COLUMNS

  • Germano Celant, 1984. Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe.

    GERMANO CELANT

    PARIS, JUNE 1981. Germano Celant and I are drinking at a bar after the opening of his exhibition “Identité italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959” (Italian Identity. Art in Italy Since 1959) at the Centre Pompidou. He points to a young woman on a banquette, engaged in intense conversation. “That’s Ingrid Sischy, the new editor of Artforum,” he said. “I’ll introduce you.” That introduction transformed my life.

    Germano and Ingrid changed the magazine forever. They were perfect partners, truly phenomenal, each bringing out the best in the other. She: street-smart, a voracious consumer of the present

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  • Stephen Prina and Germano Celant driving to California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, September 1979. Photo: Luciano Perna/Archives.

    GERMANO CELANT

    THERE ARE ENDLESS STORIES about Germano Celant, the truly imposing impresario who died of Covid-19 in April at the age of seventy-nine. Since his passing, he has been called the “North Star of contemporary art,” and “one of the last, if not the last, great myth-maker[s].” He has been compared to Zorro and dubbed a God. But he was also a contradictory figure. While some describe him as an extraordinarily sensitive curator, one who was always on the artist’s side, others saw him as an art-world player who could be utterly ruthless when pursuing his ambitions. “I don’t feel like a man of power,”

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  • Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, and Frank Gehry, Il Corso del Coltello, 1985. Performance view, Arsenale, Venice. Basta Carambola (Germano Celant).

    Germano Celant (1940–2020)

    GIUSEPPE PENONE

    For Germano:

    Often the memories we have of friends are tied to small things that are marginal in the history of the friendship but which promptly come to mind the moment we remember them.

    I met Germano in 1968. I had just made my works about the growth of trees in Garessio, a small town on the border between Piedmont and Liguria.

    Germano asked me to send him material for a book he was preparing, the Arte Povera book published by Mazzotta.

    It was only later that he told me that part of his family was from Leca d’Albenga, a Ligurian town twenty kilometers from mine.

    This chance geographical

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  • Luther Price, Meat – A Fly In the Lens, 2005, 35-mm slide. Courtesy: Estate of Luther Price.

    Luther Price (1962–2020)

    I FIRST HEARD OF LUTHER PRICE long before I saw him in person. Sodom (1989), his film juxtaposing Gregorian chants and gay porn footage that he had mutilated with a hole punch and then painstakingly put back together, earned him a legendary reputation in experimental film circles. We met in 2006 at Cinematexas, a disorganized festival on its last legs, and he was livid when his films were not presented as he wished. A negligent projectionist nearly destroyed one, which would have been a disaster, as the print was irreplaceable. Luther refused the convenient reproducibility of photographic media;

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  • Sally Banes. Photo: Wesleyan University Press.

    Sally Banes (1950–2020)

    SALLY BANES was an intellectual pixie, an omnivore, fecund writer, and avant-garde and popular dance detective. Early on, in the 1960s, I became aware of her passion for dance when she came to interview me as I lay flat on my back convalescing from near-fatal surgical interventions. The book that eventually followed was Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-modern Dance (1980), a compendium of my generation’s challenges to our choreographic forebears. In 1978, she produced a 16-mm film of me performing something called Trio A, which, because I had not danced for some years while making films, would

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  • Christo (1935–2020)

    I FIRST BECAME AWARE of Christo and Jeanne-Claude from a black-and-white newspaper photograph of their work in Documenta 4, in 1968, in Kassel. Titled 5,600 Cubicmeter Package, the tall thin sculpture caught my imagination.

    Later that year, I was in New York and visited Leo Castelli’s first gallery uptown. I asked if he had any works by Christo. He replied that Christo was not represented by any galleries but offered the artist’s phone number in case I wanted to contact him (the contemporary art world was a very small fraternity in the ’60s). I called, and a very unreceptive Jeanne-Claude answered.

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  • Susan Rothenberg. © Brigitte Lacombe.

    Susan Rothenberg (1945–2020)

    PERHAPS BECAUSE THE MOMENTUM OF THE ART WORLD thrusts us all into constantly changing relationships, long friendships between artists and curators are, in my experience, surprisingly rare. But when they do develop, they can be very special. I was fortunate to have had such a friendship with Susan Rothenberg.

    I first met Susan in 1978, when I was a young curator at the University Art Museum, Berkeley (now the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive), where I did her first museum exhibition the same year. It was an important moment for both of us, but more so for me. I was in need of knowledge

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  • Susan Rothenberg. Photo: Jason Schmidt. © 2020 Susan Rothenberg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York.

    Susan Rothenberg (1945–2020)

    SUSAN ROTHENBERG was a visionary artist. We met around 1969 in New York and became friends. I asked her to work with me. Working together brings closeness.

    Susan made a beautiful contribution to one of my catalogues in 1994. Reading it now reminds me of the wonderful times we shared. “I wandered into one of the richest periods of the avant-garde music/sculpture/dance/performance/theater, separate and combined, that New York has ever known,” she wrote. “#10 Chatham Square. We ate at Tina Girouard’s and Dickie Landry’s kitchen on the second floor, or Mary Heilmann’s on six. We were Sonnier, Smithson,

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  • Lois Weinberger (1947–2020)

    “I don’t practice art as a form of species conservation, though my actions are effective in this sense.”                              

    UNOBTRUSIVELY BUT PERSISTENTLY, Lois Weinberger researched nature as a cultural and societal terrain, an impulse that can be traced to his upbringing in a Tyrolean farming family and his early employment as a structural steel fitter. By the time he decided to become an artist, at the age of thirty, in 1977, the world of agricultural and industrial work had formed the foundation for a creative practice grounded in his daily life. Tirelessly inquisitive, he acquired

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  • Photograph of video performance artwork Maintenance I, 1970. © Estate of Tina Girouard, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Tina Girouard (1946–2020)

    TINA GIROUARD inspires. I do not mean inspiration as a kind of soft note in one’s own monologue of self-discovery but rather as a call to action. Tina inspires because she calls one to the challenge of living fully. With Tina, creative energy poured into every act of being human, of being alive, of being—cooking, eating, dancing, talking, making, laughing, crying, loving.

    FOOD

    Tina fed people. I remember being around ten years old and watching Tina make a big pot of gumbo in our loft on Twentieth Street. The ritual of cooking, in Tina’s hands, was a kind of mystical experience, one that in being

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  • Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith, 1980. Photo: Stephen Petegorsky.

    Nancy Stark Smith (1952–2020)

    NANCY STARK SMITH: You have gone. I didn’t think it would end like this.

    But this isn’t about you—it’s about me. I’m all I have left of you. For forty-eight years I depended on you for my supply of Nancyness, accepting your various Nancy elements perhaps too casually; perhaps I didn’t realize how unique, how precious the supply of Nancyness was. Yes, just a personnel flavor in my world, some more Nancyness comes my way, and now, too late, I think, “But for you, where would I get any?”

    The world is large, and statistically there are people more or less like you. Some more, some less. But realistically,

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  • Marina Abramović and Ulay, Amsterdam, 1981.

    ULAY

    ULAY, MY FORMER PARTNER IN LOVE AND ART, died this year, and I lost a dear friend. He was an exceptional artist and human being who will be sorely missed by all who knew him and his work. We embarked on our private and professional journey together in Amsterdam in 1975. When we first met, on November 30, the date of birth we shared, in many ways we each felt as though we had found our other half. Our meeting was male and female energy coming together to create a third unified element we called “That Self.” The nickname we used for each other was Glue, which speaks to the way we viewed our

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