Passages

  • Hassan Sharif (ca. 1951–2016)

    TALKING ABOUT COURAGE would be a bit grandiose for Hassan Sharif. He dismissed the labels put on him in the second half of his life: the Gulf’s “Godfather of Conceptual art,” the “grandfather of United Arab Emirates art,” and such. Yet one can take courage in the way Hassan continued to work despite early rejection and the true nature of his work going underappreciated until the end of his life.

    I worked with Hassan for about a year on what would turn out to be his last solo show of new work on his home turf in Dubai. He lived and worked between two rooms, on stuck-down strips of garish pink

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  • John Berger (1926–2017)

    JOHN BERGER WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUAL—extraordinary in the range of his creation and his criticism. But also extraordinary as a presence. He had the least sense of hierarchy of anyone I have ever known. And he was uniquely interested in the present moment. So whoever he was with, young or old, rich or poor, famous or unknown, man or woman, had his complete attention. This was, in its way, unnerving: You had to think about what you were saying because you were being listened to with a quite unusual concentration. And you had to listen with real intensity because what was being said was

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  • John Berger (1926–2017)

    IN A TIME OF POLITICAL TRAUMA, the ability to communicate complex ideas about history in language that is accessible to more than just the most highly educated and privileged is a rare gift. John Berger’s death at the age of ninety on the second day of this ominous new year struck many as a symbolic blow against the last embers of the Enlightenment. People turned to his writings to find words to help us in the current moment: For example, as we prepare ourselves for the necessity of years of political demonstrations to preserve civil rights and democracy, this quote immediately circulated, taken

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  • Klaus Kertess (1940–2016)

    KLAUS KERTESS’S BRILLIANT EYE shaped a strong curatorial voice at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York, during the 1980s and ’90s, when it was my privilege to work with him. He served as the Robert Lehman Curator (1983–89) and continued as an adjunct curator and articulate advisor, ultimately serving on the search committee that selected the architects Herzog & de Meuron to design the new Parrish in Water Mill. Even a short list of the many exhibitions he organized for the museum gives a vivid picture of his wide-ranging tastes and distinctive approach: “Marin in Oil” (1987), the

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  • Jean Fisher (1942–2016)

    WRITERS OFTEN SAY THEY WRITE TO FORGET, and as I sat down to write this tribute to my beloved friend Jean Fisher, a conversation that we had about Fernando Pessoa’s posthumously published The Book Of Disquiet came back to me. We were at a dinner in Lisbon with the quixotic art gallerist Luís Serpa, mercilessly teasing him as he tried to get us to agree that without an ending, all narratives are essentially the same, as they come to the same end: to death, to nothing. Pessoa’s book, which solidified his reputation as Portugal’s greatest writer, is a series of fragments, not a book at all, really,

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  • Jean Fisher (1942–2016)

    I WAS PRIVILEGED TO WORK WITH JEAN FISHER at the Royal College of Art in London while I was head of the department: curating contemporary art. Jean had been teaching art and globalization since the mid 1990s, and I was able to make this a cornerstone of my take on curatorial education. She was an unwavering supporter of our short-lived but extremely successful positive action program, Inspire, which provided scholarships to curators from minority backgrounds. She had no truck with fellow traveling academics who refused to speak truth to power in our struggles within the institution—her excoriating

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  • Jean Fisher (1942–2016)

    I REMEMBER GOING AROUND to my dear mentor Jean Fisher’s house on an average bleary London night to get my education. This wasn’t the education of textbooks or customary art history but a journey into the late 1980s and early ’90s in Britain, where many a queer writer and artist had spent time sitting in the very same seat as me. Hamad Butt and Stuart Morgan were but two examples whom Fisher cited as close. After Butt died from AIDS-related causes, she fought tooth and nail, lobbying the art world to get his archive and artworks into the Tate’s collection.

    Now that tragic time has come, and Jean

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  • Peter Blundell Jones (1949–2016)

    PETER BLUNDELL JONES WAS A RARITY: an architectural historian who could read technical drawings. This ability wasn’t simply a hangover from his professional training at the Architectural Association in London in the late 1960s, but an important aspect of the kind of historian he was. Peter believed in history as a means to enlighten the present moment. He believed that the study of the past could provide a wide-angle view critical for understanding the fluctuating but enduring responsibilities of architecture, to ultimately make it better. Early in his career he brought to the attention of

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  • Peter Blundell Jones (1949–2016)

    PETER BLUNDELL JONES was an important architectural historian who died from cancer at the age of sixty-seven following a short illness. PBJ—as he was fondly known—is widely recognized for bringing an alternative history of twentieth-century architecture to public attention. The standard histories of modern architecture shuffle the same pack of cards—Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Gropius, Mies, et. al.—in various orders according to stylistic and formal preferences. PBJ’s version of architectural history does not concentrate on form or style, but investigates the social purpose of architecture.

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  • Abbas Kiarostami

    ABBAS KIAROSTAMI’S grievously premature death this past July transformed two of his final works, the art installation Doors Without Keys, 2015, and the film Like Someone in Love (2012), into inadvertent requiems. To discern portents of mortality in the last creations of artists whose expiry is untimely—Mozart’s unfinished Requiem being the most famous and vexing example—is a perilous game, but that has never stopped critics from reading Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) or Pasolini’s Salò (1975) as auguries of their makers’ own willed demise. Though Kiarostami’s optimistic humanism, his

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  • Walter Darby Bannard (1934–2016)

    How can we demonstrate that Mozart is “better” than Salieri or, for that matter, better than Elton John? Well, we can’t. . . . Mozart thrills me. . . . Elton John does not thrill me. . . . I suppose all we really can have is a Mozart fan club, which will grow or diminish with time.

    —Walter Darby Bannard, artcritical, 2002

    WALTER DARBY BANNARD WAS BORN TO WIN. He was the perfect American, a taller, more physically imposing but equally charming version of Warren Beatty, smiling and savvy, brilliant but mischievous. He could have been a movie star, a tennis pro, or at the very least a successful

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