality lakes, and we don’t have to talk about organic, because all of our products are raised in farms around Vienna. Plus, it is available to everyone, not only to the top 1 percent,” said the fair’s artistic director, Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, “However, people see Vienna as old and opera, and are not truly aware of the quality of contemporary culture here.”

VC is a serious vehicle for rebranding Vienna as a contemporary city; over the weekend several professionals mentioned that this was their common goal. And indeed, the current fair brings a quality selection of local and international contemporary art. With 112 galleries from twenty-eight countries, it marked the fair’s second year at architect Rudolf Frey’s spacious (and well-lit) Marx Halle.

My personal tour guide for the day was curator and art historian Nico Anklem: a bright German who apparently knows the fair’s ins and outs—as well as its leading figures. At our first stop: “Zone 1”—solo shows by local galleries—we met with Salvatore Viviano. “If you know him,” Anklem said of Viviano, “You will know everyone.” A performance artist, ex-movie star, and current One Work Gallery director, the Italian native opened a two-hundred-square-foot space in 2014. “The gallery is always open,” he said: The lights stay on and all exhibited work can be observed from the street. Even more notable: The venue presents only one work per exhibition, hung on a single wall (that is also used as the gallery office’s shelving system). During the fair’s five-day run, artists Phillipp Fleischmann, Bert Loschner, Christoph Meier, Ute Muller, Sarah Pichlkostner, and Stefan Reiterer each exhibited a work a day. Friday was Pichlkostner’s turn—she showed a minimalistic metal piece resembling a non-functioning faucet.

Left: Curator Diana Campbell Betancourt with artist Rafiqul Shuvo and Carbon 12 dealer Nadine Knotzer (Photo: Kate Sutton). Right: Dealers Delphine Telesio di Toritto and Salvatore Viviano with curator Nico Anklam.

Nearby, in the “Reflections” section, dealer Emanuel Layr shared a booth with Croy Nielsen, who relocated from Berlin to Vienna. Was it a trend? Other Berlin galleries, like Gallery Crone and Beck & Eggeling, have opened Vienna spaces, while new galleries such as Galerie Nathalie Halgand pop up. A few dealers cited Germany’s stiff new export laws as one factor; others just gave shout outs to Vienna’s status as a melting pot and up-and-coming market. In the meantime, dealer Martin Janda was in the midst of talking sales with Italian collector Luca G. Castellani, who seemed pleased with Nilbar Güreş twill piece, later assuring us that sales are going fine.

How to make a booth truly unique? Talk to Paulina Bebecka, director of Postmasters—the only US gallery participating in the fair. Bebecka studied at Sotheby’s London alongside Steinbrecher-Pfandt, and now (“after years of wooing her,” as Steinbrecher-Pfandt put it) they finally decided to collaborate. The gallery’s very impressive installation of small-scale sculptures started as a project Bebecka initially curated in the US. It recently traveled to Istanbul before heading to the fair. Bringing political and social strands to the fair’s discourse, thirty-two mini-sculptures, each by a different artist, were beautifully arranged on a site-specific stagelike structure. There was a rousing piece by outsider artist John Byam; text work by Laurence Weiner, translated into the language of every country the mini-show visited; and a sugar boat by Xu Wang that paid homage to Chinese street-sculpture traditions.

Fresh air was in order. At the VIP room, artist Tjorg Douglas Beer not only proved to be a pro at mingling, but turned out to be quite familiar with the VIP’s secret backdoor entrance. After posing in a series of photos, smoking a “tzigi” (he says it’s the Swiss slang for cigarette), and talking about his recent move to Greece, we rolled back into the fair for some serious discourse.

Left: Dealers Emanuel Layr and Hennrikke Nielsen. Right: Artist Shubigi Rao and critic Bharti Lalwani.

With one-third of the fair’s exhibiting galleries from Eastern Europe, VC sees itself as a specialized arena for Eastern European art—a growing market. “Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania,” curated by the Albanian Adela Dmetja, featured mostly nonprofit galleries from Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Macedonia. The space, organized as a group show, excludes hierarchy. Serbian artist Slobodan Stošic explained: “To combine all of these galleries and works as a mix—we are not divided into any nationality, only the names of artists are written down next to the work with pencil, which is very important because this is one of the problems of how art functions today. It has this colonial pressure. Many artists are trying to break from their roots to not be categorized. This is the trouble and also the hegemony of the art market.” A standout work—a glossy pink flag with the text A WORKER WHO CANNOT SPEAK ENGLISH IS NO WORKER—caught my eye. The piece is made by Macedonian artist Nada Prlja, a seriously interesting lady whose gallery, Serious Interests Agency, is the only nongovernmental supported art space in Macedonia.

Speaking of interesting ladies, curator Abaseh Mirvali was commissioned to create solo and dual-artist mini-shows in the “Solo Expanded” section of the fair. There, Thomas Fischer’s booth contained works by Seiichi Furuya, who creates poetic and contemplative moments in image and text. As Furuya was sharing a peculiar story about a boat he photographed in Dresden, later to find out that Kim Jong-un was on board, Anklem spotted the man who has made VC possible, founder of RDI and VC chairman Dmitry Aksenov. At that point we were becoming quite exhausted, and it was a miracle when Alexander Müller-Vivil, a man who refers to himself as a “candy-maker,” gave us a very refreshing mint, apparently from his own brand of sweets, Vivil. Will we be so lucky at Frieze?

Naomi Lev

Left: TBA21’s Sophie Bayerlein, Clemens Rettenbacher, Christine Böhler, and Frederike Sperling. Right: Curator Abaseh Mirvali, Wiels director Dirk Snauwaert, Serralves deputy director Joao Ribas, and writer Kate Sutton.

Man with a Plan


Left: Artist Kerry James Marshall and writer Sarah Thornton. Right: Artist Hank Willis Thomas. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

IF I EVER GO TO EXPO CHICAGO AGAIN, I’ll do it right. I’ll ask Hans Ulrich Obrist to organize my itinerary. The peripatetic Serpentine Gallery curator’s archives reside in the Windy City, and he knows the lay of that flat land. I had an outline of events, but who were the dealers hosting dinners? Where were the open houses and VIP gallery tours? Obrist would know the scoop. Meanwhile, I set out for the fair’s fifth edition alone, save for my skimpy agenda.

I reached Navy Pier just in time for the September 22nd evening vernissage. Which was hours after many of Chicago’s justifiably vaunted collectors had come and gone. Apparently, Larry and Marilyn Fields checked in, as did eight thousand other people. It didn’t feel like that many but the hall is large and long.

Just past the entrance, where the BMW car with a paint job by Jeff Koons stood sentry, collectors David Frej and Nancy Lerner were concluding their purchase of a stunning new painting by William Pope.L from Susanne Vielmetter, who said she was doing well. The couple’s own excitement was palpable. “We only came to Pope.L recently,” Frej said, his eyes falling on a large painting by Sadie Benning. “It took us a long time to understand what William was doing,” Lerner explained. “Then we met him, and now we’ve gotten to know him. And that’s made all the difference.”

Just goes to show: Even in a digital world, personal contact counts. But Pope.L wasn’t there, so I looked for other artists who might be.

Left: Dealer Jessica Silverman. Right: Collector Nancy Lerner, dealer Susanne Vielmetter, and collector David Frej.

Hank Willis Thomas was upstairs, I heard, in a temporary office for his artists’ super PAC For Freedoms, but I didn’t see him. All was calm in the aisles as I perused a few booths; most had a generous portion of real estate and pleasant presentations of saleable art, mostly paintings. At Team, José Freire had an interesting, forty-three-year-old discovery named James Crosby, who was showing white canvas versions of fireman helmets by the early twentieth-century, African American inventor Garrett Morgan. Peres Projects had a cool, calm, and definitely collectible group of shaped, shredded and grooved paintings by Blair Thurman.. Jessica Silverman brought vaginal wall pieces by Judy Chicago, her “new” artist. Monique Meloche had a hit on her hands with portraits by—artist-to-watch-alert—Amy Sherald. At Daniel Templon, I learned about Senegalese artist Omar Ba, and then exchanged greetings with David Kordansky, who doubled down with the senior Sam Gilliam and Betty Woodman.

The Exposure sector gave “younger” galleries some, well, exposure, if you can call being relegated to the back of the hall being exposed. The Hole gallery was tucked in there. So was Kate Werble, looking good with 11R Gallery across the way. Bill Powers brought new paintings by the Irish charmer Genieve Figgis, who’s following Elizabeth Peyton’s current show at Gallery Met in New York with paintings inspired by the Metropolitan Opera’s Roméo et Juliette. One of them features a penis. Powers wondered how operagoers would take it. What’s an opera for, if not melodrama?

I headed for the VIP room. No drama, just Nespresso. And monitors displaying videos from Daata Editions, a platform for digital art commissioned by the British collectors Anita and Poju Zabludowicz. Both were there with daughter Tiffany Zabludowicz and Daata director David Gryn. I heard applause in the distance and went back to the fair to find the source.

Instead, I was distracted by the wooden cart by Chicago’s Carlos Rolón/Dzine laden with inexpensive consumer goods (soap, T-shirts, pillows, sunglasses) available from a street seller named Garland Gantt. Charmed, I bought a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of Prince.

Left: Artist Carlos Rolón/Dzine and street seller Garland Gantt. Right: Curator Debra Singer and Chicago Artists Coalition director Caroline Older.

I also enjoyed the nonprofit presentations—none more than Mexico City’s Casa Maaud, where artist Anuar Maaud was advertising a residency program—for collectors. The Chicago Artists Coalition featured an allover installation of palm trees, photographs, and floral wallpaper by Leonard Suryajaya, an artist from Indonesia in its residency program who brought his mother and aunt from home to wrap handmade fruit in the same floral wallpaper.

Somewhere in the hall, Palais de Tokyo president Jean de Loisy and Expo director Tony Karman were announcing a new initiative. Next September, the French museum will stage a popup institution in Chicago to coincide with Expo and the 2017 Chicago Architectural Biennial. That will be the first time a biennial and an Expo run concurrently. Gosh, I thought. Should I have waited a year?

It turned out that the ovation heard was for Karman, who was being knighted—yes, knighted—and given a medal to identify him as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. I found him near a Rolls Royce (a fair sponsor) that was on view at the VIP reception, the medal pinned to his jacket. “It’s to recognize all the work I’ve done in Chicago with French cultural institutions,” Karman said, happily.

There did seem to be a lot of French people around. I was happy for him. As hunger was upon me, I was also delighted to see that the reception was really a food fair. One after another, some of Chicago’s better restaurants, including a hot dog specialist, were serving the most delicious hors d’oeuvres. Editor Stefano Cernuschi was thrilled. So was Pompidou Foundation curator Florence Derieux.

Left: Pompidou Center curator of American Art Florence Derieux with dealers Mathieu Templon and Daniel Templon. Right: Artist Leonard Suryajaya.

But dinner was coming up, a soiree for New York collector Beth Rudin DeWoody at the Peninsula Hotel. In its ballroom-sized lobby, dealer Marc Selwyn and artist Randy Palumbo were in a select group previewing “Whoville,” a capsule exhibition of Hairy Who works on loan from DeWoody. Which explains why the show was so many cuts above the usual hotel art. Indeed, it was fascinating.

During dinner, an email from Powers alerted me to party hosted by five Exposure galleries—Van Horn, 11R, Arcade, On Stellar Rays, and Werble—at the Rainbo Club, a hipster dive with great neon. It’s been a mainstay of Wicker Park since the 1930s. There was a line at the door when Palumbo and I arrived, and two deep around the horseshoe bar. Booths were packed. No one wanted to leave—too much atmosphere. Next morning at the fair, hangovers were visible.

Except at the double booth where Peter Kilchmann and Italian furniture dealer Ugo Casati collaborated on a beautiful installation of art and design. But what sets Expo apart, really, is its excellent program of talks and panels. Dieter Roelstraete was leading one to introduce the next Documenta, which begins April in Athens. The Greek artist Angelo Plessas was speaking. Renaissance Society director and chief curator Solveig Řvstebř was in the audience. So was Leonardo Bigazzi, producer and curator of the Lo Schermo dell’Arte Film Festival in Florence. “I came for the curatorial forum,” he told me. What forum? That was my first wind of a symposium organized by the fair. Obrist must be there, I thought. MCA Chicago chief curator Michael Darling was, and offered to walk me through his Kerry James Marshall retrospective, soon to open at the Met Breuer after the curators’ luncheon.

I didn’t get lunch, but the next few hours were some of the happiest of my life in art. The Marshall show is nothing short of electrifying. And the museum was filled with people—students, families, and visiting collectors like Karlheinz Essl, whose private museum is in Vienna.

Left: Artist McArthur Binion. Right: Stedelijk Museum director Beatrix Ruf with Art Institute of Chicago deputy director and chief curator Ann Goldstein.

From there, I hopped a shuttle to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Ann Goldstein was two weeks into the job of deputy director and chief curator. As we began a walk through the galleries displaying works representing an extraordinary gift to the museum from collectors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, who should appear but Obrist! Indeed, he had the skinny on upcoming events, including the talk he would give the next morning at the Institute’s school with artist Joseph Grigely, the person looking after Obrist’s publications archive. He was inviting us to come when Stedelijk Museum director Beatrix Ruf walked in.

With Jack Pierson, Ruf would be the third member of a panel on Mark Morrisroe that I was to moderate at the fair. But right now all we had to do was ooh and ahh at the stellar Institute’s galleries. All I can say is, collectors in Chicago have enormous civic pride—and an eye for some of the greatest art of the past sixty years.

Still flushed with the pleasures of the MCA and AIC, I headed out to Ukrainian Village, where Meloche and her husband Evan Boris were hosting a pizza-and-prosecco party for artists and visiting curators. This was cool. I stupidly passed up the pizza in favor for the big bash of a buffet dinner that dealer Kavi Gupta was throwing at mk The Restaurant.

It wasn’t really a buffet. Two cooks, one each at a table on different sides of the room, slowly sauteed a bit of pasta or fish taco for guests who waited in line up to forty-five minutes before they could eat. The upside was that the wait encouraged conversation with one’s neighbors in line. I drew great company: MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn, former Kitchen director Debra Singer, and artists Kathryn Andrews and Glenn Kaino, who once studied with a magician. “Magic,” he said, in the takeaway line of the night, “is the gap-filler between science and art.”

Left: Sondra Karman and Expo Chicago director Tony Karman. Right: Daata Editions director David Gryn and collector Anita Zabludowicz.

Upstairs, where artist McArthur Binion was engaged with collectors who had just bought paintings from his show at Gupta, Cernuschi and Derieux had a table next to Willis Thomas. Only then did I hear about the gigantic For Freedoms balloon drop he’d engineered at Expo’s vernissage. Viewers stomped on them. Thousands of them. To people elsewhere at Navy Pier, it sounded like fireworks. Or gunfire.

Next morning, I went to Stony Island Arts Bank, the research library, archive, and exhibition space created by Theaster Gates in a building on the South Side that otherwise would have fallen to ruin. It’s mighty impressive—and only one of several reclamation projects sponsored by his Rebuild Foundation. Rebuild director and Gates studio’s administrative director showed me around. The studio takes up an entire block. But this is what artists can do, and have, outside overdeveloped and expensive cities like New York.

It was an unseasonably balmy day, full of sun. Lakeshore Drive was at a standstill. By the time I reached Expo, the standing-room-only audience for writer Sarah Thornton’s interview with Marshall had spilled into the hall. “He gave me the most illuminating interview I’ve ever had,” Thornton told me as Pierson, Ruf, and I mounted the stage to take our turn.

Left: Dealer José Freire. Right: Restaurateur Lisa Kornick with artist Glenn Kaino and dealer Kavi Gupta.

Afterward, we had nothing to do—but we had Obrist to save the day. He lead our group—it now included Swiss Institute director Simon Castets, Glasgow International director Sarah McCrory, and For Your Art founder Bettina Korek—to the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, which is in a magnificent Gold Coast house. Founded by Daniel Burnham, and now lead by Sarah Herda, it’s devoted mainly to architecture—and has a topnotch architecture-related bookshop. On view in the galleries was “Every Building in Baghdad,” a show of fascinating photographs of the Iraqi capital in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s from the Rifat Chadirji archive in the Arab Image Foundation. Beautiful stuff.

It made us hungry again. Fortunately, the Pump Room at the Public Hotel was a few minutes’ walk away. Only Ruf and Obrist were invited to Karman’s Rolls Royce dinner. The rest of made our own fun, and had a good time doing it. And, like tourists recounting adventures taken and missed, we talked about art.

Funnily, its market never came up.

Linda Yablonsky

Viva Viv

New York

Murray Hill and Lance Horne at Justin Vivian Bond—Trans/Art/Family: The Vivification of NYC, September 11, 2016. (All photos: Kevin Yatarola)

“IS IT A MAN OR A WOMAN? The answer is no!” zinged Murray Hill, downtown’s favorite Drag King of Comedy—heir unapparent to the likes of Henny Youngman and Rodney Dangerfield. The occasion for Hill’s hot buttering of cold one-liners (and totally Catskilling it) was Trans/Art/Family: The Vivification of NYC, a night at Joe’s Pub in celebration of the singularly brilliant performer Justin Vivian Bond. Downtown being downtown, the event was also a fundraiser for two essential cultural institutions: Participant Inc., the nonprofit art space led by superhero Lia Gangitano, and The Gender and Family Project, which provides space and services for the families and loved ones of gender-talented children. Although home is a precarious concept in New York City—and that day marked the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11—the audience that night came together like family for Mx Bond for a show that could have been called This Is Your Fabulous Life.

“You are gorgeous people!” the gorgeous Sandra Bernhard shouted as she took the stage, and the crowd applauded wildly in agreement. Bernhard told the room that she’d written no memorial Tweets that day, no posts “riding on other people’s tragedies”; she publicly shared no memories of 9/11. Why? “I didn’t see anything,” she snapped. “We were living in Chelsea—facing the other way.” In other words: She would respect the real victims by not playing one tonight—or, really, ever. Then, in the spirit of sanity and all the joy that follows, she belted Laura Nyro’s “Save the Country,” and brought the house down (as it were). #ImWithHer

Sandra Bernhard and Thomas Bartlett at Trans/Art/Family: The Vivification of NYC. September 11, 2016.

Performer NathAnn Carerra appeared devilishly angelic in a sleeveless black sateen number and a hat that looked like a swan wrapped its wing around his head. NathAnn, Bond’s former (or not) lover, told the story of their fateful meeting. Once upon a time, v spotted NathAnn standing by a parking meter outside a theater San Francisco. On their first date, they went to a singalong Xanadu. Soon after, they headed to a Queeruption gathering in Canada where Bond (being Bond) decided to liven up the scene… by organizing a bukake party in one of the festival’s designated safe spaces. An act of insurgence, or just a little redecorating? In a funny way, Carerra seemed to say, that’s v’s m.o. to a T.

Playwright, performer, and gender genius Kate Bornstein—who also appears to be sunshine in human form—stood up to play clips of a circa 1990s Bond performing as the hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin in a San Francisco production of Bornstein’s pioneering production Hidden: A Gender. “Are any of you to tell me how I am to be a man when I am both a man and a woman?” the younger Bond challenged, pleaded, as Barbin. The audience went silent; you could hear a hairpin drop. Would that all home movies were this tender, this proud, of family.

Family was at best a bittersweet subject in the room that night. As Hill joked at one point: “The more you applaud, the more I forget about my childhood!” When Jean Malpas, director of The Gender and Family Project, stood up to thank Bond for the support v had given the organization over the years, a photograph was projected above his head of Bond sitting in a convertible at Gay Pride wearing a T-shirt that read PRIDE IS FOR KIDS TOO. For many sitting in Joe’s Pub, community has been the way forward out of the shortcomings of personal history. After all, we build the support we wish to see, and be, in the world. It was tender powerhouse Toshi Reagon who, before she performed, commented that she and Bond only met a few months ago, but that didn’t matter. “You can make community,” she affirmed. “You don’t need to know nobody personally.”

Left: Kate Bornstein. Right: Toshi Reagon.

But chosen families can wound too. “I’d like to leave you…” sang Kenny Mellman, pausing just long enough to contain the ambivalence that stirs inside of intimacy. And then, he continued: “…with something warm.” For years, Mellman has been one of Bond’s closest collaborators, and there have been times, Mellman said, when the two were not on speaking terms. Tonight, he appeared only filled with gratitude for all their times, wishing Bond in song: “maybe an angel to keep you from harm, or a little light that will shine you all the way back home.”

Bond has always been the darling of the spotlight, and when v finally took the stage that evening, v was—as always—luminous. “Beautiful!” someone shouted, to which v replied, “Thank you for noticing!” After thanking all the performers—and before launching into a few stunning solo numbers—Bond explained to the audience why v does the work v does. Years ago, on a trip to Seattle, Bond heard about the NEA Four—Holly Hughes, John Fleck, Tim Miller, and Karen Finley—artists who had their arts funding ripped out from under them because their art was deemed “obscene.” Back then, of course, “obscene” was often shorthand for “queer.” “I decided at that moment I was going to dedicate my life to making that work,” Bond said, and v has. That work—and the rage that has always propelled it—was also born of the AIDS crisis, and from the stage that night, Bond remembered Doris Fish, Miss Kitty, Benjamin Smoke, and other “queens that did not live.”

Thomas Bartlett and Justin Vivian Bond.

Bond is of the generation who has never been silent about the deaths of their friends and loved ones, though what it means (and has meant) to be a survivor of the AIDS crisis—to bear those memories, to make “that work,” to be or feel responsible for legacies other than one’s own—is an enduring question. Earlier this year, as part of his three-part exhibition at the Artist’s Institute, writer Hilton Als read from a work-in-progress in which he shifted Joe Brainard’s incantation I remember into his own grievous refrain, I don’t want to remember. This fall, Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls have curated Danspace’s 2016 Platform “Lost & Found,” in which they’ll present the work of choreographers, dancers, and artists who did not survive AIDS, and sift through the continued impact of their absences. Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, currently in performance at St. Ann’s Warehouse, is also in part about sorting through the wreckage of this legacy, “to remind people what they’ve dismissed, forgotten, or buried.” Which is perhaps just to say that while some memorials rearrange the skyline, others are built from truer, more transient material: that of a raging and incandescent aliveness.

At the end of the show, Bond was joined by Mellman and the two commanded the stage not as Kiki & Herb (as such), but as themselves: glorious, hilarious, and never missing a beat. They launched into a whirling medley that somehow blew through Mary J. Blige’s “Deep Inside” to the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” to Radiohead’s “Creep,” and on and on until the room was ready to burst. When a cake came out in celebration of Bond’s twenty-fifth “Tranniversary,” the room roared, and one could feel—palpably, proudly—the love for a single person expressing the love of a community, of a city, of those who paved the way, and of those who’re still waiting in the wings, preparing to take their rightful place on the world’s stage.

Jennifer Krasinski

Alphabet City


Berlin Art Week. (All photos: Louisa Elderton)

AFTER A SUMMER of near-arctic temperatures in Berlin, the sun and art world simultaneously sprang back into action in early September, as an Indian summer guided us into the Art Berlin Contemporary (abc) fair and countless concurrent exhibitions: the fifth Berlin Art Week.

The highlight of the calendar was Cerith Wyn Evan’s opening at Galerie Neu on a Friday night. The artist’s fourth exhibition with the gallery, he chatted away with Berlin old-timer Angela Bulloch while his suspended glass panels reflected his white neon sentences. Fast-forward a few days and Kino International hosted the official Berlin Art Week opening party. With a thirteen-hour program of artist films including some by Wyn Evans, Christopher Roth, Olaf Nicolai, and Lawrence Weiner, Marc Glöde’s curatorial pičce-de-résistance was the glass cases out front containing 1960s videos by Bruce Nauman. Clutching galactic silver totes, VIPs included Centre for International Light Art director John Jaspers, whose upcoming retrospective of François Morellet presents works from 1960 up to the artist’s recent death.

Next I peddled full pelt toward the Berlinische Galerie for Andreas Greiner’s opening. Recently awarded the GASAG Art Prize, his work straddles art and science and his giant 3D-printed skeleton of a chicken transformed the entrance hall into a pseudo natural history museum. Guests tucked into a kitsch array of food, pig’s trotters snuggled amid a lavish platter of meats.

Left: abc director Maike Cruse. Right: Collectors Karen Boros and Christian Boros.

Wednesday: sun, blue sky, and a frantic cycle to Akademie der Künste. Arriving late, I slipped into the Nasher Sculpture Center’s fascinating talk “The Work of Sculpture in the Age of Digital Production,” then took a skip and hop over to the Hamburger Bahnhof to catch Anne Imhof’s Angst II. (Part one premiered at the Kunsthalle Basel in June.) Outside, hundreds pushed eagerly against giant doors. The floodgates opened and we poured into this “exhibition-as-opera.” Amid a vast hallway filled with dry ice, arrangements of falcons, drones, and musical choruses were juxtaposed with tightrope walkers and beautiful young performers sitting atop spiral staircases. Berlin stalwarts Eva and Adele emerged from the swirling smoke clad in pearls, pink lace, and blue eye shadow.

Early Thursday morning, the fair itself finally opened at Station Berlin. Dramatically reduced to sixty-five galleries from its previous one hundred, abc director Maike Cruse said: “It’s always difficult to reduce participants but I think it’s worth it.” This sentiment was echoed by Art Basel director Marc Spiegler who, standing next to Ian Kiaer’s ethereal yellow inflated sculpture, discussed the fair with dealer Barbara Wien. “I’m a fan of less is more,” he said. “Refine through elimination. It gives the viewer more time to reflect.”

Highlights included Carlier|Gebauer’s presentation of Laure Prouvost and my new discovery, Danish artist Kirsten Justesen, at Avlskarl. The seventy-two-year-old’s photographs playfully implicate her own body, often to humorous effect. Nearby, collector Valeria Napoleone—flamboyant in red polka dot flares and pink-sequined platforms—sat huddled with dealer Bärbel Trautwein, rhapsodically discussing Berta Fischer’s sculpture: “I love it!”

Anne Imhof's Angst II at the Hamburger Bahnhof.

Having sidestepped the characteristic fair fatigue (maybe less is more), I headed to Potsdammer Strasse’s Panama restaurant for Esther Schipper’s dinner in honor of Christopher Roth. His energetic dog charmed diners between courses of spiced cauliflower and chocolate fondant, after which I left to join artists Patrick Goddard and Christopher Kulendran Thomas at BRLO Brwhouse, where people had gathered post-fair for a pint and dance before bed.

Following his recent exhibition at the Berlinishe Galerie, Erwin Wurm had time for a quick coffee at abc on Friday, where his fat VW van served wieners to fair-stompers. That evening was the night for gallery openings, which spanned the city from Marianne Vlaschits’s interstellar spaceship at Duve to Michael Fuchs Galerie’s “Exhibitions are the Best Excuses,” curated by Christian Jankowski, hot off the back of his Manifesta 11. Outside Barbara Wien’s Nina Canell exhibition, where coiled sculptures appeared as shed sheaths, I bumped into artist Olaf Nicolai and collectors Karen and Christian Boros. It seems Daniel Knorr’s Solo-Bunker was “impossible to buy because it only fits one person, but it’s a good piece,” the Boroses affirmed. Shame: no Russian-doll-style bunker within a bunker this time.

Friday’s extravaganza dinner was hosted by Sprüth Magers and Esther Schipper, taking over the entirety of Grill Royal. “It makes sense,” Sprüth-Magers director Sylvia Baltschun told me. “We share the same guests anyway.” Over perfectly pink steak and béarnaise sauce, Philomene Magers glowed while discussing the recent opening of their LA branch, and their new show with “the amazing 1970s German Conceptual artist Hanne Darboven.” Sterling Ruby took pride of place at the dinner, his exhibition “The Jungle” having just opened. Collectors dotted around the room included Julia Stoschek, whose Düsseldorf-based museum recently opened a Berlin outpost, and while dancing ensued, I snuck out, using a haze of smoke swirling from someone’s pipe as cover.

Left: Sterling Ruby studio manager Tyler Britt with artists Melanie Schiff and Sterling Ruby. Right: Sprüth Magers director Silvia Baltschun and dealer Philomene Magers.

Saturday night brought together dealers, curators, and collectors once more at the abc closing dinner, where a German menu of meatballs, bratwurst, and sauerkraut was accompanied by rosemary-infused gin and tonics. I sat opposite the Kunst-Werke’s new director, Krist Gruijhuijsen, who massaged a knotted shoulder, perhaps the result of his secret penchant for extreme sports such as canyoning: “I’m consumed by the fear of it, so I have to push myself!”

Last but not least we powered through to join the closing celebrations for the ninth Berlin Biennale at Kühlhaus Berlin. Revelers including American musician Ojay Morgan (aka Zebra Katz) were still on the dance floor, dreamily illuminated by blue lights, when I left at 4 AM. Perhaps they’re still there now, or drifting upon the Spree at the self-organized boat party I spotted posters for while stumbling home. This is Berlin, after all.

Louisa Elderton

Left: Import Projects director Nadim Samman, composer Tyler Friedman, artist Andreas Greiner, and dealer Jan-Philipp Sexauer. Right: KW director Krist Gruijthuijsen with e-flux cofounder Julieta Aranda.

Left: Artists Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Patrick Goddard. Right: Julia Stoschek Collection director Monica Kerkmann with collector Julia Stoschek.

Left: Kasper König, Jörg Heiser, Rachel de Joode, Jed Morse, and Bettina Pousttchi. Right: Artpress’s Ute Weingarten (left), and John Jaspers, director of Centre for International Light Art (right).