COLUMNS

  • Just Dessert

    THESE DAYS, Milano Art Week lasts for about a month. By Monday, April 1—when Fondazione Adolfo Pini hosted the kickoff event for this year’s edition—my yesterdays had already been filled with dozens of openings. Indeed, the density of programs by the art fair Miart is pushing many institutions and galleries to advance their events in order to take better advantage of the wealth of excitement (and, simply, wealth) in the city.

    A very Milanese sense of discretion emerged at this year’s Art Week. A quiet Marco Tronchetti Provera was seen alongside Sheela Gowda at the presentations at Pirelli Hangar

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  • Chillida Session

    “WE ARE always returning to the House of the Father.” This verse of Novalis, the über-romantic German poet, haunted me as I approached Chillida-Leku, the sixteenth-century caserío, or farmhouse, on the leafy outskirts of Donostia-San Sebastián, in Spain’s Basque Country. This is where the now legendary Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (1924–2002) achieved his dream of finding a permanent home for his works from 1983 onward. His ashes rest there as well. Chillida may well be considered the father figure of Basque art during the twentieth century: After the Spanish Civil War, the man and his work

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  • Funeral Parade of Roses

    BACK IN THE 1980s, drag queens worldwide were stuck in a time warp, impersonating all the familiar divas in dowdy gowns. One major exception to this sorry situation was the counterculture of Manhattan’s East Village, where drag was being wildly reinvented. Outfits were pieced together at Salvation Army, and nobody cared if your wig was askew or your lip sync imprecise. What mattered was unleashing your eccentricities and raw talent.

    Among the prominent personalities to emerge during this liberating era was Hattie Hathaway. As tall as a basketball player and with a wry sense of humor, she often

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  • Animal Collective

    WHEN I ATTENDED THE ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS AND WRITING PROGRAMS CONFERENCE recently in Portland, Oregon, my thoughts turned to H. P. Lovecraft. Perhaps it was the clammy, fertile, haunted quality of the Pacific Northwest; perhaps it was the unearthly horror of having no agent and few prospects. Really, though, I blame Jeff VanderMeer, whose book Annihilation (2014) I had bought for the airplane. While the justly praised novel is typically described as ecological sci-fi, VanderMeer pulls a classic trick at its climax that I associate with Lovecraft: In a scene that takes place deep in the bowels

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  • Fingers Crossed

    IT WAS MEANT to be noted. On a table near the front door, Maria Montero, the founder of Sé, a hip gallery in the heart of São Paulo, left some black ribbons with a message written in bold white letters. The dealer’s would-be souvenir from an evening of cocktails at her home on the first floor of Oscar Niemeyer’s iconic Copan building read “1964 never again.” It was the night of March 31, the kickoff of SP-Arte week in Brazil’s biggest city and also the fifty-fifth anniversary of the military coup that initiated more than two decades of brutal dictatorship, with a regime that tortured and murdered

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  • Legend of Wuzhen

    DUBBED “CHINA’S VENICE,” the twelve-hundred-year-old water town of Wuzhen abuts the Grand Canal, the world’s largest man-made waterway. ’Twas the eve of Art Wuzhen, the second installment of a government-sponsored invitational exhibition, yet nestled inside the Mu Xin Art Museum, all appeared calm. Artist Chen Danqing sat in his executive director’s office, which hovers over the water outside as if it were buoyed by the surrounding bamboo. Having returned to his ancestral home of Wuzhen after decades of exile in New York, Mu Xin passed away in 2011, but his creative spirit continues to shape

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  • From There and Back Again

    THE WEEKEND BEFORE the seventh edition of Art Basel Hong Kong (ABHK), a smattering of related exhibition openings and events lit up the city. On Friday night, at Para Site, executive director Cosmin Costinas, who just days earlier was announced as the new director of Kathmandu Triennale, greeted visitors with his characteristic good cheer and signature elegant scarf wrapped around his neck. On Saturday night, Mimi Chun, founder and director of Blindspot Gallery, opened a solo show by Lam Tung Pang. Chun told me she didn’t want the exhibition to be lost among the many offerings the following

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  • Acquired Tastes

    SPRING IN BEIJING tends to erupt with malaise: Erratic climate shifts, sandstorms, and consecutive days of precious azure sky—aka APEC blue—elevate the weather from phatic conversation topic to, seemingly, a harbinger of some international-caliber event. In this case: the Third Gallery Weekend Beijing (GWBJ) and the first edition of Beijing Art Summit. Waling Boers, director of Boers-Li Gallery, surveyed the former’s agenda with a long-winded but endearing speech during the press conference: “If Berlin is considered ‘poor and sexy,’ maybe Beijing could be ‘a tastemaker and hot.’”

    Last Thursday’s

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  • Into the Echo

    THE SHEIKH WAS RUNNING LATE. It was 10 AM—the official opening time of the fourteenth Sharjah Biennial. Although a nice, durable red carpet had been rolled out in front of the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Al Mureijah Square, and a crew of cameramen in dishdashas was on standby, the planefuls of artists, curators, press, gallerists, and junketeers who had descended upon the Emirate last Thursday were told they might as well wander the grounds and see some art. We would be alerted when Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi finally arrived (his daughter and the biennial’s director, Sheikha Hoor Al

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  • Daze or Malaise?

    ARRIVING IN THE FORMER (INTERMITTENT) IMPERIAL CAPITAL OF MARRAKECH after a few days in Casablanca—Morocco’s economic powerhouse during the French Mandate—was a shock. Although only two and a half hours apart by car, the two cities could not feel more different: Casablanca’s wide, tram-lined boulevards and somewhat laid-back architectural modernism in glistening Mediterranean white contrasts with the earthy reds of Marrakech’s buildings, old and new, its continental climate with swooping temperatures, and, above all, its overwhelming hypersaturation of tourists. After arriving at Jemaa al-Fna

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  • Frieze-Frame

    HOLLYWOOD HAS ITS MOMENTS. Just when you think Tinseltown has exploded into an overpriced, overdeveloped, overcrowded nightmare, the sun peeps through the clouds onto Griffith Park’s Hollywood sign, then the snowcapped Angeles Crest mountains in the distance, and the spring-rain-cleaned boulevards glow anew with the promise of discovery so that average folk and A-listers alike can nestle once more into LA’s apocalyptic, disorienting glamour. Hollywood’s posh movie studios feign immunity to this dysfunctional cycle, however: Inside iron gates are immaculately groomed grounds, with golf carts

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  • Unidentified Fabulous Objects

    AS WINNER OF season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race, in 2017, Sasha Velour distinguished herself as a cerebral contestant, a Vassar graduate who regards drag as an artistic expression. So when she was asked by New York’s Queer/Art/Film screening series to present a movie of her choice, she decided to boldly go where no other drag queen has gone before. On February 4, she arrived at IFC Center in green face paint and a bejeweled headpiece to pay homage to the 1991 cult favorite Vegas in Space. (The event was part of the “Winter’s a Drag” program, which continues through April.)

    “I discovered Vegas in

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