COLUMNS

  • Last Calle

    SOPHIE CALLE WAS SMOKING AND TEXTING on stone steps in a green velvet dress, which I wanted to touch. She said sure, so I felt up the hem. It was heavy, deluxe. I asked her where she got it, and instead of answering, she asked me why I liked it. Suddenly I heard myself talking about my childhood, my mother who sewed dresses, and the velvet dresses I always asked her to make me, even after I knew how much the material cost. I stopped, embarrassed. Was I telling a secret? But anyone could see I had been a child, and it was obvious green velvet would suit me. Calle opened a map on her phone and

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  • Mirror Mirror

    LAST WEEK, the Santa Ana winds came in hot and blustery across Los Angeles just as Jeff Koons hit town. Their convergence cannot have been a coincidence. An artist who staked his career on inflatables would naturally be on equal terms with high winds. Generally, they blow in his direction. And these did.

    On Saturday, the Museum of Contemporary Art was to honor him at its star-studded annual benefit gala. On Thursday, Larry Gagosian—not one to let an opportunity slip by—opened a kind of popup Koons show that his Beverly Hills gallery assembled from three different bodies of work. Suffice it to

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  • Here Comes the Judge

    “THERE’S NOTHING THEY WON’T DO to raise the standard of BOREDOM.” When I was living in San Francisco during the 1990s, this sentence caught my eye as I passed a flyer stapled to a telephone pole. Printed on yellow paper, the flyer contained two rectangular comic panels. In the first, a short-haired woman in mod ’60s attire walks through a boutique, grimacing as she says the line. A sidebar to the panel read “In our spectacular society where all you can see is things and their price . . . ,” leading one’s eye to the second panel, where a bar at top continued, “Ideology tries to integrate even

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  • Practice Makes Perfect

    WHAT IS YOUR REVOLUTION? The icebreaker question, raised by Field Foundation president Angelique Power during last week’s Practicing Utopia over Breakfast program, gets at the aim of this year’s art and social practice Open Engagement conference: critically examining and supporting social-justice-oriented artmaking and administration. The forward-thinking morning event took place at Tricia Van Eck’s 6018North, a dilapidated mansion brimming with art installations in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, just one of the more than twenty locations throughout Chicago—“our beautiful, scarred, complicated

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  • Texas Tale

    MY FIRST DAY IN DALLAS, I revisited the mall of my childhood. Collector Nancy Nasher was my tour guide. This was her home, or rather ours: Northpark Center, the luxury retail property her parents, Raymond and Patsy Nasher, founded in the 1990s and subsequently filled with art. With a parade of collectors, dealers and artist in tow, we began with a spikey fire-engine-red sculpture by Mark di Suvero. We continued past Iván Navarro’s water towers (a recent addition that I caught at Madison Square Park) as well as several Anthony Caro sculptures, which Nasher pointed out with special affection,

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  • London Bridges

    DOES ANYONE REMEMBER when the social fabric of contemporary art had just a few threads, nearly all sewn in New York? When the same handful of people showed up for every opening at the few galleries worthy of the name? When everyone knew everyone else from the same bars and nightclubs (or beds)?

    Last week, London felt a bit like that. It was just after Easter, before Art Brussels and Gallery Weekend Berlin. People were conserving themselves for the Frieze New York–Venice Biennale–Documenta 14–Skulptur Projekte Münster–Art Basel gauntlet ahead. The city was quiet. Prime tables at popular bistros

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  • No Time Like the Present

    “SÃO PAULO IS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if New York threw up on LA,” Alex Cuadros wrote in last year’s Brazillionaires, about the meteoric rise and fall of the country’s rich from the aughts to the 2016 Rio Olympics. I thought of the line often during this year’s Sp-Arte, while overlooking Paulista Avenue and the Lina Bo Bardi–designed Museu de Arte de São Paulo from the perch of an Airbnb in Oscar Niemeyer’s Edifício Copan downtown. Twisting the comparison could work for politics, too. Look at the crisis in Brazil last year in a funhouse mirror, and one might see something similar to the US at present;

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  • Learning Curves

    LET’S SAY YOU LIVE IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES. Maybe you were born in one city and live in another. One is cold, orderly, efficient, and peaceful; the other is hot, chaotic, wildly corrupt, and untenable. You endlessly set them in dialogue, sure that something meaningful will be made from the echo back and forth, the jagged path, and the way you move between them.

    If you’re lucky, your exile is of your own choosing. You haven’t been forced out by war, disaster, or economic collapse. But in that case, you have temptations to avoid (exoticism, exploitation) and tricky questions to answer. Who are you

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  • Fake It till You Make It

    DURING SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’S initial 1970s run, Dan Aykroyd starred in a skit parodying newspaper entrepreneur Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane (1941), a thinly veiled speculative biopic about real-life newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, known for his papers’ yellow journalism. The film was directed by Orson Welles, who prior to coming to Hollywood had made national news with his 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast, in which actors pretending to be news announcers breathlessly reported the landing of spaceships in New Jersey. The broadcast was simply an imaginative recasting of

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  • Hidden Treasures

    AS EVERY BORN-AND-BRED MILANESE KNOWS, Milan is a special kind of beauty: She thrives behind closed doors and reveals herself to the lucky few only after careful vetting. Milan will give you a boring and self-righteous gray facade and then a door will open into an enchanted garden where pink flamingos stare at you, or a striking art collection pretends not to be there.

    And yet, this edition of MiArt, the first under the direction of Alessandro Rabottini, has somehow managed to open those doors and let an enormous amount of people in. “We knew we had the potential for amazing events, we just

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  • Play Ball

    ANNE PASTERNAK’S FIRST COUPLE OF YEARS as director of the Brooklyn Museum have been interesting ones, though not always in the sense she might have preferred. A few short months into her tenure, the firebrand former head of Creative Time caught heat from protesters for renting out the space to the Sixth Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit. It was a decision they saw—with some justification—as incompatible with the institution’s commitment to local audiences in a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. Following intense negotiation, another event, the Brooklyn Community Forum on Anti-Gentrification and

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  • Downtown Express

    LAST WEEKEND, I took a walk through downtown Cairo with the writer and novelist Yasmine El Rashidi. In the years I’ve known it, the neighborhood has always demanded that you move in a particular way: jaunty, quick, cutting across wide avenues into narrow alleyways, angling for a space between cars, garbage, and throngs of other pedestrians, looking for a way through.

    This day was no different, but something had changed. We stopped for lunch with Mai Elwakil, part of the resilient little arts institution Medrar for Contemporary Art, and Jenifer Evans, culture editor of the über-critical online

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