COLUMNS

  • Ileana Sonnabend

    ILEANA SONNABEND’S obituary appeared in the New York Times of October 24, 2007. I read it with an equanimity that took me by surprise, having assumed that, after decades of quasi-Oedipal affection, I would be laid low by the news—hardly unexpected—of her death at the age of ninety-two. Instead I found myself rehearsing the picaresque details of her life and nonpareil career: Born to one of Romania’s wealthiest families on October 28, 1914, Ileana Schapira married Leo Castelli, scion of a Triestino banking family, when she was eighteen. Always feeling bested by her sister Eve—whom

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  • Ileana Sonnabend

    I THINK ILEANA’S DEATH represents the end of an era for a type of blind support for the artist’s work and even for a type of politics. By politics I mean that she was trying to create as positive a situation for the artwork as possible, to empower it, and to keep the focus on the art itself. It wasn’t about money or the gallery; it was about the work.

    I was a young artist when I joined Sonnabend. I had produced my own artworks and was responsible for financing them, but when I began my “Statuary” series I needed a different kind of unconditional support. With Ileana, I never had to keep the

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  • Ileana Sonnabend

    AROUND 1983, I was working as a guard and caretaker of The New York Earth Room by Walter De Maria, whose office happened to be on the floor above the work. One day Walter came downstairs and said to me, “You should put a sheet of slides of your work between two slices of bread and bring them to Ileana Sonnabend.” The Sonnabend Gallery was nearby in SoHo, on the third floor of 420 West Broadway. Ileana’s office was a small room just off the main gallery, and from that space you would often see her sitting behind a big desk. Forebodingly positioned behind a high counter opposite Ileana’s lair,

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  • Elizabeth Murray

    ROBERT STORR

    SOME YEARS BACK, a student who had attended the summer program at Skowhegan in Maine told me about the powerful impression Elizabeth Murray had made on him. One thing he recounted stuck in my mind—that during a studio visit, Murray had said in passing, “For you to be right about what you’re doing, not everybody else has to be wrong.” Or is my memory playing tricks on me? Was it actually a woman who recalled this story for me? The matter of gender is significant when you talk about Murray, who died in August at age sixty-six. She was among a handful of woman painters of her

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  • Michelangelo Antonioni on the set of Blow-Up (1966), London, 1966. Photo: MGM/Arthur Evans.

    Michelangelo Antonioni

    MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI, who died this past July at the age of ninety-four, will be remembered as one of the greatest visual artists of the cinema, in the company of Sergei Eisenstein, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Josef von Sternberg, and Max Ophüls. Here was a director who was not only a serious student of form, color, and mise-en-scène but perhaps the medium’s most visionary practitioner. Antonioni’s striking frames and at times astonishingly beautiful shots, however, do not distract from but rather intensify his principal preoccupation—the depiction of the human condition. His art is like Goya’s:

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  • Paul Huf, John Szarkowski Succeeds Edward Steichen, MoMA, ca. 1962, black-and-white photograph, 12 x 9 1⁄4".

    John Szarkowski

    IT IS RARE for a curator to reign with virtual sovereignty over an entire medium, but during his nearly three decades as director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (from 1962 until his retirement in 1991), John Szarkowski did. His outpouring of exhibitions and catalogues at the pulpit of modern art and photography placed him on a singular pedestal in a recurrent spotlight, but it was less these conditions than his penetrating mind, eloquence, and perspective that made his opinion matter so much. In a field dominated by journalism and almost devoid of serious

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  • Bernd Becher

    BLAKE STIMSON

    IT IS TEMPTING TO SAY that with the sad news of Bernd Becher’s death in June at age seventy-five we have seen the passing of an era. Curator Emma Dexter, writing in The Independent, memorialized the artist’s contribution by describing the photographic project Bernd and his wife and partner, Hilla, began a half century ago as a “portrait of a lost world, using a lost technology—the gelatin silver prints, the large format plate cameras are now a thing of the past,” so distant from our own glimmering postindustrial world and its snazzy new media that it “can never be repeated.”

    Indeed,

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  • Jörg Immendorff

    JÖRG IMMENDORFF WAS A FIGHTER, and I miss his presence. News of his death last May came as no surprise; after struggling against the crippling effects of ALS for almost a decade, he died in his sleep at the age of sixty-one. What has proved more difficult is the fact of his silence. Immendorff was one of the ballsiest artists I have ever met. He lived his life to the fullest, and even when he was confined to a wheelchair not one word of self-pity passed through his lips. He didn’t give a damn what people thought; all he wanted to do was paint, teach, and enjoy himself on the weekends. Yet he

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  • Jean Baudrillard in Paris, 1986. Photo: Sophie Bassouls/Corbis.

    Jean Baudrillard

    JEAN BAUDRILLARD was buried in Paris on March 13, 2007. I had learned about his death a week earlier; I was in the middle of a seminar at Columbia University, and I immediately called Marine Dupuis, his wife. Less than two years ago, when Jean was diagnosed with cancer, Marine took over, wouldn’t let him go, and fought on his behalf until the very end. No one could have done it better. Jean had very specific ideas about dying. He summarized them in a song he wrote, which he read as Mike Kelley’s band played on the stage at Whiskey Pete’s, a casino near Las Vegas, in 1996, during the “Chance

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  • Sol LeWitt

    Sol LeWitt died on April 8 at the age of seventy-eight. At the time, Artforum was poised to publish “Scribbles” a new group of seven drawings that he had recently completed for our pages. LeWitt had asked that these images be accompanied by no explanatory information, save for his name and the title on the table of contents. Though we might have been tempted to say more after learning of his passing, we presented the work in our May issue exactly as he had wished—yet now as a memorial tribute. Here, we follow that portfolio with remembrances by artists Mel Bochner and John Baldessari, LeWitt’s

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  • Jules Olitski

    BEFORE SITTING DOWN to draft these reflections, I went to my shelves and brought forth Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, and Rosalind Krauss’s monumental and tendentious Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (2004), consulted the index, and looked up “Olitski, Jules.” There was one reference, on page 472. I turned to page 472, where I found an inset column headed “Artforum.” In the last paragraph I read: “[Editor Philip] Leider’s insistence on lucid analytical prose forged a close relationship between him and Michael Fried, opening the magazine’s pages as well

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  • Michael Hurson

    THE PHONE RANG early, usually the harbinger of some sort of trouble from New York or London. I paused before answering, uncertain if I was ready, without a cup of coffee for comfort, for whatever it was that wanted my attention so badly. I picked up the phone and unexpectedly heard the voice of an old friend. “Michael died—yesterday, of a heart attack,” she said, before launching into a needlessly guilt-ridden account of signs missed, opportunities not taken. Michael Hurson was a sweetly funny man, a quick-minded friend as well as a remarkable, if too little appreciated, artist whose loss this

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