COLUMNS

  • 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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  • Resistance Is Fertile

    “I’VE READ MORE BOOKS THAN TRUMP,” claimed a silk screen at Karl LaRocca’s Kayrock Screenprinting booth at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair this weekend. “Not hard!” asserted an Angelino in a crop top amid the bustling throngs of bibliophiles. Tallies, texts, and the possibilities and pitfalls of democracy were clearly legible throughout the fifth annual LA iteration of Printed Matter’s Art Book Fair, exemplified by Mike Mills and Experimental Jetset’s mural-size poster towering over the crowd, reading “2,864,974”: an amplification of the margin of Hillary’s popular vote lead as of January 2017.

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  • Supermarket Sweep

    AFTER WEEKS OF THE POLITICAL PORN that is now our presidency, what a relief to arrive in Mexico City—even for an art fair. Here was a place that welcomed foreigners, despite (or because of) a 30 percent drop in the peso.

    Well, money isn’t everything. Not in Ciudad de Mexico (now known as CDMX). So what if you can’t take a deep breath without feeling faint? The oldest capital in the Americas is a place of constant wonder and discovery. What’s more, it seems to be generating more invigorating art activity than anywhere else in the hemisphere.

    Art doesn’t just matter here. It’s fun.

    Take the exacting

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  • Reality Check

    “I DON’T THINK I’M GOING,” I told a friend the day I was supposed to fly to Tehran. The White House had just released a draft of the executive order banning entry to the United States for nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran. The order wasn’t final yet, so on top of the profound despair over global politics, there was a certain confusion about concrete travel processes, especially for holders of passports from other majority-Muslim countries—including yours truly.

    “If you don’t go to Tehran you’ll regret it,” said my friend. “And eating kebab in Westwood won’t make up

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  • Oslo Peace

    THERE’S NEVER A GOOD TIME to travel under the auspices of cultural representation on behalf of a country with demonstrated fascist and xenophobic leanings. Three days before I embarked for Oslo, our president enacted the so-called travel ban; two nights prior to my departure, a Brooklyn federal judge issued an emergency block temporarily barring deportations as protesters demonstrated worldwide. But even now, with 45 promising a new executive order, the ordinance’s fate remains uncertain.

    Norway, nevertheless, was as reservedly gracious in its reception as its reputation would suggest. On the

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