COLUMNS

  • She Brakes for Rainbows

    IT’S HARD FOR ME to feel at home at most “gala season” events. For starters, I can’t hold my alcohol. I also start to feel a serious disconnect between my roots—as the Jersey-born offspring of a family of public school teachers—and the way certain sectors of the art world court the one percent. Not to mention the fact that soigné events almost never take place in my neighborhood.

    But Wide Rainbow’s first annual gala on May 14 was the exception to the rule. The nonprofit organization, founded three years ago by Ashley Gail Harris, is a DIY female-empowerment engine providing free after-school arts

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  • Bad Madeleines

    IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (primary school to this Brit), when candy was currency, anyone who showed up with some new or unusual confection ruled the roost—at least until the prize was shared, stickily, among a dozen instant mates or wolfed down defensively by its owner. So it was particularly impressive when a classmate arrived one Monday morning with three never-before-seen treats. The brands were familiar, but the bars themselves were prototypes—experimental trial runs for yet-to-be-released products. To our sugar-addled minds, they were gold. The source of the bounty? A parent’s visit to a food

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  • Pretty Paper

    A COOL BREEZE carried the thick aroma of brick-fired pizza and the tunes of DJ Maxwell Sterling over tank-topped and shorted Angelenos as they shifted from booth to booth, tucking books into bright yellow totes under the setting sun. Here was the Acid-Free Los Angeles Art Book Market—as chill and cozy as a backyard BBQ—spread across a parking lot and two floors of Blum & Poe, the capacious commercial gallery hosting the inaugural edition, which opened May 4 and ran until May 6. With the tragic death of its organizer Shannon Michael Cane, Printed Matter postponed the 2018 edition of its wildly

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  • Some Like It Hot

    I OFTEN LAMENT how disparate visual art and music coverage can feel, save in pop-culture magazines, where the restrictive new-release plug rules, so it was an authentic pleasure to experience a four-day Coachella Valley arts journalism tour linking multiple cross-disciplinary events in this stark, gorgeous desert. With the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival as the intended centrifugal force, other excursions enlightened those wishing to visit this sand-duned, palm-treed, swimming-pooled, nine-city basin anytime of year, particularly when an extended winter tests one’s patience. Sun worship

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  • Wouldn’t You Love to Love Her?

    TRUE CONFESSION: I’ve never been a Stevie Nicks fanatic, even though I adore some of the songs she recorded as a member of the iconic rock band Fleetwood Mac. It’s been years since I’ve felt the need to attend “Night of 1,000 Stevies,” the annual NYC love fest for her devoted fan following. The last time I went was when it was at the nightclub known as Mother, located in Manhattan’s then-desolate Meatpacking District. My memories are vague (and I’m showing my age)—Mother closed in 2000 and NOTS just celebrated its twenty-eighth anniversary.

    But I rejoined the fray on May 4, at the old-fashioned

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  • The Empathy Exam

    “IT’S SO EASY TO LAUGH, it’s so easy to hate. It takes guts to be gentle and kind.” These lyrics from my earnest misspent youth dogged me the night of May 2 as I listened to a conversation between the New York Public Library’s leading interlocutor, Paul Holdengräber, and author George Saunders, whose batty 2017 novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, recently won the Man Booker Prize. The refrain bothered me: Morrissey had once been a hero of mine but is now just a walking alt-right-wing meme. The hypocrisy enraged me, though I thought I shouldn’t care.

    The idea of brave compassion, and the doubtful questions

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  • Oh Milano!

    ART FAIRS MIGHT BE A BIT like that moment before death, when your entire life flashes before your eyes. During a span of only days, everyone seems to bump into everyone they’ve ever known since, well, forever. Certainly, this was the case at the Milan Art Fair, or MiArt, which opened on April 13 and ran through April 15. Despite the bad weather, I was out and about on a Monday, several days before the fair’s official opening, to honor the artist Jimmie Durham. He is a beloved presence at the Fondazione Adolfo Pini, a refurbished nineteenth-century apartment building, where his current exhibition,

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  • The Call of the Mild

    IF 2016, WHICH BEGAN WITH THE PASSING OF DAVID BOWIE and ended with the election of Donald Trump, felt like a year of death—of beloved musicians, celebrities, and democratic values—2017 was a year of outrage, not least in the art world. It started with fierce debates sparked by the Whitney Biennial’s inclusion of Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket, 2016, a partly abstracted representation of the murdered, disfigured body of Emmett Till in his coffin; continued with the removal from the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden of Sam Durant’s large outdoor sculpture Scaffold, 2017, intended to

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  • Eye in the Sky

    WHEN BERENICE ABBOTT (1898–1991) began wrestling with a large-format camera to produce her iconic photographs of New York City in the early 1930s, she had to overcome a fear of heights in order to achieve a range of perspectives. On the top floors of skyscrapers, she could escape the interruptions of pedestrians, who would gather to watch her dive in and out of the bulky camera’s black focus cloth.

    This month at the lion-guarded New York Public Library, curator Julia Van Haaften debuted her definitive biography of this “self-taught risk taker,” Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography. From the

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  • Regional Delicacies

    “IT’S THE BIGGEST ARTWORK my mother ever bought,” Sabine Langen-Crasemann told me of the Langen Foundation’s Tadao Ando–designed museum space in a field outside Düsseldorf. Her mother sold a 1951 Jackson Pollock to pay for the elegant glass structure, lined with cherry trees. If the parade of luxuriously stalwart Rimowa suitcases at the airport had not made it abundantly clear, we are not in cheaply uncheerful Berlin anymore. Welcome to the Rhineland: the densest landscape of private museums and collectors in Europe.

    At Museum Ludwig on a Tuesday night, as Haegue Yang received the prestigious

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  • Dam It

    I HAVE A SOFT SPOT FOR GRITTY CITIES. I don’t mean like Berlin used to be in the nineties (even though I wasn’t there then), but the kind of place that, unless you were born there, you most likely would never end up in, if not for a specific reason that brought you. Picture a small city—its medieval core (a castle, a cathedral, and quite a few churches) surrounded and disrupted by industrial brick buildings, working-class housing, and banal architecture from the 1980s to the mid-aughts; spread it over the banks of a river (the Shannon, to be precise) in refined shades of gray, but without the

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  • Don’t Panic!

    DUBAI—THE GREAT DESERT CAPITAL of Starchitecture-on-Speed and the distinct Khaleeji brand of Hypercapitalism-as-Luxury-Entertainment that artists Fatima Al Qadiri and Sophia Al Maria famously dubbed “Gulf Futurism”—is starting to show its age. In an era when every other province has a bargain-bin Zaha Hadid or two, the skyscraper archipelagos and man-made islands just look, well, dated. As theorist and first-time visitor Mi You so pithily put it, “This feels like a Little China.”

    Where desert sandscapes once readily lent themselves to fantasies of Life on Mars, now “the future” has taken on more

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