COLUMNS

  • Happy Returns

    The most radiant face in the art world last Thursday night belonged to Jane Smith, celebrating her ninetieth birthday at her LaGuardia Place loft with a party given by her artist daughters, Kiki and Seton. Before marrying their father, artist Tony Smith, Jane (née Lawrence) was a babe of Broadway. She appeared in the original production of Oklahoma in 1943, eventually taking over the romantic lead, and also modeled for the photographer Edmund Teske (1911–1996); his dreamy black-and-white portraits resurfaced in an exhibition at the Getty last summer, where several images of Jane pointed up her

    Read more
  • Hot Commodities

    The band was bee-oo-tiful, the crowd was bee-oo-tiful . . . It felt like Weimar in Chelsea on Wednesday night at Mother Inc.'s Fendi-sponsored CD “listening party” at Marquee. The cute invite, styled like a Fendi-brand 12-inch, advised a “Luxurious Lounge” dress code. I wore the tight brown Citizen cords I've worn all season: As a chronic skirt-addict, I'm working on accepting myself in pants. “You all look so great,” Yvonne Force-Villareal purred from the stage at her über-glam, über-connected art-world supporters. “I hope I look as good as you do!” The unofficial themes of the evening were

    Read more
  • String Theory

    “The piece is from '85,” says American critic and Ilya Kabakov expert Amei Wallach. “No, no, it's from '86,” retorts Joseph Backstein, Kabakov's old friend. Both of them should know, but here in the artist's former studio—where the classic work 16 Strings has been reconstructed—all straightforward facts seem to disappear into a thick cloud of Slavic mythology. It's January 30, the day after the opening of Moscow's first contemporary art biennale, and the curators, artists, and critics in town for the show have come here to pay homage. Kabakov built the studio himself in 1968 and lived

    Read more
  • Red Alert

    “We are here to view an art exhibition. We are here for art, not politics,” Klaus Biesenbach said emphatically during his opening remarks at last Friday's private reception for “Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition,” the new show at the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (KW). Featuring over fifty artists, “Regarding Terror” bestirs the ghosts of the Red Army Faction, the group of Marxist-Maoist terrorists who hoped to destabilize the West German government and kick off the revolution via a series of targeted arsons, kidnappings, bombings, and shootings that began in 1968 and crescendoed

    Read more
  • Rake's Progress

    “Jerry and Roberta hate me and Artforum doesn't know I exist,” Cecily Brown was saying to playwright Tom Stoppard and Artforum senior editor Scott Rothkopf. The three were sharing a rear banquette on the third floor of 5 Ninth, where—despite the winter's first major snowstorm—Larry Gagosian had brought out the troops to toast Brown's opening at his Chelsea gallery.

    The artist was swapping war stories with Stoppard, a surprise guest, sharing tales of the awkward moments that can result from being friendly with critics. Stoppard, who has won (and deserved) just about every top honor the theater

    Read more
  • Blonde Ambition

    “Pam: American Icon,” a series of photographs by Sante D’Orazio of sexy-deluxe former Baywatch star and preeminent pop icon Pamela Anderson, opens at Stellan Holm Gallery in Chelsea. Crowded, but slightly mystifying. Velvet ropes. I stand tentatively at the door until some guy in black waves me in, hearing inwardly a not-altogether-agreeable echo of my club-going days. Paparazzi galore, but, with Ms. Anderson a no-show, who are they planning to take pictures of? Cologne art dealer Raphael Jablonka? It’s almost impossible to see the photographs given the unseemly hordes. I did admire Pamela

    Read more
  • Conference Crawl

    Art junkets always sound good on paper: the allure of expense-paid travel to some distant metropolis; a conference or fair or biennial to dive into; a crash course in the local art scene; a highly condensed bit of gratuitous tourism. Yet inside this pretty Trojan horse lurk a host of challenges that arise when you spend concentrated blocks of time crowded into minivans alongside other art professionals with whom you might not see eye to eye, to put it mildly. Luckily, last weekend’s SITAC conference defied such uneasy expectations. While the “serious” side of the conference was a real mixed bag,

    Read more
  • Art Is a Cabaret

    Who knew that the SITAC conference is the art event in Mexico? The fourth International Symposium on Contemporary Art Theory proved to be a nonstop slew of private viewings and collectors’ parties complementing three long days in which a semiglittering array of art historians, theorists and critics slogged it out via an indefatigable (and often incomprehensible) translator. This year’s theme, chosen by artist Pablo Helguera, the symposium’s director and smooth host, was the relationship of art criticism to art history. Given the euphoric amnesia of most art magazines, this was a well-chosen

    Read more
  • Cabin Fever

    I was not overly keen on visiting the opening of “Log Cabin” at Artists Space, because the wind was whooshing and Manhattan was cold, getting colder. There was a terrific scrum at the entrance to the elevator, and I had to wonder if the icy gang upstairs would have their wits about them. If we were to spend the rest of evening muffled in layers, bashing into each other, well, it wouldn’t be much of a party. But it was, actually, a lovely party. Curator Jeffrey Uslip has arrayed a jamboree of visual attack tactics against neocon homophobia and the suppression of contemporary queer lexicons. “It’s

    Read more
  • Picture This

    A few days into rehearsals for Tino Sehgal’s Institute of Contemporary Arts show—which took place in the galleries, with staff and invited guests permitted a sneak preview—it was clear that not everyone appreciates the Berlin-based artist’s deployment of dancing, singing, and chattering humans (and nothing else) as art. Sehgal’s works, which seek to embody a categorical shift away from object-based art production, are never photographed or otherwise documented and are usually unencumbered by wall labels. This contributes to a certain mystique, but can also sow confusion. Unexpectedly

    Read more
  • Gun Shy

    In 1971, a performance with a gun helped secure Chris Burden’s status as an art-world legend. Now, more than three decades later, it seems another performance involving a firearm may have been a central factor in the abrupt retirements of Burden and his wife, sculptor Nancy Rubins, from the faculty of UCLA’s Department of Art.

    Rumors began to percolate before Christmas, and there has been increasing chatter on art blogs since then, but little official information has emerged about the situation—all the parties have kept quiet on the specifics of the performance and its relationship to the

    Read more
  • Grand Opening

    My Saturday night in Chelsea started at an unfashionably early 6:15 when I strolled in to the (at that point) subdued reception for Laylah Ali’s second show at 303 Gallery. It’s another collection of small-scale gouaches on paper, though many are now half-length portraits of individual “Types”—as she calls the latest incarnation of her bubble-headed protagonists—seemingly excerpted from the stealthily violent vignettes, evoking schoolyard bullying or race-motivated attacks, with which she made her name. Ali has sublimated the cruelty even further here; it’s evident only in the small

    Read more