COLUMNS

  • The Zayhive

    IN SOME WAYS, a church is the perfect setting for a discussion of Zadie Smith’s new essay collection, Feel Free. Hosted by Books Are Magic and held at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn on February 7, the event reflected the high esteem Smith is held in. In fact, she is close to being known as “Saint Zadie” among some readers. Her work is regularly described as “generous” and “universal.” A benevolence shines through her writing, allowing nearly all readers to find something in her thoughts to identify with, as novelist and Books Are Magic owner Emma Straub expressed in her introduction. “Although you might

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  • Site Pacific

    FOUNDED BY ARTIST Keith Rocka Knittel, the Other Places Art Fair is, according to the press release for its inaugural edition, “a one-day showcase of alternative, hard to define, and experimental contemporary art venues, project spaces, and organizations.” I read this as an attempt to facilitate some cash flow for the myriad exhibition projects popping up in studios, backyards, automobiles, and living rooms across the city; DIY enterprises that receive gushing coverage in the kind of glossies that cheerily spotlight the idiosyncrasies of a vibrant and blossoming art scene over the precarity and

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  • A Star Is Born

    SINGAPORE ART WEEK, or SAW, began in 2013 as an attempt to create hype around a young art fair. State organs—the National Arts Council, the Economic Development Board, and the Singapore Tourism Board—rallied local arts organizations by providing funding and marketing to ensure the visibility of even the smallest exhibitions. (The intention was to build that frantic, adrenaline-induced excitement worthy of an arts metropolis.) Now in its fifth year, alongside a shrinking Art Stage Singapore (“the flagship art fair of Southeast Asia,” according to its website), the supporting act has eclipsed the

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  • Treasures of Truth

    ALWAYS A HIGHLIGHT of the art-world calendar, and just as often an epiphany, the Outsider Art Fair, now in its twenty-sixth edition at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, is an ever-vital reminder of all that art can be and all that can be art. I have been an attendee since it first launched in the Puck Building, named for the satirical late nineteenth-century publication that lambasted political corruption and is now home to the Trump-Kushner clan (their walls are adorned by work from artists mortified to witness that the art market is oblivious to meaning in the face of money). But the fair’s

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  • Shining Armory

    THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY has two consistent modes: The first is to overwhelm; the second is to inspire a quiet conviction that you’re missing something amazing in another part of the building.

    Both struck with full force recently during the Shape of Things, a massive convening to mark the end of Carrie Mae Weems’s yearlong residency. Weems invited dozens of participants “to join her in a critique of our tumultuous political and social climate,” filling the gilded, schizo-baroque rooms and halls with a dazzling mix of artists, thinkers, and impresarios. The word “critique” is perhaps misleading;

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  • Choice Words

    “TRUMP APPEARS TO BE OBSESSED with people who embody choice,” said Masha Gessen in her New York Public Library talk on the night of December 18, pointing to his administration’s preoccupation with immigrants and transgender people, among others. Even their representation in words can seem threatening: Why else would his administration ban the Centers for Disease Control from mentioning fetuses, diversity, and the transgender community?

    Gessen embraces choices, seeing them as “adventures.” Her Robert B. Silvers lecture, “The Stories of a Life,” recounted the ways in which decisions, both those

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  • Divine Comedy

    ARRIVING IN NAPLES for the late-November opening of “Pompei@Madre: Materia Archeologica,” curated by Massimo Osanna, director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, and Andrea Viliani, director of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (Museo MADRE), I hit the ground running and did not stop before hopping the northbound train for Rome a few days later.

    The official opening was attended by a number of politicians, including Dario Franceschini, the minister of culture, who declared it the best show of the year. Juxtaposing pieces from the permanent collection and artworks by Betty Woodman, Mark

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  • Social Network

    IN TURIN DURING ARTISSIMA, one witnessed the former Italian capital’s classic, formal, symmetrical attributes pushing against its contemporary, strange, often (literally) underground side.

    My tour began with the esoteric: “Paranormal,” the exhibition Tony Oursler devoted to Gustavo Rol, an “affluent middle-class art lover and painter” who was born in Turin in 1903 and spent his life delving into the occult. The show opened at Pinacoteca Agnelli with a selection from Oursler’s personal collection of paranormal ephemera (comprising fifteen thousand pieces) showcased alongside the artist’s new cycle

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  • Once Upon a Time in the West

    A FEW WEEKS BACK, in the Great Awokening of the post-Weinstein news cycle, I noticed a question bobbing along the surface of my social-media streams: If “Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise,” why do we all still want power? What would it look like to wield power ethically? Is that even possible?

    The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the School of Visual Arts’ Steven Henry Madoff convened a weekend-long summit to address these issues. Titled “Curatorial Activism and the Politics of Shock,” the conference featured twenty-one international powerhouses, from Serpentine Gallery codirector Hans Ulrich

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  • Lotus Position

    ASK ALMOST ANYONE IN NEW ORLEANS about Charles “Buddy” Bolden and they’ll tell you he was the king and, loosely speaking, the father of jazz. A cornet player who was active at the turn of the twentieth century, Bolden drank too much, lived too hard, played too loud. He was known for a syncopated squawk, weaving in and out of crowds gathered in the French Quarter on parade days and bursting onto the street at irregular intervals to blast his horn. Since he died, in 1931, at the Louisiana State Insane Asylum—twenty-five years after he suffered a psychotic break and disappeared from public

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  • Welcome to (ようこそ) the Jungle

    “THERE WERE SIGNS.” A small Totoro charm hanging off a mini Fjallraven just so, spotted on the Q train; the Shoto Aizawa from My Hero Academia button on a backpack moving along Thirty-Fourth Street. Clearly something was afoot.

    ’Twas an anime convention, dear reader, the inaugural edition of a gathering of weebs in New York: AnimeNYC. Held for three days last weekend at Hillary Clinton’s Waterloo (though most around these parts just call it the Javits Center), it marked a terrific opportunity for Midtown councilman Ben Kallos (D) to hail the money and tax dollars that this fan base would bring

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  • This Is Not a Test

    THE FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY of High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree, California, brought a rare mix of nostalgia and joy. The peripatetic events and venues organized annually in and around our small, sunny town, nestled in a Seussian forest of Yucca brevifolia at a median three-thousand-foot elevation, brings locals and travelers together to challenge, per the HDTS mission statement, “all to expand their definition of art to take on new areas of relevancy.”

    Here, we reset by escaping our urban feedback loops, and redefine and revise Land art that once primarily destroyed wilderness areas in

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