PRINT December 2013

Anne Dressen

View of “David Bowie Is,” 2013, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Photo: David Bowie Archive.

1 DAVID BOWIE (VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, LONDON; CURATED BY VICTORIA BROACKES AND GEOFFREY MARSH) I visited the Bowie show with the ideal companion, artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz, in June. Bowie’s chameleon costumes are unforgettable, yet clearly cheap upon closer examination and seen among the cheesy fan memorabilia. The acme was definitely the last room: Surrounded by images of his live concerts projected on huge screens—and thanks to wireless headphones—you were randomly transported through various sounds, spaces, and times; these are the best music videos ever, from the best performance artist on Mars.

2 STURTEVANT (SERPENTINE GALLERY, LONDON; CURATED BY KATHRYN RATTEE) We had to break away from Bowie in order to catch Sturtevant’s grand opening at the Serpentine Gallery. Devised with spatial perfection (one of the artist’s many qualities!), the exhibition brought together such major pieces as her recent Elastic Tango, 2010, and her now classic Blow Job, 2006, all deconstructing the power of the image in favor of that of thinking. Sturtevant had me traveling all year long, looking for crucial repetitions and differences within her shows—from Stockholm, New York, Zurich, and London to Hannover, Germany, where one can see the restaging of her 2010 masterpiece House of Horrors at the Sprengel Museum, haunted by Divine and Frankenstein. No doubt I’ll go to Naples, where she’ll be showing soon.

3 PARADE OF TRADITIONAL MASKS, SARDINIA If I’m lucky, I’ll then be able to go back to the amazing annual regional parade I discovered last August in Sardinia. Crafty, pagan, queer even, this Dionysian performance in the streets of Santa Caterina di Pittinuri includes aspects of the famous winter Mamuthones festival, and is a kind of informal competition between different villages. I saw men in goat hair, bones, and seashell costumes, and cross-dressed as black widows: altogether semireligious and semidevilish and truly disturbing.

4 CINDY SHERMAN (55TH VENICE BIENNALE) Even if I love outsider art, I nearly overdosed in Venice (it seemed that the whole collection of art brut from Lausanne got displaced there), and felt relief upon entering Sherman’s curatorial project, a special musée imaginaire in the Arsenale, featuring Carol Rama (the nearly one-hundred-year-old Italian artist) and Rosemarie Trockel—embodying both women’s power and dissent—together with Paul McCarthy. Undoubtedly, Sherman saved the show, which was otherwise cruelly lacking in contemporaneity.

5 SCANDINAVIAN TEXTILES I’ve been completely obsessed with carpets and tapestries, and so I can’t help mentioning my visit earlier this year to the Märta Måås-Fjetterström weaving workshop in Båstad in the south of Sweden. This 1920s designer—even less known than the recently rediscovered Norwegian Hannah Ryggen—designed carpets and tapestries combining primitive Nordic influences with modernist patterns. Some of them were also at the sale of Scandinavian carpets at the infamous Bukowskis auction house in Stockholm this October, where I met the great specialist Anette Granlund. I actually found more of these textiles while visiting the amazing (and conceptually challenging) antique shop Henry in Hudson, New York, run by the artist Nancy Shaver.

Ei Arakawa and Shimon Minamikawa, PARIS ADAPTED HOMELAND (Episode 3), 2013, HD video, color, sound, 5 minutes 4 seconds.

6 EI ARAKAWA (MORI ART MUSEUM TRIENNIAL, TOKYO) A former student of Shaver’s, Arakawa came to Paris last spring for the great Simon Hantaï show at the Centre Pompidou (which confirmed the Matissean side of the work but also revealed some crazy early-Surrealist pieces). There, he was filmed in a guerrilla performance wearing a Shimon Minamikawa painting as a kind of cape; the video is now on view at the Fourth Mori Art Museum triennial. This clandestine action reminded me of my earlier encounter with Arakawa, in freezing Tokyo last December. I had badly wanted to enter the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the 1972 masterpiece by Metabolist architect Kisho Kurokawa, which is threatened by possible destruction and totally forbidden to nonresidents. At night, along with artists Q Takeki Maeda and Yuki Kimura, we finally managed to sneak into this obscure postmodern ruin, welcomed by ghostly inhabitants.

7 BERNHARD WILLHELM, SUMMER 2014 COLLECTION Even if Willhelm still produces almost exclusively in Japan, the offbeat and eccentric German fashion designer just moved to LA and launched a new campaign for his 2014 summer collection—with an incredible geriatric-sci-fi-raver photo shoot, featuring septuagenarian models posing by pools and cars at fancy Hollywood homes. Before that, his collections were much closer to what could now be called a Spring Breakers aesthetic—decadent, funny, sexy, and fluo.

8 PIERRE HUYGHE, HUMAN (CENTRE POMPIDOU, PARIS) Postapocalyptic and Day-Glow could also describe Pierre Huyghe’s masterpiece, a greyhound named Human. I’m not necessarily a dog person, but this pink-legged, skinny one is really special. Seen for the first time in the rain in Huyghe’s amazing compost garden at Documenta 13—with a man who seemed to be straight out of Tarkovsky’s Stalker—the dog reappeared (in the flesh and in a film) this fall in Huyghe’s great Centre Pompidou retrospective, which is installed within the former walls and traces of the (deathly) Mike Kelley show there. Human, like the whole exhibition, lives an independent life: Huyghe surely manages “to expose ourselves to something more than to expose something to us,” as he likes to put it.

9 “CLUSTER” (GALERIE 1M3, LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND; CURATED BY JEANNE GRAFF) I witnessed another iteration of this independence last autumn when the cutting edge, artist-run space Galerie 1m3 presented “Cluster,” a group show of anthropomorphic sculptures by Mathis Altmann, John Armleder, Stéphane Barbier Bouvet, Tobias Madison, and Mai-Thu Perret, among others. The assembled art acted like a performative crowd that was looking at you more than you were looking at it. 1m3 is also where, in 2011, I discovered the work of overlooked artist Ericka Beckman, who finally had a stunning retrospective at Kunsthalle Bern this past summer.

10 HASSAN KHAN, SUPERSTRUCTURE (MUSÉE DU LOUVRE, PARIS, OCTOBER 20, 2012) I’ll end with the recollection of a live music performance by Khan in the Louvre auditorium; the Cairo-based artist was onstage, mixing together Arabic traditional and pop music with radical electronic noise, and the immersive quality of the soundscape threw everyone into a trance-like mode. Then, for the Nuit Blanche festival in Paris this past October, Khan turned the Parc de Belleville into a cinematographic stage set, a poetic moment that showed me I was right not to have boycotted this usually spectacularized, kitsch event.

Anne Dressen is curator of contemporary art at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, where her show “Decorum: Carpets and Tapestries by Artists,” with an exhibition design by Marc Camille Chaimowicz, is on view until February 9, 2014. In 2010, she curated Sturtevant’s first monographic exhibition in France at MAMVP. Among her next curatorial projects is a retrospective of Carol Rama, organized in collaboration with the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. She teaches art history at École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne, Switzerland.