Supermarket Sweep

Mexico City

Left: Zona Maco founder Zélika Garcia. Right: Artist Gabriel Orozco in his appropriation of an OXXO store. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

AFTER WEEKS OF THE POLITICAL PORN that is now our presidency, what a relief to arrive in Mexico City—even for an art fair. Here was a place that welcomed foreigners, despite (or because of) a 30 percent drop in the peso.

Well, money isn’t everything. Not in Ciudad de Mexico (now known as CDMX). So what if you can’t take a deep breath without feeling faint? The oldest capital in the Americas is a place of constant wonder and discovery. What’s more, it seems to be generating more invigorating art activity than anywhere else in the hemisphere.

Art doesn’t just matter here. It’s fun.

Take the exacting appropriation of an OXXO convenience store that Gabriel Orozco has installed at Kurimanzutto, sending the highfalutin art market crashing to earth in a supermarket. Or the fascinating revivification, by Mario García Torres, of the nearly forgotten Museo Dinámico (Dynamic Museum), a revolutionary mid-1960s partnership of anti-institutional art and architecture. Or this year’s entire Material Art Fair, in Juárez, a “developing” neighborhood where bootstrap galleries are colonizing vacant commercial space in the manner of ’70s SoHo.

Left: Dealer Pamela Echeverria. Right: Artist Lawrence Weiner and dealer Shaun Caley Regen.

The city’s mayor even got into the act by cutting the ribbon on “Forever and a Day,” a multisite exhibition by Lawrence Weiner that opened February 7 at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico (a former palace in the historic center) and four other public spaces around town, including the Zócalo (one of the grandest plazas in the world).

“They really get me here,” crowed the seventy-four-year-old Conceptualist, submitting to a phalanx of adoring photographers and autograph hounds in the museum’s interior courtyard.

Heading out for what is traditionally the prefair gallery hop, I wondered if Weiner’s title wasn’t a sly reference to the barely perceptible movement of weekday traffic. “It’s like Mumbai,” as Labor’s Pamela Echeverría put it. “Without the animals.”

On balance, that was a small price to pay for the considerable pleasures of great food, a temperate climate, and superlative art and often astounding architecture, which Zona Maco (February 8 to 12) has done much to illuminate in the past fourteen years, simply by bringing more people to it.

So has the internationally inclined Kurimanzutto, where LA MoCA director Philippe Vergne joined dealers Paul Kasmin and Chantal Crousel, Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover, architect Kulapat Yantrasast, and what looked like the entire corporate structure of the OXXO chain for the opening of “OROXXO,” where everyday goods were nearly indistinguishable from Orozco’s Haim Steinbach–like arrangements of the same commodities.

Left: Artist Francis Al˙s and dealer Bella Hubert. Right: Architect Kulapat Yantrasast, dealer Chantal Crousel, and LA MoCA director Philippe Vergne.

Guests were given paper bills that melded the graphics of the peso with the dollar, substituting Orozco’s divided red, blue, and gold circle for the portrait. “No wall here!” he cracked. “All you really need is a bridge.”

The desire to shop was the link. People could exchange the artist’s bill for any item in the faux store not emblazoned with an Orozco logo, which identified it as art. The receipt was the real takeaway, but many people thought the bill more collectible. “I’m keeping mine,” murmured Melissa Schiff Soros, browsing with Creative Time director Katie Hollander.

This opening, where food and drink freely flowed on the outdoor patio, was a hard act for other galleries to follow, even if they did include the Mexican debut of B. Wurtz at Lulu Gallery (part of which also had a shopping theme), Antek Walczak at the dependably subversive House of Gaga, a rocketing Pablo Vargas Lugo at Labor, the always bracing Tercerunquinto collective’s excavation of the “archeology of rage” at Proyectos Monclova, or the irresistibly titled “The Queen Falls,” a group show at venerable OMR curated by Anissa Touati and Marc-Olivier Wahler.

All of a sudden it was time for dinner. The choices were many. With traffic at a standstill, I opted for the closest, Barbara Gladstone’s annual feast at Rosetta. Like Orozco’s bilateral currency, it put Mexican and American collectors together in about equal parts.

With Zona Maco drawing traffic the next morning to the Centro Banamex convention center, I cruised south to the Museo Anahuacalli–Diego Rivera, a massive stone temple where Bosco Sodi’s ceramic rocks, terra-cotta bricks, and lavalike red paintings gave a contemporary lift to Rivera’s two thousand-piece collection of pre-Columbian art.

All you really need is a bridge.

Left: Dealer Lawrence Luhring with collector Eugenio López Alonso and dealer Roland Augustine. Right: Artist Bosco Sodi’s installation outside the Museo Anahuacalli-Diego Rivera.

Meanwhile, the fair had upped its game by introducing a greater number of blue-chip galleries to an international mix. (To call Zona Maco “regional,” as many do, is a misnomer.) “I can’t tell you why we decided to come,” said Roland Augustine, who found his footing when Museo Jumex founder Eugenio López Alonso walked into the booth for a tour of the Jeff Elrod paintings on view.

Despite the relative quiet of the VIP preview, Salon 94 was doing brisk business with wall pieces by the Aboriginal artist Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. For those in the mood to raise the dead, Gaga’s Fernando Mesta had unearthed outsidery paintings by the late Juan José Gurrola, better-known in Mexico as a theater director and the actor who played Diego Rivera opposite Salma Hayek in the 2002 biopic Frida.

“I like this fair,” said art adviser Benjamin Godsill, “because you can really talk about art, not just prices. And you can find good work—and buy it, because there’s less competition.”

Perhaps the depressed peso was having an effect. Though more Americans than usual were in the aisles, attendance did seem sparse—at least until lunch in the outdoor VIP area, serviced by Habita Hotel, where the meet and greet was buoyant. Artist Carlos Betancourt, for example, swooped in from a book signing to declare that he owned “the largest collection of Christmas ornaments in the world.”

That propelled me to New Proposals with section curator Humberto Moro, whose day job is with the Savannah College of Art and Design. Dealer Karen Huber was featuring a faded American flag painting by Manuel Solano, a gay activist blinded by an HIV infection. “This is the only gallery in Mexico boldly advocating for gay rights,” said Moro. “It’s still a taboo here.”

Left: Collector Melissa Schiff Soros and Creative Time director Katie Hollander. Right: Zona Maco artistic director Daniel Garza.

We moved to a large space that Maco artistic director Daniel Garza-Usabiaga designated for galleries presenting artists under thirty years old. “I think it’s unusual for a fair, isn’t it?” he asked. It’s certainly nice. Everything here was new, unpretentious, and capable of arousing curiosity, even in brand-seekers wandering over from the territory ruled by Zwirner, Gagosian, Regen Projects, and Bortolami.

I hope some also took time for Zona Maco Sur, the section for solo presentations chosen by Kunsthalle Lissabon codirectors Luis Silva and Joao Mourăo. The bearded Portuguese duo was returning for the third year with “Case Study #3: The F.R. David Complex,” a syndrome that describes a sudden loss for words.

New photo collages by Linder stepped up to the theme at Stockholm’s Andréhn-Schiptjenko, but the artist who took it most literally was probably Ximena Labra. At Y Gallery, she had hung, as corridors of shrouds, full-scale rubbings of books in an immense private library in El Salvador that has since been destroyed by both earthquake and war.

And somehow the day went by.

I had to hustle to catch the opening and book launch of “Retrospective,” Nina Beier’s perfectly mad installation of a bourgeois, windowless apartment in a half-constructed building found for her by dealer José Garcia Torres. In my rush, I’d forgotten my VIP wristband, so I couldn’t get into the Zona Maco party that followed.

Left: Material Art Fair cofounder Brett W. Schultz and Material director of exhibitor relations Rodrigo Feliz. Right: Dealer Fernando Mesta and restaurateur Gabriela Cámara.

No matter. Mexican hospitality runs deep. So I joined Echeverría and Mesta, cohosts of a dinner catered by Gabriela Cámara, queen of Contramar, the art world’s commissary of choice. (Only a chef wise to artists would serve a roasted sweet potato as a standalone course.)

The Creative Time group was there. Stefan Kalmár, a month into his directorship of ICA London, was too, as was Hatje Cantz program director Holger Liebs, Mousse editor Stefano Cernuschi, Centre Pompidou Foundation curator of American art Florence Derieux, and collector Richard Massey—and that was just one table.

The next morning, Material cofounder Brett Schultz was at the door of Expo Reforma, welcoming out-of-towners to his fair’s fourth edition, reconfigured this year as less a labyrinth of tiny stalls than a park-like plaza across two floors. Gallery booths surrounded a café or bar smartly outfitted with benches. (As Art Basel veterans know, good benches mean a good experience.)

Material’s opening also boasted a paparazzi magnet, Kim Gordon, in town to launch a book of her own later in the day. Now she was visiting the #DearIvanka-themed installation that Sadie Laska and Lizzi Bougatsos plastered on the walls of Joaquin Garcia’s Mascot Gallery booth, featuring lyrics from Bad Sex, the art duo’s new album with their band, IUD. “I’ve discovered weed ointment,” Bougatsos gushed. “My neck pain is cured.”

With a whole floor yet to visit, it was already clear that this fair, where most works were priced well under $2,000, is providing a valuable counterweight to the high-end ambitions of Zona Maco, which serves the converted. If Material’s feeder galleries can engage a younger generation of artists and collectors, it can only create a healthier market.

Left: Artists Sadie Laska and Lizzi Bougatsos with artist-author-musician Kim Gordon. Right: Architect Fernando Romero.

Due to traffic snarled by one of the frequent protest demonstrations on Reforma, the city’s main drag, I arrived too late to catch the musical performance opening the excellent Museo Dinámico show at Archivo (the foundation created by architect Fernando Romero) but luckily caught the buffet lunch sent over from Casa Merlos.

The same traffic then stopped me from seeing the annual popup shows organized by Salón Acme in a crumbling Juárez mansion—one of the hot-button events of the week. With withering patience, I made the opening at the Jumex of a retrospective for the late Ulises Carrión, an artist, bookmaker, and publisher who left Mexico for Amsterdam in the 1980s and hadn’t been back. Till now.

With Kalmár, I also caught the giant ice floe in the museum’s General Idea exhibition, which advertised itself by floating giant retroviral pill inflatables over the terrace opposite Romero’s torqued silver girdle of the Museo Soumaya, the jewel of Carlos Slim’s glass-and-steel development. “Only in Mexico,” Kalmár grumbled, is “the antiestablishment culture this show represents smack dab in the middle of a mall for the wealthy.”

I couldn’t stay for the party. This was the night of the annual Museo Tamayo benefit gala, and my one chance to see a Tacita Dean show beautifully realized by Tamayo director Juan Gaitán. “Tacita made this work while she was in residence with us,” said Getty Research Institute deputy director Andrew Perchuk, attending with Getty Foundation deputy director Joan Weinstein.

Left: Dealer Inés López-Quesada with collector Jorge Pérez and dealer Silvia Ortiz. Right: Dealer Stefania Bortolami.

I was happily seated at a table filled with members of the board at PAC (Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo), a nineteen-year-old educational, curatorial, and editorial support organization founded by independent art professionals––“not rich people,” said its director, Mariana Munguía. An important group.

Dealers, both native and visiting, anchored other tables with artists and patrons. Travesía Cuatro partners Silvia Ortiz and Inés López-Quesada landed Pérez Art Museum Miami benefactor Jorge Pérez, who was applauded for standing up to Donald Trump and refusing to build “the wall.” The two real-estate developers have known each other for years. “Now he’s not speaking to me,” Pérez said. He was laughing. The party went late.

Then came Hans Ulrich Obrist Day, an unofficial holiday commemorating the one-two-three books that the Serpentine Gallery’s artistic director was launching. The first, at Kurimanzutto, was a Cahiers d’Art monograph for Orozco containing an interview with the two. Then came the Mousse reprint of The Air Is Blue, the catalogue for an “imaginary” exhibition that Obrist conceived in the 1990s with artist Pedro Reyes that was mounted at Casa Barragán.

A four o’clock lunch followed at a nearby cantina, where the Fundación Alumnos47, which is basically an art-book library, honored the publication of Obrist’s Conversations in Mexico.

Did you know that Leonora Carrington invented her own “caviar” (tapioca spiked with squid ink) with Luis Buńuel? You can read about it in this truly edifying collection of interviews, which Obrist and Reyes conducted over several years, with artists ranging from Carrington and Elena Poniatowska to the very much alive Graciela Iturbide and Eduardo Terrazas, both of whom were present. “Everything about this book is about friendship,” Obrist said.

Left: Dealer José Kuri. Right: Artist Pedro Reyes and Serpentine Gallery artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist.

The same could be said for everything in Mexico City. That’s the way it goes—and the way it went that night, in the Beverly Hills–like enclave where a couple hundred people came to a housewarming party hosted by Eugenio López.

Is every week here like this? I still had the Saturday opening of “Kindergarten,” an exhibition by Gregor Schneider at MUAC, the vast museum on the city-size campus of the University of Mexico. “I collect rooms,” the artist told me during the reception. “That’s what I do. Someone has to. Museums can’t and galleries won’t.”

But here they were, with a new installation of a nonfunctional playground—Schneider’s first “exterior” room—and an all-encompassing Andrea Fraser retrospective, a two-channel film by the Camel Collective, and “Prussian Blue,” a show of Holocaust-themed paintings by Yishai Jusidman. What could I do next but return to Material, where three of the four-man Peruvian collective Sagrada Mercancia won my heart?

There were more galleries to visit—in, garages, offices, nightclubs—and a wild, nearly all-night dance party given by José Kuri and Mónica Manzutto at Café Paraíso, with a DJ imported from Havana.

I’ll be back.

Linda Yablonsky

Reality Check


Left: Artist Neďl Beloufa and Mehdi Moujane. Right: Collector Hamidreza Pejman and artist Mamali Shafahi.

“I DON’T THINK I’M GOING,” I told a friend the day I was supposed to fly to Tehran. The White House had just released a draft of the executive order banning entry to the United States for nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran. The order wasn’t final yet, so on top of the profound despair over global politics, there was a certain confusion about concrete travel processes, especially for holders of passports from other majority-Muslim countries—including yours truly.

“If you don’t go to Tehran you’ll regret it,” said my friend. “And eating kebab in Westwood won’t make up for it. Believe me, if they don’t want to let you in, you wouldn’t want to get in anyway.”

I took the advice (and a Xanax), and there I was a few hours later, wearing a headscarf at the immigration booth of Imam Khomeini International Airport. “Can you put the visa on a separate sheet?” I tried. “What are you afraid of?” asked the agent. “You’re not on ‘the list’ anyway. Welcome to Iran!”

Left: Curators Hicham Khalidi and Martha Kirszenbaum and Mamali Shafahi. Right: Curator Azar Mahmoudian.

How ironic that the occasion for my visit was a project by French-Algerian artist Neďl Beloufa, a master in deconstructing geopolitical representations and global systems of control. Among other works he was installing when I arrived was the trailer of a movie shot in Iran in 2016. Conceived as a reality TV show, it features a group of young Iranians speaking in Farsi (about food, relationships, and how to eliminate one another) with an overlapping English voice-over that sounded half Big Brother, half Barack Obama. This mesmerizing oddity was titled Restored Communication. “As you can see, the world changed since I chose the title,” said Beloufa, typically impassive.

Beloufa was offered the inaugural exhibition in an industrial building in downtown Tehran. The space, a onetime brewery B.K. (Before Khomeini) called Argo Factory—after the beer that was produced there, not Ben Affleck’s Hollywood blockbuster—is the new headquarters of Pejman Foundation, an exhibition and residency program founded by the young and ambitious collector Hamid Reza Pejman. “Collecting was not enough,” he told me. “And putting works into a building is not enough either. Here students and young artists can’t travel easily. I want them to see something else. I want them to interact with other works and other practices.”

One of the conditions of Beloufa’s project was that he spend time in Iran and work with an Iranian crew of actors, technicians, artists, and installers. The exhibition was a success: A mix of video installations and CCTV cameras interacting with the artist’s signature wire sculptures covering the building’s unfinished facade, the whole enterprise looked like a UFO—especially in the context of an Iranian art scene still largely dominated by painting.

Left: Artist Parvaneh Etemadi. Right: Curators Léonie Radine and Cloe Perrone.

For the opening, the foundation gathered a group of international curators for a series of talks and screenings organized by Pejman’s right-hand man, artist and curator Mamali Shafahi. Among the guests were Museum Ludwig’s Léonie Radine, Hicham Khalidi from Fondation Lafayette, Fondazione Memmo’s Cloe Perrone, and curator Martha Kirszenbaum. “A few other people were coming but had ‘last-minute impediments,’” said Shafahi, half in jest, highlighting the strange sense of purpose that this trip was taking. Of course the visa ban was the designated small talk for the week, but Iranians, accustomed to geopolitical isolation and to the consequences of a thirty-year-plus embargo, seemed less worried than the rest of us. “It gives a new meaning to what we’re doing,” said Sazmanab art space founder Sohrab Kashani, who has been working on a television sitcom between Tehran and Pittsburgh since 2014. Artist Parvaneh Etemadi, a major figure on the Tehrani scene and a mentor to many young artists, was even more resilient. “It’s all vanilla ice cream,” she said. “It always melts eventually.”

We spent our first days cruising from museums to artist studios, as dumb struck by the taxi driver’s racing habits (hello Jafar Panahi) as we were by the breathtaking sight of the Alborz Mountains. Tehran’s streets are puzzling, clotted in architectural anachronism and punctuated by hundreds of bucolic murals commissioned by the Bureau of Beautification—even as the capital bulldozes traditional buildings and outdoor spaces. Artist Nazgol Ansarinia, whose studio we visited in the northern neighborhood of Dar Abad, showed us miniature models responding to that irony as well as a new video work reflecting the city’s many layers of memory, from the 1970s ersatz muscular modernization to today’s real-estate boom. Ansarinia’s project is supposed to be shown at New York’s Armory Show in March, but of course everything is now in diplomatic limbo.

Over the next few days, talks were held at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, home to the outstanding collection of Western art assembled in the ’70s by Farah Pahlavi, former empress and local Peggy Guggenheim, and her architect cousin Kamran Diba, who designed the museum. It was quite exhilarating to think that we were sitting above one of the most dazzling collections of Abstract Expressionist and postwar art, recently in the spotlight due to the sudden cancelation of its traveling to Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie and Rome’s MAXXI. Diplomatic limbo, the sequel.

Left: Artist Shabahang Tayyari and dealer Niloofar Abedi. Right: Artist Shahla Hosseini.

Friday was opening night at the Pejman Foundation and in galleries across the city. We sampled the burgeoning scene, trying to force our way through Tehrani traffic “uptown,” where most of the new spaces are. As usual, the most interesting works weren’t performing “tradition” for the sake of commercial success. Noteworthy among them were the delicate drawings of Shahla Hosseini at Emkan Gallery as well as several gems in the hidden one-room apartment gallery where Morteza Zahedi assembled an impressive collection of Iranian outsider art, from Amir Kamand’s incongruous wooden sculptures to the earnest erotic drawings of Reza Shafahi, a seventy-seven-year-old retired gambler.

Off the multilane Valiasr Boulevard was AG gallery, where we sat with artist Peyman Hooshmandzadeh around the traditional tea-dates-pistachios combo before heading to the three-floor Mohsen Gallery for a sight of Mehrdad Afsari’s clunky photography. We finished up at Dastan, a gallery founded by the proactive young dealer Hormoz Hematian with a basement for experimental projects as well as a program of art interventions throughout the city. “Iranians are better off in Iran,” confessed Hematian on a ride between his two spaces. “There are so many opportunities. It’s really a giving country. What we are lacking right now is a nonprofit museum and more critical writing.”

Later at Pejman’s opening, Hematian’s reflection was completed by curator and local figure Ali BakhtiariHans Ulrich Obrist if Obrist could lip-sync to Iranian diva Googoosh. “Visual culture here builds up through pictures and the internet, which creates a peculiar aesthetic. It’s a chance that some of us had to be able to travel and see things, but for the majority, art is an incomplete experiment,” he said. “We need to send people outside and bring shows inside,” he continued, echoing initiatives such as Pejman’s and artist Tooraj Khamenehzadeh’s Kooshk residency program.

Left: Curator Ali Bakhtiari and collector Mahdi Rahmanian. Right: Artist and Kooshk Residency curator and program manager Tooraj Khamenehzade..

The next day, the Pejman Foundation held a talk between Beloufa and curator Azar Mahmoudian. The conversation was heated but the space was not, which didn’t prevent an attentive crowed from sitting for four hours in the cold to listen. Resilience, some would say, or was it just taarof, that fascinating Iranian form of extreme civility?

“I don’t understand your art,” hailed an audience member to Beloufa. “You could at least have used a Persian toilet seat instead of the Occidental toilet seat in your installation. It would have made it more familiar.” The translator got lost while the debate expanded among the audience, the voices ping-ponging in Farsi about the need for contemporary art to adapt (or not) to a given context. “Iranian artists aren’t really liberated from tradition,” Mahmoudian said later, reflecting on the “Toiletgate.” “If at the end of the day people think about the show, even if they’re puzzled about what they saw, we did our job,” Pejman added. QED.

Myriam Ben Salah

Oslo Peace


Left: Mary Grace Wright, dealer Eivind Furnesvik, and Girko. Right: OSL Contemporary manager Magnus Jorde with OSL Contemporary directors Emilie Magnus and Aurora Aspen and Sonja. (All photos: Cat Kron)

THERE’S NEVER A GOOD TIME to travel under the auspices of cultural representation on behalf of a country with demonstrated fascist and xenophobic leanings. Three days before I embarked for Oslo, our president enacted the so-called travel ban; two nights prior to my departure, a Brooklyn federal judge issued an emergency block temporarily barring deportations as protesters demonstrated worldwide. But even now, with 45 promising a new executive order, the ordinance’s fate remains uncertain.

Norway, nevertheless, was as reservedly gracious in its reception as its reputation would suggest. On the morning I arrived, my concierge kindly showed me how to insert my room keycard to turn on my electricity. No doubt American tourists wastefully leave their hotel-room lights blazing the way Australian tourists leave 3 percent tips. That evening I trundled up into the hills in a jet-lag-induced haze, complemented by the outside fog, to Lysebu, a hotel outside the city’s center. A traditional Norwegian-inspired house designed by Magnus Poulsson, the architect behind Oslo’s city hall (whose interiors, incidentally, flaunt some of the world’s most elegantly schizophrenic fresco pattern play), Lysebu was dedicated to the Danish in 1945 as a gesture of friendship between Norway and its neighbor to the south, which had come to its aid during the war. Here, we shared dinner with the artists and curatorial team behind “Myths of the Marble,” a joint venture by Henie Onstad Kunstsenter and Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art. The significance of the venue was not lost on any among the international group that had gathered. Perhaps good fences don’t make good neighbors after all.

Left: Artists Ragna Bley and Ignas Krunglevičius. Right: Critic Maria Horvei, ICA Philadelphia curator Alex Klein, and artist Florian Meisenberg.

“Myths” takes its inspiration from The Blue Marble, the now-ubiquitous image of earth as seen from Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972, shortly after the spacecraft exited its orbit around the planet. Exactly thirty-one years prior, on December 7, 1941, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor catalyzed the entry of American forces into World War II. The two events are unrelated except as indices of lasting epistemic shifts and of the dissolutions of barriers—the first historic event marking the end of the United States’ isolationism, the latter representing its then-seemingly unlimited territorial ambitions. But if the photograph is riddled with conflicting connotations coincidental and otherwise, it nevertheless depicts a holistic planet (or at least one side of it). It was this rendering—a representation of the world as critical to the formation of the worldview of its subjects, and, conversely, the avatar in the service of its material counterpart—that the show’s curators, Milena Hřgsberg for HOK and Alex Klein for the ICA, sought to foreground in taking “virtuality,” a notion that could not be further from partisan land-grabbing, as their unifying theme.

Of course, the physical world has a way of making its presence felt. On our drive home from dinner, Tone Hansen, HOK’s director, remarked that this season’s lack of snow had pushed Osloans farther afield in their pursuit of skiable surface. And the air did seem worryingly warmer than one would expect. Finally wide-awake, I made it through all of Argo and half of Syriana in my hotel room, surrounded by multiple lit bedside lamps.

Left: VI, VII's Marius Presterud and Esperanza Rosales. Right: Henie Onstad Kunstsenter curator Milena Hřgsberg and Alex Klein.

Oslo’s community of artists, dealers, and writers is remarkably interconnected. A quick jaunt from my hotel is OSL Contemporary, where the next day I was introduced to the work of the Norwegian sculptor Jone Kvie, as well as to a sassy shorthair dachshund named Sonja, and where the staff gamely let me take their pictures. Near the waterfront (and aforementioned city hall—also the Nobel is awarded here!!!) is VI, VII, where dealer Esperanza Rosales led me through a suite of Jochen Schmith’s shredded-banknote wall tapestries. Later I met up with writer Maria Horvei, who was joined for the evening by VI, VII gallery artist (and fellow Norwegian) Mikael Brkic. We rode out to HOK on a city bus jammed with art people, reminding me of the school buses that were chartered to ferry people from weddings to after-parties—except soberer. The opening would fix that. The Lithuanian-born artist Ignas Krunglevičius showed me his immersive aural installation; Berlin-based Susanne M. Winterling showed me her ring finger tattoo; Klein had been bruised in a sledding accident the night prior but soldiered through. Sled on, brah!

Standard is perhaps Oslo’s best-known gallery in the States, and it was there, in a window-wrapped gallery looking out onto the dark city, that I met dachshund #2, Gilko, the wirehaired young squire of Eivind Furnesvik, the gallery’s cofounder and longtime director. Installation had yet to begin on “May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way,” but Furnesvik gave a spirited tour of the sleek space, despite the fact that he and his fiancée, Gracie, of New York’s Bureau Gallery, had flown in from LA that morning, thus besting my jet-lag by three time zones. In this moment of nationalism and division, night still falls everywhere.

Cat Kron

Oh My Gstaad

Gstaad, Switzerland

Left: Artist Thomas Schütte. Right: Artist Pipilotti Rist. All photos: Nicolas Trembley.

WITH RECORD-LOW SNOWFALLS, Swiss ski resorts appear to be the latest casualty of global climate change.

Which is a shame, since winter sports are now intrinsically bound to Swiss contemporary art—that is, to cultural attractions that keep residents busy or attract new ones.

These past few weeks, one could take part in master classes at the Verbier Art Summit in Valais (with Rem Koolhaas, Tino Sehgal, or Beatrix Ruf) or in the Engadin Art Talks in Zuoz (with Oscar Tuazon, Hito Steyerl, and even Eileen Myles). But the only alpine event that promises to resemble an art exhibition is Gstaad’s Elevation 1049 (the number references the resort’s altitude in meters). This is the second edition of the event, produced by the Luma Foundation and founded by Maja Hoffmann, with luminary patrons such as Almine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Maurice Amon, and Camilla Al-Fayed.

For those who have never been, Gstaad is a small village with chalets that harbor, in discreet luxury, considerable fortunes. The town’s boarding school, Le Rosey, educates royalty.

Left: Artist and curator Olympia Scarry. Right: Curator Neville Wakefield.

This year’s iteration of Elevation 1049 is called “Avalanche,” a reference not to natural disasters but to Willoughby Sharp and Liza Béar’s 1970s post-Minimal/post-Conceptual magazine. For the second time, the artistic directors are local artist Olympia Scarry and curator Neville Wakefield.

From the pool of the famous Palace Hotel—which resembles the Sleeping Beauty castle—we traveled to the top of the Diablerets Glacier, where some fifteen artists produced an in situ body of work that reinterprets Land art through sculpture, performance, and film. During three days that were like a wild goose chase, we surveyed the regional map drawn by Tatiana Trouvé to discover the different works scattered throughout the area.

On Thursday night, the eve of the opening, collector Mick Flick welcomed the artists in his minimalist chalet brimming with works by Bruce Nauman. With guests including dealer Gisela Capitain, Serpentine director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and collector Ulla Dreyfus, the party could easily have been mistaken for a dinner at Art Basel. Even Marc Spiegler was there, in town to meet with all his heads of VIP, who were attending seminars at the Palace that same weekend.

The following day, the Swiss Institute—where Hoffmann is also chairwoman—hosted the welcome brunch in the Post Hotel Rössli. After some spätzli with spinach we jumped in BMW 4x4s to the slopes of Wispile to visit Thomas Schütte’s pavilion, inspired by and meditative in the mountain’s silence, coproduced by French dealer Pietro Sparta. From there we continued to Michaël Borremans’s first-ever sculpture, Rosa, a fiberglass character without a face standing upside down as if it fell from the sky.

Left: Luma Foundation founder Maja Hoffmann. Right: Dealer Iwan Wirth (right).

At 4 PM, artist Sarah Morris welcomed us in a Montreux–Oberland Bernois golden-pass funicular railway train, customized and painted in her colorful abstract style. We spent the journey in our winter suits to Saanemöser Valley, where a cable lift took us to the mountaintop for a performance by Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember.

We were joined by artists including Sylvie Fleury and Christian Marclay and dealers from Gérard Fagionnato to David Zwirner and Salon 94’s Fabienne Stephen, as well as local doyenne Patricia Low, who just opened the exhibition “Toilet Paper.” Around a small lake, Gordon and Tschiember placed logs in a circle and lit them up to the howls of wolves. A few latecomers couldn’t make it back down and had to spend the night in the village of igloos on top of the mountain.

Too bad for them, because that evening, dealer Iwan Wirth welcomed guests at the Vieux Chalet—Gunter Sachs’s old residence, with a legendary cave-pool and waterbed that continue to exude the presence of Brigitte Bardot and of parties probably much more fun than any we are lucky enough to attend today. Wirth presented an exhibition in the style of “a collector’s chalet”: There was a Calder sculpture outside, a Miró above the chimney, and a work by Pipilotti Rist projected onto the pool and the bed.

On Saturday the weather was terrible, all gray fog and rain and snow. Because of the wind, it was too dangerous to climb the Col du Pillon, where Superflex had installed a totem. Instead, we went to an old barn in the heights of Gstaad to see a movie that showed how the artwork was installed. Outside, Richard Scarry Jr., a local dandy, father to Olympia, and son of the illustrator of the same name (recall the Best Word Book Ever), played a traditional alpine horn while we drank bone-marrow soup through a straw. On the way to the barn, I passed Vera Michalski-Hoffmann––sister of Maja and patron of the Sommets Musicaux, the other major event in Gstaad—walking by with her pilgrim stick.

Nayla Audi, Whitechapel Gallery chief curator Lydia Yee, and artist Christian Marclay.

In the middle of the main street, called La Promenade, and close to the fashionable shops is Chalet Lulu––a showroom for cars so fancy we don’t even know their makes––where artist Yngve Holen has installed hubcaps on the facade. We walked down a small path by a stream behind Rosey’s campus to reach a barn in the middle of the forest, where Allora & Calzadilla were showing a film about the wood used for the Stradivarius and other instruments.

Ryoji Ikeda was the author of by far the most ambitious and successful noise/video installation. It was in the tent used to host the Menuhin Festival, another large event that takes place during the summer. Ryoji’s fans include Michčle Lamy and Rick Owens’s team, adviser Olivier Renaud-Clément, and Vinyl founder Tim Robinson—the Vinyl Factory even produced a record linked to the installation—all of whom traveled from afar to witness the work.

The weather was getting so cold that I skipped the Grace Hall sound installation that you can hear only underwater in the local sports center. Then we all received e-mails saying that, unfortunately, dinner at Eggli was canceled because the lift going up to the mountains was closed. Cecilia Bengolea, who was supposed to perform there, had to relocate, too. When she finally showed her video projection and dance on a ski slope, it was great, though we all thought of how cold she must have been in her thin costume.

I went for a little drink to Maurice Amon’s chalet, designed by Peter Marino in a crazy James Bond style and filled with customized Richard Prince cars in the garage and Rudolf Stingel–designed bathrooms, where you can inscribe your name in the aluminum-foil walls. Luma moved all the guests to the new Hotel Huus for the distribution of hundreds of raclette, which made Fondation Beyeler director Sam Keller, collectors Anita and Poju Zabludowicz, and Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles director Bice Curiger’s day.

As usual, the evening drew to a close at the bar at the Palace and its never-ending parade of personalities, and then later at the legendary GreenGo Club, its logo and décor in Verner Panton style, unchanged since the 1970s. This is the place Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made famous. Nowadays, the crowd is younger and includes dealers from Karma International and artists such as Tobias Spichtig and Hope Atherton.

As we were leaving, a totally face-lifted woman said to the vestiaire attendant: “I’m sorry I lost my ticket, but I have a big white lynx fur coat.” He opened the curtain, revealing a line of at least thirty of the things. “Which one madam?” One might have mistaken it for an installation by Nicole Wermers, except that hers consisted of leather biker jackets that she customized with patches and installed on chairs outside the Palace. Don’t worry. Nobody will take them. Gstaad is safe.

Nicolas Trembley

The Acropolis. Photo: Andrew Durbin.

ATHENS WAS COLD, the coldest it has been in some thirty years—so cold, in fact, that it recently snowed. Without the blush of warm air, the city’s usual statement piece—the Acropolis, high on its hill—had assumed the gelid, distant role of a winter palace, icily lit at night and dull in the afternoons, abandoned to an uncharitable background of gray sky that darkened, occasionally, into fits of frigid rain. While the rest of the world was undergoing its hottest winter on record, Athenians bundled up and trudged on, and you might have mistaken them for New Yorkers—sniffling, bound in parkas—or their distant northwestern neighbors, the Germans, who were, culturally speaking, everywhereish in the city at the moment, since Documenta 14 has partially relocated from Kassel to Greece “to learn from Athens,” so the slogan goes, and was, about seventy days before its official opening, very much under way with a rapidly paced series of public programs curated by the philosopher Paul B. Preciado.

For the bitter week after the Inauguration of Donald Trump, Preciado invited the philosopher Franco “Bifo” Berardi to conduct a three-day symposium on the “Destruction of Europe.” Like other events in Documenta’s series, it was held at the Parko Eleftherias, a former police-run prison where, the artist Andreas Angelidakis told me, Communists and people who identified as LGBTQ—“basically anyone who was different”—were tortured by regime goons from the late 1960s till 1974, when the Greek military junta ended. Set back from a main road on a hill of sparse trees, the ex-prison is nondescript and could be mistaken for an old park administrative building, were it not for the barred windows. Inside, it is open, without ornamentation, and a plain paneled roof gives away nothing of its past life.

Many of the Documenta venues were chosen for their distinct relationships to Greece’s both recent and distant political and cultural past, including the shuttered Athens Polytechnic, which sits adjacent to the Archaeological Museum and was the site of a student-led uprising against the regime in 1973 that left twenty-four dead. The Polytechnic remains an active site for spontaneous and frequent anarchist demonstrations against the police, and when I visited the area several times in the week, I invariably found heavily armed riot cops guarding the square out front, backed up by a bulletproof bus of reserve troops. Greek antifa graffiti was scrawled across the walls of the old university behind them (MORE FEMINISM / LESS BULLSHIT). A recent demonstration left a small kiosk and three buses burned, and the cops eyed everyone who was visibly under fifty with maximum suspicion.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi at “the Destruction of Europe.” Photo: Stathis Mamalakis.

At the ex-prison, where Bifo spoke, Angelidakis installed a movable set of brick-printed cushions that acted as a so-called parliament of bodies for various monthly talks and performances that Preciado has organized around the notion of provisional “societies.” The nonexistent Society for Necropolitics, for example, was credited with sponsoring Bifo’s talk, which began with a long, introductory discussion of the ways power identifies possible and “potent” futures “within the texture of the present.” The Italian philosopher, with a twisty shock of white hair poised atop his head, sat on a cushion with a microphone before him while two cameras broadcasted his lecture on the internet. Each night was crowded and, in the Q&A, feisty. He lectured in a sprinting manner, seemingly driven by a frantic need to get it all out even at the expense of sound logic. (He could not stop removing, and then putting on, and then removing his black sweater.)

He talked for a long time. On the first night, he explained that the lecture was prompted by a recent conversation in Kassel where he was asked, “Is it”—it being the Big Its of Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen, Rodrigo Duterte, Brexit, Frexit, Italexit, Spexit, global populism, the crisis of Europe, etc.—“fascism?”

“Yes and no,” he said.

From there it was power, potency, and possibility: a three-pronged analysis of the present through which he attempted, over three days, to answer the question put to him in Kassel. Power, he argued, is that which identifies the “potency” of one possible future entangled in the present and “pulls it into being.” For better or worse. The awkward sexual politics of these words was strangely ignored.

He was particularly interested in the crisis of Europe—and the attendant crisis of Euro-American ultra-nationalism that is threatening to destroy the EU. On the second night, Bifo concluded darkly that the EU is, in fact, already over. Predicting that Le Pen would win the next French election, he said that “we are living in a corpse we must crawl out of.” Bifo followed a number of threads, from the sexual identification between Putin and Trump (men of “potency,” they revere each other for their rhetorical ability “to create”), to Barack Obama as “the most interesting intellectual of the past ten years” for his “philosophy of impotency,” to a lengthy genealogy of the difference between the Protestant gothic of the north (“realism,” “flatness”) and the Catholic baroque of the south (“arbitrariness,” “the fold”).

This last distinction was the principal thrust of his winding symposium, which led him to conclude that those who are looking might see in the present’s entanglement of futures a better one than these current fascists are offering, and that, in seeing it, might “pull it forth.” What would that future be? For him, it is “baroque communism,” which would stand against the baroque capitalism of Trump and May. (Bifo sees the emergence of this form of capitalism in Nixon’s decision to unpeg the dollar from the gold standard. Long story.) “Baroque communism,” like its brother form of capitalism, is based on a high degree of economic arbitrariness, a kind of “why not?” Why not?

Franco “Bifo” Berardi at “the Destruction of Europe.” Photo: Stathis Mamalakis.

We should not despair, he said, and we should always be prepared to be wrong about everything, the bad and the good. “In the coming age of darkness,” he insisted, “we must remember to make our bodies viable to the light.”

By Friday, the city vibrated with a new energy—mostly nightlife, but also some other unnamable thing—and more cops were out than I could have imagined. Up near the national park, some masked anarchist groups had black bloc’d a square or two and were preparing a demonstration, their black flags unfurled on arm’s-length wooden poles they waved to passersby. I wanted to see what they would say and do (they were all so friendly and handsome!) but couldn’t stay as that evening the Toronto- and Athens-based artist Chrysanne Stathacos was hosting a performance-lecture at her ancestral home farther up the hill.

Stathacos told a small crowd about her family’s struggles to survive in Greece from the nineteenth century on, beginning in Crete and continuing through the Nazi occupation. It was her friend Jorge Zontal’s birthday. Zontal was a founding member of General Idea, and he would have been seventy-three had he not died from AIDS in 1994.

If the word is crisis, and it is, then Athens, where that word was invented, is a good place to consider its implications and trajectories—though the city did not factor directly into the Bifo’s discussion of Europe’s futures. I suppose it was meant to be there, somewhere, in the texture of his argument, waiting to be unlocked by present minds. In any case, it seems—and as Documenta’s presence attests—to be a useful city from which to imagine possible outcomes, not least because of the influx of Syrian refugees and the cash-poor streets, resulting from German-imposed austerity measures, that are producing such extreme tableaux—food lines, camps, occupations, anarchist movements, a renewed promise of communism—across the city.

In the original Greek, κρίσις is decision-time. The political-financial-national-intellectual crisis is expanding, but it was difficult in Athens, where arguably it appeared years before anyone was willing to notice, to accept Bifo’s goofier arguments, like when he paired the possibility of a communist future with a need to reenergize the intellectual poetry of a “global Silicon Valley,” in which engineers work with artists, poets with computer programmers, to disentangle that future from an entangled present. Whatever that might mean. It seemed to me that the future we wanted was entangled somewhere in the squats and occupation theaters, in the artists and people of Athens, and waiting for those who are fighting for it to cut it from the Greek fabric, not Silicon Valley’s.

I returned that final evening to my Airbnb, on the seventh floor of a narrow building with a wide view of the Acropolis, near Monastiraki station. I wasn’t sure what to do. While I waited for the decision to come to me, I drank a beer with a friend on my terrace, where we stared at the Parthenon and Erechtheum and thought about how things once got so bad here that, at the end of the second and beginning of the first millennium BCE, writing was lost for four hundred years. How far we are from then, and how far we still have to go. We left for a small bar along the crowded street, where European music videos were projected above dancers on a blank white wall.

Andrew Durbin

Sleeping Giant

Bologna, Italy

Left: Arte Fiera director Angela Vettese and curator Mark Nash. Except where noted, all photos: Pia Capelli. Right: Artist Luigi Ontani and photographer Jacopo Benassi. Photo: Alessandro Trapezio.

BORN IN 1974 IN A CITY, Bologna, that’s impossible not to love and wonderfully accessible to collectors from northern, central, and southern Italy, Arte Fiera has long been the Italian champion of sales, the social start of the art season, and an unmissable event for Italian collectors.

Nonetheless, Italy’s longest-running modern and contemporary art fair now finds itself competing with MiArt and Artissima, and after a few editions needs rebranding. The newly appointed director of the fair, Angela Vettese, has a solid background as a critic, curator, professor, and cultural councillor, but is new to the commercial side of the art world—which might be a mixed blessing. Vettese has spent the past few months screening the hundreds of applications that in past editions had expanded the exhibitors into three different pavilions of Bologna Fiere.

Quite the paradox, the Bolognese kermesse’s great advantage lies in its very same weakness––the low “aesthetic” expectations that currently surround the fair—while its main problem is the inclination to downplay the richness of Bologna’s offering during the art week and throughout the year. “You will never hear a Bolognese boast about his hometown: They will complain, instead, or keep good deeds private,” a young curator told me as soon as I set foot under the landmark Due Torri.

Left: Artist T-yong Chung. Right: Artist Yuri Ancarani, dealer Francesca Minini, and MAST artistic director Urs Stahel.

That the Bolognese art scene sells itself short was clear from the very first events of my week there. A train and a bus took the early birds to the opening of “Work in Motion” at the Manifattura di Arte, Sperimentazione e Tecnologia (MAST). A crystal building designed by the young architects of Labics, MAST is the brainchild of Isabella Serŕgnoli (president of precision mechanics Coesia group), whose power is as legendary as her shyness with the press.

Anywhere else in the world, this 270,000-square-foot exhibition space with a vocation for photography, that has been open for three years, would be a must-see. Here, in the outskirts of the capital of Emilia, it’s still a secret gem. The video-only exhibition we were invited to see, curated by artistic director Urs Stahel, is MAST’s first foray outside the realm of pure photography and is graced by the presence of, among others, Gaëlle Boucand, Ali Kazma, Julika Rudelius, Thomas Vroege, and Yuri Ancarani, who was inaugurating an installation in Rotterdam only a few days later.

From there, a happy string of chance encounters brought me and my luggage to the car of art critic Antonio Grulli: He wanted me to see the collection of Gaia Rossi, though Rossi herself protested, along the ride, that she is not a collector—rather “someone who likes to do nice things for her house.” Her house turns out to be Palazzo Bentivoglio, a sixteenth-century wonder on Via delle Belle Arti, where Gaia’s family is now integrating the existing architecture, with magnificent Neoclassical frescoes and precious Brussels tapestries, with site-specific works by Luigi Ontani, Flavio Favelli, Davide Trabucco, Pierpaolo Campanini, and Anna-Sophie Berger. A twenty-foot-long Alex Katz fills a wall in the dining room, flanked by unique pottery by Ettore Sottsass and “guilty pleasures” such as Fornasetti objects.

Left: Dealer Primo Marella and artist Abdoulaye Konaté. Right: Artist Peter Buggenhout and curator Simone Menegoi.

“Bologna’s art scene may be small, but we are very supportive of each other,” Grulli said. “In Bologna,” added Rossi, whose husband is an eminent industrialist, “we don’t mingle based on social status, but on shared interests, so it’s easy to find businessmen dining with artists and curators.”

The afternoon continued at MAMbo, Bologna’s main contemporary art museum, which boomed under Gianfranco Maraniello’s direction and is now awaiting the appointment of a new scientific director of exhibitions. The power vacuum shows, to the eyes and to the ears: Jonas Burgert’s solo show was described by previewers as “cacophonic.” Then everyone was off to the big dinner the Maccaferri family throws for the artist—proving once again that Italian collectors and patrons do exist and that they mostly come from old money. (Not that we ever talk about money here. It’s “volgare.”)

The next morning was an early start: Before 10 AM Vettese was at the Museo Archeologico with curator Mark Nash to present “Viva L’Italia!,” an off-fair exhibition (part of the Art City program) with movies by Pasolini, Rossellini, and Bertolucci. “Bologna is a synecdoche of Italy’s identity crisis,” said Vettese. “We don’t know who we’ll be in the future.” Right after, I dropped by Galleria d’Arte Maggiore to see Motivi Ossei (Bone Motifs), a wall installation by Bolognese artist Sissi. And then it was fair time.

Curators including Francesco Bonami and museum directors were already touring the not-so-crowded aisles inside pavilions 25 and 26. Arte Fiera’s public is largely Italian, as are the dealers and collectors: Paola and Marino Golinelli are among the first ones in. Vettese’s resolve to have a curatorial approach resulted in more solo shows, less-packed booths (although some of the older dealers happily disregarded the suggestions and set up the usual messy art ensembles), and an experimental section, Nueva Vista, curated by Simone Frangi, where Edith Kollath’s breathing books (at Galerie Mazzoli) were the most Instagrammed works of the fair.

Left: Artist Sissi and collector Cecilia Matteucci. Photo: Alessandro Trapezio. Right: Fondazione Del Monte Curator Maura Pozzati, collector Gaia Rossi, and curator Antonio Grulli.

There were fewer booths entirely devoted to Italian art from the 1960s and 1970s, which is both good—for the quality of the art on view—and risky, as Fontana, Manzoni, Castellani, Bonalumi, and Pittura Analitica have saved the day when the crisis hit the Italian art market. One of the best features of the fair is that visitors often find living artists just a few steps from their works, so conversations flow. Whether sales follow remains to be seen. “Arte Fiera is like a tortellino,” Galleria dello Scudo’s Filippo Di Carlo (a notorious pessimist) told me. “You can’t change the recipe, but you can choose the quality of the ingredients. And this year’s are medium quality—it can do better.”

When the fair officially opened at 6 PM and after bumping into fashion icon and collector Cecilia Matteucci Lavarini, I set off to visit “Solo Figli,” an exhibition of small ceramics and installations at the Esprit Nouveau pavilion, right across the street. Here, too, artists watched over their works, and I met Marta Pierobon, David Casini, and T-yong Chung. At the same time, Chiara Vecchiarelli’s program of talks and artists’ lectures took off with David Bernstein’s fictionalized guided tour based on his grandmother’s biography.

Then it was time for food again: a late dinner at Trattoria Gianni with MAST curator Marina Rotondo, Pinacoteca Agnelli director Marcella Pralormo, Museo Carlo Zauli’s Cristina Casadei, Marsčlleria’s artistic director Mirko Rizzi, and writers and PR friends. Tagliatelle al ragů and zuppa inglese keep us awake for the midnight start-time of Arte Fiera P-Arty at La Porta, where Vettese was already dancing under pink lights.

My Friday opened with a visit to “Oltreprima” at Fondazione Del Monte, devoted to painted photography. Curators Maura Pozzati and Fabiola Naldi explained how carefully they chose the artworks and guided me through small but exquisite pieces by Richter, Baldessari, Guerzoni, Ontani, Ketty La Rocca, and Shirin Neshat. Then we needed to choose between the famous breakfast at Golinelli’s house or an ante-anteprima tour of Fondazione Cirulli, a new institution for Italian culture with two hundred thousand pieces of art and design that will open this year in a Castiglioni-designed building in San Lazzaro di Savena. My sweet tooth guided me to Golinelli’s wonderfully cluttered—bordering on claustrophobic—attic. Artists, curators, dealers, and friends poured in. We all checked our bags—for art’s sake, I guess. Not a single surface was free of installations; floors and walls were designed by artists or covered in silver foil, Christmas-like decorations dangled over several tables covered in bignčs, babŕs, and salmon canapés. It was 10:30 AM but I was the only one drinking coffee. Everyone else sipped spiced warm punch with Amaro Averna or Fernet-Branca or just went straight for vodka in “winter cocktails.” Dealer Primo Marella hung out with Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté, who is part of “Africa Vibes,” the African art exhibition hosted at Opificio Golinelli, along with Joël Andrianomearisoa, Gonçalo Mabunda, Cameron Platter, Pascale Marthine Tayou, and Ouattara Watts.

Left: Artist David Bernstein with Chiara Vecchiarelli, curator of Arte Fiera Special Projects. Right: Simone Frangi, curator of Arte Fiera's Nueva Vista section.

After queuing for the restrooms for a while, I realized they were occupied by Elena Bonanno di Linguaglossa and Graham Southern from Blain | Southern, who were watching small video installations by artist Laurina Paperina in which blue-chip artists meet their doom: Matthew Barney is killed by Björk with a chainsaw, Banksy is attacked by his rats, Hirst is suffocated by butterflies, Murakami (who happens to have a big mural installation in central Galleria Cavour in Bologna) is eaten alive by his flowers. When I went out again in the freezing morning, I was a overwhelmed by the quantity of people, art, food, conversations, languages.

I was not done, though. After briefly visiting Ornaghi and Prestinari’s exhibition at Casa Morandi, and getting a quick preview of Bertozzi e Casoni’s ceramics at Palazzo Poggi, I received a text from a museum director (while I was eating gnocchi at Mercato Centrale) saying I must not miss Peter Buggenhout’s show. The suggestion proved right: Two monumental installations at Palazzo De’ Toschi were worth the visit. Buggenhout (who was also eating, because . . . Bologna) explained, with curator Simone Menegoi, the genesis of these giant relics, how he often incorporates leftovers of works by his wife, Berlinde De Bruyckere, and how “domestic dust” is dutifully collected every day from several houses in town to renew the installations.

Hopefully some of that dust comes off the old image of Arte Fiera. The fair might be “local,” but the appetite for good art is universal.

Pia Capelli

Left: Art consultant Giuliana Montrasio and dealer Allegra Ravizza. Right: Architect Silvia Dainese and MAST curator Marina Rotondo.