new-york

Panamarenko

Dia Center for the Arts

THE SINGLE MOST COMMON THEME in the critical literature on Panamarenko is his failure. This might seem strange, since the Belgian artist has had a long and fairly successful career (at least in Europe; this is his first major US exhibition). But the “f” word doesn't arise in discussions of his career—it relates to how his art objects function.

Panamarenko skirts a long tradition of Belgian invention: Attributed to his countrymen are innovations from French fries to modem plastics, from the saxophone to the internal combustion engine. But perhaps his true ancestor is an Italian: Like Leonardo da Vinci with his sepia-drawn flying machines, Panamarenko has spent decades devising contraptions for flying that appropriate natural elements, including the design of a bird's wing and the motions of insects in midair. And yet nobody calls Leonardo a failure. His drawings of helicopters, for

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