COLUMNS

  • 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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  • First Time’s a Charm

    WE CAN’T SEEM to get enough of the White House exploding—at least as moviegoers. No disaster flick is complete without a CGI medley of world monuments meeting their improbable ends, one after the other in a crescendo of increasingly bombastic catastrophes.

    But synchronized destruction packs far less thrill when the effects don’t have to be faked. On April 25, 2015, Nepal was jolted by an earthquake that claimed 8,800 lives, leaving nearly 3 million people homeless and toppling countless centuries-old heritage sites. Within seconds, the catalogue of the country’s sacred temples and central tourist

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  • Best in Show

    “THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE in this room than there are in all of Marfa, Texas. Although—it’s just as international,” said Chinati Foundation director Jenny Moore to an agreeable Jay Jopling.

    It was Monday night, and we were at the Balinese Potato Head’s bar in Sai Ying Pun celebrating the opening of Theaster Gates’s solo show as well as the soon-to-open fifth edition of Art Basel Hong Kong. And the crowds were international indeed, including patrons Ivan Pun and Alan Lo, artists Carlos García de la Nuez and Eddi Prabandono, collector Serge Tiroche, RA’s Tim Marlow, and Taipei-based model and designer

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  • Weekend Update

    THE WEEKEND BEFORE the fifth edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, a rivalry of sorts peaked between the Beijing and Shanghai art scenes. Expecting to divert the art world en route to Hong Kong, amid lifted visa requirements to allow visitors to the mainland for seventy-two hours, both cities packed the weekend with openings. Shanghai, with its meteoric rise in the art world, has worked hard to eclipse Beijing’s status as the country’s art capital. This year, Beijing pushed back, inaugurating Gallery Weekend Beijing, a spinoff of the Berlin edition helmed by Thomas Eller, who reached out to a mere

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  • Real Surreal

    “IT’S SOMEWHERE BETWEEN a craft fair and gun show. Doesn’t it feel that way?” an artist observed, watching VIPs gamely shuffling to lackluster beats at the after party for Art Dubai’s Tuesday preview. The cash bar left many reminiscing about the heady nights, just a few fairs ago, of free-flowing libations and late, late fetes on the beach.

    Several attendees were heard wishing the DJ would play some Arabic “or at least Turkish” music. People from the region wanted to actually dance. As for those parachuting in from farther away (their numbers were up), were they not in Dubai precisely to carouse,

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  • March in Time

    THE DIRECT FLIGHT from Istanbul released predominantly Euro-American passengers at the Dubai airport, where they were gently ushered to interterminal shuttle trains by Southeast Asian DXB employees—all amid glossy ads for residential developments featuring traditionally dressed nuclear Emirati families. This image stayed with me not least because the developer and self-described “provider of premium lifestyles” in question, Emaar, was the Platinum Sponsor of the Sharjah Biennial 13, but also because the scene made the correlation between ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and their connection

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  • Spread the Love

    DESPITE AN AGGRESSIVE ATTACK on the arts from the current White House, our museums remain sanctuaries of civilization. Wednesday night’s opening of the Whitney Biennial proved that. Unexpectedly, it also unfolded as a model of democracy—and difference.

    After seventy-eight attempts by Whitney Museum curators to survey recent art made in America, this was the first to see its (usually giant) opening postponed by a blizzard. It also marked the first biennial in the museum’s two-year-old Meatpacking District building. And it was the first—maybe ever—to win just about universal approval.

    Traditionally,

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  • Rainbow Connection

    A SALTSHAKER, A BRACELET, and a romantic folklorist painting of a prophetic bird walk onto a wooden stage: That’s the premise of Taus Makhacheva’s Way of an Object, 2013, a marionette show featuring replicas of three items from Dagestan’s Gamzatova Fine Arts Museum engaging in museological debates as they bemoan their fate as passive exponents wrenched from their original contexts. While the traditional Avar “horned” salt box and Kubachi wedding bangle mourn the loss of their specific cultural use-value, the miniature Viktor Vasnetsov painting whines that it’s the one who should really be

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  • Good Humor

    I HAVE YET TO FIND a taxi driver who thinks wrong of president Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte since his election last May. His approval ratings regularly exceed 80 percent, despite the controversial hero’s burial he organized for former dictator Ferdinand Marcos last November, or the indiscriminate slaughtering of suspected drug dealers and users—including children. His war on drugs amounts to more than seven thousand shot dead so far (more than during the martial-law period, artists tell me), reinforcing the “doing what it takes” attitude gaining popularity worldwide. And yet the economy seems pleased,

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  • Pier Review

    UNSETTLING TIMES have unsettled the art world. If this year’s Armory Week pointed up any one trend, it was a certain changing of the guard from the top down.

    For the first time since the election of Donald J. Trump, conversation dominated by national politics took a back seat to who-killed-Cock-Robin speculation over Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Campbell’s resignation on Tuesday. That only deepened the mystery of Andrea Rosen’s bombshell letter announcing the closing of her gallery, hard on the heels of Hauser & Wirth’s equally rumor-mongering separation from the gallery’s Los Angeles

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  • Future Offerings

    WHEN THE PINCHUKARTCENTRE first announced the Future Generation Art Prize in 2010, the competition’s name was met with some cynicism, if only because, in the context of the art world at that time, the “future” was dubious at best—a few laps around Art Basel’s Statements section followed by a fiery demise at Philips and then maybe an embarrassing afterlife hosting Miami parties for struggling luxury brands.

    Nearly seven years later, “the future” invites a different cynicism. Not to be one of those Americans who makes everything about Trump, but . . . Suffice to say, just a month into his official

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