Passages

  • Howard Hodgkin

    THE ENGLISH PAINTER Howard Hodgkin, who died on March 9 of this year at the age of eighty-four, came from a privileged background, went to the best schools, and became widely popular in his native land, which showered him with accolades that included a knighthood. Yet Hodgkin claimed to have come from humble circumstances, thought of himself as an outsider, and once said that England was “enemy territory” for painters. His own sense of himself was not what people made of him, and when he spoke, as he often did, of the painted frames that were integral to his compositions, it was to stress how

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  • Xavier Douroux (1956–2017)

    THE WORLD IS SUDDENLY POORER without Xavier Douroux, who recently succumbed to cancer at the age of sixty-one. A curator first of all, his engaged practice led him to also became a community organizer, a book publisher, a film producer, and a friend to many inside and outside the art world, including me.

    Xavier had a remarkable knack for starting improbable projects, well outside existing institutions, only to have them become indispensable to the larger world they touched. In the late 1970s, at the age of twenty-two, he and Franck Gautherot founded a center for contemporary art in Dijon, resisting

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  • Derek Walcott (1930–2017)

    DEREK WALCOTT WROTE, “ANSWERING DEATH, EACH WHISPERED, ‘ME?’” He died in March where he was born, in Saint Lucia.

    A Nobel laureate, Walcott taught poetry at Boston University. Along with poets including Édouard Glissant, who died in 2011, Walcott bore the legacy of the previous Caribbean generation’s poetic icon, Aimé Césaire: Glissant, through a philosophy grounded in pastoral abstraction; Walcott, through a Shakespearian epicism that measured the region’s history with a “hymn’s metronome” (to use one of his own phrases).

    Both writers were animated by the spirit of opacity—a term Glissant

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  • Edit deAk (1950–2017)

    I FIRST MET EDIT DEAK IN 2000, in a place she lovingly dubbed the “salt mines.” The salt mines, to be exact, were the studios of Donald Baechler.

    Baechler’s 1980s paintings were a massive influence on me, so after college, when I went to apprentice with him, I was already super excited—but imagine my surprise when this subterranean sphinx rolled out of the wings.

    Edit was like a 1920s film starlet. Someone who could use the word darling perfectly. She had a wonderful Cleopatra haircut that was a deep, fiery maroon. She spoke in a “Hungerican” accent in an incredibly deep and brassy vocal range

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  • Michael O. Kewenig (1948–2017)

    HE WAS/IS THE PERFECT PARAGON OF THE IRREPLACEABLE SOUL. Immensely tender, and brightly endowed with an aristocratic sense of relaxed and kind, considerate, loving, allowing entitlement. A man who loved his artists, unconditionally. A perfect Prince, who never considered himself better: better than you, better than me, better than them, or better than she. A perfect Prince.

    Sean Scully is a US–based painter and printmaker.

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  • Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017)

    BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS changed the course of my life when I cold-called him at his home in New London, Connecticut, in March of 2000. At that time, I was curating my first exhibition, a summer show called “The Magic City” at the New York gallery where I worked, Brent Sikkema (now Sikkema Jenkins & Co.). Barkley’s paintings had been on my mind since I encountered them in books during graduate school in the mid 1990s, so I reached out to a curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem and asked if she would pass along his contact information. She did, with the caveat that I promise not to tell him where

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  • Glenn O’Brien (1947–2017)

    (after Joe Brainard)

    1. I REMEMBER THE SWIGGERS, a group of heavy drinkers and bons vivants, who, before the Millennium, met frequently in Bridgehampton to drink one another under the table. Everyone had a pseudonym: Johnny Walker, Lady Chablis, Dee Bauch, Madame Glugg, Dutch Courage, Teeny Martini, Lord and Lady Hangover. Glenn’s nom-d’ivrogne was Haut Brion, and he could hold his wine. Many’s the time he carried me senseless from the summer lawn to a place of safety.

    2. I remember how frequently we discussed our ardent, intellectual, yet terribly visceral lust for Patsy Southgate, both in her

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  • Högna Sigurðardóttir Anspach (1929–2017)

    “I AM NOT LIGHT, I am heavy” were the illuminating words of the Icelandic architect Högna Sigurðardóttir Anspach, whose petite and fragile figure only emphasized her bold and uncompromising character, which was manifest in the raw, in situ cast-concrete architecture that she created. When I first met Högna in person, I had the idea of doing an exhibition on her work at the Reykjavík Art Museum for her eightieth birthday, and to my surprise, next to no written research or documentation existed on her houses. I soon realized that for my research I would need to gain her trust so that she would

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  • Prodigy (1974–2017)

    MY FAMILY IS VERY SMALL, which makes the holidays a difficult affair. When one portion of our family is having a tough time, there aren’t many options for recourse. We almost always go to grandma’s house. She lives in Westbury, Long Island, and at the time my two cousins and aunt all lived on Long Island as well. We sold my grandmother’s house last year. We don’t do Christmas Eve / morning, as there aren’t any children in the family, and our gift exchange has a five-dollar limit. None of the festivities take much time, so Christmas night usually finds me back in the city by 10 PM, at home or at

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  • Jean Stein (1934–2017)

    Jean Stein

    Taught me how to walk out

    Of movies.

    Sit center.

    Order the biggest popcorn.

    Give the movie its opening credits

    And then a minimum of three minutes.

    Do you like this, Ottessa?

    See me grin and shake my head no.

    Then stand and duck and go.

    Say, Excuse me!

    To the knees of those poor souls

    About to waste another hour or two of their lives

    For twelve dollars and fifty cents.

    Jean Stein

    Spilled her popcorn along the sidewalk

    Like a trail for the angels.

    As if to say,

    Here I am, here I go.

    Don’t lose track of me

    Because I am one of you.

    The times we stayed,

    She exclaimed at every magic moment.

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  • Ren Hang (1987–2017)

    REN HANG, WHOSE PICTURES PROMISED a now that felt like it would last forever, whose personal presence mirrored the undying present he created for his work, is gone. Flipping through his photobooks now feels not like an act of memorial so much as the reliving of a recent memory of something that may yet come to pass again. Ren will be consigned to history only with great difficulty, as his pictures fight to remain in the moment. The brilliance of his practice lay in the way he could persist in doing variations on one thing over and over again—photographing the nude bodies of young people in

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  • Jack Tilton (1951–2017)

    JACK TILTON’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO MY OWN LITTLE REALM, to the contemporary art of China, and to the rest of the world were quite profound. Jack was one of the New York gallerists who became keen on developments in China before anybody else did. His foresight there was just a small part of his astonishing ability to find artists who had yet to find wider renown. Marlene Dumas, David Hammons, Mark Bradford, Joep van Lieshout, Patty Chang, Fred Tomaselli, Francis Alÿs, and many other heavyweights showed with Jack long before they were famous.

    I worked with Jack for six months in 1998. His gallery was

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