COLUMNS

  • Into the Echo

    THE SHEIKH WAS RUNNING LATE. It was 10 AM—the official opening time of the fourteenth Sharjah Biennial. Although a nice, durable red carpet had been rolled out in front of the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Al Mureijah Square, and a crew of cameramen in dishdashas were on standby, the planefuls of artists, curators, press, gallerists, and junketeers who’d descended upon the Emirate last Thursday were told they might as well wander the grounds and see some art. We’d be alerted when Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi finally arrived (his daughter and the biennial’s helm, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi,

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  • Daze or Malaise?

    ARRIVING IN THE FORMER (INTERMITTENT) IMPERIAL CAPITAL OF MARRAKESH after a few days in Casablanca—Morocco’s economic powerhouse during the French Mandate—was a shock. Though only two and a half hours apart, the two cities could not feel more different: the latter’s wide tram-lined boulevards and somewhat laid-back architectural modernism in glistening Mediterranean white shifted to the earthy reds of Marrakesh’s buildings, old and new; its continental climate with swooping temperatures; and, above all, its overwhelming hypersaturation of tourists. After arriving at Jemaa el-Fna square with my

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  • Frieze-Frame

    HOLLYWOOD HAS ITS MOMENTS. Just when you think Tinseltown has exploded into an overpriced, overdeveloped, overcrowded nightmare, the sun peeps through the clouds onto Griffith Park’s Hollywood sign, then the snowcapped Angeles Crest mountains in the distance, and the spring-rain-cleaned boulevards glow anew with the promise of discovery so that average folk and A-listers alike can nestle once more into LA’s apocalyptic, disorienting glamour. Hollywood’s posh movie studios feign immunity to this dysfunctional cycle, however: Inside iron gates are immaculately groomed grounds, with golf carts

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  • Unidentified Fabulous Objects

    AS WINNER OF season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race, in 2017, Sasha Velour distinguished herself as a cerebral contestant, a Vassar graduate who regards drag as an artistic expression. So when she was asked by New York’s Queer/Art/Film screening series to present a movie of her choice, she decided to boldly go where no other drag queen has gone before. On February 4, she arrived at IFC Center in green face paint and a bejeweled headpiece to pay homage to the 1991 cult favorite Vegas in Space. (The event was part of the “Winter’s a Drag” program, which continues through April.)

    “I discovered Vegas in

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  • Such Great Heights

    I HAD TWO RIDE OPTIONS to the third iteration of “Elevation 1049” (the number refers to the ski resort’s altitude), produced by Luma Foundation, with the involvement of Maja Hoffmann, and again curated by local artist Olympia Scarry and Neville Wakefield: driving with artist Sylvie Fleury in her new Tesla (the brand is popular in the Alps, and it’s easy to find charging stations) or flying with Hans Ulrich Obrist in an Airbus helicopter (also very popular, with many local landing areas). But an unexpected snowstorm forced me to take a regular train from the Geneva airport to Montreux, and then

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  • Sharp Critique

    THE MOST LAVISH PARTIES coinciding with India Art Fair are the midday brunches: As the sun pelts through the now characteristically hazardous air pollution, attendees reach for the Bloody Marys. At one such event, hosted at the home of Shalini Passi, founder of the Shalini Passi Art Foundation, banners shifted in the wind, declaring: Lunch is Cancelled. In a performance, artist Mithu Sen paraded out of the house, followed by a marching band, and servers were wearing anti-lick recovery cones for pets around their necks. Sen wore a cone with a special blond frill. Passi’s black pug, adorned with

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  • Sea Change

    THIS YEAR’S EDITION of Singapore Art Week (SAW) saw the country earn the celebrity trappings of an established art metropolis, with the first exhibition of Lucy Liu’s art alongside that of local artist Shubigi Rao at the National Museum of Singapore. There was also the sudden demise of Art Stage Singapore—a fair that was once the key event of Singapore’s annual visual-arts calendar and the catalyst for the development of SAW as a platform for events.

    The country’s art scene banded together in the aftermath. Galleries offered up exhibition spaces, and individuals opened their homes or gave legal

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  • The Dreamhouse

    THE SPECTRUM WAS ONE OF THOSE RARE PLACES in the world where you could feel totally free. It was an art space, illegal nightclub, and ephemeral proof in the possibility of building an alternative queer utopia. From residence of the cofounder, the artist gage of the boone, to spiritual home for a generation of New York artists, club rats, and orphans, the Spectrum lived for seven defiant years before the Dreamhouse—its second iteration in Ridgewood, Queens—closed in fabulous, Dionysian excess this month.

    While many DIY spaces have been predictably crushed in this city’s capitalist gears, the

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  • Cartel Cowboy

    ON THE AFTERNOON of January 16, a group of reporters assembled in the overflow room across the hall from where Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Sinaloa cartel leader, known as “El Chapo,” was being tried. There are drawbacks to watching the trial there—the grainy quality of the live video feed, the fact that viewers can’t see the defendant react to explosive testimony— as opposed to the courtroom, but outside the purview of the judge, the atmosphere is also more relaxed. As a Homeland Security agent stepped down from the witness stand, in the overflow room a reporter from El País jumped to his feet

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  • Smize Demise

    ONCE UPON A TIME, for most of the art cognoscenti, Hong Kong resembled a Wong Kar-wai film still. Then Art Basel happened. So it was all the more exciting to visit the city for a brand-new occasion: the inaugural edition of Booked, launched by Tai Kwun Contemporary. Since officially opening its doors to the public this past June, Tai Kwun, which is housed in the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts—a major redevelopment project in the former Central Police Station backed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club—has welcomed more than a million people. According to the museum’s statistics, one-fifth

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  • On the Brink

    THE PLAN FOR THE FOURTH EDITION OF THE BIENNALE INTERNATIONALE DE CASABLANCA, held from late October to early December, was to raise the profile of the event in a manner befitting the economic and cultural significance of Morocco’s biggest city. In prior editions, initiated by the Moroccan photographer Mostafa Romli and run through a foundation called Maroc Premium, the biennial wasn’t really achieving that. Its quality was middling; it had neither the means nor the glitz to rival the Marrakech Biennial, which was founded in 2004 by the British entrepreneur Vanessa Branson. This year, however,

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  • Train Spotting

    WE HAVE A BIENNIAL, what are we to do with it? It is so indivisible and so . . . ours.

    If Osip Mandelstam rejoiced to see his body blow warm breath against “the window glass of eternity,” it still remains to be seen what kind of mark our globalized art world may leave on the Future. The millennial explosion of biennials and large-scale exhibitions has paved a global highway for the circulation of contemporary art, giving rise to an international community with its own vernacular—instead of shibboleth, we have Szymczyk. We’ve effectively achieved the “platform for international discourse”

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