PRINT December 2000

BEST OF 2000

The art that inspired them in 2000

Those of us who live and breathe contemporary art will hold to the idea that art does change, if not the world, then the way we live in it. But our “world” can be more insular than we care to admit. So to open our look back at 2000, we asked twenty-one “outsiders” we admire—from novelist J.G. Ballard to musician John Zorn—to tell us about the art that inspired them this year.

Dave Eggers (novelist)
About a year ago, I saw Marcel Dzama’s stuff in zingmagazine and fell madly in love. Then his show at David Zwirner just killed me. A hundred or so drawings (bears with handguns, whale-men looking so sad), all of them stunning. Two percent wit, ninety-eight percent a fragile, fragile beauty—perfect alchemy. He is my lord and my light.

A.M. Homes (novelist)
Sam Taylor-Wood’s cubist cocktail party at Matthew Marks, mesmerizing for its fragmentation, for its multiple points of view on multiple screens, for that girl who is at every party dancing deep in her own groove. Also, Rineke Dijkstra’s Buzzclub at Marian Goodman: long, uninterrupted shots, wordless interviews in which each youth haltingly dances a self-portrait while simply “presenting” to the camera. In both works there is vulnerability, an urgent need to be seen, recognized, but mostly there is dancing—and smoking. Smoking and dancing. Hypnotic highlight: the butch, fragile girl in Buzzclub repetitively punching the air as she hooks into the music, finding the beat, losing the beat, and finding it again.

Pierre Apraxine (curator)
My choice is “Passion and Defiance: Silent Divas of the Italian Cinema,” a film series presented at the New York Film Festival. Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, Pina Menichelli—“Stars of Muteness, Goddesses of Pain,” as cocurator Angela Dalle Vacche calls you—your faces, your clothes, and your dilemmas still fascinate us. As rich, as stylish, as poignant, as perennial as Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theater.

Rick Moody (novelist)
Fred Tomaselli’s assemblage Gravity’s Rainbow at the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris. Its arcs of actual and imaginary cultural detritus were heroic, earnest, funny, historical, virtuosic. Never cynical or ironic, though fascinatingly ambiguous.

J.G. Ballard (novelist)
As a Londoner, I think without a doubt the big event of the year was the opening of the Tate Modern. It’s significant that it’s been so much more of a success than the Millennium Dome. The building’s striking—I think Albert Speer would have approved—and it’s a remarkable experience to enter the vast Turbine Hall, where some of Louise Bourgeois’s sculptures were just on view. In its way it is highly symbolic for the history of Britain in the twenty-first century that a former power station (a site so redolent of the industrial revolution) is now an art institution. It illustrates where the real power has shifted.

Lou Reed (musician)
The art event of the year for me was twofold. First I saw Tate Modern in London. Then I saw Bilbao. The museums utilize space in different and extraordinary ways. I hope this is the direction in which such institutions are moving.

Jeremy Scott (designer)
When I first saw the Cindy Sherman photo in which she looks like a suntanned housewife from Santa Monica, I thought, “Wow! She definitely has a great sense of humor!”

Douglas Coupland (novelist)
The best exhibit I saw was in Vancouver—by an artist named Brian Jungen, in all likelihood Canada’s most important young sculptor. His show “Shapeshifter” comprised a twenty-three-foot whale skeleton made of chopped-up and reconstituted $4.99 white plastic lawn chairs—and yet it was much more than that. Standing inside the work’s “ribs” felt to me like being in a cathedral. It made me see the world and its history differently.

Richard Howard (poet and translator)
The truest poetry is the most feigning, Touchstone says, and after seeing the glorious Chardin show at the Metropolitan this year, I discover analogously that the purest painting is the most literary. Which means, I suppose, that an excruciation of any art makes a response available to any other. It is the poetry of experience that I am moved to by the experience of Chardin’s painting.

Karim Rashid (designer)
As the digital world shrinks and media proliferate, we enter a new century—the borderless era where art forms intersect. The cross-pollination of fashion, art, and design interests me greatly, and I admire the works of Hussein Chalayan. I am inspired by the blurring of furniture as dress, plastic and wood product as fashion materials, and the phenomenological shift of performance with inanimate, banal objects.

Homi K. Bhabha (theorist and critic)
Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin is structured around a void—sometimes visible, otherwise concealed—that embodies a paradox of historical representation: The past is most intrusive when we think we have left it behind, and most elusive when we believe we have fully captured its spirit. Libeskind has responded properly to this problem by refusing both memorial and monument. He has created an ethical space that confronts the flow of experience with the flux of thought: Is this the door to the past I want to open? Is that dark abyss the threshold between barbarism and civility? Will the corridor of memory lead me back to Berlin, a city that now belongs neither to the East nor to the West but to the future freedom of mankind?

Patrick McGrath (novelist)
My pick would be a book by Richard Davenport-Hines, Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin, published by North Point Press. The author pursues the Gothic impulse across a broad cultural spectrum from horticulture and architecture to painting, literature, photography, and cinema. A work of massive scope and originality.

Bruce Wagner (novelist)
Eleanor Harwood has moved from hand-painting 16 mm films to a recent series of Polaroid land(camera)scapes—spectral trees and her own R. Crumb—like body. The latter is go-for-Braque odalisque in TV-screen cutout format; the former, transcendent Blair Witch. The daughter of a geneticist, Harwood lives in the Mission District of San Francisco and frequently collaborates with sound artist Loren Chasse.

John Kelly (performance artist)
Two divas: Patti Smith in concert on New Year’s Eve was a great way to usher in a new century, and my pal Lauren Flanigan’s performance in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux at New York City Opera was fearless, laser-beam accurate, and kick-ass thrilling.

David Sylvester (art critic)
The finest new work I have seen this year is the series of seven large paintings by Jeff Koons exhibited in Berlin at the Deutsche Guggenheim (I have to confess that I contributed to the catalogue). These post-Pop, neo-Surrealist imaginings have the unnerving erotic overtones and the controlled power of Baroque cataclysms.

Bernard Tschumi (architect)
Mixing three films, including Rapture, with early photographs, Shirin Neshat’s miniretrospective at the Serpentine in London displayed the artist’s reinvention of the possibilities of black-and-white cinematography, her skillful evocation of the limits of gender polarities, and, importantly, her ways of relating people and spaces, bodies and architecture.

Kimberly Peirce (filmmaker)
Armani clothes, on view at the Guggenheim retrospective, reflect women’s desire to acknowledge their masculinity and authority without sacrificing their femininity. Armani borrows from masculine traditions of cut, line, and accessory, exposes flesh, and plays with what’s visible and invisible to create clothing that is elegantly androgynous.

Alain de Botton (writer)
This year a friend introduced me to the work of the young Scottish painter and conceptual artist Charles Avery. His current show features an imaginary family album, with a father playing with the dog, teenagers at the swimming pool, etc. You get a sense of a whole family saga—from who was close to whom, to who was the great beauty.

Viktor & Rolf (designers)
Inez van Lamsweerde at White Cube in London. Inez always surprises us. She is always at the forefront, investigating new ways of seeing. Together with her husband, Vinoodh Matadin, she uncompromisingly seeks to portray sublime beauty. The way she constantly challenges herself is a source of inspiration for us personally—and for many others.

John Zorn (musician)
The automatic drawings of Helen Butler Wells and the spirit artist that she channeled, Eswald. Wells was a spiritualist who lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and the drawings she created in her trances, seen at Cavin-Morris Gallery in February, are definitely some of the most inspiring and remarkable things that I’ve come across this year.

Alice Quinn (editor)
Two painters capture the Long Island I love: Sheridan Lord, whose oils of potato fields in Sagaponack radiantly depict a disappearing landscape, and Jane Freilicher, central member of the legendary New York School of painters and poets, whose delicate renderings of the world just outside of her city and island studios were shown at the Tibor de Nagy gallery. In the catalogue, Charles Simic celebrates Freilicher’s “windowsill magic.”

David Bordwell (film historian)
The Mission marks a new high for the enterprising Hong Kong director Johnnie To, who once again pumps fresh life into the noir thriller. Running Kitano and Melville through a Hong Kong blender, The Mission is a triumph of abstract style, dark humor, and daringly fractured plotting.

J. Hoberman (critic)
The year’s best unreleased film (and the strongest Chinese movie in a decade), Jia Zhang Je’s concrete but elliptical, superbly detached three-hour epic meditates on the mutation of the propaganda-performing Fenyang Peasant Culture Group into the equally cheesy All Star Rock and Breakdance Electronic Band: Platform is Pop art as history.

Barbara Kruger (artist)
Bamboozled is Spike Lee’s latest reckoning with the impossibilities of race in America. Despite an ungood performance by Damon Wayans, this powerful satire is loaded with gorgeously potent musical numbers. Lee again proves himself a compelling artist, bravely grappling with the stuff that counts. Let’s hope his dedication to Budd Schulberg is kind of ironic.

Richard Flood (curator)
Pola X by Leos Carax. Beautiful blond boy with beautiful blond mother and beautiful blond fiancée meets beautiful brunette who turns out to be a metaphor for Eastern Europe and, just maybe, his sister. A totally insane, brilliant, stupid film by an unquestionable auteur.

Sharon Lockhart (artist)
What could be better than watching members of the French Foreign Legion hang laundry, iron uniforms, and do calisthenics in unison? Agnès Godard’s lush cinematography and the mixture of music, silence, and abstract narrative make Claire Denis’s Beau Travail a film you could watch over and over.

Paul Pfeiffer (artist)
Tarsem Singh’s The Cell. Cinematically unremarkable, visually mind-blowing—an indication that film aesthetics and storytelling have finally given way to pure visual intensity. It’s not the movies anymore, but a cross between MTV, a thrill ride, and computer-simulated warfare.

Howard Hampton (critic)
The pleasures of Almost Famous aren’t narrative but lie in Cameron Crowe’s devotion to the look and feel of the past, how people moved and performed self-creation, with “Every Picture Tells a Story” as the era’s Rosetta stone.

Pipilotti Rist (artist)
My favorite American film so far this year is Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. A glorious, illogical, and emotional fairy tale with good cinematography and wonderful music by Air.

Jem Cohen (filmmaker)
Three superb short documentaries: Best in Beef (Rob Smits and Britta Hosman), about a modern slaughterhouse; my brother’s Fire of Time (Adam Cohen), on the demise of a Barcelona neighborhood; and The March (Abraham Ravett), about his mother’s experience leaving Auschwitz.

Peter Bowen (critic)
In this election year, David Gordon Green’s George Washington, a quirky drama of growing up in North Carolina, gives me hope for this country—or, at least, for American independent film.

—compiled by Elizabeth Horwitz