Bee Season

Kinderhook, New York

Left: Carlos Vega, dealer Jack Shainman, artist Barkley Hendricks, and Susan Hendricks. Right: Antwaun Sargent and Jiajia Fei. (Photos: Zach Hilty/

TO THE FATHER of a four-year-old embroiled in the scramble for public pre-K slots, the idea of traveling two hours out of the city on a moist but still promising Sunday morning to attend an exhibition opening at a school felt distinctly masochistic. Should I be packing medical forms and trip disclaimers? A lunch box filled with nutritious, peanut-free snacks? The press bus waiting outside Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea, into which we were shepherded by a knot of clipboard-wielding PR peeps, did little to dispel the feeling that this was to be an excursion with a nostalgically pedagogical cast. Had the popular kids really gathered conspiratorially at the back? And was the driver really playing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off soundlessly on the vehicle’s suspended monitors?

Fortunately, once we arrived at Shainman’s Kinderhook, New York, outpost, such anxieties were largely dispelled. The School is splendid indeed, a flawless, light-filled, 30,000-square-foot minimuseum that since 2014 has inhabited a 1929 federal-revival building that once served as Martin Van Buren High School. Sensitively converted by the late Spanish architect Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas and set in five acres of rolling lawn, it aims to take its place among a phalanx of other upstate-region beacons that includes the Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and, at some future date, the Marina Abramović Institute in Hudson. Today, the venue was hosting four solo exhibitions, by Pierre Dorion, Hayv Kahraman, Richard Mosse, and Garnett Puett, and the extended area’s great and good had gathered for an afternoon garden party that suggested a food-truck takeover of an East Hampton manse.

Left: Artist Pierre Dorion. Right: Artist Hank Willis Thomas. (Photos: Zach Hilty/

Shainman and helpers showed us around and three of the four artists took turns introducing their relative practices. Puett was the first and most compelling of these, if only for the irresistible fascination of his process—a fourth-generation beekeeper, he drafts thousands of the beleaguered insects to help build wax “apisculptures” that he preserves and displays under glass. A couple of the works also feature live bees at work, in one instance commuting from the building’s exterior via a long, clear tube. I quizzed Puett—who has the bluff manner and actual knowledge of a genuine specialist—on his charges’ current population woes and came away somewhat reassured (in short, it is all Monsanto’s fault, but the damage may yet be reversible if they can stand to dial back the toxins a bit). Shainman’s take on Puett’s method? “He’s collaborating with thirty thousand bees that all get along in harmony. They’re all women, but they never fight!”

Next up was Mosse, who was showing lush, eerie, and often very large color photographs taken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the former palaces of Saddam Hussein. A soft-spoken Irish New Yorker, he put me in mind of a buff Ardal O’Hanlon. Finally, Canadian painter Pierre Dorion narrated—with characteristic precision but at some length—a set of flawlessly rendered canvases based on photographs of the School’s interior. But by this time, those food trucks were gathering and as the sun streamed in, we streamed out to offload the pair of tickets that came with our tote bags. As an off-the-leash terrier just barely held itself back from attacking my smokehouse burger, I clocked a few known names—artists Jason Middlebrook, Barkley Hendricks, and Brad Kahlhamer, MoMA director Glenn Lowry, and “Peggy Guggenheim of the Internet” Jiajia Fei—among a great number of contented-looking locals. In the words of Kin Hubbard, “a bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.”

Michael Wilson

Left: The School. Right: Jack Shainman and MoMA director Glenn Lowry. (Photo: Hunter Abrams/

Formosa and Function


Left: Richard Chang, founder of Formosa 101 Art Fair, with Pei-Yu Lin of Project Fulfill Art Space, and Dayuan Art Fair Co. executive director Raymond Chou. Right: Artists Jun Yang and Michael Lin, director of Formosa 101 Art Fair Wei-Wei Wang, and Taipei Contemporary Art Center director Esther Lu at Woolloomooloo. (Except where noted, all photos: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva)

“THAT’S HOW YOU DO BUSINESS,” cheered Wei-Wei Wang, director of the inaugural Formosa 101 art fair. Dealer Tong Walton had managed, within a minute of our encounter, to add me on WeChat and send along a PDF of Liu Xia’s dark-humored paintings while talking up a storm. Although business—or at least the VIP itinerary—wasn’t quite on par with other fairs of its size, Formosa generated some remarkable solo presentations from its thirty-two invited galleries. “With Art Taipei’s quality declining, we wanted to create a competitive fair in Taiwan,” explained Formosa 101 founder Richard Chang. But pairing this fair (modeled after Volta in New York) to the Formosa Art Show (a hotel fair), whose second edition was to open the following day, made for a somewhat mismatched venture.

“Sit, sit on it!” encouraged Pei-Yu Lin of Project Fulfill Art Space, pointing at the large inflatable balloons by Wang Te-Yu. (A day later a too-eager visitor would pop one.) At Mind Set Art Center, Jhong Jiang-Ze’s paintings were so fierce they blew away the bromide about Taiwanese art being “quiet.” “When I finished painting these two, I actually heard them roar,” he said. Shugo Satani of ShugoArts explained his visually bold booth, showing me documentation of Aki Kondo’s action painting. “I just arrived from Art Tokyo, and I am going back tomorrow,” he sighed. Collector Rudy Tseng was making a swift tour, as was artist Michael Lin, who is finalizing his move from Shanghai to Taipei. “You should come to Shanghai in November,” suggested Chinese collector Chong Zhou. “It will be like an Art Basel week, with two fairs and a biennial.” Duly noted.

In the VIP lounge, artist Huang Po-Chih was distributing a limoncello made locally in his wastelands-rehabilitation project in Taoyuan and Hsinchu. The evening culminated with the usual speeches by dignitaries, including a quick appearance by Taipei Fine Arts Museum director Ping Lin, a basement afterparty at Mud Bar (drinking red wine with artist Peter Zimmermann, who was to open his second show with Nunu Fine Arts), and a nightcap at a ten-seat Japanese speakeasy uncovered by artist Jun Yang. Mum’s the word.

Left: Artist Jun Yang, collector and curator Rudy Tseng, Pei-Yu Lin, and Art Basel VIP relations Taiwan Jenny Lee. Right: Artist Jim Avignon and ART.FAIR Cologne director Walter Gehlen.

Over the next two days we abandoned the official program to explore the local cocktail scene. “I want a forest!” trumpeted artist Yin Ling Hsu to one mixologist, referencing themes from her own paintings. She got something that smelled like a sesame noodle salad. “She ordered a ‘beautiful’ and an ‘ugly’ before that,” laughed Gallery Exit’s Anthony Tao.

On Saturday, Taipei’s nonparticipating galleries opened strong. At Eslite, Liu Xiaodong signed a Louis Vuitton–commissioned travel book he had painted in South Africa. I watched him mimic the grunt of a bush pig (in front of his drawing of one) to delighted guests while consuming petits fours and champagne. IT Park showed shiny, uncannily cute (think Henri Rousseau via a children’s nightmare) paintings by Chang Chia-Ying. And Lin & Lin launched a stunning show of second-generation Gutai artists featuring Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Shuji Mukai, and Takesada Matsutani.

That night I joined collector Peng Pei-chang and dealers and artists Cesar Villalon Jr., Derek Tumala, Joy Mallari, Mark Justiniani, and Chu Chun-Teng at Mathieu Borysevicz’s impromptu party for artist Geng Yini at Woolloomooloo. “I came because I love Taipei,” shared a Shanghai collector, “and its politics are becoming really interesting.” Indeed they are, as demonstrated by Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, who attracts much sympathy for her democratic, pluralist, and pro-tolerance positions. But there’s still work to be done. “There are too many little fairs in Taiwan. It would be better to focus on one big one,” texted dealer Chi-Wen, on her way from New York. Certainly one thing we could all agree on: Taipei has so much potential that once all this local energy is consolidated, it will be unstoppable.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Left: Artist Yin Ling Hsu and Exit gallery's Anthony Tao. Right: Mind Set Art Center's founder Andre Lee and artist Jhong Jiang-Ze.

Creative Writing


FOR THIS YEAR’S London Craft Week, one of the clear highlights was a live performance by Wang Dongling, perhaps the greatest, or at least most famous, living Chinese calligrapher. Having caught about half an hour of sleep after the opening of my own exhibition of calligraphic works at Exile in Berlin, I hopped on an early morning flight to the city on the Thames to see the master’s first public performance in London in more than twenty years.

Wang is a professor of calligraphy at the Fine Art Academy in Hangzhou and one of the foremost contemporary practitioners of the ancient art. His style is essentially a fusion of cursive script with the whole-body movements of Abstract Expressionism—at times his work is reminiscent of early Pollocks or Klines. His art is often characterized as illegible, or “asemic.” The term asemic is problematic, in that it implies a writing that is empty of meaning. Rather, it is Wang’s task—and the task of advanced calligraphy, arguably—to explore and posit new forms of writing that thus necessitate new ways of reading and interpreting. This is rooted in the primacy of gesture, the body; while the text—often an ancient one, such as a poem by a Tang Dynasty master or else from a philosophical treatise by Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu—is present in the work, its legibility assumes secondary importance to its corporeal manifestation on the paper.

As I arrived at the main hall of the British Museum, Wang’s assistants were at work preparing for the performance, taping to the floor four sheets, each about six feet in length. A few rows of chairs formed a semicircle around the roped-off area. They quickly filled up with an array of fans, London Craft Week staff, PR people, and random tourists lucky enough to be visiting the British Museum at this hour.

“Usually I don’t give speeches beforehand because I need time to meditate, but I wanted to apologize and explain that today we need some extra time for preparation,” Wang told us in Mandarin, conveyed in English via an interpreter. After a few more minutes and a slightly Orientalizing introductory speech by someone from London Craft Week (in which the audience was encouraged to watch the master calligrapher “go into a meditative state” in preparation for the performance; FYI, he did nothing of the sort), Wang lifted his long bamboo brush and began.

Wang Dongling performance at the British Museum.

His text-painting would be a graphic exegesis of the Heart Sutra, one of the canonical texts of Mahayana Buddhism. In Chinese, the text consists of 268 characters. Wang worked with a studied intensity, from right to left, up to down, the traditional way in Chinese calligraphic practice. Carbon-based ink is viscous stuff that can be applied heavily, with a resonance approaching near violence in its propensity to shine, or lightly, revealing the materiality of the brushstrokes—two very different graphic effects. Wang is perpetually associated with the former, which is why I was surprised to see a very light application of ink today, giving the overall work—performance and calligraphic text alike—a feeling of tentativeness. Maybe it was all of the cameras—everyone present at least had their phone out; at times, when he clearly felt the presence of a nearby photographer focusing on his face while he was at work, Wang would bark out a request for them to stop.

Beside the simple desire to see a master calligrapher at work, there was a second curiosity behind my decision to watch Wang’s performance, a curiosity as to the how and why behind the artist’s exhibitionistic gesture. I happen to have a certain terror of anyone watching me while I’m writing, and particularly writing by hand. I’m not alone. According to legend, it is what killed Pollock; he had given up drinking for years, only to return to it with force immediately after allowing himself to be filmed by a television crew at work in his studio. Wang’s performances seem to imply an attack on the hermeticism of the form, yet the clear signs of his own reticence imply an irresolution. Then again, in light of the obsolescence of calligraphic practices and handwriting in general, there is almost an activistic stance to the gesture.

As we move further away from technologies of writing deemed primitive, there seems to be a renewed interest in them. One need only point to sources as disparate as asemic writing, Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Instagram dedicated exclusively to handwriting, the écriture of Dansaekhwa painter Park Seobo, and Cy Twombly’s lifelong exploration of the archeology of the scrawl to contextualize the fascination with which we arrive at Wang Dongling’s practice of writing in situ.

The completed work, an anthology of sigils and slashes, loosely connected in some sort of mad cursive otherworldly script, was left behind to dry beneath the bright rays trespassing the British Museum’s enormous glass-domed roof. The artist hardly lingered, disappearing into the crowd moments after putting down his brush.

Travis Jeppesen

Bay Watch

San Francisco

Left: SF MoMA's opening ArtBash. Right: Angela Davis. (All photos: Kate Sutton)

“DISRUPT” MAY BE SILICON VALLEY’S favorite verb. Coined in the 1990s, the phrase “disruptive technologies” evokes the elimination of middlemen and the ousting of market juggernauts. But two decades later, we’re learning that the “empowerment” encouraged by such disruption isn’t always equally distributed. (Just Google “AirbnbWhileBlack.”)

If anything, what’s been “disrupted” most in the Bay Area are communities. Skyrocketing rents have notoriously pushed former city dwellers out to the last stops on the BART lines, only to have the displaced drive back into the city every day to Uber around the people who now live in their homes.

So perhaps it’s a relief that in its new expansion, SF MoMA avoided disruption altogether, sticking to a time-tested script when tailor-making its trophy case for the new old-money collection of Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap. A bastion for Bay Area blue-chip (with, as one curator tartly described it, a reigning “friends of Nancy Reagan” aesthetic), the Fisher Collection formerly housed its Warhols, Richters, Kiefers, and Ellsworth Kellys in Gap headquarters. In 2009, after detractors quashed plans to build the collection its own museum in the Presidio, the Fishers turned to SF MoMA, negotiating a one-hundred-year loan of the collection, a deal sweetened with a substantial contribution toward the construction of new galleries to showcase the bounty.

Left: Charles Schwab, chairman of the SF MoMA board. Right: Artist Rashaad Newsome, performer Justin Gomez, and SF MoMA curator Frank Smigiel at ArtBash.

At the helm for the overhaul was Snřhetta, the Oslo-based architects behind the September 11 Memorial & Museum. The addition nearly triples the space of the museum’s existing building, which was designed by Mario Botta as a postmodern pastiche centered around an “oculus” that scrolls up from the red brick base like a giant lipstick tube. Snřhetta’s crumpled, asymmetrical facade is supposed to hang over its predecessor like a cloud of fog, but it read more like a massive ice shelf, bearing down on the Botta building in its drive toward Yerba Buena Gardens.

The Botta effectively demoted, the museum’s de facto new oculus is the Fisher Collection. The nineteen exhibitions on display during last month’s preview kept rigid divides among the Fisher Collection, recent donated and pledged works from the museum’s Campaign for Art, and SF MoMA’s existing collection. The segregation meant missed opportunities for forging meaningful bonds among new acquisitions and a lot of retread territory. Like classic crewneck tees, when the Fishers found something they liked, they bought it in every color. Their collection galleries look like the results of multiple single-artist Google Image searches, with works from disparate eras lined up with little to no context to connect them. Some paintings—notably the Kellys and Agnes Martins—thrived in this kind of hang; others—the Baselitzs—were just bewildering.

When I tried to describe my impressions to Sam Orlofsky, who was busy manning Gagosian’s brand new outlet directly across Howard Street, he confessed: “I haven’t made it over yet, but so far everything I’ve seen looks amazing on Instagram.” Maybe that was the problem. In the morning press conference, chairman of the board Charles Schwab had lauded the SF MoMA as “smartphone friendly.”

Left: MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach with SF MoMA curator Gary Garrels. Right: Gagosian Gallery's Anna Gavazzi Asseily and Sam Orlofsky.

If the collection is an extension of a selfie, then what’s really on display is the museum’s collector base—largely white, largely conservative. Much has been made of the unfortunate placement of Charles Ray’s stainless steel sculpture of a slumbering homeless woman immediately in front of the first room of non-white-male artists. (Difference = poverty?) But Sleeping Woman’s proximity to the Christopher Wool painting might be worse. SF MoMA holds some impressive cards in its hand. What if instead of catering to the standard blue-chip they had reshuffled the deck, laying out the conflicting lineages of a city once identified as the countercultural capital of the world: Jay DeFeo, Jess, Wallace Berman, Emory Douglas, Martin Wong, even Wayne Thiebaud or Robert Bechtle? “Come and see me,” Lynn Hershman Leeson’s surrogates coo in her hilarious 1970s-era Commercial for Myself, on view alongside Ant Farm in one of the noticeably smaller, darker galleries of the Botta building. I wish I could have seen more of Hershman Leeson. As it was, California figured in most prominently as a backdrop, the muted, mutable setting behind Sandy Phillips’s sweeping survey of landscape photography (though upcoming shows of Bruce Connor and Anthony Hernandez could correct this omission).

To help us digest all of this, SF MoMA hosted a preview luncheon on the rooftop terrace. I skipped the dining tables and joined staff curators Rudolf Frieling and Dominic Willsdon in the garden, where we had a clear view of the city’s skyscrapers, including the Art-Decadent PacBell building. “That’s Yelp now,” Willsdon mused. Frieling pointed to another skyscraper: “LinkedIn.”

While Big Tech may have secured the skyline, there was still a lot on the ground that sang to “old” San Francisco. After the preview, I dropped by an afternoon cocktail celebrating Isaac Julien’s “Vintage” at Jessica Silverman, where Cesar Garcia, Carolyn Ramo, and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn made moon eyes at outtakes from the artist’s sumptuous 1989 film Looking for Langston. Next up was the Kadist Art Foundation for a performance from Carlos Amorales’s ongoing “Cubismo ideológico” series. Amorales pounded the floor as Philippe Eustachon howled into a microphone, while the audience—including curators Hou Hanru, Evelyne Jouanno, and Jens Hoffmann—winced approvingly. “It’s like stumbling across Red Krayola in the 1960s,” Julian Myers noted with a sly smile.

Left: 500 Capp Street director Carlie Wilmans. Right: Dealers Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Jessica Silverman.

From Kadist, I followed Hou and Jouanno to Southern Exposure, Laura Owen’s solo at the Wattis, and openings at Minnesota Street Projects, an ingenious gallery incubator meant to help patch up the city’s art community. Founded by collectors Deborah and Andy Rappaport, the converted warehouse offers steeply discounted gallery space and rotating project rooms, one of which featured a special guest-gallery appearance by Andrew Kreps and Anton Kern. Also on view—though for now, only by appointment—was David Ireland’s former house–cum–total artwork at 500 Capp Street, which had been rescued from the auction block by patroness Carlie Wilmans after tip-offs from Ann Hatch and curator Madeleine Grynsztejn. “We’d love to open it as a museum, but we’d never be able to meet all the requirements,” Wilmans confessed, nodding to the artist’s habit of cannibalizing the house’s foundations for material to make his quirkily subversive domestic interventions. Still, its extensive restructuring has left it ripe for dinner parties, a hallmark of Ireland’s practice.

The following night, SF MoMA feted its expansion with an ArtBash, setting liquored guests loose in their sprawling new museum. Inaugurating the White Box was Rashaad Newsome’s vogue showcase FIVE, which—when coupled with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet corps gyrating atop the shrimp buffet—hit target titillation for the patron set. The artist crowd—which included Trevor Paglen, Tacita Dean, Barry McGee, Takeshi Murata, Zoe Crosher, and Julie Mehretu, who will produce two wall drawings for the museum’s foyer—drifted in and out of Tom Marioni’s The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, which was telling it like it is from the third-floor sculpture terrace.

That same night, across the bay, the Oakland Museum of California was drawing crowds of its own with a rowdy evening of open-mic performances and a “War Hoop Flash Mob,” all part of the kickoff for this year’s Open Engagement. The itinerant annual social practice conference began in 2007 as the thesis project of artist Jen Delos Reyes. Fashioned as its own kind of disruptive social technology, the weekend tackled its theme of “Power” using surprisingly similar terminology to SF MoMA’s patronage drive, including the well-worn bromide of “engaging audiences.”

Left: Oakland Museum curator René de Guzman with artist Suzanne Lacy at Open Engagement. Right: ARTs East New York's James Malone, Catherine Green, and Tian Mao at Open Engagement.

Good intentions aside, by taking on “Power” so baldly, the conference also foregrounded some of its mechanisms. My very first event launched from the provocative hook that “Environmental Art (Social Practice) is for white people with no skin in the game,” and rapidly devolved from there. Another panel ended with the white-identified presenters sharing heartfelt stories of how they came to recognize their privilege, while their nonwhite cohort sat silently until the Q&A. At a roundtable stacked with six formidable women, the microphone was inexplicably bogarted by the sole male. Adjunct faculty from California College of the Arts staged multiple microactions to draw attention to their unlivable wage, but the unsustainable industry of art schools was left largely unchallenged. (Indeed, one UC school was there to workshop a new social-practice MFA.) The controversial introduction of an admission fee—eighty dollars, or fifty-five sans keynotes —and the oblique selection criteria for presenters (several of whom were no-shows) prompted protests, which Delos Reyes coopted by making her own “Boycott Open Engagement” T-shirts. She said she borrowed this tactic from Beyoncé, but, like Jay-Z’s absolution at the end of Lemonade, it somewhat undermined the spirit of the project.

But there were also genuinely inspired moments, not the least of which was the experience of being in the museum itself. Under the guidance of curator René de Guzman, the OMCA is finding creative, unpretentious ways to tell the unique histories around Oakland, whose own legacy is riddled with high-profile power struggles, many of which were name-checked in the museum’s crowd-pleasing feature “Altered State: Marijuana in California” (where I watched a young father grapple with whether or not he should help his kid reach the nose-holes of the “smell-station,” with its samples of “Grandaddy Purple,” “Pennywise,” and “Sour Diesel”).

Among other program highlights was “From Houdini to Snowden,” the Center for Tactical Magic’s exegesis on magic as a relationship predicated on an unequal distribution of knowledge, observing that Houdini’s most successful tricks were in escapology. (As artist Aaron Gach snarkily put it, “Now why would the masses want to see someone escape penal confines and overthrow authoritarian oppression?”) Similar themes rippled through ARTs East New York’s “Anti-Gentrification Tool-Kit,” where the crowd was all whistles and snaps as ReNewLot’s Tian Mao outlined steps he took to group-finance homes within his block of BedStuy. Those snaps turned to shudders when Mao mentioned Airbnb amid his funding strategies. (As if we weren’t all there but for the grace of guest rooms.)

Left: Center for Tactical Magic's Aaron Gach at Open Engagement. Right: Artist Jill Miller at Open Engagement.

Of course, the real power of the event collected around keynotes by Suzanne Lacy and Angela Davis. While Lacy kept it tight, eloquently surveying her latest projects, Davis opted for a more freeform, multimedia-driven delivery, that, quite frankly, made it hard to tell to what extent she was fucking with us.

Let me start over—she’s Angela Davis. That fact alone is enough to pack the house, and rightfully so. The meat of her argument, which centered on Marcuse, Kant, and Nelson Mandela’s idea of “softness” as “political potentiality,” touched on the paradoxical elitism of the democracy operating not only within Open Engagement, but also at the heart of all these “disruptive technologies.”

Davis took time to lament Hillary Clinton’s grievous “off the reservation” gaffe, as well as the closing notes of Kendrick Lamar’s otherwise astounding Grammy performance, criticizing his overlay of Compton and Africa. “Africa is far greater than one element of our origin story,” she snapped. “I guess here I could also talk about Beyoncé, but everyone’s talking about Beyoncé, so…” But the crowd wasn’t letting her get off that easy. “Let me repeat,” Davis began carefully. “You can enjoy something intensely and at the same time be ambivalent about it. I can appreciate the steps Beyoncé has taken, but there’s a corporate capitalist culture there that has to be critiqued.” So, who wins Davis’s seal of approval? Prince and Nina Simone, whose “Mississippi Goddam” Davis suggested was the true anthem of the civil rights movement.

The Q&A went as these things are wont, with a lot of telling of one’s truth and very little forming of one’s question. One woman announced that she had opened an organic farm, then wandered off into her conflicted feelings about her partner being white. “It’s great that you have an organic farm,” Davis intoned, weightily. “Look, there’s no two-week intensive for racism. We’re all implicated and we have to recognize that the work we are doing now might not be apparent for many generations. The frame of the world doesn’t consist of the day we are born and the day we die. This is collective work, this is community work, and it stretches across generations. We’re in community with people who have yet to be born.” Talk about power—that was the most disruptive statement all week.

Kate Sutton

Left: Bay Area Video Coalition's Lauren Marie Taylor with artist Jenifer K. Wofford at Open Engagement. Right: Artists Lunar New Year, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Jess X Chen at Open Engagement.

Fresh Produce


Left: Artist Suna Kafadar, Produce director and curator Zeynep Öz, and Fol Cinema Society's Burak Çevik. Right: Ricardo Cástro (left) and Daisy Lambert (right). (All photos: Wendy Vogel)

EQUIPPED WITH NEW BALANCES (sneakers-as-fashion were made for Istanbul) and an iPhone with international data, I landed at the opening of Produce, the third SPOT Production Fund biennial, late last month, just a few hours after touching down at Atatürk airport. Even though I had visited the city before, I remained in need of cultural decoding, and not just the headset I donned for simultaneous translation during the mostly Turkish-language program.

Directed by SPOT cofounder Zeynep Öz, a former assistant curator of Ashkal Alwan’s Home Works festival in Beirut, Produce replicates the Home Works model on a smaller scale. (In Turkish, the festival is named Domates Biber Patlican, literally “tomatoes, peppers, eggplant,” the region’s signature vegetables and the title of a famous 1980s pop tune.) The event comprises commissioned works, exhibitions, films, talks, and performances that address issues in the area. This year’s theme, “The Game Settled into a Cagey Midfield Match,” took football as a metaphor for the political climate in Turkey and its neighboring countries. It also served as a cheeky reference to conservative president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s past as a semiprofessional soccer player.

The Beirut influence was clear throughout. “It’s a small city with a big presence,” said participating artists Roy Dib and Ahmad Ghossein, both based in the Lebanese capital. Istanbul, by contrast, is a large city with a tightly concentrated art scene, with most art events drawing a crowd of only a few dozen people. Produce devoted much of its program to lecture-performances interweaving history, personal anecdote, and a kind of magical realism, a genre codified by artists like Lebanese-born Walid Raad and Rabih Mroué. Ghossein and fellow Beiruti artist Haig Aivazian were two such lecture-performers presenting existing work at Produce. The roster also included Turkish participants such as Ali Taptik and Suna Kafadar; the former’s explored the transformation of his neighborhood of Osmanbey from a bourgeois quarter to a textile district, while family history, symbolism, and feminist theory formed the roots of Kafadar’s talk about lettuce.

Left: Artist Isil Egrikavuk, curator and YAMA director Övül Durmusoglu, and artist Roy Dib. Right: Onur Karaoglu's performance Mark Raso.

As with Home Works, exhibitions form the backdrop to a week’s worth of discursive programming around the city. Three small group shows were installed along the main drag of Istiklal Caddesi, also the site of a suicide bombing just the month prior. Small presentations of previously exhibited “reference films” (by Turkish artist Inci Eviner and Greek artist Maria Papadimitriou) and guest-curated projects (by the Istanbul Biennial’s Özkan Canguven and Aichi Triennial’s Daniela Castro) complemented the commission program. Seven works produced by SPOT for the festival were installed on two residential floors tucked in the back of El Hamra Han, a covered arcade with stalls of cheap merchandise. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it facade of the early-twentieth-century building almost disappeared among the glittery shops of Istiklal and Taksim Square, whose gentrification catalyzed the Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The commissioned artists were young, and so was the crowd on opening night, as twenty- and thirtysomethings packed into the three shows. The art in El Hamra Han touched on the unmistakable role of history and artist-run spaces, represented here by torna, a project space headed by Merve Kaptan in Kadiköy across the Bosphorus. Other works considered the simmering issue of gender inequality, like Çiçek Kahraman’s Dara Birnbaum–esque, GIF-like montage of homoerotic Turkish fighting scenes from ’70s films and Sena Başöz’s series of “Nurse” performances. The vernissage ended with a packed performance of Brazilian artist Ricardo Cŕstro’s cathartic, glitter-speckled Cards on the Table, where participants “danced like fire” and hurled glass vials of paint at a wall.

At an afterparty at COOP, several people asked me how the US media had covered the recent bombings in Turkey. They were rightly critical of my home country’s gloss on the Middle East. To be fair, though, misinformation goes both ways. A bearded designer told me it would be “so funny” if Trump were elected, “Until he bombs us, that is. But Bernie Sanders is winning anyway, right?” Sadly, not quite. Upstairs, the crowd danced to American hits from ’60s soul through Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Thoroughly jet-lagged, I returned to my hotel at Taksim Square after back-to-back Brooklyn bangers by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Biggie Smalls. Finally connecting to stable Wi-Fi, I realized that Prince had died and I didn’t know. Maybe it was because everyone was speaking Turkish. Or, more likely, the death of an American musical icon didn’t register with the same shock in a country faced with the possibility of war.

Left: Produce's Film and Production coordinator Elif Uluca and Blitz Theater Group's Giorgos Valais. Right: Saturday Mothers protest.

The political polarization was impossible to overlook, even during a week of relative calm. On Saturday morning I set off for SALT Galata, the sole venue in Istanbul these days of the multipronged art and research organization directed by Vasif Kortun. My heart thudded as I encountered star-and-crescent flags unfurled from business windows and police in riot gear along Istiklal across from Galatasary Lisesi, just blocks from the March 19 bombing. I had stumbled upon a protest organized by Saturday Mothers, a group who have met weekly since May 1995 to mourn the loss of nearly eight hundred “disappeared” people from the Kurdish region. This week’s protest also coincided with National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, a day that leftists want to abolish and conservative parties want to continue celebrating.

Övül O. Durmusoglu, a curator based between Berlin and Istanbul, explained that Children’s Day was viewed as particularly distasteful this year, given the child sexual abuse carried out in apartments rented by the Ensar Foundation, an NGO backed by Erdoğan’s AKP party. Over drinks on the roof of Grand Hotel de Londres, a lovably shabby-chic hotel that seems not to have renovated its decor since its opening in 1892, Durmusoglu pointed out Isil Egrikavuk’s thirty-second video projected at the top of Marmara Pera Hotel several hundred feet away. Produced by Durmusoglu’s organization YAMA, Egrikavuk’s video flashes text roughly translated as the tongue-in-cheek directive “Eve, finish your apple!” followed by an animation of a woman becoming the fruit. Three days after the opening, the video was removed by officers from the Beyoglu Municipality.

“The woman question,” as well as religion’s role in policing gender and sexual norms, was raised repeatedly over the weekend. A straightforward lecture by Zeynep Oktay explained the discipline of religious studies—outlawed in Turkey, to the surprise of many audience members. A sports-themed commissioned dance-theater performance by Onur Karaoğlu narrated a homosexual encounter between an American and Turkish man in the ’70s that ended in violence (yet was cast, strangely, with a man and a woman).

Left: Artist Yuki Okumura, art historian T'ai Smith, and artist Sena Basöz. Right: torna cofounder Merve Kaptan and artist Charlie Coffey.

The week’s headliner was Athens-based Blitz Theatre Group’s Late Night (2012), presented in Istanbul for the first time. The ninety-minute work about the universal trauma of war is punctuated by statements about love and loss in wartime, stripped bare of political details: “In those days, as soon as we would hear the planes roar, we would go out and dance.” Vancouver-based art historian T’ai Smith, who delivered a brilliant lecture on Duchamp’s work in relationship to turn-of-the-century “fashion capitalism,” argued afterward about the company’s brilliant use of irony. Yet it was clear that the conceptual theater makers aimed for an emotional resonance beyond Brechtian tactics. At a late post-performance dinner over plenty of raki— the Turkish version of ouzo—cofounder Yorgos Valais pontificated on the nature of love, otherness, and the evils of Tinder. Yet he was quick to admit he was “never a hippie.” At a closed workshop later in the week on the subject of a fictional “Institute of Global Solitude,” Blitz’s Christos Passalis explained, “We are not interested in theory as performance. We are interested in cultivating intuition and atmosphere.”

My final night in Istanbul was capped off by Netherlands-based Yuki Okumura’s performance tying together the themes of translation and ghostly, enduring presence. In an under-construction hotel adjacent to a new upscale restaurant called Colonie, a short walk from the Istanbul Modern, Okumura staged a lecture he wrote about the legacy of On Kawara. The talk considered Kawara’s conceptual oscillation between absence and presence. Substituting both Okumura and Kawara’s bodies were seven native Turkish speakers delivering live translations of Okumura’s English text that they listened to on headphones. The interpreters—a mix of professional translators and amateurs—seemed in a trance, eyes closed as they concentrated on the text they were hearing for the first time. “I really felt the presence of the artist,” said Sena Basöz. Okumura, for his part, sat alone at Colonie during the performance. Afterward, he greeted us anxiously and asked, “So, how many people showed up?”

Wendy Vogel

Left: Sena Basöz performing in Yuki Okumura's On Kawara's Pure Consciousness, or Many Worlds (and) Interpretation—And Then, Silence Arrives. Right: Ricardo Cástro (right) and a participant in his performance Cards on the Table.

Land’s End

Las Vegas

Left: Nevada Museum of Art trustee Bill Prezant, dealer Barbara Gladstone, and artist Ugo Rondinone. Right: Artist Jessica Craig-Martin. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)

THE LAST PLACE I expected to see art by Tony Cragg and Jenny Holzer was in downtown Las Vegas. What was I thinking? The whole town is a global city of art—or, rather, artifice. Here’s the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. There’s the Roman Forum, the Doges Palace, a castle for a latter-day King Arthur who gives you easy odds.

“I think the worst crime you can commit in Las Vegas is irony,” observed artist Jessica Craig-Martin. We were there to document a project by Ugo Rondinone for the Art Production Fund—but first things first. We set to work doing what everyone in Vegas does—kill time. Only instead of bowing to the depressing twilight of a casino, we moved into the sun on the hotel strip to hunt for secondhand treasure pawned by people who had lost their shirts. (Diamond-studded cock ring, anyone?)

Imagine a town where the most tasteful piece of architecture is a Trump International Hotel, and you understand what we were up against. Then again, the barrage of glitz is partly what inspired Rondinone to place Seven Magic Mountains—his biggest and brightest public artwork to date—among the snakes in the Mojave Desert, ten miles to the south.

Left: Seven Magic Mountains consultant Sandra Fairchild with Bill Haase. Right: Art Production Fund director Casey Fremont with APF cofounders Doreen Remen and Yvonne Force Villareal.

To make it happen, APF cofounders Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen practically had to move mountains of their own. From design to execution, the project took five years and required the cooperation of competing federal, state, and county agencies and the support of MGM Resorts. They also needed the engineering expertise of the Las Vegas Paving Corporation, which moved thirty-three forty-four-thousand-pound limestone boulders from their quarry to the site, hard by Jean Dry Lake, stacked them in pillars roughly thirty feet high, secured them to the land, and prepared the access road from I-15.

Now the May 9 day of reckoning was here. Come cocktail hour, two hundred guests invited to a champagne reception by the APF and the Nevada Museum of Art, its producing partner in this scheme, would board tour buses from the Aria Resort and Casino to a half-acre of desert dotted with creosote and cactus. On the way, we passed a road sign that read, SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS, NEXT EXIT. No clue to motorists whizzing by at 85 mph that it signaled art ahead, not another casino.

Tiny spots of bright color appeared in the distance. Against the McCullough mountain range behind it, Rondinone’s stuttering line of hot pink, sea blue, pitch-black, sunset orange, blinding white, hard silver, grass green, chartreuse, and magenta totems looked a little like a leftover encampment from Burning Man—or fossilized visitors from a Planet Mardi Gras.

“They’re way more phallic than they were small,” said Sadie Coles, referring to the domestically scaled “mountains” her gallery in London showed last fall. “I must tell Ugo.” Barbara Gladstone was more than pleased to be among them, if the broad smile that never left her face was any clue. Dealer Eva Presenhuber also came along for the ride, dressed in an orange blouse to match the boulders in that color. Never mind that the invitation had suggested white cocktail attire and “desert appropriate” footwear. NMA trustee Denise Cashman also arrived in a dress as pink as the stones, and platform sandals.

Left: Artist Leo Villareal. Right: Dealers Simone Battisti, Sadie Coles, Barbara Gladstone, and Eva Presenhuber.

“It’s even better and more beautiful than we expected,” said APF director Casey Fremont of the artworks, before mingling with Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art director Tarissa Tiberti, NMA trustee Bill Prezant, curator JoAnne Northrup, and Fremont’s parents, Shelly and Artnews CEO Vincent Fremont. “Isn’t this wonderful?” Fremont mčre said.

Actually, it was hot and windy, but once the sun began to set, the irradiated colors of the stones deepened and grew ever more luminescent. They really did seem magical, especially marooned out there in the brown desert. The dry lake has played a significant role in the history of contemporary art before. It not only was where Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle exploded a sculpture in the 1960s but was also the spot where Michael Heizer dug two of his earliest works of Land art, in 1970, both now gone.

Rondinone didn’t know that when he chose the site. It just made the most sense for an artwork that would have to compete with the magnificent expanse of the landscape and also be suitable to Las Vegas, he said. (It will stay on view for two years.) The person who led him to it was G. Robert Deiro, aka Count Guido Roberto Deiro, the man who located several sites for Heizer, including Double Negative. “I’ve worked with Michael for many years,” he said. “We’re close.”

Another piece of art history walked by in the shoes of Gianfranco Gorgoni, the photographer who documented all of Heizer’s work in Nevada, as well as art by the likes of Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, and Walter De Maria. He was doing the same for Seven Magic Mountains. Out here in the desert, the avant-garde still lives.

Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains.

Looking more like a country-and-western star than a museum executive, NMA director and CEO David Walker began the opening ceremonies. “You never know where you’ll find public art,” he said, before passing the mic to Force Villareal, Prezant, the CEO of MGM Resorts Jim Murren, and various government officials. Finally, Rondinone gave one of the most tactful speeches I’ve ever heard. It complimented everyone present in blissfully straightforward terms. “Let the magic begin!” he concluded. “Viva Las Vegas!”

And back to town we went—to dinner at the Bardot Brasserie on the Aria’s mall-like mezzanine. Seven palm-size stones, each painted a color that Rondinone used on “7MM,” as people were calling it, were for sale at the door, discounted for the evening at five hundred dollars each. Beth Rudin DeWoody snapped up a complete set.

Prior to this evening, the APF had scandalized some in the art world when it unleashed a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Rondinone project. The raised eyebrows asked why an artist represented by several blue-chip dealers, with numerous collectors around the world and the support of a museum, would need to elicit further donations from the public.

“First of all,” Force Villareal told me, “Kickstarter came to us and asked if they could feature Seven Magic Mountains on their platform.” The idea, she said, wasn’t to shame Rondinone’s gallerists or patrons, but to involve the local community and attract them to the site. “The response has been great,” she said, adding that the fifty thousand dollars Kickstarter brought in was a drop in the bucket of the $3.5 million total, including unsexy costs for permits, road improvements, carving, and engineering. The rest she raised privately, which wasn’t easy. “No naming rights!” she said.

Left: Collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. Right: Photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni. (Photo: John Salangsang/

Donors were all around us. Members of the philanthropic VIA Art Fund had a table to themselves. So did the crew from Las Vegas Paving. I asked project manager Danny Fitzgerald how this job compared to his usual work. “It was the total opposite of what I normally do,” he sputtered. “Usually, I have to break up stones into little pieces, not bring boulders weighing forty-four thousand pounds down the road and pile them into towers! That was new.” Frankly, for a man who helped to build the wild fantasies of Las Vegas, it didn’t seem such a stretch.

“It made me feel so happy!” exclaimed Sandra Fairchild, a consultant who had secured the permits from the Bureau of Land Management but was introduced to me as a former US Army soldier and a crack shot. “They don’t understand art,” she said of the BLM agents. “That’s partly why this took five years.” On the other hand, she added, art has been out there for millennia—in the form of petroglyphs, thousands of them, on the natural mountains beyond.

If not for their non-glare, graffiti-resistant paint, Rondinone’s artwork might be seen as bringing coals to Newcastle. Not by him. “It’s like putting Land art together with Pop art,” he said.

The following morning, for context, Craig-Martin and I went with Rondinone on a hunt for Double Negative, about ninety minutes away. His other half, poet John Giorno, was also in the SUV, with Presenhuber and her sister Gertrude. This was their second try. Two days earlier, with only a GPS signal for a guide, Rondinone had driven them around for hours and never come across it.

Left: Land art site locator and Seven Magic Mountains project manager Count Guido Roberto Diero. Right: Nevada Museum of Art director and CEO David Walker.

Double Negative isn’t on a map. It doesn’t send out signals. So this time, we headed out with explicit directions from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. (The museum owns the work, thanks to a gift from Virginia Dwan, the legendary dealer and collector who funded and bought the work originally.) MoCA director Philippe Vergne had assured me an easy-peasy time.

We had a little trouble finding Mormon Mesa. It was harder to see the road leading to the site. Everything around us looked the same, so Rondinone drove with the rim of the Virgin River gorge in sight. “This is how many art people it takes to find a piece of Land art,” Craig-Martin said, as we went this way and that. But we were close and everyone knew it. I could feel Rondinone’s excitement. I had it too. And suddenly there it was, the northern cut—a rectangular gash extending down a sandy fifty-foot slope and leading out to the gap dividing it from its twin on the other side.

“I can’t believe we made it!” Rondinone shouted, and down the slope we went, sliding into the cut, its formerly razor-straight walls now badly eroded, if Gorgoni’s 1970 photos are any indication. “You can see how he sliced them,” Giorno said, looking down from above. The structure and the colors of the stone were almost ornate. “I’m glad we came,” Rondinone said, “but the point is really about finding it.” He spoke too soon. We still had to get back to Vegas.

Probably it wasn’t a great idea to try this kind of thing in the noonday sun. The ignition locked. This is how many art people it takes to start a car, I thought, while Giorno tinkered and the rest of us baked. Finally, the engine came to life and off we went—until, out of nowhere, the gorge loomed into view, and we had a six-alarm shriek of a Thelma & Louise moment, with a narrow escape that I’ll never forget.

Land art is amazing. The scale. The beauty. The audacity. No wonder Rondinone wanted to take part in this tradition. “Goodbye, Double Negative,” he called out. “You brought a lot of joy today.” ’Nuff said.

Linda Yablonsky

Poet and artist John Giorno at Michael Heizer’s Double Negative.

O Pioneers!

New York

Left: Artist and Pioneer Works founder Dustin Yellin with Liv Tyler. Right: Attendees with VR. (All photos: Sam Deitch/

ON A RECENT SUNDAY—mock hatred of Brooklyn (the boonies of Red Hook), galas (the third annual Village Fete), and bad weather (spitting rain) being fodder for all the talk I’ve heard before—imagine just how pleasing it was to find that the “cultural elite” (those paying anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 for seats at the Pioneer Works dinner) and the civilians and noncomped alike (PR Girls, reporters from Artnews) found something real to get riled up about.

“Three out of eight planets are in retrograde!” said a man seated on one of three white picnic benches around the backyard bonfire that is the reason my borough-inappropriate Altuzarra dress is now at the dry cleaner’s. (Stella Schnabel: “You’re the kind of writer who can’t pronounce anything, aren’t you?” when I did my “It sounds like Al Jazeera” thing.) I might have enlightened the man that it’s five planets, had he not already fallen out of society’s graces by introducing himself thusly: “I’m an artist. You’ve probably heard of me.” As to pickup lines, no man of interest bothered with the common refrain of “smoke follows beauty,” instead focusing his attention, as the truly famous should, on other famous men. “I don’t want to lose the opportunity to work with my hands,” said Peter Sarsgaard, staring deep into the flames. “I know,” said Girls actor and fellow Brooklynite Ebon Moss-Bachrach. “I know just what you’re talking about.”

“Mercury is in retrograde,” said a girl with the list when I first walked into the party at 6 PM and she couldn’t find my name. (I did not opt for the SoHo-Brooklyn shuttle; I was on the press list.) If I were to be especially generous, I would gather that she mentioned Mercury’s in retrograde because it’s so often associated with computer glitches and technological mishap and that was Pioneer Works’s PR push for the night: “This year’s benefit emphasized innovation, supported by a burgeoning partnership with Google, who created site-specific virtual reality stations where guests could paint, sketch, and sculpt in 3D using the new Tilt Brush App.” No one said much of anything about the VR. A man hired by Google redacted his entire interview, and he was sweating so much about revealing information that to me didn’t sound revealing, I’ll just leave it out. Reality is entertaining enough for me: I added my name to the VR station list, right after an elderly man who was enthusiastically explaining the structure of DNA to his leggy blonde companion cut him off with a bright-toothed “INTERESTING!”

Left: Choreographer Bill T. Jones with Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak. Right: Artist Carol Bove.

The Met gala, the following night, was also on a science kick—“Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology”—though that invitation-only experience cost 29/30th more per ticket than the Pioneer Works fete. Limited googling would suggest that the guest lists didn’t overlap. Except perhaps in mind-set; i.e., delusional thinking only truly great philanthropy can foster. (Artist and Pioneer Works founder Dustin Yellin on the new partnership: “I think Google is really cool. I don’t think they got into it for money.”)

A few things from the dinner party I’ll chalk up to astrology’s thwarting imperative, despite the fact that I apparently willingly overstayed the event, clocking in at four hours and fifty-two minutes, wandering from tiki bar to backyard to the $300/photo booth (monopolized by Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys): a placard for “Jake Gyllenhaal” at the head of a table catercorner to me with an empty chair in front of it. Sister Maggie was in attendance. (For what it’s worth, this behavior isn’t without parallel: She graduated from Columbia, while Jake dropped out after two years.) The food that, to my knowledge, passed not my lips: roasted bass, dandelion pesto, oysters.

Speaking of aphrodisiacs—and hard-working PR women—I missed my “exclusive” with Monica Lewinsky. I had been told she was “very nervous about reporters,” but she was willing to make an exception since I’m “an art reporter.” My dinner seatmate, the writer Ben Lerner, and I worked out that I could finagle a question about Walt Whitman past the Eagle Eye of PR, what with Whitman’s recently unearthed columns championing the Paleo diet and fretting about “manly virility.” (That Bill, per the Starr report, gave Monica a copy of Leaves of Grass continues to delight.) Personally, my interests tend to skew conspiracy: the Clintons’ alleged theft of art from the White House when they moved out. Talk about humanizing Mrs. Clinton with young women—a klepto! Upstairs, Stacy London, the host of What Not to Wear with the signature Sontag stripe in her hair, detailed her interests to a tarot reader stationed outside the leafy tiki lounge: “I just want to know where I’m supposed to be on the temporal end of things.” By the time I exited the packed bar, a new woman had taken her place. “What kind of energy work do you do?” she asked the reader. “All kinds. All of the kinds.” They exchanged business cards.

Left: Chirlane McCray. Right: Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz.

David Byrne wore a blue suit. Fitting that he didn’t seem to be having that good of a time, having written the gala theme song: “Same as it ever was / Same as it ever was / Same as it ever was.” I didn’t miss the million times in a lifetime chance to talk to celebrities who don’t care about art about art. Liv Tyler, wide-eyed like a deer, like someone who seems physiologically incapable of lowly human emotion, who’s known Yellin since they were sixteen: “Oh God. I don’t know if I own any art.” Then, perking up, “I have photographs! Does that count?” Her friend assured her that photographs are art. “And I have some of Dustin’s things, but I think they were gifts,” she continued carefully. Maggie Gyllenhaal, now that I compare them, also talks with the slow, crystallized enunciation of someone who can count on being interrupted before anything that could plausibly be defined as a “conversation.” In fact, a friend did interrupt, and they giggled at her response to the art question: “Malerie Marder is a photographer that…used to date my husband, and we have a lot of her work.”

Don’t get me wrong, Dustin Yellin: Even Brooklyn isn’t without astral pull. “Dustin Yellin is the greatest hustler south of Harlem,” the MC reminded us at the dinner auction, perhaps misguidedly. Or maybe not. As Thomas Mann said Degas said, “An artist must approach his work in the spirit of the criminal about to commit a crime.”

Kaitlin Phillips

Left: Maggie Gyllenhaal with David Byrne and Peter Sarsgaard. Right: Artist Derrick Adams.

Gold Standards


Left: Artist Francesco Vezzoli and Barbara Sukowa. Right: Artist Erika Landström, Fiorucci Art Trust founder Nicoletta Fiorucci, and artist Riccardo Paratore. (All photos: Kevin McGarry)

ARRIVING IN NICE, I boarded a Tesla driven by a chauffeur who looked like a young Isabelle Huppert wearing a silk pantsuit and a five-hundred-dollar Hermčs Kelly bracelet, named for Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. This principality, the second smallest (after the Vatican) and second most densely populated (after Macau) sovereign state in the world—3/4 square mile holding forty thousand people—was our destination. After thirty minutes of whipping past palm trees lining an immaculate coast road, we finally reached a snarl of Italian sports cars, scaffoldings, and high-rises, upon which my driver announced: “Welcome to Monaco: We are under construction!”

The occasion for my visit was a confluence of activities timed with the debut of artmonte-carlo—yes, another fair, this one organized by Art Genčve at the Grimaldi Forum in the center of town (not that everywhere isn’t essentially the center of town). While my hotel was technically in Beausoleil, France, the other side of the street was Monaco, and Wednesday night it only took about five minutes to traverse the country via two hundred ancient steps leading down to 11 Columbia gallery, opposite the Forum.

Fresh off dual museum shows in Los Angeles, a Robert Mapplethorpe opening was winding down and wandering up the block to a local institution called Cafe Sass for a dinner hosted by Franco Noero. The ruby-tinted Riviera brasserie has a blown up black-and-white photo of the owner with Lady Gaga by the bathrooms, and French lounge singers reminiscent of inebriated aunts doing Top 40 covers from Adele’s “Hello” to Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” by the piano up front. I sat down with a crew that had come fifty paces from the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM): curator Cristiano Raimundi; Ayr’s Alessandro Bava, who was finishing the exhibition design for a Francesco Vezzoli exhibition opening the following night; and Vezzoli’s squad of assistants (the artist relayed by text that he was nursing a back injury in the hotel). Occupying two building on opposite ends of town, the museum’s Villa Sauber is directly between Cafe Sass and artmonte-carlo. The nation is like a dollhouse. 

Left: Curator Chris Sharp (left). Right: Nouveau Musée National de Monaco curator Cristiano Raimondi and Fiorucci Art Trust director Milovan Farronato.

As dinner turned to dancing, it became apparent that the foreign businessmen and local ladies in sequin dresses had been looking for one another all evening. I was introduced to someone described as a princess of former Yugoslavia, and I noticed how very much intact is the monarchy of Monaco: Above the bar, just as in every establishment, there is a faded portrait of the crown prince and princess, prominently placed like a picture of Ataturk.

Thursday afternoon the Monaco art scene converged on the Babylonian-chic home of collectors Anne and Pierre Nouvion" nofollow="nofollow">Pierre Nouvion in Cap D’Ail to celebrate the fair, scheduled to open the following day. The out-of-towners arrived: Pinault Foundation’s Caroline Bourgeois, Air de Paris’s Florence Bonnefous, Lulu’s Chris Sharp, Galerie Gmurzynska’s Mitchell Anderson. Polite conversation plinked in the modern sitting rooms and by the jade infinity pool and on the lawn overlooking the Mediterranean. As the day’s heat settled we returned to town to visit the home of London-based Italian collector Nicoletta Fiorucci, who had just finished renovating an apartment in the landmarked Trocadero building into what, for now, is mostly being used as an ad hoc gallery to restage a Riccardo Paratore show. Titled “Simulacrum Next Door,” some chambers are built with the artist’s purplish, distressed Barcelona furniture knockoffs, into which are etched intimate snippets of text messages. Lilies sprout from mirrors as surreal wall adornments. And in keeping with a salon style, small works from Fiorucci’s collection have been placed throughout other rooms: Morandi drawings, a Bernadette Corporation print bearing the monogram BC, and, tucked into a closet, a Sylvie Fleury shopping bag that reads CHANEL: 31, RUE CHAMBON. An international array of well-heeled Monegasque friends toured the show, or paused on the veranda for a serene view of the sea. A dachshund responded excitably to the popping of a bottle of Ruinart. There was speculation that he might be addicted.

artmonte-carlo opened on Friday. You might not call a fair “site-specific,” but galleries certainly customized their selections with blingy offerings fit for this city of gold. At Almine Rech, the same Fleury Chanel shopping bag, and a rainbow John Giorno: PREFER CRYING IN A LIMO TO LAUGHING ON A BUS; around the corner at Art Concept : Paris, an almost twenty-foot-long limo by Adam McEwen printed to a kitchen sponge, and a gold-plated sapling by Michel Blazy. There was a grid of thirty books coated in gold by Peter Wuthrich at Christian Stein Milano / Casamadre Napoli and a gleaming Jacob Kassay painting at Cortesi Gallery. In the downstairs salon, nearly equal real estate was given to nonprofit and artist-run spaces. The winning stand came from this section: Mexico City’s Lulu, with a solo presentation by Brooklyn-based Parisian painter Victoria Roth, whose quasi-abstract drawings appear both furry and intestinal.

Left: Curator Leonardo Bigazzi, Pinault Foundation curator Caroline Bourgeois, and dealer Florence Bonnefous of Air de Paris. Right: Collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (left) with Ayr's Alessandro Bava (center).

The Vezzoli show had previewed the day before. The galleries are hung with portraits of Marlene Dietrich, faux works in the style of masters like Modigliani, Matisse, Magritte, Bacon. That night the artist was present for a durational performance in which he channeled the diva, corseted into a black velvet Prada gown, seated in the back of the cinema in an upstairs gallery, watching films of her, as her, for nearly six hours as a never-ending queue peeked into the room to join in watching or for photos.

This was one of many performances unfolding as part of Monaco’s inaugural Nuit Blanche—organized by Jörg Heiser with Cristina Recupero and Leonardo Bigazzi—on Larvotto Beach, on the Boulevard Princesse Grace, and elsewhere throughout the city. A cast of Tino Sehgal interpreters roamed the Japanese Garden as Doug Aitken orchestrated the skywriting of a mystic spiral overhead. “It’s strange,” Aitken said after, as we took seats at a beach bar in the sand with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Suad Garayeva of YARAT Contemporary Art Space in Baku, and the cast of characters who had been ping-ponging around villas all week. “Yesterday I was in Detroit, getting a tour of destruction by an art student, and now we’re here.” As if on cue, the next performance began, by Christian Waldvogel, in which a very expensive toy stationed on a platform in the bay, a helicopter, was blasted with water and lights as it struggled to take off, casting an incandescent spray into the air until it broke free and disappeared into the sky.

The following evening was the capstone of an opulent week, in which Prada feted the exhibition with a lavish cocktail party at the museum. Midway through the evening, outside the pink and seashell belle epoque palace, the lights dimmed and the music cut. A figure appeared from a balcony: the unmistakable visage of Fassbinder muse Barbara Sukowa. Glassy and haunted, like a Vezzoli adoration of a woman such as she, the actress indifferently draped herself from the windows as she sang four songs by Dietrich in German. The entire party was rapt, or you might say the entire nation: After all, the guest of honor was Princess Caroline herself, modern and unassuming, watching this decadent little opera.

Kevin McGarry

Left: Marie-Claude Beaud, director of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, with Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist. Right: Francesco Vezzoli as Dietrich.

When It Rains It Pours

New York

Left: Artist Gerhard Richter and dealer Marian Goodman. Right: Dealer Helene Winer and New Museum director Lisa Phillips. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

THE FIFTH EDITION of Frieze New York arrived last week in a frenzy of the best gallery exhibitions in years. Gerhard Richter? Whoa. Anish Kapoor? Okay, wow. Richard Serra? Gotta say. Josh Kline, Jordan Wolfson, Alicja Kwade, and more. Way more. Way!

The air was ten degrees cooler than it should have been on Wednesday, May 4, when Frieze opened for VIP previews, raining as usual. Everyone complained. No one stayed home.

Getting through Midtown gridlock to the East Ninetieth Street ferry for Randall’s Island took an hour. On the ferry, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine it was Venice.

That didn’t work.

Next year, maybe Frieze can set up in the ruins of the loony bin on Roosevelt island. Seems fitting. And reachable by tram.

Left: Artist Liu Shiyuan and dealer Leo Xu. Right: Architect Annabelle Selldorf and dealer Massimo De Carlo.

Inside the big tent, people wanted to know what the new Frieze/IMG partnership was really about. Many hoped it would bring the fair closer to Manhattan. The Javits Center, one rumor had it. IMG produces sports events. Should we be thinking Madison Square Garden?

At Marlow & Sons, one of the overcrowded and overpriced pop-up canteens at the fair, Frieze cofounders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp were talking to a reporter and playing their cards close to the chest. “I like to underpromise and overdeliver in life,” Sharp allowed.

Maybe Frieze could move into the old, Eero Saarinen–designed TWA terminal at JFK? It’s farther away, but at least it’s an artwork.

Sascha Bauer, a collector, positioned himself at the front of the Massimo De Carlo stand, as if he were the dealer. “It’s nice that they keep the number of VIPs here for the preview low,” Bauer remarked. What? The aisles were nearly impassable. I saw swarms of others from New York, Dallas, London, San Francisco, Basel, and Turin. They were dressed better than usual this year. Does that mean anything?

Left: Artist Tracey Emin. Right: Designer Michele Lamy and auctioneer Simon de Pury.

Somewhere in the crowd was a pickpocket whom Frieze Projects artist David Horovitz had hired to “gift” unsuspecting fairgoers with small sculptures. Moving targets, all. Speaking of targets, it was only a matter of time before someone brought a firearm into the fair. Artist Christopher Chiappa hid a rifle trained on the aisle behind the peephole in a wall at Kate Werble’s stand. “I think it’s good for a fair,” Werble said. “There’s always an undercurrent.” Of what? Violence? Perversity?

In the fair’s Spotlight section—for twentieth-century art—museums were among the first-line buyers. At P420 Gallery, MoMA landed two “acoustic drawings” from 1973 by ninety-year-old Milan Grygar. The Pompidou Foundation snapped up the 1970s Mary Kellys at Pippy Houldsworth. That was a long time coming.

Foksal Foundation Gallery had not-to-be-missed drawings by Henryk Stażewski and the late Polish surrealist Erna Rosenstein. Stażewski was an important figure in Warsaw. He also painted his shoes. Near the south entrance, MCA Chicago chief curator Michael Darling was conferring with Stéphane Aquin, his counterpart at the Hirshhorn. Art fairs really are best for talking about art.

What if Frieze pitched its tent in Central Park, at Wollman Rink? Let Donald Trump pay for it.

Left: Comme des Garçon designer Rei Kawakubo. Right: Artists Pat Steir, Richard Tuttle, and Kiki Smith.

In the Frame section—“the kindergarten of the fair,” as one dealer put it—Portikus curator Fabian Schöneich, who organized it with curator Jacob Proctor, said, “This is not a group show. It’s eighteen solo proposals.”

One artist, Liu Shiyuan, created an immersive House of Propaganda for Leo Xu’s booth, where sayings like “Take Great Care Not to Miss the Small Things” were printed on an array of gaily patterned fabrics. I felt lost in translation.

The grid is far from dead. But for her American debut on the floor of Săo Paulo’s Jacqueline Martins booth, Brazilian artist Deborah Bolsani installed paintings on standing lids from cardboard boxes to look like tilted headstones.

Newly minted author Simon de Pury, at the fair to promote The Auctioneers: Adventures in the Art Trade, stopped to Instagram the gold-toothed Michele Lamy, who was dressed in Rick Owens topped by a headdress of stubby antlers.

Left: Artist Uwe Tobias, dealer José Freire, and artist Gert Tobias. Right: Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller with Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal.

But wait. Clothing designer Nhu Duong, wearing a voluminous black leather Comme des Garçons motorcycle jacket, was standing on Cooper Jacoby’s steel mesh platform at David Lieske’s Mathew Gallery when who should swoop into the Jack Shainman booth across the aisle but Rei Kawakubo—in a gold motorcycle jacket. Moment!

Seconds later, Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller swung into view with Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal. “Congratulations!” I said, wondering if I could ask for tickets. “Thank you!” he said, friendly as all get-out. Then he was gone.

Société’s booth was wall-to-wall refrigerators filled with white bottles of Soylent.
What’s Soylent? It’s gag-worthy liquid food designed by and for millennials who think sitting down to wonderful meals with friends is a waste of time.

Artist Sean Raspet, whose invisible subjects are flavors and smells, had mixed a new prototype for Soylent. Dressed in wrinkle-free, temperature-resistant gray uniforms by Duong, he and the gallery staff were giving the stuff away. “Nothing for sale!” shouted dealer Daniel Wichelhaus. Good luck with that.

It’s all about timing. “I’ve been dragging this around for years,” said dealer Toby Webster of a wall-bound ceramic by Liz Larner at the Modern Institute stand. “Today I could have sold it six times.”

Left: Art historian Benjamin Buchloh and Michelle Harewood. Right: Collectors Anthony d’Offay and Marie-Louise Laband and artist Cerith Wyn Evans.

Even though he isn’t mayor anymore, Michael Bloomberg made his ritual circumnavigation of the fair, shaking hands and waving hello. The current mayor, Bill de Blasio, did not appear. Probably, he couldn’t get there. No limo.

Back in Manhattan, Metro Pictures opened its doors after several months’ renovation with a show of new photographs by Cindy Sherman. New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl heartily approved. “There’s a new vulnerability,” he said.

“Did you see the pickpocket?” asked Frieze Projects director Cecilia Alemani? I hadn’t. “Check your purse,” she replied. When I got home, I found a silver sculpture—of kissing seahorses. Never knew!

Sherman wore red to her opening, and clothes she put together from junk-shop finds in her pictures, which she printed on metal using a heat-transfer process that is very like ironing a patch on a T-shirt. That relieved the images of frames and distorting glass, leaving no barriers between viewer and subject. Each, including one picture that features multiple personalities, looked just like women from my high school graduating class, forty years on. Uncanny.

Left: Artist Jack Whitten with dealer Benedicte Goesaert and Mirsini Amidon. Right: Artist Hanna Liden and attorney Meaghan Gragg.

Eric Bogosian came to the dinner at La Sirena in the Maritime Hotel. So did Pictures generation peeps Louise Lawler and Robert Longo, and Sherman’s older sister Betsy Leite, who had their own room in the restaurant while the other seated a passel of museum people—the New Museum’s Lisa Phillips and Massimiliano Gioni, the Whitney’s Adam Weinberg and Donna De Salvo, MoMA’s Roxana Marcoci and Klaus Biesenbach, the Studio Museum’s Thelma Golden, and collector Eli Broad, whose museum in Los Angeles is staging a Sherman retrospective from his own collection. “We’re really happy,” he said, and looked it.

Meanwhile, downtown, the Cultivist was celebrating its first anniversary in the Church Street Boxing Club, where the evening’s curator, artist Cheryl Pope, started things off in a knockdown sparring match with Shaun Leonardo. Way to vent!

Thursday brought such a bonanza it was hard to know where to go first. Before heading up to Gavin Brown to see new portrait drawings by Alex Katz, collectors Alain Servais and Eva Ruiz stopped into Josh Kline’s posthuman show at 47 Canal, and pronounced it the best in town – all too soon!

Daniel Buchholz had Cerith Wyn Evans. The twins Gert and Uwe Tobias made ceramics and tattoo-ready paintings for Team. Josephine Meckseper launched a new book at Printed Matter. Roni Horn and Julie Ault curated a text-only Félix González-Torres show for Andrea Rosen that was all about the ballooning presence of absence. Lehmann Maupin had a bright new crop of neons, paintings, drawings, and bronzes by Tracey Emin. And Tom Sachs had one of his best shows of lovingly handmade, common objects at Jeffrey Deitch. “It’s very neat,” commented collector Sandy Brant. “Tom has a reverence for clean,” Deitch replied.

Left: Dealer Daniel Wichelhaus and artist Sean Raspet. Right: Artists Cindy Sherman and B. Wurtz.

As if all that weren’t enough, such high-level artists as Kerry James Marshall and Jack Whitten came to David Zwirner for a show of new paintings by Luc Tuymans, and a long line formed for Jordan Wolfson’s latest dialogue with perversity—a blaming and self-hating new robot that looked for love in every pair of eyes and pushed every emotional button around. “It would have been better if it was a woman,” said artist Sarah Morris. “That’s my opinion,” Wolfson said, “I just used my intuition.”

And to cap it off, Richard Tuttle organized and designed a breathtaking career retrospective for Pace with examples from twenty-six shows past. Breathtaking. “No one knows what’s real,” he said. “I’m using art to find out.”

Ten times the number of people at the gallery showed up for a buffet dinner at the Top of the Standard, where Marc Glimcher and Fairfax Dorn led the dancing to a Mexican band that had played at their wedding. It was, after all, Cinco de Mayo, and so the Americano naturally had a party hosted by Zona Maco founder Zelika Garcia. “I met Zelika when I was still a journalist,” said Art Basel director Marc Spiegler, while Gabriel Orozco mourned the increasing commercialization of the art world. “We need to have more subtlety,” he said. “New York is too shiny and noisy.”

Left: Photographers Vinoodh Matadin and Inez van Lamsweerde. Right: Dealer Sadie Coles and artist Jordan Wolfson.

Friday night brought yet more hard-to-miss openings, including a popup of monumental Chris Martin paintings in Ugo Rondinone’s Harlem studio and Richard Serra’s double-whammy at Gagosian, but when Gerhard Richter walked into his show at Marian Goodman and shook hands with Bruce Nauman, I was too stunned to leave. The sight of these two giants in art together felt historic.

“Epochal!” Rob Storr confirmed. The former Yale dean was wearing a black Stetson very like Nauman’s. Must be a generational thing.

Richter, meanwhile, was showing abstract paintings on both canvas and glass, and a hundred new drawings, all made in an explosion of energy last year. “At eighty-four,” said Richter’s onetime dealer Anthony d’Offay, “he’s still inventing.” Art historian and Richter expert Benjamin H. D. Buchloh put it another way. “It’s anti-painting,” he said.

“Haunting,” added Goodman of the drawings at dinner in the Rainbow Room, where the city view was obscured by thick fog. “It’s thrilling to see you back in the studio after many retrospectives,” she continued, in a direct address to Richter. “You can feel the exuberance.” Indeed. “After thirty-one years working together, I wish you a good life and continued pleasure in the practice of painting.”

I asked her if she remembered how she met Richter. “I wrote him a letter,” she said. I asked Richter if he remembered. “I do,” he said. “Marian came to the studio, and neither one of us knew what to say.”

Left: Artist Lyle Ashton-Harris. Right: Artists Gerhard Richter and Bruce Nauman.

Collector Marieluise Hessel, who had received ArtTable’s Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts award earlier in the day, was feeling especially happy. “I bought two Richters in the 1960s, when I was still living in Germany,” she said. “For $500!”

I caught the tail end of a dinner that Salon 94 and Maccarone were cohosting at Lafayette, for shows by Hanna Liden and Jimmy De Sana and by Corey McCorkle and Eva Kotatkova. French-speaking guests—Tuymans, Bernard Blistčne, Florence Derrieux—segregated themselves at Maccarone’s table, with Zwirner London director Angela Choon, Hammer Museum curator Ali Subotnik, and New Yorker art editor Andrea Scott. Liden, Nate Lowman, Rachel Chandler, and Chivas Clem huddled at the next with Laurie Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, and the Guggenheim’s Nat Trotman at the next.

Separate tables make good neighbors, I guess.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Art historian Tim Morton with artist Haim Steinbach and dealer Tanya Bonakdar. Right: Frieze cofounder Amanda Sharp.

Frieze Burn

New York

Left: Artist Nicole Eisenman with W magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi and fashion designer–collector Miuccia Prada. Right: Choreographer Michael Clark and Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár.

LET’S FACE IT. When Frieze New York comes to town, everything else happens. It’s not that we can’t find openings, parties, performances, sex, politics, bad manners, and good art—even great art—around here at all times. Only that when this week began, more paths crossed in more ways than they ever do when it’s just us folks, and more often than not they were artists.

Artists Space, in fact, set the tone last Saturday, when it introduced the dapper Lukas Duwenhögger to the scene with “Undoolay,” a fetching retrospective for the German-born, Istanbul-based artist, but his first show in New York. Alas, it also marks the nonprofit’s farewell to its longtime home in SoHo, which it soon will leave for parts yet unknown—probably Brooklyn.

Before you could say Gee whiz, on Sunday the London-based Lisson Gallery ushered its new 8,500-square-foot building into Chelsea with an exhibition of recent works by Carmen Herrera—and none too soon! Though she is one hundred years old (soon to be 101), this is the unjustly neglected Herrera’s solo gallery debut in America. In the fall, the Whitney will present her first major museum show since one at El Museo del Barrio in 1998.

“Carmen made all of these paintings in just the last two years,” marveled dealer Alex Logsdail, who is running the New York operation for his father, Lisson founder Nicholas Logsdail. “She cried,” the younger Logsdail said of the wheelchair-bound artist’s private visit two days earlier. “Because she was so happy.”

Left: Artist Anish Kapoor. Right: Dealer Alex Logsdail.

Small wonder. One could easily think the gallery had been built just for her, so perfectly did its austerity complement the purity of Herrera’s refined, geometric abstractions. One might have expected this necessarily low-rise structure—it’s tucked under the High Line on West Twenty-Fourth Street and runs through to Twenty-Third—to be a long, dark hut, but as built from the ground by architect Marcus Dochantschi’s Studio MDA with Studio Christian Wassmann, the exhibition space is actually cathedral-high and wide, with skylights on either side.

If anyone deserves credit for rescuing Herrera from obscurity, however, it’s Tony Bechara, a close friend and former president of El Museo del Barrio, who in the early 2000s helped bring her to the attention of Metropolitan Museum board chair Daniel Brodsky and his wife Estrellita. They bought three paintings, as did Agnes Gund. “Ella Cisneros bought five,” Bechara said, turning to greet another enthusiast, Iolanda Santos, from Monterrey, Mexico.

Many other people will discover Herrera here for the first time, but not Nigel Prince. Currently director of Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, it was Prince who introduced Herrera to the UK by including her in a widely praised 2009 show at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. “He gave me my first museum show,” said Ryan Gander, who flew in for the occasion to join nearly all of the fifty other living artists on the Lisson roster, including recent adds Susan Hiller, Joyce Pensato, and John Akomfrah, and the entire Logsdail family. (Youngest son Max is now on board to work with Ai Weiwei.)

All repaired to Cedar Lake for an extravagant (and rather good) dinner, accompanied by the recorded strains of Dvorák’s Symphony no. 9, From the New World, played at earsplitting volume. It’s the most popular symphony of all time, Nicholas Logsdail claimed in remarks that preceded impromptu encomiums from the artists, initiated by performance queen Marina Abramović, with Liu Xiaodong, Anish Kapoor, Rodney Graham, and twenty others following close behind. Each told a personal anecdote that doubled as an affectionate roast.

Left: Artist Goshka Macuga and Paracelso proprietor Luxor Tavella. Right: Artist Marina Abramović and Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume.

“Alex is the future, the next generation,” said Shirazeh Houshiary. “We’re terrified,” confessed Stanley Whitney and Akomfrah, who spoke together. “Nicholas!” Kapoor called out. “I want to kiss you!” Logsdail, as several artists noted, is hardly the emotive or sentimental sort. “This is a first,” he admitted, while giving in to the buss. “Everything we do is for you,” Alex Logsdail told the artists. “We wouldn’t be here without you.”

As if to spite Monday night’s Met Gala, 260 stylish, if less outrageously dressed, guests who have earned the right to be called bohemian filled the Ukrainian National Home for the annual Friends of Artists Space dinner honoring the founders of Semiotext(e), Sylvere Lotringer and Chris Kraus, and its current editor, Hedi El Kholti.

Here, in this alternative universe—not a $300,000-a-table fund-raiser like the Met’s but a thank-you to supporters—Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár made the gallery’s impending move “to a neighborhood more appropriate for its activities than today’s SoHo.” Meanwhile, he said, Artists Space Books & Talks on Walker Street will stay open.

Books and talk livened up the event, already animated by artists and writers who far outnumbered collectors and dealers, though this being Frieze week, they were nonetheless out in force. The dinner, designed by London’s Arnold & Henderson, served Monk’s Beard to the monk-bearded Michael Stipe, saw Barbara Gladstone dig in with the gold-toothed Michele Lamy, and hosted Irving and Lucy Sandler, who helped found the gallery, progenitor of the Pictures generation, way back in 1972.

Left: Artists Stanley Whitney and John Akomfrah. Right: Semiotext(e) founding editor Sylvere Lotringer.

First up to toast Lotringer was the actor Jim Fletcher, a Semiotexte(e) author who confined his speech to listing favorite Semiotext(e) titles like A Hot Mess and Pornocracy, which he cribbed from notes written out on his palm. The suddenly “it” lesbian poet Eileen Myles jumped in next to toast Kraus, whose novel I Love Dick is soon to be an Amazon TV series penned by Myles’s special friend, Transparent creator Jill Soloway. Writer Veronica Gonzalez Peńa wound up the speeches with an affecting appreciation of El Kholti’s liberating pressure to take risks, the binding thread of every Semiotext(e) book. “To think I was once this boy from a small town in Germany reading Baudrillard’s Kool Killer,” said Kalmár at evening’s end. “Tonight was like meeting my heroes.”

This was the aperitif that braced me for the rush of events taking place all over town on Tuesday. In Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Public Art Fund lit up Understanding, a new sign by Martin Creed; at both of her galleries in Chelsea, Gladstone presented what may be Kapoor’s most surprising show so far, including sculptures of viscera inspired by Rembrandt’s paintings of butchered carcasses—“They’re Biblical!” hooted philanthropist Shelby White—and a giant new sculpture made of dirt and resin that Nicholas Logsdail dubbed “the Cloudgate to the ancient world” and that Paula Cooper, passing by from her gallery next door, correctly pegged as the tits of Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus.

Back in the present, at Bookmarc in the West Village Francesco Vezzoli signed copies of an extraordinarily elegant catalogue of his career just published by Rizzoli. (Full disclosure: Yours truly wrote one of the essays.) Right here, I had to stop and think through my itinerary. (Despite the absence of an underground to liven up the culture, New York is still the spinning point of the art world.) Should I head to the Upper East Side to catch Ryan McNamara’s Battleground at the Guggenheim? Then I could hop over to the Jewish Museum for its opening of Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx’s garden designs. Or should I continue to the Lower East Side for Josh Kline’s buzzed-about opening at 47 Canal? Or forget all of that and head to the Rolls-Royce of the evening, the Oscar de la Renta– and car company–sponsored Tate Americas Foundation dinner at the IAC building in Chelsea honoring forty artists?

I didn’t have the right designer clothes, or the stamina, so I opted for the New Museum, which was offering a more manageable, and estrogen-powered, presentation of just five exhibitions, each by an artist who happened to be female.

Left: New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni with Giacomo Alemani Gioni. Right: Poet Eileen Myles, artist K8 Hardy, and the Wooster Group’s Kate Valk.

In other words, phalluses were everywhere. At least, they were prominent as the struts on the craggy, “dick-climbing” walls, or “Alps,” that Andra Ursuta constructed to transform the yawning volume of the fourth floor into human-scale rooms featuring chairs that functioned as pedestals for tooth-baring obelisks poked with suggestive holes. More dicks appeared in a retrospective of paintings by Nicole Eisenman. “Is that a man going down on a woman or a woman going down on another woman?” asked dealer and publisher Brendan Dugan, as he stood in front of one painting with Francesco Bonami, who didn’t reply with more than a raised eyebrow.

“Who was that?” asked Eisenman, after being introduced to a diminutive woman on the arm of W magazine editor in chief Stefano Tonchi. “I didn’t catch the name.” It was Miuccia Prada, actually on hand to support Goshka Macuga, whose show for the Prada Foundation continues into June. Here, for her first major exposure in this country, she put up a caustically political installation of large-scale tapestries and cutout sets for her Aby Warburg–inspired play Preparatory Notes for a Chicago Comedy, which include faces belonging to Angela Merkel, Dasha Zhukova, Marcel Duchamp (as Rrose Sélavy), Richard Artwschwager, Andrea Fraser, and more against backdrops copied from the homes of New Museum trustees. “What a lineup!” commented dealer Pilar Corrias.

In all the excitement, I missed Beatriz Santiago Munoz’s show on the fifth floor, but was struck by Cally Spooner’s taming of the unforgiving ground-floor exhibition space. Behind the glassed-in enclosure, a company of dancers trained for the show by rugby players and a film director to stay bound together while chasing an invisible ball. “It’s about aggression and defense, power and submission,” Spooner said.

It may be Frieze week, but how can an art fair ever compete with all of that?

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover and Frieze Art Fairs director Victoria Siddall. Right: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch.

My So-Called Weekend


Left: Artist Christian Jankowski (left). Right: Dealer Daniel Wichelhaus and artist Petra Cortright. (Except where noted, all photos: Paige K. Bradley)

I WAS EXPECTING A WARM WELCOME in Berlin. But instead, the schizophrenic weather beckoned me into more of a winter formal for the city’s twelfth annual Gallery Weekend. Carly Fiorina was announced as Ted Cruz’s running mate for the GOP nomination—meanwhile I entered into the running for Most Precocious Chickadee on the Berlin art-world circuit.

Run by Maike Cruse, formerly of the Art Basel Circus Circus Incorporated, Gallery Weekend is meant to promote the vitality and diversity of Berlin’s gallery scene, with openings and happenings across the city’s best Bergs “bringing people back into the gallery spaces.” Ballooning to about fifty participating galleries this year, the weekend seems to have reached the point where it’s trying to strike the balance between exciting and overwhelming, to say nothing of the redefinition of the word “weekend,” considering that the weekend began as early as last Tuesday.

Being a working girl myself, my weekend started on Thursday with a stop at Johnen Galerie for an exhibition by German sculptor Martin Honert, whose softly luminous Schlafsaal, Modell 1:5, a wooden diorama of glowing electric lights hidden behind models of radiators and wardrobes was, as senior director Cornelia Tischmacher explained, based on a dormitory from a boarding school the artist attended as a young Honert. Lovely as it was, one couldn’t dawdle here with a reminder of precious rest—soldier on, young art worker! Next was Tomás Saraceno at Esther Schipper, soon to be merging with Johnen, where an Arachno Concert dangled a live spider at the center of a web for a “chamber performance where wave frequencies extend from the vibratory world of the spider throughout the cosmos.” And you thought Berlin artists were lazy. Even the dead can muster something up for a Gallery Weekend—Michel Majerus’s estate hosted a group exhibition in far-flung Prenzlauer Berg, where his own work in video and painting came together with memorable art by Ida Ekblad and Karl Holmqvist.

Left: Artist Anri Sala. Right: Critic Kolja Reichert and artist Angela Bulloch.

The totally bipolar skies complemented the mood of Isa Genzken’s retrospective at Martin-Gropius-Bau, a terrific spritzer prior to the official opening reception at the Hebbel am Ufer. Chatting with KOW’s Raphael Oberhuber outside the lobby of that awkward mixer, we compared notes on New York versus Berlin and the relative quality of artists in LA. Us toilers in the field of culture adore discussing everywhere we aren’t, but we agreed that, as far as Berlin goes, “you can drift here.” Dealer Guido W. Baudach popped up to enthuse endearingly on the vulgarity of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis’s show of portraits, as curated by Jeff Koons, opening at a “concept store” called The Corner, just around the corner. “She’s the new Elizabeth Peyton!”

Uber-ing to Société for a book launch by Kaspar Müller, I was also treated to a preview of Petra Cortright’s latest paintings and videos, with one of the former merging the two into something between a screensaver and a real-time finger-painting session. Cortright expounded on her “mother files” of Photoshop layers used to make her pieces, while a clipped and collaged video of herself dressed in Stella McCartney threads parallel the artist’s own chic, mesh Stella-embroidered jacket.

Later at the Esther Schipper and Johnen dinner at Crackers—formerly known as Cookies in the 1990s, how taste buds change—Neue Nationalgalerie director Udo Kittelmann gave me a teaser of its upcoming George Condo exhibition, which includes Picasso and Matisse—“not a dialogue, but a confrontation.” Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s Anselm Franke occupied the wall nearest the bar with Tomás Saraceno, who made an invite to his studio—filled with tanks of spiders—sound more like a Fear Factor contest than an aesthetic investigation.

Left: Johnen Galerie’s Cornelia Tischmacher, artist Martin Honert and Berlin Nationalgalerie director Udo Kittelmann. Right: Artist Tomás Saraceno and dealer Esther Schipper.

A couple artists from Esther Schipper’s stable seemed (mistakenly) under the impression that I was a representative from Getty Images sent to immortalize their bad fashion sense in high resolution. Leapfrogging over their heads to the König Galerie afterparty, the local Drift became more of a March of the Aggro Penguins, as DJs spun something repetitive and Manifesta curator Christian Jankowski swayed in time alternating between nodding in affirmation and shaking his head in cheerful denial. Oh, and there was free roaming around the exhibitions of Annette Kelm and Claudia Comte. The vibe was dark through and through—why couldn’t we just twitch to Aphex Twin or grind to Beyoncé instead of this simulacra of a party? I scooted to await the daybreak from the safety of my own artisanally-reclaimed-whatever hotel room.

Friday morning I peeled off to Anne Collier at Galerie Neu, where selections from her “Women Crying” series felt relevant to this sleep-deprived lady. Neugerriemschneider staged an exhibition by Tobias Rehberger comprising works from such esteemed figures as Andreas Gursky, Isa Genzken, and Wolfgang Tillmans, among others, but the suffocating installation made everything look generic, flat, and uninspired—plus I was hungry. Thankfully, Tanya Leighton’s lunch at the legendary Paris Bar came just in time to soothe my pain, and assuage my offended sensibilities. Thrown in honor of Aleksandra Domanović’s latest show for the gallery, Belgian collectors Mimi Dusselier and Bernard Soens slid in and I took a seat with Matt Moravec from New York and Düsseldorf’s Off Vendome, Karen Roth from NPR Berlin, and Tanya’s right-hand man and good luck charm Patrick Armstrong.

Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s Rachel Harrison show in the Berliner Zeitung office building featured a conference table of colorful wood, polystyrene, and cement sculptures in a bland, gray room—as if convening to discuss their own projected profit margins. Some resembled fitness bells, deformed by their casting, with one sporting a pencil stabbed into the top. Harsh. A crew of rubber gym balls congregated below the tables, all hemmed in by black office chairs and a sterile atmosphere. Some people even live like this. The German culture minister Monika Grütters, she of the controversial push for a law to curtail exports of art and antiquities from the country, stopped by to have a gander with an accompanying entourage of officious looking peeps. Collectors Karen and Christian Boros seemed charmed by the install as well.

Left: Texte zur Kunst editor in chief Carly Busta. Right: DIS's Marco Roso and Lauren Boyle.

Twilight! Mathew Gallery opened an exhibition of new paintings by Richard Phillips that engage the legacy of Gerhard Richter, and while women still haunt the pictures, now they’ve been pushed into the background, drifting underneath a highly complex over-layer that takes on “a veil of valuation about an artistic language.” I bounced to Isabella Bortolozzi for Oscar Murillo’s latest diegesis, where a major queue had already formed for his boot-camp menagerie with a pungent environmental aroma surrounding bare metal bunk frames, shoving the beds we don’t have to sleep on into our faces. I walked a few blocks to Ed Fornieles’s show at Arratia Beer, where I found a video—which also watches you via a surveillance camera—a vegetable cart, and backlit, 3-D-printed figurines in glass cases. The vegetables will be replaced throughout the show and the old ones will be made into new works, as he told me later over a glass of still water at the spa. I went to Buchholz, where Wolfgang Tillmans was showing photos based on his own studio, only to discover that my own battery was kaput. Sometimes the soul wants to party but the body just screams and dies anyway.

Saturday morning: Alive but just barely, I slouched to KW Institute as I heard there was to be a performance. Finding none, I took time to be entranced by Lawrence Lek’s video and accompanying video game installation, Berlin Mirror (2042 Retrospective). Down the road, Hiwa K’s show at KOW featured videos of the artist dancing flamenco on the grounds of a former Iraqi prison used by Saddam Hussein as a base for torture. Dealer Raphael Oberhuber gave us the backstory: The artist emigrated to Germany via the same route refugees are taking today through Greece, and a pair working for the Red Cross happened to come into the gallery a few days prior and recognize the man who filmed the second video in the gallery of the last day of Iraq’s own protest movement during the Arab Spring. That man was since captured by ISIS, and now is forced to do photography and propaganda for them, but the gallerygoers have vowed to try and find and rescue him.

Back around KW and the galleries on Mitte’s Linienstraße, the ambling crowds blended in well with the al fresco diners. I was surrounded by leisure—terrifying. But on to dinner! Waiting to ascend the boat that would take a motley assortment of artists, dealers, and collectors to the Altes Kraftwerk on the outskirts of town for the annual Gala, Société’s Daniel Wichelhaus handed down from on high a Petra Cortright x Société energy drink—or prosecco, who can tell the difference?—which held me through the normally triggering experience of boating.

Left: Chateau Shatto's Nelson Harmon and artist Hayal Pozanti. Right: Silberkuppe's Michel Ziegler and Dominic Eichler.

After disembarking and securing passage through several checkpoints, Cruse gave a welcome speech applauding this year as “the strongest edition yet,” saying “we’re here to celebrate the artists” in a place abandoned for twenty years. Plunking into a seat across from Texte zur Kunst’s editor in chief Carly Busta and nearby DIS’s Marco Roso, and Lauren Boyle—who recently had twins!—I learned that the upcoming Berlin Biennale—or simply BB9—would be titled “The Present in Drag.” Charming, and we were certainly all in our best adult professional drag that night. As the night wore on, though, it started to feel a little heavy, too creasy and oily, so I shucked mine and ran off with DIS’s Ada O’Higgins and Ed Fornieles to the afterparty next door.

Partying in Berlin, like dying, is an art, and Berliners do it especially well. One doesn’t fuck around here. Instead one must stride forward with purpose and fortitude and find out who your man’s going to be—this is the First Quarter. After you’ve had your fill of a current setting’s social potential, to say nothing of dessert, you roundly denounce the scene into which you’ve been cast and decamp for higher—or lower, depending on how you roll— ground. A site of historical trauma and betrayed ideology works well for the latter, as in the case of Bortolozzi and Galerie NEU’s afterparty at Funkhaus, which used to be the very unfunky GDR communications headquarters. The lobbies were fantastic—those Reds had a way with interior design—and the music was DJ WOF.

I wandered out to the back and powwowed with some locals and their campfire. Not up to fetch another dried Christmas tree from the nearby dark, leafy grove to stoke the fire, I slunk back to the shindig which had not more than a few similarities to an open-studio night at a grim but highly conceptual art school. We were in the waxing gibbous phase, that time of night when one simply affirms, you’ll say yes to anything. At dawn, the remainders sashayed away with the confidence that only comes to those who have spent the entire night making merry, or Schadenfreude, all over a grave marker to a totalitarian regime.

Now it was that time of a night (and morning) when you enter denial. It was also May Day. I taxied to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 6:30 AM Brutally Early Club meeting down the block from Gorlitzer park in Kreuzberg. I arrived (too) early. Fornieles wouldn’t shut up about duvets, and eventually it seemed too brutal to stay, so I left only a token of global capitalism’s hegemony behind for the woke to contemplate. Workers of the world unite and take over.

Paige K. Bradley

Left: Artist Richard Phillips and Mathew Gallery's David Lieske. Right: Texte zur Kunst publisher Isabelle Graw with architect Jakob Lehrecke. (Photo: David Lieske)