Facts of Life


Left: Power Station of Art director Shanghai Gong Yan, Shanghai Biennial curator Anselm Franke, and Li Xu, director of the Shanghai Biennal’s office. Right: Shanghai Biennial cocurators Liu Xiao, Freya Chou, and Cosmin Costinas.

IN THE FIRST FEW HOURS after my arrival in Shanghai, all anyone seemed to talk about were the films Lucy and Interstellar, and I was suddenly reminded of 2012, when one had to follow the popular soap opera Legend of Zhen Huan to participate in any conversations. It seems the Chinese art world’s interests have shifted from Qing Dynasty–era royal politics to apocalyptic futures grafted with fabulist science. A welcome change, in my book; if our fictions speak to a certain truth of our social life, how much more fun to privilege the future over the past, science fiction over fusty politics?

Fictions were also at the center of “Social Factory,” the tenth edition of the Shanghai Biennial and the ostensible reason so many of us made the trek over. Anselm Franke, who curated the biennial along with Freya Chou, Liu Xiao, and Para/site director Cosmin Costinas, takes as his premise the role that fictions play in the institutions that shape our daily life, his title invoking that Durkheimian metric the “social fact” as well as the proletarian mythologies central to modern Chinese political identity. It was a properly heady subject, and even if the biennial had been the only game in town, it would have been worth the trip.

As it was, I wish I’d had access to an Interstellar-style wormhole to make it through all the shows and openings. I lucked out with the second-best arrangement, a car and a group of like-minded friends. With this we were able to truck it through both the outer museums and galleries—BANK ART, Rockbund Art Museum (showing Ugo Rondinone), and Pearl Lam—before hitting the thriving M50 district, where we discovered MadeIn’s new production line at ShanghArt, Tang Dixin at Aike Dellarco, Yu Honglei at Antenna Space, and a smart doubleheader at Chronus Art Center: Jeffrey Shaw’s Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment system and Hu Jieming’s mechanical monster.

Left: Artist Wang Jianwei and Liu Chuang Right: Artist Ming Wong and Trevor Yeung.

Our sci-fi fictions also played a role in one of the more inspired shows I saw last weekend, “Cosmos,” the inaugural exhibition at Shanghai’s 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum. The show brims with all sorts of fantastical work—from Ryoji Ikeda’s Radar (Shanghai) to Yang Zhenzhong’s interactive installation Please Sit—while the catalogue spins on weird and wonderful allusions. “[Stephen] Hawking’s arrow of time turns 360 degrees; do not attempt to exhaust all history within one second.” writes Dr. Ai Min, vice chairman of the Social Responsibility Management Committee of Minsheng Banking Corporation—and also, it turns out, a poet.

I finally made it to the massive Power Station, China’s only state-run contemporary art institution and the biennial’s current home, just in time for the 2 PM Saturday preview. The VIP and media desks were busy sorting out the different versions of invitation cards and entry bands, but the real chaos was in the exhibition itself, as preparators scurried to put last-minute touches on installations before the show opened—a common enough story in Chinese contemporary art. Even given the late adjustments, this biennial appears more polished than the last edition, when certain artists were encouraged to adapt their works to incorporate unintended transportation damages.

“Social Factory” touches on many disparate narratives: techno-animism and China’s early-twentieth-century enlightenment movement, the younger generations’ cyber explorations, middle-aged artists’ long-standing dedication to the heritage of the Cold War. Franke’s catalogue essay conjures an ambitious number of references, including Mao Zedong’s famous principle “seek truth from facts,” Alexander Kluge’s idea of the subjectivity of history, Confucius’s theory of the “living flow of things,” James Scott’s criticism of the nation-state, and, of course, cybernetics. None of these narratives are in opposition, and yet it’s also difficult to track direct relations among them. There are a lot of interesting associations, but also a lot of missed connections.

Left: Dealer Leo Xu, UCCA curator Venus Lau, and artist Cui Jie. Right: Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian.

Indeed, the task of translation puts great pressure on Chinese art institutions who work with foreign artists and curators. “Such a big museum is operated by a small staff of under forty employees,” said Li Xu, the director of the biennial’s office. “Yesterday, I stayed at work until 4 AM, then came back a few hours later without even having time to take a shower.” The persistent tradition of installing minutes before the opening is at least partially due to the lack of staff who can coordinate between Chinese and foreign systems.

Even in situations where there are no language barriers, obstacles remain. At the entrance I encountered Chen Chieh-jen, who, as a Taiwanese artist dedicated to tracing labor and social movements through film, certainly makes an easy target for bowdlerization. Chen had just finished installing the day prior, but the delayed arrival of his work was not due to any political reason; rather, it was an administrative mistake on the part of the museum. “If my work were to be shipped back to Taipei, some Taiwanese press would seize the chance to label the incident as another case of censoring art’s freedom of expression. So I told the curators that such a situation should be avoided at all costs.” To Gao Shiming, member of the biennial’s “academic” (i.e., non-market-oriented) committee, Chen’s work Transformation Text—an installation that archives his prior practice in chapters, inspired by the Bianwen literary form of the Tang Dynasty—represents the biennial’s core. “Many do not realize that biopolitics must be discussed together with classical political economies,” Gao argued.

The “social factory” theme continued at the parallel Inter-Asia Biennial Forum. As part of the event, Japanese Tent Theater director Daizo Sakurai set up a temporary stage on the Power Station’s outdoor plaza, where independent media from Hong Kong, workers’ bands from Taipei, and members from Daizo’s Beijing theater troupe would gather for daylong performances and discussion.

Left: Theater director Wang Molin and artist Chen Chieh-jen. Right: Shanghai Biennial academic committee member Gao Shiming.

Tent Theater began as small underground productions in the 1960s with strong connections to Japan’s social movements. While contemporary art’s popularity in Asia rises, Daizo insists on keeping a distance from institutional structures. The members of his Tokyo group are mostly recent graduates from professional schools. According to Daizo, these youth are nomads, exiled from the collective of society at large. The professional art crowd that gathered at the Power Station during the biennial opening was like another kind of nomadic tribe. Its members speak multiple languages and travel between different countries; they believe in the power of art and culture; they are workaholics, activists, practitioners. To them, slowness is the enemy, and one must rapidly grasp opportunities and digest information.

Keeping on the fast train, that night more than one hundred guests gathered in the museum’s grand hall on the seventh floor for a dinner celebrating twenty years of the biennial. After a ten-minute black-and-white film, in which key figures recounted their personal involvement with the biennial accompanied by nostalgic music (“I wouldn’t want my face projected that big on a screen. You’d be able to see every pore on my nose,” artist Shi Qing murmured), committee member Homi Bhabha raised a glass and offered his own incisive if sentimental toast to this edition. “In this moment,” he said, “confrontations and differences will be resolved only through a repetition of slow reflections of the complexity with which we have to struggle. In every way, this biennial is struggling as we speak.”

Who can argue with that? Though the practice may be harder than the preach. For the nomadic art tribe, someone suggested, the surest way to achieve “a repetition of slow reflections” might be through that most universal social fact: the hangover. And with that goal in sight, we merrily repaired to the afterparty.

Du Keke

Left: Homi Bhabha and editor Aimee Lin. Right: Japanese tent-theater director Daizo Sakurai.

Pole Position


Left: Artist Martha Wilson. (Photo: Sarah Bodri) Right: HotNuts cofounder Produzentin Proddy and Das Hussy. (Photo: Josh Chong)

“ART CAN BE TRICKY in Toronto,” said art critic Bill Clarke. “Once you find it, it’s incredibly vibrant. But you have to find it.” We were standing in the VIA Rail Panorama Lounge in the Great Hall of Union Station during the cocktails and dinner for the fortieth anniversary of Art Metropole. Founded by artist collective General Idea in 1974, Art Metropole has for decades, with resolute passion and meager resources, distributed artists’ editions and publications, as a nonprofit bookshop, lending library, gallery, publisher, and most simply a center. The group who assembled for Thursday’s event reflected that spirit: a bit punk, certainly smart, totally committed. As the crowd, including collector-philanthropists Gilles and Julia Ouellette and curator Jonathan Shaughnessy from the National Gallery of Canada, shifted from champagne to the dinner, a few sculpturally peculiar foam cushions poked out from the seats. A graying dowager whispered with delight, “Mine goosed me!” Laurie Kang of the collective Fiancé Knows admitted with a mischievous smile that a few had been intended as “stimulating pillows.”

Though introduced and MC’d by effulgent drag queen Mary Messhausen of Hotnuts and a duo of mysteriously gendered cohorts, the official announcements came from current Art Metropole director Corinn Gerber and board copresident Danielle St. Amour, both of whom were only twinkles in their respective parents’ eyes when the institution was inaugurated. “Art Met has been doing so much with rather little for so long now that it was nice to do something a bit brazen,” St. Amour told me after her speech. “And being brazen on one’s fortieth seems like a fine indicator of doing a decent job of life.”

Throughout the dinner, one critic and a variety of artists spun tales about the donated artworks for the charity auction. Clarke wove a heartbreaker about a sketch his grandfather made; David Horvitz talked about a series of moody Polaroids of road trips to the Spiral Jetty, for some years forgotten in a red bank bag and later saved from a closet; and a radically coiffed Martha Wilson discussed one of her earlier experimental haircuts, documentation of which constituted the many-petaled chrysanthemum of her donated print.

Left: Artists Duane Linklater and David Horvitz. Right: Art Metropole board copresident Danielle St. Amour and director Corinn Gerber. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)

Between each story, Atlantic chef Nathan Isberg pulled off strange course after strange course. The mix of locavore slow-cooking, Rasputinish alchemy, and minimalism could easily be described as “stark” or “uncompromising”; mostly it was gently and high-mindedly delicious. The first course consisted of three hollowed-out and gilded eggs with their tops shaved off, each filled with a delicate dollop of sashimi, slivers of fresh vegetable, or roe. Each morsel was like a succulent poem that lasted no longer than a haiku, so no one could blame those diners who snuck backstage to eat a few cold slices of leftover pizza from the volunteers’ early-evening pies.

The dinner emptied into a party already in swing next door in the station’s Great Hall, a yawning, vaulted industrial cathedral, with the names of Canadian cities taking the place of saints circling the mantle of the muscular brick columns. A difficult place for the sweaty intimacy of a rave, but the mostly youngish artists that made up the revelers danced with fervor. I snuck around the edges sipping weird cocktails and Canadian beer, trying to glean something of Toronto’s contemporary art scene. No one seemed particularly territorial, though people were quick to mention Michael Snow or Suzy Lake (currently enjoying a retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario). Largely driven by mostly ephemeral artist-run centers (Art Metropole one of the heroically lasting exceptions), one could sense a wealth of talent in the city, but not enough opportunities to support or export it, with the result that a lot of said talent either struggles or splits.

A couple nights later, cool rain washed away an early snow and a crowd amassed for an opening at the delightfully named artist-run space 8-11. When EDM DJ Skrillex passed through the city, he posted a snap of their storefront, resulting in the space going viral and leading to a cease-and-desist letter from the aggrieved corporate overlords at 7-11. But the sign still beams brightly in the dark night from the crumbling heritage building it shares with a bonsai shop and a gentleman’s club. The collective’s membership “hovers between eight and eleven people, though currently at nine,” I was told by Xenia Benivolski, a talented organizer of sundry artist-run projects around Canada and member of the collective running the space. From Russia by way of Israel, Benivolski had been in and around Toronto for fourteen years, and was able to put the city in perspective: “Artists always want to leave Toronto, but when they do, they always want to come back.”

Andrew Berardini

Left: Kara Hamilton of Kunstverein Toronto. Right: Mary Messhausen, curator Xenia Benivolski, and writer/collector Bill Clarke. (Photos: Sarah Bodri)

Sleep No More

New York

Left: Artist Tom Sachs. Right: Creative Time artistic director Anne Pasternak with designer Waris Ahluwalia. (Photos: Christos Katsiaouni)

CREATIVE TIME is a venerable nonprofit arts organization that is literally forty-one years old, so if Friday night’s Fall Ball sleepover felt like a Sweet Sixteen party planned by an overanxious momma, we’re not being mean, just insensitive. We arrived at Neuehouse a little before 10 PM, or two hours after start time. The party would go until 8 the next morning. Dinner was over and beginning again; salmon and salad and wild rice, exactly right for the art world’s pre–South Beach diet, were served in quantities larger than the crowd. Yet around the corner, a line was winding up for red beans and regular rice, cooked by the sculptor Tom Sachs. Is there anything a professional can do that an artist can’t do better?

Ben Bronfman, best known as the father of M.I.A’s child, was complaining about the lethargic bartenders. “Kanye once started a meeting with me, ‘You know, when you’re a king…’ ” he said, wistfully joining a drink line somewhat lacking in art-world royalty and the service they’re accustomed to. One admires Neuehouse for commissioning and installing Jill Magid’s cursive neon sign, MAKE ME ANONYMOUS, just above the bar.

A long-haired man was wearing dark purple shades in low lighting, so we asked if he was famous. He answered that he had been in jail for eighteen years and seventy-eight days, and we immediately hoped that Damien Echols, a member of the West Memphis Three, had a very good night. Later, a PR girl informed us that he was reading tarot downstairs. (“He learned it in prison! He lives in Harlem now.”) Mel Chin arrived with a patch over the left lens of his eyeglasses—“I taped it myself,” he said of the glasses, “with gaffing tape”—but didn’t stop to watch the male contortionist in Dr. Caligari makeup flatten himself into a paper clip. Dustin Yellin came by, and we pretended to write down things he said. The Citizens Band took the stage. Some Weimar Republican bantered idly into the microphone about “happenings,” then made an Ebola joke. It was not even 10:45.

Left: Contortionist with the Citizens Band. Right: VFiles' Ruth Gruca with vmagazine.com editor Natasha Stagg. (Photos: Luis Ruiz)

There were so many places to sit, and few ways to relax. The designer Sebastián Errázuriz held an attenuated game of Pictionary. Some people in jeans played Twister, while a couple dressed for business did Robert Lazzarini’s “Porn Puzzle” (like a regular puzzle, only printed with a pornographic image). A “Casper Divine” explained their skimpy tank top: “This is mesh, honey. My friend designed it but I forgot her name.” Another nameless friend of Casper’s flashed pink, Pop Rocks–like nail art designed by non–nail artists Rob Pruitt and Will Cotton, saying, “It’s very Rihanna, don’t you think?”

“It’s Katy Perry!” exclaimed a lithe young man, dashing into a darkened enclave that turned out to be a karaoke room. We looked in anyway, because you never know. She might have come with Damien Echols. Four young people sporting rainbow-zigzagged onesies— “made from synthetic alpaca wool”— moved slowly through the crowd, as if worried one might get picked off for slaughter. “We’re from Vermont!” they said, obviously. “We’re f-c-k-n-l-z.” (A brief inquiry via Neuehouse’s excellent wifi revealed FCKNLZ to be a “gypset lifestyle collective” that “specializes in mistakes.”)

We headed downstairs to survey the resting quarters. Rows of tightly packed white cots, like an army barracks for consumption patients, were bathed in a low green light. Alessandra Brawn—now introducing herself as “the wife of Jon Neidich,” Neidich being a Creative Time board member and former manager of the Boom Boom Room—was politely telling a friend how to Instagram her. Brawn rearranged herself on the cot, throwing one arm casually above her head.

Left: Artist Mel Chin. (Photo: Luis Ruiz) Right: Artist Marco Brambilla with musician Ben Bronfman. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com)

“Tarot is booked until 4 AM,” said a clipboard, but did we want a quickie? We sat cross-legged in front of Jen DeNike, barefoot. She laid out a four-card spread, explaining that reporters are particularly suited to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s deck of tarot cards: The filmmaker based Holy Mountain (1973) on Mount Analogue, René Daumal’s 1960 novel about “a journalist who finds a lost mountain.” We’re less the type of journalists to ask where a mountain is and more the type to ask how you could have lost a mountain, but never mind. “You need to bring the fire up,” DeNike told us. “You need to bring yourself up more, I guess, and come out of hiding. Be a little more extroverted.”

Dustin Yellin came by again, more up and out of hiding than ever, with no shirt and a bare ass hanging out of a pair of orange shorts. The spirit world had sent us a guide. “You must know Dustin Yellin,” said a gallery guy, wryly. “He’s a famous artist.” Dustin Yellin looked humble for a moment. “I’m a small guy in a big town,” he said. Later, we learned that the “Nick Cave for IKEA” piece at Neuehouse is actually a Dustin Yellin sculpture.

Pizza materialized by 1 AM, along with a pile of confetti. Rich girls changed into matching pajamas. The night was so exquisitely coordinated; it’s a shame no one danced. We did, however, find the action amid all the activities, in a small room manned by David Colman and a pair of TSA-style “officers.” Inside it was bright, and when our officer slipped on his blue latex gloves and took off our clothes, too slowly, until we had to stop (had to literally say “I insist that you stop”), we felt like we were playing at adults, which after all is the point of a sleepover.

Kaitlin Phillips and Sarah Nicole Prickett

Left: Artist David Colman with Madeline Weeks. Right: Artist Dustin Yellin. (Photos: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com)

Suddenly Next Summit


Left: Creative Time artistic director Anne Pasternak. Right: Artist Tania Bruguera. (Photos: Amy Helene Johansson)

“ARTISTS ARE NOT PERIPHERAL to our daily lives, but central,” said Creative Time artistic director Anne Pasternak, speaking from a multicolored, inflatable podium, one of three playful props situated around the stage of Stockholm’s Kulturhuset. With issues such as migration, nationalism, xenophobia, and surveillance as foci, the sixth iteration of the Creative Time Summit wasn’t going to be light fare, and the whimsical decor by artist Bella Rune, who’s also worked on sets for the Knife, offered welcome comic relief throughout last weekend’s two-day marathon. Rune’s design aimed to render the summit “more Creative Time and less TED.” It worked. “I feel like I’m in Pee-wee Herman’s playhouse,” said Creative Time chief curator Nato Thompson in his opening remarks.

This was the first Summit to be held outside New York City—and the US—as Creative Time partnered with the government-affiliated Public Art Agency Sweden to bring the summit to Stockholm. The event largely consisted of thematic clusters of ten-minute presentations by artists engaging with social justice and activism, often probing the loopholes of the law to challenge institutions of power. In one instance, artist Tania Bruguera, inspired by Pope Francis’s 2013 Mass on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa that commemorated migrants dead at sea, launched a campaign petitioning the Pope to declare the undocumented migrants to Europe as “citizens of the Vatican.”

The harsh, Procrustean format dictated a degree of professionalism usually missing from presentation in the arts. The Summit’s curators—Thompson and Magdalena Malm, director of Public Art Agency Sweden—stressed the multiple methodologies found across politically and socially engaged public art. While situated on the periphery of the art world’s locus of power, said Thompson, socially engaged artists “outnumber those who are in the center.” When projects from the vast field of cultural production that deals with the social and political enter the “center”—commercial galleries and museums—the issue becomes that of legitimization. The works are suddenly critiqued based on moral and ethical questions they never sought to address. Maybe the “periphery” isn't a bad place to be.

Left: Saskia Sassen. (Photo: Amy Helene Johansson) Right: Artist Jeremy Deller with Creative Time curator Nato Thompson. (Photo: Hili Perlson)

Sociologist Saskia Sassen’s opening keynote sketched out the connections among recent financial crises, the increasing power of multinational corporations, and the decrease in the rights of citizens. Her “hobby,” she stated, was “counting the rights we’re losing.” Immigrants suffer most from low-level interventions by the state, she maintained, as immigration authorities are bound to homeland security. “How much do we know of these abuses of law?” she asked, exiting the stage with a call for action.

Ram Manikkalingam, director of Dialogue Advisory Group, moderated a cluster of presentations on “Nationalisms,” a sentiment which, as demonstrated by recent elections across Europe, is on the rise. Sweden, frequently referred to on The Daily Show as a sort of sane haven, was bitterly criticized for its institutional racism. Swedish writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri, who discovered his love for language through gangster rap (he cited hearing Nas’s line “Begin like a violin / End like leviathan” as a formative moment), read aloud a passage describing how Stockholm, and his view of himself, alter according to which group of friends he associates with in public space. Artist Jonas Dahlberg spoke of the ideas behind his design for Memory Wound, the memorial to the victims of the 2011 terrorist attack in Norway.

As the day progressed, the presentations began to drift in all directions, despite moderators’ efforts to hew to their respective themes. A particularly strong talk by the Ford Foundation’s Roberta Uno provided a much-needed sense of anchoring, and criticality. Uno named examples of self-sustaining, community-organized efforts, like the revitalized canoeing tradition of First Nations peoples by younger generations, calling out a “segregation” of ideas in the arts community. She suggested that the art world ignores important examples of public space already activated by the arts, because those occur in a “parallel universe”—that is, outside the world of nonprofit arts communities, and often within specific ethnic groups. In a changing world, Uno argued, we have to recalibrate “our thinking about the arts community, reshape its values and identity, and learn” from successful examples emerging within cultures of scarcity.

Left: Ghana Think Tank and Soraya Post. (Photo: Amy Helene Johansson) Right: Artist Bella Rune. (Photo: Hili Perlson)

At the end of day one, presenters, organizers, and friends gathered around small tables at the Moderna Museet for a vegetarian Ethiopian-Swedish dinner designed by artist Loulou Cherinet and head chef Malin Söderström. Guests were also encouraged to give back “energy” to Kultivator, an artist-run farm from which the food had been sourced, in a specially designed toilet.

The second day was packed with presentations on intersections of social justice and politics, with high-profile speakers and moderators such as Edi Rama, prime minister of Albania and artist; Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a Pirate Party representative in the Icelandic Parliament; and the impressive powerhouse politician Soraya Post, the EU Parliament’s first member elected on a feminist ticket in Sweden, and only the second Roma candidate ever elected. Creative Time’s Laura Raicovich opened the day, which focused on surveillance and migration.

Left: Roberta Uno. (Photo: Hili Perlson) Right: Brigitta Jónsdóttir. (Photo: Amy Helene Johansson)

Some of the most captivating presentations included the brilliantly simple subversions of the Ghana Think Tank, which sets up self-sustaining laboratories in so-called “developing countries” to help solve first-world problems. When Westport, Connecticut, residents complained about the lack of diversity in their community, Ghana Think Tank’s task force on El Salvadoran issues suggested they invite the day laborers who clean their houses and tend their gardens to Westport social functions. Ghana Think Tank hired workers to do precisely that, for fifteen dollars an hour. Tomáš Rafa’s documentary New Nationalism was particularly intense, equal amounts brave and bleak. But not all presenters were as compelling. Artist Dora Garcia waxed philosophical on a recent work constructed from East German Stasi archive material. Not only was the work itself misguided in its breach of Stasi victims’ privacy by using their files for the purpose of an art project, but her conclusions were equally naive: She essentially declared Big Data to be harmless based on East Germany’s failure to anticipate the fall of the wall despite the Stasi’s ubiquitous surveillance—that is, neglecting to recognize the difference between mere information and metadata.

Privilege, power, and empowerment were ultimately the weekend’s buzzwords, as artists reflected on the impact of their interventions. Danish curator Tone Olaf Nielsen drove home the point regarding long-term impact as she stressed the need for permanence: “Asylum-seekers and forced migrants in Denmark are sick and tired of artists coming in temporarily to do a project inside the camps and leave again.” Shifting power relations between artists and the disempowered they are seeking to help is arguably the most essential element to effecting meaningful change. The summit proved that there’s a lot of pragmatic “artivism” around.

Hili Perlson

Empire State of Mind

New York

Kim Gordon at “The Return of Schizo-Culture” at MoMA PS1. (All photos: Charles Roussel)

“MEDIOCRITY IS THE NEW BLACK, PEOPLE!” Bemoaning New York’s postmillennial makeover as a “luxury vitrine for the rest of the world,” as Semiotext(e) founder Sylvère Lotringer put it earlier in the day, Penny Arcade exhorted the young, attractive crowd of art-world punters to reboot themselves into an earlier, more oppositional iteration of the city’s arts community. The occasion for the packed VW Dome at MoMA PS1 last Sunday afternoon was “The Return of Schizo-Culture,” a six-hour, multiparticipant, multimedia event that attempted to evoke the spirit of the Schizo-Culture conference, an anarchic four-day colloquy of French theorists and American radicals organized by Lotringer and Semiotext(e) at Columbia University in 1975.

An umbrella metaphor for the “revolution in desire” heralded by the work of Deleuze & Guattari and Michel Foucault, among others, “ ‘schizo’ does not refer here to any clinical entity,” as the press release for the original event defined it, “but to the process by which social controls of all kinds, endlessly re-imposed by capitalism, are broken up and opened to revolutionary change.” The Schizo-Culture conference brought together (and, in some cases, rent asunder) Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, William S. Burroughs, R. D. Laing, Arthur C. Danto, Ti-Grace Atkinson, John Cage, Judy Clark, Richard Foreman, and others, all charged with presenting papers, panels, performances, and workshops on institutional and semiotic systems of control and strategies to evade them, focusing on the oppression inherent in psychiatry, prisons, language, and the patriarchy. (Foucault’s Discipline and Punish had just been published in France.)

The cross-cultural (dis)connections of the weekend were amusingly encapsulated by Danto, the American philosopher and critic, recalling the conference in 1997: “Sylvère, for some reason, put me in the same slot that first evening as Lyotard, a man who has what I think of as the true gift of incoherence. The rest of the French have been trying to achieve it, but he was born with it, like perfect pitch.” Guattari was booed off the stage by Atkinson and her supporters; Foucault and Guattari quarreled throughout the weekend; Lyotard was snubbed by his French colleagues; Burroughs aired his suspicion of intellectuals; fights broke out in the audience during talks; and provocateurs from Lyndon LaRouche’s Labor Committee loudly and repeatedly accused Foucault (and other presenters) of being on the CIA payroll. (The second time the charge was leveled, Foucault was ready, telling the provocateur, “You’re entirely right. I was paid by the CIA, R. D. Laing was paid by the CIA, Lotringer himself was paid by the CIA. The only one here who hasn’t been paid by the CIA is you, because you have been paid by the KGB.” At which even the heckler laughed and sat back down, duly disciplined.)

Left: John Giorno. Right: Schizo-Culture catalogues.

At this distance, these huffy internecine squabbles seem little more than apt instances of Freud’s narcissism of small differences, ably parodied in Monty Python’s Life of Brian in the form of tiny anti-Roman resistance groups and their contempt for one another: “Judean People’s Front? Pigs! We’re the People’s Front of Judea!” But the fissures were real; the American Left was already fragmented by 1975 and would atomize even further in the coming years.

Fast forward to 2014: I found myself sitting on the floor of a geodesic dome hosted by MoMA, on the site of a former public school, in an event series sponsored by Volkswagen, watching Lotringer and roughly thirty friends and colleagues, mostly from the New York arts underground of the 1960s–’80s, as they tried to “recreate chaos” by presenting a “series of singularities” that might, at least for one afternoon, destabilize our increasingly professional, culturally conservative city. (For a musical lesson on how New York has changed since the ’70s, compare the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered” to Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.”) “We’re part of a machine that you can’t attack anymore,” Lotringer lamented in his introductory remarks. He described Semiotext(e), longtime cult publisher of continental theory and other avant-garde writing, as “always close to the art world but not part of it, separate from careerism and institutions; not the art world, but art.”

After a paint-peeling performance of bagpipes accompanied by an abrasive electric violin, master of ceremonies Penny Arcade announced, “Once gods bestrode New York City; one of these was Richard Foreman.” The experimental theater veteran took the stage for a Q&A, still resembling Harvey Pekar after all these years. Foreman said that we should celebrate Lotringer for bringing a whole trend of thought to the US (French poststructuralist theory), which offered Foreman a “way to reframe a world that I didn’t like.” “It’s over now,” he admitted, “everyone’s dead.” “Theory is a training of the mind,” he said, allowing one “to become a different person and then write as that different person.”

Writer Ann Rower followed, reading a funny, autobiographical piece about a lesbian couple in Las Vegas, visiting the area to attend the Semiotext(e)-related Chance Conference in 1996 (which I covered for Artforum as a young freelancer). Downtown poet and Burroughs colleague John Giorno, irrepressibly spritely at seventy-seven, delivered a poem called “Thanks for Nothing,” a less mordant echo of Burroughs’s “Thanksgiving Prayer,” in which Giorno recalled dead peers like Warhol and the Beats but said that he didn’t miss them at all (even if he hoped that they would come back to fulfill our every wish).

Suicide frontman Alan Vega appeared with his wife and son, performing a scatological spoken-word piece (with screams, growls, and “fucks”) over a minimalist electronic loop, his family interjecting words and phrases into the fractured narrative. It’s hard to imagine a less familial man than Vega, but there they were, the picture of a certain kind of domestic bliss. Poet Eileen Myles came next, carrying a red Netflix DVD envelope, which she asked an audience member to mail for her. She read a piece about “mean lesbians, drinking in the ’70s,” in which she gets into a fight with a cop and is maced for her troubles. Penny Arcade muffed Lynne Tillman’s name and occupation, calling her “Liz” and introducing her as a poet. Tillman graciously rolled with this, reading an early piece of hers about random sex with men. She riffed on the statistic that men think about sex every seven minutes (and how difficult it was for her to mimic this), and mused about having sex with actors, but only in particular roles (e.g., Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans).

Left: Lix Lamere, Alan Vega, and Dante Vega. Right: Penny Arcade.

Taking a break from MC duties, Arcade performed her own spoken-word piece over an audio collage of loops of iconic songs from the ’60s through the ’00s, centered on longing for a future analogous to the New York arts scene of her youth, taking great pains to differentiate such longing from nostalgia. (Her performance was emblematic of the entire event, an appropriately schizophrenic mix of Boomer narcissism, “kids these days” finger-wagging, and legitimate but hopeful critique of today’s New York.) Punk godfather Richard Hell read from the “cold-ass genre novel” he’s currently working on, a decidedly prefeminist blast of pornographic machismo reminiscent of Henry Miller (“male sex stuff,” I wrote in my notes). A power trio of young bros played a pair of typically jagged, aggro John Zorn compositions, the composer running out to hug them enthusiastically afterward.

Having just gotten off a plane, apparently, Kim Gordon took the stage in a short orange dress carrying a vintage Fender Jaguar. After reading a short, poem-like piece about a male rock god of some sort (from her description, I imagined Kurt Cobain), she strummed the guitar, which was in an atonal tuning that made Sonic Youth sound like the Monkees, and started enacting rockish gestures with it, swinging it around on its strap, coaxing feedback, banging it on the floor, scraping its strings on the edge of the stage. Her face remained still the entire time. No one does “jaded” better than Kim Gordon.

Except perhaps Gary Indiana, who appeared in a black velour tracksuit with red piping, accompanied by electric violinist Walter Steding, who was wearing a gaucho hat equipped with light emitting diodes on each side. They blinked randomly to no discernible effect. His playing was only slightly more irritating than fingernails on a chalkboard. This was in support of Indiana’s “found poem,” apparently culled from far-flung precincts of the Internet. He claimed that he had once assembled the fragments into some kind of order, but that he lost the plot, literally and figuratively. Scientists, Halloween costumes, Heidi Klum, and instructions for poaching the perfect egg all drifted by in the obfuscatory haze. After Indiana gave up, the violinist played us out with a wah-wah pedal, his hat lights blinking.

Left: Walter Steding and Gary Indiana. Right: The crowd at “The Return of Schizo-Culture” at MoMA PS1.

This was somewhat anticlimactic. I mean, no one fought, there were no baseless CIA accusations, no booing, heckling, or ideological superslams. The foundations of the intellectual establishment had not been undermined, let alone destroyed. Neither MoMA nor Volkswagen was brought to its knees in the face of “nomadism” and “chaosophy.” (To the contrary, MoMA turned the dome into a giant veal-fattening pen, periodically issuing edicts that people were to move forward, move closer, sit, stand, etc. to make room for even more people who wanted to get in. It had a whiff of the carceral so exhaustively explored by Foucault.)

The biggest problem had to do with the stakes of the event, which should have been high given the intensity of the original conference and how badly things need to be shaken up today. While there was a quasi-revolutionary kickstarter mood to the whole thing, it was essentially an afternoon of quirky entertainment. Phallocentrism, complacency, and gentrification were addressed and mildly troubled, but that was about it. Certainly there was nothing along the lines of this pronouncement from Guattari at the original Schizo-Culture event, “We are moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication. […] Compared with the approaching forms of ceaseless control in open sites, we may come to see the harshest confinements as part of a wonderful happy past.” Put that in your iPhone and smoke it.

Andrew Hultkrans

Gallows Humorism

New York

Left: Dealer Gavin Brown with collector Adam Kimmel. Right: W Magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi, China Chow, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, and artist Francesco Vezzoli. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

THE OTHER DAY I heard an artist call November one of the two “big months” for art in New York. The autumn air is crisp, the moon is high, and the prices achieved at auction jump over it. Blue-chip dealers compete by opening big-ticket solo shows aimed at massing collectors, and nonprofits dive into the money pool with fall benefit galas.

This year, November brought the Independent Projects art fair to a groaning table that literally gave way during “Paradiso,” Performa’s chaotic, November 4 fund-raiser. Despite the serene presence of Kickstarter cofounder Perry Chen among the performance biennial’s 550 guests, crowdfunding here seemed almost wasteful. Strangely billed as a tribute to the European Renaissance and thirteen (thirteen!) “Renaissance women”—working artists and serious collectors—the evening turned on an infantilizing, play-with-your-food performance designed by the mischievous Jennifer Rubell.

Do people ever enjoy eating rubber chicken? That was Rubell’s unspoken question. I have another. Do the philanthropic really require spend-a-lot/get-a-little extravaganzas to part with their money? Will they not respond to a simple request for surplus, tax-deductible dollars without seeing their names on a program (or a building), or posing with window-dressing like Francesco Vezzoli (a Performa veteran) and Charlotte Gainsbourg—the tolerant guest hosts for “Paradiso” with W magazine editor Stefano Tonchi?

Left: Artist Jennifer Rubell. Right: Artist Joan Jonas and Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg.

Passive dining was not an option at the ornate Weylin B. Seymours, a late-nineteenth-century Brooklyn venue better known as the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank. It’s important to note that the gala fell on a national Election Day, and that the vote did not go well for many who were present. So swatting Rubell’s gallows-hung rubber chickens with sticks during cocktails felt vaguely appropriate.

Ditto the action that followed the soup course, served by bare-chested/bare-assed waiters in suspenders and chaps, and waitresses in the flowing white robes of a Hemingway-era wartime nurse. With conversation restricted by seating only on one side of the long, narrow tables, cautious guests were encouraged to get up and toss their crockery in with the now-guillotined chickens beneath the gallows. Performa’s actual value to the city aside, watching privileged people throw away food for fun was a little too Marie Antoinette for some. Later, I heard, the still-gleeful destroyed their tables with hammers, so as to release the chocolate desserts tucked inside them.

By that time, however, Performa honorees Joan Jonas and Maja Hoffmann had escaped to the Harlem home of Gavin Brown and Hope Atherton, where they could enjoy a civilized meal among the artists, collectors, dealers, and curators who gathered with the family of the late Elaine Sturtevant to celebrate the opening of her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

Left: Dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and artist Wangechi Mutu. Right: Artist Frank Stella and collector Michael Ballack.

Both Brown and MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, who organized the concise exhibition, gave emotional toasts to the artist, so long unrecognized in her native country. (She had lived for years in Paris.) “She showed us what an artist is,” Brown said, characterizing the exhibition as “an extraordinary show in a place she’s always belonged.” In his testimonial, Eleey recalled Sturtevant saying that “to be a Great Artist is the least interesting thing I can think of,” and read a 1972 letter of hers that made the occasion feel like a séance. “Why do you do other people’s work?” the dealer Virginia Dwan once asked Sturtevant. “I hesitate to answer,” the artist replied, “only because the closer something is to the truth the more it has distrust of words.”

Two days later, Brown outed seventy-eight-year-old Jonas as the latest addition to his roster by devoting his corner of Independent Projects to a work of hers from 1976. It wasn’t the only historical entry at the forty-one-gallery fair, which continued as a “curated” exhibition for six days after its November 9 closing. What I can say about it is that I still remember it—not my usual experience of an art fair.

One showstopper was the scarily lifelike Flea Market Lady (1990) by Duane Hanson at Brendan Dugan’s Karma Books stand. Neglected vintage works included 1988 felt banners by Mike Kelley at Skarstedt, 1962 window-shade collages by Robert Moskowitz at Kerry Schuss, 1967 drawings by the little-known John Tweedle at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, David Medalla’s bubbly “Cloud Canyons” kinetic sculpture at Venus Over Manhattan, and career-spanning collages by ninety-year-old Gianfranco Baruchello at Massimo De Carlo.

Left: MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, MMK curator Mario Kramer, and dealer Thaddeus Ropac. Right: Artist Christopher Williams.

If they all came as pleasant surprises, another work was utterly hair-raising. That was Sculpture Tactile, an unrealized and totally obscure circa 1957 sculpture by Yves Klein that Dominique Lévy produced for the fair. Visitors walked up to a white box on a pedestal and stuck an arm into a hole, only to recoil with shrieks of horror at the touch of something warm and mysterious. (A naked yoga practitioner was inside.) “That’s a slam-dunk,” said an excited Sam Falls, whose sun-bleached paintings were on show at Hannah Hoffman. “Eww!” exclaimed Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs. Jerry Saltz went back more than once.

Dealers of the new didn’t stint on quality either, and many brought works with a strong architectural presence. Michele Maccarone scored with collaged paintings by Rosy Keyser; Maureen Paley with a mirrored-wall installation of Liam Gillick’s film tribute to Richard Hamilton; Mitchell-Innes & Nash with Virginia Overton’s no-exit, found-wood structure; and Lisson Gallery with Access Boot, Haroon Mirza’s rubber room–like, light-triggering, acid-house sound installation. It’s his best, or most accessible, work to date. Bjarne Melgaard, at least, pronounced it “awesome.”

In other words, the vibe was excellent, and turned electric whenever John Giorno got up to perform before his sexually aggressive 1982 text paintings at Max Wigram’s stand. Yet a pall fell over the proceedings as word got around that the building, the former Dia Center in Manhattan, had been sold to a developer planning to convert it to—what else?—unaffordable apartments. (It’s already overshadowed by the humongous Foster + Partners tower rising behind it, and surrounded by other glass-walled, high-rise constructions that threaten to turn West Chelsea into a cold-canyon Krypton.) “We’re looking in Harlem,” reported Independent cofounder Darren Flook. Dealer Andrew Edlin, director of the Outsider Art Fair, is also facing eviction from the building, only two years after his fair seemed finally to find a proper home.

Left: Dealer Doris Amman, artist Francesco Clemente, and dealer Mary Boone. Right: Dealer David Zwirner.

After surviving Hurricane Sandy two years ago, neighborhood galleries remain undaunted. That night, the High Line Art program opened “Pier 54,” its first exhibition to appear indoors. “We’re so excited,” HLA curator Cecilia Alemani said. “We don’t have to worry about the weather!” A very satisfying feminist retort to “Pier 18,” an all-male project conceived by Willoughby Sharp in 1971, “Pier 54” documents performances carried out for Liz Ligon’s camera by twenty-seven female artists on the Hudson River’s last unreconstructed pier. (It’s the one that greeted survivors of the Titanic, and the one from which the Lusitania disembarked, later to be torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915.)

Rachel Churner is a victim of current torpedoing by landlords. Surrounded by friends for the opening of “The Last Picture Show”—her Tenth Avenue gallery’s finale—she gave an affectionate and appreciative farewell speech that sounded the saddest note of the night. David Zwirner took his own shot over a bow—of Larry Gagosian’s ship, so to speak—by opening a show of 1990s Franz West sculptures at his gallery on West Twentieth Street. Not to let anything or anyone rest, he also presented exhibitions of new works—by Neo Rauch and Christopher Williams—in his galleries on West Nineteenth. “We’re fully loaded!” he admitted.

Picking up where his recent MoMA retrospective left off, Williams’s pitch-perfect exhibition included a photograph of a magnificent show rooster with those of shiny car fenders and eviscerated cameras. “I’ve been reading poultry magazines,” he explained, before heading to the gallery dinner at Indochine (which would celebrate its thirtieth anniversary the following day). On West Twenty-Sixth Street, Fergus McCaffrey engineered another sublime pairing—of manipulated photocopy prints that Sigmar Polke based on illustrated magic books and eye-opening works in several media by the late Austrian feminist Birgit Jürgenssen. And on West Twenty-Fourth, 303 Gallery showed paintings on industrial tarps that Valentin Carron based on 1950s and ’60s book covers, and remarkably “soft” belts cast in glass.

“No one believes anything is handmade anymore!” Francesco Clemente protested during his opening at Mary Boone Gallery, where he had painted the inside walls of two Mughal-style tents embroidered in India—a pink one for devilish imagery, a blue one for angelic. Even though a suited-up Alex and Ada Katz departed early (for the Guggenheim’s Dior-sponsored gala), they left only after heaping Clemente with compliments echoed by everyone who joined him for dinner at the Top of the Standard.

Left: Publisher Dorothee Perret and artist Oscar Tuazon. Right: Dealers Maureen Paley and Oliver Evans.

Here, guests segregated themselves not in tents but on banquettes—the art crowd (Brice, Helen and Mirabelle Marden, Cecily Brown and Nicolai Ourossoff, David Salle, Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant) in one, the society figures (Anne Bass, Bob Colacello, Doris Ammann) at another, while writers Fran Lebowitz and Tanya Selvaratnam ate at the bar.

At En Japanese Brasserie, the group that Andrew Kreps and the Modern Institute gathered for a post-Independent dinner numbered only twenty, but conversation was so lively it actually heated the private upstairs room.

The following night, Frank Stella sent up temperatures during his opening at Marianne Boesky by buddying up with retired German soccer star turned collector Michael Ballack. Before them stood two very large sculptures, a new smooth and shiny one from 2014, and a twisted, dirty-steel one from 1995. “I love it!” Boesky said. “It’s like beauty and the beast.” A change of pace came a few doors away at Matthew Marks, who brought to light a cache of truly charming paintings by the obscure Albert York, and presided over the opening of a show by Martin Puryear on West Twenty-Second Street. Some sculptures were cast iron rather than wood; one of the former (Up and Over) looked so impossibly soft and erotic that it was hard to steal away to far-off Red Hook. But that’s where Dustin Yellin’s vast Pioneeer Works is located, and where Bosco Sodi found ample room to hang The Last Day, a glistening, fifty-seven-foot-long painting resembling a rough moonscape.

As the contemporary auctions loomed large, the weekend was filled with more action in galleries. George Condo brought his strongest painting in years to Skarstedt. Among the five shows at White Columns were drawings of imaginary black men who never shave by one Derrick Alexis Coard, a developmentally disabled man who has stuck to the same subject for fourteen years—with affecting results. It was more of a family affair at Maccarone, where the brothers Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen combined forces in timber, concrete, and glass. Next door, an absent Urs Fischer had a huge crowd doing double-takes at paintings that were digital prints of paintings of digital photographs. And last Monday—usually a day off—three Chelsea galleries opened shows by top-branded artists. Paul Kasmin jumped on the rolling Polke bandwagon; Thomas Houseago departed from his white plaster monsters long enough to install his apartment-size white plaster Moun Room at Hauser & Wirth; and in his first New York show since 2009, Takashi Murakami landed at Gagosian showing a nightmarish underbelly that few have detected in his work before.

Left: Artist Alex Katz with Ada Katz. Right: Raphaelle Condo, artist George Condo, and curator Stacy Engman.

Murakami produced all of it after the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan, known there simply as “3/11.” I happened to be with Murakami in Tokyo on that frightening day, the first I saw of the sensitive, outraged, philosophical and political side of this artist since “Little Boy,” the manga group show he brought to the Japan Society here in 2005. Nothing gets his dander up like a nuclear explosion, or the threat of it.

For his show, Murakami dressed not in a suit nor in one of his happy-face flowerballs but in the tattered traditional garments of a mythical character in one of his paintings. Long, prosthetic toes extended from his bare feet. Gripping his head with tiny hands was a grinning, gray-haired, silicone gargoyle with three pairs of eyes, big ears and wire-rimmed spectacles just like his own. Interesting to see what kind of spirit Murakami identifies with—part demon, part enlightened soul. “Happy to see you again,” he said.

So it goes in November. This week, Creative Time will hold a benefit “slumber party”—an all-night soiree at NeueHouse, where for $485 you can hang out with artists, dance, and sleep around. If you absolutely need to get something back for making a charitable donation, this is one way, I suppose, to train for December’s Miami Basel.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Dealer Andrew Kreps. Right: Artist Sam Falls.

My Bo


Left: MALBA curator Agustín Pérez Rubio, Museum of Fine Arts Boston curator Liz Munsell, MAMM curator Emiliano Valdés, ArtBO director María Paz Gaviria Múñoz, Tate Modern curator Tanya Barson, and Museum of Contemporary Art senior curator Alma Ruiz. Right: Curator José Roca. (All photos: Frank Expósito)

FOREIGNERS WERE ASSURED they would be safe. Amid the Bogotanos that went outside for a smoke during the blackout at a salsa club on the eve of ArtBO was María Paz Gaviria, ArtBO’s director. Her eyes widened as she spoke: “I’m very happy to have everyone here,” she said, referring to the dealers from twenty-some countries who had traveled to Colombia’s capital for the fair. Curator Emiliano Valdés had just arrived, at the party and also in the country, for his new post as chief curator at Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín. He stood with María Mercedes González, director of the MAMM, which is currently undergoing a twelve-million-dollar expansion. ARCOmadrid director Carlos Urroz Arancibia was also in town to promote his fair’s 2015 edition, where Colombia would be the featured country for the first time.

Gaviria was celebrating her third year as director of the fair, though it was rumored this, the fair’s tenth anniversary, would be her last. Some thought it was due to a strain on her relationship with Bogotá’s Chamber of Commerce, which created and continues to sponsor the fair. Their seemingly opposing views of how the fair should look—Gaviria, increasingly international; the chamber, less so—was argued to be the root. The chamber had also excluded her father’s gallery, Nueveochenta, from participating in prior editions, citing a conflict-of-interest law, even though the gallery almost exclusively represents a roster of contemporary artists from Bogotá. But this year Nueveochenta was present, showing, among other things, monumental drawings on Plexiglas by Colombian artist Jaime Ávila.

Left: Artists Catalina Sanint and Antonio Caro. Right: Artist Mateo López.

The Bogotanos call it soroche. As altitude sickness continued to set in the next day—Bogotá is over a mile and a half above sea level—the art world began the fair’s VIP program, which, at its first stop, had guests playing house at collector Katherine Bar-On’s apartment in Barrio Los Rosales. NMAC Foundation director Jimena Blázquez and JJ Foundation director Nicole Junkermann sipped coffee with Madrid CA2M director Ferran Barenblit on the balcony; the clouds were noticeably closer. Art adviser Ana Sokoloff and collector Gloria Saldarriaga wandered through the house, while Casas Riegner’s Catalina Casas spoke about her gallery’s show with Colombian artist Mateo López, whose schematic drawings were exhibited at the fair and whose installation Casa Desorientada (Disoriented House) one could sneak into in the city’s botanical gardens later in the day.

The opening for Fundación MISOL’s annual prize followed, celebrating the work of artist Erika Ordosgoitti and curator Alejandro Martín. The former took on the tradition of body art by incorporating social media in video and prints while Martín, among other interventions, regally transformed the upstairs with heavy, red velvet drapery. Even though it was in a white-cube space, the air was slightly burlesque, which seemed appropriate for an unveiling of new work. Fundación MISOL president Solita Mishaan seemed perpetually in the midst of a series of interviews and quick exchanges. One was with Blázquez, who spoke about the logistics of running a public, collecting foundation. “We choose artists because we want their work to be part of museums, not in collections,” Mishaan responded. “If MoMA was interested in this piece,” she said as she pointed to one of Ordosgoitti’s videos housed in wooden scaffolding, “I would give it to them.”

Casa Triângulo dealers Ricardo Trevisan and Rodrigo Editore navigated the growing crowd, while Instituto de Visión dealers Omayra Alvarado and Beatriz López took shelter in a not yet populated hallway on the first floor. Alvarado and López had just finished putting the final touches on their new space in the gallery district of Barrio San Felipe, which they were inaugurating the next day with a three-part group exhibition. As MISOL welcomed more people, the art world decamped to the garden where the fair had invited artists to create site-specific works. Along with López, artists such as Colombians Nadín Ospina and Andrés Jurado dealt with the built environment in an installation titled Insulas (Islands) of shrunken global monuments in another pond and in an installation titled Teatro de Insectos (Theater of Insects) that included a monitor amid the humid overgrowth in an elaborate greenhouse.

Left: ArteBA director Julia Converti and dealer Elba Benitez. Right: Artist Alicia Barney.

Most galleries at the fair came from South and Central America. São Paulo–based Galería Luisa Strina showed the conceptual paintings of Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero, while Buenos Aires–based gallery Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporáneo brought soot mandalas by Argentinian artist Tomás Espina. Henrique Faria Fine Art gave their space over to handheld, trepanned sculptures of Fernando “Coco” Bedoya, and Revolver Galería displayed geometric shelving by Peruvian artist Daniel Barclay. Galeria Jaqueline Martins showed the spatial works of Brazilian modernist Martha Araújo, while 80M2 Livia Benavides displayed Peruvian artist Iosu Aramburu’s abstractions of Le Corbusier architectural renderings, which were quickly picked up by Jorge Pérez for his Pérez Art Museum Miami. From Europe, Paris-based Mor Charpentier installed a full wall of eye-catching photographs by Carlos Motta, and Berlin-based Galerija Gregor Podnar included the relational resin-poured and cardboard sculptures of Slovene artist Tobias Putrih, a series that would also be shown outside of the fair at the latest exhibition of FLORA ars+natura, the Bogotá-based exhibition space and artist residency led by the curator José Roca.

For the second year running, Roca had also curated the fair’s solo projects section, El Uso Estético del Objecto (The Aesthetic Use of Objects), which focused on the boundary between art and design. Works appeared in a variety of recognizable functional forms: a sitting area (Daniel Acosta at Casa Triângulo), concrete architectural models (Héctor Zamora at Luciana Brito Galeria), cabinets (Sebastián Errázuriz at Cristina Grajales Gallery), and latex pants (Ana Laura Aláez at Galería Moisés Pérez de Albéniz). “Fernando Botero famously said that abstract art was only useful to decorate apartments,” the curator noted. “These works have something to them that bring them into the realm of art, or maybe they don’t. I think 90 percent of people who go to Daniel Acosta’s booth don’t recognize that’s a piece at all. This is a test to the power of the piece, which was intended to be a pavilion that generates conversation.”

Left: Fundación MISOL director Solita Mishaan and artist Erika Ordosgoitti. Right: NMAC Foundation director Jimena Blázquez and JJ Foundation director Nicole Junkermann.

“When the sun shines so brightly, it means a storm is coming,” someone said at the opening at Instituto de Visión the following morning. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition focused on environmental “bio-art” and included work by Alicia Barney, Ana María Millán, and Carolina Caycedo. “It used to be so bad here that the cartels would steal my Artforums,” Barney said about Bogotá. “They needed it to sneak in drugs.”

Caycedo’s film depicts the current building of El Quimbo, the country’s first hydroelectric power plant to be constructed by a transnational company. When finished, the plant will dam Colombia’s greatest river, the Magdalena. Caycedo’s work considers the lives of the Colombian people who depend on the river to survive. As onlookers sat there watching Zoila Ninco, an artisanal fisherwoman and day laborer featured in the film, rain and hail suddenly beat heavily on the gallery’s roof. The pipes began to rattle, and soon water pushed past the doorway. There was no escaping it. Art and nature had found each other.

Frank Expósito

Close Calls


Left: Eric Doeringer's The Hug at the opening of Artissima. Right: Artissima director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto with artist and curator Maurizio Cattelan. (Photos: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima)

ONLY MINUTES INTO THE OPENING and the palace was packed. Just after 6 PM, on the wet streets of Turin, a suited and heeled mob pushed at the doors of Palazzo Cavour for SHIT AND DIE, Artissima’s inaugural event. Artissima is owned by the region and is as much festival as fair; its off-site exhibitions, falling under the umbrella “One Torino,” and on-site prizes are as much a draw as the commercial galleries boothed in the Lingotto Oval event center. Curators Maurizio Cattelan, Myriam Ben Salah, and Marta Papini culled the title from a work by Bruce Nauman, waiting until the last moment to announce its feculent fatalism. “Many of the places we borrowed from—museums and institutions—said they wouldn’t have loaned to us if we’d told them the name,” said Ben Salah. Over the next few days, every time I ran into Artissima director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, she relayed a new story of defending to local politicians first the show’s title and then its contents, which included, to the officials’ dismay, an abundance of engorged cocks.

I finally shimmied through the mob and into a long line that curved up the stairs past Eric Doeringer’s The Hug: forty thousand single dollar bills attached to the wall, rippling with each halting lurch of the line. Once inside, I found less an exhibition than a lusty funhouse filled with fictive, beautiful, and slightly fucked-up visions of its impresarios, altogether reflecting on the witchy, gritty, and sometimes utopic tales and legends of Turin. There was a hall of tumescent fetishes by Pascale Marthine Tayou; an Ancient Greek orgy chamber drawn on-site by Dasha Shishkin and arrayed with pussies by VALIE EXPORT (1969) and Tracey Emin (2000); and a hirsute, half-staffed male nude by Sylvia Sleigh (1974). In the office of the former owner—Italy’s first prime minister, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour—under the plastic-wrapped walls and furniture hung a diminutive photograph of Toulouse-Lautrec defecating on a beach, alluding to the Count’s rumored coprophagia. Near the champagne bar, Ben Salah introduced me to Cattelan; gold-booted and entouraged, he thanked me for all my good work and then stamped my forehead with the words SHIT AND DIE. It felt like some kind of smirking baptism.

Left: Artist Dawn Kasper. (Photo: Andrew Berardini) Right: Collectors Beatrice Trussardi, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, and Lavinia Elkann. (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima)

Some fraction of the opening crowd walked to the dinner in the regal seventeenth-century Palazzo Graneri della Roccia and then to “SHIT AND PARTY” at an underground club that I might have stumbled into around 4 AM during last year’s fair, speakers pumping Spice Girls and a floor packed with hormonal teenagers. Even now the dance hall was aromatic with teen spirit. The party crackled out early for a lot of us, hotel-bound in anticipation for the fair’s opening the next day.

The rippling glass skin of the Lingotto Oval beamed brightly against the gray, autumnal sky, providing at a distance a first shimmering glance of the gathering crowd. Passing through security, I aimed for the heart of the fair, both literally and figuratively: two sections—Present Future and Back to the Future—that feature solo booths from emerging and historical artists, respectively. Organized by Luigi Fassi with Catalina Lozano, Piper Marshall, Jamie Stevens, and Xiaoyu Weng, this year’s Present Future had Dawn Kasper—vigorously working two giant paintings in the booth while her dealer David Lewis vigorously looked on from an office chair—and Robin Cameron, who built a boneyard of ceramics and an homage to Matisse’s cutouts at Room East. But the winner (especially for the jury that awarded her the Illy Prize) was Rachel Rose’s spooky video-collage at High Art, comprising transient bursts of noise with announcements, like Negativland frenetically searching for a way out of Philip Johnson’s Glass House.

In Back to the Future, I lingered around Saltoun’s installation of Hans-Peter Feldmann and Friedl Kubelka, Lutz Bacher at Buchholz, and Channa Horwitz at Ghebaly (another prize winner), before wandering into the main fair’s jungle of booths. A warped mirror hid inside a small house by Tom Burr at Franco Noero, while a decapitated head softly bounced down stairs in an Ed Atkins video at Bortolozzi. At Ibid Projects, Magnus Edensvard curated a meditative group show on studies and still lifes, anchored around a beautiful sculpture by Anthea Hamilton. Edensvard proudly described how each work fit into the whole. “I’ve been coming to Artissima for years,” he said, “mostly for conversations like the one we’re having now.”

Left: Curators Luigi Fassi and Liza Mazza. (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima) Right: Curator Piper Marshall. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)

The opening concluded with a performance by Nico Vascellari. A crowd gathered over a highway underpass next to the Lingotto, while a DJ played a recording of the last speech from Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983), in which a man sitting astride an equine statue of a Roman emperor declaims on the need for humanity to return to its foundations before setting himself on fire with a Zippo. Vascellari walked across the highway and sat astride the cement divider, the cars speeding by barely missing his legs.

The following night I ran into the artist at the headquarters for the concurrent dance festival, Club-2-Club. I found Vascellari, who was also in the music festival, beyond a carousel playing “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” and inside a live scoring by artist-filmmaker Carlos Casas. “I felt like I had to risk my life to honor that speech,” said Vascellari, “to reveal what’s truly at stake.”

If only the stakes were always so clear. An hour later in an industrial neighborhood between the Turinese suburbs of Grugliasco and Rivoli, I found myself led along a walkway lined with flaming logs into a warehouse filled with the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s sizable collection of sizable art: a crashed foil car, Cartwoman (2012), by Andra Ursuta, stood a few feet from Paul McCarthy’s carny-ride Bang Bang Room (1992), doors and walls slamming and turning. Two beautiful Charles Rays from 1986 and 1990 stood meters away, alongside works of more recent vintage, i.e., last year, by Helen Marten and Alis/Filliol.

Left: Perfomance by Nico Vascellari. Right: Curator Myriam Ben Salah. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)

Anticipating their collection’s twentieth anniversary next year, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo decided to install the show at this anonymous warehouse instead of at their normal space on Via Modane, and to host a special dinner for four hundred of their closest friends (though Francesco Bonami, until recently the Fondazione’s artistic director, skipped out early). We sat at silver-foil tables surrounded by silver-foil walls; several diners wondered whether we were seated in a Rudolf Stingel, though if it was it didn’t stop one couple from carving their names into its surface. After dinner and a turn on the dance floor, Patrizia interrupted our headbanging to drag us to the bar for glasses of thirty-year-old Nonino grappa poured, incredibly, by Antonella Nonino.

Standing under heat lamps with the smokers outside, the third person that day told me they were leaving either curating or criticism to work in a gallery. A few others complained about the distressing fate of that grand Turinese contemporary art museum, the Castello di Rivoli, whose directorship remains vacant and funding and administration uncertain. The flaming logs at the beginning of the evening had burned to smoldering charcoal, but in a projection playing both inside and outside the building, Fischli & Weiss’s kitty happily lapped its milk without a hint of slowing down.

Andrew Berardini

Left: Curators Gianni Jetzer, Lorenzo Benedetti, and Beatrice Merz. (Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Artissima) Right: Dealer Isabella Bortolozzi. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)

Supreme Being

Los Angeles

Left: Comedian and singer Bridget Everett. (Photo: Jose Negrete) Right: Tenacious D's Kyle Gass and Jack Black. (Photo: Ryan Chin)

“FUCK THIS VIP SHIT—I want some real California dick!” cried a braless Bridget Everett as she made her way toward the general admission section of the crowd. Everett eventually found an object for her affection, a masked dandy she nicknamed “Corky” (cause he was “Down’s-y in the eyes”), whom she cajoled into playing a grown-up game of airplane, bearing the weight of her significant frame right there in the middle of the stage. Soon enough she was motorboating Peaches (the musician, not the fruit), forcing a security guard’s head up her dress, and crooning gorgeously about lady parts of various shapes and sizes. The sun was still shining, but she was working on her night moves.

FOMO abounded among the ten thousand attendees at the second annual Festival Supreme, a ten-hour comedy, music, and visual art event organized by Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. Many sported elaborate costumes as we navigated the fifty-plus live acts across four stages, as well as a fifty-four-thousand-square-foot art installation, all in an early-twentieth-century Shriners temple located in downtown Los Angeles. The lineup was sick (Fred Armisen, Margaret Cho, Nick Kroll, to name a few), and as if that weren’t enough, special, surprise guests included Weird Al Yankovic, who shredded the Keytar with Tenacious D, and Zach Galifianakis, who starred, along with Orange Is the New Black’s Lauren Lapkus and Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott, in a live rendition of Scott Aukerman’s podcast and IFC show Comedy Bang! Bang!

The heart of the festival lay in its focus on comedy music, a seemingly puerile medium with surprisingly lofty potential. “The whole singer-songwriter reveal-your-feelings thing gets to be kind of embarrassing,” explained Gass. “But comedy in music is like a Brechtian alienation device—we’re removed from our feelings to reveal real truths.” For Peaches, incorporating humor into her music allows her to promote a political agenda “without scaring people off.” Plus, she added, “It’s really depressing when bands take themselves too seriously.”

Left: Tenacious D performing with Weird Al Yankovic. (Photo: Jose Negrete) Right: Zach Galifianakis. (Photo: Ryan Chin/Goldenvoice)

A significant portion of Black’s efforts went toward producing and promoting the festival’s visual art component, the enormous, multiartist Circus of Death spearheaded by sculptor and painter Steven Hull. Black has supported Hull’s efforts in the past, such as the artist-run Las Cienegas Projects, and in this case, shelled out $150,000 for the installation, which featured a haunted church/bouncy house by Jim Shaw (who also performed in the space) as well as twenty monster costumes by Marnie Weber (inhabited by Otis College of Art and Design students). “Creating an art element to the show was a survival instinct,” Black told me. “We want this festival to live on, and this is what really sets it apart.” When I referenced Black as a legitimate arts patron, comedian Tim Heidecker quipped: “Yes, yes, of course—as any millionaire should be.”

By design, a good deal of the acts, such as Eric Andre and Maria Bamford, were unusual or experimental in some way. “We definitely like edgier, performance art stuff,” Gass told me. In his set, comedian T. J. Miller conformed to the nonconformist context: “With all of these incredible, unique performers that I admire on the lineup, I just couldn’t come out here and do older stuff that I knew would kill. I had to take a risk.” This included absurdist material about giraffes, and the reading and subsequent burning of a philosophical tract by Eugène Ionesco. The cheering crowd was on board with it all.

Although encircled by many high-minded performances and artworks, FS was still a raucous festival (perhaps due to its proximity to USC), with requisite vomit, brawls, and bathroom lines. (I was even knocked in the jaw by an exuberant fellow spectator.) Comedy musician Bo Burnham’s show seemed like a rejoinder to the privileged party vibe, and kicked off with a sobering, prerecorded announcement: “The world is not funny. Twenty percent of the world does not have access to clean drinking water.” The track eventually let up a bit: “The world is not funny. Guy Fieri has two functioning restaurants.” Burnham then belted a stunning, satirical song about his (and many of the audience members’) “plight” as a straight white male: “I’ve never been the victim of a random search for drugs, but don’t say my life is easy till you’ve walked a mile in my Uggs.”

Left: Peaches. (Photo: Oliver Walker) Right: Comedians Lauren Lapkus, Kate Micucci, and Riki Lindholme. (Photo: Miriam Katz)

As the sun set, the vibe became even more frenetic, and the choices between acts became even more difficult. Enjoy the Workaholics’ rap as “Hip-hop wizards”? Join Everett and Cho in a three-way grind during Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away” finale? The one true moment of stillness came toward the end of the night, when for the first time during the entire fest there was only one performance to attend: the 25th anniversary reunion of The State, the beloved MTV sketch comedy show, featuring all eleven members performing resounding renditions of iconic numbers such as (my personal childhood favorite) “The Jew, the Italian, and the Red Head Gay.” Thousands looked on in rapt attention, including the pop star Pink, who, perhaps slightly self-conscious of her red carpet–ready attire amid the casual crowd, asided as I snapped a photo: “Just tell ’em I’m in costume like everyone else.”

For State fans it was nostalgia city; for everyone else, it was a chance to see some of the most vital forces in comedy today. Overall, Festival Supreme felt like a living history of comedic production over the past forty years, from Dr. Demento to Weird Al to Tenacious D; from Cheech & Chong to the Workaholics. “We wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for them,” said the Workaholics’s Blake Anderson about the stoned elder statesmen. And whether she likes it or not, Peaches has to be a touchstone for Awkwafina, the YouTube celebrity/potty-mouthed singer. “Music just elevates things,” remarked Gass at the end of the evening, more than a bit wistfully. A little Brecht goes a long way.

Miriam Katz

Left: Jack Black with artist Steven Hull. Right: Steven Hull's Circus of Death installation. (Photos: Miriam Katz)

Dancing with the Stars

Los Angeles

Left: Artists Barbara Kruger and Christopher Williams with curator Ann Goldstein. Right: Director Quentin Tarantino. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

WHAT HAPPENED TO ART in the twentieth century was film. It gave fine artists a new medium and storytellers a visual language. Today, artists like Steve McQueen make movies, but established moviemakers rarely make art. Not in Hollywood, anyway, where these days the art and film worlds each operate in a separate and unequal universe.

The seams were plainly showing last Saturday night, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held its fourth annual Art + Film Gala. Gucci sponsored the evening, which honored Barbara Kruger and Quentin Tarantino. Both marry words to pictures. As Tarantino would tell the six hundred–plus people who came to dinner, “It makes sense.”

Little else did. Designed to mine the extraordinary wealth accumulated by people in the movie business while forging a bond between the art and film communities, the event raised $3.85 million—a paltry amount, given the deep pockets in the room and the needs of a museum as encyclopedic and sprawling as LACMA. The event was cochaired by trustee and former fashion designer Eva Chow and Leonardo DiCaprio, and entertainment industry figures (Jennifer Lopez, Amy Adams, Jamie Foxx, Demi Moore) outnumbered art people to such a degree that some artists attending felt dissed. As one put it, “It’s like we’re the bottom-feeders here, and this is our turf.” Clearly, the museum will have to try harder to achieve integration. “There’s that actress,” said one artist as Dakota Johnson walked by. “The one in 50 Shades of Grey—what’s her name?”

Left: Collector Maurice Marciano, artist Sterling Ruby, and collector Steve Roth. Right: Jennifer Lopez with LACMA trustee Eva Chow.

It’s not as if there aren’t enough billionaires in the art world. The recent “Two x Two for AIDS and Art” in Dallas raised $7 million. And earlier this year, Guess Jeans cofounder Maurice Marciano, who attended the gala with fellow LA MoCA trustee Lilly Tartikoff Karatz, gave that institution $25 million.

LACMA has received such donations in the past, and it will be looking for more if it’s going to realize director Michael Govan’s ambitious plan to remake its campus with a futuristic $650 million redesign by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. (Five days later, the museum made public a major bequest of forty-seven nineteenth- and twentieth-century artworks [by Degas, Manet, Picasso, etc.] from former Univision CEO A. Jerrold Perenchio. The city’s board of supervisors also approved the new Zumthor building and put $125 million toward its construction.)

However, on Friday, following a pre-gala press conference with Govan and Chow, a tour of the museum’s current exhibitions showed the institution to be already thriving.

I saw an illuminating monographic show of the Jazz Age African-American painter Archibald Motley; a tightly focused Marsden Hartley exhibition; a gorgeous German Expressionist film show; a not-to-be missed display of samurai armor; and a superior selection of recently acquired abstract works by contemporary artists—the first collection show of this kind at the museum. It was fun to be there. There’s no reason it shouldn’t attract pots of money.

Left: LACMA director Michael Govan with LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans. Right: MoCA director Philippe Vergne with collectors Lilly Tartikoff Karatz and Bruce Karatz.

Yet everywhere I went that day and the next, I heard grumbling. At $5,000 a plate, and $100,000 for a table of twelve, the LACMA gala is the art world’s priciest benefit. “I’m too cheap to go,” said Stefan Simchowitz at Gagosian Beverly Hills on Saturday afternoon, when the gallery held an invitation-only preview of “Robert Rauschenberg: Works on Metal.” He added, “I’d rather eat at a Chinese restaurant and just give money to the museum.” Not that the notorious art-flipper is typical, but supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle was having a competing party, and the benefit concert that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Anthony Kiedis were hosting that night to benefit the Silverlake Conservatory of Music was drawing off people who felt excluded from the LACMA shindig. Certainly, the artists and collectors rushing Matthew Marks Gallery for the debut of two perfect metal sculptures by Charles Ray were no more interested in the gala than the young artists and writers who dressed with great imagination for a Friday night Halloween party at the Silver Lake home of partner dealers Alex Freedman and Robbie Fitzpatrick.

Still, because both Kruger and Tarantino are wild cards in Hollywood—commentators on, rather than regurgitators of, mainstream culture—I would have thought them a bigger draw for art types. LACMA took a risk by honoring them before a crowd more smitten by a Steven Spielberg. For all the glamour of the evening—and it had plenty—it lacked the megawattage of the Warren Beatty–Jack NicholsonTom HanksJane FondaDiane Keaton bunch that showed up for the museum’s 2012 tribute to Stanley Kubrick and Ed Ruscha. This time out, even James Franco kept a low profile.

Actually, said LACMA curator Stephanie Barron, “We’re up to about 15 percent art world this year.” As opposed to about 2 percent in the past? Some of the artists present (Christopher Williams, Diana Thater) are friends of Kruger’s. Sam Durant and Pierre Huyghe have current or upcoming shows at LACMA. One artist (Thomas Demand) is married to Barron’s curatorial assistant (Nana Bahlmann). Two others (John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha) are past honorees. Wyatt Kahn escorted China Chow, who dressed in a Hershey Bar wrapper gown (by Jeremy Scott for Moschino)—the most amusing and adventurous outfit of the night.

Left: Collector Stefan Simchowitz. Right: Artist Charles Ray.

Strangely, no other directors were on hand to support Tarantino, who arrived solo. At dinner, he was seated beside a thickly bearded DiCaprio and opposite Kruger, whose seatmates were Govan and Olivia Harrison, the first wife of George Harrison and producer of the recent HBO documentary about him. Nearby was a young Qatari sheik, Anjelica Huston, and the evening’s power couple, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West, who were vocal in their admiration for Kruger’s work. (A tribute film made for the occasion by Pippa Bianco reminded guests that when Kardashian posed nude for the cover of W magazine’s art issue a couple of years back, Kruger’s ironic white-on-red text ribbons veiled the model’s private parts.)

But it took a long time to get to that film and to the honorees. “Can’t I go home now, please?” groaned Mark Bradford during an unexplained and extended lull between the main course and the speeches that utterly stripped the event of momentum. Tacita Dean, currently in residence at the Getty, filled the gap by following Los Angeles Times arts reporter David Ng on “a tour of the celebrities in the room.” But it was Dean who introduced me to an actor who has starred in Tarantino films, Christoph Waltz. “Our children go to school together in Berlin,” she explained. “What do you think?” he asked, breaking from a conversation with LACMA curator Salvesen. “Is it better to be iconic or a curator?” (He didn’t think he’d ever be a curator, though it was charming to hear him consider the possibility.)

Finally, Govan introduced Kruger by praising her as “an artist of the present and the future.” Extolling her work and her thinking with the example of Untitled (Shafted), the Orwellian (George, not Orson) work adorning the elevator of the BCAM building at LACMA, he stepped aside for Bianco’s film, to which Kruger contributed a voice-over (and a hilarious takedown of the hundreds of times other people have ripped her off), but in which she did not appear. “You don’t have to be the face of your work,” she said in the kick-ass closing moment. In an age, and a town, obsessed with image branding, this came across as both refreshing and threatening.

Left: LACMA curator Stephanie Barron with artist Thomas Demand and LACMA curator Nana Bahlmann. Right: Artists Ana Privacki and Sam Durant.

But it was the living, breathing (and Gucci-clad) Kruger who made the evening worth the bother. After addressing her audience as “formidable, deeply powerful, gorgeous, and bling-festooned,” she spoke forcefully for the value of public education and public institutions like LACMA, pulling no punches on the importance of taking responsibility for the culture we create. The Harvey Weinsteins and Brad Greys in the room sat up straight. (“It’s a platform, you know,” she said afterward.) She also did something really classy. Breaking from her personal concerns, she surprised everyone with a clear and well-informed appreciation of Tarantino’s career. “That was the most unpretentious and gracious speech I’ve ever heard,” Waltz observed.

So when actor Tim Roth leaped to the stage to introduce the director, there was nothing for him to say but, “Thank you, Barbara Kruger!” On the other hand, he appeared so out of it that he had nothing to say anyway. “Quentin is deeply special,” was all he could manage, before finishing up with, “Quentin, I love you!” Well, a party is only as much fun as its embarrassments, I suppose, though one wished John Travolta or Uma Thurman had been there to do the honors.

Tarantino then took a page from Kruger’s playbook to advance his own film enthusiast’s agenda. After an emotional acknowledgment of how much more meaningful it was to be paid respects in his hometown than it has been in Paris and other places that have already done the same, he castigated Hollywood for not leading the world in film-as-art. “I’m proud to be a break in your wall!” he concluded. (LACMA does collect films by artists like Dean, McQueen, Huyghe, Agnès Varda, Allan Sekula, Martha Rosler, Christian Marclay, and Ryan Trecartin, but has nothing approaching a MoMA-type library.)

On came Boy George and Culture Club, reunited for an upcoming tour supporting a new album. Sporting facial hair and clad in a three-piece black suit and high hat, the singer ran through three rousing hits from the 1980s and, in a nod to Tarantino, finished up with a cover of Preacher Man. The performance got a few people on their feet and Anjelica Huston to chair dance, but most of this crowd (excluding a wildly enthusiastic China Chow) didn’t want to relive the old days.

Left: Artist Diana Thater. Right: Actor Christoph Waltz with artist Tacita Dean.

That pall hung over the afterparty at the palatial, and glacial, Roman-Spanish-modernist Holmby Hills home of Michael and Eva Chow. It had a hard time getting off the ground. Oh, Marilyn Manson inspired some bathroom action, but Kruger, Tarantino and Boy George declined to go, and DiCaprio and Foxx isolated in a corner. “Jamie, please save this party!” Eva Chow begged Foxx, who complied by taking a mic in the DJ booth and rapping over the determinedly ’80s music till people got the message and hit the dance floor.

Thankfully, next-level social brio took flight on Monday, when Piero Golia invited artist-LA to his “biggest evening at the Chalet,” actually the speakeasy’s closing-night party. (The refined two-room club, designed by architect Edwin Chan to fit in a storage space behind L.A.C.E. in Hollywood, will reappear next fall—with its private liquor cabinets—at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.) “Piero will be our artist-in-residence,” Strick remarked.

Over the last year, Golia has used the intimate space to exercise his relational art muscle. On Monday, with one of Huyghe’s deep-sea creature tanks installed in a room, and a piano contributed by Christopher Williams in the other, Golia kept pulling metaphorical rabbits out of his cap for a crowd that included Govan, as well as Simone Forti, dealer Mieke Marple, UCLA’s Russell Ferguson, and a clutch of very cool artists.

Left: China Chow and artist Wyatt Kahn. Right: Designer Jeremy Scott.

All conversation stopped when a dozen uniformed members of the UCLA marching band blasted their way through each room, followed shortly by the service of a roasted pig and the debut performance of a female, vocal septet called the LA River Choir. (All of their songs are about rivers.) “There’s always some kind of surprise here,” said curator Ann Goldstein. (Previous evenings have featured a chocolate fountain and the ritual whipping of a collector.)

“I like the moments between events,” Kruger had said in Bianco’s film. Personally, I like the events between moments. This was one of them.

Linda Yablonsky

Nights at the Museum

New York

Left: Mykki Blanco at MoMA's Hood By Air event. (Photo: @thevillagemayor) Mykki Blanco at MoMA's Hood By Air event. (Photo: @themuseumofmodernart)

“TWINKS AND THOTS,” Jacolby Satterwhite observed of at least half the crowd at Hood By Air’s Thursday night invasion of the Museum of Modern Art. “But I love it.” It was the eve of Halloween, and near us, the musician Ian Isiah was performing in a caged platform next to the cash bar, which served only beer and liqueur. Without a coat check, the space around him swelled with jackets and backpacks, a mosh of synthetic fibers and pushy kids insistent on Brooklyn Lager. Lowered at about chest level in the densest part of the crowd, Isiah seemed to float over us, shouting that Hood By Air had taken over the Museum of Modern Art. What took it so long?

Ostensibly a “Pop Rally,” one of MoMA’s regular evening parties, HBA’s Id, as the night was titled, reprogrammed the normally too-reserved event with performances by Isiah, Mykki Blanco, and Boychild, and a DJ set from Ashland Mines (Total Freedom). (Mines had also provided a set list—aptly titled 10,000 Screaming Faggots—for the label’s F/W 14 runway show.) Id was the third section of HBA’s three-part presentation, which began in September at New York Fashion Week (with Ego) and continued in Paris (with Superego).

The performers and the models that joined them onstage showcased HBA’s latest looks, dressy deconstructions of semiformal wear. This year, HBA examined masculinity and machismo, Shayne Oliver, the label’s founder, recently said. Noting the season’s coincidence with events around the execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson, style.com’s Maya Singer rightly pointed out the presentation’s subtle political critique too, especially in the use of Plexi stockade chokers to lock some models’ hands to their neck. (These chokers were visible at the end of the night on the models who joined Boychild on stage.)

Recently nominated for awards by both LVMH and the CFDA, HBA is a darling of fashion-art-music-partying, doing its best to dissolve the hyphens between. While HBA, which once mingled happily with the GHE20 GoTH1k parties Oliver threw with DJ Venus X, is frequently noted for crisscrossing high fashion and streetwear, Oliver has called the idea of the latter “lazy.” Nothing is lazy about HBA—nor was anything lazy about their MoMA fete, which suffused (if only temporarily) the staid and over-air-conditioned lobby with smoke machines. I’m curious to know what effect those had on Alex Katz’s Tulips, which hung above the crowd like a window into some gaudy, florid yesterday.

All sorts of nightlife regulars emerged in the museum’s dimly lit lobby to stand (not dance) in the light show of Total Freedom’s Thunderhorse-designed stage. Wearing a green HBA jacket with soft, Gigeresque sculptural piping threaded to its arms (I want one, so, so bad), Mines looked like he was plugged in. He more or less is, all the time. A multihyphenate artist who spreads himself among several scenes in New York and Los Angeles, and who’s responsible for some of the latter city’s most dynamic parties, Mines is never short of mesmerizing.

Left: Mykki Blanco at MoMA's Hood By Air event. (Photo: Marie Karlberg) Right: Boychild at MoMA's Hood By Air event. (Photo: @arbanian)

Things felt a little apocalyptic in a Bushwick warehouse–meets–Midtown museum kind of way, a little “hyperrelational,” to crib a term from John Kelsey, with all those phones held high, poised to take the perfect selfie with Mykki Blanco or Boychild in the background. “It’s a night of selfies!” artist Marie Karlberg yelled to me from behind the stage, where I stood with Satterwhite, Stewart Uoo, Lena Henke, the rapper Le1f, producer Don Christian, and others as Blanco leapt on stage and the artist Gobby replaced Total Freedom on deck.

Blanco, who recently released his new mixtape Gay Dog Food, emerged with a band of beautiful, HBA-clad models, two of which silently followed him, like gangly anti–hype men, as he navigated the crowd. With Blanco, we finally began to move, channeling the nervous energy (Can we dance in MoMA? Can we smoke?) as we shifted across the beer-sticky floors. “Feels so good to be at the Museum of Modern Art!” he shouted.

Yes it does, though I couldn’t help but feel that Id struggled to find itself in the glassy Agnes Gund Garden Lobby. I wondered as I watched—and, more than that, participated—if all this would be more fun elsewhere, in the sweaty wherever of a later, more restless night. But why cavil? Even if it was an awkward fit, this new, updated Pop Rally is a great precedent for the museum’s next soiree.

As we headed toward midnight and the start of Halloween, a cloaked and hooded Boychild was ushered down the stairs from the atrium to the stage amid the sound of bells, where she danced and thrashed surrounded by HBA models. Wearing a lighting device in her mouth, Boychild communed with the audience, calling forth the holiday that would see many of this crowd at Ladyfag’s Shade Saves, or, continuing the museum-party vibe, at MoMA PS1 for Klaus Biesenbach and Susanne Bartsch’s “HalloQueens,” which ended up slightly—and surprisingly—more unhinged, with its roving drag queens (many on stilts) and well-executed costumes. Everyone somehow looks cute in the museum’s ruins.

Andrew Durbin