Chelsea always slows down a bit in October. Still, streets felt emptier than expected last Friday night. Those who showed up for openings fell into two camps: Team Envy and Team Schadenfreude. The former decided that the affluent crowds had taken Columbus Day weekend as a last call for second-home visits before winter’s arrival. The latter concluded that Hamptonites squeezing in one more trip were motivated not by Jack Frost, but by foreclosure jitters. A more likely reason for the quiet, of course, was that people had decamped early for Europe and the Frieze Art Fair.
Either way, given the giant question mark hanging over the market, each gallery corralled a sizable herd, even if overflow into the street lacked its usual volume. Yvon Lambert had cleared out its September show—Andres Serrano’s feces—to make room for dead horses. Berlinde de Bruyckere’s restrained, morbid forms were given “ample room to breathe,” according to director Cornelia Tischmacher, in “contrast to the horror vacui of Serrano’s show.” Noting that de Bruyckere’s exhibition would be up through Election Day, Tischmacher said, “I still remember the show that was up after President Bush was reelected . . . and the weird hush that ensued that day in Chelsea.”
After pit stops at Casey Kaplan, for exhibitions by Annika von Hausswolff and Garth Weiser, and Donald Moffett’s show at Marianne Boesky, I made my way to Fredericks & Freiser, where Zak Smith’s new exhibition drew a crowd that was as mohawked and fishnet-clad as his illustrated subjects. Discussing the installation of Smith’s drawings at an upcoming museum show, dealer Andy Freiser said that there was one installation requirement: “The piece has to be screwed into the wall.” Why? “Zak’s art has a history of being stolen. Let’s just say he has a younger clientele.”
Left: Artist Zak Smith (on right). Right: Artist Berlinde de Bruyckere.
“The evening’s about appearance and disappearance,” a magician gnomically uttered at Philippe Parreno’s opening two blocks away at Friedrich Petzel. The illusionist was happy to demonstrate, blipping a pom-pom out of existence and into my hands—much to the delight of a young Cuatro Villareal (son of Yvonne Force and Leo). In the adjacent gallery, Sean Landers’s face played on multiple monitors, singing and blathering in a confessional wall of sound. But the hit of the evening was decidedly Anton Kern’s show by Matthew Monahan, whose biomorphic forms sandwiched between Plexiglas plates found a sensitive but unprecious way to scorn gravity.
Kern’s cozy dinner for Monahan was held at Malatesta Trattoria, where Guggenheim patrons Gil and Doreen Bassin broke bread with LA collector Shirley Morales and Bridget Finn, Anton Kern’s archivist and one of the four young masterminds behind the up-and-coming Cleopatra's project space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Meanwhile, dealer Stuart Shave, in town from London, lamented installation complications bedeviling his upcoming David Altmejd show. When one of the larger sculptures arrived, the gallery was forced to saw down a wall to fit it into the gallery. (The kicker being that they’ll have to repeat the process during deinstallation.)
While some feel that the financial crisis will benefit younger artists, as everyone downshifts to a level of collecting they can afford, Bassin thought otherwise: “The established artists will be fine, because competitive collecting won’t go away. We’re more concerned about emerging artists.” But thoughts of doom were diverted as Kern toasted the Monahans, who had flown in from LA, bringing also Matthew and Lara Schnitger’s young daughter, who was apparently “throwing rocks” during the installation. “She was trying to create a rock garden,” explained Monahan.
Later, at subterranean haven Beatrice Inn, Friedrich Petzel’s afterparty brought together dealers Andrea Rosen and Andrew Kreps, architects Steven Holl and Michael Mack, Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer and 303 Gallery’s Barbara Corti, and curators Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and Christian Rattemeyer, among others. When leaving, I almost lingered to see whether Beatrice would let in a girl on crutches. (Does pity trump inscrutable exclusivity?) But in this world of divisions, labels, and barriers, one guy got it right: Earlier in the evening, when I’d asked Monahan whether his daughter’s pebble sculptures meant she was an aspiring artist, he shook his head. “She’s an aspiring human being,” he said. Point taken.
Unquestionably one of the more unfortunate fashion innovations of the past year was New Balance’s “Joy Division” sneaker, designed by artist Dylan Adair and supposedly still awaiting commercial release. Initial reports of the shoe, which borrows from the cover of the band’s classic debut album, Unknown Pleasures, met with widespread disapproval from fans—though perhaps more for the bizarre equation of soul-searching postpunk with a pleasant jog around the park than for its appropriation of Peter Saville’s instantly recognizable graphic. Last Thursday evening, Saville again found himself metaphorically stumbling down the catwalk, as Burberry’s uptown store and Men’s Vogue hosted the launch of his new book, Estate (which could also be considered the belated catalogue for a 2005 exhibition of ephemera and reference material at Zurich’s Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst).
This isn’t quite as incongruous as it might seem—Burberry’s current ad campaign features Sam Riley, star of Anton Corbijn’s recent Ian Curtis biopic, Control, and the brand is obviously keen to exploit this association to the hilt, however far off the mark it might seem. So not only was the store’s menswear department hung with blowups of a trench-coat-wearing Riley, it had also made space for a leering Paul Sevigny to spin some new-wave hits and invited a clutch of the volume’s essayists round for champagne and sliders. Of these, only Liam Gillick and Sarah Morris were in immediate evidence, though also on hand were dealer Casey Kaplan, curator Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, DAP’s Alex Galan, and, uh, actor Alan Cumming. Saville himself, who showed up lateish and clung to girlfriend Anna Blessmann, wore a slightly long-suffering look but posed politely.
“Oh, don’t mention that!” Saville’s response to an allusion to the Burberry event by curator and fanboy Matthew Higgs, interviewing him at a packed White Columns the following evening, was one of eye-rolling embarrassment. His arrival delayed again by traffic, Saville launched immediately into the chat in the manner of a hip twelfth-grade English teacher, his straggly black mop and likably hangdog features gelling nicely with the practiced conversational provocations: “Is it true that I never listened to the records I made covers for? Well, some of ’em it was better not to”; “‘Do something’ was as much of a brief as I ever got”; “My mother is still waiting for me to become successful.”
Left: Anna Blessmann, Visionaire's Cecilia Dean, and DAP vice president Alexander Galan. Right: Actor Alan Cumming.
Reflecting on a career characterized by a highly ambivalent relationship to his field—“I was intelligent enough to realize what design was, and intelligent enough to avoid it for as long as possible”—Saville presented a picture of a man still struggling to define his creativity. Describing his 2003 retrospective at the Design Museum in London as being based on “work that didn’t have to meet the approval of others,” he nonetheless balked at Higgs’s suggestion that this might just make him . . . an artist. Even shows at Manchester City Art Gallery and White Columns failed to prompt him to abandon his “professional” practice entirely, whatever its frustrations. Saville’s internal conflict was clearly genuine, but here his overstated reverence for art soon began to seem uncomfortably close to an excuse.
Admitting to losing his way entirely during a stint in LA during the early 1990s, Saville remembered that on the day of the big earthquake in ’94, he was close to penniless. “I had three dollars. It’s very weird being in the US with three dollars. Then back in London, I was very depressed for a while.” The honesty of the statement was affecting; for good or ill, the demise of Factory Records cast a longer shadow over this man than most. A “middle-aged guy who buys CDs of records he loved when he was in his twenties,” Saville verged on the curmudgeonly, but his enthusiasm for new projects appeared undimmed. Still, I struggled not to call bullshit his current gigs, including communications consultant for Daria Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, “creative director for the City of Manchester,” and designer of flat-pack museum plinths for amateur use. Suddenly, those New Balance kicks didn’t seem like such an aberration.
Left: Choreographer Sally Silvers. Right: Phill Niblock. (All photos: David Velasco)
“I don’t know what 95 percent of you are doing,” admitted Katherine Liberovskaya, the Montreal-based video artist and organizer—sort of—of the forty-four poets, musicians, and filmmakers gathered to pay homage to the composer Phill Niblock on his seventy-fifth birthday. The slate of participants alone ensured a good turnout on a rainy Wednesday night at Anthology Film Archives, but if the evening’s master of ceremonies was befuddled, what hope did we, the audience, have? “This whole evening was kind of haphazard,” Liberovskaya said, laughing—the cost, evidently, of organizing on the down-low in an effort to hide an otherwise public event from said event’s honoree. (Impressively enough, Niblock only figured it out a week before, when he accidentally glimpsed a press release.)
Who better to ring in the coming financial apocalypse with than a crowd of artists who’ve survived Manhattan’s routine depredations for the better part of fifty years? Niblock, the man of the moment, arrived in SoHo roughly half a century ago, falling in with a demimonde that included filmmaker and choreographer Elaine Summers; together, the two founded the interdisciplinary arts space Experimental Intermedia, Niblock’s home base—and frequent literal home, at 224 Centre Street—for the past forty years. Niblock’s reputation is as a composer (“Phill is very involved with music,” an eighty-three-year-old Summers said wryly. “He wants to be sure you hear it”), and his process-based métier—minimalist, single tones, recorded discreetly and then layered gradually over time—gave the celebration its template.
Left: Choreographer and filmmaker Elaine Summers. Right: Musicians David Watson and Matt Welch.
“This piece is based on seventy-five e-mails Phill sent me last year,” noted the critic and curator Jozef Cseres, encapsulating the overall “tribute” approach, itself a blend of numerology, superstition, word games, blurry video footage, squawking feedback, and frequent audience incursions. “What kind of name is Niblock, anyway?” asked guitarist Alan Licht, performing via a cell phone held up to a mike by Anthology’s archivist, Andrew Lampert, who then staged a mock meltdown in response to Licht’s supposed absence. In fact, the ubiquitous Licht was in the lobby downstairs; surprisingly, this performance was one of two involving phone calls—the other featured the choreographer Sally Gross thanking Niblock for use of his 401(c)3 status on innumerable grant applications. New York–based composer Michaal J. Schumacher, for his part, went for outright satire: a slow-building series of microtonal, discrete sound samples of Schumacher chanting “Phill.” He encouraged the audience to sing along.
What it all added up to was a giant, benevolent in-joke, a laid-back recap of a lot of years in the trenches in an arts scene willfully ignorant of both booms—say, the real estate surge of the past two decades, which has presumably made the Centre Street loft space in which Niblock and his friends still perform the envy of brokers everywhere—and (oncoming) busts. “Back then, Phill wasn’t as dapper as he is now,” quipped the chorale composer Mary Jane Leach. “He used to wear a blue denim shirt, battered corduroys, and boots, all the time”— a fairly exact description, give or take a bolo tie and jeans, of what Niblock appeared to be wearing that very evening. The avalanche of work commissioned specifically for the event eventually coalesced into a portrait of the artist as a working man: Phill in cargo shorts, swatting flies and slicing salami (Peter Shapiro’s video Phlies), Phill looking serious, wielding a mouse, computer screen reflecting on his glasses (Alexandra Dementieva’s Phill and the Red Mouse), Phill fumblingly putting batteries into a microphone (Liberovskaya’s Movements of Phill Niblock Working), Phill counting stripes on a woman’s dress (Irina Danilova’s Phill Counting Stripes on Liberovskaya’s Dress), and so on. A person could be forgiven for assuming we’d wandered into a wake or a retirement party, not a celebration of a still-producing artist. Until, that is, the nostalgic, overstuffed, four-hour evening came to a close, leaving Niblock just enough time to set the record straight: “Thank you for coming. I think that’s enough.”
Left: Poet Chris Mann. Right: Musicians Okkyung Lee and Alan Licht.
In Israel especially, politics are never far from one’s mind. The day before I arrived in Tel Aviv for the first edition of the citywide art exhibition Art TLV, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in the face of corruption charges. He punctuated his exit with a radical message, characterizing the aggressive Israeli defense strategy as shortsighted and arguing that a withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem was the only way to peace. “The time has come to say these things,” he said in an interview for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. “We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion about itself.”
That first evening, the Monday before last, at a dinner party hosted by Rivka Saker—managing director of Sotheby’s Israel and founder of the nonprofit Artis, organizer of Art TLV—I heard a riveting talk by Ron Pundak, who briefly recounted the history of Israel and his inspiring activities as head of the Peres Center for Peace. “We all want peace,” he said. “It is the leaders who need to come around to the idea that a strong neighbor is beneficial for everyone.” The terrace, where dinner was served to mostly American guests, featured a stunning panoramic view of the city lights. Curators Bill Arning, Peter Eleey, Shamim Momin, and Manon Slome; Contemporary Jewish Museum director Connie Wolf; and Milanese dealer Francesca Kaufmann were in attendance, as was Ethan Bronner, the New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief.
Left: Artist Anish Kapoor, Susan Kapoor, and dealer Irit Sommer. Right: Mayor Ron Holdai and Eyal de Leeuw.
In addition to Tel Aviv’s recent designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (for its profusion of decaying Bauhaus architecture), next year the city will celebrate its centennial; roughly set to coincide with these events, this fledgling international contemporary-art exhibition is slated to become a biennial linked to the fall biennials in Athens and Istanbul. Curated by Andrew Renton, the main exhibition at the Helena Rubenstein Pavilion, titled “Open Plan Living,” was a statement on modern life featuring an impressive roster of international artists. As we arrived, I spotted the casually dressed mayor, Ron Huldai, rushing out the door. “You’re the mayor!” I said, to which he replied, “At least this week!” Ulrich Strothjohann’s corridor-shaped box, featuring a mirror on which had been scrawled SICK OF GOOD BUYS, cleverly punned on the 1978 photo by Robert Frank. Kathy Temin’s giant dollhouse, My House, was a self-portrait replete with a pink room dedicated to Kylie Minogue surrounded by furry, fantastic Dr. Seuss trees. Rosemarie Trockel and Thea Djordjadze’s dummy Limitation of Life depicted the cumulative effects of our lifestyle. Afterward, there was a party in the adjacent Yaacob garden with Jennifer West’s psychedelic Rainbow Party projected on the pavilion’s exterior wall.
The next day, I set off for the inauguration of Mekomon, an open-air events space set in a gutted apartment building on Rothschild Boulevard, an area flush with modernist buildings in the midst of gentrification. After the official proceedings, I took a walk down the leafy avenue with Eyal de Leeuw, former Israeli cultural attaché to the Netherlands; he told me he had just returned to Israel to find the country full of excitement after the difficult period during the 2006 war with Lebanon: “There is an electricity in the air now.” He explained that the only thing to do after a bomb goes off is to clean up—and party: “They call Tel Aviv the bubble between Gaza and Jerusalem. But it is a small country, so everything that happens affects everyone.”
Left: Connie Wolf, director of the Contemporary Jewish Museum; Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum; and curator Dalia Levine. Right: Artist Kathy Temin.
A whirlwind tour of Jerusalem’s Old City followed: We visited the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Shrine of the Book (which hosts the Dead Sea Scrolls, contained in a spaceshiplike capsule that can descend into a vault in the event of an attack). At noon, we were bombarded by a cacophony of church bells and calls to prayer emanating from the loudspeakers of the muezzin. Finally, at the Israel Museum, we took refuge in the nondenominational spiritual respite of James Turrell’s sky room.
That evening, the Jerusalem Foundation’s Art Focus opened “Can Art Do More?,” an exhibition on the periphery of the city at the Banit Center. A headache-inducing sound piece greeted us as we entered the enormous open space, but the rest of the exhibition was a wondrous display of nicely paced installations. Some of us were mesmerized by Nira Pereg’s video Sabbath, a simple statement on the irony of divisions in the service of religion featuring a repetitive slapstick rendition of Orthodox men and boys dragging barriers across streets to block off their neighborhood on the eve of Shabbat. The opposite side of the space featured another darkly humorous take on walls and divisions: Rona Yefman’s Pippi Longstocking, the Strongest Girl in the World, at Abu Dis, in which a dolled-up Pippi with red braids sticking straight out tries fruitlessly to move aside a panel of the wall with her bare hands, while sympathetic Palestinian passersby attempt either to help or to advise her. Another big hit was Joe Scanlan’s DIY Dead on Arrival (Ann Lee), a do-it-yourself casket and two flower stands assembled from IKEA components.
Not unsurprisingly, borders, divisions, and barriers were the thematic underpinning to nearly every one of the exhibitions I visited. These tropes were particularly salient in “Panoramic Landscapes,” at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art. There, Ron Amir’s series of photographs Jisr-Caesarea depicted a barrier erected by residents of a wealthy town at its boundary with the adjacent poor Arab village. In the courtyard was Santiago Sierra’s Arrangement of Twelve Prefabricated Parapets, a simple cement installation that demonstrates the impossibility of dividing territory.
At street level, one could sense a feeling of optimism, with talk of the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, becoming the second female prime minister of Israel (after Golda Meir). On Thursday in Tel Aviv, Paul McCartney performed his first concert in Israel. When he started to sing “Give Peace a Chance,” the crowd of forty thousand cheered and joined in. That evening, as we toured the art interventions in Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood built outside of Jaffa, Beatles songs emanated from people’s homes. In a kindergarten classroom, artist Elyasaf Kowner played guitar and sang in front of his video projection Facing the Wishes, in which children’s faces were juxtaposed with their spoken desires, such as “That there would be no more wars,” “That everyone would be satisfied from what they have,” and “That all the family would be healthy and have livelihood and that’s it.”
If anachronistic, there was also something comforting about the retro-counterculture vibe. On Friday evening at sunset, I wandered down to the Mediterranean seafront and followed drumbeats to the abandoned Dolphinarium disco, site of the 2001 suicide bombing that killed twenty-one people. As I stood watching the drummers and free-form dancers, a young man named Judah turned and handed me a joint. That, combined with the sound of sea spray washing off the rocks, brought a sense of universal calm.
Left: Artist Elyasaf Kowner. Right: Curator Manon Slome, Artis founder Rivka Saker, curator Ellen Ginton, and artist Itzhak Livneh.
Left: Turner Prize curators Carolyn Kerr, Sophie O'Brien, and Helen Little. Right: Tate Britain director Stephen Deuchar. (Except where noted, all photos: Gareth Harris)
Perched on a table bearing mountains of crisps and orange-stuffed olives (the foulest canapé ever consumed at a private view), artist Fiona Banner delivered her verdict on this year’s Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain: “This is the new, improved, unembarrassing Turner Prize. Every artist gets their own space, and there’s a real discussion going on between the four selected.” She wasn’t the only former nominee at Monday’s opening ruminating over this year’s intelligent selection of work by Runa Islam, Cathy Wilkes, Goshka Macuga, and Mark Leckey (the odd man out on the woman-friendly short list). Cornelia Parker and Mike Nelson were spotted sizing up Wilkes’s provocative installation I give you all my money alongside past prizewinners Jeremy Deller and Mark Wallinger.
The towering 1994 victor, Antony Gormley, stood out in the gallery devoted to Leckey. Transfixed by the artist’s 2004 film Made in Eaven, Gormley underlined the “sophistication of the references to Brancusi and Duchamp” in Leckey’s quirky slide projections and models. “This is a reflection of art in our time because it’s all become surface,” Gormley explained. “You have to find a new way of looking to discover depth,” he helpfully added.
Upstairs, among the crowds gathered in the Duveen Galleries, it felt a little like Six Degrees of Mark Leckey. First, actor Toby Jones, star of the recent Capote biopic, gave Macuga’s work a thumbs-up, diplomatically disclosing that he was a “good friend of Leckey’s.” Journalist Laura K. Jones then sauntered past and revealed that she had once dated the hirsute art star. “He always had a strange take on things,” she said. “Strange in a good way.” New York dealer Gavin Brown walked in soon after, declaring that the “boy Leckey done good.” (Brown’s an obvious champion, as he represents the Birkenhead-born artist.)
Leckey appeared at Brown’s side and joked that he’d had a “piss-poor reaction” from guests to his work, but his fellow nominees were less reticent. When asked whether any rivalry had sprung up between the short-listed artists, Islam playfully said that she’d be happy to indulge in a cake-throwing fight with Leckey.
Opinion on the floor was wildly divided over the work on view. Most people I spoke with lauded Macuga’s stark glass and steel sculptures, which reference the German modernist designer Lilly Reich, and Leckey’s Cinema-in-the-Round, a film of a lecture-performance by the artist. But Islam’s three films (especially Be the First to See What You See as You See It, which shows a woman smashing porcelain pieces) and Wilkes’s chaotic assemblage of mannequins, cash tills, and dirty bowls also stay in the mind.
Later in the evening, the effervescent trio of Turner Prize curators—Carolyn Kerr, Sophie O’Brien, and Helen Little—walked past, each sporting immaculate black outfits and the same lipstick. (A Tate uniform, perhaps?) Over their shoulders, I spotted dealers Maureen Paley and Kate MacGarry, along with Turner Prize judge David Adjaye. “The prize is a serious exploration of art today,” he said. “It’s not a quick candy fix.” The high-profile architect is plowing ahead with plans to build a home in San Antonio for the contemporary art collection of the late philanthropist Linda Pace. Adjaye also revealed he has another major new museum project lined up but declined to spill the beans. (It’s not in Europe, I gathered.)
Nelson appeared again and revealed that the Tate had bought his piece The Coral Reef, which will go on view as part of the Tate Triennial next February. The artist pointed out that he’s due to spend many hours at the gallery installing the complex, warrenlike work. The evening ended with gay porn star–cum-novelist Aiden Shaw telling me of his plans to complete a Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, an artistic marathon if ever there was one.
“They all know Martin Parr, so they get it.” DJ Guillaume Sorge was responding to my inquiry about how Jeremy Deller’s Folk Archive, an expansive collection of British “folk” art that opened last Thursday at the Palais de Tokyo, would translate across the English Channel. How would the eternally sophisticated Parisians read photos of, for example, Tom Harrington MBE, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling champion, dressed in his floral embroidered briefs and undershirt? But as I approached the museum early Thursday evening, Peter Clare was already cheerfully leading Snowdrop, his life-size mechanical elephant, on short tours for enthusiastic young French attendees. It seemed an avenue of communication had been forged.
“When I first saw the elephant perform, as it were, six years ago, that was an epiphany for me,” Deller said. Snowdrop and the rest of the Folk Archive are being presented in “From One Revolution to Another,” Deller’s six-part project for Palais de Tokyo’s second “Carte Blanche” exhibition. (The first was presented last September by Ugo Rondinone.) For “Carte Blanche,” the museum invites an artist to act as curator but also, as Palais director Marc-Olivier Wahler put it, “to imagine something you’ve always dreamed of doing—something impossible.”
The Folk Archive works in Paris, in part because of the five other documentary projects shown alongside it that emphasize the common denominator of the exhibition—personal or collective action toward a type of utopian alternative. “This exhibition is about how you can go from being a miner to a glam-rock wrestler in a generation,” explained Deller.
Hanging above much of the space, banners by Ed Hall chart the recent political history of Britain, from the miners’ strikes to the Iraq war. Hall was proud to have his work shown in the contemporary art context but lamented the absence of one piece: “I can’t get the banner I made for the Eurostar cleaners back. They said to me, ‘What’s more important, the banner hanging in the prestigious gallery in Paris or in use in our dispute over fair pay?’” Because Deller “wanted to have something in the exhibition having to do with France,” he included Golf Drouot: The Early Days of Rock in France, archival material from the legendary Parisian venue. Matthew Higgs presented work by William Scott, an artist with the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California. “Sound in Z,” organized by Matthew Price and Andrei Smirnov, chronicles the musical and industrial revolutions of 1920s Russia. Deller’s connection with the subject grew out of research for his forthcoming film on Depeche Mode fans, and the discovery of a very strong fan base in Russia. A little digging brought Deller and Price to Léon Theremin, “And then it was like, ‘Whoa, this is techno from the ’30s,’” says Price.
On my way out, I saw Yann Chevalier, curator of Confort Moderne, Poitiers, and mentioned my plans to go to Toulouse the next morning for the opening of “Printemps de Septembre.” He got me up to speed on curator Christian Bernard’s program for the three-week festival: “It’s not just young French artists—it’s all of the artists that you’ve got to follow.”
Toulouse is gorgeous. The rose-colored city is well designed for the “perambulation” that Bernard suggested was the ideal way to explore the work of forty-eight participating artists installed in twenty-four locations. The majority of the works were made specifically for exhibition in Toulouse, many by Bernard’s old students from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. My first stop was the public art center bbb to see the exhibition of Samuel Richardot and Michel Perot, two recent graduates from the école, where they were both selected to participate in Bernard’s famous seminar—now in its final year. Their large-scale paintings (Richardot’s abstract and Perot’s figurative) were installed over John Armleder’s backdrop for the festival—a series of seven colors of wall paint used in a variety of combinations in the exhibition venues. Toulouse’s Lieu Commun was also a highlight, hosting a group show curated by Claire Moulène and Mathilde Villeneuve with artists from the 2008 summer residency at Les Ateliers des Arques in Les Arques, a village (population 190) in southwestern France. Claude Lévêque’s Rendez-vous d'automne (Autumn Rendezvous), installed at Maison Éclusière, also captured the spirit of the provinces, a voyage far beyond the barriers of familiarity.
At an evening cocktail at the Capitole (Toulouse City Hall), Bernard, “Printemps” president Marie-Thérèse Perrin, and mayor Pierre Cohen officially inaugurated the festival. Bernard clarified the title of this edition, “Là où je vais, je suis déjà” (Where I am going, I am already), explaining that “you can only see the works when you are ready—history forms perception.” Bernard also confirmed for me that his invitation of artists for “Printemps” was offered in a similar spirit to his seminar at Beaux Arts. With his selection, “it is not the thematic” that Bernard is interested in but “what develops out of this collision of work.”
Left: Curators Stéphanie Moisdon and Veronique Terrier-Hermann. Right: FIAC directors Jennifer Flay and Martin Bethenod.
Pushing past the growing crowd, I hurried down the cobblestone streets to catch the rest of the evening’s program. Vert Pâle (Pale Green), a performance by Marcelline Delbecq and her cousin Benoit Delbecq at Auditorium Saint-Pierre des Cuisines, was an homage to Russian silent-film actress Alla Nazimova. Walking back to Beaux Arts with Marcelline Delbecq and Vincent Lamouroux for the Red Krayola’s concert, we passed Sylvie Fleury’s contribution (and cheeky tribute to Toulouse’s aeronautics industry)—an installation of flying saucers lit by searchlights on the opposite bank of the Garonne River. Lamouroux told me about his work for the exhibition—installed at the Abattoirs Museum—and also his participation in Bernard’s Beaux Arts seminar. Toulouse, it seemed, was a veritable class reunion.
At around 10 PM, the Red Krayola started their energetic set in the Beaux Arts courtyard, and an hour later and a few streets over, Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet opened in the concert hall of the Les Jacobins Convent. The evening climaxed with a party in the garden behind the Abattoirs Museum where finally everyone seemed to relax. Like the crowds at Deller’s opening, the festival artists and organizers, locals from Toulouse, and many more who had traveled from Paris seemed to revel in the experience.