Doctored Octopus

Athens
05.31.17

Left: Dealer Gregor Staiger and curator Myriam Ben Saleh. Right: The Breeder's founders George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis.


“I LOVE AND I HATE ATHENS. I know it by heart, and it’s hard to leave,” said Greek artist Angelo Plessas on the patio of Ama Laxei under eaves heavy with vines and a table heaving with wine at an informal dinner organized by curator Myriam Ben Salah for the various friends, artists, curators, and dealers around for the twenty-second edition of Art Athina.

Documenta’s recent occupation of Athens invited posters and graffiti all over the city announcing “Crapumenta” and “Fuck Documenta14,” but the quinquennial has certainly telescoped international interest onto the city’s art scene. Art Athina, abandoned and renewed any number of times, is looking for a new life with the recent appointment of curator Stamatia Dimitrakopoulos as director. (One former director was arrested in 2007 for obscenity and insulting the Greek nation, because of an Eva Stefani video mixing porn and the Greek anthem, uneventfully on view this edition.) The Tae Kwon Do Stadium (“the Jewel of the Olympics,” I’m told), which hosted this year’s fair, still sports peeling stickers from the 2004 Olympics and wear from its second and third lives holding rallies for the left-wing political party Syriza and as an interim home for Syrian refugees. The parceled-out white booths contained, on the main floor and upstairs around the rim of the stadium, a relatively modest sixty-eight exhibitors, mostly Greek with a remarkably strong contingent from Los Angeles. My care for commerce hovers around necessary evil and reluctant compromise, but given the scrappiness of this fair, moving with the tailwind of the Documenta thrum, I couldn’t help but want it to work. And for a director who got the job only three months ago, Dimitrakopoulos pulled it together.

Left: Ltd's Shirley Morales and artist Margaret Haines. Right: 0-0's Charlie Roberts and Chris Rexroad.


The Breeder’s solo presentation of Sofia Stevi blushed across pink walls and unstretched canvas, handmade books and giant pillows, loose and lively, hearting the fair with a playful, erotic energy. Next door, dealer Petra Martinetz beckoned passersby to a projected waterfall behind a forest of houseplants by Albert Mayr, inviting us to turn a spigot that, with some effort, takes the waterfall from frozen winter through a trickling fall and onto gushier spring thaw and summer flows. Rebecca Camhi coaxed together three dozen works in the shade of blue, from Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki to Konstantin Kakanias. “I’m here at the fair for Stamatia,” said Camhi, taking me by the hand. “Many Greeks think we should stop bothering, but here as everywhere we need to persist.”

Fellow Greek galleries Eleni Koroneou, Elika, and Kalfayan had strong group presentations. Los Angeles gallery 0-0, which has been open for only a few months, was doing the swiftest business, selling letter-size artworks for thirty euros each. It’s sort of hard not to buy one. The gallery’s Charlie Roberts had a show of his own—a wildly expressive floor-to-ceiling mural around a scatter of pastel paintings—nearby at Oslo’s Rod Bianco.

The unlikely star of the fair was an octopus hooked to jumper cables at ASHES/ASHES, formerly of Los Angeles. It lay out under harsh light day after day, causing the cephalopod—a new, untitled sculpture by Tony Hope—to become . . . pungent. Neighboring dealers revolted, and a fair staffer tried some aromatic spray as bystanders snapped pictures thinking it was a performance. A replacement octopus appeared Saturday, but a stain of black ink and oceanic perfume persisted in the booth’s red carpet.

Left: Tony Hope's Untitled, 2017, at ASHES/ASHES. Right: The Breeder's Nadia Gerazouni and artist Sofia Stevi.


Opening night, the dealers stuck around past closing for a visit from the minister of culture, but on my way there word spread that the former prime minister had been injured in a blast by a letter bomb. The story of Athens these days. Tourists throng the streets of an ancient city, but sometimes traffic is blocked by rallies and flaming trashcans, metal boxes dancing with fire on dark streets. The verdant National Gardens bloom beautifully with jacaranda and jasmine, but it took a few swings of a tote bag to chase off a pack of wild dogs.

The following night, after a daytime visit to Dakis Joannou’s exquisite collection of corporeal art, I sat under the pink wash of banners and paintings folded like napkins by Stevi at chef Ari Vezené’s restaurant for a dinner thrown by the Breeder. After a spirited speech by collector Michael Hort, the artist turned from the seafood salad, artfully arranged in a porcelain urchin shell. “Everybody comes here and we take you to nice places and you think it’s nice, but there’s a crisis,” she said. “People here are really kind, though, and this helps.”

Andrew Berardini

Left: Dealer Petra Martinetz. Right: Artist Olga Migliaressi-Phoca.


Harmonic Discord

Vienna
05.30.17

Left: Kunsthalle Wien director Nicolaus Schafhausen. Right: Artists Francis Ruyter, Gelitin's Ali Janka, and Günter Gerdes at One Work Gallery. (All photos: Kate Sutton)


THE LATE JOHN BERGER once declared that “the opposite of love is not to hate but to separate. If love and hate have something in common it is because, in both cases, their energy is that of bringing and holding together—the lover with the loved, the one who hates with the hated. Both passions are tested by separation.”

Kunsthalle Wien director Nicolaus Schafhausen invoked Berger’s words last Wednesday at the inaugural convening of the weekend-long opening for “How to Live Together,” a sprawling group exhibition bringing and holding together artists including Bas Jan Ader, Kader Attia, Goshka Macuga, Adam Pendleton, Yvonne Rainer, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Rosemarie Trockel. The weekend also marked the launch of Community College, a season-spanning public program capped by a keynote conversation among Schafhausen and curators Vanessa Joan Müller and Chris Dercon.

Dercon made for an odd choice to lecture on striking professional accord, given the controversy surrounding his recent appointment at the helm of Volksbühne Berlin. Last week, Dercon unveiled his programming for the venerable theater, including plans to ring in the new season offsite at Berlin’s beleaguered Tempelhof Airport. Raising even more eyebrows was a roster that eschewed more traditional stage pieces in favor of performances from artists and choreographers such as Boris Charmatz, Jérôme Bel, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, and Tino Seghal. This list struck critics as an unwelcome shift toward running one of the city’s rare public theaters like one of its many, many public art institutions.

Left: Artists Alexandra Kahl, Jan Weiler, and Julian Feichtinger at One Work Art Gallery. Right: Artist Philipp Timischl and dealer Felix Gaudlitz at Galerie Emanuel Layr.


But living together isn’t the same as always agreeing with one another, as the exhibition’s multiday kickoff would demonstrate. Even the opening speeches—typically tepid affairs—didn’t escape confrontation. Things began civilly enough. Clad in one of artist Ayzit Bostan’s signature T-shirts (branded with the Arabic translation of “Imagine Peace”), Schafhausen greeted the crowd with the usual warm words about art’s imperative in these challenging times before handing the mic to the evening’s presiding politician, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, Vienna’s executive city councilor for cultural affairs, science, and sports. (“This is the same guy who ran TBA21 out of town,” a friend divulged.) Confessing that he hadn’t prepared remarks, Mailath-Pokorny proceeded to try to put contemporary art in its place, curbing the ambitions so eloquently laid out by Schafhausen.

“We have this German saying about how a shoemaker should stick to making shoes,” curator Stefanie Hessler whispered. “He’s basically citing that to argue that artists should stick to just making art and stay out of politics, using Jonathan Meese as an example.” Schafhausen shot back with the claim that art can act in ways that politics cannot. The two continued to spar, passing the mic back and forth as the crowd looked on in disbelief, occasionally erupting into fits of frenzied clapping, only to immediately fall silent again. It was like watching one of those football matches where there’s a lot of admirable footwork, but no one gets the ball past midfield. “It’s almost as if it was scripted,” Hessler marveled.

If it was staged, Schafhausen certainly gave himself the better lines. Having secured the last word, the curator strode toward his exhibition like a prizefighter, approving shoulder pats materializing from the crowd as he passed. Meanwhile, I noticed Ursula Krinzinger making a beeline for Mailath-Pokorny, who clearly had another round or two in store. “He shouldn’t have started on Meese like that,” the formidable dealer explained later.

Left: Dealer Sophie Tappeiner. Right: Artists Paul Graham and Adam Pendleton at dinner at Kunsthalle Wien.


“How to Live Together” filled both floors of the Kunsthalle’s exhibition space, with more than two dozen expansive bodies of works, including a deconstructed restaging of Gelitin’s 2013 exhibition at Berlin’s Schinkel Pavillon.

“When I was first thinking about the concept, I wanted to see what would happen if you put ten solo exhibitions together in a room,” Schafhausen recounted. When I first thought of the concept, I got stuck on its similarity to “How to Gather,” the 2015 edition of the Moscow Biennale that Schafhausen cocurated with Bart De Baere and Defne Ayas. Despite some shared artists, Vanessa Joan Müller contested any overlap: “Gathering and living together are two very different things.”

I wanted to agree, but in practice the exhibition focused more on the former, with roll calls and rosters constituting the show’s central motif. The standout two-screen sampling of Aslan Gaisumov’s videos hinged on the very notion of bringing people together, filling first a ballroom and then a Volga. Paul Graham’s series Beyond Caring surveyed the grim reality of 1980s-era waiting rooms for Britain’s social services, while Mohamed Bourouissa’s searing photographs of disenfranchised youth of Paris hung jarringly beside the camp staging of Tina Barney’s The Europeans. Herlinde Koelbl’s serial portraits of Angela Merkel upstairs were a crowd favorite, while in the ground floor gallery her recent images of refugee camps shared a wall with selections from August Sander’s People of the 20th Century.

Left: Artists Flaka Haliti, Markus Miessen, and Ayzit Bostan at Kunsthalle Wien. Right: Vin Vin's Vincenzo della Corte.


While there were portraits aplenty, few offered much insight into how to get by, let alone get along. Exceptions included Binelde Hyrcan’s Cambeck, 2010, a two-and-a-half-minute video depicting four young boys plopped into holes in the sand of a Luanda beach. Pretending they’re in a limousine, the kids speak candidly of getting away from Angola, one to join his successful father in the States, another boasting of “a wife in Italy.” Taus Makhacheva’s 19 a Day, 2014, experiments with other forms of social camouflage by having the artist crash nineteen weddings in one day. Casual snapshots show her blithely smiling alongside each bride and groom, who pose politely with their presumed guest.

One work not interested in coexistence was Augustas Serapinas’s Sigi, a behemoth sculpture of a cat crowning the Kunsthalle Wien. It was modeled after a crudely rendered figurine that the institution’s chief financial officer, Sigrid “Sigi” Mittersteiner, had rescued from a trash pile outside an elementary school a few years back. Serapinas had brought the actual sculpture to the exhibition, toting it around in a paper sack that struck the latent soccer mom in me as woefully underinsulated. “Are you sure the cat’s okay in there?” I asked. The artist shrugged, smiling down at the bag, “I guess we have a bit of a Schrödinger situation.” I wondered if human-Sigi would find that punch line as amusing.

I followed Serapinas to the dinner upstairs, where I joined Krinzinger, Hyrcan, Galerie Crone’s Andreas Osarek, artist Armin Linke, and Kunsthalle Wien’s Italian transplant, Luca lo Pinto. The curator happened to be scrolling through his phone as I sat down, and I noticed the name Gus Van Sant flash at the top of his screen. “Showing off your contacts?” I teased. “No,” he smiled. “It’s an app. You input the name you want and set a time when you want them to call you. It can be essential for getting through some of these dinners in Vienna. Watch.” Lo Pinto set his phone on the table. Within two minutes, Slavoj Žižek was calling.

Left: Artist Aslan Gaisumov at Kunsthalle Wien. Right: Artists Kasper de Vos and Augustas Serapinas with dealer Leopold Thun and Sigi at Kunsthalle Wien.


Lo Pinto may have mastered the city’s existing social nuances, but Vienna’s art world is rapidly adapting to a fresh curriculum, with an influx of outfits such as Croy Nielsen (who relocated from Berlin to a bel étage flat in the former Palais Dumba last December) and Ermes Ermes (who moved from Rome in March) coinciding with an explosion of adventurous new spaces—among them, Gianni Manhattan, Laura Windhager’s spirited outpost in the third district; Cordova, an apartment operation from Jupiter Wood’s cofounder Cory Scozzari; Vin Vin, former orchestra conductor Vincenzo della Corte’s first district showcase; Kevin Space, a self-styled kunstverein not far from the Augarten; KOENIG2, an offshoot of Christine Köenig Galerie, run by director Robby Greif; and Sophie Tappeiner’s debut gallery, directly across the street from scene staple Emanuel Layr.

Tappeiner previously worked as an antiques dealer, honing her curatorial chops by staging contemporary-art interventions among more traditional trappings. For her inaugural exhibition, she recruited curator Barbara Rüdiger to corral a group show “at the intersection of applied arts and contemporary arts.” The accent on primary materials—from Jala Wahid’s sensual, Vaseline-infused vases and Liesl Raff’s oversize welded dog tags to a selection of ceramics from Wiener Werkstätte’s Vally Wieselthier and a human stencil on loan from the Kiki Kogelnik Foundation—meant that some of the works weren’t for sale.

“There’s plenty of funding available for nonprofits right now, which reduces the risk in opening one,” Tappeiner told me. “But that money completely disappears the moment you start to incorporate any kind of business.” So why gamble with a commercial gallery? “I like long relationships,” Tappeiner admitted. “I like going through difficulties together and really getting to know someone. With project spaces, it’s just one really intense period of maybe a few months and then that’s it. That’s also why I wanted to work with artists of my generation, so we can really be co-collaborators in the process.”

Left: Artists Herlinde Koelbl and Johan Grimonprez at Kunsthalle Wien. Right: Dealer Laura Windhager at Gianni Manhattan.


Windhager might agree. Under the watchful eye of her two gallery-dwelling whippets, the enterprising young dealer has positioned Gianni Manhattan as a showcase for emerging talents such as Barbara Kapusta, Nils Alix-Tabeling, and now Simon Mathers. Brandishing another scene-stealing name, Kevin Space now occupies an enviable corner spot on the Volkertmarkt. While the project’s four founders—Franziska Sophie Wildförster, Fanny Hauser, Denise Helene Sumi, and Carolina Nöbauer—chose to keep the sign advertising the building’s previous life (“DRAGON STYLE Young Vienna Fashion”), the group show inside boasted more dolphins than dragons. I was immediately enamored with the windowsill display of Urara Tsuchiya’s glazed earthenware bowl, capturing an intimate coupling of man, dolphin, and their dueling erections, under the winning title Just Close Your Eyes and Imagine I Haven’t Evolved. Across the room a Tamuna Sirbiladze canvas faced off with objects by Justin Fitzpatrick and Zuzanna Czebatul, while an exuberant Sofia Stevi gouache on textile festooned the back corner. The room’s lone column was embraced by the thin ribbon of a pair of arms cut from scarlet-colored satin by Minda Andrén. “Minda is actually still in school, studying with Daniel Richter,” artist Marina Sula told me. “That’s what’s so great about this place: They manage to mix artists who are still in the academy with established painters like Sirbiladze.”

But the best lesson in living together came courtesy of Salvatore Viviano’s One Work Gallery, a storefront on Getreidemarkt, just a block down from the MuseumsQuartier. True to its name, the gallery shows a single piece at a time. “But that doesn’t mean it’s just one artist,” Viviano grinned. “One Two More,” the exhibition that opened last Wednesday, boasts twenty-five artists, all students enrolled in Gelitin members Ali Janka and Tobias Urban’s course at the Art University of Linz. Over a period of four months, the class constructed a cardboard model of the gallery, which they kept locked. Whoever had the key could modify the work in any way they chose, whether that meant reconfiguring, adding, or throwing out various objects, or just ignoring everything and scrawling on the walls.

“Some people stayed in there just a half hour or so, some people worked three days straight,” recalled participant Alexandra Kahl, fast-forwarding through time-lapse footage on her smartphone. When the team re-created the final installation in One Work Gallery, they added the sidewalk component of a long timber beam embedded with some of the discarded elements, including one of the curling pink cattle horns from Janka’s opening assemblage. “The best thing about this project is that nothing gets truly thrown away,” Janka beamed. “Everything finds its place somewhere.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Kate Sutton

Guest of a GUESS

Los Angeles
05.28.17

Left: Artist Alex Israel with Sharon Stone. Right: Artist Lizzie Fitch with collector Maurice Marciano and artists Ryan Trecartin and Jeff Koons. (Photos: Sansho Scott/BFA.com)


IT HAPPENED IN LA’S AFTERLIFE, last Saturday. After the opening of the Broad, after Sprüth Magers and Hauser & Wirth, and even after some kickback to the fantasy of Los Angeles as art paradise (in small waves of transplanted New Yorkers and others returning east), another seismic contemporary art institution touched down on a heretofore native stretch of Wilshire Boulevard just below the tony flats of Hancock Park.

Following a three-year renovation, the Marciano Art Foundation opened its doors in the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, designed by Millard Sheets, to immediately become one of the most distinctive art-viewing places in the city. The galleries are a little quirky—the converted opera stage now houses Jim Shaw’s “Wig Museum” funhouse, which incorporates Mason-painted backdrops of hell and other exotic locales; the sunken project space below is christened by a prone colossus sculpted by Adrián Villar Rojas; and the third-floor galleries, with diagonally pitched ceilings lined in lights, feature the inaugural collection show, curated by Philipp Kaiser—but the building blends indoor and outdoor in a way that every space of means ought to in Los Angeles. And, most unique, it incorporates a handful of elements carried forth from its supremely odd provenance.

Right: Architect Kulapat Yantrasast, artist Mindy Shapero, and dealer David Kordansky. (Photos: Billy Farrell/BFA.com)


The forces behind the project were interrogative: The architects were Kulapat Yantrasast’s firm, wHY. And the money? GUESS—the 1980s to 1990s street-wear brand owned by Italian brothers Paul and Maurice Marciano, the latter of whom has cochaired MOCA’s board since 2012. “I could totally see that inverted triangle coming back,” said Negar Azimi, arriving on the scene with Angeleno-emeritus and MoMA chief curator of media and performance art, Stuart Comer. Some five hundred guests streamed onto the grounds in a daytime, Oscars-like procession of evening wear. A photograph of Cindy Sherman in Mason regalia greeted guests in the lobby. The wraparound mezzanine above is the site of an Alex Israel mural of sparsely spaced parking meters, desert flora, and other iconic signifiers from around the city (such as the Beverly Hills sign). The artist even brought a walking, talking signifier—Sharon Stone—as his date.

Stepping from the top-floor galleries onto the terrace facing the Hollywood Hills, drenched in late sun, I ran into NorCal dealer Jessica Silverman: “I didn’t go to Venice [Italy], and I’m skipping Basel, but now I feel I don’t need to go anyway: Everyone is here.” It was true. Surveying the room and the parking lot below—its expanse transformed into an outdoor lounge, dance floor, and impromptu kitchen featuring colossal pans of simmering paella—there were Europeans galore: LUMA Foundation founder Maja Hoffmann, dealer Eva Presenhuber, and adviser Patricia Marshall. There were also a lot of unknown teenagers—GUESS models? One New Yorker commented on how LA the scene was, meaning that important art-world people were mixing with the most random, extravagant locals who seem to only leave home to attend events like museum openings. As long as I stayed, there were no remarks and no ceremonies, just smooth house music and copious hors d’oeuvres powering a block party for millionaires and their friends.

Left: Artist Dashiell Manley and dealer Jessica Silverman. Right: Stuart Comer, MoMA chief curator of media and performance art, with writer and editor Negar Azimi. (Photos: Kevin McGarry)


The last time I had been to the building, it was full of drones, camping gear, and fiendish squeals. The Marcianos had made the space available to Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin to build sets and shoot a film, which they did for the better part of six months, and which is now on view in the second-floor gallery under the canopy of a massive mother tent. While there is a room off the Israel mural devoted to a mini-exhibit of Mason memorabilia, and though a couple incredible mosaics remain, winding up the staircases I recalled that just two years ago there were peculiar, Lynchian passageways; now they are sanded, whitewashed, and blasted in cold light. The replacement of one cult-like tradition for another brings to mind concerns about the original responsibility of art museums: to preserve culture for future generations.

While what’s on view here of the Marciano collection is not as comprehensively blue chip as what would be at the Broad, there are zero surprises. There are works by LA’s best-known artists: Sterling Ruby, Laura Owens, Paul McCarthy, Jonas Wood. Some, like the Mark Grotjahns, are supplemented by works on loan—an unusual choice for a show that’s meant to edit down an already too-huge collection primarily amassed over the past ten years. As for foreigners, there’s Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, and Christopher Wool, to name a few. While the MAF is refreshingly unlike the Broad, details such as these suggest that this might owe more to a difference in budget than ideology.

What may better distinguish the MAF are Maurice Marciano’s comments regarding how his patronage may affect Los Angeles in the long run. He assured me that he had no plans to leave his post at MoCA, explaining that, “I created my own museum as a place to do what I want to do,” a healthy impulse for a trustee of a public institution indulging the desire to have a private museum, and that, while the MAF is not yet endowed, one day he would like it to be. Would that mean fundraising and creating more competition with the aging public museums? “No,” he said, “I hope not.” I hope not, too.

Kevin McGarry

The opening of the Marciano Art Foundation. (Photo: Billy Farrell/BFA.com)


Berlin Blitz

Berlin
05.20.17

Left: Ariel Schlesinger at his Galerija Gregor Podnar exhibition. Right: Berline Biennale director Gabriele Horn, Berlin Biennale curator Gabi Ngcobo, and artist Zanele Muholi. (Photo: Bitsy Knox)


AT THE START OF Gallery Weekend Berlin late last month, I found myself sprinting through the streets of Neukölln. This might come as no surprise—after all, we’re in the middle of 2017’s art marathon. But this was different, and having run three blocks to try to catch the man who had just stolen my wallet, kind strangers joining my chase along the way, we cornered him in the toilet of a kneipe (a German bar) and I was reunited with my booty. A good beginning.

There was no time to celebrate, though, as I headed to the other side of town for the launch of “Robert Motherwell Masterprints” at Kunsthalle Koidl in Charlottenburg: With his own etching and lithography press, Motherwell produced more than five hundred prints in his lifetime. The official Gallery Weekend Berlin opening gala was held in Mitte at Barenboim-Said Akademie, Berlin’s new concert hall, where we listened to a Stravinsky rendition with clarinet and piano, guests sitting in the round. Outside, I spoke to the KW Institute’s director Krist Gruijthuijsen, whose four-day Anthony McCall installation had been mounted specially for the weekend, and Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler, in town for his tenth consecutive Gallery Weekend Berlin: “Fairs are all about encouraging people to visit the galleries,” he said, “so this is the perfect synergy.”

Ready to feast, I went straight to Sprüth Magers’s dinner at Chipperfield Kanteen, where collectors included Karen Boros and Justin O’Shea, who has just launched his new menswear brand, SSS World Corp. Having congratulated artist Pamela Rosenkranz on her olfactory exhibition, which reproduces the (surprisingly pleasant) scent of cat pheromones, I sat next to former associate curator at the Art Fund, Emma Enderby, who is in the midst of a new curatorial venture that, for now, remains under wraps. As we ate perfectly cooked steak, a school canteen atmosphere erupted when a plate crashed to the floor and clattered down an entire staircase, with whoops, applause, and table-drumming. Not quite ready for bed, I found the energy for a quick nightcap at Duve Berlin’s after party, held at a very smoky kneipe in celebration of Maximilian Arnold’s solo exhibition “A Deep Scrub,” where pastel pink and green powder pigments are amassed on the gallery’s floor.

Left: Adam Pendleton at KW Institute. Right: Performance at Galerie Thomas Schulte. (Photo: Bitsy Knox)


After a breakfast meeting with artists Chris Petit and Christopher Roth at Café Einstein, yet more food awaited at Berlin’s famous Paris Bar—adorned with works by Martin Kippenberger and others—for Tanya Leighton and Max Mayer’s joint lunch. Drowning my spargel in hollandaise sauce, I chatted with Starship Magazine’s Ariane Müller about her fascination with Marie Curie, collector Alireza Abrishamchi about the death—or not—of painting, and artist collective Studio for Propositional Cinema about their recent experience of witnessing a strangely romantic car crash in Rome. With an hour to see exhibitions in Charlottenburg, Neumeister Bar-Am’s new video animation by Micah Hesse was a highlight, depicting fetishized arrangements of firearms to strong political effect.

With the main participating gallery openings taking place that evening—nearly fifty spaces!—I joined the bustling crowds moving through Schöneberg, where notable photography shows included Zanele Muholi at Wentrup and Irmel Kamp at Galerie Thomas Fischer. Perhaps the largest exhibition was Anri Sala’s “Take Over,” a vast sculpture/video installation that launched Esther Schipper’s new gallery space on Potsdammer Strasse, while across town at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Michael Muller’s sculptures were interspersed with naked bodies in a fashion show with a difference.

A dinner hosted by Daniel Marzona, PSM, and Žak Branicka was accompanied by the ambient music of artist Robert Kuśmirowski, whose handmade instruments incorporate typewriters, bicycle wheels, and a writing desk. Revelers later went to either Tanya Leighton’s party at Acud or König Galerie’s all-nighter at superclub Berghain, but I headed to Wedding’s new project space gr_und, where music by Berlin’s Nettodog inspired late-night Kate Bush–style dancing amid the green lasers.

Left: Tanya Leighton's Simon Gowing and collector Alireza Abrishamchi. Right: KW director Krist Gruijthuijsen (right).


Saturday: gallery day, all day. In Kreuzberg, Anselm Reyle’s suspended geometric sculptures filled König’s vast halls, while wooden penises, breasts, and erotic literature entertained visitors to Kasia Fudakowski’s “Double Standards: A Sexhibitions” at ChertLüdde. Thomas Schütte’s colorful clay, bronze, and glass sculptures at carlier | gebauer were a delight, as were the gridded 1970s drawings by Teresa Burga at Galerie Barbara Thumm. Meanwhile, Ariel Schlesinger’s Untitled (Bubble Machine) featured soap bubbles bursting into balls of fire at Galerija Gregor Podnar. Not able to take advantage of the black BMW shuttle service that was available for collectors, I hopped on my bike toward Andreas Slominski’s show at Galerie Neu, where a sculpture of a portaloo emerged from just above the gallery entrance, seemingly ready to shower visitors.

The official Gallery Weekend Berlin dinner took place that evening at Funkhaus—formerly East Berlin’s central radio station. A specially organized boat sailed us past the East’s abandoned Spreepark (an amusement park closed in the early 2000s when 180 kg of cocaine was discovered inside one of the attractions). The meal for more than one thousand attendees was impressive in scale and ambition, with guests including collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, tenth Berlin Biennale curator Gabi Ngcobo, and Berlin Biennale director Gabriele Horn enjoying veal and truffles. Some dancing ensued . . . and that’s about all I can remember. (Note: There was champagne.)

The sun finally emerged Sunday after days of gray. Bathed in light, Ali Altin gave a talk at Weiss Berlin and Adam Pendleton poetically recited his text “Black Dada” at the KW. I was about to collapse, but I mustered just enough energy to visit Neukölln’s beautifully titled project space Horse & Pony Fine Arts (a former butcher), where artists OMSK Social Club and Silas Perry had returned from residencies in Zürich and Japan, respectively, to take part in curator Geo-Vanna Gonzalez’s exhibition “A New Prescription for Insomnia.” Not that I needed any help falling asleep when my head finally hit the pillow that night.

Louisa Elderton

Left: Harry Thorne and Rob Blake aka. Nettodog. Right: Anselm Reyle installation at König Galerie.


Left: The Poetry Project's 50th anniversary gala. Right: Poetry Project director Stacy Szymaszek. (All photos: Andrew Durbin)


FOR FIFTY YEARS, the Poetry Project—long housed at Saint Mark’s Church in the East Village—has, as Allen Ginsberg put it, “burned like red hot coal in New York’s snow.” In more prosaic terms, it has been one of the epicenters of American poetry and literature, where nearly every major poet (and an artist here or there) has kept the coals burning with a twenty-minute set on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday evening. A thrifty institution from the start, the Project, as it’s known, has been a site of alliances, contention, protest, and antics: Allen van Newkirk staged a fake-shooting of Kenneth Koch as he read in 1968, and Gregory Corso heckled a disheveled Robert Lowell in 1977 (“Robert, you left out that great line about paranoid!”). There’s no poetry without a good tiff, and the Project has provided the occasion for many episodes of high drama and sweet solidarity since its inception at the raucous end of the 1960s.

New York’s poetry’s grand pooh-bah celebrated its golden anniversary a few weeks back with its first-ever gala in honor of its second director, the poet Anne Waldman, who, by most accounts, invented—or at least saved—the Project through her indomitable drive to Make It New and Keep It Afloat. She steered the poets through the hair-raising 1970s, when government money wasn’t forthcoming and poetry’s best friend was Michael Allen, a pastor who opened the Church up to the poets, artists, and dancers since they were, in his words, “doing theology.” Poets do clean up when the occasion demands it, and many did as the evening began with a passed hors d’oeuvres dinner in a packed Parish Hall, as phones were raised into the air for crowd-shots of the sizable cadre who gathered together to toast a second home.

Left: Poetry Project board president Camille Rankine (left) and Anna Moschovakis (right). Right: Ron Padgett speaking with Pierre Joris.


The night brought together a wide-ranging group, from alumni and current members of the Project’s rotating curatorial team—all of whom seemed relieved that the evening had gone on without a hitch—to well-known voices in the New York scene, including John Giorno, husband-and-wife duo Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte, Ron Padgett (one of the gala’s toasters and a Project mainstay for god knows how long), artist Carolee Schneemann (preparing for her Lifetime Achievement award in Venice), and Project board president and poet (they’re all poets here) Camille Rankine. Managing director Nicole Wallace, program director Simone White, and director Stacy Szymaszek all seemed particularly elated with the anniversary turnout, which coincided with Szymaszek’s own ten-year mark as director. Szymaszek could be found everywhere, beaming for a selfie with a fellow poet or two, including some of the evening’s performers, Laurie Anderson, Yoshiko Chuma, and Dane Terry.

With a brief dinner behind us, the poets made their way into the Church’s chapel, where the Project hosts its famous New Year’s Day marathon reading every year. (If you have not been, cure your hangover with the poetry, which runs all day and well into the night.) The performances were hosted by longtime impresario Bob Holman, an ambulant chatterbox who leaned dramatically into the mic to remind us of nights and readings past, including Giorno’s poetry radio station, which he broadcast from the church tower and where, it was said by Giorno, that the voice of the last director-general of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, could occasionally be heard. “They say he’s buried in the wall,” Holman said, nodding to the west side, where Ariana Reines, Lucy Ives, Charity Coleman, and others sat quietly, mostly in anticipation of Anderson, the first performer, who sang a curious short story she wrote about visiting the Amish.

Left: Dia Felix, Charity Coleman, and Matt Longabucco. Right: John Giorno.


Anderson, Eleni Sikelianos, and Ron Padgett toasted Waldman, who—as everyone made clear—really needed no introduction, since she was a friend, mentor, educator, or simply an admirer (Waldman is an avid devotee of all things poetry, of course) to nearly everyone in the room. Chuma deconstructed the evening’s format by turning it into a dance, or performance art, or poetry, I wasn’t quite sure which, that began with some movements at the podium and a leaping engagement with her rapt and perhaps pleasantly confused audience as a cellist and pianist accompanied her movement. Before Waldman could take the stage, the performances closed with Latasha Natasha Diggs, a sound poet and the author of the much-loved Twerk (Belladonna Books) who channeled the Project’s polyvocality in a cascading poem that nodded to Waldman’s own multi-tongued collating poetics.

And finally, Waldman, who took to the stage to command, in her indomitable voice, the audience before her with a long, somewhat meandering but always invigorating speech about poetry’s “plot to save the world” against itself. And when that fails (all must fail in poetry, right?), we will simply welcome the jellyfish world to come, with its “delicious slurp at the end of time.”

In the meantime, she reminded us, quoting her Buddhist teacher, “Stay with it, or you’ll miss something.”

Andrew Durbin

Peter’s Farm

Greenwich, Connecticut
05.17.17

Left: Artist Matt McCauley with curator Sadie Laska. Right: Lizzi Bougatsos with Tony Cox. (All photos: Trinie Dalton.)


FARM ANIMALS NEED A VACATION SOMETIMES, especially when they’re trapped inside the Orwellian nightmare of American politics. That was the pun Sadie Laska turned to while assembling this massive thirty-four-person exhibition, titled after an Amazon ad for George Orwell’s 1945 novel that kept popping up in Laska’s feed when the book hit the best-seller list after the 2016 presidential election. That’s so Big Brother.

Peter Brant invited me to propose an idea the day after I attended the Women’s March,” the artist told me. Suddenly, the dystopian reference offered a perfect satire to contrast with the Brant Foundation’s gorgeous, pastoral, equine-friendly location. Designed for installation on a farm, the exhibition was by animals, for animals: a community of artists, primarily Brooklyn-based painters, sculptors, and musicians (who performed in a giant lawn tent), burning off steam.

I first felt the tension melting en route, via country roads peppered with mossy stone walls in a sprouting oak forest, but upon arrival the easygoing day pact was sealed, particularly outside where children and dogs running across the sprawling lawn reanimated Urs Fischer’s slate-gray sculpture Big Clay, 2011, which matched the dark, stormy sky. When sun finally arrived, I suspected Tony Cox’s mythic superhero band LOBOTOMAXXX was at the root of it, so powerfully aerobic-yogic and DEVO-esque was their vocal and drum machine performance: Cox’s trampoline, which he jumped on, flipped over, handstand-ed around, and crawled under—quite flashily in his silver sequined leotard—must have been a talisman.

Inside, generations of downtown painters were teamed up to “bridge” (Laska’s words) a rebellious, freewheeling, and colorful Pop lineage to militant graffiti and street-art aesthetics. In this respect, the exhibition pays homage to early Deitch Projects. For example, one room hosted Joe Bradley, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Joyce Pensato, Katherine Bernhardt, Keith Haring, and Nina Chanel Abney, all conversing in feedback loops of cartoon language. The room containing Peter Saul, Henry Taylor, Carol Rama, Jason Fox, Josh Smith, and Lonnie Holley—represented by a fierce motorcycle sculpture, Riding Through My Roots Too Fast, 2004—alternated between animal imagery and social critique. A. R. Penck’s Skizze, 1983, borrowed for inclusion two weeks after his death, was a heartfelt commemoration and fortified the pervasive spirit of activism.

Two nooks across from one another were Sue Williams’s The Bill of Rights, 1990, Sadie Laska’s Stars and Bars, and William Copley’s mock-heroic portraits of horse asses and powdered-wig-wearing buffoons that metaphorically spelled #dumptrump. Antiwar messaging bookended entryways as well: One was occupied mightily by a Bread and Puppet Theater display (MILITARIZED; HYPNOTIZED declared their banners), and the other hosted seldom-seen paintings by Don Van Vliet, whose chunky, visionary abstraction The Drazy Hoops, 1997, hung catty-corner from Wally Hedrick’s Peace, 1953, a wavy American flag with the title scrawled across it.

Left: LOBOTOMAXXX performance. Right: The Honey Badgers.


But the coziest room was where jam sessions by the Honey Badgers broke out periodically in improvisational merriment, inside Sarah Braman’s exquisitely magenta and lavender Badger Den (Let’s Read Together), 2017, constructed from truck campers and plywood for secret fort fun. The Honey Badgers, named after the fabulously vicious YouTube-famous critter who puts up with zilch, is an all-star band including a roving cast of gallerists such as Jack Hanley and Phil Grauer, plus children. The brood really went for it, mellifluous tunes encouraging communal hang sessions between old friends. Joe Bradley apologized for not sending me a blurb awhile back, and I replied, “Hey, man, no worries, actually you did send it, and it was awesome.”

With moms laughing at their kids, it was cuteness overload, given our Mother’s Day occasion. We all sat on Katherine Bernhardt’s series of imported “Moroccan Magic Carpets” below Agathe Snow’s dangling sculpture Coucou, a “found tree-trunk gutted by natural elements” injected with stress-relieving soft sculptures built of memory foam that she had squeezed, twisted, and punched while building to allay anxieties. “Wreckage and stress,” she said while we stood beneath Coucou. Thankfully on the other walls, Chris Martin’s enormous October, 2016, high-fived Julian Schnabel’s smaller, pyramidal yellow-and-orange canvas Untitled, 2013, perhaps engaging in soul-advancing, psychic negotiations to promote tranquility, the way good canvases can.

Left: Bread and Puppet Theater's installation. Right: Artists Johanna Jackson and Chris Johnson.


I hitchhiked home with Chris Martin and Tamara Gonzales, munching pecans in the backseat. As we left the farm’s valet area, we wondered aloud about how much upkeep the Jeff Koons Puppy takes, but then real life reared its head as we stalled in traffic near the landfill outside Co-Op City. Eventually I was delivered to another utopian convention: Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson’s show “The Middle Riddle,” at the Journal Gallery. “We chose artists that we feel close to, aligned with, that live in our spiritual/social neighborhood,” Jackson said. Casual vibes radiated from the pair’s sculptural furniture collaborations, and we all admired Jackson’s 2017 Dump Him painting sitting on the floor in the corner depicting flicking fingers, as if shooing away some pestilence. And we’ve only just passed the first one hundred days mark. For a day at least, it seems animals everywhere reclaimed freedom, and made the most of it.

Trinie Dalton

Left: Curator Sinziana Ravini with artist Radenko Milak at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion. Right: Curator Peter Eleey and artist Francis Al˙s at the Iraq Pavilion. (All photos: Kate Sutton)


IN AN UNTITLED FILM shot in Mosul on October 31, 2016, Francis Al˙s trains his lens on a desert landscape suspended in the pink haze of a sandstorm. A tank slowly careens in the distance, armed soldiers milling about in its path. In the foreground, one of the artist’s hands holds up a small white canvas, while the other applies paint, mostly in sand tones with a daub of crimson to match the flag of the Peshmerga—the Kurdish army—flying atop the tank. Using the canvas as both picture and palette, the artist dashes out a composition in situ. “I was originally drawing with pencil on one side and painting on the other,” Al˙s explained. “But that took too long.”

We were standing in front of the Gothic windows of the wood-paneled library of the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, home to this year’s Iraq pavilion, where Al˙s’s video (flanked by a squadron of small sandstorm paintings, all white paint smudged on linen) was featured as a kind of special guest. Curated by Ruya Foundation’s Tamara Chalabi with Paolo Colombo, the pavilion’s central thrust, “Archaic,” corralled poignant works by Iraqi modernists Jewad Selim and Shakir Hassan Al Said alongside six contemporary artists, including Nadine Hattom, Luay Fadhil, and Sadik Kwaish Alfraji.

In a nod to its theme, “Archaic” opened with a series of vitrines showcasing forty artifacts from the Iraq Museum, dating as far back as the Halaf Period (6000 BCE). Most had never been out of the country; the few that had were looted in 2003 and only recently recovered by Interpol. “As you can imagine, it was a Herculean task getting these here,” Chalabi said, motioning to the two uniformed museum guards assigned to escort the artifacts. Across the room, curator Peter Eleey shook his head. “We just came from the Damien Hirst show, where Jay Jopling was giving us the spiel about how they dropped these sculptures to the bottom of the sea to fake ruins. It’s quite a comparison.”

Left: Artist Katja Novitskova with curator Kati Ilves at the Estonian Pavilion. Right: Artists Roman Uranjek and Ahmet Öğüt at the NSK State Pavilion.


Al˙s told me that his Mosul series, which he discussed in a 500 Words in February, was a way to test the relevance and irrelevance of artistic language in a context of conflict. It seems in Venice, it’s irreverence, not irrelevance, that poses the bigger threat. This year’s Biennial bumper crop of political interventions and socially minded initiatives was thrown into relief against the backdrop of Christine Macel’s florid “Viva Arte Viva,” a mostly depoliticized effort. The emphasis on aesthetics and process made some political intentions seem decorative. For all its good intentions, for example, Olafur Eliasson’s Green Light Workshoporiginally conceived as a more comprehensive endeavor—was too easily misread as an exploitation of asylum-seekers. At the packed South African pavilion, films by Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng tread the thin line between gripping and glib. At the Slovenian pavilion, Nika Autor also struck a delicate balance, embedding video footage of refugee-seekers crowding onto the undercarriage of a train into a cinematographic lineage of locomotives on film, from the original shock of the Lumičre brothers to the tramp antics of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd. Meanwhile, the Tunisian pavilion—the country’s first since 1958—set up kiosks where visitors could apply for an alternative travel document, modeled after the Schengen visa. With the gut-punch title, “The Absence of Paths,” the project tackled the increasing difficulty (if not impossibility) of international travel for Tunisians and other North Africans.

Relevance aside, structurally, the Tunisian project replicated the gesture at the center of another of this year’s offerings: the NSK State pavilion. Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) was an interdisciplinary association, first forged in 1984 by three of Slovenia’s most radical collectives: IRWIN, Laibach, and Scipion Nasice Sisters. In 1992, NSK riffed on the fallout from the Slovenian secession and the ensuing dissolution of Yugoslavia (“Sleavenia”?) by establishing NSK State in Time, a pretender nation, complete with passports,which visitors could apply for at exhibitions.

Left: Art Basel's Alia Al Senussi with Bellas Artes Project's Jam Acuzar at the Samdani Art Foundation dinner. Right: Curators Jens Hoffmann and Inti Guerrero at the Samdani Art Foundation dinner.


Twenty-five years later, NSK State now boasts roughly fifteen hundred citizens, many of whom are more than happy to flash their passports when asked. “I once traveled between Paris and Berlin just showing my NSK passport as my ID,” Hans Ulrich Obrist bragged over dinner. “I heard IRWIN’s Roman Uranjek used his diplomatic pass to get out of traffic violations in Ljubljana,” added artist Luchezar Boyadijev—an NSK diplomat himself. Once essentially a Cool Kids Club for the more progressive fringes of the 1990s art world, the NSK State took on a different dimension in 2006, following a frantic influx of applications from Nigeria, where word had circulated that the passports were tantamount to Slovenian citizenship. In 2009, members of the artist collective traveled to Lagos to meet with some of the applicants in person, quite literally facing the real repercussions of an ideological wager.

When NSK State decided to have its own pavilion, they followed Biennale protocol, selecting two curators from their citizenry—Zdenka Badovinac and Charles Esche—who then scoured the same list to select the representing artist, Ahmet Öğüt, and published an accompanying reader called The Final Countdown: Europe, Refugees and the Left, with contributions from NSK citizen Slavoj Žižek, Boris Groys, and Agon Hamza. Öğüt offered an architectural intervention, warping the entry space to the Ca’Tron so that visitors were forced up a perilously steep, Museum of Illusions–style incline if they wanted to get a look at the materials on display. Once inside, Öğüt had placed the NSK passport station along the outer edges of a trampoline. “It’s a heavy subject, so I wanted to bring a little levity into the space,” the artist reasoned. To mark the opening, the NSK invited Žižek to speak, an event open to all NSK citizens. (Those without the necessary papers could apply for a visa at the door.)

Left: Nils Bech performing at the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion's University of Disaster. Right: Francis Alys's untitled 2016 film at the Iraq Pavilion.


In another cross-national project, Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted the “University of Disaster,” an initiative of artist Radenko Milak in collaboration with the congenial crew at Paletten, the Swedish art journal fronted by writer Fredrik Svensk and curator Sinziana Ravini. On the top floor of the palazzo, Milak’s gorgeous watercolors and hand-drawn animations of events like Chernobyl and Hiroshima may have set the tone, but from there, “disaster” took on extravagant interpretations. Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s Oculus Rift animation Dickgirl 3D(X), 2016, endowed viewers with magnificent breasts and an electric-blue plasma phallus used to repeatedly penetrate a giant chortling sex potato. I tried to avert my eyes from the bobbling mass, but the goggles wouldn’t let me look away. The most effective representation of disaster may have been the most intimate: Echo, a searing performance by Nils Bech staged in a tiny makeshift bedroom covered in a quilt of Ida Ekblad paintings. Curled up beside a small effigy on the bed, Bech drizzled his limoncello vocals over the room, crooning on loop: “It’s all over now . . , It’s all over now.” There wasn’t a dry eye (or an unbroken heart) in the room.

Thankfully, the week ended on a note of hope—hope as in a glass half empty but the drink too bitter anyway. The Saturday the Biennial officially opened, I ducked down to Pistoia. Not far from Florence (or the interplanetary Centro di Luigi Pecci), the stately Tuscan town is host to dealer Giuseppe Alleruzzo’s gallery, SpazioA, where curator Martha Kirszenbaum had organized “Waiting for the Sun,” a spirited group show featuring Dora Budor, Margaret Honda, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Laure Prouvost, and Reza Shafahi, a seventy-six-year-old painter who launched his art career only a few years back, following a collaboration with his son, artist Mamali Shafahi.

Making the most of the context, Budor developed her installation around the region’s signature design collective, Archizoom (frequent collaborators with and participants of the influential Superstudio, also founded in late 1960s Florence). Budor placed one of Archizoom’s foxy white vinyl couches in the gallery’s center, directly under a suspended streamlined machine (something between a light fixture and an ashtray) that showered prop ashes onto the pristine surface of the sofa below. “I was thinking about 1816, ‘The Year without Summer,’” Budor told us. That year increased volcanic activity—triggered by the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora—and temporarily altered the climate, cloaking much of the planet in the kind of sandstorm haze Al˙s had tried to capture in his paintings. Whether it was the artist’s intention, Budor’s work was a reminder that dark ages have come and gone before, that the sun eventually comes out again. It may be naive of me, but that was a sentiment I could drink to.

Kate Sutton

Left: Artists Margaret Honda and Morgan Fisher at SpazioA in Pistoia. Right: Artist Luchezar Boyadjiev shows off his NSK Diplomat passport to Witte de With's Adam Kleinman, Natasha Hoare, and Samuel Saelemakers.


World Clique

Venice
05.13.17

Left: High Line Art and Italian Pavilion curator Cecilia Alemani. Right: Studio Museum director Thelma Golden and artist Mark Bradford. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)


THE VENICE ART BIENNALE is never just an assembly of national exhibitions competing for prominence and prizes. It’s a summit meeting marshaling the collective conscience of the art world.

One could sense it build during the preopening events of the Biennale’s fifty-seventh edition, basically an invitation to mainline art while capitalizing on the social element and pretending business is not involved. Fat chance of that when the planet’s most carnivorous collectors are bending elbows with teams of dealers and advisers, top museum personnel, and deep benches of artists. Many, many artists.

Indeed, this biennial’s artistic director, Centre Pompidou chief curator Christine Macel, titled her exhibition “Viva Arte Viva” and declared it to be “designed with artists, by artists, for artists”—as if everyone else attending didn’t count!

Members of each group arriving on Monday had only to enter the newly renovated ground-floor galleries of the Gallerie dell’Accademia to feast on “Philip Guston and the Poets,” a delectable surprise of a show negotiated by Hauser & Wirth and curated by one Dr. Kosme de Barańano.

Left: Artist Frances Stark with her son Arlo. Right: Artist Carol Bove and curator Philipp Kaiser with artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler for the Swiss Pavilion.


It was a first for Guston in Venice and a first for the Accademia. Never before has art produced after the eighteenth century hung on its walls. American Academy in Rome artistic director Peter Miller, the first to bring a Guston exhibition to Italy, was quick to pronounce the show excellent. Certainly, this was more than a Biennale teaser. It showed signs of becoming the go-to exhibition of the week.

It would have stiff competition—from the Prada Foundation and, majorly, from exhibitions on San Giorgio Maggiore Island by Alighiero Boetti, Robert Rauschenberg, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Paul McCarthy (in VR!) at Fondazione Cini, and both Ettore Sottsass and Pae White (she built a blown-glass wall!) at Le Stanze del Vetro. But who among us can ever get enough art?

A few days earlier, Randy Kennedy had been a stalwart New York Times reporter. Now he stood with Hauser & Wirth captains Marc Payot, Cristopher Canizares, Timo Kapeller, and Barbara Corti, welcoming collectors such as Stuart and Gina Peterson, lenders to the Guston show, top curatorial powers, and many of the gallery’s thirteen biennial artists to dinner in the extravagantly appointed rooms of the Palazzo Barbaro, which once housed the studio of John Singer Sargent.

Now it had Mark Bradford, the artist representing the United States with an exhibition as well as a community project for people recently released from prison. One thing we can say: This artist is not working just for money. “I’m happy with it,” he said of the drab American pavilion. “I’m just going to relax and be myself.”

Left: Filmmaker Linda Goode Bryant with artists McArthur Binion and Senga Nengudi. Artist Anne Imhof and performer Mickey Mahar for the German Pavilion. (Photos: David Velasco)


It only just seemed as if every art-educated person—or everyone from New York, Zurich, London, and Los Angeles—was at his side. Not true! Viennese art adviser Gisela Winkelhofer was holding the first of two black-tie dinners for a European contingent of artists and collectors at nearby Palazzetto Pisani. (Do women actually pack their gowns, shop here, or ship them ahead?)

Back over the Accademia Bridge, at La Cucina on the Zattere, Pilar Corrias had a sweep of international personalities for dinner on a rain-soaked pier. The company was juicy too. At its center were artists Rachel Rose, Ian Cheng, Philippe Parreno, Anri Sala, and Tala Madani, bounded by collectors Eleanor Cayre, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Maja Hoffmann, dealers Gavin Brown and Peder Lund, and curators from Tate Modern (Gregor Muir) and the Hirshhorn Museum (Jarrett Gregory). “This is my seventh Biennale,” Parreno said. Was that a record? “Could be,” he replied. “I think it is.”

Seated beside me was Elena Geuna, curator of the biggest curiosity in Venice—Damien Hirst’s “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” at François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana. “The narrative really starts at the Dogana,” she said. “Go there first.”

First? Before the Biennale? Then when? For such a relatively small city, particularly one designed to frustrate invaders by making sure they never know exactly where they are, Venice during a Biennale opening is a dizzying challenge.

Left: Set designer Anna Viebrock and artist Thomas Demand. Right: Artist Charles Atlas.


But Venice has an unending appetite for art and it would be a shame not to hunt for the Carlo Scarpa studio, a private apartment open only for a special sound project by Melissa McGill during Biennale preview week. Or to dash out of the rain into the Basilica dei Frari to gape at Canova’s marble pyramid of a tomb. Or to study the political graffiti pulled off the walls of former prison cells in the Palazzo Ducale, next to a new video by Douglas Gordon. Or seek out off-site shows such as curator Caroline Corbetta’s presentation of works by the promising Thomas Braida at the untouched Palazzo Nani Bernardo, a Venetian home opposite the sanitized Palazzo Grassi.

The other great pleasure of Venice during a Biennale involves the random crossing of paths with familiar faces while lost in the alleys and sotoportegos between the bridges over winding canals.

Walk through a tiny campo and see artist Thomas Demand emerge from an espresso bar. Stroll down the Riva degli Schiavoni and pass the sister dealers Francesca Kaufmann and Chiara Repetto, or the artist Olafur Eliasson. Trot across the Campo San Stefano and find the artist Francis Al˙s, a Belgian showing in the very interesting pavilion of Iraq. Walk out of the Arsenale and see auctioneer Simon de Pury and his wife, Michaela, hot-footing it ahead of Beyeler Foundation director Sam Keller and Parkett cofounders Bice Curiger and Jacqueline Burckhardt. Is this not fun? Then turn a corner and spy Piero Golia, the one person I have met who understands the Venetian system of numbering houses, which doesn’t involve street names. Indeed, the most common sight of the week was of art pedestrians staring at map apps on their phones.

Left: Artist Xavier Veilhan for the French Pavilion. Right: MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, artist Carolee Schneemann, Venice Biennale artistic director Christine Macel, and Museum der Moderne Salzburg director Sabine Breitwieser. (Photo: PPOW)


Tuesday morning I dutifully hauled myself to the Dogana, only to be dwarfed by an astonishing, huge bronze medallion magnificently encrusted with studio-made coral and giant barnacles as ugly as they were beautiful. The show, rumored to have cost some sixty million dollars to produce, was a fantasy of artifacts from ancient and modern cultures supposedly dredged from watery graves, some more believably than others. (A room of extraordinarily crafted gold objects would make a worthy companion to the King Tut room in the Cairo Museum.) Altogether, “Treasures” felt like the abandoned props of Disney movies, suggesting Hirst as our greatest living surrealist. Oddly, this was the one stop I made all week where I didn’t see anyone I knew.

After taking a vaporetto that stopped several stations short of the Giardini, I hoofed it to the Arsenale, only to run into dealer Lauren Wittels and artist Charles Atlas. His large-screen video of Lady Bunny, high hair and all, giving a disquisition on the environment before breaking into the joyous song The End of the World, deserved the special mention it later got from the Biennale jury.

This section, one of nine so-called pavilions illustrating socially conscious, spiritual, or aesthetic conventions, took on a bit of grandeur with Leonor Antunes’s sequence of handwoven brass, leather, and rubber screens lit by blown-glass hanging lamps. They divided attention between the floor sculptures of found lumber and objects by Gabriel Orozco and a tinkling work by Anri Sala that turned drums for printing wallpaper into a player-piano-like roll. “All three artists are from my gallery,” noted dealer José Kuri, with no small satisfaction.

Then there was the Italian pavilion. For years it has cultivated a reputation for embarrassing shows. Not this time. With High Line art curator Cecilia Alemani in charge, and a healthy budget from Fendi, its main sponsor, it offered just three artists—Roberto Cuoghi, Adelita Husni-Bey, and Giorgio Andreotta Calň—in an exhibition titled “Il Mondo Magico.”

Left: Artist Asad Raza with collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and artist Rachel Rose. Right: Artist Dawn Kaspar.


And magic it was for dealer Pepi Marchetti Franchi and art adviser Damiana Léoni, both Italians who approached each presentation with trepidation, only to exit feeling proud. Cuoghi took on the mummification of Christ—almost literally—with a workshop that was part biosphere and part morgue. Husni-Bey provided a change of pace with a video documenting another kind of workshop, one dramatizing group power dynamics. Neither of these projects prepared us for Andreotta Calň’s site-specific architectural invention, a truly transformative experience that was, in its quiet way, more spectacular than Hirst’s.

My feet were starting to hurt but my ears picked up at the alluring sounds in the gardens, a project by Hassan Khan, who deserved the Silver Lion he later won. But right now it was past time to hit the Giardini. (Tuesday’s press day is the only time—before the public opening—to see shows unmolested by rude hordes determined to be first at everything.)

We were hardly past the gate before people started saying that Faust, the fascist-flavored performance by Anne Imhof in the German pavilion, was the absolute must-see of the whole circus. By the end of the afternoon, the consensus on who would win the top prizes was divided among Bradford, Imhof, and ninety-one-year-old Geta Brătescu of Romania. I thought the films and photographs by Tracey Moffatt in the Australian pavilion added up to one of the most beautifully realized of all pavilions. Yet in hundreds of conversations, the name Franz Erhard Walther, who ultimately won the best artist prize, never came up.

So much for speculation.

Left: Artist Francesco Vezzoli, collector Miuccia Prada, and The Shed artistic director Alex Poots. Right: Artist Carlos Amorales for the Mexican Pavilion.


Evening was drawing nigh and the scene shifted to San Marco, where collector Bob Rennie was on the Hotel Danieli rooftop hosting a cocktail party for fellow Canadian Geoffrey Farmer. Some people, Farmer said, expressed sympathy even while congratulating him, assuming he’d been forced to work with the ruin of a building destroyed in a storm, rather than deliberately taking it apart and leaving just the roof to shelter a geyser.

Near the Teatro Fenice, London’s Victoria Miro was inaugurating legendary Venetian dealer Bruna Aickelin’s Il Capricorno as a new Miro outpost showing sultry, slightly heretical watercolors by the dapper Chris Ofili. He was surrounded by Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover and Tate Britain curator Ann Gallagher. Funny how powerfully loyalty to country courses through a Venice Biennale.

It was only going to get more intense.

At the Museo Correr, friends and fans of Shirin Neshat gathered for the opening of “Home of My Eyes,” a show of more than fifty black-and-white portraits of people from Azerbaijan and an arresting new video, located just down the hall from “Poussin to Cézanne”—of course! This is Venice, a place more famous for looking back than ahead.

Left: Artist Philippe Parreno. Right: Artist Kiki Smith and dealer Susan Dunne.


There were speeches—by curator Thomas Kellein, collector Christian Boehringer (his Written Art Foundation was the show’s main backer), and the voluble Gabriella Belli, director of the foundation that oversees all the museums owned by the city. She confessed her fear in advance of the show, where a large wooden figure from the Renaissance remained high on one wall, between Neshat’s photographs. Crosspollination, apparently, isn’t Belli’s thing. “Shirin said keep it there,” Belli confessed. “I was so nervous. But we did it and now I see she was right.”

Neshat blushed.

Darkness fell. What was it going to be? The Hauser & Wirth party for Phyllida Barlow? The Marian Goodman cocktail in the Fortuny gardens on the Giudecca? The Miro dinner for Ofili at the Monaco? Or Nicoletta Fiorucci’s dinner at the Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore to celebrate the splendid show by Lucy McKenzie and curator Milovan Farronato at Palazzetto Tito?

No time for any of that. This night belonged to Fendi CEO Pietro Beccari’s Italian pavilion dinner under the Tintorettos at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, possibly the most glorious public room in all of Venice.

The event leaned more fashion than art, but even the art people dressed up. Maurizio Cattelan wore a blinding white dinner jacket. Massimo De Carlo and Jeffrey Deitch, each in a bespoke suit, were outclassed for cool by architect David Adjaye and for sexiness by Andreotta Calň, one of the few artists invited. Studio Museum director Thelma Golden relied on her engaging husband, the designer Duro Olowu, and Italian pavilion curator Cecilia Alemani was, naturally, swathed head to toe in Fendi.

Left: Artists Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen. Right: Artist Leonor Antunes and dealer Jose Kuri.


Getting a crack at his country’s pavilion represented something of a homecoming for the Venetian-born Andreotta Calň, who was an assistant to Ilya Kabakov when the Russian artist shared the building with Richard Serra at the 2002 Biennale, before Italy claimed it. “Now I’m in Serra’s space,” Andreotta Calň said, with a touch of awe. “It’s fantastic.”

On Wednesday morning, the Prada Foundation welcomed the press to “The Boat Is Leaking. The Captain Lied,” a surpassing exhibition curated by Udo Kittelmann and kitted out, as it were, by collaborating artist Thomas Demand, filmmaker/philosopher/talk-show host Alexander Kluge, and set designer Anna Viebrock.

Visitors move through a series of connected rooms—a courtroom, a theater, a doctor’s examining room, a parlor—never quite knowing if they are actor or audience. “This show could never happen anywhere else,” said Demand, giving the nod to Miuccia Prada, a go-for-broke collector if there ever was one. The rooms, Demand said, originally were Viebrock’s sets and props for a drama staged by a German theater company and later abandoned in Mexico—until the Prada Foundation shipped it all to Venice.

“They know how to do crazy here!” exclaimed Documenta 14 curator Dieter Roelstraete, with admiration. “This show is audience-averse. It’s arcane and elaborate in its refusal of spectacle. I love it.”

Left: Big Freedia performing at the Commissioner's dinner for the American Pavilion at Hotel Cipriani. Right: Parkett cofounder Bice Curiger, Beyeler Foundation director Sam Keller, and Parkett cofounder Jacqueline Burckhardt.


Wednesday was also the so-called professional preview of the Biennale, but it looked as if thousands of tourists were pouring into the Giardini. Long lines formed for nearly every pavilion, especially Germany’s, where some viewers stayed for hours. The one for Finland was shorter, so after impromptu chats with passersby such as the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, Nasher Sculpture Center director Jeremy Strick, and Stedelijk Museum curator Bart van der Heide, I entered and enjoyed an animated video by Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen that employed the tropes of commercial advertising as self-analysis.

Swiss pavilion curator Philipp Kaiser was drawing a smarty-pants crowd to the official opening of his show, “Women of Venice,” with sculpture by Carol Bove and a compelling double-sided semi-doc by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler starring the son of Flora Mayo, who was Alberto Giacometti’s lover. “Switzerland’s most famous artist refused to show in this pavilion, even though it was designed by his brother,” Kaiser said. “So we’re doing it.”

If you were American, it was time for fancy dress. The equivalent of a state dinner was about to begin for Bradford at the Hotel Cirpriani, hosted by collector and activist Pamela Joyner and her husband, Fred Giuffrida, with Lizbeth and George Krupp. The Cipriani is on the Giudecca. People came in black tie via boats. Some were artists, including Charles Gaines, Kevin Beasley, and Mary Weatherford. But others represented an impressive array of institutions, from the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum to the Hammer, the Metropolitan, the Guggenheim, SF MoMA, the Hirshhorn, the Studio Museum, the MIT List Visual Arts Center, the Broad, and, of course, the American pavilion’s two commissioners, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Rose Museum at Brandeis, where BMA director Christopher Bedford was working when he nominated Bradford.

These occasions, attended by State Department administrators, can be stiff. Happily, when Bradford is around, things tend to loosen up. Met curator Sheena Wagstaff even set her table on fire—accidentally, but it gave dealer Iwan Wirth a chance to play hero and put it out.

Anne Imhof's Faust for the German Pavilion. (Photo: David Velasco)


Speeches were blessedly short and to the point, directing us to take pride in a country that infuriates many of those present. “I heard from five different people with very good taste that this is the best American pavilion in twenty years,” Bedford began, before complimenting Hauser & Wirth for being “a gallery unlike any other” and calling out collector Eileen Norton as Bradford’s longest continuing supporter.

A former BMA board chair told Bradford that he’d created a public project even more “impactful” than his exhibition, ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day.’” “It’s a call to action,” she said, that “teaches us the importance of not being silent.” At that, Kelly Degnan, chargé d’affaires of the US mission to Italy, got up and thanked Bradford “for being Mark Bradford,” and noted how he shook the hand of every person entering the pavilion.

A standing ovation greeted the artist. “I’m not a person who tells you what to think about art,” he said, explaining that he wanted his process and struggle to be visible in the work. “I’m an artist as a citizen,” he declared. “It was important to greet people. The closer I can get to people the less I feel alone.” Again, his listeners stood to applaud. As he turned to Allan DiCastro, his partner in life and in his public project, Art and Practice, in Los Angeles, I almost cried when he added, “I had a bus pass and dream, and then I met Allan.”

Left: Artist Maurizio Cattelan and dealer Massimo De Carlo. Right: Artist Pae White.


After dinner came Bradford’s choice of a “surprise” entertainment, a set by New Orleans performer Big Freedia so rousing that Ford Foundation director Darren Walker wasted no time hitting the dance floor while Thelma Golden showed her moves on the stage.

At a Venice Biennale, in any political moment, a degree of nationalism inevitably creeps into one’s thinking, even when attitudes toward home are conflicted. Our country has a great deal to answer for, but when Big Freedia and the dancers hit their marks, I suddenly felt sorry for people attending dinners for other countries’ artists. I wanted to shout, Here’s the America we know and love!

At week’s end, Imhof won the Golden Lion for best national participation. Maybe too many Americans have been taking home trophies in recent years. Carolee Schneemann was already slated for the Lifetime Achievement award, but Bradford didn’t get a nod, nor did Brătescu or Andreotta Calň.

Oh, well. As Bradford said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Linda Yablonsky

Game On

New York
05.05.17

Nancy Spero, Sheela-Na-Gig at Home, 1996, handprinting on paper, underwear, clothesline, clothespins, video, dimensions variable. (Photo: Paige K. Bradley)


IF YOU AREN’T THERE TO SHOP, art fairs are like plugging into a video game where someone’s already taken care of the bosses. Down this aisle, a friend to talk to, down that one a costumed bear spinning out on the floor at your feet; maybe go watch a digital film, ogle some colors, take the ferry—it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you ride the ride. It all blurs and holds together if you don’t slow down to remember you’ve been chewing on dried mango all day.

Relentless attention to art and society keeps the body’s needs at bay—at least until a rainy day, with storm clouds looming over the weekend. But the key thing, on this Thursday vernissage of Frieze New York, was NOT YET. It was bright on the outside, and bright on the inside for preview hours. Let me name a few lights:

Henry Taylor painted Deana Lawson—the two are also chummily installed next to each other in the current Whitney Biennial—and the results were hung up by Blum & Poe. 303 Gallery brought elegant black-and-white Collier Schorr photographs along with small gorgeousness in two strains—loopy from Karen Kilimnik and spooky care of Maureen Gallace.

Left: A visitor in front of Henry Taylor's Deana Lawson in the Lionel Hamptons, 2016, at Blum & Poe. Right: Dealers Alex Mor and Philippe Charpentier. (Photo: David Velasco)


Meanwhile, art historian Maika Pollack’s Southfirst featured a solo presentation by Jared Bark—a performance artist whose keen 1970s-era exploration of photo-booth photography’s affinity with abstraction was the subject of a 2015 show at the gallery—memorable for both the breadth displayed and his gallerist’s smart enthusiasm. NYC- and London-based Hales showed paintings by Virginia Jaramillo, who, in addition to being featured in the recently opened and absolutely fantastic exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” at the Brooklyn Museum, had a 1971 work bought by the museum through the inaugural Frieze Brooklyn Museum Fund—Yahtzee!

Perambulating along: Michael Krebber’s adamant anemia cycled through making itself known and slumping back under the radar throughout the course of its day, hung as it was in the form of two drawings at Maureen Paley’s booth. A friend noted that she’d seen more plastic surgery within the first ten minutes of strolling in than she could recall encountering before.

You know what else was taut? Daiga Grantina’s comely, freaky strung-up fabric works at Galerie Joseph Tang. Betty Woodman clocked them, and I was pleased to see them IRL, for once. Nancy Spero’s clothesline at Galerie Lelong was another highlight, making the so-obvious-why-didn’t-I-notice-it-before connection between artworks and old, washed intimates—all get hung out to dry at some point. Speaking of dry, would Société’s Daniel Wichelhaus have some of my mango? Affirmative.

An e-mail from a German writer begins: “I hope you are well and the current political climate doesn’t affect your daily live negatively!” Ż\(ツ)

Left: Herald St's Ash L'ange and Nicky Verber. (Photo: Paige K. Bradley) Right: Bunny Rogers reading at Swiss Institute. (Photo: Jessica Butler)


As our Chief Orange One (too bad we couldn’t reject preexisting conditions last November) headed to the USS Intrepid at Pier 86 for a thirty-minute dinner reception with the Australian prime minister, we headed downtown for quieter affairs: Juliana Huxtable’s opening at Reena Spaulings, Tabor Robak at Team, a dinner at Bottino for Leidy Churchman’s Mary Boone debut, and a Bunny Rogers reading at the Swiss Institute. A small group of Rogers’s friends and admirers noshed on an array of cheeses until it was time for earnest and sincere speeches from Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist on when they first met Rogers and came to work with her for their “89 plus” project. After a few rounds of applause, the artist—looking the happiest I’ve ever seen her—read her slivers of poetry. They glide right by, veering from phrases clipped from some heightened drama to blunt exposition with a sharp nick of allusion: “I’m going to leave you / Should you want blood you’ve got it / In a world where she counts / What do you want from me besides the four legs I rip off the seat / He said class will be over soon and can I take you home?” I would never not say yes.

Paige K. Bradley

Fair Exchange

New York
05.05.17

Left: Gallerist El-Yesha Puplampu and artist Serge Attukwei Clottey. Right: Curator Koyo Kouoh and founder of 1:54 Touria El Glaoui. (All photos: Allison Young)


“ART HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SITE OF RESISTANCE, A SITE OF REFUGE IN HARD TIMES,” Dakar-based curator Koyo Kouoh mused while we were discussing the impressive lineup she had organized for this weekend’s discursive and artistic program throughout the third iteration of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. During the morning preview at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works, we stood in front of Nú Barreto’s monumental Disunited States of Africa, 2010, an American flag reconceived as pan-African icon. Black stars representing African nations cascade down the composition, crossing gold and red stripes, which are adorned with cowrie shells, prayer beads, medicine bottles, and books. Koyo describes it as “the black flag, the Vodou flag, the resistance flag, the reparation flag, and the African American flag.” We also discussed the growing sense of sorrow in today’s world, an increasingly standard topic of conversation––but, as hate grows more visible, so shall resistance and art.

Fairgoers will complain all they want about 1:54’s location in Red Hook, which is not reachable by subway, but apparently we weren’t remote enough to be shielded from the ripple effect of our dear president’s first official visit to New York. Aboard the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier and military museum on the Hudson River, Trump commemorated a 1942 battle between the allied US and Australia with Japan, all while we immersed ourselves in the “global”—once a postmodern ideal, now a lifeline.

Left: Caroline Hussey-Bain. Right: Artist Tahir Karmali.


At Ed Cross Fine Art, whose booth was conceived as a kind of basilica by curator Katherine Finerty, works by Kimathi Donkor and Modupeola Fadugba also explore the nexus of faith, resistance, and power. Fadugba’s “Flowers and Prayers” series conflates the iconic shape of the Brookes slave ship with the stained windows of Gothic cathedrals. I chatted with artist liaison Caroline Hussey-Bain about religion’s dual capacity to heal and uplift, control and suppress. She drew my attention to Fadugba’s other paintings, wherein synchronized swimmers balance atop one another and reach toward a red sphere, signifying the coveted red sticker that marks an artwork as sold. She explained that the artist is interested in how women strengthen one another and find success in the power of our collectivity. I’m convinced that we have no other choice. The next time I looked at my phone, I was alerted to the upcoming House of Representatives vote over a healthcare bill that would include sexual assault and pregnancy on a list of “preexisting conditions,” rendering one ineligible for coverage. Later that day, the bill would pass muster.

On the third floor of Pioneer Works, resident artist Tahir Karmali has a solo exhibition that will be on view through May 28. It is a powerful, subtle meditation on the bureaucracy of immigration, expressed through the materiality of paper. A Kenyan artist of Indian heritage, now living and working in the US, Karmali is cognizant not only of the colonial crossroads in which his ancestry is entangled, but also his own experiences of border crossing. “With this project, I’m looking at how paper is used as an authenticator, a way to document identity,” he told me. He grinds his own identification documents down to a pulp. The mesh filters used for making paper by sifting the pulp become the armature for his installations, encompassing concepts such as “vetting, screening, the filtration and porousness of borders.”

Left: Artist Malala Andrialavidrazana. Right: Artist Jeannette Unite.


Despite the tightening of such demarcations, there’s definitely a buzz around African art, and the mood among the exhibitors was optimistic and infectious. I talked to South African artist Jeannette Unite about the upcoming debut of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, and later heard about the growth of the South African art world from Maria Fidel Regueros of Johannesburg’s ROOM. This edition also welcomes several international newcomers to New York. Notable among these is Gallery 1957, a trailblazer in Accra’s budding contemporary art scene. Founded only one year ago, the gallery has already made the rounds in fairs from Lagos to Cape Town to London, and is off to Istanbul later this year. I asked dealer El-Yesha Puplampu about their successful first year, and she justifiably takes pride in the fact that “we’re showing how it should be done.”

Leaving a bit later than I had planned, and realizing how hungry I was, I prepared to dine solo and made a beeline for a burger at Hope & Anchor. But a few other fairgoers had the same idea: Artists Ousmane Mbaye, Saďdou Dicko, Evans Mbugua, and writer Jacqueline Ngo Mpii generously invited me to join them. Based in France and originally from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, respectively, they are mostly Francophone, and my French leaves much to be desired. But we get by, speaking in disjointed Franglais about food, art, and moving around New York. There’s nothing better than a meal with new friends—barriers be damned—to stave off the ennui of the day’s political tragedies.

Left: Artists Evans Mbugua, Jacqueline Ngo Mpii, Ousmane Mbaye, and Saďdou Dicko. Right: Entrepreneur Simone Small and gallerist Sitor Senghor.


Allison Young

Just Between Friends

New York
05.03.17

Trajal Harrell performing at the annual Friends of Artists Space dinner. (Photo: Dawn Chan)


SOME FUND-RAISERS, you can tell, are held together by the type-A wrath of a corporate-events planner. But not the annual Friends of Artists Space dinner, which is sweeter and much more interesting. It is held at the beginning of Frieze Art Week at the Ukrainian National Home in the East Village. There is no assigned seating. Everything unfolds leisurely, under the grand Art Deco¬–esque, mirrored ceiling of a banquet hall above the main restaurant, where old New Yorkers decide if they want their pierogies boiled or fried.

Last night’s dinner honored, in absentia, the artist, philosopher, and yogi Adrian Piper. As many know, she has refused to return to the United States since 2005, after being deemed a “suspicious traveler” on a TSA watch list. By underscoring the void she’s left, Artists Space gave fuel to a form of protest that seems particularly challenging: A body can always at least obstruct, in the worst case. But its sustained absence can’t do much, if others let it become forgotten. Piper did include the reproduction of a piece of hers from 1978, titled Aspects of the Liberal Dilemma, in the evening’s program, though. Its text leads you through an uncomfortably self-conscious monologue as you look at a photograph of black people, all in the context of art. If the digital world’s algorithmically protected echo chambers let people constantly slink back to a state of unexamined outrage, Piper’s artwork is needed more than ever for its ability to leave us seized with self-doubt.

According to Jay Sanders, newly at the helm of this nonprofit, Piper agreed to the suggestion to be honored “in this generative way,” as Sanders put it, by having “other artists presenting their own work that would speak, in whatever manner they chose, toward her work.” And indeed: The evening included a restaging of Trajal Harrell’s 2015 performance The Return of La Argentina, which hinges on movements drawn from Butoh and vogueing. (It’s worth noting that one of his costumes was a Comme des Garçons piece, which was more Kawakubo than most Met Gala attendees managed to pull off the night prior.)

Artists Richard Kennedy, Kyle Luu, and Stewart Uoo. (Photo: Dawn Chan)


Following Harrell—and braised fennel with saffron, and winsome remarks by Sanders—dancer and musician Richard Kennedy performed. His mix of looped vocals, processed into chords, evoked the a capella choral harmonies of American folk music. He sang lyrics such as, “There’s never a reason for violence against living things.” He explained to me that he was inspired by Piper’s iconic piece Catalysis III, 1970—where she went to Macy’s with WET PAINT painted on her clothes—and aimed to make something that would “disrupt the institution and represent the other.” He chose his outfit, by Iranian designer Pedram Karimi, to show solidarity with refugees and those banned from entering the US. “The material is very light and moves freely; unlike my refugee brothers and sisters in 2017,” he told me later.

Liam Gillick and Rachel Harrison, two board members, gave closing remarks. “It’s especially hard, these days,” Gillick said, “to create spaces of beauty and difficulty.” These days feels like a fraught term, these days. Almost exactly two years ago, down to the week, Piper unveiled her ongoing piece The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, at the Venice Biennale. Participants chose to sign agreements with rather ambitious terms: “I will always be too expensive to buy.” Or “I will always mean what I say.” Or “I will always do what I say I am going to do.” It feels like a different world now, one in which breaking contracts is passed off as a sign of business acumen. You have to wonder how the Probable Trust’s registrants are faring with their promises—and what vital, prophetic work Piper will make next.

Dawn Chan

Last Calle

New York
05.02.17

Sophie Calle at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (Photo: Leandro Justen)


SOPHIE CALLE WAS SMOKING AND TEXTING on stone steps in a green velvet dress, which I wanted to touch. She said sure, so I felt up the hem. It was heavy, deluxe. I asked her where she got it, and instead of answering, she asked me why I liked it. Suddenly I heard myself talking about my childhood, my mother who sewed dresses, and the velvet dresses I always asked her to make me, even after I knew how much the material cost. I stopped, embarrassed. Was I telling a secret? But anyone could see I had been a child, and it was obvious green velvet would suit me. Calle opened a map on her phone and asked if I knew the address where we were. I said that we were in Brooklyn, and that if she searched for Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel on the map, the address and directions would be given. “No,” she said. “That is not the right answer.” She went inside, where seventy were being seated for dinner, accompanied in silence by an unplayed pipe organ.

The occasion was the opening of a new public artwork by Calle, presented by Creative Time, called Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery. A high knoll is now home to a slight marble obelisk with a single slot, into which a visitor may slip a piece of paper (provided) on which she’s written whatever she wants to hide. It’s a quicker way of taking something to the grave. Twenty-five years from now, the work will be over, the secrets safely cremated––unless a thief who is also a handwriting expert gets there first.

Asked to give a speech, Calle began by looking around and announcing that “none of the people at the dinner had played the game.” (“The game” was what she was calling the work.) One woman raised her hand, au contraire. Calle seemed to wonder whether the other sixty-nine guests deserved a speech, and abruptly sat down. “When I have an idea,” she said, “I’ll start again.”

A man sitting next to me took a pen from his pocket and wrote this line on his place card in cursive. I asked him why. Surprised, he said simply: “Because I love her.” Calle had changed his way of thinking about the world and his work, and in particular had taught him to listen. I asked what his work was. “Communications,” he said. Before joining the New York office of Doctors Without Borders, he was employed by what he vaguely described as a travel company in San Francisco, which he called “San Frantastic.” I did not ask in what year of his communications career he had discovered the importance of listening.

Calle stood up again, having had an idea. She explained that she tried to buy a burial plot in Montparnasse, but the Parisian cemetery, home to some of the most respected corpses in France, doesn’t take reservations. Five or six years ago she bought one in Bolinas, California, where she lived and started making art at the end of her teen years. Now that she has been offered a plot in Green-Wood, she is wondering how many places she can be buried in, her body split up and deposited, like an inheritance among children, into (plural) graves. Calle said all this as though it had just now occurred to her, and we listened like we were receiving special information; in fact, she had said the same things in a T magazine profile, out three weekends ago. She added only a joke, saying that if she must be buried in one place, and if Montparnasse decides, after all, to reserve her a spot, “I will say no and be buried in Bolinas, because they took me first.”

Left: Katie Hollander, Creative Time executive director, and Elvira Dyangani Ose, Creative Time senior curator. Right: Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson and Peggy Leboeuf of Emmanuel Perrotin. (Photos: Leandro Justen)


Katie Hollander, the director of Creative Time, explained between courses that the foundation had been trying to work with Calle for seven or eight years. Finally, Calle said she had the time and wanted, in Hollander’s words, “to bring a concept to life in a cemetery.” (Zombie conceptualism?) Several months earlier, the people at Green-Wood had told the people at Creative Time that they’d love to collaborate. Fortuitous, I thought. “Cosmic,” said Nato Thompson, the artistic director. “There’s no other word for it.” Thompson had spent his whole life avoiding death but was now beginning to plan for the after party. “I think I want to be cryogenicized,” he told me. “Like Walt Disney.” Hollander was likewise optimistic. “I don’t usually think twenty-five years ahead,” she said, “but now I know that’s how long I have to come up with a really good secret.”

The French-born photographer Pascale Lafay stepped out to find her husband smoking Camels with three different women. Lafay said they had been married in Atlantic City astride a huge wooden elephant and had moved to Jersey City for the studio space. She was working on a series wherein she projected photos of friends’ faces onto identical white plastic masks, “to make the faces more alike, the way plastic surgery makes them alike.” She had been, while living in Paris, “Sophie’s neighbor.” I said that Lafay must know things about Calle that were secret, even if banal: what time the artist got home at night or up in the morning. She said, “I know that people want to know many things about her.” Maybe, I said, she should be buried in Green-Wood next to Calle, so they’d be neighbors again. “No,” Lafay said, strangely. “Never.”

Calle’s neighbor at dinner was the actress Kim Cattrall, who was Samantha on Sex and the City (1998–2004) and has been the voice of Calle’s mother, may she rest in performance, in various iterations of Rachel/Monique (2006). After dessert, Cattrall and her tall younger boyfriend went with Calle to see the obelisk under cover of dark, then to share a ride home—that is, until Calle ghosted, leaving the couple stranded with no cabs for miles. “The first thing she said to me at dinner was that I was late, and the second thing was that I hadn’t seen the art,” said Cattrall. “Halfway through dinner, she says again that I was late. Of course she’s totally joking. Well, not totally. Then as soon as she’s satisfied, she disappears! That is so Sophie.” I was about to take a car to the city. Of course I could drop Cattrall off. “Park Avenue, please,” said the actress, and proceeded to talk in the backseat, in her luculent, stage-trained way, for the next forty minutes.

Sophie Calle. (Photo: Heidi Krautwald)


Years ago, an editor at W called Cattrall to tell her a story. “I thought he was going to tell me about a Calvin Klein model committing suicide,” she said, “or whatever it is that editors talk about in fashion.” He relayed, instead, that the magazine had done a piece on Ingmar Bergman at his far-out island home and that Bergman said his favorite TV show, which he liked to watch alone in his screening room, was Sex and the City, and his favorite character was Samantha. I would not have taken Bergman for a Samantha. “Nor would I,” said Cattrall. “It makes sense though, doesn’t it? Nothing embarrassed him.” Elaborating on her love for Bergman’s 1973 miniseries Scenes from a Marriage, she noted that television doesn’t often get to “the grist of reality,” and said that, in acting, “the truest thing you can express is often the most painful.”

Calle seems to think so too. “With Sophie,” said Cattrall, “you know she’s trying to open you up emotionally, and you know she’s going to play on your vulnerabilities in a subtle and mysterious way, and you think, ‘I know what you’re doing, you can’t fool me.’ Then as soon as you get in your head and forget about your feelings, bam! She’s got you.”

The next afternoon I went to the cemetery, where a tired Calle was taking secrets in person. Of the four thousand visitors who came that day, three dozen had been chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis to share their secrets with the artist face-to-face, seat-to-seat, on two benches. When she had seen the last visitor and heard her secret, Calle stood and held her gray wool blanket aloft like a surrendering soldier’s flag. The visitor, with her professional camera, snapped quickly a triptych: Calle talking and laughing at the camera, then laughing at the sky, then at us. The knoll drained slowly, abscess-like. “I thought it would be bigger,” said a post-teen goth with a Gucci backpack. “The thing?” asked her goth friend, meaning the obelisk. “Or the idea?”

The last visitor’s name was Heidi Krautwald, a German photojournalist living in Kiel. She had been in New York for two months; it was her last day in town. “I only had a little secret,” she said. “For Sophie, it was okay. She was happy to end with something light.” An hour later, Krautwald sent me two of the three photos. I wrote back asking what Calle had said when she lifted the camera, but she didn’t reply.

Sarah Nicole Prickett

Sophie Calle's Here Lie the Secrets of The Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery. (Photo: Sarah Nicole Prickett)


Mirror Mirror

Los Angeles
05.02.17

Left: Artists Justine Koons, Jeff Koons, and Alex Israel. Right: John Legend. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


LAST WEEK, the Santa Ana winds came in hot and blustery across Los Angeles just as Jeff Koons hit town. Their convergence cannot have been a coincidence. An artist who staked his career on inflatables would naturally be on equal terms with high winds. Generally, they blow in his direction. And these did.

On Saturday, the Museum of Contemporary Art was to honor him at its star-studded annual benefit gala. On Thursday, Larry Gagosian—not one to let an opportunity slip by—opened a kind of popup Koons show that his Beverly Hills gallery assembled from three different bodies of work. Suffice it to say, this was not your usual sample sale.

Many people see only the reflective surface of Koons’s sculpture, because it can distract from the deep vein of melancholy that runs below the folds in the best of it. Yet Koons was positively buoyant, despite the death of his mother, at ninety, less than a week earlier.

For nearly forty years, Gloria Koons was a proud fixture at nearly every one of her son’s openings. I offered condolences. “My mother would have wanted me to be here,” he replied, with a wink. Then he moved through the gallery, attending to core collectors including Bill and Maria Bell and Benedikt Taschen.

Left: Philanthropists Lilly Tartikoff Karatz and Eli Broad. Right: Collector Maurice Marciano and LA MoCA director Philippe Vergne.


Justine Koons, the artist’s wife, carried a Titian handbag from the collection Koons produced in a recent collaboration with Louis Vuitton. Like so much of his art—or anyone’s, really—it looks better in the flesh. Ditto Ms. Bell’s white Stella McCartney dress with Koons’s Pink Panther image on the back. She also wore a silver Koons bunny on a silver chain around her neck and carried a Koons clutch. What was she planning to wear to the gala? “I may go for some of my normal clothes,” she said, blushing. What’s normal? “I have Rodarte,” she offered.

Irving and Jackie Blum were in the room. So were Mike Ovitz, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art director Michael Govan, Vanity Fair contributor Wendy Stark Morrissey, Jared Leto, and Leelee Sobieski. But the greater number was made up of lesser-known fans seeking autographs and a chance to pose for pictures with the artist. To their unconcealed delight, he complied for each.

One woman, a commercial photographer, told me that she’d driven from Las Vegas just for this opening. She wanted to see the work and its creator, whom she regarded as among the most culturally significant figures of our day. “He gets people talking,” she said. “That matters.”

Several works were on loan from their owners—at least three came from Eli Broad alone. They provided context for the one new sculpture—a dazzling blue bird of ultra-polished painted stainless steel that doubles as a fertile planter holding spring flowers. Based on a porcelain knickknack, it absolutely stole the show from the giant red Balloon Rabbit, the colossal Gazing Ball Hercules, the blue Sacred Heart, the liquescent Seated Ballerina of more recent vintage, and the “Gazing Ball Paintings” on view.

Left: LA MoCA director of education and public programming Amanda Hunt with artist Charles Gaines and LA MoCA assistant curator, Lanka Tattersall. Right: Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin.


“I didn’t want to like this show,” said one patron, “but I can’t help it. I really do.” That was the general consensus. “Doesn’t the show look like the ’70s?” Koons asked, on the way to dinner at Mr. Chow. “It’s so minimal,” he explained. I love the way Koons talks. But when I looked back, I saw that, for him, the installation was actually quite pared down, even spare. Continuing in this historical vein, he compared Balloon Rabbit to Nefertiti. “It follows the same lines,” he said. “And it’s so female, so vaginal.” Frankly, if you look closely, that isn’t a stretch either.

Dinner was of a more intimate scale than usual for this artist, but the weekend gala was ahead. Michael Chow circled the room, handing Koons and other artists present—Alex Israel, Jonas Wood—thick black markers, prodding them to make a drawing on their plates for a collection that will commemorate his restaurant chain’s upcoming fiftieth anniversary. “Can’t I do it on a clean plate?” Israel pleaded. Chow refused. “It’s art,” he said.

“It’s so good to see three different bodies of work together,” gallery director Deborah McLeod began the evening’s toast to “one of the greatest living artists.” She added, “Your art always makes us feel optimistic, which is what we need now.”

Koons stood. “You know,” he said, “you come into this world and you don’t need much. You can just be an artist. You can do anything. You can give people hope.” Noting his mother’s passing, he also acknowledged the many friends who were present, naming Eli and Edythe Broad, Taaschen, and the Bells. “Duchamp had Philadelphia,” he concluded. “I have Los Angeles.”

That was a good one.

Left: Dealer Larry Gagosian and the artist Jeff Koons. Right: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch.


For many artists living in LA—Laura Owens, Tacita Dean, Toba Khedoori—Friday night belonged to the premiere of Frances Stark’s feature-length adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on the big screen at LACMA’s Bing Theater. A student orchestra recruited from area schools performed the sound track, if you can say that about an eighteenth-century opera. Only the instruments actually had a “voice.” What there was to watch was the libretto, which Stark brilliantly translated into current vernacular, doubling lines and adding color. “I’m nervous,” she said, before the screening. “Mozart died five weeks after he finished writing this opera.”

Over at Blum & Poe in Culver City, seasoned Carroll Dunham and young Tony Lewis introduced new paintings. Lewis kept to the abstract. Dunham’s canvases depict naked caveman types in the hairy, complicated, genital-extending twists of a wrestling contest demonstrated on the exotic island where female sexuality was on display his last time out. I guess you could say, if pressed, that the new pictures are politically correct. “In art,” Dunham said, “all things are possible.” Even a modified southern menu of baked beans, potato salad, corn bread, and shoe-leather beef. It didn’t go late. The gala was coming!

It arrived Saturday night, in living color, in a big black tent with a magenta interior parked outside the Geffen Contemporary. Sharon Stone, Sean Penn, Ryan Seacrest, Pierce Brosnan, and Ricky Martin walked a purple carpet to slake the paparazzi’s thirst for celebrities who aren’t artists. Pace Barbara Kruger, Doug Aitken, Sam Durant, Dan Colen, Charles Gaines, Mark Grotjahn, Sterling Ruby, Ana Prvački, and the inimitable Genevieve Gaignard, coiffed in the world’s tallest beehive. “We have sixty artists with us tonight!” exulted gala and MoCA board cochair Maurice Marciano in his address to a crowd of eight hundred seated guests. “We have thirty trustees!”

Left: LACMA curator Christine Y. Kim with artists Frances Stark and Toba Khedoori. Right: Wendy Stark and LACMA director Michael Govan.


Then who were all these other people? Collectors and their friends. Dealers and their friends. Real-estate moguls, entertainment lawyers, and their friends. And MoCA’s former bad boys, Jeffrey Deitch and Paul Schimmel, though not together. Deitch, who kept a low profile, is opening an exhibition space in Hollywood. Schimmel had just returned from touring the Pharaonic Valley of Kings. He was dressed in a Bill Blass suit given to him by Nancy Rubins shortly after the death of Chris Burden. “She said he only got to wear it once!” Schimmel exclaimed. Now it’s his.

Scarlett Johansson narrated a film by Oscar Boyson that glimpsed various stages of Koons’s life, with cameos by Frank Gehry, George Condo, Scott Rothkopf, and Gagosian. Then it was MoCA director Philippe Vergne’s turn to wax poetic about Koons, whose editioned balloon-dog plates with Bernardaud—displayed outside the tent—has raised a ton of money for MoCA. Brosnan, who has attended the event before, introduced the honoree by characterizing him as the contemporary artist who “unites the power of art and celebrity.” Didn’t that hit home with this crowd! “We are inspired,” the actor said.

The artist then did exactly what his sculptures do—flattered the guests by flipping the focus back to them. “What we are celebrating tonight is the vitality of the art world in Los Angeles,” he began, connecting to his own local exhibition history from 1983, at LACE, through Daniel Weinberg, Margo Leavin, Luhring Augustine, and Hetzler galleries to Gagosian and the 2015 opening of the Broad. “Marcel Duchamp has Philadelphia,” he said again. “I have Los Angeles.”

Left: Artist Dan Colen. Right: Artist April Street and curator Philipp Kaiser.


If that line went over well the first time, it touched a nerve in the tent. The audience roared its approval. “This is the most concentrated area of my work anywhere in the world. If you want to see it, come to Los Angeles.”

John Legend came to the stage, and many women rushed it, hearts a-throb. The singer played right to them. “I hear he’s going to bring on a surprise guest,” said one. “I’m holding out for Beyoncé,” said her friend. Sorry, ladies. Legend’s guest was . . . Miguel!

Meanwhile, the LA art scene had reached a rolling boil, particularly in its museums. LACMA’s self-generated Picasso and Rivera exhibition was pure rock ’em, sock ’em bliss side by side with its imported Dwan Gallery and Moholy-Nagy shows. The Hammer’s Jimmie Durham show is probably his best ever, anywhere. And the Carl Andre retrospective on view that evening at the Geffen could not have suited that space better, especially paired with an affecting, politically minded group exhibition organized by Helen Molesworth that shattered, and enlightened, the American dream embodied by Koons with works by Arthur Jafa, Catherine Opie, and Sterling Ruby.

The next afternoon, Theaster Gates arrived from Chicago to close “Non-fiction,” a collaboration with MoCA at the late Noah Davis’s Underground Museum, with a performance by the Black Monks of Mississippi. The show, dedicated to victims of racist violence, featured work by David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, Deana Lawson, Kara Walker, and Henry Taylor, among others. Los Angeles belongs to them too.

Linda Yablonsky