COLUMNS

  • Supersize Spree

    At the Monday opening of the sixth annual Art Unlimited exhibition, Art Basel director Samuel Keller was quick to remind everyone, “The artworks here are for sale”—an announcement that functioned like the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, signaling the beginning of the week’s trading. Keller was making an important point, because while this section of Art Basel, held in a large hall next to the fair’s main space and devoted to large-scale works that do not fit in regular booths, looks like (and is) a curated exhibition—organized by Switzerland-based artist and independent curator

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  • My Hustler

    On Thursday night, the Fondazione Prada is exhibiting Francesco Vezzoli’s 2004 film Le Comizi di Non Amore at the Fondazione Cini on Darsena, the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore; a cocktail party follows for Vezzoli and Rem Koolhaas, Carsten Höller, and Mariko Mori, all beneficiaries of Prada’s largesse (in one way or another) who are exhibiting in the Biennale. I’ve always been a fan of Vezzoli. Though he has had his share of notable admirers, for years now I’ve also noticed a remarkable knee jerk hostility toward him. Too smooth an operater? Too attentive to his career? Too smart for his own

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  • Fairer Fare

    Who would have thought we’d be pining for the chaos of “Utopia Station”? This year’s Arsenale show, “Always a Little Further,” was a pared-down affair, but featured so much heavy-handed installation that it seemed a major throwback to the eighties and nineties. Indeed, with a veteran feminist agenda to boot, much of the work was well past its sell-by date of 1989. The fact that “best newcomer” prize was given to young Guatemalan body artist Regina José Galindo says it all: She shaves herself naked in public, creates a trail of bloody footprints in the streets, and videotapes her own hymenoplasty.

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  • 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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