• Light Years

    The Met’s Afrofuturist period room thinks inside the box

    IN HIS INTRODUCTION to Period Rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1996), the longest-serving director of the New York museum, the now-retired Philippe de Montebello, notes the popularity of his subject. “Virtually everyone who visits the Museum’s American Wing finds there the opportunity to experience a sense of the way our forebears lived,” he writes. A period room is a museological device that combines architecture, furnishings, decorative art, and functional objects to represent an interior of a certain time, place, and style. A feature of many museums, the rooms purport to represent

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  • Safe Harbor

    What story will Hong Kong’s M+ museum tell?

    AT A SPECIAL PREVIEW EVENING FOR M+, local artists and patrons—and some internationals who had abided Hong Kong’s rigorous quarantine measures—cautiously entered the Brutalist-style building, at 700,000 square feet one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world.

    The museum has weathered criticism from its inception, dating back to a 1998 proposal for a cultural district complete with sites dedicated to visual and performing arts. In the 2000s, Hong Kong was unfairly stuck with the label of “cultural desert” despite the presence of a robust modern art scene there since the 1960s, and

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  • Cosmic Dancer

    Dan Beachy-Quick on Charles Ross’s Star Axis

    COSMOS IS A WORD UNIVERSAL IN SCOPE, but hidden inside it, like the intimate drawers of a jewelry box, other meanings are kept. Order: of stars, of world, of self. Pattern: macrocosm, microcosm. Form. Ornament. Adornment. The light-year dance of galaxies around one another is cosmic; so is the pearl-drop pendant hanging below the throat. Absolute zero and blood-heat braided together, as is that intimacy between self and universe entire—a fact somehow known before it’s learned, forgotten before it’s ever been grasped—may well be the fundamental discovery needed to put your foot on Star Axis’s

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  • Up In Smoke

    Dodie Bellamy on Judy Chicago’s Forever de Young

    GIDDY FROM SIPPING FLUTES of the de Young Museum’s prosecco, my friend Karen and I quickly realized that from the VIP section, the view of Judy Chicago’s smoke sculpture, Forever de Young, was going to suck. Since we were standing to the side of the huge pyramid-shaped scaffolding that was holding the canisters of colored pigments that would be “released” into the air, we knew we would not be able to see the whole picture. We scanned for a better vantage point but were cordoned off, and the rest of the crowd formed a dense mass that looked impossible to insert ourselves into. So we hunkered down

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  • Natural Causes

    Jayne Wilkinson on the Momenta Biennale de l’image

    QUESTIONS OF CARE and ecological entanglement have dominated art discourse for several years but seem to have grown in urgency of late, as the pandemic forced a renegotiation of relationships, and values, on a global scale. Using art to bridge the gulf in perception between humans and nonhuman species, the seventeenth edition of Montréal’s Momenta Biennale de l’Image—curated by Stefanie Hessler in collaboration with Camille Georgeson-Usher, Maude Johnson, and Himali Singh Soin, and on view until October 24—addresses the effects of sensing, and being sensed by, the natural world. The theme is

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  • Portfolio: Arthur Tress

    Arthur Tress’s photographs of school life adjourned

    ARTHUR TRESS, PRESENT. At the onset of the US lockdown in March 2020, the San Francisco–based photographer Arthur Tress began to chronicle the closed buildings, deserted playgrounds, and overgrown yards of nearby schools in Northern California. Seventeen months later, the resulting series, introduced here and titled “In Recess,” consists of more than 15,000 black-and-white photographs of 125 elementary, middle, and high schools, from Bodega Bay to Pismo Beach. Devoid of children playing hopscotch, spreading gossip, and gobbling down snacks, his eerie pictures, oscillating in affect between the

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  • Look, Look Again

    Critical encounters with Jasper Johns

    FOR ALMOST AS LONG as Artforum has been in circulation, its critics have wrestled with Jasper Johns’s startlingly inventive, thrillingly enigmatic body of work. This month, we have compiled a selection of those encounters—spanning generations and frames of reference—ranging from legendary curator Walter Hopps’s interview with the then-young artist coinciding with his survey at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1965 to Anne Wagner’s brilliant elucidation of the epochal Flag, 1954–55, written in the waning years of the Bush administration. Accompanying these pieces, too, is a rare text written by Johns

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  • Loose Threads

    Meredith Martin on the “Nouvelles Indes” tapestries

    THIS SUMMER IN PARIS, two museums installed versions of the same artworks—eighteenth-century French tapestries from a royal series known as the “Nouvelles Indes” (New Indies)—to tell very different stories about European legacies of race, slavery, and colonialism. One version hangs in the lavish period rooms of the new Hôtel de la Marine in the Place de la Concorde, while another was part of an exhibition devoted to the forty-two-year-old Congolese artist Sammy Baloji at the École des Beaux-Arts. Despite the fact that both sets of hangings came from the Mobilier National and were on view only

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  • Twisted Sister

    Paula Burleigh on Lynn Hershman Leeson

    A WOMAN NAMED ROBERTA BREITMORE steps off a Greyhound bus and checks into San Francisco’s Dante Hotel. The year is 1973. Single with no friends in the city, Roberta nervously contemplates her next move, eventually placing roommate-seeking ads in local newspapers. She receives forty-three responses. A victim of childhood trauma, she never finished college and struggles with anxiety. Susceptible to the promises of self-improvement fads, she joins Weight Watchers and EST. After undergoing an exorcism in 1978, Roberta resurfaces, zombielike, as a telerobotic doll with camera eyes in the 1990s. In

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  • Smoke Signals

    Silas Martí on the 34th São Paulo Bienal

    “THOUGH IT’S DARK, STILL I SING” is the name of the show. Though it’s a pandemic and the country is on the verge of collapse, still we find ways to celebrate. Nothing spells dystopia more than a tightly packed queue of art-world elites each waiting their turn to be tested for Covid-19 before entering the VIP opening of this year’s much-anticipated thirty-fourth Bienal de São Paulo. Screens mounted at the door of Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist pavilion in the city’s biggest park beeped and grew brighter with each test result, allowing the patient to step into the premises. It felt like boarding a

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    Kate Sutton on Protocinema’s “A Few In Many Places”

    COINED BY THE ENVIRONMENTALIST David Foreman in 1990, rewilding describes a preservation strategy that allows ecosystems to strike a new equilibrium after long periods of abuse and reckless overextraction. While certainly contentious in conservation circles, the promise of a clean slate at a moment when all other options seem exhausted has gained traction in the popular imagination (just think of how many “nature is healing” memes have floated around in the past year and a half). In their essay “Cur(at)ing for a Broken World: The Case for Collective Rewilding,” the curatorial group Collective

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  • Total Recall

    Diana Kamin on the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection

    “IT’S LIKE GOOGLE IMAGES, but in paper and folders.” This has been the simplest way for me to describe the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection to friends, family, and students unfamiliar with one of New York City’s great underknown treasures. The analogy captures the important features of the Picture Collection—its scale, its indexing, and its promise of democratized access. Here, more than a million clipped photographs, prints, maps, illustrations, and sundry other material are organized under thousands of subject headings—from “Apparitions” to “Scorpions” to “Trade Unions”—and are

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