Critics’ Picks

Exhibition view.

Exhibition view.

New York

“We Could Have Invited Everyone”

Andrew Kreps | 22 Cortlandt Alley
22 Cortlandt Alley
June 24–July 29, 2005

Would-be potentates unite for this cohesive and absorbing group show about micro-nations. Cocuraters Robert Blackson and Peter Coffin assembled its contents—a mixture of art and non-art—with geeky obsessiveness, focusing on fascinating details such as stamps, currency, passports, and surprising secession trivia. Who knew, for example, that Ernest Hemingway’s younger brother once tried to create his own nation on a raft off the coast of Florida? (He didn’t want to pay taxes.) The non-art complements actual artworks such as Yoko Ono’s Nutopia, 1973/2005, a map by Nina Katchadourian, and a bomb by Gregory Green; intermingled with the artifacts of actual sovereign states, they seem less pie-in-the-sky and more wild and daring. But the best part was the appearance of King Robert of Talossa, a country in faraway East Milwaukee. His highness, a portly gentleman wearing what seemed to be a conductor’s cap, was present at the exhibition’s opening and the day after to answer questions about his kingdom, which even has its own language. Asked if anyone had ever been refused citizenship, the king said, “Yeah, only once, because he was a jerk.” Diplomacy be damned—one of many good reasons to start your own country.