PRINT November 2005


David Adjaye

David Adjaye is a London-based architect. He is currently working on buildings for inIVA/Autograph and the Bernie Grant Centre, both in London, and for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. In January, Whitechapel Art Gallery will host “David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings,” the first exhibition focusing on his studio’s work.

  1. AI WEIWEI, HOUSE AND STUDIO, BEIJING In a Beijing suburb, amongst a series of factory complexes stands an extraordinary domestic structure designed in 1999 by artist Ai Weiwei. You first enter a large garden courtyard via a simple gate; once inside, there is no house to be seen, just a series of contemporary, Miesian yet distinctly Chinese-inspired gray brick walls that define the entry beyond which one would find side passages to a home and studio. You are instantly reminded of the houtons of traditional Beijing and fantastic Chinese gardens. (Here, a courtyard garden has a collection of Ai’s sculptures.) When you cross the house’s threshold, you are immediately brought into a large, double-height space with Ming-dynasty furniture that looks so modern you would think Donald Judd had designed it. The materials of the building are ordinary brick and concrete but, even though this sounds austere, the structure has the most intimate and accommodating ambience. A masterwork.

  2. WANGECHI MUTU This past summer, Mutu’s exhibition at the Miami Art Museum—her first museum solo—featured the full repertoire of her art production. At the entrance, one was confronted by the beautiful video piece Amazing Grace, 2005, a surreal narrative in which one sees a figure moving through a watery landscape. Behind this projection were her trademark suspended bottles, whose excreted deposits of red wine mixed with salt water pooled on the gallery floor, as well as her amazing portraits and drawings of spheres. Such work invariably elicits a range of emotions, from uneasiness to romance, making Mutu an artist to watch.

  3. HINZERT MUSEUM AND DOCUMENT CENTRE, GERMANY In the middle of an old German agricultural landscape, a strange new creature has been placed: Nikolaus Hirsch’s Document Centre, which opens next month. This extraordinary project’s goal was to make an inherently structural building wherein what you see is what you get. Cor-Ten steel triangles welded together create a structural, tapering, vaulted space to house the museum, which focuses on the history of the Hinzert concentration camp. While the building gives a sense of this tragic past, it also looks to the future by powering its electricity and air conditioning through an intelligent set of environmental systems.

    Nikolaus Hirsch, Hinzert Museum and Document Centre, 2005, Germany. Nikolaus Hirsch, Hinzert Museum and Document Centre, 2005, Germany.
  4. JONATHAN MEESE If you get a chance to see Jonathan Meese perform, don’t miss it. I caught his performance in Cheonan, South Korea, at the Arario Gallery, where Meese baffled and delighted Korean art lovers with his improvisatory painting and shamanlike monologue deconstructing history, philosophy, and religion.

    Jonathan Meese, Jonathan Meese ist Mutter Parzival (Jonathan Meese is Mother Parsifal), 2005. Performance view, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, 2005. Photo: Jirka Jansch. Jonathan Meese, Jonathan Meese ist Mutter Parzival (Jonathan Meese is Mother Parsifal), 2005. Performance view, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, 2005. Photo: Jirka Jansch.
  5. “PETER DOIG: STUDIOFILMCLUB” This fall, the film club Doig launched in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 2003 was transported to Switzerland—a must-see that not only featured exquisite oil-on-paper drawings by the artist of his favorite film posters but also screenings of films selected with his friend Che Lovelace. Isaac Julien’s BaadAsssss Cinema (2002) and a 1990 episode of a Caribbean talk show featuring musician Lord Kitchener, the Soca King, were among the highlights.

    View of “Peter Doig: StudioFilmClub,” Kunsthalle Zürich, 2005. View of “Peter Doig: StudioFilmClub,” Kunsthalle Zürich, 2005.
  6. FREENESS VOL. 1 Chris Ofili’s foundation, ICEBOX, launched its first CD featuring musicians of African, Caribbean, and Asian descent by throwing a rave that was the place to be in London on September 13, 2005. The art world and the cool-music set converged at Cargo nightclub to hear extraordinary acts that made it clear how diverse music-making is in Britain and how little of it makes it to mainstream listeners. Can’t wait for the second volume. For more information visit

  7. SAUL DIBB, BULLET BOY (2004) Directed by Dibb and produced by Marc Boothe and Ruth Caleb, Bullet Boy is a fictional film that gets to the gritty heart of inner-city gun culture without glamorizing it. This film portrays North and South London in exquisite detail, capturing the nuances of interpersonal relationships and family life in black Britain. Make sure you add this one to your DVD collection.

    Saul Dibb, Bullet Boy, 2004, still from a color film in 16 mm, 89 minutes. Saul Dibb, Bullet Boy, 2004, still from a color film in 16 mm, 89 minutes.
  8. DARRELL WAYNE FIELDS, ARCHITECTURE IN BLACK (2000) This book by Fields, published by London’s Athlone Press, is a detective-like analysis of the hijacking of architectural history by a European sensibility whose racism resulted in the exclusion of black culture—which, of course, is the mother of the arts (i.e., Egypt). Focusing on the semiotics of architectural terms, the study begins to address the damage, recasting a history that has ignored the contributions of black architects.

  9. ISAAC JULIEN, FANTÔME CREOLE, 2005 A pioneer of the multiple-projection installation, Isaac Julien has directed a complex and mesmerizing new video entitled Fantôme Creole, which debuted at the Centre Pompidou in Paris this summer. This film is rich in historical and political meaning, exploring the impact of location—both cultural and physical—to resounding effect. It is both cold and warm, past and present, a critique and celebration. Let’s hope he turns his attention to making a longer work: Another feature film from this auteur (his last feature, Young Soul Rebels, came out in 1991) is long overdue.

  10. “ROBERT SMITHSON,” WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART This essential show charted Smithson’s pioneering work in sculpture, Land art, and entropic architecture. The installations of mirror and earth are powerful, as is the documentation of Spiral Jetty, 1970, an extraordinary accomplishment that is now visible again. Smithson’s floating island, which circled Manhattan for one week during the show, reminds us of the power of nature and our relationship to it—de-architecturalizing architecture by disregarding rules about foundation, stability, and permanence.