COLUMNS

  • 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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  • Iceland Hopping

    Ever fancied having a Lawrence Weiner tattooed on your bottom? The young Roman artist Micol Assaël has done just that, and it reads “sink or swim / your ass gets wet / there is no excuse.” I know this because both Assaël and Weiner were in Iceland for the opening of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and she asked him to authenticate the work—which he duly did with a kiss. This marriage of trendy young artist and gray-bearded conceptualist reflects the festival as a whole, which contains a major exhibition of the late Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth and, complementing it, an extensive program of

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  • Role Call

    My favorite thing about the Armory Show this year was the zone of discomfort surrounding the Bellwether booth. It was a sturdy little pale-wood room stocked with clunky, brightly painted fake carbines, and sabers. Behind the counter stood artist Allison Smith, looking earnest and a little awkward, wearing a hat out of a Mathew Brady portrait and a homemade uniform of off-white cloth with brass buttons: A general’s pajamas? Smith’s work treats Americana with a combination of critique and fetishization, and while I’ve preferred other examples—her creepy Zouave doll at “Greater New York 2005,”

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  • Thank You, Sir

    Protesting Sotheby’s new anti-union contractor, picketing maintenance workers booed everyone entering the Contemporary Art evening auction on Tuesday night. I had to walk through the “boo” gauntlet (though the union had my sympathy). As did Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer, who I first spotted emerging from a towncar, in black tie with his maestro-like slicked-back hairdo. A sea of hearty booers parted for him to enter the building, quite fabulously. The scene couldn’t have been set more perfectly—reduced to this crass, classic conflict between Us and Them. Workers and owners. Artists and

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  • Group Effort

    “COULD WE HAVE SOME QUIET IN HERE, PLEASE?” The commandingly loud voice belonged to Andrea Fraser, whose performance May I Help You? had been in more or less continual progress for four hours, ever since the new gallery Orchard, founded by artist Gareth James and eleven cohorts including Moyra Davey, Fraser, Christian Philipp-Müller, R. H. Quaytman, Karin Schneider, and Bennett Simpson, opened its doors to the public at 1:00pm on Wednesday, May 11. Originally devised in 1991 for a show at the late Colin de Land’s American Fine Arts, Fraser’s wickedly funny monologue—in which she seems to

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  • Capitol Infusion

    Why bother plying your wares at yet another art fair when you can simply fly your best customers in for a gallery visit? That was the novel idea behind BERLIN 2005. Twenty-one Berlin galleries—from Arndt & Partner to Galerie Barbara Weiss—invited their favorite collectors and curators for a long weekend of openings, dinners, and parties in “the city where today's most unique art is created.”

    Since Sunday was the sixtieth anniversary of VE Day, World War II was on many minds, yet the weekend’s art extravaganza recalled the 1948-49 Luftbrücke (airlift), bringing collectors instead of

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