Scene & Herd

  • Under Pressure

    THIS TRADE–CUM–BANKING MEGALOPOLIS just hasn’t been the same since the Brexit blowtorch caught aflame last year. Boiling blisters of social unrest last burst in the 2011 London riots, and had been temporarily covered by courtly Band-Aids. How surprised should we really be to find that the wounds wrought by inequality, racism, isolationism, and xenophobia still fester? The slate and chalk hills feel like all that’s left holding this country together as the continuous surge of violent attacks and gut-wrenching tragedies like Grenfell Tower make it hard to believe in a society based on faith and

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  • Second Coming

    SUMMER IN NEW YORK IS DISMAL. It turns your face into a pus farm, the air is rich with the scent of garbage cooking on the sidewalks, and my friends’ lengthy trips to Montauk or Morocco remind me of what everyone else seems to have and I don’t.

    Thankfully, others approach the season with a spirit of generosity—specifically Vanessa Carlos, Simone Subal, and Nicole Russo, the organizers of Condo New York, “a large-scale collaborative exhibition of international galleries” (as per Condo’s website) that sidesteps the enervating costs and madness of the art-fair circuit and promotes collaborative

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  • Greek to Me

    IN SOME PLACES, the art bubble can be benevolent—say, in Greece, the birthplace of democratic ideals.

    Remember ideals?

    If the country is in crisis politically, its art world is thriving. Or so it seemed when the plane landed in Athens during a drenching rain, unusual for the middle of June. Perhaps the gods objected to the art horde arriving from Basel for a weekend jaunt. Perhaps they just wanted to wash away the turmoil of the past—the recent past, that is. Ancient history lives in the visible foundations of this city. And what are foundations for if not to build something new?

    There lies Documenta

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  • Julia’s Child

    SOMETIMES THE UNIVERSE throws you a curveball. Like at the ten-year anniversary exhibition of the Julia Stoschek Collection in Düsseldorf, where, standing in front of Ed Atkins and Simon Thompson’s SKY NEWS LIVE, a gripping newsfeed depicted the unfolding results of the British general election. Having witnessed from afar the Westminster, Manchester, and London Bridge attacks, sandwiched by Theresa May’s hard-line Brexit rhetoric and her snap election, I was ready to give up when reading a poll predicting the biggest Tory landslide since Thatcher. (No prizes for guessing my politics.) But as

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  • Making History

    THE REVIEWS ARE IN.

    “Our most successful ever.”

    “Exceptional.”

    “One of the most upbeat fairs I can remember!”

    That’s pretty much the consensus—from dealers—on the forty-eighth edition of Art Basel.

    Now that it’s over we can say that collectors paid big—hundreds of millions—for the big names and spent more good money on the next tier and the one after that. Even as the world ties itself into sorrier knots every day, the market for modern and contemporary art is booming.

    Is it like anxious eating? “Either that,” one dealer told me, “or it’s a demonstration of faith in art and a willingness to invest in

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  • Five and Dime

    THE ART WORLD IS A TRIP. With the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennale, Documenta in Athens and Kassel, and Skulptur Projekte Münster all coinciding in one “süperkunstyear,” it’s hard for even the most veteran art traveler to keep up.

    Over the weekend, the venerable Skulptur Projekte Münster began to draw crowds from Documenta or those en route to Zurich and Basel for its fifth edition since its inception in 1977. Skulptur Projekte’s unique model—new sculptural commissions installed mostly in public spaces every ten years—makes for a provocative scavenger hunt of public art. The show is deeply

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  • Mediterranean See

    THE ITALIAN REGION OF PUGLIA is where the eighteenth edition of the Mediterranea Young Artists Biennale kicked off, its theme a perennial and problematic formula: “History + Conflict + Dream + Failure = Home.” The shows and performances, in Tirana and Durrës, Albania, present the work of 230 young artists and performers, aged eighteen to thirty-four, from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean diaspora. It is fitting that the biennial is located this time in Albania, a nascent country with an elusive national identity.

    The biennial’s inaugural conference took place on the periphery

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  • Beautiful Strangers

    FOR A GOOD FOUR DAYS in the first half of June, an army of beautiful women marched, sashayed, and drifted into the central German city of Kassel for the preview and opening of Documenta 14.

    Some were members of the actual Army of Beautiful Women, a continually growing band of the female-inclined and their howeverly gendered enthusiasts who have been initiated into a series of interrelated works by the artist Irena Haiduk. In material and conceptual terms, Haiduk’s project is to revive the design and manufacture of a durable uniform for the female workforce, taking numerous cues from the industrial

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  • Sea Change

    SAN JUAN, DESPITE ITS RECENT BILLING as one of the art cities of the future, has none of the splashy hallmarks of a twenty-first-century art hub. That is, there are no grandiose private museums, no sterile government-funded arts districts, no starchitecture vanities.

    The city’s art scene, instead, exists in a strange symbiosis with a long-simmering financial crisis, concentrated in the neighborhood of Santurce, where unused commercial buildings beget studios, artist-run galleries, and sprawling murals. (And real-estate boons: Klaus Biesenbach and Alanna Heiss both own homes on the island.) The

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  • Foster Home

    LIKE MANY MARRIED MEN, Norman Foster takes enormous pride in his garage. His is brand new, an immaculate structure made of German glass and polished Japanese mirror, built behind a petite 1902 palace in Madrid that has been refurbished to house the Norman Foster Foundation, an archive and research center inaugurated on June 1, the illustrious British architect’s eighty-second birthday. The day before, itching to show the place off, Foster had some friends over.

    “Jony!” said Norman, greeting Jonathan Ive, the T-shirt wearing chief creative officer of Apple. The two tanned designers brought it in

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  • Down the Loophole

    ON A RECENT SUNNY WEDNESDAY, I walked by the skateboarders riding in front of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and descended to the dark auditorium just in time to hear director Ferran Barenblit introduce Video Data Bank’s Abina Manning. Manning had selected works by women artists—Hermine Freed, Lynda Benglis, Barbara Aronofsky Latham, Suzanne Lacy, Linda Mary Montano, and Susan Mogul, all pioneers of video art in the 1970s—who had taken advantage of the emergence of Sony’s Portapak camera. The grainy, poignant experimental films made a couple of people flee, but mostly they

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  • Lisbon Rendezvous

    “WE THOUGHT ABOUT EXPANDING TO LATIN AMERICA, but it was more complicated. So we decided to open a gallery here,” Pedro Maisterra said at the inauguration of his and Belén Valbuena’s new gallery branch in Lisbon’s Alvalade barrio. “Spain and Portugal don’t usually look at each other, which is crazy when you think about it! But it’s ripe with great energy.”

    The Portuguese art scene was lush indeed, as lush as the blue jacaranda blossoming across the city. The patio in front of the new space was already lively when we arrived, straight from the opening of Carlos Garaicoa’s massive installation

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