COLUMNS

  • Tour de Bourse

    MAY 19 WAS A HISTORIC DAY IN FRANCE. After six months of Covid-19 lockdown, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, and museums finally reopened to the public. In Paris, a hub for fine dining and fine art, this major step toward normalcy was feted like a national holiday as institutions including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, and Musée d’Art Moderne welcomed back visitors. Adding to the excitement, the city will gain a brand-new shrine to contemporary art on May 22: François Pinault’s collection at the Bourse de Commerce.

    The Bourse seems uniquely well suited to house works acquired by the

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  • Looking at Gaza

    IN 2005, a group of photographers took a stand alongside the people of the small Palestinian town of Bil’in, and documented their fight to stop the Israeli government’s construction of the infamous separation wall in the occupied West Bank. Inspired by the possibility of co-resisting the occupation, the group went on to form Activestills, a collective of Palestinian, Israeli, and international photographers whose work has become vital in picturing the struggle against Israel’s colonial policies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Activestills’s photographs are not meant to create

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  • Exclusion Acts

    #STOPASIANHATE HAS BECOME a rallying cry in response to the surge in anti-Asian violence since the beginning of the pandemic, from random, brutal attacks on the elderly to a white gunman’s murder of six Asian women as well as two others in Atlanta in March. As incidents of anti-Asian violence have accumulated alongside a continuous stream of viral videos of police officers killing Black people, there has been a tendency to collapse all forms of anti-Asian and anti-Black racial violence into an amorphous framework of “white supremacy.” At the same time, videos of Black men attacking Asians have

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  • TOKEN GESTURE

    ON THE AFTERNOON of February 19—immediately after the classic internet meme known as Nyan Cat was auctioned for almost $600,000—digital art abruptly entered the most recent, and perhaps most heated, of its many hype cycles. In the weeks that followed, media outlets from PBS NewsHour to Saturday Night Live reiterated the story of record-breaking prices fueled by an enigmatic technology called the blockchain, which is a system used by techno-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists for encrypting immutable digital records in blocks of data across a decentralized chain of computers. Blockchains can be

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  • Dry Goods

    ON OUR LONG DRIVE through the desert of the Coachella Valley chasing the artworks and installations of Desert X 2021, my fifteen-year-old daughter and I drove past the El Dorado Estates. Scrubby bushes in the pale-brown soil stretched back into the vast and vacant desert behind a cinderblock wall advertising the never-realized development named after the elusive, imaginary city of gold. In the hundred miles we spent crisscrossing the desert, we passed through the shimmering black cells of solar farms and clusters of rusty corrugated shacks, past plastic-surgery centers and boarded-up resorts

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  • In Safe Hands

    IN EARLY FEBRUARY, I hopped in a car bound for Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania with my friend Becca Blackwell. Our mission was a mixture of business and pleasure: to visit Youtube-famous chiropractor, and hallowed muscle whisperer, Dr. Brent Binder. Becca—either a performance artist with a staggering knowledge of touch specialists or an anarchist pervert, depending on your chosen paradigm—is working on a new solo performance installation, The Body Never Lies. exploring the possibilities for healing beyond western medicine, which often fails its Hippocratic mandate by ignoring the idiosyncratic

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  • Contested Terrain

    WITH FEWER THAN HALF A MILLION RESIDENTS, Oakland’s complex art ecosystem rivals those of cities twice its size. Muralists, art-school grads, experimental musicians, artist-activists, graffiti writers, and Burning Man sectarians live and work throughout Oakland’s deindustrialized shoreline corridor and flatlands. Its DIY cultures are eclectic and often political, owing to the city’s distinctive history of liberation movements, mutual-aid networks, and labor organizing.

    Fifteen years ago, Oakland was, relative to tech-gentrified San Francisco, semi-affordable. Today, Oakland artists battle colossal

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  • On the Tuileries Slave Memorial Jury “Impasse”

    I WAS ONE OF FIVE ARTISTS shortlisted for the competition to create the Memorial in the Tuileries to the Victims of Slavery. I write to correct some of the factual misrepresentations of this process that have recently appeared in the international press.1 The French Culture Ministry’s Call for Applications for that commission required the following materials from the artist applicants: (1) an artistic document of no more than 15 pages, (2) a portfolio presentation of five recently realized works, (3) a letter of motivation, and (4) a curriculum vitae of no more than two pages.2 In this first

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  • Gray Eminence

    ON THE FACE OF IT, the reinstallation of selected works of art from the Frick Collection in the Breuer building at 875 Madison Avenue provides a refreshing change. After as much as a century in the same setting, masterpieces once embedded in a Gilded Age mansion are now out on their own. Hung on the plain walls of a concrete Brutalist icon, spaced apart from each other, paintings, sculptures, porcelains, two rugs, and some great eighteenth-century French furniture have temporarily jettisoned the ornate wood paneling, lavish curtain window treatments, and decorous fountain courtyard of what was

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  • Royalty Check

    THE CONFOUNDING PRICES realized by cyptoart sales recently have overshadowed another extraordinary aspect of these transactions. Many NFT “smart contracts” include an embedded resale royalty—often 10 percent—that flows back to the artist every time the work is resold. Better yet for the creators, when used, this NFT technology distributes those royalties automatically upon any change of ownership registered on the blockchain (without the need for lawyers and letters). Beeple himself, maker of this year’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, has benefited from this income stream. When an earlier work,

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  • Against Getting It

    IN AN INTERVIEW with the Sundance Institute’s Adam Piron this past November, filmmaker and video artist Sky Hopinka discussed the freedom he has found in making work for Indigenous viewers: “It’s empowering to realize that you don’t have to make films for a white audience and consider whether or not they understand the cultural references.” Hopinka’s experimental narratives are nonlinear collages of Native imagery, language, and experiences that are, he knows, not legible to all—even most—of his viewers. It is not surprising that the artist, a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, might choose to center

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  • Chain Reaction

    ON MARCH 11, Christie’s will make history as the first traditional auction house to complete a sale of a purely digital artwork, authenticated on a blockchain, payable in cryptocurrency. The single lot sale consists only of EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS by the artist known as Beeple, real name Mike Winkelmann. The image file, a whopping 21,069 x 21,069 pixels, is really five thousand individual images tiled into a dense mosaic, the result of a feat of creative endurance in which Beeple created a new digital drawing each day over thirteen years, originally sharing them to his Instagram, which

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