COLUMNS

  • curatorial returns to the academy

    TAKEN BY ITSELF, last November’s announcement by Russell Ferguson, chief curator and deputy director of the Hammer Museum of the University of California, Los Angeles, that he was leaving his position after some five years at the institution to take the reins at UCLA’s Department of Art may seem not to warrant much comment. While the studio art program, one of the nation’s best, has traditionally been chaired by practicing artists, the transition promises by all accounts to be both smooth and organic, not signaling any immediate change in the overall program of either the museum or the school.

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  • Carsten Höller

    CARSTEN HÖLLER’S five silvery slides in Tate Modern’s massive Turbine Hall in London are elegant sculptures that spiral down like giant serpents from the gallery floors, curling and twisting their metallic bodies before reaching the ground with open mouths. They are roofed with transparent acrylic plastic, allowing glimpses of people sliding down. And everyone in the hall can certainly hear them screaming—with excitement, perhaps with fright, and no doubt also with joy. Groups of enthusiasts linger in the arrival area. The ride from the top level, nearly 90 feet high, is terrifyingly fast—the

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  • Jackson Pollock’s late work

    SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST things create the most arresting aesthetic experiences—an observation resoundingly reconfirmed for me at “No Limits, Just Edges,” the Jackson Pollock works-on-paper exhibition recently on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (and before that at the Guggenheim Foundation’s outposts in Berlin and Venice). As I walked through the show’s expansive last room, my eyes gravitated, almost magnetically, to the lower right-hand corner of an untitled 1951 drawing, where, beneath the slashing arrows and scrawled numerals soaked into the fibers of the absorbent Japanese

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  • Chris Gilbert

    CURATOR CHRIS GILBERT has resigned from his position at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Mobility among art institutions has been an increasing feature of art mediation and presentation over the past twenty years, but Gilbert doesn’t seem to have left in order to write a book, research a group exhibition, or move on to a bigger and better place. What is uncommon is his decision to resign on a matter of political principle and then call for a radical rethinking of the role of the curator and the artist in a contemporary-art context. This is a highly unusual step for someone

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  • Catherine de Zegher

    IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, Charles Baudelaire said art criticism should be “passionate, partisan, and political.” For the poet and critic, these three words were synonymous—“political” meant “partisan” and “partisan” meant “passionate”—and without them there would be no point to modern, secular art. In this sphere, in other words, the safe space of neutrality, “objectivity” and dispassionate judgment has no place. Take a stand and get behind it: So should art do, and so shall this essay, concerning Catherine de Zegher’s recent departure from New York’s Drawing Center, where she had been director

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  • Guillermo Kuitca

    GUILLERMO KUITCA typically settles on a given structure as a form of emptiness. One may consider his work a kind of seating plan, as the Argentinean artist himself will tell you: Vacant chairs attest to an absence; what’s more, the plan is only a representation, not the thing it represents. And so the represented thing becomes merely a gap, a void—space as an object. Such empty space accrues the element of time, and the hidden cause of the desire. Am I saying that Kuitca draws, paints, fixes his collages into the dynamics of desire? Yes.

    Not that there is one and only one structure in Kuitca’s

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  • Luc Delahaye

    THE PHOTOGRAPH, framed without margins and behind Plexiglas, is just under four and a half feet high by nearly nine and a half feet wide. Its title is A Lunch at the Belvedere, and it depicts an actual event that took place at the Hotel Belvedere in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum of 2004. The lunch was hosted by Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, whose guest of honor was the famous American financier-philanthropist George Soros. The diners, eleven men, sit facing the viewer—though none looks toward the camera—on the far side of a long table that runs the full width of

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  • “Populism”

    A SPECTER is haunting Europe—the specter of populism. In 2003, when curators Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero, and Nicolaus Schafhausen were first making plans for a group of exhibitions dealing with the question, Europe was just reeling from the rise and murder of the populist right-wing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. By the time their “Populism” project finally appeared in various European venues last summer—the endeavor featured coinciding group shows in Vilnius, Oslo, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt—populist movements in opposition to (and sometimes within) traditional political parties had become

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  • Ron Gorchov

    RON GORCHOV could have been a contender—more times over than any other painter of his generation. If he gets the breaks and goes the distance this time, he will be one of the greatest comeback kids the New York School has ever seen. What are the odds on this happening? It’s almost impossible to say. But based solely on his recent exhibition of paintings made between 1968 and 2005 at Vito Schnabel’s temporary space in New York, I’d say he has an excellent shot. His chances this go-round are improved all the more by the discreet support of fellow artists Saint Clair Cemin and Ray Smith, in whose

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  • Svetlana Alpers on the life of painting

    I WENT TO SEE “The Triumph of Painting: Part 1” at the Saatchi Gallery on a morning in February. (There will be three more installments this year and next of this vast survey of some 350 canvases from Charles Saatchi’s collection.) I went out of curiosity about seeing the works, of course, but also out of curiosity about the site—the old London County Hall (opened in 1922; until 1986, the seat of the city’s government), which had been vacated, sold, and converted into a leisure complex with hotels, an aquarium, and, eventually, the gallery. As it turned out, the paintings and the site had an

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  • social space and relational aesthetics

    WHAT MAKES relational aesthetics so boring? I’ve been wondering a lot lately why an approach to artmaking dedicated to social interaction has generated so much underwhelming art. Perhaps the fact that relational aesthetics is dependent on site contingency, collaboration, and contrived indeterminacy makes it feel a little too much like the 1960s and is therefore dulled by nostalgia, or worse, academicism. Or perhaps it was that Nicolas Bourriaud’s book Relational Aesthetics, first published in French in 1998 and translated into English in 2002, seemed like Pierre Bourdieu’s theories on cultural

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  • art and competitive consumption

    MOCKING TITTERS AND condescending volleys erupted from the culturati in January when the big-box, membership-only retailer Costco offered an authenticated Picasso drawing for the strategically irresistible price of $39,999.99. The source of dismay was obvious. Costco is home to everything from institutional-size cans of tomato sauce to billboard-size plasma screens—not fine art. In highbrow discussions one heard an incipient, disdainful qualification: This was a late Picasso drawing, one of those “doodles” jotted off in Saint Tropez when the Master was feeling the need to raise some quick capital.

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