COLUMNS

  • Casino Advantage

    Representing one’s country at the Venice Biennale is undoubtedly an honor. It can pump up an artist's career—but it can also take the wind out of one's sails. There is no other exhibition in which artists must stand at their own front doors, so to speak, making themselves available to critics and passersby. “Like prostitutes,” said one visitor to the Giardini. The up side: “Those who used to think you were full of shit might suddenly love you because it’s ‘your moment’—or because you have the right dealer.” Artists know it’s just a game, but when it’s their turn they may find the going

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  • Stone of Venice

    It’s a dismal truism that a writer’s life is hell, but it has its moments—like this one, as I begin my Venetian epistle on the terrace of my hotel overlooking the Grand Canal and the gleaming white domes of Santa Maria della Salute. John Ruskin had a no less splendid view of the comparatively austere but even more distinguished San Giorgio Maggiore from his window at the Danieli, where he habitually stayed when visiting the city he described in such loving detail in The Stones of Venice. But by just cocking my head thirty degrees to the left I have a fine vista of that grandest of Palladian

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  • Naked and Rude

    Friday night, West Hollywood. A Chateau Marmont manager has upgraded Lisa Yuskavage, still in town from her Wednesday dog-and-pony show with Lisa Cholodenko at the Hammer. Whisked from her rear-view room near a noisy elevator, she has now landed a gargantuan, six-room penthouse with a full-size kitchen in lieu of a minibar, ashtrays everywhere (in California!) and a nearly wraparound terrace. When I arrive to visit, the remote-controlled gas fire is roaring, the sun is setting over the hills, and life is rich and strange.

    Saturday afternoon, while touring the galleries in Chinatown, along Wilshire

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  • Inflated Hopes

    After a long day traveling the outskirts of Oslo to visit various art institutions—the Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, the Preus Museum and Gallery F15 in Horten, and Momenum in Moss—I arrived back in the city Friday just in time to join what seemed like all of Oslo’s culturati at the crowded opening of “Kiss the Frog! The Art of Transformation,” the inaugural exhibition at the newly combined national museums of art, architecture, and design (now called, simply, the National Museum). The show features an international mix of art-world heavyweights (Jorge Pardo, Pipolotti Rist, and Kara

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  • The L.A.-Word

    Ever since the obscene $254 million that The Gates brought New York made art tourism the new pornography, I've felt a little funny about traveling to other cities just to visit exhibitions. Of course, I wasn't jumping on a private jet to preview the Venice Biennale or to shop early at Art Basel. I was going to LA to attend the first National Critics Conference. So what if the lead-off speaker was a TV Hall of Famer (All in the Family producer Norman Lear)? The USC/Annenberg School for Communication sponsored the event. Surely I would be safe in the arms of academe.

    Can you hear me laughing?

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  • Cheap Date

    Continuing my season of badly timed research trips, I showed up in Basel two weeks before the art fair. My lure was the soon-to-close “Supershow” at the Kunsthalle, produced by the Danish trio Superflex (Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger, and Bjørnsterne Christiansen). The gimmick was simple: Everyone gets paid two Swiss francs to enter the gallery.

    It’s a token amount by anyone’s standards ($2), and buys you very little, particularly in Switzerland. (A cotton bag bearing the slogan “I was paid to go there,” costs six CHF.) Even so, I wanted to find out if this payoff would make a difference to the

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  • Noblesse Oblige

    After three consecutive flights—New York to Amsterdam to Oslo to Bergen—it was a bit dispiriting to see a baggage carousel (with one lonely, endlessly circling navy blue bag tagged for a nonexistent flight) in “The Welfare Show,” Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s new exhibition at the Kunsthall. For many years, this coveted May exhibition slot, which coincides with the Bergen International Festival, honored older artists. Beginning in 2003, when Bjarne Melgaard exhibited, the focus has been decidedly more contemporary. This year also marks the hundredth anniversary of the dissolution of

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  • Market Forces

    Last Saturday afternoon, the thirty-eigth class of the Whitney Independent Study Program in Studio Art and the third class in the ISP’s Architecture and Urban Studies program held a “non-opening” for their end-of-year exhibition. A crowd made up mostly of the students and their friends attended the “non-event” (as the invite billed it), held in the basement of the ISP’s Lafayette Street space, and a sort of knowing camaraderie permeated the show (which had actually “opened” the day before). The program’s legacy of socially engaged practice certainly encourages a particular approach to artmaking,

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  • Hot Air

    Having witnessed the spaz bacchanal of New York’s regional Air Guitar Championship, I’d like to see a statistical graph of the relative fortunes of performance art and air guitar. My hunch is that factor analysis would reveal a strong negative correlation between the two. That is, as performance art declined into masturbatory irrelevance in the 1980s and ’90s, air guitar—a far more honest type of masturbatory irrelevance—rose like David Lee Roth in midair split. Take the politics out of performance art, after all, and you’re left with untrammeled histrionics, potential nudity, and

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  • Unconvention Center

    ICFF weekend, the contemporary-furniture equivalent of the Armory Show, chock full of eager-eyed designers and eagle-eyed press, officially opened with last Saturday night’s party at the Museum of Modern Art, apparently the hottest ticket in town—although, in my humble opinion, not the best. Gaggles of well-dressed girls (and the occasional boy) were turned away while the city’s best-connected and PR-savviest were let through a security ringer that reminded me just a little too much of seventeen-year-old attempts at social jockeying.

    Guests were encouraged to mingle—but not smoke!—in

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  • Candy's Dandy

    Cary Leibowitz, the only artist who boasts he was “discovered on 'The Gong Show',” proved that he has survived his respectable gig in Christies’ Print Department with low self-esteem and sense of humor intact. Friends and well wishers flocked to his

    opening last Thursday at Andrew Kreps. An inordinate number of them had large beards. (Don’t ask me why. I pondered most of the evening, “What was up with that?”)

    Foregoing his usual pattern-on-pattern signature style, the artist formerly known as Candy Ass was a classy springtime vision sporting a solid tan suit, canary yellow shirt, blue gingham

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  • Babies on Board

    “Make It Now” at SculptureCenter presents new work from twenty-eight New York sculptors in its crumbly, Maya Lin-rehabbed factory space near the dead end of Purves Street in Long Island City. The curatorial premise as written was rather waffly—with so many different artists involved, all-purpose platitudes like “belief” and “politics” had to suffice (in the spirit of inclusiveness). But the three curators (Mary Ceruti, Anthony Huberman, and Franklin Sirmans) made good on their promise to bring together artists at different moments in their careers. The young and surging are well represented:

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