PRINT December 2004

Thelma Golden


1 Dover Street Market (London) The recent frenzied spate of museum building has seen unfortunate comparisons made between these cultural institutions and shopping malls. But I love malls the way I love museums. Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo’s Dover Street Market is rightly being described as the ultimate mall. Everything she thinks you should want is spread out over six floors. It is the most sublime, sensual shopping experience, carefully curated to include an Azzedine Alaia boutique, a dozen Comme lines, and Terry de Havilland shoes. Dover Street is not the perfect mall; it is actually the perfect museum.

2 Rudolf Stingel, Plan B (Grand Central Terminal, New York) and Janet Cardiff, Her Long Black Hair (Central Park, New York) The best public art reconnects us to the city, jolting us out of our habitual relationship to place. This year, two projects revived my interest in sites that I have loved, but in sentimental, clichéd ways. In July, Stingel’s 27,000-square-foot carpet, Plan B, facilitated by the Art Production Fund, MTA Arts for Transit, and Creative Time, invigorated Grand Central in a way that the station’s restoration never did. And Cardiff’s audio-walk project for the Public Art Fund, Her Long Black Hair, allowed for a different route into the treasures of Central Park.

3 The Double Album Outkast’s marvelous CD Speakerboxx/The Love Below got me wondering about exhibition equivalents of the double album. Ann Goldstein’s exceptional “A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958–1968,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Lynn Zelevansky’s “Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s–70s,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, revised the script about significant movements and practices for both the specialist field and the general public. Eugenie Tsai and Connie Butler’s incomparable Robert Smithson retrospective (also at MoCA) continued LA’s remarkable run of serious, superior exhibitions.

4 “Fade (1990–2003)” (Luckman Gallery/University Fine Arts Gallery at California State University, Los Angeles) My favorite scene in The Shawshank Redemption sees Tim Robbins escaping from prison by swimming through a sewer pipe, emerging from the sludge into freedom. There have been a number of exhibitions this year that similarly cut through the muck of identity politics. Most notable was Malik Gaines’s “Fade,” the first installment of a yearlong, three-part project designed to excavate the recent history of African- American artists in Los Angeles. Here, Gaines brilliantly navigates the inside/outside, mainstream/ margin politics that still haunt discussions of cultural specificity.

5 Vanessa Beecroft, VB54 (“Terminal 5,” John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York) Ten years ago I organized an exhibition about images of black masculinity. Until recently, I never considered a companion show about black women; the idea seemed futile, because I spend so much time being enraged/ intrigued by the use of black women’s bodies in popular culture (the credit-card swipe through a woman’s ass in Nelly’s video Tip Drill is the current target of my fury). Hearing about Beecroft’s performance in the short-lived “Terminal 5” exhibition—and then seeing “unauthorized” images of the work’s near-naked African-American women covered with black makeup and wearing silver ankle chains—made me realize this is a subject I cannot continue to ignore.

6 David Hammons, 2004 Dak’Art Sheep Raffle (Dakar, Senegal) Oprah Winfrey began the nineteenth season of her extraordinary show by giving new cars to an entire studio audience. The host, as is her way, discussed the possibility of winning the car in terms of personal transformation. The result was classic Oprah: a crescendo of screams and tears, at once totally real and completely fake. What Oprah attempted with her scripted extravaganza was actually achieved in the simple, brilliant highlight of Dak’Art, the Biennial of Contemporary African Art. As his “official” contribution to the biennial, Hammons organized a weeklong sheep raffle, giving away two real sheep at a different Dakar intersection each day to winners who (without a teleprompter) burst into exaltation at their unexpected but much-needed good fortune.

7 On Kawara, “Paintings of 40 Years” (David Zwirner, New York) After a summer of deadening political conventions, accelerating campaign coverage, and the ongoing documentation of the war, I began to feel the ill effects of living in a media-saturated world. Overwhelmed and depressed, I went into the Kawara show. A beautifully installed retrospective, it provided an amazing opportunity to view the influential work of this mysterious artist. Among these paintings, I felt time both compress and stretch out.

8 Senga Nengudi A conceptual sculptor who emerged in the 1970s, Nengudi has recently had a welcome and necessary revival, capped this year by her inclusion in the Carnegie International. Nengudi was a critical part of the generation of the black avant-garde in New York who exhibited at Linda Goode Bryant’s seminal space, Just Above Midtown. But when many of her early works were damaged or destroyed, she abruptly departed. Working ever since in Colorado, Nengudi has taken up the re-creation of her early pieces as a critical part of her project. I am thrilled she is back in the conversation that her work helped create.

9 “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century” (Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art) This ingenious investigation of eighteenthcentury dress and its link with the day’s furniture and decorative arts showed the erotic possibilities of period costume and the seductive potential of contemporaneous rooms. Most amazing was the use of mannequins in outrageous mise-en-scènes. Organized by Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton with their colleagues from the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, it was a paragon of museum presentation.

10 Tom Ford The designer’s beautifully timed, masterfully choreographed and graceful exit. There’s a curatorial career metaphor in there somewhere.

Thelma Golden is deputy director for exhibitions and programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she is currently working on an exhibition of Chris Ofili's watercolors. She also recently organized a retrospective of the fashion designer Patrick Kelly for the Brooklyn Museum.