Remarkable Art Museum Expansions Across America



Asia Society is the leading pan-Asian organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. They recently opened their new Yoshio Taniguchi-designed home in April.


“Those facilities include the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, an auditorium, a café, additional space for Menil archives and buildings devoted to the work of individual artists.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What the New Collection of Menil Collections Might Look Like

The firm of British architect David Chipperfield has been selected to design a master plan for the expansion of the Menil Collection campus. What’s to be added?

Those facilities include the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, an auditorium, a café, additional space for Menil archives and buildings devoted to the work of individual artists.

The Menil Foundation is also interested in developing “income-producing properties” along the coming Richmond rail line, reports Douglas Britt in the Houston Chronicle.

Fitting in so many new buildings, of course, will be a lot easier once the Menil decides which of its many neighboring properties it wants to knock down. And owning 30 acres in the area means there are plenty of possibilities!

Which will go first? The gray-washed arts bungalows? The small rental properties? Richmond Hall? Richmont Square?

* * *

Chipperfield, one of six architects initially in the running for the planning job, presented four initial ideas to a Menil committee. “Chipperfield is incredibly open and flexible,” Menil deputy director Emily Todd tells Britt.

Those preliminary schemes don’t appear to have been released, but British website Building includes these images with its report of the Chipperfield selection:

Resized and spliced together, they appear to be a much-wider-angled version of this view of the Menil campus looking south from Sul Ross, just east of Mulberry minus, of course, all those oaks.

The large porticoed structure on the right appears to represent the Menil itself. Notable also: the small brownish building just left of center looks to be one of the few Menil bungalows left standing in this scheme — several of them now line the south side of Branard.



Thinking Big

By Posted 05/29/12

Gary Tinterow returns to Texas to run the Museum of Fine Arts—and to grow it even larger

“My role will be different than it ever could have been at the Met,” says Tinterow of his new position in Houston.


Gary Tinterow is having his Proustian moment. After leaving Houston 40 years ago to attend Brandeis University in Massachusetts and then graduate school at Harvard, he spent almost three decades at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, since 2008 as chairman of the department of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art. Earlier this year, Tinterow returned to his hometown to take over the directorship of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He felt well prepared for the job but not for the rush of dormant memories triggered by certain smells or voices.

“When I left for college, I couldn’t get far enough away from Texas,” said Tinterow during a brief trip back to New York in February for the Met’s opening of “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” organized under his stewardship. “I wanted to go to an environment with brick sidewalks and gas lamps, someplace historic. Houston I felt was all about new. Coming back, the big change for me is how great it feels to be in Houston.” Indeed, the tall, willowy 58-year-old, who often seemed in perpetual motion in the galleries at the Met, projects a new sense of calm.

Tinterow is returning to a museum—he interned under the former MFAH director William Agee in 1975 and 1976—that was formative to his early love of art. He has indelible memories of sketching the Mies van der Rohe– designed pavilion as a teenager and of seeing a show of Color Field paintings by Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, and Jules Olitski. Tinterow feels lucky to have inherited such a financially healthy institution from his predecessor, Peter Marzio, who died in late 2010. During his 28-year tenure, Marzio built the encyclopedic collections to 63,000 objects and oversaw the Rafael Moneo–designed expansion that opened in 2000, making the museum one of the ten largest in the country. Its endowment is valued at approximately $1 billion, behind only the Getty’s and the Metropolitan’s. Underway for some time have been plans for a third museum building, to house modern and contemporary collections. The institution acquired a two-acre site, currently a parking lot, across the street from the two museum buildings and adjacent to both its Isamu Noguchi–designed sculpture garden and Glassell School of Art. In February, with Tinterow’s input, the museum named Steven Holl as the project architect.

“Among the most compelling of Holl’s ideas on a practical basis was the proposal to excavate two floors of underground parking underneath the entire new museum site and Glassell School, allowing for a low-rise building that would be respectful of Moneo and Mies,” says Tinterow of the structure, which will likely connect by tunnel under the street to the existing galleries. He also feels that Holl’s proposal to use a translucent skin of milky glass that would glisten by day and be illuminated by night would provide a harmonious contrast with the black steel of the Mies building and the limestone of the Moneo. He estimates that the overall project will cost from $250 to $300 million, and at the top of his to-do list is to begin raising the money.

If spearheading a new building from the ground up is a monumental project, Tinterow anticipates it being easier than the challenge he just left: negotiating an outpost for the Metropolitan’s modern and contemporary art in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Madison Avenue building once the Whitney’s staff and collections move to its new home downtown, in 2015. Tinterow first had the epiphany for an off-site facility while looking at the back of the head of Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate in London, who was sitting a few rows in front of him on a plane in 2008. “I thought, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Britain—Met Modern, Met,” he recalls saying to himself as he realized there was going to be an empty building on Madison. While he received immediate interest in the idea from then-chairman of the Whitney board Leonard Lauder and former Metropolitan director Philippe de Montebello, bringing the Met’s trustees on board took much longer than he expected. Last May, both institutions agreed in principle to a multiyear collaboration.

“The Met’s trustees asked very tough questions, as they should given their role as governors of the institution,” says Tinterow, noting the museum’s complicated and sometimes contentious relationship with contemporary art, dating back a century to when trustee J. Pierpont Morgan questioned what the Met was doing buying the work of the contemporary French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Yet Tinterow feels the perception of the Metropolitan’s resistance to contemporary art was a gift to him because anything he was able to accomplish in that area looked significant. He is particularly proud of how he enlivened the rooftop garden with works by living artists, including Cai Guo-Qiang, Roxy Paine, Jeff Koons, and Mike and Doug Starn—who, with a team of rock climbers, continually constructed a monumental bamboo structure with internal pathways, which visitors could traverse, throughout the course of the 2010 exhibition.

“There were many naysayers, but in fact ‘Big Bambú’ was a spectacular success, a great work of art, and the public loved it,” says Tinterow. “It really gave the Met a different sensibility.” During his tenure, Tinterow organized more than 40 exhibitions, built up the museum’s great collection of 19th-century paintings, and addressed some of the holes in the 20th-century collection with, for instance, the acquisition of the Metropolitan’s first major Rauschen­berg.

While Tinterow unequivocally refers to the Metropolitan as “the greatest museum in the world,” he clearly has settled into his new life. “Texans like to think big,” says Tinterow, who relishes the space and light of the new house he bought with his partner and has found a dog sitter as well as a tuner for his harpsichord, which he hopes he will find more time to practice. He wants to build on Marzio’s active engagement with the city’s diverse communities and provide opportunities for young people to have the kind of experiences that he had as a kid there, zooming around the museum district on his bike.

Tinterow hopes to work with other museums in the district and with the city to create a more pedestrian-friendly zone—with better crosswalks, more cafés, and retail stores, the kind of amenities that will encourage people to stay longer in the area. “That’s where my role will be different than it ever could have been at the Met,” he says. “In these early days, the opportunities seem infinite. In New York, I knew all too well what would not be possible. I don’t yet know that about Houston and I hope I never find out.”

Hilarie M. Sheets is a contributing editor of ARTnews.

Copyright , ARTnews LLC, 48 West 38th St 9th FL NY NY 10018. All rights reserved.

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Architizer News

Chipperfield’s Museum Expansion Set To Finally Open In St. Louis

February 15, 2013


It’s been a long time coming, but  Sir David Chipperfield‘s expansion of the St. Louis Art Museum is finally scheduled to open later this year.

The museum, which houses one of the most comprehensive art collections in the United States (including an impressive catalog of post-war German artists), is located in the city’s large urban landscape, Forest Park. In 2005, the Museum Board selected Chipperfield to design the expansion, with St. Louis-based HOK serving as the project’s architect of record. Two years later the Museum finally released plans and renderings of the design, which sparked controversy among local residents.

Halted in 2008 during the economic downturn, the project did not break ground until 2010. Now, eight years in the making, the expansion—Chipperfield’s largest U.S. project to date—will finally open this summer. Read more.



Featuring a polished concrete façade that incorporates Missouri river aggregates, innovative skylights, and large windows, the new East Building design is decidedly more modern than the Beaux Arts-style building designed by Cass Gilbert for the 1904 World’s Fair. The modern design was actually a point of controversy among some residents, who feared the addition would clash with the iconic building. Thankfully, Chipperfield’s design provides a seamless transition between the two buildings, featuring a distinctive coffered ceiling that provides natural light and dynamic viewing experiences within the galleries. The oscillation of daylight was one of the central themes behind the design of the space, and which creates better light conditions to view the artworks as well as highlighting the architecture of the galleries. The new building, which sits on over 211,000 square feet, includes 21 new galleries as well as a new parking garage (an important amenity for a city so reliant on car travel!)



All photos: via St. Louis Art Museum 

While the St. Louis Art Museum is a public institution supported by regional property tax, the expansion was funded entirely through private donations. The construction of the expansion, which totaled $130 million, was the largest capital campaign for a cultural institution in the history of the city. The museum will be open  to all, and admissions will be free, following a 100-year old ordinance that uses regional property tax to cover the operating costs of the city’s cultural institutions. Continuing it’s commitment to the local community, the construction of the East Building has allowed for the expansion of the education infrastructure, creating new classrooms and study spaces within the building, as well as renovations to the 480-seat auditorium.



St. Louis Art Museum debuts $160 million expansion

Located in one of America’s most splendid urban parks, next to one of St. Louis’ grandest structures, the new East Building at the St. Louis Art Museum aspires to be adored on its own terms.

White oak floors and a dark polished facade, skylights and concrete coffers – the East Building is both airy and weighty.

On June 29, St. Louisans get their first look at the building and the museum’s extensive modern and contemporary art collection. Even director Brent Benjamin is amazed by the experience.

“I’ve seen the objects but never the extent and quality of this material out at one time,” said Benjamin. “The fact that we were able to more than double the presentation of the postwar material, but also increase the presentation of everything from Asian art to antiquities to African art to European art, is extraordinary.”

Designed by acclaimed British architect David Chipperfield, the Gold LEED-certified East Building is 210,000 square feet and features 21 galleries, a 300-space underground garage, a restaurant and a gift shop. The $160 million project also includes new classrooms, flooring and updated galleries in the main and south buildings, as well as $30 million to pay for increased operating costs.

“Visitors expect a gracious experience, and they should have it,” Benjamin said. “It seems kind of prosaic, but it’s really important.”


St. Louis Art Museum Grand Opening Celebration

When • 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, June 29, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, June 30

Where • St. Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive

How much • Free


Art Museum highlights

Twenty-one new galleries, 230 works of art.

The new East Building of the St. Louis Art Museum will offer art lovers a fresh look at some of contemporary art’s best works. Some pieces, such as Tony Smith’s “Free Ride,” have been locked in storage for decades; others, such as Donald Judd’s “Untitled,” have been on view, but never side-by-side with their acclaimed contemporaries.

Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol — all of the big names of modern art are represented. So are today’s hottest artists — Gerhard Richter, Kiki Smith, Kerry James Marshall and St. Louis’ own Tom Friedman.

Here, Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art, and Tricia Paik, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art, highlight of the most intriguing works featured in the new permanent exhibition space “A New View: Contemporary Galleries” and “Postwar German Art in the Collection,” the first exhibit in the East Building’s special exhibition galleries.

Robert Motherwell

“In Beige with Sand,” 1945

Influenced by European surrealists, Robert Motherwell was one of the youngest and most prolific members of the New York School, which also included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline. In this earlier work, Motherwell uses a number of media including sand and wood veneer.

“His best-known works play with stripes and circles and this one does too. You can see him looking forward to the later black and white paintings,” Kelly said.

Mark Rothko

“Red, Orange, Orange on Red,” 1962

Visitors will get a real “wow” moment as the enter the abstract expressionism gallery. This Mark Rothko painting literally glows with color.

“It’s really spectacular experience,” Kelly said. “He builds up these thin layers of luminous pigment to create these really wonderful, floating blocks of color. To me, it is abstract but it also suggest landscape. You have a sense of a horizon line and sunrise.”

Philip Guston

“Room 112,” 1957

Philip Guston served as an instructor at Washington University in the 1940s. He was replaced by another famous artist with a huge presence at the St. Louis Art Museum — Max Beckmann. The museum owns five of Guston’s paintings, including two featured in the New York School gallery — the colorful, abstract piece “Room 112” and the more monochromatic work, “Group 1.”

Tony Smith

“Free Ride,” 1962

Like many of the works returning to view, “Free Ride” required significant conservation. Specialists managed to restore the work’s dark, rich tone after years of outdoor exposure corroded its painted steel surface. This major work, one of an edition of three, reflects Tony Smith’s core interest in arranging cubic forms.

“In this case the composition was originally based on three Alka-Seltzer boxes he just started playing around with on a table,” Kelly said.

“Curtains,” 1962

Roy Lichtenstein

The East Building features two complementary Lichtensteins, the black-and-white painting “Curtains” and the ceramic sculpture “Black and White Head,” which the museum lent out for the recent traveling Roy Lichtenstein retrospective.

“There is this interest in suburban America in pop art of the 1960s,” Kelly said. “What’s interesting to me is the ironic element of their work that does critique of the grand aspirations of the abstract expressionists. The very fact he chooses curtains as the subject of a painting is interesting.”

Ellsworth Kelly 

“Spectrum II,” 1966-67

One of Ellsworth Kelly’s renowned “Spectrum” works, “Spectrum II” is a series of painted panels connected to create a single, almost glowing work. Like many of the works in this gallery, “Spectrum” is enormous — almost 23 feet long. The new East Building with its 16-foot ceilings and large galleries gives breathing room to works like Donald Judd’s “Untitled ” and Frank Stella’s 25-foot “Madinat as-Salam III.”

Richard Serra

“Untitled,” 1968

St. Louisans have been walking in and around the steel sculptures of Richard Serra for years. There is the 1981 sculpture “Twain,” located on the Gateway Mall and the 2000 work, “Joe,” located in the courtyard of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. This earlier work, however, is made of rubber and lies flat. Serra mixed rubber with orange paint and poured it on a corrugated iron door to create three separate mats. The work has not been show in almost a decade.

“People don’t know his rubber pieces so well and I think it will be eye-opening for people,” Kelly said. “It is an important piece and it needs to be better known.”

Louise Nevelson

“New Continent,” 1962

Born in Russia, but obsessed with New York, Louise Nevelson called herself the original recycler. For “New Continent,” one of Nevelson’s famed wall sculptures, she scavenged the streets of New York for table legs, spindles and other found objects. Today, many artists transform trash into art, but in the 1960s, her approach was as curious as it was compelling.

Chuck Close

“Keith, 1970”

One of the best known works of the collection, “Keith” is a black-and-white large-scale painting of a photograph of friend Keith Hollingworth. Chuck Close used an airbrush to create the smooth surface yet the details — pores, wrinkles and hair — provide texture. Kelly calls it one of Close’s best works.

Tom Friedman

“Untitled (Seascape),” 2012

John Burroughs School and Washington University graduate Tom Friedman is an international art superstar. Known best for colorful, conceptual and often comic sculptures, “Untitled (Seascape)” is a folded piece of archival paper, creased to create the impression of moving waves.

“It’s an abstract but it speaks to the sea,” Kelly said. “One of the things I like about it is it has a great relationship with artistic tradition. You think of the photographer (Hiroshi) Sugimoto or Gerhard Richter seascapes and the minimalistic compositions of Gustave Le Gray. This is what he has done but has given it his own twist by the way he has created the sea in this clever way.”

El Anatsui

“Fading Cloth,” 2005

El Anatsui stitches together thousands of crushed metal caps and twisted foil wrappers from liquor bottles to create monumental wall sculptures that look like ornate undulating tapestries.

Grave Stele of Kallistrate, late 5th–early 4th century BC

The new East Building does feature one gallery of ancient art. One reason is practical: Located near the front door, these ancient objects of stone can stand up to fluctuations in climate better than their fragile counterparts of today. But the other reason is symbolic, says Lisa Çakmak, assistant curator of ancient art.

“The art in this gallery really is the beginning of art in the Western tradition,” Çakmak said. “The art of Renaissance Europe finds its origins in ancient Greece and Rome and that morphed into post-Renaissance, all the way to modern and contemporary. It’s sort of the great-great-great-great-grandfather of modern and contemporary Western art.”

Special exhibition galleries  

Gerhard Richter

“Betty,” 1988

Gerhard Richter made headlines in May when his painting “Domplatz, Mailand” sold for $37 million, a record for a work by a living artist. The previous record? That would be $34 million in 2012 for Richter’s work “Abstraktes Bild.”

Paik says his iconic work “Betty,” one of eight showcased in “Postwar German Art in the Collection,” is a prime example of his photorealistic painting techniques. She calls “Betty” the museum’s “un-‘Mona Lisa.'”

Joseph Beuys

“Felt Suit,” 1970

The museum dedicates an entire gallery to Joseph Beuys and the artists he taught and influenced. Paik calls him one of the last great Utopian painters of the 20th century. Beuys frequently used felt in his works believing the material offered warmth and healing. He wore this work in a performance piece protesting the Vietnam War.

“He’s someone who really tried to redefine what constituted art because he made artworks that were performances and participatory and ephemeral,” Paik said. “And yet, he still loved the art object. He valued them both.”

Georg Baselitz

“Seated Male Nude — Morocco,” 1976

Neo-expressionist pioneer Georg Baselitz is known today for his large-scale wooden sculptures, but in the 1960s he gained acclaim for paintings featuring upside-down people, buildings and landscapes.

“He is trying to slow down your understanding of the perception of the work by inverting it,” Paik said.

Anselm Kiefer

“Burning Rods,” 1984-87

In his meditation on both Egyptian mythology and the Chernobyl disaster, Anselm Kiefer uses lead, straw, porcelain, and iron to create “Burning Rods.”

Markus Lupertz

“Titan,” 1986

The 8-foot tall “Titan” looks out onto phase one of the art museum’s new sculpture garden. Unlike the ancient Greeks who created gods from polished marble, Markus Lupertz gives his hero a craggy face and clumsy hands. Still the effect is powerful.

“I like the way he’s peeking out of the space, almost like a threatening presence when you walk in,” Paik said.

Albert Oehlen

“Assistance in Drawing,” 1995

Like many artists in the 1980s, Albert Oehlen is exploring the nature of painting and drawing, first creating more figurative work before embracing abstraction.

“He’s exploring how you draw in different ways,” explained Paik. “There are these grand gestures and shapes but then these intimate and minute gestures used with ballpoint pen. He talks a lot about how he uses both expensive materials and cheap pigments.”

Thomas Struth

“Pantheon, Rome,” 1990

German photographer Thomas Struth has created monumental photographs of cities, rainforests and families. But some of his best-known works are pictures of museums or rather of the spectators who flock to them, awed by their grandeur.


Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times

A wall-size screen at the Cleveland Museum of Art shows all the objects on display. Visitors can use iPads to devise their own tours


Cleveland Museum reopens entrance after seven-year refit

Vast atrium designed to be city’s new meeting space

By Pac Pobric. Web only
Published online: 05 November 2012

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s new 39,000 sq. ft Ames Family Atrium (Photo: Howard Agriesti)

Seven years after starting the project, the Cleveland Museum of Art officially opened its 39,000 sq. ft Ames Family Atrium on Sunday (29 October). The new space is part of a $350m expansion and modernisation, which is due to be completed in late 2013.

“The reason this has taken so long is that the entire campus was redone,” says David Franklin, the museum’s director. “The 1916 building was retrofitted and made state of the art, and [architect] Rafael Viñoly cleared away everything except for the original building and the 1971 Marcel Breuer wing. It will be a brand new museum by the end of 2013,” adding, “We’re right on budget.”

Around 40 local cultural groups took part in the opening, which highlighted the atrium as a civic space for discussion. The aim was to “symbolically return the museum to the city,” Franklin says. “We’re embracing as much as possible the full mosaic of cultural organisations in Cleveland. Each group will have its moment to shine”.

The festivities coincided with the opening of the show “Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes” (until 6 January 2013) and the unveiling of “Provenance”, the museum’s new restaurant, as well as a new museum store.

Steve Stephens | Dispatch photosThe Armor Court is one of the most popular displays at the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Five Things You Should Know About the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland

By Stephanie Murg on November 8, 2012 2:33 PM

(Photo: Dean Kaufman)

With the ballots counted and the electoral votes tallied, the world can stop referring to Ohio using battle metaphors and take notice of what’s really swinging in the Buckeye State: art museums. There’s the reliably stellar Wexner Center (the first major public building designed by Peter Eisenman) in Columbus, Zaha Hadid‘s Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, and the Akron Art Museum, which in 2007 gained a soaring glass and steel structure by Coop Himmelb(l)au. But the big news is in Cleveland, where a Rafael Viñoly-designed expansion project is in full swing at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is now welcoming visitors to its new $27.2 million home (above) by Farshid Moussavi. We paid a visit to MOCA Cleveland and have returned to offer these five informational morsels about the sleek and surprising new building–and what’s inside.

5. With six irregularly faceted sides clad primarily in mirror-finish black stainless steel, the 34,000-square-foot building’s striking exterior never looks the same twice. Moussavi happened upon the dusky Rimex paneling after her first choice (anodized gold aluminum) was nixed by the museum’s board of directors. “We discovered that this black steel acquired different dynamics when applied to our shape, with its surfaces that are tilted to different orientations and that catch the light differently,” said Moussavi during the museum’s opening weekend festivities. “It started playing with time.”

4. Visitors step inside to the “urban living room,” an airy ground floor space that includes the museum cafe and shop. Linger as long as you want: admission is only charged for those who ascend the craggy white central staircase to the exhibitions. First up, in the cozy second floor gallery, is David Altmejd’s largest vitrine piece to date, “The Orbit” (2012), a labyrinth of tumbling fruit, furry hands, and disembodied eyeballs. This marks the first time the artist has incorporated architectural elements into one of his Plexiglas-enclosed worlds. “I always deal with structures and of course I’m always confronted with their limitations,” the artist said in an interview with chief curator David Norr. “But I like the idea of constantly breaking that limitation.”

3. MOCA Cleveland director Jill Snyder had three main goals for the non-collecting institution’s new home. “What we strived for was flexibility, transparency, and sustainability,” she told us. Among the features of the soon-to-be-LEED-Silver-certified building are floors stacked to offer glimpses of usually behind-closed-doors museum functions (admin offices, the wood workshop, the loading dock), enclosed fire stairs that double as a sound gallery, and, underneath the adjoining public plaza, geothermal wells.

2. The inside of the building shell is painted dark, matte blue (think Yves Klein ultramarine at midnight). It’s the museum’s new signature color and Moussavi’s ingenious way of both eschewing the typical white box and linking the building’s eccentric exterior to the program inside–while not clashing with the art. “It is part of the dark shell. It’s the inside of it,” said Paul Westlake of Westlake Reed Leskosky, which served as architect-of-record, structural engineer, and lighting designer for the new MOCA Cleveland. “And on one reading, it’s only black. It’s just dark. And on the second reading, it’s color.”

1. Having faced and cleared the hurdles imposed by the recent global financial crisis during a six-year process of fundraising, design, and building, MOCA Cleveland is one sexy museum. “I’m reminded of the words of a friend of mine, who said that the process of doing a building like this is like having sex in the backseat of car: it’s terribly exciting, but it’s not very comfortable,” said Westlake. “That’s what this design process was like.”



Friday, September 16, 2011

TRANSFORMER STATION – 8,000 sq. ft. museum space.

Cleveland Museum of Art announces Ohio City gallery

Come this time next year, Ohio City will have a more contemporary feel.The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation will open the exhibition space Transformer Station on West 29th Street. Built in the 1920s as a power station for the Detroit Avenue streetcar line, the Transformer Station will be renovated and expanded into an 8,000-square-foot space for art programs, exhibitions and installations.“It’s an opportunity to extend our reach to more Northeast Ohioans, specifically to this important and vibrant West Side of the city,” said David Franklin, the art museum’s director, in a press conference this morning.The Transformer Station will be the museum’s first separate space outside University Circle. “Fundamentally, it strengthens our ancient mission of benefiting all the people forever,” Franklin said.Fred Bidwell, co-founder and co-director of the Bidwell Foundation, said they chose the building to showcase art because of its industrial feel. And there’s an huge crane on the ceiling that can lift 15 tons. Who doesn’t need that?“The diversity, the grit, the intimacy, the urbanity of Ohio City, with its dynamic art scene, we felt was a perfect place for this showplace for the contemporary art,” said Bidwell in the press conference.The hopes are to have the Transformer Station open in late 2012. Franklin wants to encourage curators and collaborators to use the space as a laboratory and set up installations more spontaneously. This space will also allow young and local artists to show their work on the same floor as international artists.City councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents Ohio City, thanked the Bidwells for opening the Transformer Station. “This neighborhood takes this gift very seriously,” he said. “We take you as gifts very seriously. We cherish what you’re doing here, and we are all too well aware that you could have done this anywhere.”

Cimperman predicted the gallery would become important to the neighborhood’s future. “One day, in this building there will be children like me — who grew up on East 74th Street — [who,] but for the arts, would not be able to live the life they lived. So, if you want to know what you are doing today for this community, look 20 years from now to the generation that you are fostering.


Denver Art Museum / Daniel Libeskind

  • 05 Oct 2010
© Bitter Bredt

Architects: Studio Daniel Libeskind
Location: Denver, Colorado,
Joint Venture Partner: Davis Partnership
Contractor: M.A Mortensen Co. (Colorado)
Structural Engineer: Arup (Los Angeles)
Structural Connection Design: Structural Consultants, Inc.
Civil Engineers: JF Sato and Associates
Mechanical Air: Arup-Los Angeles
Mechanical/Electrical: MKK Engineers and Arup (Los Angeles)
Structural Engineers: ARUP (Los Angeles)
Structural Connection Design: Structural Consultants, Inc.
Civil Engineers: JF Sato and Associates
Interior Designers: Studio with Davis Partnership
Landscape Architects: Studio Daniel Libeskind with Davis Partnership
Lighting Consultant: George Sexton and Associates
Theater Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander
Acoustical Consultant: ARUP (Los Angeles)
Exterior Façade Consultant: Gordon H Smith, ARUP, BCE;
Project Area: 146,000 sq ft
Project Year: 2006
Photographs: Bitter Bredt, DAM, SDL, Michele Nastasi

The Extension to the Denver Art Museum, The Frederic C. Hamilton Building, is an expansion and addition to the existing museum, designed by the Italian Architect Gio Ponti. Inspired by the vitality and growth of Denver, the addition currently houses the Modern and Contemporary art collections as well as the collection of Oceanic and African Art. The extension, which opened in October 2006, was a joint venture with Davis Partnership Architects, the Architect of Record, working with M.A. Mortensen Co.

ground floor plan

To complete the vision for the extension Studio Daniel Libeskind worked closely with the director, curators, core exhibition team, the contract architect and the Board of Trustees. Since its opening, the new building has become a major cultural landmark for Denver, attracting thousands of visitors to the museum complex.

© Bitter Bredt
© Bitter Bredt

“Nexus is conceived in close connection with the function and aesthetic of the existing Ponti museum, as well as the entire Civic Center and public library. The new building is a kind of city hub, tying together downtown, the Civic Center, and forming a strong connection to the golden triangle neighborhood. The project is not designed as a stand alone building, but as part of a composition of public spaces, monuments and gateways in this developing part of the city, contributing to the synergy amongst neighbors, large and intimate.

“The materials of the building closely relate to the existing context as well as innovative new materials (such as titanium) which together will form spaces that connect local Denver tradition to the 21st Century.

section 01
© Bitter Bredt

“The amazing vitality and growth of Denver — from its foundation to the present — inspires the form of the new museum. Coupled with the magnificent topography with its breathtaking views of the sky and the Rocky Mountains, the dialogue between the boldness of construction and the romanticism of the landscape creates a unique place in the world. The bold and forward looking engagement of the public in forging its own cultural, urban and spirited destiny is something that would strike anyone upon touching the soil of Colorado.

© Bitter Bredt

“One of the challenges of building the Denver Art Museum was to work closely and respond to the extraordinary range of transformations in light, coloration, atmospheric effects, temperature and weather conditions unique to this City. I insisted these be integrated not only functionally and physically, but culturally and experientially for the benefit of the visitors’ experience.

© Bitter Bredt

“The new building is not based on an idea of style or the rehashing of ready made ideas or external shape because its architecture does not separate the inside from the outside or provide a pretty facade behind which a typical experience exists; rather this architecture has an organic connection to the public at large and to those aspects of experience that are also intellectual, emotional, and sensual. The integration of these dimensions for the enjoyment and edification of the public is achieved in a building that respects the hand crafted nature of architecture and its immediate communication from the hand, to the eye, to the mind. After all, the language of architecture beyond words themselves is the laughter of light, proportion and materiality.”

Paul McCarthy’s Wild, Phenomenal “WS” at the Park Avenue Armory, New York


NSFW Photos Reveal Why Paul McCarthy Armory Show Is NC-17

One of the videos features a prolonged scene of Snow White fellating a camera mic.(Gothamist)


By John Del Signore in on June 18, 2013 4:27 PM

Transgressive artist Paul McCarthy has taken over the sprawling Park Avenue Armory for his largest work to date, and this one looks like a doozy. A collaboration with his son Damon McCarthy, the show, called WS, “weaves together a fantastical forest and a three-quarter-scale house modeled after McCarthy’s own childhood home, with multi-channel video projections to immerse visitors in a world of fantasy and depravity.” How depraved is it? Well, one tipster tells us the video features Snow White “rolling around in the kitchen naked covered in chocolate and sprinkles while McCarthy video tapes her with no pants and his wang out.” Sorry kids, no one under 17 admitted.

WS is a true Gesamtkunstwerk,” says Alex Poots, Artistic Director of the Armory. “It is an overwhelming creation born out of the original Brothers Grimm fairytale and the subsequent popular interpretations that became iconic American symbols in the 20th century. Going far beyond the confines of the story, it explores the vast and at times distressingly dark corners of the human psyche.”

WS is an evolving work-in-progress which will continue to change during the course of the exhibit, which opens to the public tomorrow and continues through August 4th. The first thing you’ll see upon entering the drill hall is a massive artificial forest filled with towering 30-foot tall trees and colorful, oversized flowers that extend across a raised lush landscape. Nestled at the center of the installation is an 8,800-square foot yellow ranch-style (haunted?) house (a three-quarter-scale exact replica of McCarthy’s childhood home), where the project’s video performances were filmed. According to the Armory’s press materials:

Surrounding the installation, large-scale video projections feature scenes from a subversive and explicit alternative fairytale in which the character Walt Paul—played by McCarthy as an amalgam of himself and the archetypes of a movie producer, artist, father and other roles—cavorts with a cast of characters including White Snow, a figure who represents both the archetypal virgin and vixen, a daughter as well as a fairytale princess. Dwarves, the Prince, and doubles for Walt Paul and White Snow are part of the action. Drawing loosely upon the classic story and interweaving references to the history of art, the performance becomes a bacchanal.

The Park Avenue Armory is located at 643 Park Avenue (at 67th Street). Admission to WS is $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors

(James Ewing)
(Joshua White)
(James Ewing)
(James Ewing)
(James Ewing)

(James Ewing)

(James Ewing)
(Joshua White)
(Joshua White)
(Joshua White)
(Joshua White)



June 23, 2013 10:00 pm

Paul McCarthy: WS, Park Avenue Armory, New York – review

By Ariella Budick

The artist who has built his career on disgust ups the ante with his new installation
Paul McCarthy's 'WS'©James EwingPaul McCarthy’s ‘WS’

I skipped breakfast before visiting Paul McCarthy’s monster installation “WS”, which turned out to be a good idea.

In the great drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory, I wandered through an immense jungle of towering turd-like trees and psychedelic flowers, my eyes constantly drifting up to gruesome video tableaux playing out on giant screens. Feeling like a horror-film character whose every movement is tracked by screeching music, I came upon a replica of the lemon yellow cottage in Salt Lake City where McCarthy grew up, and found it suspiciously normal. Sure enough, right nearby, a film set that mimicked the house’s interior, down to the tackiest detail, was strewn with extremely convincing corpses and littered with the detritus from a marathon bacchanal. The walls were smeared with red goop, the carpeting stained with mystery fluids. The whole scene stank of sweat, liquor and rotten vegetables. All around, the Armory’s vast, darkened interior rattled with screams and grunts. I felt myself gag.


McCarthy delights in arousing revulsion. He has built an entire career on disgust, cheerfully grossing out even the most jaded sophisticates. (The Armory treats “WS” like an explicit movie, restricting admission to visitors aged 17 and over.) His performances feature cartoon and fairy-tale characters who come to life and regress into the glop-loving antics of overgrown toddlers, slathering themselves with ketchup, thrashing and humping each other. They plunge prosthetically-enhanced faces into bowls of chocolate syrup or shove sticky things between their legs.

To prevent this perpetual circus of perversion from getting old, McCarthy keeps upping the ante. “WS” stands for White Snow, and his twisted take on Snow White is his biggest, trippiest Weirdworld yet. He has transformed the hall into an adult theme park, a pornographic para-Disneyland that tips up the boulder of consumer romance to expose the slime underneath.

In previous installations, he has taken on Rocky, Heidi and Pinocchio, so Disney is ripe for his brand of psychotic critique. “WS” is the latest sally in what he calls a “program of resistance” against the totalitarian nature of American pop culture. His idiosyncratic perversions spit in the eye of an entertainment conglomerate that strives to homogenise taste.

“Disneyland is so clean,” he has said. “Hygiene is the religion of fascism. The body sack, the sack you don’t enter, it’s taboo to enter the sack. Fear of sex and the loss of control; visceral goo, waddle waddle.” McCarthy blasts holes in the orderly cuteness of commercialised childhood mythology. He sullies what Disney has sanitised, hauling old fairy tales back to their deeply scary roots.

Others no doubt share his disenchantment with mass-produced, candy-coloured fairy tales. Some might even express it by retreating into an internet subculture and seeking out like-minded grumblers all over the world. McCarthy not only takes his iconoclasm public; he makes it the animating principle of his very profitable work.

After years of art-world obscurity, McCarthy hit it big in the 1990s and he’s been nurturing his prestige ever since. His cathartic rites of defilement have accrued quantifiable cachet: one piece sold at Christie’s for $4.5m in 2011. The market loves it when he talks dirty.

McCarthy is fluent in artspeak and deft at playing the establishment’s game. Subverting, transgressing, reinterpreting, critiquing – he does it all, thereby reassuring collectors and curators that they can express their personal independence of vision by supporting him. He has convinced decision-makers that his dripping mayhem is really analytical, detached and mordantly political. Yet all this intellectual posturing merely serves as a cover for primal, Dionysian impulses. At its best, McCarthy’s work can be unpleasant but urgent, plumbing the most primitive and brutal crevices of our collective psyche. He pokes at the savagery lurking somewhere in all of us.

Perhaps even McCarthy has lost his passion for these provocations. At the Armory, he seems to be going through the motions, dutifully trying to outrage whomever is left to shock. The seven-hour multichannel video chronicles a dinner party as it degenerates into murderous violence and manic squalor. He plays “Walt Paul”, a dapper fellow representing a range of authoritarian archetypes: Walt Disney, or any more generic corporate chieftain, a domineering father, God. The character of Snow White also comes with a cloud of implied labels: seductress, muse, victim, daughter, wife, mother. Layered on top of this jumbled psychodrama is pseudo-biblical narrative, in which the phallic fake woods stand in for the Garden of Eden, and Snow White takes on yet another symbolic role as a capitalist Eve avidly gobbling up the poisoned apple. It doesn’t take long to lose patience with this tangle of myths and allegories.

Winding through the labyrinthine installation, beset by mumbled incantations and strangled screams, I found myself wondering why the Armory, one of New York’s newest and most appealing cultural destinations, would commit its resources and its reputation to this bloated horror. “WS” is the first visual arts project presented by its new artistic director, Alex Poots, and it is contrived to court controversy. A shrill chorus of moral guardians has predictably joined in: the New York Post is desperately trying to revive the dormant culture wars of 20 years ago, using flammable phrases like “demented, debauched and just plain dirty”.

Those adjectives aren’t wrong, but they’re beside the point. The shocker is not the flesh or the fluids; it’s that McCarthy’s private obsessions are no more interesting than anyone else’s, even when they are blown up to imperial scale.

On view until August 4,


ny observer


Naked Ambition: Paul McCarthy Takes the Park Avenue Armory

‘WS’ brings the Drill Hall into brave new territory

By Zoë Lescaze 6/19 7:00pm


5362_2_PAA_Paul_McCarthy_WS_JamesEwing-9506 CAP

Paul McCarthy, ‘WS,’ 2013. (Courtesy the artist and the Park Avenue Armory. Photo by James Ewing)

If you harbor childhood memories of Snow White and would prefer their innocence remains intact, avoid the Park Avenue Armory this summer. A few minutes inside “WS,” artist Paul McCarthy’s staggering new project, which opened there earlier today, will be enough to make you never look at Dopey the same way again.

If, however, the prospect of spelunking through the weirdest corners of Mr. McCarthy’s subconscious—a Boschian realm that lays bare the sinister side of fairy tales, subverts American domesticity with unhinged humor, and involves enough debauched sexuality to send any mental-health professional screaming from the room—appeals, get to the Drill Hall.

“Let’s be real, it’s an extremely, extremely rough film,” said the Armory’s consulting curator, Tom Eccles, as he smoked a cigarette outside the building following a press preview on Tuesday morning. The main video component of “WS,” which is projected on eight billboard-size screens, retells the story of Snow White over the course of seven hallucinatory hours during which Walt Disney (played by Mr. McCarthy) parties with the titular maiden and her seven diminutive friends. It’s highly sexual, but not about satisfaction as much as it is about delirium and, in Mr. Eccles’s words, “the denial of sex.”  The enormous space, floored with carpets from Disney hotels, echoes with wild shrieks and howls as the characters fellate balloon animals, cover one another in condiments and bang out drum solos on metal pots and pans.

The video was filmed in an exact three-quarter-scale replica of Mr. McCarthy’s childhood home and in a massive manmade forest featuring grotesque 30-foot trees, both of which are installed in the center of the Drill Hall. Small side rooms house additional screens (and additional content warnings), due to their especially graphic nature, while other rooms throughout the Armory feature models of the installation, other videos such as the dendrophila-filled White Snow Mammoth and a “Walt Paul” store brimming with Snow White merchandise—wigs, water bottles, kitsch figurines and posters signed by Mr. McCarthy.

“This is Paul McCarthy without stops,” said Rebecca Robertson, president and executive director of the Armory, as she stood in front of the installation.  “He’s put himself out there 100 percent and I think it matters to him how it’s perceived and the effect that it has. I think it’s risky in that way.”

The Armory, led by Artistic Director Alex Poots, Visual Arts Curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Mr. Eccles, commissioned “WS” last April without knowing exactly what direction it would take. “I think there was always a question with the work, how graphic it would become,” said Mr. Eccles. “That was an unknown.” Three hundred hours of video and millions of dollars later, the result is like nothing the Armory has presented before.

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Paul McCarthy, ‘WS,’ 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Joshua White)

Mr. Eccles said he was personally shocked by parts of the project. “I’ve never seen a man masturbating before. You know? Or certainly not with a dummy,” he said, referring to one video, The Prince Comes, that involves Prince Charming interacting with a silicone life cast of Elyse Poppers, an actress who plays White Snow and who has worked with Mr. McCarthy on numerous other projects (including “Rebel Dabble Babble,” which opens at Hauser & Wirth tomorrow night). Despite the sexual content, both Armory staff and members of Mr. McCarthy’s studio stated that nothing was censored nor deemed inappropriate for the venerable institution.

“Just because it’s darker doesn’t mean it’s not valid,” said Ms. Robertson. “It may be difficult—really difficult—but I think that artists have been depicting hell since art began, and this is a very contemporary version of it.”

The process of making “WS” extended well beyond the edges of the forest for Mr. McCarthy and his team. “Even in his studio, in meetings, he was in character. The whole meeting!” said Mr. Obrist, talking rapidly over the videos playing around him. Ms. Poppers and another young woman, both wearing black wigs, red lipstick and primary-color princess dresses, danced across a nearby screen.

“White Snow was there,” chimed in Ms. Robertson excitedly. “She was making balloon dogs, and I have this beautiful picture of Hans-Ulrich, and we’re trying to have a meeting, and she’s putting the balloon dogs on top of his head and saying ‘Oh! How interesting! Oh! How controversial!’”

“It was a very good meeting,” said Mr. Obrist nodding. He said that, like nearly everything in Mr. McCarthy’s studio, it was filmed from multiples angles.

“We got cut; we’re not in the movie,” said Ms. Robertson sounding just a trifle disappointed.

On the screen directly above her, the bacchanalian fête continued to unfold. One of the dwarves crawled around the model living room wearing nothing but a canary yellow UCLA sweatshirt. He paused near the sofa, sniffing it with his bulbous prosthetic nose, and pantomimed urinating like a dog. Soon Mr. McCarthy, dressed in a tuxedo, was doing the same.

“We’ve all been to parties like this where we don’t know if we look like this because we’re too drunk,” said Ms. Robertson.

At the VIP opening that night, visitors circled the reconstructed ranch house, peering through windows and holes cut in the walls at the aftermath of the filming—unmade beds, empty whiskey bottles, naked sculptures of Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Poppers, a kitchen strewn with Campbell’s soup cans, ketchup and chocolate syrup. While a few ruffled viewers could be seen hastily leaving—“This is outrageous!” whispered one woman—most looked transfixed as they watched the strange performance unfold.

“It’s a machine for altering consciousness,” said Mr. McCarthy at a low-key after party, which was held at a nearby bar, where cast members and studio staff ate sliders and ceviche. “Resistance,” he said, “is important.”



Here’s Snow White. Don’t Bring the Kids.

Brian Harkin for The New York Times

Visitors take in Paul McCarthy’s “WS” at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. The work is based on “Snow White,” but visitors must be over 17.

Published: June 19, 2013 65 Comments

In the five years since it converted itself into a contemporary art hall, with one of the largest open exhibition floors in the world, the Park Avenue Armory has helped realize several gargantuan and difficult projects. The Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto remade the space into a science-fiction spider web, swathing it with thousands of feet of Lycra. Ann Hamilton installed swings from the trusses, turning visitors into participants in an ethereal moving sculpture.

Brian Harkin for The New York Times

A seven-hour video of performances shot in and around a massive set is part of the work.

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But until now the Armory has never taken on work with quite the same kind of difficulties presented by that of Paul McCarthy, a revered Los Angeles video artist and sculptor. For his exhibition that opened on Wednesday — “WS,” a retelling of the Snow White story — the Armory, which has developed a reputation as a family-friendly destination, made the unusual decision, with Mr. McCarthy’s agreement, to restrict visitors to those over 17. And even for adult visitors, the Armory has built a virtual phalanx of warnings: advisories about the show’s graphic content on its Web site, on placards in front of its large oak doors, and inside the building before the entry to the exhibition itself.

“I think that if you’re prepared for it, you’re going to get a lot out of this,” said Rebecca Robertson, the Armory’s president and executive producer. “So I wanted the warnings to be 100 percent visible, for no one to miss them.”

This, in other words, is the Armory’s signal that it does not intend to shy away from controversial work. Mr. McCarthy’s creation is decidedly not Disney’s version of the fairy tale. Composed of a massive forest-and-house set, accompanied by a seven-hour video of performances shot in and around the set — it is meant to be an apotheosis of the dark and deeply human themes he has been exploring for four decades concerning the body, social repression, consumerism, sex, death, dreams and delirium, and the power of art to deepen our understanding of life.

Compared with Mr. McCarthy, even much of the contemporary art world can seem puritanical and hygienic. And in “WS” — short for “White Snow” — he has, if anything, pushed his own boundaries. The video narrative and related videos secluded to the side of the main exhibition include plentiful nudity, of both sexes, along with scenes of urination and men masturbating to orgasm, not to mention highly unorthodox use of processed foods. The story also includes gory violence that is no less jarring for using Hollywood techniques like fake blood and sculptural body doubles.

Mr. McCarthy — who performs in the piece as a Disney-like character called Walt Paul — describes the work as partly a “caricature and parody” of Disney’s “Snow White.” But as in previous works where he has used beloved childhood figures like Santa, Heidi and Pinocchio, the characters and story serve mostly as a jumping off place for his phantasmagoric explorations, which mixes repulsion with grim beauty, like Goya’s depictions of war or scenes from Pasolini films.

“Let’s don’t beat around the bush: this is very, very tough work,” said Tom Eccles, a curatorial adviser for the project, speaking about the piece at a preview on Tuesday, along with the exhibition’s curators, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Alex Poots, the Armory’s artistic director. In taking on the project, Mr. Eccles said, he believed the Armory was announcing its seriousness as an international art venue, a supporter of large-scale work for a broad general audience but also of other kinds of work that carry the risk of shock.

Complaints about the piece did not take long to arrive. An opinion column Wednesday in The New York Post argues that a work with content unsuitable for those under 17 should not be presented in a venue that has received taxpayer money. (Though most of the money for the Armory’s restoration into a cultural center has come from private donors, it has received $47 million from the city and the state.)

“Maybe the taxpayers will love the Armory spectacle to which they can’t take their children today,” the columnist, Seth Lipsky, wrote. “But what about those who don’t and are even deeply offended; why should they have to subsidize it?”

Ms. Robertson said she saw the situation as analogous to the production of movies, which receive tax subsidies and other support from cities and states for work that is often not suitable for minors. “I think we did what movies do,” she said Wednesday, shortly before the exhibition opened. “It’s a clear and effective way to tell people about the content and who it’s appropriate for.”

Few exhibitions in public or quasi-public institutions in New York have included content quite as adults-only as “WS.” In 2010, the Marina Abramovic retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art featured naked performers, along with highly visible warning signs, but minors were not prevented from viewing the exhibition. Nor were they prevented from viewing “Sensation,” the 1999 show at the Brooklyn Museum that prompted Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to threaten to cut city subsidies to the museum because of what he described as “sick” works on view. (The museum cautioned that visitors under 17 should be accompanied by parents.)

Ms. Robertson said that she and the Armory’s board had engaged in long discussions about the responsible way to show Mr. McCarthy’s work. “Our lawyers are quite good at this,” she said, adding that the late-1980s legal controversy over the sexually explicit photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe had served as a backdrop for discussions. (Michael Ward Stout, the president of the New York-based Mapplethorpe Foundation and estate, is one of the Armory’s lawyers.)

“In the human condition there are dark corners,” Ms. Robertson said, “and Paul explores those.”

She added: “I think some people are going to be outraged when they see it, but many people are not going to be, and they’re going to think it’s one of the most powerful works of art they’ve ever seen.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 20, 2013, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Here’s Snow White. Don’t Bring the Kids..




Paul McCarthy’s Princess:
Elyse Poppers Stars in the Artist’s New Show at the Park Avenue Armory

by Mark Guiducci

Paul McCarthyPhoto: Courtesy of Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy and Hauser & Wirth

The first thing one sees upon entering WS, Paul McCarthy’s overwhelming installation that opens today at the Park Avenue Armory, is not the primeval, plastic forest, lushly lit from above in teal and fuchsia and yellow. Nor is it any of the various interior scenes that look like film sets hit by a natural disaster. Those come later. First, one notices the exhibition’s other visitors, who inevitably stare, awestruck and often mouth agape, at the video projected on the walls above.

Snow White, a brunette who would be classically beautiful if it weren’t for her grotesquely protuberant nose, is defiling herself. A few minutes later, she is naked on a bed while “dwarves”—nine rather than seven, ranging in size from under four feet to over six feet—surround her, moaning incoherently. Later, the gang is joined by Walt Paul (played by McCarthy himself playing Walt Disney with a Hitler mustache) and together they all but destroy the set—a replica of the artist’s childhood home. The film’s entire narrative, edited by McCarthy’s son Damon, comprises no less than seven hours of tape on four screens. As New York’s Jerry Saltz said at last night’s opening, “[McCarthy]’s going all the way.”

White Snow is a parody,” according to Elyse Poppers, the Los Angeles-based actor who plays the titular character in McCarthy’s film. (There are three White Snow characters in all, but Poppers is the principal.) Over breakfast a few weeks before the opening, Poppers said that White Snow “is an amalgamation of the Disney princesses that have become ubiquitous in our culture. . .She is a muse, a wife, a mother, and. . .” Poppers adds, “an actress.” Which is to say that Poppers may, in part, be playing herself.

Paul McCarthyPhoto: Joshua White

Poppers was raised surrounded by art. Her grandfather, a New York appraiser, specialized in shipwrecks and was once commissioned to value the remnants of the Titanic. Poppers’s mother was also an appraiser. After completing an undergraduate degree with a focus in art history—“I studied Paul in college”—Poppers fell into the family business before working for a personal investigator, specializing in cases of stolen artwork. The a-ha moment for Poppers’s acting career only happened later, when she was in the process of being recruited to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s art fraud squad. “It sounds so crazy, but it’s completely true,” Poppers says. Around that time, she had a close encounter with a shootout between rival gangs while walking home from work in her San Francisco neighborhood. The incident left an innocent German tourist dead and Poppers reconsidering her career path.

“I started to think about creativity again,” Poppers explained. “I had always thought of myself as someone who wrote about art and loved being around art, but never as an artist. So I bought tons of art supplies and, basically, started trying everything.” She finally fell upon acting, her “first love,” and auditioned for McCarthy like at any other casting call.

Two years later, Poppers has worked with the artist on three different projects—enough to consider her McCarthy’s latest muse. First came Rebel Dabble Babble, which originated as a contribution to James Franco’s 2012 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles show based on the 1955 classic film Rebel Without a Cause and has since been expanded into a standalone work (that film debuts at Hauser & Wirth’s West 18th Street location June 20). Soon after, McCarthy approached Poppers about posing for Life Cast, a series of sculptures currently on view at Hauser’s uptown location on 69th Street. The silicone casts, which also employ paint, hair, wood, and glass, figure Poppers’s nude body in various positions so realistically that it’s hard to remember it’s not real.

In a way, White Snow, or WS, makes us feel privy to McCarthy’s darkest, strangest thoughts. “The piece has the logic of a dream, the unconscious,” Poppers says. “And like a dream it is about unfulfilled desire.” One can only imagine she is referring to McCarthy’s unfulfilled desires, many of which could not be published here. Nonetheless, Poppers is ready for more and intimates that she and McCarthy have plans to work together again. Citing Tilda Swinton and Terrence Malick as artists she would be thrilled to someday collaborate with, Poppers concedes that she’s “been spoiled by Paul and Damon because I have more freedom as an actor than I’ve ever had in a Hollywood context.” Despite her very few credits on, Poppers revealed that this is actually her second time playing Snow White. “When I started acting class,” Poppers says with a laugh, “I met someone at an art opening who had a children’s party business who was looking for a part-time princess. And I was looking to make some extra money.”

June 19, 2013 5:00p.m

Paul McCarthy: Uncanny Sculptures


thru June 1:

Paul McCarthy: Sculptures

Hauser & Wirth, 511 W 18th St., NYC

massive black walnut wood sculptures depicting McCarthy’s versions of characters drawn from the famous 19th century German folk tale Schneewittchen (Snow White) and his caricatures of modern interpretations of the story, including those in Disney’s beloved 1937 animated classic film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

If you’re in NYC, don’t miss this show!




Paul McCarthy Gives a Tour of His Bacchanalian “Snow White” Bonanza

By Rachel Corbett

May 16, 2013

Paul McCarthy Gives a Tour of His Bacchanalian "Snow White" Bonanza

Paul McCarthy’s “White Snow (Bookends),” 2013, at Hauser & Wirth Chelsea

It’s safe to say that, at 67, Paul McCarthy has been recognized well beyond his role as the art world’s orphan sculptor of the abject. As you may have heard, the artist has just mounted exhibitions at both of New York’s Hauser & Wirth galleries, installed outdoor sculptures at Frieze New York and the Hudson River Park, and, next month, plans to debut two more interpretations of his favorite German fairy tale, Snow White, in Chelsea and at the Park Avenue Armory. On a recent morning, McCarthy took some time out from this busy installation schedule to discuss his latest bodies of work.

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“I’ve always loved monochromes,” said McCarthy of the nine lumpy brown canvases on view at Hauser & Wirth Chelsea. Of course, his versions offer a scatalogical spin on the classic color scheme, their textured surfaces formed from the foam “droppings” left behind during the construction of artificial trees. Those trees are now headed to the Park Avenue Armory for the installation White Snow, opening June 19.

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The four perfectly cast silicone nudes at the Upper East Side Hauser & Wirth exhibition are suffused with a little too much humanity to actually be beautiful. But beauty is rarely McCarthy’s goal. Instead, the series is an exercise in representation, a test of what scientific expressions of the body can teach us about seeing. “What will happen to the human body in the next 50 years?” McCarthy wondered. “They can grow tissue now, within a period of time they’ll grow a face. There is a layer of sculpting that’s the growing of human tissue.”

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Upstairs, a four-channel video documents the molding process. McCarthy said he has waited to realize the “Life Cast” series for more than a decade, in part because he hadn’t found the right model. “$10,000 will buy you anything. The world is full of people who would do it, but I was looking for someone who understood it,” he said of model Elyse Poppers. “Same with finding the person to make it, you’re not just looking for another fucking technician. You’re going deeper. I’m not making a sex doll.”

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Slight variations to the female nudes’ positions suggest movement—and reference McCarthy’s longstanding interest in performance—but McCarthy arrests all signs of life in this deathly (and less hairy) version of himself, Horizontal (2013).

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In the last two years, McCarthy has begun digitally mapping and carving monuments to Snow White out of massive blocks of black walnut. The process is an update on the bronze Snow White figurines he has made in the past, such as the outdoor sculpture Sisters, which has just arrived on West 17th Street and the Hudson River.

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McCarthy has been collaborating with his son, Damon McCarthy, at right, for the past 10 years. The duo recently shot the video installation Rebel Dabble Babble, starring Popper and James Franco, which is set to open at Hauser & Wirth Chelsea on June 20. They have gone on to film around 350 hours of footage in the last month for the forthcoming White Snow installation at the Park Avenue Armory.

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Find works by one of Paul McCarthy’s latest collaborators, James Franco, at right.


Hauser & Wirth to devote entire spring 2013 program
in New York to artist Paul McCarthy
‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’
10 May – 1 June 2013, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’
10 May – 26 July 2013, Hauser & Wirth, 32 East 69th Street
‘Paul McCarthy: Sisters’
10 May – 26 July, Hudson River Park, West 17th Street
‘Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Rebel Dabble Babble’
20 June – 26 July 2013, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street
Press Release
New York, NY…
Hauser & Wirth announced
today that it will devote its entire spring
program in New York City to Paul McCarthy,
one of America’s most challenging and
influential artists, via three interrelated
exhibitions and an outdoor sculpture
presentation. McCarthy has garnered
international acclaim for – and provoked lively
critical debate with – a constantly evolving
oeuvre characterized by wildly dark humor,
Bacchanalian chaos, and tragicomic narratives
that connect seemingly disparate bodies of
work. His practice is notable for its breadth
of forms and emphasis upon performance as
a tool for breaching established boundaries
between genres; using repetition and variation,
he has mined his preoccupying themes across
media and decades. McCarthy unleashes
debauchery and desire with extreme
technical daring, charting a territory where our
fundamental impulses collide with our most
cherished myths and hypocritical societal
norms. His work locates the traumas lurking
behind the gleaming stage set of the American
Dream and identifies their analogs in accepted
art history.
The latest fruits of McCarthy’s explorations will be presented by Hauser & Wirth in New York City
with three ambitious shows: ‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’ and ‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’ will open
to the public on 10 May at the gallery’s East 69th and West 18th Street locations, respectively.
In June, ‘Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Rebel Dabble Babble’, a vast, provocative video
projection and installation work, will open at 18th Street. The exhibitions are described by the artist
as components of a single on-going work in process: ‘They are parts of one enormous puzzle, very
much the way members of a family are individuals but at the same time connected as participants in
another whole entity’.

The Hauser & Wirth exhibitions will be complemented by outdoor public presentations of two major
McCarthy sculptures. The massive bronze composition ‘Sisters’ (2013) will stand outdoors in West
Chelsea through the summer on a site along the Hudson River at 17th Street, between Pier 57 and
the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. And the 80-foot tall inflatable sculpture ‘Balloon Dog’ (2013) will
be shown on Randall’s Island during the Frieze New York art fair. All of McCarthy’s works on view
in Manhattan this spring relate directly to and provide context for the much-anticipated presentation
of the artist’s major work in progress, ‘WS’, a sprawling installation and video projection project that
will go on view at the Park Avenue Armory beginning 19 June. ‘WS’ will fill the Armory’s vast Drill
Hall with a dark and magical forest sculpture featuring soaring trees and a three-quarter scale exact
recreation of the house where Paul McCarthy grew up: these sets where he and his collaborators
created a video performance work will appear in multiple projections throughout Drill Hall. ‘WS’ uses
as its springboard the story of fairytale princess Snow White and those who have commoditized her,
in order to explore the Oedipal complexities of family, art-making, the institutionalization of history,
and pop culture consumption. ‘WS’ will remain on view through 4 August.
‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’
Beginning on 10 May, Hauser & Wirth 18th Street will open ‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’ (on view
through 1 June). In the gallery’s new 25,000 square foot venue, visitors will discover massive black
walnut wood sculptures depicting McCarthy’s versions of characters drawn from the famous 19th
century German folk tale Schneewittchen (Snow White) and his caricatures of modern interpretations
of the story, including those in Disney’s beloved 1937 animated classic film ‘Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs’.
In the 2009 New York City exhibition ‘White Snow’, McCarthy unveiled his first drawings related to
the Snow White theme. With their antecedents in the artist’s earlier ‘Heidi’ and ‘Pinocchio’ series,
these drawings shifted a familiar European narrative back to the New World and pulled equally
from iconic representations of the fairytale characters and recollections from the artist’s own life.
Two years later, the 2011 New York sculpture exhibition ‘The Dwarves, The Forest’ reflected
McCarthy’s fascination with the aggressive and visceral messiness of the sculptural process as it
played out in his exploration of the Snow White story.
The new exhibition ‘Paul McCarthy:
Sculptures’ presents the next step in
McCarthy’s multi-platform mining of the
Snow White story. The new works began with
conventional sculpting. McCarthy developed,
abandoned, reworked and ‘fucked up’
figures based upon Snow White-themed
memorabilia and kitsch figurines. Subsequent
bronze casting and woodcarving constituted
a journey toward abstraction. In the case of
the monumental work ‘Sisters’ (2013), for
example, the artist passed through various
stages of engagement with a single figure of
Snow White. McCarthy started by building
a coherent clay caricature; later, he created
a second version, a near duplicate; then he
combined the two. He removed the heads of
these figures, scanned them to develop new
versions in different sizes, and recombined
the resulting array of heads with the bodies
of his ‘twins’. The resulting binary work was
mounted upon a platform and surrounded
by an accretion of other elements in a
performative attack over time. Such willful
distortion suggests equally offbeat and
charged psychic structures, and places such works firmly in the realm of expressionism. The
final 20-foot tall, 40-foot wide bronze cast of this cumulative, baroque composition, ‘Sisters’ will stand outdoors along the Hudson River at 17th Street in West Chelsea as a complement to the sculptures inside Hauser & Wirth’s 18th Street space.
Inside the gallery, visitors will find a substantial group of large-scale walnut sculptures ranging in
height from four to 14 feet. These include variations of McCarthy’s fractured fairytale characters
White Snow and the Prince. Referencing his 2009 drawings as well as images from auction
catalogues, illustrated books, tabloids, and pornographic magazines, McCarthy employs computer
mapping of figurines to digitally flesh out and manipulate shapes and details, gradually duplicating
and changing the scale of forms. His staged process ‘abstracts through merging’. Appropriating
images and narratives from the culture industry, McCarthy looks to Hollywood and draws from its
tactics for re-structuring reality. Like Walt Disney, he assumes the role of artist as producer, a role he
also performs in ‘WS’. With the latest White Snow works, McCarthy alludes to Disney’s contribution
to the Golden Age of Animation and raises questions about how an artist’s work rearranges and
deranges definitions of art, culture and thought.
McCarthy’s wood sculptures also embrace the ways in which his material’s grain irregularities and
color render compositions of their own. While carving ‘White Snow, Cindy’ (2012), an avatar of
innocence reborn as a sexualized saint, the artist found that his material retained its living properties.
Innate and unexpected details appeared and figures underwent a metamorphosis as random dark
spots emerged in surprisingly strategic places. McCarthy discovered that his Snow White bore an
ironic resemblance to a parallel pop culture icon and commoditized emblem of idealized femininity:
the American supermodel Cindy Crawford.
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’
Also opening to the public on 10 May at Hauser & Wirth’s townhouse on 69th Street, ‘Paul
McCarthy: Life Cast’ (on view through 26 July) showcases highly developed themes and
narratives coursing through and connecting different areas of McCarthy’s vast and complex
practice. Here those themes are revealed through platinum silicone life casts – bravura replicas
of the artist and Elyse Poppers, one of the key performers in his most recent projects ‘Rebel
Dabble Babble’ and ‘WS’.
‘Horizontal’ (2013) is a haunting depiction of the artist in uncanny full-scale replica, naked and prone
in the gallery’s skylit ground floor south room. ‘Horizontal’ is a recent ‘repetition-variation’ of the
2005 work ‘Paul Dreaming, Vertical, Horizontal’, in which the artist’s own body was molded standing
upright. Defined by gravity’s pull, that earlier sculpture was half-clothed and subtly distorted, its
belly and penis distended outward. While ‘Paul Dreaming’ elicits thoughts of death, it also suggests
that the artist is very much alive and a bit of a bearded buffoon in socks and shirt, but no pants.
‘Horizontal’ presents an altogether different avatar and, in the artist’s words, ‘makes no bones about
the fact this is someone dead, without the mask of a clown or the possibility of sleep and dreaming’.
Cast with McCarthy in a prone
position, this morgue-like
caricature strikes a subversive
note in which absurdity and
pathos echo one another.
‘Horizontal’ was presaged
by one of McCarthy’s earliest
exhibited works, the hollow
metal ‘Dead H’ (1968), also
on view in ‘Paul McCarthy:
Life Cast’. ‘Dead H’ – at first
glance a Minimalist sculpture
in the then-prevailing style –
slyly mimics a dead body (and,
coincidentally, a toppled twin
of the first letter in Los Angeles’
famous Hollywood sign).
An ironic comment upon vanitas and the
ambitions and fables of art and culture,
McCarthy’s ‘Dead H’ is a fallen hero. Forty-five
years later, the artist’s study of the body as a
vehicle for liberation and exploitation continues full
force. Works on view at 69th Street also include
‘Rubber Jacket Horizontal, Rubber H’, a poignant
fragment from the life casting activities of the past
year that captures a sunken and hollow portion of
the artist’s own torso.
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’ also presents four
female figures of uncanny verisimilitude. All are life
casts of Elyse Poppers achieved through a series
of painstaking processes at the leading edge of
special effects technology. ‘T.G. Awake’ (T.G. is
an acronym for ‘That Girl’ and refers to another
feminine icon, aspiring actress namesake of a hit
1960s situation comedy) is comprised of three
life-sized casts of the actress in similar sitting
positions, with her legs spread open to varying
degrees and eyes cast in different directions.
Together these static variations reference the
magical effect by which a series of still images can
be joined together to become film. ‘T.G. Awake’
found its origins in drawings that McCarthy made
of his wife Karen in the 1960s and relates to the first White Snow pencil drawings of 2009. The
sculpture ‘T.G. Asleep’ presents the same woman prone, her body curved and hands cupped, a
counterpoint to the dead figure of ‘Horizontal’.
The exhibition also includes ‘That Girl’, a four-channel video installation based in the process
by which ‘T.G. Awake’ and ‘T.G. Asleep’ were achieved. Capturing the molding process, the
model’s live movement studies, and the documentation of these through deliberately positioned
cameras, this work brings viewers into the action through which the sculptures on view were
made. ‘Life casting liberates the literal through a kind of unifying monotone,’ McCarthy has said.
‘It creates a different representation of the original thing that lets me explore where reality and
abstraction intersect’.
‘Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Rebel Dabble Babble’
On 20 June, Hauser & Wirth’s 18th street space will re-open with the third of the gallery’s spring
2013 exhibitions: ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a collaboration between Paul McCarthy and his son
Damon McCarthy. On view through 26 July, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a large and complex installation
and video projection work originally inspired by both Nicholas Ray’s 1955 classic Hollywood film
‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and the furious rumors that swirled around the off-set relationships between
its director and his stars James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. This densely layered opus
confronts definitions of power and role-playing, and expands far beyond the ’50s movie and related
legends. Ultimately, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a meditation upon the archetypes and Oedipal tensions
that define family dynamics as they have been played out in private homes, in the evolution of art
history, and in the role of the entertainment industry in shaping our expectations and self-images.
At 18th Street, visitors will discover the gallery dimly lit and transformed into a hullabaloo of clanging
and clamor, yelling and coital grunting. This barrage of sound envelops two large stage sets installed
in the soaring space. One of these is a full-scale two-story house constructed by the McCarthys as
a stand-in for Nicholas Ray’s now infamous Bungalow 2 at the Chateau Marmont. For James Dean
and the 16-year old Wood, both of whom hailed from unhappy families, Ray’s cottage became a
surrogate household with the director as its unconventional patriarch. Rumors abound of quasi-
incestuous affairs between Ray and his actors, of swimming pool orgies and champagne bathtub
freak-outs. It is these scenarios that are the basis for ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’. On the back of the two-
story wooden house, a replica of the Hollywood sign is mounted – upside down. The second stage
set is a replica of the living room staircase in the home of Jim Stark, the central character played

by James Dean in the original ‘Rebel Without a
Cause’ and by James Franco (who also plays
Dean) in ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’.This set is turned
on its side, with props and the residue of filming
strewn exactly where they were left at the end of
Video projections of scenes are presented on
and around these sets. In those projections,
Paul McCarthy and his actors play hybrids of
both Nick Ray’s cinematic characters and the
actors who performed as those characters,
and segue into universal familial roles – father,
mother, daughter, and son. Thus McCarthy plays
both Nick Ray and the Father of Jim Stark, as
well as the archetype of Father; James Franco
is both Jim and James Dean; Elyse Poppers is
Judy and the actress who portrayed her, Natalie
Wood, as well as the embodiment of Daughter.
Jay Yi appears as both Plato and Sal Mineo, the
actor who played Plato in the original movie. And
Suzan Averitt performs as the Mothers of both
Jim Stark and Natalie Wood. With its mind-
bending series of doubles, binaries, and inversions, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ presents perversions
of interchangeable roles and fetish relationships. In the process, it investigates parallel icons in
the history of art – from Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ to Vito Acconci’s infamous
performances – and plays with the psychology of the family.
‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ reflects an important shift in Paul McCarthy’s engagement with the fantastical
tropes of such bodies of work as White Snow, Pirates and Pinocchio, toward more modern and
thoroughly American 20th century pop culture mythologies. As with the two sculpture exhibitions
presented by Hauser & Wirth New York this spring, this ambitious and challenging tour de force
delves deeper into the structures by which fiction successfully presents itself as reality.
Both locations of Hauser & Wirth New York are open to visitors Monday through Friday, 10 am until 6
pm. The general public can find additional information about the gallery, its exhibitions and programs

Paul McCarthy: ‘I had this thing about exposing the interior of the body’

California – where stars are made and dreams come true. But it’s also where, for 40 years, Paul McCarthy has been creating creepy, stomach-churning art. So why does his rags-to-riches story read like a movie plot?

Paul McCarthy portrait

Paul McCarthy: He began his career in the 60s, but didn’t sell anything until the 90s. Until then, he was, ‘basically just a guy covering himself in ketchup.’ Photograph: Amanda Marsalis for the Guardian

I’m here in Los Angeles to interview the artist Paul McCarthy, I tell a taxi driver on a freeway past the skyscrapers of downtown. He gets really excited – the veteran video, performance, body and installation artist who is soon to have a show in Britain must be a local hero, I suppose.

The Paul McCartney?”

“No, Paul McCarthy.”

The taxi conversation ends.

At the hotel, a film crew are setting up their lights. Location trucks drive in and out of the hacienda-style forecourt, bringing equipment, food and dog blankets. The stars are waiting in their cages. The movie is Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3. Out of the window of my room I watch a – human – wedding on a stage set up on a lawn that is bright green, under the gold desert blaze of the sky.

The location is Pasadena, a city sandwiched between the LA sprawl and the San Gabriel mountains. McCarthy has lived in Pasadena for most of his working life, and I am to visit his studio somewhere beyond the giant palm trees of the Hollywood Chihuahua-worthy hotel. The avenues of this wealthy suburb turn out to be dotted with film crews: Pasadena’s mansions, some colonial, some Renaissance, some Spanish-style, some aping log cabins, were built by Old Money as long as a century ago and offered hideaways to the first generation of film stars in the silent era. Today they make perfect movie doubles for Beverly Hills. I am proudly shown the garden where the Steve Martin picture Father Of The Bride was filmed.

Crossing the LA river back into the larger city, the film memories are unavoidable: that concrete channel with its trickle of water is a cinematic legend in itself. Lee Marvin, Point Blank. Charlton Heston, Earthquake. Arnie in Terminator 2, or is it 3…

I know I am here to study the art of Los Angeles County and to meet one of its most celebrated living artists – even if some locals do confuse him with a Beatle – but how can you concentrate on fine art in the city that for a hundred years has shaped the world’s dreams?

This is in the question I most want to ask Paul McCarthy. What does it mean to be a serious visual artist in the shadow of Hollywood? How can American artists cohabit, here on the west coast, with American popular culture so close to its phantasmagoric source? How, in short, can he compete with Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3?

Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy

paul mc carthy 4 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy, artiste malin et provocateur, expose des sculptures géantes, gonflées en plastique. Cette immense crotte exposée  à Hong-Kong, donne immédiatement le ton employé par cet artiste contemporain mélangeant habilement esprit Pop et subversion.

Giant sculptures by Paul McCarthy
Paul McCarthy, smart and provocative artist, exhibits giant sculptures, blown plastic. This huge mud exposed to Hong Kong immediately sets the style used by this contemporary artist, Blending spirit Pop and subversion.

paul mc carthy 1 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 2 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 3 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 5 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 6 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 7 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 8 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 9 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy

Photos of Props from Performances:

Art Basel 2013: reports, reviews, images, interviews



Art Sales: ‘Our focus is about identifying extraordinary artists’

Colin Gleadell talks to the Wagners about their experiences of Art Basel.

Pablo Bronstein, 'Marie Antoinette and Robespierre engage in an irritable post-coital conversation', 2013

Pablo Bronstein, ‘Marie Antoinette and Robespierre engage in an irritable post-coital conversation’, 2013 Photo: Herald St, London

Art Basel, the world’s largest and most prestigious fair for modern and contemporary art, closed on Sunday night with the majority of galleries feeling happy with the amount of business done. Scores of sales have been reported from $1,200 (£766) for small works by young contemporary artists to $12 million for a Magritte painting. Shippers handling works for a broad sweep of galleries say that business was considerably better than it was last year or the year before.

Taking special interest, as ever, was art advisor and collector Thea Westreich Wagner, who has been advising since the early 80s, and her husband and business partner, Ethan Wagner, who joined her in the 90s. Among their clients have been the top American collectors, Mitchell Rales, (European and American masters from Giacometti to Jeff Koons); Norman and Norah Stone, who have a wide range of blue chip and cutting edge art in an underground museum they have built in California; and Richard and Pamela Kramlich, also from California, who have the biggest private collection of video and new media art in the world.

The Wagners also have a substantial collection of their own and recently donated over 800 works by artists ranging from US superstars Richard Prince and Christopher Wool, to British artists, Ryan Gander and Keith Tyson to the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art, which will be displayed in 2015. They have just written a book, ‘Collecting Art for Love, Money and More,’ published by Phaidon which, apart from outlining the numerous factors which contribute to creating a successful contemporary art collection, benefits from some insightful anecdotes about the world of advising and collecting. I caught up with them for breakfast in Basel and asked about the fair from the point of view of the consummate professional.

Q. What does Art Basel mean to you?

A. Art Basel offers collectors the most expansive and high quality buying venue of the year. It provides an extraordinary overview of primary and secondary market material. And, increasingly, it is responding to the growth of the global art market, offering a more comprehensive look at galleries and art making practices around the world. It has for a long time set the standard among art fairs, though The Frieze Art Fair is not far behind as a venue for serious collectors.

Q. How do you approach it with such a huge variety of work to see?

A. Our approach is and always has been to be prepared and informed. Well before a fair opens we are in touch with galleries whose material is of potential interest to our clients. We vet these art works and prepare reports in advance of the fair so that our clients — those who attend the fair and those who don’t — are informed and prepared to act.

(The Wagners are usually among the first visitors to enter a fair, and were once reprimanded at Basel for jumping the gun.)

Q. What were its main strengths this year?

A. A number of galleries in the Feature section for curated presentations were impressive and creative. Among them were London’s Herald Street, which produced a performance (‘Marie Antoinette and Robespierre engage in an irritable post-coital conversation’ available for £35,000) created by the artist Pablo Bronstein, and the Kolkata gallery, Experimenter, which featured three compelling young artists. In the Statements section for emerging artists the standouts for us were Daniel Lefcourt at the Campoli Presti Gallery and Antoine Catalla at the 47 Canal Gallery. On the ground we were thrilled by the Egon Schieles at Richard Nagy. As always, the gallery called 1900-2000 from Paris had rare, incredible material.

Q. Do you have an impression of how the market is doing?

A. Frankly our focus is more about identifying extraordinary artists and locating desirable objects than it is taking the temperature of the art market. Whatever the market’s condition, there is great material to be had, and over time that’s where value is located.

Q. What did you achieve this year?

A. We were able to access and acquire some remarkable works on behalf our clients, and we found a few artists of considerable promise. We also met with several galleries to discuss acquisition opportunities that are ahead.

The Wagners, clearly, are consistently discreet about their clients, eschew the notion of buying art purely for investment, and refuse to give top ten artist tips, because, they say, there’s always another ten equally worthy of attention. They are also wary of naming young artists they have just bought because it can have a snowball effect, encouraging a wave of speculative buyers to follow suit.



A Matter of Taste and Millions

The art market’s boom amid world economic sluggishness is a sign of the growing gulf between the rich and the super-super-rich.



“Behold, contemplate, be amazed,” reads the cover of my ticket package to UBS‘s UBSN.VX -1.93% VIP lounge at Art Basel, the world’s most prestigious art fair, which wrapped up earlier this week. There is indeed much to contemplate in the art world, at least judging by the record prices being paid for coveted works.

Eleven of the 20 highest prices ever paid at auction have been seen since 2008, when the global economy all but collapsed. Edvard Munch’s iconic “Scream” went for about $120 million in May 2012. Less than a week later, Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” sold for nearly $87 million.


Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A piece by Maurizio Cattelan on display at the Beyeler Foundation near Basel.

Amid this global frenzy of exhibitionism, Art Basel has become the exhibitionists’ premier exhibition. A valuable painting from a famous artist has become the ultimate in status recognition. Never mind a Patek Philippe, or a Bentley, or even a chic place in the Hamptons. High-rolling collectors who spend $100 million on a painting are signaling that they can afford to throw a massive amount of money at something that will never pay a dividend or rent. Their pleasure is complete when a rival buys a piece off them at a higher price.


Most of them have been proved right. Art has outperformed most other asset classes by a considerable margin over the past 15 years. But the market is much more fragile than statistics suggest. Just because a Russian oligarch pays $50 million for a Jackson Pollock does not mean that there are legions of buyers eagerly waiting below to prop up his bid.


Quite to the contrary, it is usually a few remote buyers who set the lofty prices—which, like a wedding cake, come crashing down when sentiment shifts. The same collectors who were eager to buy when prices were rising are suddenly loath to touch a piece when prices are falling. Contractions tend to be fierce and abrupt, as in the 1980s after the Japanese entered the market.


Things were different in 1970, when Art Basel began.


Historically in Europe, artists had been Catholic and collectors Protestant. Basel was at the center of the Protestant Reformation, and, later, of Switzerland’s great chemical and drug industries. The Geigy, Hoffmann, Oeri and Sandoz families all built their fortunes there. With abundant wealth, Basel became awash with rich private collections and museums housing rare and valuable art.


Basel, it turned out, was also the right place for a global art fair. Value-added taxes are low in Switzerland, and banks are comfortable taking art as collateral. There is a vast infrastructure for safe storage and transport. Switzerland is the world’s largest offshore banking market, and there remain few assets one can purchase anonymously with undeclared money.


Art Basel was founded in 1970 by an intimate club of dealers who wanted to let a bit of fresh air into the staid, old-money Swiss art world, where art was something that stayed in the family for generations. The thought of displaying works of art like products at a trade fair or promoting young, undiscovered artists was taboo.


A new class of wealth was emerging, however. These people were desperate for contemporary art, as classics were too expensive or not for sale. Hence Art Basel’s swift rise from a clubby affair to last week’s circus, where roughly 300 galleries showed works from 3,200 contemporary artists, pocketing some $2 billion.


But times are changing again. More wealth is being generated in other parts of the world, Swiss banking secrecy is under siege, and the world’s nouveau riche are more inclined to advertise rather than conceal their status. Baloise custom, by contrast, is inclined toward downplaying great wealth: There’s an old joke that the only number in Roche’s 1984 annual report was the year. To find a more ostentatious clientele, Art Basel expanded to Miami Beach in 2002 and Hong Kong this year.


Wherever it goes, however, the success of Art Basel is becoming a proxy for the state of the super-rich—and an expression of rising global wealth inequality. Even amid the economic crisis, the art market has continued its steady upward propulsion.


For an insight into what this means, it is worth turning to the work of Benjamin Mandel, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and student of the art market. Mr. Mandel’s early instinct was to think that the market was growing at an unsustainable clip, simply because prices had been going up so much more quickly than global GDP.


But then he dug a bit deeper and concluded that, while fine art is connected to the rest of the global economy, it is connected in a very specific way. It is a market made by and for the super-super-rich. And this playground, unlike everything else, is booming.


The implication of Mr. Mandel’s work is that investing in art will continue to yield superior returns to the extent that wealth inequality rises. It will do less well if the distribution of riches becomes more equitable.


Art Basel is 43 years old and continues to alter the order of the art market. To stay attractive it must stay sufficiently exclusive to maintain the attention of the elite buyers who the rest of us aspire to become. But at the same time it must do what it set out to do at the start: display affordable art for the newly rich. This will be an increasingly delicate balancing act as Art Basel moves from serving an intimate community of gallerists to promoting a world-famous brand.


Mr. Breiding is chief executive of Naissance Capital, an investment firm based in Zurich, and author of “Swiss Made: The Untold Story Behind Switzerland’s Success” (Profile Books, 2012).



The Encyclopedic Palace at Venice Biennale

The Book of Genesis as a graphic novel, plastic human sculptures, “Apollo Ecstacy” and more in our look at the 55th international exhibition

by Paolo Ferrarini in Culture on 07 June 2013


venice-biennale-2013-encyclopedic-palace-Marino-Auriti-2.jpg venice-biennale-2013-encyclopedic-palace-Marino-Auriti.jpg


Since 1998, the Venice Biennale of Art and Architecture is no longer a traditional exhibition of national artists, but is instead a real international showcase where the single invited countries are accompanied by a main exhibit, which has a different curator for each edition.


The main theme of the 55th International Art Exhibition is “Il Palazzo Enciclopedico” (“The Encyclopedic Palace”) and it’s the biggest proof of the abilities of curator Massimiliano Gioni, a prodigy of contemporary art and director of Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and NYC’s New Museum. The primal inspiration is the work of Marino Auriti who, in 1955, filed an incredibly ambitious project with the US Patent Office for an Encyclopedic Palace; a 136-story museum. Auriti’s idea was to build it in Washington DC, occupying an area of 16-square city blocks. The model of the building was shown in a couple of exhibitions and then forgotten in a warehouse. Today it magnificently opens the exhibition at Arsenale.


“Auriti’s plan was never carried out,” states Gioni, “but the dream of a universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried—often in vain—to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness. Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts seem even more necessary and even more desperate.”


Repetition, obsession, collection, constance: these are the keywords of Gioni’s vision of art, explained through the work of 150 artists from 38 countries. On display we’ve found works of living artists, both emerging (like Helen Marten) and established (like Paul McCarthy), but also historical pieces and works that do not pretend to be actual works of art. The final result is an incredibly precise reconstruction of the contemporary visual zeitgeist, where everyone can create art and realize creative projects, with a camera or with a diary, with a collection of objects or with photographs, with a paper notebook or with an app.


Are comics a form of art? The answer is yes and Robert Crumb (known for Fritz the Cat) is at La Biennale with his most ambitious work—a graphic novel about the entire book of Genesis. All 50 books are presented with the original tables, framed and aligned in a totally white environment.


A perfect example of obsessive accumulation is “The Hidden Mother,” a series of almost 1,000 commercial and amateur pictures of babies that Linda Fregni Nagler collected between 2006 and 2013.


German artist and self-taught photographer Michael Schmidt spent four years of his life investigating industrial production of food throughout Europe. The series “Lebensmittel” (which translates to “Food”) is a photographic documentation of those processes.


Maps, plans, collages, numbers and symbols are Matt Mullican‘s mania. His work also includes performances aimed to explore his own psyche. “Untitled (Learning form that Person’s Work)” is a sort of labyrinth where grotesque sounds and human voices create an abstract and intense atmosphere.


An entire room in the area of Arsenale is populated by 80 plastic sculptures by Polish artist Pawel Althamer. “Venetians” is based on molds of faces of real Venetians, whose bodies are then reproduced with gray plastic wires and castings. The effect is magnificent and scary at the same time.


Channa Horwitz‘s work is based on repetition and geometry. Since the ’60s her artworks have used a numeric progression from one to eight, so to graphically reproduce rhythm and time in movement, combining science and art on a very small scale.


A similar constant rigor can be found in Walter De Maria‘s “Apollo’s Ecstasy,” even though the final effect is majestic and solemn. Apollo symbolizes reason, form and classification, all of which are found in these bronze essential sculptures.


The saturation of information is well symbolized by the “Scrapbooks” series by Shinro Ohtake. In 1977 he started creating a collection of books, full of ready-made materials, particularly from magazine and newspapers. In the process, he paints and writes on them and the pages become so encrusted that they almost resemble actual sculptures.


Artist Oliver Croy and critic Oliver Elser present a large collection of paper and cardboard houses. In 1993 they found these models in a junk shop and then discovered that the author was Peter Fritz, an employee at an insurance company. “The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz” is a simple presentation of this mysterious treasure, of which it is almost impossible to find information on the origins, scope and inspiration.


The Venice Biennale’s 55th International Art Exhibition is open now to the public and runs until 24 November 2013.


Images by Paolo Ferrarini




  Art Basel figures, Finance, Art Market, results
Art Basel Excels With Buoyant Sales And Record Visitor Numbers - ArtLyst Article image

Art Basel Excels With Buoyant Sales And Record Visitor Numbers

DATE: 17 JUN 2013
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Art Basel’s 44th edition closed this evening, (Sunday, June 16, 2013), with galleries reporting exceptionally buoyant sales across the board. The fair has once again proven itself, the leading meeting place for both the international contemporary and modern art world.

The event attracted a record of 70,000 visitors, generating an attendance of 86,000 over the six show days. Representatives and groups from over 70 museums around the world attended the show, alongside major private collectors from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. A significant number of artists attended this year’s edition, including: Kader Attia, Tom Burr, Thomas Demand, Meschac Gaba, Theaster Gates, Isa Genzken, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Roni Horn, Christian Jankowski, Idris Khan, Jorge Macchi, Steve McQueen, Matt Mullican, Sean Scully, Jim Shaw, John Stezaker, Eduardo Terrazas, Mickalene Thomas, Tunga and Danh Vo.

The consensus from many of the visitors to the show was the exceptional quality of the work being exhibited, which was undoubtedly reflected in the strength of the sales made by galleries across all sectors of the show throughout the week. Many exhibitors reported stronger sales on the opening preview day of the show than ever before.

304 galleries were presented from around the world exhibiting the work of over 4,000 artists, with many choosing to present thematic and solo-artist exhibitions. Galleries from across the globe debuted at the Basel show this year, coming from Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Republic Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USA.

Many elements of the show were situated within the new Hall 1 designed by renowned Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron that has redefined Messeplatz and got raving reviews from many visitors. The new building housed the Unlimited, Statements and Magazine sectors, along with the auditorium used for the Conversations and Salon panels.

Galleries exhibiting at Art Basel were delighted with the 44th edition of the show:

‘Art Basel is undoubtedly the most eminent of all art fairs. But it still surprises – alongside its perfect mix of international participants and quality it is able to continue to improve every year, not only in terms of interest and sales but also in efficiency and attendance. 2013 was another highlight – beyond our expectation!’
Thaddaeus Ropac, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, Salzburg

‘There has been very, very strong international attendance at this year’s show, with a great concentration of Europe’s most important collectors. The rigorous selection continues to explain the success of the fair. Collectors come to Basel with the intention of buying and we had a very successful week indeed, placing over 60 works, several in the seven-figure range, in important private and museum collections.’
Marc Payot, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London, New York

‘Art Basel stands out from other fairs. This year we really felt that there was a return to serious collecting, rather than buying just for investment purposes. In the first two days we found we were having real conversations with serious and considered collectors
who – thanks to the two preview days – were under less pressure to make quick decisions, and this is something we appreciate.’
Mathias Rastorfer, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich

‘Once again, this fair’s excellence attracts a diverse range of collectors, curators, consultants, and dealers from around the world. We were able to spend significant time with new contacts from South America and Asia, as well as reconnect with so many of our best collectors from Europe.’
Greg Lulay, David Zwirner, New York, London

‘The week at Art Basel has been an enormous success for our artist Sonia Gomes – apart from strong sales to good collections, we have had extensive contact with many curators.’
Pedro Mendes, Mendes Wood, São Paulo‬

‘We are thrilled to be the first Philippine gallery participating in Art Basel. It has been an exciting experience for us to meet collectors, curators and foundations with a strong interest in new art from Asia.’
Isa Lorenzo, Silverlens, Philippines

‘Art Basel makes the rest of the year worthwhile. We had lots of incredible conversations at the fair. This is the fourth time we participate at Art Basel and every time it helps us to gain more attentions.’
Shireen Gandhy, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai

At this year’s Art Basel, Lisson Gallery reports excellent sales totalling over £3 million. Speaking about the gallery’s presence at the fair, founder Nicholas Logsdail said: “With a proliferation of art fairs worldwide, audiences still treat Art Basel as priority yet they seem to behave less frantically here than they did previously. This allows more time and space for discussion between gallerists and collectors, along with engagement with, and appreciation of, the artists’ work.

For Lisson Gallery this is especially important as we have personal relationships going back many decades with the vast majority of the artists we have shown this year. From the artists we have represented for over 30 years such as Anish Kapoor, Art & Language and Shirazeh Houshiary, to our earliest discoveries such as Donald Judd, Richard Long and John McCracken, right up to more recent connections, Ai Weiwei and Ryan Gander, it’s always critical that we find the right homes for these artists’ works. This has worked incredibly well at Art Basel this year, where we have sold many important works by a broad range of artists to discerning collectors.

Besides meeting collectors, our presence at the various Art Basel fairs benefits our Lisson Presents international collaborative programme by enabling us to connect with more curators, NFPOs, off-spaces and artists with whom we may like to collaborate curatorially.”

‘This year was calm, focused, and serious. The Venice Biennale had provided the art world with brain-food and the considered tone continued at Art Basel. And without a doubt the museums in Basel collectively provide the very best context for the world’s best fair.’
Sadie Coles, Sadie Coles, London




 VOLTA, Art Basel , Volta9
VOLTA Basel Proves A Success For Emerging London Galleries - ArtLyst Article image

VOLTA Basel Proves A Success For Emerging London Galleries

DATE: 16 JUN 2013
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The eager visitors to Dreispitzhalle, VOLTA’s ninth Basel edition were not dissapppointed. The bright color of the carpet, ‘hot pink’, overshadowed the earlier inclement weather that has been soaking Central Europe for weeks, and the peeks of blue sky echoed in satisfactory sales throughout a steadily flowing opening day.

For those less familiar with the network of Art Basel satellite fairs, VOLTA is a platform for presenting the vision of contemporary art galleries of global repute whose artists represent new and relevant positions for curators and collectors alike. Conceived to bridge a gap between Basel’s pre-existing fairs, VOLTA showcases galleries – whether young or mature – that choose as their mandate to work with the most exciting emerging artists. These galleries must maintain deeply meaningful connections with their artists and follow them throughout their careers.

Encouraged by the response of collectors and curators during the last editions’ solo presentations and carefully considered booths, a much stronger emphasis for VOLTA will be placed on single artist presentations or on booth concepts that bring the work of two artists into dialogue with one another, thus giving emphasis to artists by allowing for a greater understanding of different individual practices.

EB&Flow (London) sold all three of young artist William Bradley’s vivid abstract paintings (range 4,000 – 10,000 EUR) to a Zurich- based collector, plus noted keen interest in Chris Aerfeldt’s photorealist portraits. Next door, The Hole (New York) sold one of Kadar Brock’s abraded and textured abstract monoliths ($12,000) to a New York collector and by mid-afternoon had two others on hold ($10,000 each), plus dealer Kathy Grayson recorded strong interest in and good questions regarding paint chemist Holton Rower’s conceptual Focus series. On reactions to Ed

Young’s red-and-white mural MY OTHER RIDE IS YOUR MOM (emulating an outsized bumper-sticker) outside the fair, SMAC Art Gallery (Stellenbosch/Cape Town) dealer Marelize Van Zyl commented, “there have been lots of compliments and discussions on the role and the value of public art”, plus in Young’s identity as a South African artist. She fielded interest in Young’s murals from a Berlin-based collector, adding that the bumper-sticker-sized versions at the booth “could go viral! Now Ed is facilitating the ‘performance’.”

Deliberation and good questions were a theme of the day. Adnan Manjal ofAthr Gallery (Jeddah) found much local attention to Sami Al-Turki’s large-scale Barzakh prints, particularly from collectors who had other Middle Eastern artists. Meanwhile, Kristian Jarmuschek of Jarmuschek + Partner (Berlin) was pleased by interest in Carina Linge’s new still-life photography series and inNika Neelova’s massive parquet floor waveFragments Shared against the Ruins, Variation 2. According to Leigh Conner of CONNERSMITH. (Washington DC), “We knew we were taking a risk with a solo booth of works unlike others at the fair,” commenting on the gallery’s triad of light alchemist Leo Villareal’s engaging LED works, “but the interest and conversations have been worth it.”

A pedigree of art buyers shined throughout. CHAPLINI (Cologne) of Philip beguiling planes to a London museum,sold one Siebel’s woodgrain while HilgerBROTKun sthalle (Vienna) cleared an entire hanging of Venice Biennale El Salvador representative Simón Vega’s mixed-media works to a prominent Swiss foundation.Dealer Michael Kaufmann recorded interest from a German collector in fellow South African Pavilion artist Cameron Platter’s enormous carved Jacaranda wood sculpture Advertising Tombstone Wall, No. 3, situated outside Dreispitzhalle, plus further attention onLeila Pazooki’s spheres seriesEmpty space in your mind, which the young Iranian artist conceived at a workshop in Indonesia. SLAG Gallery (Brooklyn) sold one Dumitru Gorzo painted print and one concrete-slathered photograph by Naomi Safron-Hon (approx. 9,000 EUR each) to the same collector, amid a very bustling booth. And while Jesper Elg of V1 Gallery (Copenhagen) enthused about selling two of John Copeland’s visceral abstract paintings (approx. 11,000 EUR each) and a modified Playboy, he was particularly pleased for focused interest in Jacob Holdt’s American Pictures series, including from a Chinese museum curator and other collectors.

Intense attention followed VOLTA9’s unique booth concepts.CHARLIE SMITH london (London) sold a monumental (and sehr unheimlich) Eric Manigaud print for just under 10,000 EUR to a well-respected billionaire collector from Virginia, plus recorded keen interest from international collectors in creepy works byJohn Stark, Wendy Mayer, and Tom Butler (that’s photorealistic paintings, doll-like sculpture, and modified albumen prints, respectively). “There’s been a very positive response to the curatorial emphasis of my booth, and particularly the subject of the uncanny,” remarked dealer Zavier Ellis. Meanwhile Gallery Skape (Seoul) sold two of Myeongbeom Kim’s hyper-surrealistic sculptures, including a large deer-head taxidermy ($30,000) to a Basel collector, plus counted much attention to Yujung Chang’s ethereal translucent prints of disused industrial spaces. Over in Hall B, Mira Bernabeu of espaivisor – Galería Visor (Valencia) enjoyed much success in his booth of ‘career Conceptualists’. He sold one Braco Dimitrijevic print (5,600 EUR) and four works by Hamish Fulton (7,200 – 13,000 EUR), plus recorded recurring interest in the “Walking Artist”‘s Limited Edition print for this year’s fair. “A lot of collectors congratulate me on my booth ‘exhibition’,” Bernabeu related. “It’s not just the selling that is important, but the reputation and interest in the artists.”

A stellar list of international collectors and professionals attended VOLTA9’s preview, including Susan and Michael Hort (New York); Ole Faarup (Copenhagen); Alain Servais (Brussels); Carole Server and Oliver Frankel (New York); Cornelia Dietschi (Switzerland); Thomas P. Jochheim (Germany); Dr. Heinz Stahlhut (Curator, Kunstmusem Luzern); Anne-Marie Melster (Artport Co-Founder and Director, Spain); Wolfgang Schoppmann and Karin Pernegger (Director/Curator of Kunstraum Innsbruck, Austria); curators from Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); plus many other art- minded patrons.

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A sense of relief abounds at the 44th Art Basel in Basel as we finally reach the finishing line to a manic 2013 art world Grand Prix that started in New York, moved to Hong Kong, crossed Venice and ended in Switzerland. As expected, the calendar has become a hot topic amongst the bleary-eyed. Discussions on bringing forward the 2015 Venice Biennale’s opening to the first week of May are already raging.

Yet, with exhaustion comes renewal. Having launched Hong Kong successfully, Art Basel is clearly using the momentum of 2013 to re-launch itself in the city where it all began. Originally, Art Basel was known simply as ‘The Art’. It has long been, in the eyes of the art world, a benchmark – the top of the pile. Art Basel’s pre-eminence is historical. Launched in 1970, it quickly surpassed Art Cologne (the first modern and contemporary art fair established in 1967) in popularity precisely because of its international focus.

Forty-four years on, the focus is global. This year, aside from shaking up the floor plan (galleries have been moved around to people’s delight and disdain), with the Statements, Magazine and Art Unlimited sections taking over Herzog and de Meuron’s newly-designed extension at Hall 1, Art Basel (in Basel) includes the largest number of exhibitors with spaces in the Asia-Pacific region, with galleries from Singapore and the Philippines present for the first time (Tyler Print Institute and Silverlens, showing Maria Taniguchi at Statements, respectively).

Art Unlimited is curated for the second time by Gianni Jetzer; with large-scale works including the realization of Lygia Clark’s aluminium plate sculpture, Fantastic Architecture, devised in 1963 and realized now. In truth, the section feels, at times and as one curator from a reputed European institution quipped, ‘a collection of set designs!’ Yet high points include Teresa Margolles’s cadaver-infused water dropping onto hot metal plates, (Plancha, 2010); Liu Wei’s cities cut out of books (Library II-I, 2012); Karla Black’s world of paint and bath balls on cellophane surfaces (Doesn’t Care in Words, 2011); and the best of the best, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s Artichoke Underground (2012/13) – a sprawling environment that includes a Chinese takeaway with objects composed of rice in one room.

Then there is Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s 1972 installation, Enough Tiranny; objects from vases, fake plants and a disco ball highlighted by certain fluorescent tones (lights) evocative of those used in Rob Pruitt’s Unlimited offering at; Not Yet Titled (2013), a series of rudimentary portraits scribbled over the same acid-hued gradiations featured in Jeremy Deller’s 2005 work Bless this Acid House showing at Art: Concept in the Galleries sector. Deller’s work fits perfectly with other gestures in Galleries; from François Curlet’s neon, Western (2005/06), in which the words ‘SPAGHETTI CONCEPTUAL ART’ are spelled out at Air de Paris, to Jeppe Hein’s neon Happiness Does Not Come from the Accumulation of Things (2012) at Galerie Johann König, around which a collector was overheard exclaiming, ‘happiness is expensive!’

Aside from these light critiques, Art Basel 44 packs some heavy punches. In Unlimited, Johan Grimonperez’s The Shadow World (2013), unflinchingly uncovers the violence of trade and consumerism in a film that splices interviews with an arms dealer (Ricardo Priviterra) and an ex-war correspondent for the New York Times (Chris Hedges). It is one of those works – like Alfredo Jaar’s offering The Sound of Silence (2006) that acts as a memorial to photojournalist Kevin Carter (responsible for the Pulitzer Prize winning image of a baby girl being circled by a vulture during the famine in Sudan, 1993) – which reminds the viewer of a certain web of implication.
There is talk about this year’s Basel marking a shift towards abstraction (so The Art Newspaper reports). Apparently, this is a sign that the work of the ‘boom times’ – the ironic, Richard Prince one liners, for example – have fallen out of favour. But rather than a ‘move to abstraction’, selections and presentations have really just complexified; a reflection on the urgency of the times and the impact the economic crisis has had on both the commercial and institutional sectors.
Artist Tunga’s Unlimited film installation Ão (1981) – a 16mm black and white film of the curved interior of the Dois Irmãos Tunnel in Rio de Janeiro – provides some respite to the moral dilemmas wracking many a conscience stalking Art Basel’s labyrinthine corridors. The film reel rolls around a demarcated space within a darkened room where the work is projected, as Frank Sinatra’s Night and Day playa in a seemingly eternal loop. It recalls what András Szántó observed during an Art Conversations talk on Museums and Austerity (in a fair Szántó described as ‘a mecca for corporate sponsorship’) that these days, when we talk about art, it feels like we are speaking about ‘two art worlds’.

There is talk about this year’s Basel marking a shift towards abstraction (so The Art Newspaper reports). Apparently, this is a sign that the work of the ‘boom times’ – the ironic, Richard Prince one liners, for example – have fallen out of favour. But rather than a ‘move to abstraction’, selections and presentations have really just complexified; a reflection on the urgency of the times and the impact the economic crisis has had on both the commercial and institutional sectors. Long March Space, which showcased painting in the Miami and Hong Kong fairs, presents a very different booth at Basel, with a greater sculptural focus, including Xu Zhen’s C-print mounted on aluminium (it looks like a granite landscape sculpture) aptly titled (for the context of the fair): The principal motor of action in this view is self-interest, guided by rationality, which translates structured and institutional conditions into payoffs and probabilities, and therefore incentives’, water, proteins, glucose, mineral, salt (2012).

Then there is Galerie Hans Mayer, (whose Hong Kong booth was small in reflection of the local context), with one of the most ambitious booths of the fair (Mayer is a founding gallery of Art Basel). An entire section of the booth has been devoted to Robert Longo, including a gigantic bronze slab of what looks like an enlarged version of Jasper Johns’s American Flag works blown up and painted black, filling half the booth’s space; The Last Flag: The Ballot or the Bullet (1990).

In general, Galleries highlights include Air de Paris (with an incredibly considered curatorial); Modern Institute (one of the best selection of film works on show courtesy of William E. Jones); Dublin-based Kerlin Gallery (a creative layering of minimal sculpture); Thomas Dane (showing an exquisite grouping of works evocative of the Istanbul Biennale 2011 including Kutlug Ataman, Akram Zaatari, Hank Willis Thomas); Timothy Taylor (showing a lot of Susan Hiller); Sean Kelly (showing an exquisite oil on wood panel diptych by Laurent Grasso, Studies into the Past (2013)); and also Galerie Greta Meert, Andrea Rosen, Paula Cooper, Galerie Nordenhake, Galerie M Bochum, Massimo Minini, Magazzino, and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, presenting an extraordinary Robert Longo bronze, Heretics (After Goya’s Procession of the Flagellants) (2013). Galleria Christian Stein, has isolated key works in the design of the booth, including a Jannis Kounellis and a marvellous Pistoletto, while Galerie Nelson-Freeman, presents artists including Pedro Cabrita Reis, David Adamo and Jan Dibbets in a wonderfully composed group of works, and at Mai 36, John Baldessari has been paired with Manfred Pernice.

Meanwhile, in Features, mfc-michèle didier’s collection of works by Samuel Bianchini, On Kawara, Leigh Ledare, Allan McCollum, Annette Messager and Maurizio Nannucci is perfectly presented, while Kolkata space, Experimenter, is stand out, showing Bani Abidi, Naeem Mohaiemen and Hajra Waheed. There is also a wonderful installation by Ciprian Muresan at Galeria Plan B, in which cast copies of museum objects are placed over wooden boards that are in fact pressing etchings for the duration of the fair. At Statements, an overview of fresh, contemporary practices include Beijing Commune showing Hu Xiaoyuan, The Third Line showing Laleh Khorramian, Melas/Papadopoulos showing Kostas Sahpazis, Tilton Gallery showing Egon Frantz, and Galerie Hubert Winter showing a daringly minimal installation made up of electric wire and pencil by Judith Fegerl, as well as Baloise Art Prize winners, Jenni Tischer showing at Gallery Krobath and Kemang Wa Lehulere showing at Gallery Stevenson.

And so, with Art Basel entering a new phase of its existence (Art Basel was recently rebranded as Art Basel in Basel/Hong Kong/Miami), what is ‘The Art’s’ evolving global function? During the opening night for Parcours, we chanced upon a performance by Michael Smith, Avuncular Quest (2013). He first acted like a typical art fair visitor (carrying a tote bag filled with so much ‘stuff’ everything gets lost within it), before turning into an infant. Overcome by choice, we can become infantilized by abundance; but ‘The Art’ is still a place to gauge how society looks from the perspective of those whose profession (and passion) it is to reflect it.

But what we have to keep in mind, as Szántó noted, is that ‘it’s not just about money, but about the status of art in society.’ In other words, the social value we place on ‘Art’ – an idea worth revisiting, if the works by readymades belong to everyone® showing at Jan Mot’s excellent booth are anything to go by. The title of one 1988 work reads: You can change it all by saying yes, the letters printed over an empty boardroom table. But yes to what? The ultimate – and eternal – question.


Jeppe Hein
Happiness Does Not Come from the Accumulation of Things, 2012
Galerie Johann König

A view of Hall 2 exterior, Art Basel

Installation view, Air de Paris

Francois Curlet
Western, 2005-2006
Air de Paris

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz

Jeremy Deller
Bless this Acid House, 2005
Art Concept

Joham Grimonperez
The Shadow Lands, 2013
Art Unlimited

Installation view, Thomas Dane

Installation view, Kerlin Gallery


Lygia Clark at Art Unlimited

Hu Xiaoyuan at Beijing Commune, Art Statements

Jannis Kounellis
Untitled, 1993
Christian Stein

Installation view, Christian Stein

Michael Smith
Avuncular Quest, 2013
Art Parcours

Pistoletto at Galleria Christian Stein

Installation view, PKM Gallery

Readymades belong to everyone
You can change it all by saying yes, 1988
Jan Mot Gallery

Robert Longo at Galerie Hans Mayer

Susan Hiller at Timothy Taylor Gallery

Xu Zhen
The Principal Motor…, 2012
Long March Space

Installation view, Mai 36 Galerie

Ciprian Muresan at Galeria Plan B

Installation view, mfc-michéle didier



Contemporary art Interview Fairs Switzerland

My Basel top 5

Hoor al-Qasimi gives her tips for the Swiss city

Hoor al-Qasimi. Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

Hoor al-Qasimi has overseen the Sharjah Biennial since 2003. The daughter of the Emir of Sharjah, she received her fine arts degree from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and a masters degree in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London. She was on the curatorial selection committee for the 2012 Berlin Biennial and is a visiting lecturer at the Slade.

1) Museum: Museum der Kulturen at the Münsterplatz in Basel. The striking courtyard annex at this ethnographic museum, one of the most important in Europe, has been designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The museum’s 300,000-strong collection, initially founded by a range of private collectors, is impressive with significant objects on show from Oceania, Indonesia, South, Central and East Asia. But I’m also drawn to its collection of 50,000 historic photographs.

2) Exhibition: Fondation Beyeler. This gallery is, in my opinion, one of the best design projects by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. With a large collection of important works of art and interesting exhibitions, I would recommend putting aside a morning to visit. A retrospective of Max Ernst’s work is on view at the moment (until 8 September) and Maurizio Cattelan’s exhibition has just opened (until 6 October). After seeing the Ernst show at the Albertina in Vienna, I would say you shouldn’t miss seeing it at the Fondation Beyeler.

3) Away day: If you have a day free and want to get away from the crowds at Art Basel, I would suggest taking a train to Zurich’s Löwenbräu Art Complex, where you can visit many art spaces including the Kunsthalle Zurich and Parkett’s Space.

4) Movie: Catch a film at the Filmpalast, an independent 28-seat cinema on Binningerstrasse in central Basel.

5) Public art: Tinguely-Brunnen at the Theaterplatz, located near the Kunsthalle Basel: this assortment of moving sculptures by Tinguely are powered by water. Also the Jean Tinguely Museum, housed in a building designed by Mario Botta, situated directly on the Rhine (Paul Sacher-Anlage 2) has an interesting selection of works, photographs and documents.



Art Basel: Mirrors, Mirrors on the Walls

[image] Art Basel

Anish Kapoor’s ‘Untitled,’ left, and Doug Aitken’s ‘MORE (shattered pour),’ both of 2013, at the Regen Projects gallery outpost at Art Basel.

Contemporary artists are getting reflective.

Earlier this week, mirrored objects—from silvery faux fireplaces and staircases to looking-glass panels smashed into kaleidoscopic fragments—were selling big at Art Basel, the Swiss contemporary art fair that closes Sunday.

During the fair’s VIP preview on Tuesday, New York’s 303 Gallery sold two versions of Doug Aitken’s $250,000 “Movie,” in which the artist used foam clad in reflective glass to spell out the word in giant letters. For the same price, Los Angeles-based Regen Projects sold a similar piece by the same artist that spells out the word “More.” At Lisson Gallery, Anish Kapoor’s 6-foot-tall stainless steel bowl, “Parabolic Twist,” has been stretching viewers into funhouse-mirror shapes. It is priced to sell for around $1.1 million. (The British sculptor is an old hand at using mirrorlike surfaces.)

Virginia Overton coated a sheet of plexiglass in acrylic-mirrored paint and then covered the surface with scratches that appear to glow. That’s because the artist, born in Nashville, Tenn., framed this 8-foot-wide glass sheet atop a light box outfitted with fluorescent tubes. Mitchell-Innes & Nash sold it for around $50,000 during fair previews on Wednesday.

Artists have long experimented with mirrors in their work—from the room-reflecting convex hanging in Jan van Eyck’s iconic 1434 “Arnolfini Portrait” to the see-me-twice hand mirrors wielded by sitters in Salvador Dalí’s surreal portraits.

The material itself has morphed from a Renaissance-era status symbol into a hardware-store staple chopped up by midcentury artists like Christian Megert, a Swiss member of the Zero Group, who sought to make art from everyday materials like nails and eggshells. During previews on Tuesday, London’s Mayor Gallery sold a rotating “Mirror Object” assemblage (1966) by Mr. Megert for $23,300.

Today’s rising stars in the art world appear to be using mirrors primarily because they reflect the image of the observer—a useful tool for conceptual artists seeking to implicate viewers in their politically potent pieces.

In New York dealer Gavin Brown’s fair booth, Rirkrit Tiravanija showed for the first time a series of mirrored wall panels covered in protest slogans like “Less Oil More Courage” and “The Days of This Society Is Numbered.” The gallery said that several sold during the fair’s opening hours but declined to divulge prices.

Artists today also often enlist mirrors as a way to play off the vanity of collectors who seek pieces that literally reflect themselves, said Swiss painter Arnold Helbling, who doesn’t use mirrors in his own work. Zurich lawyer and collector Klaus Neff agreed, saying, “When people see something they love, they often want to see themselves in it.”

Berlin dealer Eva Scherr conceded that “narcissism often plays a role” in the appeal of pieces like Jonathan Monk’s “Paul Together Alone with Each Other,” a 2012 installation that features a scraggly-haired puppet of a man in a suit sitting on a crate and staring into a door-size mirror. The installation sold for $60,000.

Besides mirrored pieces, collectors are buying plenty more at this fair—lending a solid, reassuring atmosphere, with pieces under $1 million selling at a brisker pace than the few masterpieces priced at $10 million-plus. Collectors spotted during the VIP preview on Tuesday included Kanye West, financiers Leon Black and Donald Marron, and Russian philanthropist-socialite Dasha Zhukova.

Lawyer Kurt Büsser of Wiesbaden, Germany, and his wife, Maria, came to the fair on Wednesday in hopes of taking home a piece by Terry Fox, a Seattle-born artist whose wordplay installations have been gaining favor since he died a few years ago in the German city of Cologne. The couple’s pick from Fox’s one-man show at Galerie Löhrl? The artist’s $12,600 oval mirror from 1989 entitled “The Eye Is Not the Only Thing that Burns the Mind.”

Mr. Büsser said he likes the idea that he will be able to see his own face in the reflection of a mirror that’s already oxidizing, both changing over time: “I like that the edges of it look like they’ve been eaten apart by baby mice.”



What to See at Art Basel 2013

Posted: 06/14/2013 12:02 pm
Unlimited: Friedrich Petzel Gallery, Sean Landers, Moby Dick (Merrilees), 2013, Oil on
linen, 112 x 336 inches 284.5 x 853.4 cm. Courtesy the gallery and the artist

Art Basel, the world’s most important contemporary art fair, returns this week for its 43rd edition (June 13-16) with over 300 galleries exhibiting the works of 4,000 Artists while 60,000 art lovers take the city by storm. Art Basel is considered the event on the peripatetic art world calendar, attracting major collectors and A-list galleries who save up the very best visual art of the 20th and 21st centuries to showcase here.

Art Basel is organized by sectors, each of which is committed to a particular type of gallery, artwork or artist. These eight show sectors offer a diverse collection of artworks, including pieces by established artists and newly emerging artists, curated projects, site-specific experiential work and film. Organizing the fair this way allows visitors to explore the many dimensions of modern and contemporary art including paintings, sculptures and classical photography, as well as works of an outsized scale, various projects and site-specific artworks and interventions around Basel.

                Nahmad Gallery, Art Basel 2013                                               McKee Gallery, Art Basel 2013
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG                                              MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG


The Galleries sector is the main focus of Art Basel. This year, for the first time in the show’s history, galleries from the Philippines and Singapore will be present along with galleries from around 40 countries. Galleries exhibiting within the sector for the first time, having previously shown in Statements or Feature, include: Alison Jacques Gallery (London), kaufmann repetto (Milan), Galerie Guido W.Baudach (Berlin), Galerie Jocelyn Wolff (Paris) and McCaffrey (New York). Adding to a strong presentation of vintage photography will be first time exhibitor Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York).


The Feature sector presents curated projects that may include solo presentations by an individual artist, or juxtapositions and particular exhibits from artists representing a range of cultures, generations and artistic approaches. This year’s edition will feature 24 galleries from 16 countries, the highest number of galleries since the sector’s introduction in 2010.

One of the highlights of this sector includes the gallery Take Ninagawa (Tokyo) bringing historic works by Japanese artist Tsuruko Yamazaki, including a piece originally realized for the “1st Gutai Art Exhibition” in Tokyo in 1955.Tsuruko Yamazaki is a founding member of the Gutai Art Association, one of the most important avant-garde groups in postwar Japanese art. Starting in the 1950s, she created washes of colored dye, using hues of indigo, violet and magenta on outdoor installations in public parks before moving on to more Pop-influenced paintings in the 60s. She has presented a range of works throughout her decades-long career, and has produced work on the themes of real and virtual images and sight/cognition/recreation that expresses her unique outlook on the relationship between the individual and the world.


Tsuruko Yamazaki, Work, 1955 (reproduced in 1986), Mirror, acrylic and paper on board, 230 x 183 cm, Tin Cans, 1955 (reproduced in 1986), Dye, lacquer and thinner on tin cans, Dimensions variable. Courtesy of LADS, Osaka and Take Ninagawa, Tokyo. 


In this sector, Art Basel presents exciting new solo projects by young, emerging artists. The Statements sector has promoted young artists since 1996, providing a special platform that puts them in front of the eyes of an international audience of curators, collectors and art critics. Sited within the new exhibition hall, these solo presentations will offer an opportunity to discover the work of emerging artists and young galleries. Each year, two outstanding artists in this sector are awarded the Baloise Art Prize. The Baloise Group also acquires works by the award-winning artists which it donates to important European art institutions.

This year, 13 of the 24 galleries exhibiting will be new to the show. Highlights of Statements will include an installation of video, drawings and sculpture by Los Angeles based artist Erika Vogt presented by Overduin and Kite (Los Angeles). Chinese artist Hu Xiaoyuan will present a new series of works consisting of wood pieces with Beijing Commune (Beijing). Another newcomer is The Third Line Gallery (Dubai) presenting a solo booth by artist Laleh Khorramian. The works on display are fragments of a future science fiction film titled M-GOLIS, with Khorramian’s presentation focusing on paintings and objects related to the making.

Laleh Khorramian, Shrine, 2013, refrigerator, glass, fluorescent, amber, paper, wood, tin boxes,
LED, 3 dvd minidisk players. Courtesy of The Third Line Gallery.


Leading publishers of editioned works, prints and multiples exhibit the results of their collaboration with renowned artists. Some of the Edition galleries include Brooke Alexander, Pace Prints, Three Star Books, Alan Cristea Gallery, Crown Point Press, Atelier-Editions Fanal, Sabine Knust, Carolina Mitsch, Lelong Editions and many more.


Curated by New York-based Gianni Jetzer, Unlimited is Art Basel’s pioneering exhibition platform for projects that transcend the limitations of a classical art show stand. Unlimited provides exhibiting galleries with an opportunity to showcase large-scale sculptures, video projections, installations, wall paintings, photographic series and performance art which cannot be displayed within the limitations of an art fair stand.

This year Unlimited will feature 79 artworks – the largest number of projects to date. Not to miss is the largest painting ever exhibited within the sector: ‘Two into One becomes Three’ (2011) by Matt Mullican, which measures 22 by seven meters and will be presented by Klosterfelde (Berlin) and Mai 36 Galerie (Zurich). Gagosian Gallery (New York) and Massimo De Carlo (Milan) will jointly present Piotr Uklański’s enormous textile installation reminiscent of human anatomy, ‘Open Wide‘ (2012).

A growing number of artists from Asia and South America, will be represented in Unlimited this year, including Chinese artists Huan Yong Ping’s controversial installation ‘Abbottabad’ (2012), presented by Gladstone Gallery (New York), in which he replicates the compound in which Osama Bin Laden was found. Long March Space (Beijing) will show Chinese artist Liu Wei’s installation ‘Library’ (2012), in which anonymous urban landscapes shaped by familiar landmarks have been created out of books. Luhring Augustine (New York) will present Brazilian artist Tunga’s historical 16mm film installation ‘Ão’ (1981) and ‘Fairytale Ladies Dormitory’ (2007) by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be presented by Galerie Urs Meile (Beijing, Lucerne).


Parcours, curated by Florence Derieux, is the sector which engages the city’s historic quarters with site-specific sculptures, interventions and performances by renowned international artists and emerging talents.  For its 2013 edition, Parcours has moved into the Klingental neighborhood of Basel, one of the city’s most culturally diverse and creatively active quarters. The 16 works presented here will engage with Basel’s past and present, weaving artistic interventions into the different locations in the neighborhood. The sector will open to the public on Wednesday with a night of special performances by L.A Dance Project, Marc Bauer and Michael Smith. (Image: Danh Vo, Gustav’s Wing, 2013. Courtesy the artist & Galerie Buchholz; Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie; Galerie Chantal Crousel; Marian Goodman Gallery).


Art Basel’s week-long program of films, featuring over 30 titles by and about artists, is curated by Berlin film scholar Marc Glöde and Zurich collector This Brunner.  Highlights will include ‘Paris: Capital of the XXIst Century,’ the last film ever made by Malcom McLaren, and ‘Kader Attia, Collage,’ a single-channel video about the lives of transsexuals in Algiers and Bombay that questions the possibility of objective testimony. At the same time, it challenges the structural coherence we associate with artistic narrative. ‘Cutie and the Boxer‘ by Zachary Heinzerling is a touching film that documents the lives of the Japanese artist couple Ushio and Noriko Shinohara and which won the prestigious Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

 Paris, Capital of the XXIst Century, Malcolm McLaren,           Untitled (Collages), Kader Attia, 2011-2012
Courtsy of gallery & artist                                                           Galerie Krinzinger. Courtesy the gallery & the artist    


Art publications from around the world display their magazines in single stands or a collective booth. Editors and publishers are often present at the show and many magazines contribute presentations to the Basel Salon talks, a schedule of presentations, lectures and discussions. Some of the participating magazines include: Aesthetica, Art Press, Arte, Artforum, Art Review, Canvas, Frieze, Sculpture, The Art Newspaper and many more.

Satellite fairs:

With so much to see at the main fair is hard to believe there is more, but the action is not only at Art Basel but at the satellites fairs positioned around the city. From design to cutting-edge contemporary art, here are some of the other must-see venues on everyone’s itinerary:

   Design Miami/Basel

   June 11–16
Hall 1 Süd, Messe Basel

The eighth edition of the elite design fair encompasses 48 galleries, 8 of which will feature solo presentations. Occurring alongside the Art Basel fairs in Miamieach December and Basel each June, Design Miami/ has become the premier venue for collecting, exhibiting, discussing and creating collectible design. This year features both the functional,such as a 2012 cabinet in iron and yellow-glazed lava stone by Christophe Côme, via Cristina Grajales (New York),and the decorative, with Anish Kapoor’s square Atlas Ring (2012), at Louisa Guinness (London). The complex design took the London firm Goldsmiths three weeks to execute. Also on view is Benjamin Graindorge’s Fallen Tree bench(2011), the key piece from the young French designer’s first solo with Paris gallery Ymer & Malta.

June 11–16
Burgweg 15

What began as an initiative by young gallerists in 1996, developed into one of the most important fairs in the world, which they did by making significant contributions to the promotion of young artists and galleries. This contemporary-focused fair stays innovative by restricting itself to galleries founded within the past five years. Among the 300 applications, only 66 galleries from 22 countries were selected. The intentionally low number of galleries and the high level of sophistication of participants are the reasons for the fair extraordinary success and international reputation.

June 12–16
Uferstrasse 40

Presenting its 7th Basel edition this year, this contemporary art show includes 75 international exhibitors, with an emphasis on the Middle East including galleries from Tehran (Shirin Art Gallery), Ankara (Siyah Beyaz Galeri) and Abu Dhabi (Salwa Zeidan Gallery). Riyadh’s Lam Art Gallery (Riyad) will partner with the Switzerland-based AB Gallery toshow Iranian mixed-media artist Samira Hodaei and Pop-influenced Saudi painter Bassem Al Sharqi, among others. With a new location on the Rhine, the pavilion will present large-scale sculptures from three Latin American artists, Gastón Ugalde, Fernando Arias and Sonia Falcone.

The Solo Project
June 12–16
St. Jakobshalle

The-Solo-Project showcases works by leading artists presented by a carefully selected group of international galleries. The Solo Project has quickly established itself as an important satellite fair in Basel. The Solo Project was set up by Paul Kusseneers Gallery (Antwerp) and is supported by an array of partner galleries and aiming towards building of new relationships between galleries and collectors. For the sixth edition, Amaury and Myriam de Solages of Maison Particulière (Brussels) present Italian artist Angelo Musco in conjunction with Argentine art collective Mondongo. Luxembourg’s Galerie Nosbaum& Reding hangs its booth with manipulated architectural photographs by Maja Weyermann.

June 10–15

Returning for its fourth year at the Dreispitzhalle, Volta is a platform for presenting the vision of contemporary art galleries of global repute whose artists represent new and relevant positions for curators and collectors alike. The galleries are selected by an annually changing curatorial board, a group of curators, art critics and gallerists, to give each edition its own clear identity and to redirect focus back on the artists as well as their representing galleries.

Purdy Hicks Gallery (London) is featuring works by Bettina von Zwehl.  Spain present Alarcón Criado of Seville, Nicolas Grospierre and Alejandra Laviada; and Galería Visor of Valencia offers a four-way showof Hamish Fulton, Nil Yalter, Braco Dimitrijevic and this year’s Hasselblad Award winner Joan Fontcuberta.

Major museum exhibitions happening in Basel:

The Kunstmuseum Basel will present two special exhibitions, the first of which is The Picassos are Here!, behind which is an exceptional story.  The city of Basel has had a special relationship with Picasso since 1967. This was when the population of Basel, in a popular vote, decided to release a credit of 6 million francs for the Kunstmuseum, raising an extraordinary CHF 2.4 million from the citizens of Basel, in order to allow the acquisition of two paintings by Picasso, The Seated Harlequin and Two Brothers. Picasso himself was so impressed he gave Basel three additional paintings and a preparatory drawing for the famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.  With these five paintings as a base, all of the Picasso collections in Basel are brought together for this comprehensive exhibition exploring the important phases of Picasso’s career.  For the first time since the Van Gogh exhibition, the entire second floor of the museum is devoted to a single artist.

Another exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel is Ed Ruscha: Los Angeles Apartments. With the acquisition of nine studies for the graphite drawings of Los Angeles Apartments (1965) as well as of a set of the twenty-five black-and-white photographs from 2003 treating the same theme, the museum laid the foundations for this exhibition. By placing these different media side by side and taking a comparative look at photographs from the Gasoline Stations series (1962) as well as drawings on the theme of Large Trademark (1962) and Standard Station (1963), the show offers an especially vivid illustration of Ruscha’s work.

The Beyeler Foundation presents Maurizio Cattelan (Jun. 8 – Oct. 6). The exhibition, titled Kaputt, presents five taxidermied horses that have been installaed with their heads seemingly polking through the wall of the museum. The exhibition is curated by Sam Keller and Associate Curator Michiko Kono.  Cattelan is one of the most discussed artists of our day. Back in the 1990s he began to produce sculptures that surprised and astonished the public and the art world. His multi-faceted oeuvre is critical and humorous and reflects society’s paradoxes and alienation, as well as individuals’ struggle to find their place in it. On view at the same time is a scholarly Max Ernst retrospective that the Beyeler has organized with the Albertina in Vienna.

Maurizio Cattelan ‘untitled‘, 2007. photo: serge hasenböhler, basel, courtesy fondation beyeler, riehen/basel

Kunsthalle Basel presents two newly opened exhibitions that are worth visiting.  Michel Auder – Stories, Myths, Ironies and Other Songs, presents films and videos that are recordings of his surroundings, his private life and the people around him. The French artist first began exploring video as an artistic medium in the late 1960s. Over the years he has shot thousands of hours of film, in the early days with Super 8, 16mm and 35mm cameras, and subsequently embracing the latest video and digital media as they became available; right up to the camera in his mobile phone. Much of this footage was only edited by the artist many years after it was recorded, and turned into video works ranging from sequences lasting just few minutes to feature-length films.

Pavilionesque is Polish artist Paulina Olowska’s first solo exhibition in Switzerland at Kunsthalle Basel, and features a three-dimensional model, or a life-size sketch for a wooden pavilion.  This is a kind of functional sculpture that serves as a setting for performances, but also for the presentation of newly produced works, such as paintings, ceramics, sculptures and puppets. All these works are informed by the idea of creating a contemporary form of puppet/performance/cabaret theatre. The exhibition brings together all these minor genres in the work of art that may be not only viewed but actually experienced first hand.

Museum Tinguely puts on a show of the works of Lithuanian artist Zilvinas Kempinas that are not only kinetic but also minimalistic. Now a resident of New York, Kempinas uses the simplest of means to create complex and atmospheric room situations of great beauty. His installations play with air and lightness.  The reliefs are based on time and chance. The context for this exhibition within the Museum Tinguely creates an interesting dialogue between the two artists.

Vitra Design Museum showcases its Louis Khan exhibition, about the American architect who is regarded as one of the great master builders of the twentieth century. As the first retrospective on Louis Kahn in over two decades, this exhibition encompasses an unprecedented and diverse range of architectural models, original drawings, travel sketches, photographs and films. All of Kahn’s important projects are extensively documented — from his early urban planning concepts and single-family houses to monumental late works such as the Roosevelt Memorial, which was posthumously completed in October 2012. Highlights of the exhibition include a four-metre-high model of the spectacular City Tower designed for Philadelphia, as well as previously unseen film footage shot by Nathaniel Kahn, Louis Khan’s son, and director of the film ‘My Architect.’



Horses for courses
Art Basel, the world’s premier contemporary art fair, opens in Switzerland on 13 June. More than 60,000 collectors, dealers, artists, curators and art lovers are expected to attend the fair this year, at which nearly 300 galleries will display works. The Beyeler Foundation is exhibiting artby the Italian prankster Maurizio Catellan. (Sebastien Bozon/Getty)



Kanye West Previews ‘Yeezus’ at Art Basel Switzerland

You're Not Kanye West
Getty Images
Kanye West

The rapper holds an impromptu listening event for his upcoming sixth studio album, jokingly introducing himself as a “celebrity boyfriend.”

“KANYE?!!!” The flood of near-identical texts came pouring in last night at around 10 p.m., when Kanye West announced that he would hold an impromptu preview of his album Yeezus at midnight at the Design Miami/Basel Fair. (By the performer’s account, he had been on the prowl for Rick Owens furniture earlier in the day when the idea hit him to use the fair as a venue.) Hundreds of dealers, artists and otherwise – among them Art Basel director Marc Spiegler, Christie’s Loic Gouzer, and new-media collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlach – dropped all other arrangements (including what was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, a surprise concert by Solange at the Absolut Art Bar) and flocked to the Messeplatz hall, where they would mill around an open bar until West could pull together the last-minute prep work necessary to transform the empty first floor of the expo space into a concert hall. (He left a single Owens chair on stage for good measure.)

After jokingly introducing himself as a “celebrity boyfriend,” West reminded the crowd that “I got my start in art,” rattling off the names of some admittedly prestigious art schools who had accepted West – that is, before the aspiring artist dropped out for lack of technical talent: “I realized I would never be a great visual artist of the world, and started to worry that I would end up working at an ad agency – no offense to anyone who does that.”

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West dropped a fascinating monologue on the impetus for his album before unveiling the first two tracks, which he played straight from a laptop computer, bobbing over it as the songs played. Before West could release a third, he was interrupted by chants demanding that he sing live. West hesitated, then yielded, delivering an aggressive, a capella performance of “New Slaves,” a potent song that climaxed with an anti-Montauk mantra: “I’d rather be in the Factory than the Maybach” and “F— the Hamptons House!” While he seemed to be biting the hand that feeds him – West casually mentioned that he had been dining with the Kramlachs an hour earlier – the singer concluded the performance by standing at the door, and shaking hands with everyone as they exited.

What should be shocking is that this all took place as mere accompaniments to Art Basel. What began in 1970 as a local trade fair has evolved into a week-long nexus of international culture and extravagant parties, where it is no stranger to spot Kanye than it is to rub elbows with the Princess Eugenie of York. The increasingly stratified system of VIP previews and openings now stretches over the entire week, with the first glimpse of Art Statements and Art Unlimited – sections of the fair dedicated to emerging artists and oversized work, respectively – starting already on Monday afternoon. (This for a trade show that used to open on Friday.)

The extra days leave dealers scrambling for places to dine — Basel isn’t exactly a metropolis, after all. Chez Donati is usually a go-to, but this year David Zwirner stealthily booked it for the entire week. Larry Gagosian preferred to party in a former train station, while 303 Gallery, David Kordansky, Regen Projects and Eva Presenhuber were among the eight galleries who bonded together to host a barbecue at a hilltop dairy (where compliments on the beef muted as the cows starting trudging into the barn behind the guests.) Another option this year was Pret-a-diner, an itinerant “restaurant experience” that brings Michelin-starred chefs (in this case Tim Raue and Oliver “Ollysan” Lange) to pop-up venues around Europe. In Basel they chose an Elizabethan church, whose Gothic architecture and stained glass windows struck a moody setting when, at the stroke of 11 p.m., the space converted into the temporary site of Silencio, the Paris-based club still trading on its (mostly titular) ties to David Lynch. Silencio had to go head-to-head with nightly rowdiness at the Kunsthalle’s Campari Bar, as well as Emmanuel Perrotin’s annual party with Parisian nightlife staple Le Baron on Das Schiff, a multidecked boat docked on the Rhine. Predictably sweaty, smoky and just the right amount of slutty, the Francophile guests gave it their all on the dance floor (with some help from The Gramme), periodically retiring to the top deck for fresh air.

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Speaking of fresh air, returning this year was the Absolut Art Bar, who followed up last year’s installment – designed by Jeremy Deller – with a tripped-out, ’70s-style lounge, courtesy of Mickalene Thomas. (“It’s like having a party in Mickalene’s brain,” as Lehmann Maupin director Courtney Plummer described it, though apparently the artist had been angling to recreate her mother’s old house.) Wednesday night, a covert operation brought Solange to the club to play for a room of less than a hundred lucky listeners, who were all sworn to secrecy.

Hands-down one of the glitziest affairs was also held Wednesday, at the stately Kunstmuseum, where Tina Brown, Daphne Guinness and Dasha Zhukova hosted an “intimate dinner” preceded by a conversation between Brown and artist Theaster Gates, whose homegrown, Chicago-based activism (“I prefer to think of it as neighborliness”) has rocketed him into the spotlight. The evening drew art world royalty like Eli Broad, Peter Brant, Gagosian, Jay Jopling and Alberto Mugrabi, as well as some actual royalty – the Princess Alia Al-Senussi and Prince Abdullah Al Turki – and a younger crowd of scenesters: Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, Olympia Scarry, Vito Schnabel, Adam Weymouth and PC Valmorbida. Architect Fernando Romero and Soumaya Slim sipped champagne on the stairs, while Naomi Campbell’s ex, the dreamy Russian Vlad Doronin chatted away in his seat next to Stephanie Seymour (who thankfully need not worry about her contracts getting mysteriously canceled overnight). When the news about West’s surprise performance hit, Manila-based collector Robbie Antonio (whose pride rests in an ever-growing collection of portraits of himself from jaw-droppingly diverse artists like Damien Hirst, David LaChapelle and Marina Abramovic) had this to add: “I tried to commission Kanye once, but he was going to cost me even more than Anselm Kiefer.”

Perhaps the most shocking twist of all, however, is that the week isn’t even halfway through. The next few days still hold plenty in store, with the annual nocturne at the Beyeler and a Black Woods getaway dinner, hosted by Maria Baibakova and Alexandra Chemla. Now the only question is, who has time to see the art?



Art Basel at the Centre of the Art Market

Basel, 13 June 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).

There isn’t a single art market, but rather several, which respond to very different demands; there is a clear distinction, for example, between the antiques market, and the market dedicated to works of art. Yet, whilst the market for ‘classical’ pieces is long-established, with existing points of references points for the valuation of works, the current art market must develop its own mode of practice – it must develop its own valuation system, and work to improve the standing of contemporary pieces. With this in mind, the importance of biennials and fairs should not go unrecognised, and they should be essential in shaping the form which a market for contemporary works takes. Biennials allow galleries to increase the prominence of their represented artists, whilst fairs allow buyers to invest in contemporary works. Nevertheless, it is vital that these two forms of art event -which are in fact complementary- are not dissociated from one another. The reputation established by an artist during a biennial directly impacts upon the value their works are able to achieve when presented at subsequent fairs.

Today, the contemporary art market is undergoing a period of rapid expansion. According to an annual report given by Artprice, contemporary art represented 11% of total arts sales at the end of 2011, a figure which was less than 4% at the end of 2000. Between 2011 and 2012, nearly €860m worth of contemporary art works were sold at auction. And these are only the figures concerning auction sales – it is important to remember that both fairs and galleries act as important centres for the sale of other contemporary works.

Considered to be one of the most important international contemporary art fairs, Art Basel plays an essential role in the development of the contemporary art market.

Art Basel held its first edition in 1970, four years after the Cologne fair, thanks to the initiative of three Basel-based gallerists: Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner et Balz Hilt. They set out with two ambitions: to find a forum for gallerists to engage in their greatest interest, and to establish Basel – their home – as an international centre for contemporary art. The first year saw participation from over 90 galleries, with over 16,300 visitors in attendance, giving clear evidence of public interest in a fair of this kind. 2013 marked the 44th edition of the fair, and saw the presence of over 300 galleries from 39 countries. The high-level of criteria for participating galleries means that Basel currently stands as one of the international art world’s most important events. Participating galleries are selected according to several criterias: they must not only present emerging artists, but also established artists – demonstrating proof of their representation of the latter. They must also show evidence of having taken an active role in the production of art works.

The evolutionary history of this fair demonstrates the event’s capacity to develop and adapt rapidly. In 1976 – just 6 years after the fair’s first edition – Art Basel had already attained its present size, with 300 participating galleries. This year, 304 galleries eagerly awaited the opportunity to present their artists; whilst a vast majority of these institutions were European, many had also travelled from Asia Pacific.

Reasons for international recognition

There are several reasons which explain why Art Basel retains the title of the best international art fair. The event’s strict selection criteria is one of the primary reasons that the fair has been able to establish itself as a strong leader in its field, with only 30% of total applicants earning a stand at Art Basel. This is a figure which rises to 35% for editions of the event held in Hong Kong and Miami. Each gallery’s proposed exhibition is considered for a long period of time before being realsed. The rigour of this selection process is based on two important factors which help to explain Art Basel’s international renown: quality and a commitment to renewal. This commitment to renewal means that galleries can only present propositions for stands which are innovative. Each year, visitors to the fair therefore have the opportunity to discover new things – both with regard to the material composition of works presented, and the manner in which they are displayed, which might be so innovative that it becomes a benchmark for the form of the gallery (or galleries’) future exhibitions. The fair also avoids any risk of ‘déjà vu’, so often seen in terms of the results of art auctions, but especially in terms of image: Art Basel acts as a window onto the most beautiful works, and exhibition formats, which contemporary galleries are capable of providing.

The quality of the works presented is also a deciding factor in the fair’s renown, with galleries providing works which are of museum quality. The quality of the works presented results from the strict selection process, carried out by the fair’s committee, and recognises the high sales figure which the event is capable of generating. Galleries retain their finest works for Art Basel. Showing works which are merely beautiful does not suffice: at Basel, galleries must represent the very best of their artists. This culture of showing truly exceptional works means that Basel exists as a platform of detrimental importance to the international success of its participating galleries.

From a more pragmatic point of view, the need to present pieces of an excellent quality with a view to selling them, in part, explains the need for galleries to make their appearance at the fair profitable. With the price of a single square metre of gallery space exceeding €500, Art Basel is one of the most expensive fairs. The quality of works exhibited is therefore an essential factor in Basel’s international renown, and is the reason that major representatives from the art market continue to return to the event year after year. Representatives include not only buyers and collectors, but also conservators, commissioners and other influential members of international cultural organisations. It is collectors, however, who largely contribute to the renown of Art Basel.

Collectors come to the festival to buy, with a view to making investments which contribute to their existing catalogues of works. In an economically difficult climate, where the public sector is hesitant to spend, the importance of collectors has never been more important. With this in mind, the fair does everything it can to retain its wealthy clientele, who are responsible for a significant quantity of the event’s most important sales. According to an article which appeared in Artinfo, last year, no less than 300 private jets landed at Basel’s Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport- during the fair, the average number of incoming flights per day was 123 – a figure which falls to just 18 outside of the fair.

These figures demonstrate that Art Basel is seen as place both to see and be seen. This sentiment is re-inforced by VIP hours for visitors who have a significant influence upon international art. VIP hours give a chosen few access to gallery previews. A large number of sales are realised during this period, demonstrating just how important it is to continue to give privilleged treatment to the fair’s wealthiest collectors.

Art Basel was the first fair to create a VIP access scheme of this nature, a factor which has no doubt reinforced its international reputation, but which has perhaps also contributed to the development of a superficial side. This superficial side – which seems paradoxically far away from the idea of art itself – is a culture which has also been seen at the Venice Biennale, often touted as the ‘Cannes Festival of Art’. Nevertheless, it is collectors who make the market, with their purchases deciding the trends of the market and the cost’s achieved by an artist’s works. The decisions of collectors have a formative effect on the shape of the market, and might be considered to be one of the deciding factors in both the style and material composition of works.

Finally, the last reason for Basel’s international reputation is the location of the fair itself. Basel is a town renowned fors its museums and foundations, and is notably home to the Beyeler Foundation, created by one of the fair’s founding gallerists. Moreover, Basel is home to a host of important collectors and patrons – all factors which contribute to the town’s strategic position in the art market.

Art Basel’s impact on the art market

It would seem that the quality of works included in the fair rests the primary reason for the event’s international renown, but also for its impact upon the art market. It is this factor which prompts three of the major actors in the art market to converge, with a notion of quality bringing gallerists, artists and collectors together.

By participating in the fair, galleries reinforce the prominent roles which they have to play in the art market. For gallerists, participating in the event also allows them to meet with new collectors. Represented artists benefit from this association with collectors, with their proximity translating into higher sales prices. Frequently, an exhibition at Art Basel is the highlight of an artist’s career.

For collectors, the fair guarantees encounters with exceptional pieces, created by both recognised and emerging artists. Participating in the evolution of a little-known artist might also be an appealing notion for collectors visiting the fair, allowing them to shape the form of tomorrow’s art market whilst also nominating themselves as figures capable of creating and directing trends.

Due to its international renown, Art Basel has become, not just a fair, but a label, existing as a benchmark both for contemporary art and contemporary art fairs. Its popularity is such that Art Basel expanded, opening Art Basel Miami in 2002, and Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013 (a fair which formerly existed as ART HK). Today, in a context where the number of fairs dedicated to contemporary art is expanding at a considerable rate, the possession of this ‘benchmark’ status is invaluable. Art Basel Hong Kong, which took place between 23 and 26 May 2013, immediately gained credibility due to its association with Art Basel – this was emphasised by the professional focus which the new manifestation of the fair took.

The development of the ‘Art Basel’ label has also contributed to the equally important – if not indispensible – feeling of trust on the part of collectors, who sense that the Basel name offers them a guarantee of quality. Nevertheless, this is a nuanced factor which did not necessarily contribute to galleries at Art Basel Hong Kong having sales which were as good as they might have anticipated. It is important, therefore, to question whether a fair based in this region can make significant profits: buying tendencies in the area see fewer people make impulsive, or instantaneous purchases.

Yet it is important that Art Basel’s impact upon the art larket in general does not have a negative effect on the health of galleries. In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Marc Spiegler (director of Art Basel) explained that the role of Art Basel should be to bring new collectors, not only to the fair, but to galleries themselves. Spiegler admitted that the habits of collectors have evolved, and that buyers tend to spend less time in galleries than they once had. Art Basel must work to re-ignite buyers’ interest in galleries, encouraging them to not only visit their stands at the fair, but to visit galleries themselves. Galleries represent an essential component of the contemporary art market, promoting the work of artists; any diminuation in their presence would be fatal for the health of the art market in general. Art Basel presents the chance for galleries to exert a visible presence, and to hold their ground against increasingly strong sales at auction houses. Art Basel also allows galleries to continue selling artist’s works, with a large portion of the money raised from these sales going to artists themselves – a situation which is not always the case with auctions.

The impact of the Venice Biennale on Art Basel

These two events are both anchored in the past, and both place a special focus on, not simply presenting works by contemporary artists, but of fostering an awareness of past works. This ambition was a prominent component of the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale, and remains a very important factor for Art Basel – even if historic pieces are becoming increasingly rare.

Art Basel and The Venice Biennale are held together by strong bonds – perhaps explained by the absence of commercial sales at the Biennale. It is vital that galleries are able to equate the prominence they gain at the Venice Biennale with commercial sales, and it is Art Basel which allows them to do so. It is commonly said that what is exhibited in Venice will be sold in Basel. A difference between the works exhibited at the two fairs is nevertheless visible: as the Venice Biennale has no commercial intention, it is much easier for artists to show works which might not sell well (installations, for example).

The links uniting Art Basel and the Venice Biennale can be found when examining the presence of participating artists on an international level. Many prominent artists are present a both events, notably Ai Weiwei, Jeremy Deller, Valentin Carron and Camille Henrot. This dual visibility can have a considerable effect on the cost of artists’s works and can launch the career of an emerging artist. Artists also benefit from the prestige of the festival, becoming a similar benchmark for quality – if not artistically, at least symbolically. At Art Basel, however, selection is based predominantly on the presentation produced by galleries, with artists subsequently acquiring commercial recognition.

The Biennale’s influence upon Art Basel is therefore highly evident: the Biennale is a trampoline for the international presence of artists, which is translated into their commercial success.

Art Basel has established itself as a reference fair, thanks to the strict mode of selecting exhibitors and the high quality of works displayed. But its renown is also due to its ability to reinvent itself throughout the course of its successive editions. Indeed, the history of the fair is full of organisational innovations. By adding internal events such as Unlimited (Art Unlimited until 2012) and Off fairs, Art Basel offers something different each year, and thus maintains its interest and appeal to collectors and galleries.


Gallery: Art Basel modern art exhibition

Basel’s expanded exhibition centre is playing host to the 44th edition of the modern and contemporary art show Art Basel this week.

Nearly 40 countries across five continents will be represented, with the UK contributing 40 of the more than 300 total galleries alone.

Up to 65,000 visitors are expected, among them some of the world’s wealthiest art collectors and dealers, and the prices on show look set to reflect this.

Last year one gallery sold painting A.B. Courbet, by German artist Gerhard Richter, for £12.8million ($20m).

For more Life & Style galleries click here



Inside Art

At Art Basel, an Unslaked Appetite for Buying

Courtesy of Mickalene Thomas and Roberto Chamorro/Absolut Art Bureau

Mickalene Thomas’s “Better Days” installation, running in conjunction with the Art Basel fair, where her works are on sale.

BASEL, Switzerland — Within a five-minute walk from Art Basel, the world’s leading fair for contemporary art, is a small upstairs space frozen in the not-so-contemporary 1970s. Mirrors and imitation wood paneling line the walls. A patchwork of African textiles covers the furniture, and the floors are a mix of linoleum, wood and carpeting. There is a bar, too, with lava lamps and a fake copper ceiling. Hits by Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer and Diana Ross play every night at ear-piercing decibels.

Courtesy of Claes Oldenburg and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Claes Oldenburg’s “Scissors Monument Cut-Out.”

On Wednesday morning, standing in the middle of it all dressed in baggy pants and a T-shirt was Mickalene Thomas, the 42-year-old Brooklyn artist who created the environment here. She calls it “Better Days” after a group of her mother’s friends who would hold parties, plays and fashion shows to raise money to fight sickle cell anemia, a disease that runs in her family. “Better Days” is the installation for the Absolut Art Bureau, sponsored by the Swedish vodka company Absolut in partnership with Art Basel, where more of Ms. Thomas’s work is on display.

“I’ve done environments before, but this is the most three-dimensional,” said Ms. Thomas, who recently had a much-praised exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.

At the nearby fair, which runs through Sunday, her Chelsea dealer, Lehmann Maupin, is showing several of her paintings. One, “Hair Portrait Series #10,” depicting the braided hair of four African-American women on wood panel with acrylic and rhinestones, was snapped up for $55,000 just hours after the fair opened.

“Collectors these days are looking for artists that have museum and curatorial support,” said David Maupin, one of the gallery’s founders.

The cavernous convention center that houses the fair has booth after booth filled with blue-chip masters like Warhol, Picasso, Bacon and Calder, or artists who, like Ms. Thomas, have been the subject of recent museum exhibitions or are featured at the Venice Biennale, which opened this month.

There are also examples of works similar to those that brought enormous prices at the May auctions in New York.

“Galleries bring what they know the market wants,” said Allan Schwartzman, an art adviser from New York.

As large and lively as ever, with 304 galleries exhibiting from 39 countries, Art Basel is still a magnet for big-money collectors and museum directors. Among those at the invitation-only opening on Tuesday were New York financiers like Donald B. Marron and Leon Black, the Miami collectors Donald and Mera Rubell and the Russian oligarch Roman A. Abramovich. Also seen perusing booths was Richard Armstrong, who runs the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Alain Seban, president of the Pompidou Center in Paris; and Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate in London.

“I’ve been coming here since the 1980s, when dealers would bring works they couldn’t sell in their galleries,” said Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “Now these dealers are like museum curators, working for months on their installations.”

Just weeks after the buoyant May auctions, collectors still appear to have money to spend. Among the dealers reporting brisk sales was the Helly Nahmad Gallery. Its New York branch was represented here with a large booth filled with paintings and sculptures by Calder, Lucio Fontana and Bacon. By the end of Tuesday, more than six big-ticket works had been sold, including a 1961 Calder mobile for $12 million and a 1968 painting by Fontana for $6 million.

The Nahmads, a dynasty of dealers with spaces in the Carlyle Hotel in New York and on Cork Street in London, have been in the spotlight recently. In April, Hillel Nahmad, 34, known as Helly, was charged by federal prosecutors with playing a leading role in a gambling and money-laundering operation that stretched from Kiev and Moscow to Los Angeles and New York, where he is based. Mr. Nahmad, who has denied these charges, is missing from the fair this year; as part of his bail he had to surrender his passport.

But his cousin in London, who runs the family’s Cork Street gallery and is also called Helly, said he had seen a lot of new buyers. “They are from all over — Europe, China, Latin America and Italy,” he said.

Late Picassos have been top sellers at auctions in recent years, and at Dominique Lévy, the New York dealer, “Tête d’Homme à la Pipe,” from 1971, hung prominently in her booth. Priced at $15 million, it had been sold by Thursday. Ms. Lévy is also in discussions with a collector to sell a 1959 untitled Barnett Newman drawing listed at $7 million. (At Sotheby’s last month Newman’s seminal painting “Onement VI,” a deep-blue abstract composition from 1953, sold for $43.8 million, a record for the artist at auction.)

One of the more talked-about collateral exhibitions in Venice during the Biennale’s opening was an immersive installation by the Italian-born artist Rudolf Stingel. He covered the Palazzo Grassi with his own Persian-inspired carpeting on which he hung his abstract and photo-realist paintings. In Basel, canvases by him were in several galleries. Three of his works, each priced around $2 million — at Massimo De Carlo, a gallery with spaces in Milan and London; Sadie Coles from London; and the Gagosian Gallery — were reported sold.

Drawings and sculptures by Claes Oldenburg, whose retrospective is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through Aug. 5, could be spotted in many places, too. Leslie Waddington, the London dealer, was showing “Feasible Monument for a City Square: Hats Blowing in the Wind,” a 1969 group of five crumpled canvas hats painted with enamel and shellacked. It was Mr. Oldenburg’s visual reference to Adlai Stevenson, who in 1965 had a fatal heart attack on a London street as his signature hat was blowing away. (Priced at $700,000, it sold on Thursday.)

A larger installation of Mr. Oldenburg’s work was at the Paula Cooper Gallery from New York. Drawings, watercolors and sculptures, mostly from the 1960s, were on display. Among them was “Scissors Monument Cut-Out,” a watercolor of two halves of a pair of scissors, from 1967. It sold to a New York collector for $200,000.

Although her gallery has been showing Mr. Oldenburg for years, Paula Cooper said that now seemed a good time to bring a group of his works to Basel because of the show at MoMA and one in Cologne, Germany, last year.

“Those people who have always admired Claes are rediscovering him,” she said. “So are a new generation who didn’t know his work until now.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 14, 2013, on page C23 of the New York edition with the headline: Still an Appetite For Buying



Behold a terrible beauty

Artists are responding to a decade of global conflict, but will their work find favour with collectors?

Huang Yong Ping’s Abbottabad, 2012, recreates Osama bin Laden’s final compound

With civil war raging in Syria and anti-government protests taking place across Turkey, the art world goes about its business on the Messeplatz this week—but a number of powerful works relating to war, conflict and terrorism are making an impact in Art Basel this year. Works inspired by sensitive political subjects, usually the domain of non-selling biennials and the Kassel-based Documenta exhibition in particular, have not previously been considered market-friendly.

Visitors are queuing in the fair’s Unlimited section to see the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar’s work about the late photojournalist Kevin Carter, whose image of a starving child in the Sudanese desert won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 (The Sound of Silence, 2006, $500,000; Goodman Gallery, Galerie Lelong, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Galerie Thomas Schulte, U42). Huang Yong Ping’s terracotta model of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (Abbottabad, 2012, €375,000; Gladstone Gallery, U19), where the Al-Qaeda chief was killed by US forces in 2011, is also sparking debate. Meanwhile, The Shadow World, 2013, a film by Johan Grimonprez (€35,000, edition of 15; Sean Kelly Gallery, Galerie Kamel Mennour, U45) features a South African arms dealer and a war correspondent.

“The reality around us is unavoidable. This dilemma is visible in the work of the new generation; they are simply trying to make sense of the world in which we live,” says Jaar, adding that all art is “intrinsically political”. Artists have always been politically engaged—particularly from the Enlightenment, says Katerina Gregos, the curator of “Newtopia: the State of Human Rights”, an exhibition that took place in Brussels and Mechelen, Belgium, last year. She says that this is now more true than ever, as “we live in volatile and uncertain times”.

Conflict zones

Liza Essers, the director of the Cape Town- and Johannesburg-based Goodman Gallery (2.1/N12), which represents Jaar, says: “The social pendulum has swung back towards the ethos of the 1960s. We are seeing a reaction against the big, shiny, flashy tendencies of the past decade; people are making more meaningful work.” In the past 15 years, works by artists such as Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol have dominated the stands at Art Basel, but now, politically engaged art has been assimilated into the mainstream.

Alfred Pacquement, the director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne within the Centre Pompidou, Paris, says that artists from conflict zones such as the Middle East and Asia are becoming more visible. The museum is in negotiations to buy Kader Attia’s The Repair, 2012, a diptych featuring 80 slides that juxtaposes the disfigured faces of First World War soldiers with damaged African artefacts (Galleria Continua, U73). Attia stresses that upheavals in the Arab world and beyond mean that the “bling-bling era couldn’t last any longer. Art practice is linked to war. The relationship between war and avant-garde art is extremely tight.”

Whether private collectors want to be confronted daily by such issue-based art is, however, debatable, says Gregos, who adds that “most collectors are still attracted to object-based art”. A Middle Eastern collector attending Art Basel, who preferred to remain anonymous, says that politically engaged art speaks to him “because I’m a child of war”, though he believes that other collectors may find this subject matter more difficult.

Museums may be the natural home for these bold pieces. The anonymous Middle Eastern collector says that certain works available in Unlimited “can be so jarring” that he would only donate them to a museum. A number of public institutions have expressed interest in Willie Doherty’s video installation Remains, 2013, a harrowing account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (€75,000; Alexander and Bonin Gallery, Kerlin Gallery, Peter Kilchmann, U50).

“Perhaps some of the hardest-hitting works, which deal with radical social issues, are destined for institutions or museum collections, but on a smaller scale, we are seeing a rise in private collectors buying works with a social conscience,” Essers says. Her gallery deals with international artists who tackle contentious topical issues linked to Africa. Jaar’s 1995 video Embrace, which depicts the genocide in Rwanda, sold to a French private collection for $36,000. Thomas Dane Gallery (2.1/M15), which is showing several politically charged works, sold Steve McQueen’s lightbox Lynching Tree, 2013—depicting a tree in New Orleans used as a gallows for slaves—for €65,000 to a Beirut-based collector (another edition is on show in McQueen’s retrospective at the Schaulager in Basel).

Some commentators are surprised that the art of conflict is not more abundant at art fairs in these tense times. But the presence of political work at Art Basel at least demonstrates an appetite for grittier, hard-edged art outside the biennial circuit. Ultimately, “artists are the conscience of society”, Gregos says. “They shift your perception and challenge your ideas about the world.”




Contemporary and modern Art Basel display opens to public

The world’s largest show of modern and contemporary art, has opened its doors to the public. Living up to its reputation for VIP guests and high price tags, Art Basel has already boasted multimillion dollar sales.

More than 300 galleries from five continents welcomed members of the public on Thursday for the 44th edition of Switzerland’s world-famous art fair.

An anticipated 65,000 visitors were invited to explore some 31,000 square meters (334,000 square feet) of exhibition space filled with works from leading contemporary and modern artists.

With doors opened to VIP guests for an advanced viewing two days earlier, however, many of this year’s biggest deals had already been closed.

Just half an hour into the exclusive opening the New York gallery Cheim & Read sold a large painting by the late US artist and leading abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell for $6.5 million (4.88 million euros).

According to the Reuters news agency, works by the German painter Gerhard Richter quickly began to fetch similar prices. Richter’s works fetch some of the highest prices of any living artist in the world. The 81-year-old broke his own auction record back in May when auctioneer Sotheby’s sold his painting of Milan’s Cathedral Square for $37.1 million in New York.

Art Basel is exhibited in three venues annually: Hong Kong, Miami Beach, and Basel itself.

Basel remains the main event, with private jets filling the skies and luxury limousines cluttering the streets around the exhibition since it first opened its doors on Tuesday. Collectors from around the world first flocked to peruse the multi-million dollar artworks. Among the celebrities already reported to have made an appearance were US actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and former Germany football captain Michael Ballack.

The event will remain open for another two days, closing its doors on Sunday.

ccp/msh (AFP, Reuters)



June 14, 2013 6:42 pm

The Art Market: sprint to the finish

Basel closes art marathon; a bogus Ernst; flying carpets; cocktail reconciliation?
Art Basel 2013 | Unlimited | Ai Weiwei | Meile©MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

‘Fairytale 2007, Ladies Dormitory’ (2007) at Unlimited

Art Basel flung open its doors to VIPs on Tuesday, and despite coming at the end of a six-week marathon that included the New York sales, Frieze New York, Art Basel Hong Kong and the Venice Biennale, the appetite for buying art seemed to be undiminished. As the first of two private view days ended, the cash registers rung up some hefty sales.

Galerie Gmurzynska said it sold an Yves Klein fire painting from 1961, tagged at $2.8m. Meanwhile London-based Helly Nahmad gallery, showing a powerful selection of works including Bacon, Rothko and Miró, reported placing Calder’s “Sumac” (1961) for $12m.

There was enthusiasm at lower prices as well: São Paulo gallery Mendes Wood sold all of its woven wall-based sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artist Sonia Gomes at prices between $8,000 and $25,000.

. . .

Unlimited, the section for outsized art projects at Art Basel, is often cited as one of the best things about the event, enabling artists to give free rein to their ambitions outside the booths. This year’s Unlimited has extended to 11,500 sq metres, but big doesn’t necessarily equal better.

Miro painting

‘Peinture (4 mars 1950)’ by Miró at Helly Nahmad in Basel

Some of the works on show are simple repeats of known pieces; others seem to have been sized up for the occasion. While sales from Unlimited are often slower than at the fair – you need a lot of room to accommodate them – Urs Meile sold Ai Weiwei’s “Fairytale 2007, Ladies Dormitory” (2007) – a tent containing simple metal beds with suitcases parked at the foot of each – to a private American collection.

. . .

The Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and his partner Dasha Zhukova were, as always, among the first visitors to Design Miami Basel, the fair held alongside the main Basel event and now housed in the new Herzog and de Meuron building that straddles Basel’s Messeplatz. Among early sales was Jean Royère’s cuddly “Polar Bear” sofa (1946) for €400,000 from Laffanour, while a Russian buyer bagged four 1930s chairs, made for the Red Army Theatre, for €27,000 from Moscow’s Heritage gallery.


Spectator Blogs


Hollywood and oligarchs descend on Art Basel

0 comments 14 June 2013 10:30
Leonardo di Caprio pictured in Cannes last month. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Leonardo di Caprio pictured in Cannes last month. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

The art world has descended on the almost attractive city of Basel in Switzerland this week, for the annual art fair. And where the art world goes, glamorous collectors follow. Leonardo di Caprio appeared to be in the mood for some serious shopping when I glimpsed him, casting his eye over a Warhol or two. He may have been looked at the Alexander Calder, or perhaps he saw the Edmund de Waal or the exquisite pair of Peter Doig etchings. And there’s this chap called Picasso; mark my words, dear readers, he’s going to be big.

Di Caprio had competition from one Roman Abramovitch, who sloped by a few Edvard Munchs, as one does. Cate Blanchett was a radiant study in concentration as she perused the stalls of the finest galleries in the world. And there were unconfirmed rumours that rapper Kanye West was in the house.

These luminaries were outnumbered by the battalions of suited and booted buyers for corporations that invest in important works of art. There is an estimated $2 billion worth of merchandise on show at Basel this week. Business was brisk; all carried out under the discreet eye of Swiss security, oddly reassuring beneath their Frank Spencer berets.

I put away my cheque book and found solace in the company of the vintners and jewellers who were exhibiting their iconic wares in the VIP area. Art Basel is a good gig for them. As one man, closely involved with the delegation from watchmaker Audemars Piguet (Arnie’s watchmaker), put it to me, ‘If you’ve just looked at a $5 million Matisse, $50,000 for a handmade watch is a bargain.’

Mr Steerpike sympathises; but, alas, Swatch is necessarily my territory.



Commercial galleries Trends Fairs Switzerland

The great ‘whether to separate’ debate

Galleries are increasingly splitting their sales and curatorial teams. Some, however, are sceptical

The move away from the old-style relationship between gallery and artist has been likened to the separation of church and state

As the marathon run of international art fairs that began in New York in May, then moved to Hong Kong, now comes to an end here in Switzerland, the last thing that art dealers may be thinking about is their gallery shows. And indeed, some of them won’t have to. Traditionally, gallery staff work with artists, collectors and museums simultaneously, making no distinction between the sales and exhibitions departments. But the onslaught of trade events has led many dealers to restructure their businesses, spinning off specialised sales teams to work at art fairs while the exhibition team stays to mind the gallery at home. Which structure is chosen is an important expression of a gallery’s identity, albeit one that is invisible to the public at large.

Two paths

The move towards the newer model is fuelled by the growth of the art market: galleries are taking part in more international art fairs and biennials than at any other point in history and many have spaces in more than one country. “The success of a gallery’s expansion often has to do with how they set up the structure internally,” says the art adviser Lisa Schiff. Some are hiring management consultants to streamline operations, while others are bringing in freelance curators to organise exhibitions rather than creating them in-house.

Dealers in favour of the new model maintain that it makes galleries more efficient and competitive. Goodman Gallery (2.1/N12), based in Capetown and Johannesburg, recently decided to convert. “The old model works for small galleries, however there is no accountability” for individual staff members, says the owner Liza Essers, who is presenting new work by William Kentridge, Gerhard Marx and David Goldblatt at the fair. The new model, by contrast, offers each employee a strictly defined set of responsibilities. “I found that, as the gallery has more than doubled its turnover as well as increased its activity at international art fairs, restructuring, with curators responsible for artists and exhibitions, and separate from the sales team, is the way to go. Another key reason is that artists require attention, and so I feel that a dedicated team working with artists is important.”

The São Paulo-based Galeria Nara Roesler adopted a similar model after collaborating with an outside consultant and experimenting with different structures for two years. “I think that as galleries grow into bigger enterprises they are forced to specialise staff,” says Daniel Roesler, the gallery’s co-director.

Small galleries are converting as well. “We saw bigger galleries structuring themselves this way, so we thought, ‘Let’s try this,’” says Edward Winkleman, whose New York gallery now employs a sales director as part of its four-person staff. The new structure “really comes down to the old school capitalist idea of specialisation as a means towards efficiency,” he says.

David Leiber, a director at the New York-based Sperone Westwater (2.0/E10), likened the division between exhibitions and sales to a “separation between church and state”. (He notes that his gallery, which is presenting historic pieces including a red punctured painting by Lucio Fontana from 1960 and a large charcoal drawing by Gilbert & George from 1971 priced at over $1m each, operates “somewhere in between”.) At its “least nuanced”, he says it means that the sales staff is “given a list of works at the end of the day”, while the “curatorial staff works only with the artists, almost like a museum”.

The SoHo model

Devotees of the traditional model maintain that it is one of the few factors keeping the art business from becoming corporate. To prevent art dealers from becoming like “so many investment bankers, churning deals when and where they can to make the numbers… both the selling and exhibiting of art need to be a single pursuit”, says the London-based dealer and art world commentator Kenny Schachter.

Refined in the 1960s and 1970s when dealers ran smaller, more localised operations in neighbourhoods like SoHo in New York and Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, the traditional model places a premium on close communication among artists, collectors and dealers. Staff members work with artists on all aspects of their careers, including gallery exhibitions, museum shows and publications, as well as sales.

“The newer model is not necessarily in the best interest of the artist or art and its greater audience,” says Finola Jones, the director of the Dublin-based Mother’s Tankstation (1/S16), which is presenting a series of paintings by Mairead O’hEocha in the Art Statements section. She says it encourages the idea of art as a “branded product”.

“We adhere to the ‘traditional’ model,” says Joost Bosland, a director at the Capetown- and Johannesburg-based Stevenson Gallery (1/S8). “Our clients wouldn’t have it any other way.”

A handful of larger international businesses, like Sprüth Magers (2.0/B19), have also consciously rejected the new model. Although the gallery has 31 staff members spread across Cologne, Berlin and London, its founders Philomene Magers and Monika Sprüth prefer a holistic approach. Directors from all three locations are on hand at the fair, presenting an untitled bristle and wood sculpture by Rosemarie Trockel from 1994, for €300,000 and a digital print on vinyl by Barbara Kruger, Made for You, 2013, for $250,000. “We give the structure a lot of thought, for example, if people only sell, they may be too detached from the content,” they believe. “By structuring the gallery in this way, we can bind different locations together and make information travel.”

Is there a limit?

As a gallery gets bigger, however, “there is a tipping point where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and you become inefficient”, says the New York-based dealer Sean Kelly (2.1/N2). (His gallery employs 20 people who are involved with both sales and artist services.) “We hear this from our artists who work with other galleries that are at that stage, and it makes them very uncomfortable,” he adds.

“Most dealers and artists would love to have a firewall between the grind of sales and challenge of producing art,” says the New York-based artist William Powhida. “As an artist, it’s very important to work with people who have an interest in the development and trajectory of the work beyond sales. It reminds me of the relationship an author has with their editor, versus the relationship they have with their agent.” But he adds: “I can’t imagine an art world—well maybe I can—where wealthy collectors would be entirely happy dealing with a sales person, and not someone who is intimately connected with the development of the work.”

It is unclear how much the division of labour shapes the buyer’s experience. “I don’t feel like there is any lag or lack of information because I’m not dealing with someone who is directly involved with the artist,” says the art adviser Wendy Cromwell. “If the gallery is well-run, there isn’t a difference in service.”

Ultimately, most galleries must be flexible because the needs of artists and collectors are not uniform. Jose Kuri, of Mexico City’s Kurimanzutto (2.1/N1), says: “We operate in a very different way for each project—there is not a model that we follow.”

The commission question

Commission (the portion of a work of art’s sale price that goes directly to the salesperson) is another question. “If it is a fierce commission-based structure, you’re all ruthlessly fighting for material,” says Lisa Schiff. “If you all share a portion of the total profit, you might make less money, but I think it’s a healthier model.”

Sean Kelly (2.1/N2) says his directors do not work on commission for that reason. “It isn’t beneficial to the artists because it pits people against each other,” he says. “Everyone understands that if the company does well, there will be bonuses handed out and they will do well.” Each of the five partners of David Zwirner Gallery (2.0/F5) has a stake in the business. Although there are “commission incentives”, according to the marketing and press director Julia Joern, “they are more like bonuses”.

Gagosian (2.0/B15) takes a slightly different tack. “Everyone gets paid the same commission rate on sales,” which is usually between 10% and 20% on secondary market material, according to court depositions by gallery staff, “but for those who sell less and spend more time working with artists and exhibitions, the base salary is higher,” according to a 2011 Vogue magazine article. A spokeswoman for Gagosian says that this information is not entirely correct but declined to comment further.


Fairs Analysis USA

Basel mints the next blue-chip artists

But will the wider market and museums buy in?

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (568-1), 1984 (above), at Richard Gray Gallery (2.0/E4), on offer for $6.5m

This year’s Art Basel suggests that the definition of “blue-chip” work is changing, which is reflected in the layout of the fair. There are more contemporary dealers than ever on the ground floor, which has traditionally been home to Modern art galleries. This year, Metro Pictures (2.0/B9), White Cube (2.0/C18) and Lisson Gallery (2.0/B12) have migrated downstairs. They join dealers such as Andrea Rosen (2.0/B5), Barbara Gladstone (2.0/E2) and Xavier Hufkens (2.0/B18), all better known for their contemporary, rather than Modern, programmes. “There has been a continuous migration. Some years, more galleries move,” says Marc Spiegler, the director of Art Basel.

Meanwhile, former specialists in the early 20th century, such as Thomas Ammann (2.0/B13), are now also showing new works of art: on the gallery’s stand, pieces by the late Cy Twombly sit alongside works by the Bruce High Quality Foundation.

“Artists like Picasso, Matisse and Dubuffet used to be the staple here, but [their] works have become fewer as they’ve been dispersed among museums and private collections,” says Paul Gray of the Richard Gray Gallery (2.0/E4), which has been showing at Basel for 20 years.

Diminishing supply

It is not that the demand for Modern art has diminished. On the contrary, some of the most sought-after works at the fair fall within this sector, and they command huge prices. New York’s Helly Nahmad Gallery (2.0/A8) sold Sumac, a 1961 mobile by Calder, with an asking price of $12m, on the first day. “We sold to mostly new buyers—people who want to invest in blue-chip 20th-century masters,” Joseph Nahmad says. But, he says, there is simply “less supply” in this field.

The shrinking supply of Modern art is compounded by the growth of the market. An unprecedented number of people have begun to buy art over the past decade, and the potentially limitless store of works by contemporary (or prolific post-war) artists is driving the redefinition of “blue-chip”. “The nature of buying” has changed, Gray says. “There is a far more diverse market nowadays, especially for artists such as Wool, Warhol, Basquiat and Murakami. It ranges from very serious collectors to those who are just plain wealthy.”

As the number of buyers has increased, “the category of artists considered to be blue-chip has expanded”, says Serena Cattaneo Adorno, the director of Gagosian Gallery, Paris. “There are bound to be artists whom people move towards when they can’t find the earlier ones,” says Nicholas Maclean of the secondary market dealership Eykyn Maclean. Artists such as Warhol (on show at galleries including Mnuchin, 2.0/E9, Daniel Blau, 2.0/B4, and Dominique Lévy, 2.0/F4) and Basquiat (at Gagosian, 2.0/B15, and Acquavella, 2.0/E16) have now almost completely replaced Modern masters, such as Miró, Mondrian and Kandinsky, as the mainstays at Basel.

“The dividing line between what is Modern and what’s contemporary moves with time. History is mobile,” says the art adviser Stefano Basilico. Louise Bourgeois is “the perfect example of an artist who becomes blue-chip over time”, says Florian Berktold of Hauser & Wirth (2.0/C10), which presented a group of the artist’s “Personages” from the 1940s and 1950s. Other such artists include Donald Judd (on show with David Zwirner, 2.0/F5) and Carl Andre (with the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Unlimited, U60).

History might wait to judge the living, but today’s art market moves with more haste. A number of living artists now fall into the blue-chip class and their work is in ample supply at the fair (with prices to rival those of their predecessors). Among them is the German painter Gerhard Richter. A new record for the most expensive living artist at auction was set last month when Richter’s Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan), 1968, sold at Sotheby’s for $37m. Two abstract canvases—a 1992 painting at Dominique Lévy on offer for $20m, and a 1984 work at Richard Gray on offer for $6.5m—are on show at the fair.

Joining the blue-chip club

Artists who came of age in the 1980s are also “now considered truly blue-chip”, says Adam Sheffer of Cheim & Read (2.0/C14). “Enough time and art history has passed for people to realise the importance of artists like Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Cindy Sherman.” All three are represented at the fair: Holzer’s Truisms: All things are delicately interconnected… ($750,000), which dates to 1987, is on show at Cheim & Read, while Sprüth Magers (2.0/B19) sold Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still, 1979, for $800,000, as well as Kruger’s Made for you, 2013, for $250,000.

Some argue the case for Christopher Wool, whose Untitled, 2001 ($1.5m), and Untitled, 2004 ($845,000), sold at Luhring Augustine (2.0/E13). The market for pieces by Wool, who has a solo exhibition at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum this autumn, has exploded over the past three years.

Ultimately, time will tell which artists enter the canon of art history. “You can be contemporary and be blue-chip, but you have to have had an impact on a certain generation of artists,” says Thaddaeus Ropac (2.0/B11), whose sales include a 2013 work by Georg Baselitz, Not yet titled (Kleine Marokkanerin), for €950,000. “A shooting star is not blue-chip,” he warns.

For the moment, however, collectors are enjoying the intergenerational diversity. The Italian collector Jean Pigozzi says: “I want to see new art, not the same old pieces on and on.”

Trends Fairs Switzerland

Importance of being abstract

Abstract art dominates the fair as collectors seek less flashy works and artists begin to update the form

Gerhard Richter, 924-1 STRIP, 2012, at Marian Goodman Gallery

Abstract art, the form that dominated the 20th century, once again reigns supreme at the 44th edition of Art Basel. As the fair opened yesterday to the great, the rich and the famous—including the man of the month, Massimiliano Gioni, the director of the Venice Biennale, Russia’s power couple Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova, and the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Lukas Haas—visitors were confronted with a variety of non-representative, non-figurative art.

Historical pieces by abstract pioneers include kinetic sculptures by Alexander Calder (such as Blue Flower, Red Flower, 1975, at Tina Kim/Kukje, 2.0/F6, priced at $2.8m), Minimalist wall pieces by Donald Judd (including Untitled (Ballantine 89-49), 1989, priced at $2.4m with David Zwirner, 2.0/F5) and various large abstract works by Richter (a 1984 example is on show at Richard Gray Gallery, 2.0/E4, priced at $6.5m; a piece from 1992 is on offer with Dominique Lévy Gallery, 2.0/F4, for “under $20m”). In equal abundance are works by contemporary artists who have taken on the abstract mantle, including Christopher Wool (Untitled, 2001, at Luhring Augustine, 2.0/E13, $1.5m) and Albert Oehlen (FM44, 2011, which sold to a European collector for €250,000 within hours of the fair’s opening at Galerie Max Hetzler, 2.0/E7).

“The abstract abounds,” says Lisa Spellman, the founder of New York’s 303 Gallery (2.1/J21). She is showing non-figurative works priced between $150,000 and $250,000, including two large 2013 works by the gallery’s recently recruited artist Jacob Kassay, which were bought together by a European private collector, and six ceramic works by Nick Mauss, which sold for $23,000 each. Sean Kelly (2.1/N2) designed his stand according to “different ideas of abstraction”, centred around Joseph Kosuth’s Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), 1967, priced at €100,000. “There’s a lot of really good [abstract] work being done across all media right now—painting, photography, conceptual—and we wanted to reflect that,” he says. New works on show include Callum Innes’s Untitled, 2013, a large oil and shellac canvas, which sold to a private US collector for £50,000.

The artist Ad Reinhardt famously said that his 1960s “black” abstract works marked the end of painting, but the abstract form “remains wide open to fresh contributions”, says Robert Storr, the dean of the Yale University School of Art, who is organising a Reinhardt exhibition for David Zwirner in New York this November. It is “one of the great inventions of Modern art that is barely a century old”—rather, it is “a century young”, he says.

Can today’s artist move the once-radical form in a new, meaningful direction? “The problem is, there is a group of lower-tier abstract painters who are good and whose work looks beautiful, but what they are bringing to the table in terms of art history is nothing new. They are not adding to the conversation,” says the New York-based art adviser Lisa Schiff.

She highlights exceptions whom she thinks are “making enough of a formal innovation to stand alone”. These include the US artist Garth Weiser, whose Sedaka, 2013, sold for $55,000 to a private US collector within half an hour of the fair’s opening at Casey Kaplan (2.1/N16). Massimo De Carlo (2.1/N3) has hung three equal-sized abstract works by different artists next to each other, to “explore the possibilities of abstract art”, says Flavio del Monte, the gallery’s institutional relations manager. “We are bombarded by images everywhere today, so it is important for artists to take some distance,” he says. Loring Randolph, a director at Casey Kaplan, says: “The abstract is always relevant; you can have a rhetoric behind it that can be whatever you want.” Today’s practitioners, she says, “think about how the concept [of the abstract] and the process can work together”.

Process is key: artists are experimenting with materials and technology that were previously unavailable, to update the form. Denise René’s stand (2.0/D19) includes works by the Brussels-based artist group LAb[au]. The pieces, such as Particle Springs, 2011, priced at €27,000, use computer algorithms to create moving, smoke-like patterns on monitors. Mitchell-Innes & Nash (2.0/E6) is showing avant-garde masters such as Franz Kline (Provincetown II, 1959, around $10m) alongside younger artists including Keltie Ferris (Laissez-Faire, 2013, $50,000), whose work is inspired by graffiti and digitalisation.

For some, abstract art provides the chance to explore art history in a new way. At Galerie Nordenhake (2.1/P9), the 29-year-old artist Paul Fägerskiöld has used spray paint to create a homage to both Jackson Pollock and the Pointillists in his monochrome Untitled (Yellow), 2013, €25,000, which sold to a private German museum. At Sperone Westwater (2.0/E10), Emil Lukas’s thread-painting diptych panels Curtain East and Curtain West, 2013, which sold for $65,000, are influenced by Sol LeWitt.

The trend is market-led, too. The boom years were characterised by flashy, self-explanatory art, but there has been a return to more thoughtful, abstract forms such as those produced by artists within the European Zero group. “We staged an exhibition of their work in 2008, which raised consciousness for an American audience to whom the work seemed new. The response was strong and has increased,” says Angela Westwater, the co-director of Sperone Westwater. The gallery is showing works by artists associated with the group, including Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, 1958, priced at around €1m, and Otto Piene’s 1975 oil and fire on canvas, Red Matters, priced at €250,000. Meanwhile, post-recession records have been achieved at auction for works by abstract artists, including the $43.8m paid for Barnett Newman’s Onement VI, 1953, at Sotheby’s in New York last month. “Collectors now want quieter, intellectual art with more depth. The years of the loud, funny works are over,” says Bob van Orsouw (2.1/P17), who is showing works including a wall sculpture by the Dutch conceptual artist Ger van Elk (Los Angeles Freeway Flyer, 1973, €125,000).

The fact that much abstract art is easy on the eye (and looks good above the sofa) could be one of the attractions for some of the new buyers who have entered the market since 2008, according to some in the trade. “It doesn’t seem so long ago that figurative art was the latest fashion; now it’s good-looking abstract,” one London dealer says. Others do not see the problem. “Who says that decorative art is not also serious art? Matisse and virtually all of Islamic tradition attest to the fact that it is or can be,” Robert Storr says, adding: “Is Mondrian eye-candy?”

Venice Biennale 2013: Reports, reviews, images, interviews




Chinese palette

Updated: 2013-06-21 11:40

By Mariella Radaelli ( China Daily)
 Chinese palette

Fang Lijun’s oil painting Dream of Peace. Photos Provided to China Daily

 Chinese palette

An untitled work by Fang from 2011.

 Chinese palette

Cai Guoqiang’s work A Wolf Among Wolves.

 Chinese palette

An artist with his shells at this year’s Venice Biennale.

Europeans have developed taste for diverse array of work by china’s artists

Contemporary Chinese art has a strong presence at this year’s Venice Biennale, evidence of a growing appetite for it across Europe.

Stimulating exhibitions displaying the work of both new and established artists that is surprising, entertaining and moving represents a diverse national artistic landscape that is winning growing global respect.

An exhibition titled Culture-Mind-Becoming, which opened at the Biennale on June 1, aims to embrace the complexity of thought and themes characteristic of contemporary Chinese art, with its free and unexpected aesthetics. Presented by the Global Art Center Foundation at Palazzo Mora and Palazzo Marcello, it illustrates and interprets the major expressions of an extremely heterogeneous art scene.

The exhibiting artists include renowned names familiar to the US and European art circuits such as Xu Bing and Cai Guoqiang, while the solo show A Cautionary Vision is devoted to Fang Lijun, a prominent representative of the 1990s China New Art, and an exponent of the so-called cynical realism movement.

Fang’s art is an emblematic and remarkable example of how a modern-day A-list Chinese artist pushes deeply into pure painting, avoiding the influences of the signal movements of modern art.

Fang took a formative trip to Germany, but his approach is immediate, not mediated by the European avant-garde, from futurism to surrealism, which changed the course of painting so dramatically.

Fang’s 15 large paintings are on display at Palazzo Marcello: each 7 to 8 meters wide depicting magnificent scenery, figures of people either floating in clouds or dwelling in the sea, and newborn babies riding storks or enclosed in claustrophobic bubbles. All the well-balanced compositions are characterized by a playful, ironic painterly touch, and a vivid sense of fragments.

According to curator Danilo Eccher, current director of Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, Fang’s art expresses a cautionary vision of the structural intricacies of world reality, so it demands to be analyzed and interpreted in the context of complexity theory, which interconnects with chaos theory, complex algorithms and quantum physics.

“In this context, the work of Fang testifies to the complex relationship between one-off and multiple, singularity and quantity, just as, in the algorithm of starlings in flight, the chaotic unpredictability of one bird’s movement triggers an orderly collective of birds that move together in unison,” the curator says.

His art is imbued with the Eastern metaphorical visual tradition. “It enshrines all the secrets of the East,” Eccher says. “A sweet, simple figurative style enveloped in a brilliant use of color; a visionary, childlike fascination with an unattainable world; and a calm, graceful, balanced narrative. But all of this is just the brilliant patina of a style of painting that is able to suggest the contemporary anguish of loss of identity, the obsession of the collective, the presence of disease, pain, sin. It is an art of ambiguity and deceit, of levity and depth, of nightmares and emotions, of cynical fantasies.

“Solar luminosity and nocturnal tragedy coexist in these works, which liberate bats and mice, cram jubilant crowds of madmen on the edge of the abyss. Fang Lijun does not simply dramatize contradiction; rather than limit himself to the astonishing effect of opposition, his cynical realism is in reality a narrative about complexity, about the art of chaos that refutes linear interpretation, and that is immersed in an engorgement of languages and meanings.”

Having innate insights into the popular knowledge of his national heritage, Fang is an epic storyteller whose art derives from a sensitive observance of the vast reality of his native China.

Eccher considers Fang one of the most innovative of today’s painters. “His figurative paintings, so purely Chinese, are at virtuoso level both in technique and precision, especially regarding his passion, so typically Chinese, for details.”

Fang calls himself a “wild dog”: the last thing he needs is conversion to any symbol. He resists all symbols.

Interest in contemporary Chinese art has grown enormously over the past 20 years. But in general, how is contemporary Chinese art perceived in Europe?

The International Art Venice Biennale presented the first artists from the Chinese mainland exactly 20 years ago.

“After the pioneering phase of great enthusiasm and curiosity, which started in the early 90s, about 10 years ago we moved on to a second phase, entirely focused on investigation, a more accurate study and critical analysis,” Eccher says. Germany was the first European country to establish stable relationships with Chinese artists, he says. “Nevertheless, some artists preferred to deal with French galleries and art dealers.” Eccher insists that Italy today is one of the countries most interested in Chinese art.

“Several collectors and specialized galleries, such as Galleria Continua and Primo Marella, have opened branches in Beijing. In general, many galleries both in Europe and America have expanded their operations into China, an extremely creative part of the world nowadays.”

Today’s Chinese artists are at a riveting stage, with the majority erudite, according to Eccher. “A-list Chinese artists know Western art history quite well, but are not affected by the very idea of the avant-garde, which has been introduced through contact with the West, since it does not belong to their own spirit and DNA.

“That is why their signature iconography is very much freer; that is why Chinese art is an incredible aesthetic laboratory in which artists can experiment with new interpretative methodologies. I personally spot exceptional talent every time I visit China.”

The European viewer interacts with a Chinese painting in a less predictable way than when put in front of a contemporary Western art object, he says.

“Unexpected surprises are disclosed to a Western gaze; she or he can experience a sense of disorientation or alienation in front of a Chinese artwork. Because any aesthetic experience is not a gratuitous epiphany: viewers bring their aesthetic knowledge to the aesthetic encounter with the art object.”

This makes this particular “Chinese experience” more challenging, he says.

“We are inviting European viewers to interact with fascinating art codes coming from China.”

It is almost obligatory now to mention the presence of Xu Bing and Cai Guo-Quiang, both in the first and second sections of the exhibition. Xu, widely regarded as one of the most important artists of his generation for informing his work with the engagement of language and history, in Venice presents his new multimedia installation Work on Site. Cai, whose artistic language has a direct and deliberate reference to Chinese iconography (his gunpowder works are renowned on a global scale) returns to Venice for the third time.

The first collective section titled Rediscover, which is organized by independent Dutch curator Karlyn De Jong, highlights the fact that many Chinese artists feel obliged to rediscover their own cultural roots as a source of nutrition for their work.

According to De Jong, in Europe there are two different perceptions towards contemporary Chinese art. “One is that of curiosity and interest for what is happening in your country, an attitude that goes beyond personal taste. China and Chinese art is a ‘world’ that for us Europeans is very difficult to get an insight into. To understand such a varied culture is not easy and requires serious research in many aspects of Chinese life.”

The second attitude? “I am afraid it is a negative one: a large number of Europeans are not open enough to learning new things. It is an opinion that considers European, or Western, art as the main or the real art.

“Chinese art is visually quite different, for example, from the European Zero movement. Since it is so richly varied, and understanding it requires a lot of knowledge, it is an easy way out to just say it is ‘not good’. For me, art is always an expression of a human act, no matter whether I personally like it or not.”

The second section, Ingrandimento (Enlargment), which is curated by Huang Du and Yang Shinyi, aims to show the contemporary Chinese aesthetic in its grandest variety, and reflects on the value of contemporary Chinese art, which lies in refracting cultural potential and vitality in the process of China’s modernization.

By contrast a delicacy and gentleness pervades Mao Lizi’s abstract artworks, inventive and very poetic in a minimalist manner in his personal quest for infinity.

For China Daily



55th Venice Biennale Part I: The Pavillions

17 June 2013

Carmen Ansaldo – Venice

The start of June (2013) marks the public opening of the world’s largest art fair, the Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, commonly known as the Venice Biennale. The Biennale’s 55th installment includes 88 national pavilions and 48 collateral exhibitions spread throughout the traditional venues of the Giardini and Arsenale, as well as the city of Venice itself. Of the 88 countries holding official pavilions this year, ten are debuting for the first time. and the inclusion of Angola, Bahamas, Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Kuwait, Maldives, Paraguay, Tuvalu and the Vatican was highly anticipated by Biennale attendees.

Unsurprisingly, some of the established pavilions invested seriously in large-scale artworks of spectacle, with far more of these works being pulled off successfully compared to previous Biennales. Vadim Zakharov’s interactive installation for the Russian pavilion, Danae, involves an actor dressed as a corporate businessman watching over a shower of gold coins that fall from the roof to the pavilion floor two stories below. Female participants are invited to scoop up the coins and pour them back into a machine which would start the process again. Referencing the Greek myth of the same name, Danae considers the patriarchal nature of capitalism and its corresponding emotions of greed and corruption. In the Israeli pavilion, Gilad Ratman’s The Workshop, also makes a monumental effort to create a non-linear narrative of travelling artists who make a pilgrimage from Israel to Venice. Arriving at the Israeli pavilion through a hole in the floor, they use the space to create self portraiture busts out of clay, a gesture that is concerned with youth resistance, nationalism, self and place.

A third and more surprising large scale entry was Latvia’s North By Northeast, a joint installation by Kaspars Podnieks and Krišs Salmanis that features photographic portraits of rural Latvians posing in the thick of Winter. Their subjects’ gaze toward the viewer is constantly broken by a massive, leafless tree suspended to the pavilion roof. The tree swings continuously like a pendulum down the length of the room. This organic theme was exceptionally prominent within the pavilions; Berlinde de Bruyckere consuming Belgium’s entire space with a sculpture of a dead trunk made entirely out of bruised, fleshy coloured wax; Finland’s Aalto pavilion features work from Antti Laitinen who separated 100 m² of forest floor into distinct layers in order to document each layer and present them as a photographic collage; Spain’s Laura Almarcegui had collected massive piles of glass, stone and dirt from defunct industrial sites and meticulously separated them into massive piles which elegantly spill from the gallery spaces of the pavilion.

Although the gesture of international collaboration is not lost on any attendee, smaller countries, especially those who have endured European (cultural) colonisation, would benefit far more from granting their national artists the exposure Venice provides before showcasing the work of established internationals.
The inclusion of the Vatican bore the brunt of expectation among the new inclusions. Predictably titled In the Beginning, the Holy See steered away from exhibiting its own art collection and invited contemporary artists to interpret the first book of Genesis and themes of creation and destruction. The interactive projection by Studio Azzurro that dominated the pavilion lacked the conceptual power to grapple with the allocated theme, despite a noticeable investment in the technology and resolution of the artwork (viewers could activate stories from subjects within the projection by touching them). Criticisms of strong religious overtones, too much money and not enough substance could have also been applied to the Chinese pavilion’s group exhibition Transfiguration. Curator Wang Chunchen’s ambition to create a Chinese method for constructing a Chinese art history which stood outside the Western canon fell flat, perhaps due to the crude parallels he attempts to make between the transformation of Jesus and the changing cultural landscape of China.

Some of the other major pavilions have clearly made a conscious step away from larger scale works to showcase more modest and contemplative artists. It appears as though the USA has taken on board criticism from their last pavilion entry (which was considered to be tacky in its overt references to US militarism) and is exhibiting Sarah Sze’s Triple Point. Sze’s intricate, thoughtful, yet ambitious system of everyday materials are arranged into massive sculptural systems that function toward no determinable ends. Likewise, Ari Sala’s Ravel Ravel Unravel at the French Pavilion consists of three simple, inter-related projections that interpret through piano and DJ booth the 1930 composition of Concerto in D for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel. Smaller pavilions who have similarly taken a more circumspect and focused approach include the New Zealand pavilion with Bill Culbert’s sculptures of domestic furniture intersected with fluorescent lights, the ceramic and wood sculptures of the Netherlands’ Mark Manders whose materials similarly collide with each other with exceptional results. Most notably, the particularly well-curated Latin American pavilion. Titled IILA, the cluster of disparate artists and concerns from sixteen countries including Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Cuba form a vibrant and eclectic cohesion that engages with international contemporary art while revealing previously unknown particulars of their locales and cultural contexts.

Pavilions who have their finger firmly on the pulse of political events include Greece, who exhibit Stefanos Tsivopoulos’s three narrative videos staging relationships between affluent individuals and money called History Zero; the Japanese pavilion who host the experimental collaborations of Koki Tanaka in the exhibition Abstractly Speaking – Sharing uncertainty and collective acts, and Turkey’s three channel video collage by Ali Kazama Resistance which documents various sub-cultural forms of defiance that manifest themselves on the body. Other pavilions reference national politics in less successful ways, and it was disappointing to find that Kuwait’s debut appeared to be a photographic installation in service of the state, rather than an exhibition involving freely formed artistic motivation.

The cultural specificity of nationality was resisted by some other pavilions for gestures of internationalism. Germany offering the main room of their pavilion to one of Ai Wei Wei’s older works Bang (2010); Kenya opened their pavilion to showcase the works of eight Chinese artists (whilst only including two of their own two nationals); the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed Kazem devoting their entire pavilion to an immersive installation of a vast and dark ocean-scape complete with GPS coordinates; and the Bahamas debuted with documentation of artist Tavares Strachan’s expedition to the Arctic, mimicking the 1909 expedition of Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Alexander Henson. Although the gesture of international collaboration is not lost on any attendee, smaller countries, especially those who have endured European (cultural) colonisation, would benefit far more from granting their national artists the exposure Venice provides before showcasing the work of established internationals.

The contemplative and concise curatorial direction many pavilions demonstrated at the 55th Venice Biennale offers many possibilities for the future. There is a decisive movement away from the ‘bigger is better’ attitude of past years. Instead of riding the rollercoaster of tremendous successes and flops, the standard of the pavilions this year is consistent in its high quality. The inclusion of younger and emerging artists, more contemporary works and so many new countries has breathed life into the usual roll-call of blockbusters to prove that the world’s largest biennale still has the capacity to be brave, edgy and relevant. — [O]

Carmen Ansaldo is a freelance art writer from Brisbane, Australia; based in Berlin.

Vadim Zakharov
Danaë, 2013
Installation view, Russian Pavillion

Vadim Zakharov
Danaë, 2013 (Detail)

Sarah Sze
Triple Point, 2013
Installation view, USA Pavillion

Sarah Sze
Triple Point, 2013
Installation view, USA Pavillion

Bill Culbert
Front Door Out Back, 2013
Installation view, New Zealand Pavillion

Lara Almarcegui
Installation view, Spanish Pavillion

Mark Manders
Room with a Broken Sentence, 2013
Installation view, Netherlands Pavillion

(China Daily Africa Weekly 06/21/2013 page24)



Katya Soldak

Katya Soldak, Contributor

I cover business, politics and culture in Eastern Europe.

6/14/2013 @ 1:15AM |803 views

Summer In Venice: A Rich Tapestry Of World Art

This summer, for the 55th time, the Venice Biennale features an overwhelming amount of art from all over the world. With the spotlight on the nations that for years have brought their art to the City of Water, there are some new additions outside of the main space of the Arsenale and Giardini park. Artists from Eastern Europe and Central Asia – regions separated for decades by the so-called iron curtain – are now regular participants of the Biennale.

Lost in Translation; Tolstoy and Hens, installation by Oleg Kulik

Russia. Russia is definitely not staying on the sidelines this year. Russian art patron Leonid Mikhelson (net worth $15.4 bln, Russia’s third richest man), through his foundation V-A-C, is one of the main sponsors of this year’s Biennale. The Russian pavilion in Giardini Park is represented by Vadim Zakharov’s installation Danaë (curated by Udo Kittelmann), a modern interpretation of an old Greek myth, with golden coins falling from the roof into a “ladies only” zone where female visitors can walk protected by umbrellas, while men eye them from the upper level. Russian art is not limited by the sleek and shiny national pavilion: The Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA) brought a couple of exhibitions to this year’s Biennale—a group exhibition Lost in Translation and Katya, photographic plates and bronze sculpture by an American artist, Bart Dorsa.

Lost in Translation, a large show featuring artwork by more then 100 Russian artists, found a place in the exhibition space at the main building of the Ca’ Foscari University. With paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, videos, installations, performances produced between the 1970s and today, the show has become an intersection of politics, social issues and art. Some pieces like Sergey Bratkov’s “Slogan” or Pavel Peppershtein’s “Socialism Will Be Back” can indeed lose something in translation, but by no means does it lessen the artistic quality. It offers an intense overview of Russian art made over the past four decades. The show is haunted by the shadows of the soviet past and seems to be bridging it into an uncertain future. Which, admittedly, is a theme that’s common for other exhibitions created by countries that have undergone serious transitions in their recent history.

Slogan, by Sergey Bratkov

Ukrainian national pavilion. The Monument to a Monument is a show by artists of the younger generation. Mykola Ridnyj, Hamlet Zinkovskyi and Zhanna Kadyrova displayed their artwork in Palazzo Loredan. There are no wooden eggs and iconographic references that Oksana Mas showed at the previous year’s Biennale.

The Monument to a Monument, sculptures by Mykola Ridnyj

This time, Ukrainians delivered sculptures and drawings (a wall full of match boxes with tiny portraits sketched inside them), installations (a video camera with a beam of light made of concrete), and videos filling rooms with glimpses of Ukraine’s turbulent recent years, with the destruction of the utopia of the past and history manipulation as some of the motifs.

Ukraine is no stranger to social and political problems: “An artist, I believe, must not forget about them and has to reflect on them in some way,” said Mykola Ridnyj, whose project was inspired by the recent dismantling of an old Soviet monument that for four decades was a landmark in his native city of Kharkiv. In addition to showing the monument being taken down, he brought videos with stories from the 1990s.

Sergej Khachaturov, an art critic from Russia, said at the opening that he appreciated the artists’ efforts to integrate social and political issues. “It’s nice that this show suggests creative participation of the audience,” he added.

Azerbaijan. The national pavilion presented Ornamentation, an exhibition featuring six artists from Baku (Rashad Alakbarov, Sanan Aleskerov, Chingiz Babayev, Butunay Hagverdiyev, Fakhriyya Mammadova, Farid Rasulov), and it was commissioned by a foundation headed by Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva. The pavilion is adorned with traditional, decorative patterns and displays photographs, installations and paintings.

Love Me, Love Me Not; Recycled, by Aida Mahmudova

Besides the Azerbaijani Pavilion, there was a group show produced by YARAT! – a relatively new non-profit organization from Baku. It’s titled Love Me, Love Me Not, and located on the north side of Arsenale, showcasing work by 17 artists from Azerbaijan and its neighbors – Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Georgia.

“We wanted to show the connection between these countries that are in close contact—and the differences between us, at the same time.” Said Aida Mahmudova, the founder of YARAT! and an artist herself. She brought to Venice a sculpture, Recycled, made of metal window grates she had found in Baku and stainless steel.

Traditional carpets seem to be an infinite source of inspiration for Azerbaijani artists. However, Faig Ahmed’s thread installation breaks the pattern: he destroyed the carpet by pulling the threads out of a carpet, creating an “embroidered space”. “I like to make them and change them” Ahmed said.

Thread installation by Faig Ahmed

The time of transition – breaking ties with the Soviet Union and forging on into mysterious capitalism – shows through various parts of the exhibition, such as Orkhan Huseynov’s recreation of a typical living room of the 1990s, full of western VHS tapes and posters of Bruce Lee.

While some may have described this year’s Biennale as political and “bleak, recession-era”, emerging countries (not just Ukraine, Russia, and Azerbaijan but also Georgia, Lithuania, Armenia, countries of Central Europe and the Middle East among others) generate art that captures change and irony, often creating unexpected narratives.





I magine a single work of art that captured a sense that, after all these decades of trying, modern art hasn’t managed to change the world, or even much affect it. A sense that, for all its variety, modern art—maybe most of Western art for the last 500 years—has been nothing more than a series of moves in a series of games, like clever new plays in clever new versions of football. And imagine that this imaginary artwork managed to condense all the longings of every artist, curator, and critic for an art that was much more than such games, for an art that truly mattered. And then imagine that this work packaged that longing as one giant sigh, from knowing it could never be more than longing.

That artwork is this year’s Venice Biennale, the 55th edition of the world’s most prestigious aesthetic pulse taking, which opened to the public Saturday. At the heart of the this year’s Biennale is a giant group exhibition called The Encyclopedic Palace, put together by Italian curator Massimiliano Gioni, on secondment from his day job at the New Museum in New York. And Gioni’s group show, more focused and polished than any previous year’s, utters the pungent sigh I’ve described.

Stefano Rellandini/ReutersCampo de Color by Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone.

Rather than offer up a sampling of the best and brightest work being made today, the show digs back into the last 100 years or so of making art, looking for all the times when art has had ambitions beyond merely being good. At the show’s beginning, in the Central Pavilion in the Biennale gardens, there is a room dedicated to Carl Jung’s Red Book, the manuscript in which the famous analyst recorded the images he saw in his dreams and that he thought would grant new access to our hive mind. (The drawings are vaguely medieval and corny, like something out of Game of Thrones: “Bring forth the Red Book of necromancy! We shall conjure the spirits of Targaryens past.”)

Scattered elsewhere throughout the show are works by outsider artists (even more “outside” than the nutty Jung) whose manic objects arose in response to compulsions or madness. There are the lifelike plaster dolls of a Chicago man named Morton Bartlett, made and kept in the privacy of his home; there are private erotic drawings by a repressed Soviet teenager and secret naughty photos of a visionary’s wife; there are arcane images made in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner and at various times by any number of his colleagues in theosophical and mystic pursuits. These people’s works weren’t meant as clever art-world conceits or witty decoration or fancy goods for sale. However bizarre the look of this outsider art, it almost always has a function that transcends simply looking.

gopnik art
Lucy HoggPaul McCarthy’s Children’s Anatomical Educational Figure and John DeAndrea’s Ariel II.

Gioni balances that strangeness with works that take a very different, but equally “functional,” approach to art making: images that address reality with an almost scientific reverence for what’s in it. They give a sense that the world itself, rather than the artistic act of picturing it, is what’s really at stake. The second half of Gioni’s show, filling the vast warehouses of Venice’s old Arsenale, begins with J.D. ’Okhai Ojeikere’s wonderful photos of elaborate Nigerian hairstyles, but also touches down on the stunning bird photography of Eliot Porter (son of Fairfield, the great realist painter) and on Kan Xuan’s giddy slide show of every surviving imperial burial mound in China. A French artist named Camille Henrot, while on fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., cobbled together a manic video collage of all the different aspects of her host’s famous dedication to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” It is exploration on both steroids and speed, as Henrot explores the explorers.

And here’s what happens when all of these different kinds of images, with their very un-arty goals, get included in the Venice Biennale: each and every one becomes art, not so different from a Jeff Koons dog or a Damien Hirst spot.

Stefano Rellandini/ReutersJeremy Deller’s The Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, UK 24 October 2007.

Ever since Duchamp’s urinal hit the scene in 1917, and possibly for a dozen or more decades before that, what has set artwork off from other things in the world is not what it looks like or what it references or anything it does, but the fact that we’ve been invited to contemplate it as art. And that’s what every visitor was doing with every work on view during the preview days of the Venice Biennale. (Although “contemplate” is a rather grand word for the casual grazing that was going on, with the audience acting more like shoppers at Bloomingdale’s than reflective Kenneth Clarks.) The show’s mystic art wasn’t giving anyone mystic powers; visitors were hardly “using” the erotica the way its makers had. The most informative photos were barely informing; they were being enjoyed as fine art with an informative flair.

Gioni’s show, for all the old ghosts it channels, also seems to insist that looking back to a time when art mattered cannot be the way forward for the art of today. Or maybe it suggests something rather more melancholic than that: that there’s not really a way forward at all, because art’s games, on view in this show in every possible permutation, have simply exhausted themselves. Whatever ambitions a work of art may have, it ends up being just more of the same.

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/GettyVladimir Perić and Miloš Tomić’s joint exhibit, Nothing Between Us.

A talisman for this view might be a recent video by the Pole Artur Żmijewski, one of the grimmest and greatest artists working today. In this work, titled Blindly, Żmijewski offers paper and paint to a number of unsighted people, getting them to depict themselves and landscapes and beasts. He documents the eagerness of their attempts as well as their befuddlement when faced with the task, not to mention their moments of evident failure: a brush still being used once it has run dry; a blind artist wanting to add on to his sun but losing track of where he painted it. And, of course, Żmijewski documents the sorry results of their efforts: gloppings and scratchings of color that barely depict what they show. And it’s impossible not to think that Żmijewski feels that their fates as artists are the same as his: condemned to a blind groping for success, without ever sensing where success might lie or knowing if it’s in reach.

But here’s the thing: even for the blind making useless messes, the attempt somehow seems worth the trouble.


Katya SoldakKatya Soldak, Contributor I cover business, politics and culture in Eastern Europe
6/06/2013 @ 1:42PM |436 views

The Venice Biennale: Money For Art

Palazzo Contarini Polignac (Venice, Italy) Take a vaporetto down the Canal Grande in Venice, Italy, towards Accademia Bridge and nearby you’ll see a cheerful, multicolored banner that reads “Future Generation Art Prize” and a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag mounted on an old Palazzo Contarini Polignac. Part of the 55th Venice Biennale – a major contemporary art festival running from June to November this year – the Future Generation Art Prize is a show that exhibits work by 21 young artists from all over the world, including the main prize winner Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, selected by a reputable international jury for a $100,000 biennial award established by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation for artists under the age of 35. Sculptures, video art, installations, performances and paintings by artists from 16 different countries have filled the walls of the renaissance palace built in the 15th century providing a galvanic collision of space and content. “People are always impressed by the capacity of these young artists who take a space like this” said Bjorn Geldhof, deputy artistic director forPinchukArtCenter (PAC). This is the second time The Future Generation Art Prize, financed by a Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk, has appeared in Venice. “Venice is really its own city with its own climate and its own identity and to have a young generation of artists come here is very special” Conceptually diverse, artworks come in various forms, from wood block toys to split video screens to old Venetian piles and plastic bags, not forgetting to mention shadows and sounds. Bjorn Geldhof of PAC and artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; Photo: Sergey Illin The winner of the prize, Yiadom-Boakye, 36, has a room full of paintings—oil on canvas in muted dark colors, images of black people shaking hands, moving, walking (“I imagine they are going to the beach at night time – it’s more about motion” she said about one of her works). Yiadom-Boakye, an artist of Ghanaian descent, was born in London, graduated from Saint Martins College of Art and Design at Falmouth University and received her Master’s at the Royal Academy Schools in Britain. The jury that chose her as the main winner was the remarkable ensemble of curators and art professionals: Massimiliano Gioni, the curator of this year’s Venice Biennale and the associate director of the New Museum in New York; Nancy Spector, the deputy director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA in Kassel; Hans Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery; the curators Agnaldo Farias (Brazil) and Carol Yinghua Lu (China) – and, of course, the general director of the PAC, Eckhard Schneider, who used to be the director of the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria before moving to Ukraine. They came together in Kyev in December 2012, looked at the art on display at a special show at PAC, and, after long and opinionated discussions, anonymously decided to give the main prize to Yiadom-Boakye. “I think it enables you to keep working – that’s all, really. That’s nice to be recognized,” Yiadom-Boakye commented on winning the prize that totals $100,000 ( $60,000 in cash and $40,000 investment into an art project). She said she already has something in mind that she would like to work on: “I’ve had this idea of making some kind of an artist book for a while – so maybe I would do that” In addition to getting the Future Generation Art award, she’s shortlisted for this year’s Turner prize. Works by João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva collective Geldhof said that during the discussion process members of the jury looked, mainly, for the highest quality work and they all had very strong opinions that varied. “They gave five special prizes – which means something” he said. Five special prizes ($20,000 each) went to Jonathas de Andrade, Brazil; Marwa Arsanios, Lebanon; Micol Assael, Italy; Ahmet Ogut, Turkey; and Rayyane Tabet, Lebanon. They artwork was featured at the show in Venice, among 21 artists that were shortlisted from more than 4,000 applicants. The Future Generation Art Prize is a very young addition to the art world scene. The first award went to Brazilian artist Cinthia Marcelle in 2010. The prize is founded and financed by Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire and self-made tycoon whose fortune comes from producing steel pipes in the 90s and who, over the past decade, has shown some serious appreciation of contemporary art (he acquired a collection of contemporary art work by artists like Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Andreas Gursky among others).   Agnieszka Polska, My Favourite Things Just beginning to get broader acknowledgement within the art world, the Prize nevertheless has quite prominent members on itsboard: the directors of Tate, MoMA, Centre Georges Pompidou, Guggenheim Museum; a few internationally acclaimed artists, foundation founders, and Sir Elton John. British artist Damien Hirst, who is on the board of the prize, said that he first got involved with the award because it’s “a lot of money and it’s great for a young artist” and lack of recourse can be inhibiting for talented people. “It’s brilliant” he said about the prize. Well, everyone agrees it’s a huge amount of money — but what about prestige? “I think it’s beginning to be (prestigious), it’s still relatively new,” Hirst said. Jon Kessler, New York based artist and professor at Columbia University School of The Arts, said that Mr. Pinchuk’s activities in the art world – with the help of his financial resources – are in some ways similar to the early history of established foundations such as Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation in the US back in the days. He said that it’s important to have differences and diversity within the jury. “I think what you have in the art world – that the same people choosing the same people choosing the same people all the time, that is definitely the tendency,” Kessler said during an interview in New York. The Future Generation Art Prize has a chance to bring something fresh. “It (the award) is gonna live or die by the transparency of the process, it’s gonna live or die by the quality of the artists that they pick,” he said. Marc Quinn – a British artist known for his sculptures of people with missing limbs – attended the opening and said he enjoyed the exhibition. “It’s good to have an alternative to Turner prize,” Quinn said. “There is more people involved, it’s more loose, it brings more excitement”. What did he think about the quality of the art? “Some you like, some you don’t like – but that’s good.” “I like the paintings by the winner. She’s a good artist,” he added. The prize comes with a Ukrainian twist—the blue and yellow flag on the Pallazzo wasn’t just to cheer Ukrainian financial backing. “Our home is Kyev, Ukraine,” said Eckhard Schneider, the general director of the PAC. At a separate chapter of the prize, they select a national winner among Ukrainian artists (this time it was Mykyta Kadan) who gets automatically nominated for the international prize. “We bridge the national identity and international challenge”.


Beyond the ‘Palace,’ an International Tour in One City

Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

Venice Biennale Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser’s “387 Houses of Peter Fritz,” right, part of the main show, “The Encyclopedic Palace.” <nyt_byline>

Published: June 5, 2013
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VENICE — Dark weather and high water were the backdrop to the start of the 55th Venice Biennale, an event that predictably combines enough cold cash and hot air to create a storm system of critical opinion. The main barometric indicator is always the big show that gives each Biennale its theme, and on this score, for the first time in years, there’s fairly smooth sailing

The main show, “The Encyclopedic Palace” — organized by Massimiliano Gioni, 39, chief curator at the New Museum in Manhattan and this Biennale’s director — is a quiet success. Spread over two sites, in the park called the Giardini and the fortresslike Arsenale nearby, it’s immense, with more than 150 artists, but as tightly thought out as a small show — maybe too tightly to allow for wild-card surprises. Most shows on this scale are too messy; this one may be too neat. But it works. Plus — a significant plus for anyone fed up to here with big-buck art — “Palace” doesn’t seem to have much interest in the mainstream market. It doesn’t say no to it, exactly. It just goes its own interesting way, not without problems. And of course, the show is not the whole story. The Biennale is as much an archipelago of islands as Venice itself is. Clustered around the main exhibition are dozens of national pavilions, each with an exhibition of its own, with more pavilions scattered around town in premises — churches and palazzi — more interesting than any on the Biennale grounds. Nearly 50 “collateral events,” semiofficially part of the Biennale, must be included in any comprehensive tour. The total is overwhelming, but equipped with decent shoes and multiday vaporetto pass, I saw roughly 80 percent of this year’s sights on a trek that took me through most of city, always the Biennale’s real attraction. Mr. Gioni titled his exhibition after a single piece of art, an 11-foot-high tower built by the self-taught artist Marino Auriti. Born in Italy in 1891, Auriti moved to the United States in the 1920s, settling in Kennett Square, Pa., where he ran an auto body shop while painting on the side. After retiring in the 1950s, he began work on the tower, a stack of seven cylindrical layers surrounded by a colonnaded piazza, constructed of wood, glass and plastic (including hair combs). He conceived it as a model for a museum to be called the Encyclopedic Palace of the World, which would display the range of human achievement, “from the wheel to the satellite.” He also made it a monument to ethical values, spelled out on the colonnade entablatures: “Live by your work,” “Make friends of your enemies,” “Watch that you don’t become greedy.” He wanted the museum to be erected on the Mall in Washington, took out a patent on it, even initiated a fund-raising campaign. Mr. Gioni has placed Auriti’s dream tower up front in the Arsenale as a key to what follows: art that embodies utopian and dystopian visions; or attempts to encompass and categorize vast amounts of data; or is composed of many small and repeated parts. Among works that qualify are paintings by the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, who claimed to receive her images from otherworldly beings. A video by the young French artist Camille Henrot jams the entire creation story into one short, percussively edited video. A set of 130 small clay sculptures made by the Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss cover a period of 30 years. Although Mr. Gioni includes several young artists on the rise — Ed Atkins, Helen Marten, Paloma Polo, James Richards, Shinichi Sawada — he also chooses some offbeat figures, like the nature photographer Eliot Porter, and brings in spiritual utilitarian objects like Tantric paintings and Roman Catholic ex-votos that were not created to be art in the conventional sense. In combining these things, Mr. Gioni refers to the model of the “wunderkammer,” or cabinet of curiosities, collections of uncategorizable, often exotic objects first assembled in Renaissance Europe. This concept is not original, and it gets tricky when, as here, some curiosities are works by “outsider artists,” which can simply mean self-taught, but often implies having some form of physical, social or psychiatric disability. The outsider art concept is tired by now, even ethically suspect, the equivalent of “primitive art” from decades ago. Mr. Gioni finesses the problem without really addressing it by integrating outsider-ish-looking inside art (there’s more and more of this around) so the two designations get blurred. However you label them, it’s great to see in one place outsider pieces like the embroidery-encrusted vestments of the Brazilian Arthur Bispo do Rosario and the paper and twine sculptures of the American James Castle together with out-of-the-mainstream art like the copper-wire paintings by Prabhavathi Meppayil from Bangalore, and the thickly collaged notebooks of the Japanese noise-rock musician Shinro Ohtake. That they’re elbow to elbow with Bruce Nauman, Charles Ray, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel and Jack Whitten is nice too. Ms. Sherman is here as guest curator of a minishow embedded within Mr. Gioni’s larger one, but so much in its spirit as to be indistinguishable as a separate entity. Ms. Trockel is represented by components from the exhibition “A Cosmos,” from the New Museum. She’s an artist I admire, but I found that show surprisingly unsurprising. With a blend of insider-outsider and art-nonart components, it could have been stimulating. But the objects had little to say to one another. I feel a lack of surprise in Mr. Gioni’s show for the opposite reason: Its pairings — spiritualists paintings by af Klint and Emma Kunz, digital-printer abstractions by Alice Channer and Wade Guyton — are too neat and museumy. Yet at the same time, the show’s curatorial line is so firm, its choice of artists so strong and its pacing so expert that you are carried along, and ultimately rewarded. This is particularly true toward the conclusion of the Arsenale, with its purgatory of sculptures by Pawel Althamer, followed by Ryan Trecartin’s video hell, followed by Walter De Maria’s Minimalist heaven. It’s a great end to a serious, standard-setting endeavor. Once outside, you’re in a world of hit and miss among the national pavilions, which tend to be high in polish, low in impact. Some of the best extend the accumulative density of Mr. Gioni’s show. This is true of Sarah Sze’s assemblages of countless tiny found things in the United States pavilion, and of archival photographic installations by Petra Feriancova at the pavilion of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There are persuasive alternatives to material density. In the otherwise empty Romania pavilion, Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus have directed performers in stylized enactments of art from Biennales past. The work owes much to the example of Tino Sehgal, but it has its own charms. (Mr. Sehgal, who is in Mr. Gioni’s show, received the Gold Lion award for best artist this year.) Three young artists, Ei Arakawa, Gela Patashuri and Sergei Tcherepnin, make similarly interactive use the Georgia pavilion, a temporary, raised, loftlike enclosure at the edge the Arsenale for more sporadic performances. And Alfredo Jaar’s show at the Chile pavilion is centered around a sculpture that moves, an exact model of the Giardini campus that emerges from and sinks back into a vat of fetid-looking water. Mr. Jaar is telling a story about the alignment of art and power: Many of the older, pre-World War II pavilions are relics of a murderous nationalism were built as cultural trophies by economically competitive nations that created colonial empires and eventually led Europe into war. This show is filled with narratives. Everything seems to have a back story, many of them politically inflected. Tavares Strachan’s entrancing installation at the Bahamas pavilion tells of exploration and who really got where first. At the Lebanon pavilion, a film by Akram Zaatari fleshes out a real-life account of an Israeli Air Force fighter who, in 1982, was sent to destroy a building in a Lebanese town, recognized the place as a school and dropped his bombs into the sea. And in a church converted into an exhibition space, a group of dioramas installed in a church dramatize, in exacting detail, the ordeal that artist Ai Weiwei underwent in police custody in China. This notable display, technically a collateral event, is not far from the Arsenale but hard to find. Others are long walks or boat rides away, but worth tracking down. An Iraq pavilion is an informal affair up the Grand Canal. You’re invited to relax, read up on Iraq, have tea. And the artists, based in Babylon, Basra and Baghdad, are terrific, from Abdul Raheem Yassir, who has been producing mordant political cartoons since 1970, to the two-man collective called WAMI (Hashin Taeeh and Yaseen Wami), which produces ingenious furniture from cardboard boxes. Without biennales we would probably never see shows of such art, made under truly challenging conditions. And without such shows, we would never see so many of Venice’s varied interiors, from sports arenas (the Cyprus and Lithuania pavilions), to commercial galleries (the Kosovo pavilion), to the National Archaeological Museum, where work by the Cuban-American artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons sits amid Roman sculptures. Every now and then, a visit gives a shock. When I climbed the stairs of an old building to the Angola pavilion, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Gorgeous photographs by Edson Chagas, from the city of Luanda, were there, in neat stacks of giveaway prints. And the walls around them were lined with Renaissance paintings: Sassetta, Bernardo Daddi, Botticelli and Piero di Cosimo. I and Angola were in the Palazzo Cini, a private museum that, except during the Biennale, keeps eccentric hours. Mr. Chagas worked perfectly into the setting. (The pavilion, with his installation, was later awarded best of show.) He and the young curators, Paula Nascimento and Stefano Rabolli Pansera, had keyed colors in the photographs to the paintings: a stack of prints of a blue-painted Luanda door stood in front of a blue-robed Botticelli Virgin. Neither blue was more beautiful than the other, but the African blue was soaked in sunlight. And I could take it away. It made my Venice stay. <nyt_author_id>
The 55th Venice Biennale continues at various locations through Nov. 24;
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: June 7, 2013 Because of an editing error, a picture caption on Thursday with an art review of the Venice Biennale misstated part of the name of the main show in some editions. As the review correctly noted, it is “The Encyclopedic Palace,” not “The Encyclopedia Palace.” In addition, the review misstated the surname of an artist whose work sits amid Roman sculptures at the National Archaeological Museum and referred incompletely to her. She is María Magdalena Campos-Pons, not Camos-Pons, and while she was born in Cuba, she is an American citizen and lives in Massachusetts.


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Biennale Art Exhibition Draws Leonardo DiCaprio, Salma Hayek

3:37 PM PDT 6/6/2013 by Christopher Wyrick
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[1]Jeremy Deller British Council Art - H 2013
Cristiano Corte/Courtesy of British Council

The 55th edition of the oldest international art exhibition featured British artist Jeremy Deller.

Trying to take a vaporetto, the world’s most elegant public bus, in Venice during the Biennale — prime tourist season — is like trying to get from Venice Beach to Chateau Marmont at rush hour. And every car in front of you is full of tourists snapping photos of all the historic buildings along the 10 and the 405. The Hollywood Reporter [2] hopped some planes, trains, automobiles and boats to see how some of the finest artists around the world would represent their native country at the 55th edition of La Biennale di Venezia. The oldest international art exhibition in operation opened on Saturday, June 1, with much fanfare. With its elegant formal pavilion buildings set in the venerable gardens off the Grand Canal, the Biennale is the Wimbledon to Art Basel Miami Beach’s Indian Wells tournament. Consistent with the recent Hollywood involvement in the modern and contemporary auction market, a number of big names were spotted in the fairy tale city in recent days. Leonardo DiCaprio, Elton John and David Furnish; Salma Hayek and husband François-Henri Pinault;Tilda Swinton; and Milla Jovovich were all in Venice this past week. STORY: Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell on His New Exhibit and Visiting a Mexican Prison [5] Artist Cindy Sherman stopped by the party for Tavares Strachan, the Bahamian artist representing his country for the first time at the Venice Biennale. More than 70 countries select one artist for this honor every other year. Strachan’s multimedia installation was inspired by the 1909 polar expedition of Robert Peary and Matthew Alexander Henson. In Strachan’s wondrous collection of works, three geographically and culturally disparate sites — the Venetian Arsenale, downtown Nassau and the North Pole — momentarily coexist in the Bahamian pavilion. His work represents the best of a new generation of artists merging concept and craft in a highly personal and progressive way. All told, over 150 artists represented 88 countries at the event. Notable artists and exhibitions in Venice include Ai Weiwei’s two-part politically charged sculpture exhibition “Disposition”; Tino Seghal, the British-born, Berlin-based conceptual artist who was awarded the Golden Lion award (the Oscar of the Biennale) for best artist for his untitled performance piece; and the Angolan Pavilion, which was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. THR [2] spoke with Jeremy Deller, representing Great Britain at the Biennale, about his controversial installation at the British Pavilion in the Giardini. Fashionably playing the role of bad boy at this year’s Biennale, Deller greeted viewers with an enormous mural of a large predatory bird with a tiny Range Rover in its talons — his response to an incident in recent years involving two highly endangered Hen Harriers that were shot and killed on the Queen’s estate where only Prince Harry and a colleague had been shooting. The investigation was dropped because the birds were never found. Deller shared some thoughts about the provocative works in his exhibition. THR: What an honor. Congratulations. Deller: Thank you. It doesn’t get much bigger than this for an artist. STORY: LACMA Raises Record $3 Million for New Works With Support of Brian Grazer, Bryan Lourd [3] THR: You are working with elements of history in your installation — objects and artifacts from the past as part of the work. Can you talk about your motivation for this? Deller: I may be coming at history from a slightly different angle — a visual angle — a more creative interpretation of history than a textbook version of history. I’m trying to make connections between times of history, people, events, places. In one room there is a mural of William Morris, this great Victorian arts and crafts designer and artist and thinker — a visionary — a painting of a giant William Morris as a colossus throwing Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the lagoon. Two years ago, Roman Abramovich came in his yacht to Venice and just blocked the way — took over the pavement — put up fencing so you couldn’t get around, just basically took over. People were very upset about it. But the way I see it, that’s the reality of the world we’re living in now. So I thought wouldn’t it be great if a giant from the past came back as a real giant, a colossus — as a mythological superhero — and threw this yacht and destroyed it out of rage at this man’s wealth. So that’s what I did. It’s all kind of Ray Harryhausen, the guy who did all the models — Jason and the Argonauts and others. I saw that in the cinema as a child — as a five- or six-year-old that’s pretty intense stuff. It’s a contemporary version of that. That’s the great thing about art: You can have an idea and actually do something. It’s only a painting, we’re not actually making this happen. It’s a fantasy. THR: There is a part of the exhibition that involved you borrowing some Cold War memorabilia from the Wende Museum in Los Angeles.  Deller: Yes, that room is about recent history, but it’s also about Victorian Britain and about the industrialization of Britain and the brutality of all that. And it’s also about the end of the Soviet Union. And that’s how I got in touch with Justin Jampol at the Wende Museum. I went to Los Angeles and met Justin. He had some things, but he said, “Look, now that you’ve told us about this material, we will find it and we will lend you whatever you want that we find.” This was only about four months ago. And so they bought tons of stuff — you can see it up on the wall. And it’s all the material from the end of the Soviet Union when nationalized industries were being sold off to the workers or citizens, but these oligarchs — like the Abramovichs today — they managed to get a hold of all the share certificates, to get the workers’ coupons, to buy them en masse through bank systems, insurance systems, pension systems. And basically own companies at a cut price. They’d use the judiciary and the police to pay off people and if that didn’t work, then they had other means that were a bit more extreme — more final.


Africa triumphs at the Venice BiennaleBy BBC | Friday, June 7   2013 at  14:05

Paula Nascimento, the curator of the Angolan show. PHOTO | BBC 
The long queues in front of Angola’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale bear witness to the extraordinary success that Africa has just had at the ‘Olympics of the art world.’
Ever since it was announced that, out of 88 contenders, Angola had won the Golden Lion award for the best national participation, art lovers and journalists from all over the world have been flocking across the Accademia bridge – from the distant main exhibition areas, the Giardini and the Arsenale – to try to see the show.
Many have left Venice without being able to do so.
The centrepiece of the pavilion – located in a 16th-century building, the Palazzo Cini – is a series of 23 posters, which visitors can take home, with images of objects that photographer Edson Chagas found in the streets of Luanda.
“I waited an hour and a half to get in. After they won the Venice Biennale everyone wanted to see Angola, and it was very much worth the wait,” said Callum Schuster, 24, from Toronto, Canada..
“Inside this beautiful building, [with] very decorative, ornate structures, porcelain, paintings, everything you can imagine inside your typical Venetian palace, they have wooden skids [palettes] filled with posters, cheap paper posters with derelict objects and scenery from the street,” he said.
“Amongst this beautiful interior you see people going crazy, just tearing up the paper; they want to collect these limited edition prints, these photographs from this famous artist who won the Venice Biennale.”
‘Viva Africa’
The Angolan show was curated by architects Paula Nascimento and Stefano Rabolli Pansera.
“We work a lot on issues of urbanism, territory, space and habitation within the city, and we found in the work of Edson Chagas a link through these issues because what Edson does, for us, is not simply an act of documentation but it’s an act of creation and invention,” Ms Nascimento said.
The photographer said that when he finds discarded objects that interest him, he carries them around the city, like performance art.
“I grab the objects and then I find the place that it’s suitable for them to be photographed nicely, giving kind of some importance to them, so they become a piece of art,” Mr Chagas said.
“The idea for the pavilion was to make this performance come inside the pavilion so people could engage with the pictures the same way I was engaging with the objects in the street.”
Angola’s triumph has been celebrated across Venice by the other participating African nations.
“The excitement to me is overwhelming because it’s very important. Angola, this is their first participation and they’ve done it, and they’ve done Africa proud… And if we’re celebrating 50 years after the formation of the OAU (Organization of African Union) with a Golden Lion, it’s viva Africa,” the curator of the Zimbabwe pavilion, Raphael Chikukwa, said.
“This year is amazing because in the last Venice Biennale we were two African countries – South Africa and Zimbabwe – and now we’ve been joined by Ivory Coast, Angola and Kenya. The visibility of African countries this year has increased,” he pointed out.
Zimbabwe is showcasing the work of five artists – Portia Zvavahera, Voti Thebe, Rashid Jogee, Virginia Chihota and Michele Mathison.


The Economist

Contemporary art

The artistic solution

The main theme at the Venice Biennale is: how did the world get into such a mess?

THE world’s biggest art festival, the Venice Biennale, has never been just about art. In 1930 Italy’s Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, saw the Biennale’s potential as a propaganda showcase and ran it from his office. He regarded the event as such a success that four years later he took Hitler on a personal tour. Since the second world war state involvement has been more arm’s length. The British pavilion, for example, is run by the British Council and the State Department delegates responsibility for the American pavilion to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which is based in Venice. This year many of the artists selected to fill their national pavilions are again taking the pulse of their own nations. Ten countries are new participants, including Bosnia and Herzegovina (after a ten-year break), the Bahamas, Angola (which carried off the prize for best pavilion), Tuvalu and the Holy See. The Vatican has used its first appearance to “rebuild relations between art and faith”, in the words of Cardinal Ravasi, the telegenic prelate who is overseeing the project. Its three galleries have been turned over to the creation of the world, though anyone expecting images of the Almighty will be disappointed. The high point is “a sensory journey where the audience is involved in a dialogue that encompasses a crossing of temporal experience”. This is Biennale-speak for an interactive video. In “Creation” by Studio Azzurro, an Italian art collective, the viewer can stretch out a hand in the manner of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and touch a figure on a film being screened on the surrounding walls. The pavilion, which also includes photographs of disintegrating landscapes by a Czech artist, Josef Koudelka, is regarded as a success for its dogma-lite approach. The Iraqi pavilion, in Venice for the second time only, won plaudits for pluck. Jonathan Watkins, its curator, travelled to Baghdad, Basra, Babylon and Kurdistan in an armoured car visiting more than 100 artists before selecting 11 to take part. This is art made against all odds. There is cardboard furniture and a bench that looks like a Chinese bronze, but which has been created from parts of a bicycle. The pavilion has transformed the stately rooms of the Venetian mansion, Ca’ Dandolo, on the Grand Canal into a cosy hospitality suite with sofas, low tables piled with books, and a kitchen that serves mint tea. The euro-zone countries’ pavilions reflect common anxieties. Money, or lack of it, is a major preoccupation. In the Spanish pavilion Lara Almarcegui has placed a vast mound of rubble that reaches up to the ceiling; Stefanos Tsivopoulos in the Greek pavilion has created a wall of text about alternative currencies and a three-part film in which a woman makes bouquets of flowers out of euro notes. The Romanians are on such a tight budget that the walls in their pavilion are completely bare. Instead, five people use only their bodies to “enact” artworks that have featured at past Biennales. The Germans are not the only pavilion to want to stress how open they are to international co-operation and exploring cultural boundaries. But these concepts have special resonance among Germans because, as one attendant said, “Everyone hates us.” Germany has swapped pavilions with France (a nod to the anniversary of the 1963 Treaty of Friendship signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer). But the only artist present who could qualify as a German is Romuald Karmakar, a French passport holder born in Wiesbaden. The others are China’s Ai Weiwei, Santu Mofokeng from South Africa and Dayanita Singh from India. The French pavilion has not returned the compliment. Its chosen artist is Anri Sala, a Franco-Albanian, who is showing a sophisticated but ultimately unmoving film about musicians interpreting a piece by Maurice Ravel. In the British pavilion Jeremy Deller, a Turner prize-winning conceptual artist, is having a rant.“We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold” depicts William Morris, a radical Victorian artist and designer, as a superhero rising from the Venice lagoon to crush the yacht of Roman Abramovich, a London-based oligarch. Another room is dominated by a painting of a giant hen harrier carrying a Range Rover in its claws (pictured), an allusion to an incident when two hen harriers, a protected species, were allegedly shot from the royal Sandringham estate. Prince Harry and a friend were accused of being involved, but both denied any knowledge of the affair. Undeterred, Mr Deller pursues the idea in a film showing a Range Rover being repeatedly pounded by the claw of a crushing machine. Subtle this is not. By contrast, Sarah Sze, in the American pavilion, has looked outside her backyard. Her installation consists of worlds (globe-shaped in case you do not get the point) made out of everyday household objects such as tins of paint, espresso cups, lamps and napkins. The result is ingenious and visually compelling, though in an environment where art has to shout to gain attention her message about sustainable ecosystems goes unheard. The Russian pavilion drives its point home. Vadim Zakharov’s “Danae”, based on the Greek myth in which Zeus seduces Danae disguised as a golden shower, is about at least three of the seven deadly sins: greed, lust and envy. Here, a man sits on a high beam eating nuts, while a stream of golden coins rains down from a shower head onto the floor below. If you are female, and thus eligible for the attentions of Zeus, you are allowed to watch the money pouring down on your head from beneath a see-through umbrella. An attendant then requires you to fill a bucket with the coins to keep both the economy—and corruption—flowing. Alongside the pavilions is the main show. Often a disappointment, this year it is the highlight of the festival. “The Encyclopedic Palace”, curated by Massimiliano Gioni of the New Museum in New York, is about how people order all the information that bombards them. Alongside some well-known names, Mr Gioni has included works made by self-trained artists from the periphery of society, such as asylum inmates and autistics. Shinichi Sawada, who barely speaks, has a gallery dedicated to his deeply sinister clay animals. His work—and the show as a whole—offers something different: art that is genuinely surprising.

From the print edition: Books and arts

Beyond the Arty Parties: A Look Inside the Venice Biennale

June 3, 2013 12:34pm
Massimiliano Gioni at the Trussardi partyThings must once have been so much easier for the social set. They simply followed the sun. But in the past few weeks alone, the bold-type butterflies have winged from Frieze in New York to the film festival in Cannes—with diversions to Monte Carlo for the Dior Resort show and the Grand Prix—and, now, to Venice, where the Biennale, the senior citizen of international art events, swung into gear with three preview days. They launched with the New Museum’s dinner on Tuesday night for its director of exhibitions, Massimiliano Gioni (left), who is not only the curator of this year’s Biennale but also the artistic director of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in Milan. On Thursday night, it was the Trussardis’ turn to host a party in honor of Gioni. Jessica Chastain and Leonardo DiCaprio were among the guests. Bridging the two evenings was an opening at the Fondazione Prada of an exhibition that fetishistically re-creates, down to the size of the rooms in the original, a watershed show from the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969. All in all, the preview days perfectly captured the swirling symbiosis of art, film, and fashion that is currently gilding popular culture with a hectic glamour. But even the movie stars couldn’t deflect the spotlight from the 39-year-old Gioni, who, with charisma to spare, has hitched his own star to the venerable wagon of the Biennale, in the process creating the kind of art happening that people will buzz about for years—or at least for the rest of 2013 (it closes November 24). Marino Aurtiri's installation at the Venice Biennale If you have the great good fortune to make it to Venice this summer, you’ll be able to experience Gioni’s recasting of contemporary art as something playful, wondrous, mythic. His launchpad—and the title he has given his curatorial effort—is The Encyclopedic Palace. In 1955, an Italian immigrant named Marino Auriti imagined a towering structure covering sixteen blocks on the National Mall in Washington, DC, where all the world’s knowledge could be stored (above). The scale model Auriti built is the centerpiece of Gioni’s exhibition in the Arsenale, the complex of ancient warehouses and armories that is one of the Biennale’s “official” locations. So powerful is Auriti’s concept that it immediately strikes an obsessive, fantastical, almost dreamlike chord, which echoes not just through the Arsenale but through the work of the dozens of artists Gioni has curated in the huge central pavilion of the Giardini, the municipal gardens that are the Biennale’s other focal point. In fact, that chord is so insanely irresistible (literally—the obsession bordering on madness of outsider art is one of the dominant sensibilities on display) that it seemed to infect the exhibitions staged in the international pavilions that encircled Gioni’s playground. These ambassadorial exercises in aesthetics (picture a World’s Fair of art) are often heavy-going, but I tried to imagine what kids would make of Jeremy Deller’s murals and bird-of-prey movie in the UK pavilion, or Vadim Zakharov’s huge showerhead raining gold coins down on the crowd in the Russian pavilion (below), or Mathias Poledna’s three-minute cartoon in the Austrian pavilion, which revives Disney’s labor-intensive pre-digital animation of the late thirties and early forties to gorgeous, disturbing effect. I felt like a kid myself looking at these things, thrilled, enthralled, slightly derailed, but refreshed of vision. Vadim Zhakarov’s installation at the Venice Biennale Then there’s Venice itself, a city whose labyrinthine beauty is an open invitation to get lost. You’re never exactly sure just where you are, and that vague and pleasurable sense of discombobulation is enough to turn any old sophisticate into a slack-jawed yokel. It comes in other ways, too. On Tuesday night, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson had an after-party in the first-floor salon of the palazzo where he was staying (maybe it wasn’t actually a palazzo, but after a few hours, every place in Venice feels like a palace, though—footnote—there’ll be little to touch the latest outpost of the Aman hotel chain when it opens in what was once the Palazzo Papadopoli next week). When partygoers made to leave some time later, the tide had risen and the Grand Canal had crept across the ground floor. Our boat was unable to dock. That’s the kind of arcane problem that brings out the poet in a guy.
—Tim Blanks
Photos: Neil Rasmus/ (Massimiliano Giorni); Courtesy of the Venice Biennale


At the Venice Biennale, philanthropy abounds but Britain should be ashamed

By Darius Sanai 31 May 13


Contemporary art is a big business, or a big bubble, depending on your perspective, and the Venice Biennale is a good place to see the very best and worst of it. The Biennale – whose VIP previews run this week and which then opens to the public until November – is a showcase for (almost) every country in the world to present its most interesting/emerging/controversial artists. It is also the biggest party in the billionaire-fuelled frenzy of the contemporary art world, lent legitimacy by the fact that unlike Frieze or Art Basel or any of the other big international art get-togethers, the Venice Biennale it is, ostensibly, non-commercial. The art is for show, not sale (officially at least), meaning traditionally artists who would not set foot in commercial art fairs are spotted among the collectors, dealers and connoisseurs in Venice.

In 24 hours at the preview this week I suspect I experienced the best and the worst of the contemporary art world. On Wednesday evening Conde Nast’s Baku magazine, of which I have the good fortune to be Editor, held a party on the balcony of the very grand Europa & Regina Hotel, overlooking the Grand Canal. My co-hosts were Leyla Aliyeva, our formidable and brilliant client, and the peerless Simon de Pury, our Editor-at-Large, who is one of the great forces in the art market. Chatting to our guests reminded me of the forces for good that any high-end investment market triggers. Candida Gertler, co-founder of the Frieze Outset Fund, which buys works for the public to enjoy at Tate Modern, through channeling private philanthropy, told me of her latest art-philanthropic ventures. At a time of decreasing government funding, people like Candida, driven solely by a desire to secure art for public consumption, are increasingly important. Another committed philanthropist told me about her latest plans for a travelling free show of contemporary art visiting every small town in two continents.

Leyla’s own plans for Baku are even more ambitious. A huge amount of talent and resource is being devoted to discovering, nurturing and showcasing home-grown artists, relighting the flame of a local artistic tradition in Azerbaijan that has 1000 years of history but which was suppressed by 70 years of Soviet rule. Baku itself (the capital of Azerbaijan, a country on the coast of the Caspian Sea, between Iran, Turkey and Russia) has had a creative blossoming over the past decade that comes from below – visual, decorative and performing arts – as much as it does above – the government giving Zaha Hadid and other super-architects virtual carte blanche to create a new city beside the beguiling Old Town. It puts the more vainglorious projects by certain evolving nations to shame. The buzz generated by catching up with our guests was counterbalanced by the heart-draining gloom of visiting our own country’s showcase. The British pavilion is in a perfect location at the end of a tree-lined avenue in the Giardini, the park where many countries are showing their creative wares. You could make a virtually unarguable case for Britain being the most important territory on the global art map right now. In the last 12 months, as a part-time art amateur, I would wager I have seen better art in London than anyone in any other country (let alone city) could have. (I am mindful this excludes the rest of Britain, which includes sites like Turner Contemporary in Margate, the Tates in St Ives and Liverpool, shows at the amazing Glasgow School of Art, and so much else.) Inspirational highlights include Gilbert and George and Anthony Gormley at White Cube; Kurt Schwitters and Howard Hodgkin at Tate Britain; Damien Hirst and Roy Lichtenstein at Tate Modern; and too many shows to name at spots from the Whitechapel Gallery to the Saatchi and points between. Not to mention Frieze, the New Sensations and other shows peripheral to Frieze. And nobody can travel around London without the joy of spotting a Banksy or two (or an imitator). Ninety per cent of these shows are free, to anyone who turns up.

Half these artists are British, and the rest were on show in Britain and collectively make the UK the gold standard for art right now. So what to make of a British pavilion in Venice, ostensibly showcasing the finest British art, or at least the most interesting, or important, which has as its piece de resistance a room full of poor-quality drawings by criminals? Or, apologies, was it the room with archive pictures of the David Bowie tour and some unrelated civil unrest in 1972, as to be found in any online picture archive? You may have read about Jeremy Deller, the artist showcased here, and his heavy-handed visual commentaries on wealth and privilege. These are crude, unenlightening pictures that do exactly what they say on the tin; they are schoolkid protest as art, bereft of imagination, vision, creativity or wit, let alone artistry. They are to art as social commentary what Bernard Manning was to satire. The wealthy and the privileged – whether philanthropic, like my friends, or otherwise – must be delighted at having such an inept foe. I was with a (British) friend who knows a little about art, and he was so incensed with the floppy non-apology for artistry representing our nation that, despite being a mild-mannered man, he almost picked a fight with the curator. Perhaps it was the final insult that sent him over the edge, a misplaced apostrophe in a prominent place on the official brochure published by the British Council, the taxpayer-funded organization responsible for the promotion of the English language around the world. So, whether you are a billionaire or a busker, try and make it to Venice this summer. Drop in on some of the pavilions scattered around the city: I personally enjoyed Austria and Brazil, although you would still find better art on a tour of London’s public and private galleries. Take a Vaporetto to San Giorgio and wander around the silent back quarters of the city. Buy a rose from an Indian rose seller on Piazza San Marco, negotiate your latest Gerhard Richter with your dealer over a Bellini by the pool at the Cipriani, eat an ice cream from an artisanal gelateria, have lunch at the Parisian-Thai Biennale pop up at the Hotel Bauer (excellent, by the way), check out the sculpture at the Azerbaijan pavilion which is only visible through your mobile phone camera, or fall in love with the woman selling macaroons near the Rialto. But boycott the dreary, dreadful British pavilion, a representation of a Britain otherwise disappeared, municipal, corporatist, shorn of verve, imagination and confidence.

Darius Sanai

Darius SanaiDarius Sanai has been Editor in Chief of Conde Nast Contract Publishing since 2003. He is also Editorial Director of Baku, Conde Nast’s quarterly international art & culture magazine, Editor-in-Chief of LUX magazine, and a Contributing Editor of GQ. He runs an independent consultancy, Editorialise, advising private clients around the world on strategy, branding and investment.


Venice Biennale 2103 the best of contemporary art

There is a lot to say and a lot to see at this International Exhibition of Venice 2013. Here is what Swide loved and why.

It has been an intense 3 day preview for the press, but it was worth it. Massimiliano Gioni announced an Encyclopedic Biennale, a Wunderkammer of contemporary art, and so it was. The essence of this Biennale starts from what was the most difficult loan of all – as Gioni himself said – The Red Book by Carl Gustav Jung at Giardini Biennale. Experiencing hallucinations since a young age, this is the visual journal he kept for over 16 years since 1913, self-inducing visions he would interpret as premonitions. In a round, dark room with frescoes this work is displayed for the first time to a vast public, while before was shared only with the few relatives of Jung, the most famous psychiatrist of the 20th Century along with Freud. The Red Book or Liber Novus, so called for its red leather cover, looks like a medieval manuscript, beautifully decorated with colors that describe the visions – and their explanations -in every single detail. Jung would later say that this work would influence all his theories and ideas. Such a complex, primordial work is a strong statement for the Biennale: an invitation to keep your mind open and alert.  The International Pavilion where visitors are welcomed this way is a labyrinth of ideas and inspirations through different media, from painting to performance. I was struck by the works ofLynette Yiadom-Boakye, with delicate and yet strong ballerina figures. Thierry De Cordier depicts a dark, stormy sea that makes it impossible not to feel engaged, almost hearing the noise of the waves while looking at his paintings. United States strikes a chord – in the literal sense-  thanks to Sarah Sze who transforms the Pavilion from 1930 by Delano & Aldrich in a disorienting adventure through architecture and abstraction. Venice Biennale 2013 US Pavilion Japan – special mention Award – focuses on human interaction with Koki Tanaka, his works inspired by the Earthquake of 11 March 2011: clever, engaging projects have you looking at daily things (like tea) in a whole different way. Great Britain’s Jeremy Deller is a big pop frame England that at the same time mirrors difficult times through music (very interesting the parallel between David Bowie’s tour photographs and testimony of tragic contemporary events to the tour). Germany’s Pavilion was one of the most interesting to me: welcomed to a huge installation by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist, the visitor has to go through a gigantic room filled with tens of hanging stools, always present in Chinese’s houses. South African, Germany and India artists are protagonists too through videos and photography, which witness the internationality of the Country. Imitation of Life is a clever work by Mathias Poledna – Austria Pavilion – a video cartoon old style in colors 35mm with a soundtrack of a whole orchestra recorded in LA. A triumph of beauty from the past makes so that the audience claps at the end of the short movie – the only time I have witnessed that at the Biennale, which says something about coming back to “artisanal” art today. Venice Biennale 2013 Austria Pavilion Another incredible achievement is the one of Alfredo Jaar, who once again succeeds in being politically engaging: a lightbox with a photo of Lucio Fontana visiting his tumbledown studio right after WWII introduces the visitors to the second space of the exhibit leading to a 5×5 meters tank filled with water containing a perfectly reproduced scale model of Giardini Biennale that re-emerges and sinks again. Egypt focuses on the human figure and its interaction with nature in a beautiful encounter between modern materials and ancient shapes. Greece Pavilion is a breathe of fresh air with Stefanos Tsivopoulos, succeeding in crossing a thorough research on money exchange and a sociological focus on Alzheimer’s disease. The Israel Pavilion is the most disturbing one – in a good way – with a work by Gilad Ratman, The Workshop, featuring a multi-media space (with wooden stands, clay portraits, microphones, sound mixer kit) where the artists digged underground and emerged at the center of the Ground floor (a reference to smuggling tunnels between Palestine and Egypt?) Terike Haapoja at the Nordic Pavilion presents an interactive Nature in “Falling Trees”, with “breathing” bushes and water installations. Wifredo Díaz Valdéz works at the Uruguay Pavilion with wooden objects and studies their mechanism by disassembling them and showing the inside-out of the artifacts to the public in an effort to focus on their meanings. Venice Biennale 2013 Uruguay Pavilion Russia Pavilion through the mythological figure of Danae discusses the role of men and women and the greediness of this society. The Venezia Pavilion shelters one of the best works on display, revisiting old textile Venetian tradition – through Venetian and Oriental artists. The highlight? A red threaded body portrait of a woman by Yiqing Yin, ghostly hanging in the middle of the room. venice-biennale-2013-contemporary-art- At the Arsenale space we are taken in a whimsical, completely different space than Giardini: here, the space collects different works by different artists in a constant aim to surprise and inspire the visitors, between old media and new ones. The video work by Sharon Hayes on gay adolescents sexuality wins a special mention at this Biennale not by chance, documenting with irony and sensibility their world. Cindy Sherman’s album collection collected in flea markets coexists with the melting, elastic, haunting creatures by Jim Shaw and the iper-realistic painted bronze by John DeAndrea.   The Arab Emirates Pavilion becomes an open sea thanks to Mohammed Kazem, a work characterized by the use of GPS. The installation mirrors a personal experience, when he got lost in the sea for over half an hour. It’s a beautiful work the one of South Africa, especially the one by Wim Botha who uses African Encyclopedias to create three dimensional portraits – a way to use the past to create new ideas. Venice 2013 contemporary art The Holy See overcomes every expectation: it’s a stunning work the one of the three artists involved in the representation of the Genesis. Studio Azzurro (which includes the interactive installations of three artists) depicts the Creation, Josef Koudelka the De-Creation and Lawrence Carrol the Re-Creation. Josef Koudelka’s stunning black and white photography mirrors de-Creation through big frames that look like they just fell from the wall. Venice Biennale 2013 Josef Koudelka China’s remake of Last Judgment by Michelangelo stands tall in front of me: The Last Judgment in Cyberspace is the virtual digitalized version by Miao Xiaochun. Differently from Michelangelo, though, he uses the same figure for all the 400 protagonists, pointing out the identity’s issues in the digital world, in a dialogue that connects China with the western world through history and the present. The concept of past and present is to be found also in the work of Nicola Costantino at Argentina Pavilion, through a re-interpretation of Eva Peron’s life with video and abstract installations, the ice melting on a table under warm lamps as a reminder of the sound of the rain on Eva’s funeral day. Italy’s Pavilion is organized in a constant dialogue between the artists, using all sorts of site-specific installations and performances. Venice Biennale 2013 Italy Pavilion An interesting aspect to me was that very few artists used smells and perfumes. Sounds, images, photography, dance and tactile experiences are big protagonists in this International Exhibition but this aspect was almost never addressed, and yet is one that – at least for me – is fundamental to recall emotions and memories. Certainly this is a Biennale of struggles, of resistance, which mirrors our times: a time in which there are more questions than answers, and this has been – in my personal opinion – the approach of most artists: a serious work of introspection and criticism towards today’s society and at the same time a willingness to encourage rebirth and to celebrate human’s genius. Quite an ambitious aim, very well accomplished at this Venice Biennale 2013. 55th International Art Exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace 1.6 – 24.11 Venice, Giardini, Arsenale  Photo credits: Elisa della Barba



Massimiliano Gioni

Massimiliano Gioni, 2010

Meet Massimiliano Gioni

Arts and Culture director Diane Solway talks to the associate director of New York’s New Museum and the latest director of the Venice Biennale.

By Diane Solway Photograph by Marco de Scalzi
June 2013

What is your curatorial angle for 2013? The exhibition is titled “The Encyclopedic Palace,” after the model for an imaginary museum that was built by Marino Auriti, a self-taught Italian-American artist. Auriti’s museum was supposed to house all the knowledge in the world, and obviously it was never completed or realized. Taking inspiration from Auriti’s impossible dream of universal knowledge, “The Encyclopedic Palace” looks at the flights of imagination of artists who have tried to understand and see everything. It’s about visions and about the space left for internal images, for dreams, and for imagination in a culture submerged by artificial images.

What led you to invite the artist Cindy Sherman to curate an exhibition within the exhibition? Cindy has been working all her life on portraying herself as an other. In an exhibition about images–and the word “imago” comes from the Romans’ tradition of casting the face of the dead–I felt it was important to look at the way in which artists have created stand-ins, surrogates, and avatars. Ultimately, you could say that Cindy’s section is about dolls.

What are some of the themes in the pavilions? One of the most apparent novelties this year will be the exchange of pavilions between France and Germany, who have agreed to swap venues. And Germany has in turn invited artists from all over the world–including Ai Weiwei from China and Dayanita Singh from India–to be in its exhibition. So a more flexible idea of national identity seems to be emerging from these presentations.

This year, for the first time, the Vatican is participating. Most people don’t associate the Vatican with contemporary art. One could argue that the Vatican–more than any nation–has understood the power of art to communicate and educate. If millions of people visit the Vatican, it is partly because of the incredible artworks commissioned there throughout the centuries. Recently, within the Vatican there has been an interest in exploring new dialogues between contemporary art and religion. This pavilion will be the expression of this renewed curiosity.

What is the one work of art that you never leave Venice without looking at? The Pietà, by Titian, in the Accademia. It’s supposedly Titian’s last painting, and in it you can see the whole history of Western art, from Venice to Velázquez all the way to Manet.

Strangest antics or moment you have witnessed at a Biennale over the years? Once I saw Jeff Koons trying to explain to the ticket office that he was one of the artists in the show. That’s one of the craziest aspects of Venice: It doesn’t really matter who you are. Nobody is a VIP.

Morton Bartletts Untitled (Doll), 193665.
Morton Bartlett’s Untitled (Doll), 1936-65.
Photo: Atelier de Numerisation–Ville de Lausanne
Courtesy of Rudolf Steiner Archive, Switzerland
Rudolf Steiner’s Disegni alla Lavagna, 1923.
Photo: Atelier de Numerisation–Ville de Lausanne
John Bocks Unzone/Eierloch, 2012
John Bock’s Unzone/Eierloch, 2012.
Copyright the artist/Courtesy of Sadie Coles, London
Marino Auritis Encyclopedic Palace of the World, 50s.
Marino Auriti’s Encyclopedic Palace of the World, ’50s.
Collection of American Folk Art Museum, New York
Ragnar Kjartanssons Bliss, 2011.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s Bliss, 2011.
Elisabet Davidsdottir, Courtesy of the artist, i8 Gallery, Reykjavik, and Luhring Augustine, New York
Eliot Porters Chipping Sparrow, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, 1979
Eliot Porter’s Chipping Sparrow, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, 1979
Courtesy of Daniel Greenberg and Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd., New Mexico
Pawel Althamers Almech, 20112012.
Pawel Althamer’s Almech, 2011-2012.
Mathias Schormann
J.D. Okhai Ojeikeres Aja Nloso Family, 1980.
J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere’s Aja Nloso Family, 1980.
Courtesy of Andre Magnin (MAGNIN-A), Paris
Thierry De Cordiers Mer Montée, 2011.
Thierry De Cordier’s Mer Montée, 2011.
Courtesy of the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
Drossos P. Skyllass Three Sisters, 195053.
Drossos P. Skyllas’s Three Sisters, 1950-53.
Collection of Robert M. Greenberg and Corvova Lee, Image Courtesy of Ricco/Maresca Gallery, NY

May 24, 2013 6:50 pm

The lagoon show

By Griselda Murray Brown

Is it the most prestigious contemporary art event, an opportunity to project soft power, or just an excuse for great parties?
©Mark Preston Illustration

The International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice, as its inaugural edition in 1895 was known, was the first such event conceived as a global meeting. In 1907, the first national pavilion – Belgium’s – was built in Venice’s spacious Giardini, a public park at the eastern tip of the island. Over the next 25 years, many western European countries and the US followed suit, building their own permanent pavilions there.

For the next 50 years, fewer than 20 countries participated but that number rose after 1945 and again in the 1980s and 1990s. Soon the Giardini reached capacity and nowadays countries rent spaces in the old shipbuilding hangars of the Arsenale or around the city.

This year’s event, the 55th, is entitled The Encyclopedic Palace and curated by Massimiliano Gioni. Young and fresh artists abound but this year’s Golden Lions go to two European veterans, Marisa Merz, aged 83, and Maria Lassnig, 94.

At the Biennale’s heart, the curated International Exhibition provides thematic coherence but what undoubtedly sets Venice apart from other biennales is its nationalistic flavour. Yet the national pavilion model now looks anachronistic: many artists live and work outside their native countries, while a class of globetrotting curators, collectors, gallerists and hangers-on flits from biennale to art fair to gallery opening.

So, in one way, Venice may seem outdated yet it is apparently increasingly popular, with new hopefuls finding space in the crowded city each year. Of the 88 participants this year, 10 are first-timers, whose names tell a complicated geopolitical story: Angola, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Kuwait, the Maldives, Paraguay, Tuvalu, the Holy See. I spoke to a range of artists and curators about why the Venice Biennale still matters.

Alfredo Jaar, artist, Chilean pavilion

'Milan, 1946, Lucio Fontana visits his studio on his return from Argentina', part of Alfredo Jaar's installation 'Venezia, Venezia'

‘Milan, 1946, Lucio Fontana visits his studio on his return from Argentina’, part of Alfredo Jaar’s installation ‘Venezia, Venezia’

“I was first invited to Venice in 1986 and that exhibition put me on the international map of the art world. I was a young, unknown artist from Chile living in New York, and this was not the globalised art world that we’re living in today: it was very difficult to penetrate the bunker of the western art world.

The potential for a great audience is huge, so I am looking forward to sharing my ideas this year. But Venice is still an exclusive club. Things have changed slowly but the official pavilions in the Giardini still gather the most attention. You have 160 countries that are not represented officially and, when they are, they have to struggle financially to find a space in Venice. My piece, Venezia, Venezia, responds to the fact that a small country like Chile has to rent a space in the Arsenale to be present.

The national pavilion model does not represent at all what the world of culture has become. I see a [not too distant] future where the entire Giardini will become a park of exhibitions and the curator will invite artists from around the world to occupy it. Slowly, the pavilions will fade into history.”

Susanne Gaensheimer, curator, German pavilion

“More countries each year decide to participate in the Venice Biennale. It seems to be really important for countries to represent themselves through art in an international context.

It is really important for us to have the chance to decide how to represent Germany this year – to represent it as a place of cosmopolitanism, where there’s an international art scene. In our daily reality we can see that our society becomes more diverse. The three international artists I have chosen [Ai Weiwei, Santu Mofokeng and Dayanita Singh] all have a strong relationship to Germany, but it was also important for me that there is one German artist [Romuald Karmakar] in the group.

I chose to represent the country by thinking about national identity as an open concept not as a closed one. This relates to our decision to switch pavilions with France, which was suggested 10 years ago and this year everyone agreed that we should do it.

I don’t think the national pavilion model has become outdated – as long as you think of national identity as representing the complexities of a country. The national pavilion is not only about showing the most famous artist in one country.”

Gilad Ratman, artist, Israeli pavilion

A still from 'The Workshop' (2013) by Gilad Ratman

A still from ‘The Workshop’ (2013) by Gilad Ratman

“The Biennale is a huge challenge for me. [This is Ratman’s first time exhibiting. Born in 1975, he is the youngest artist ever to represent Israel.] The first challenge is scale – working in a pavilion which is three levels – and the second is the format of the Biennale: the tension between the concepts of nationality and the global world.

For the Biennale, I am trying to create something that is quite funny and absurd. It’s about a journey underground that starts in Israel and ends up in the Israeli pavilion in Venice. Moving underground is moving without borders because national definitions do not count. The internet works like that: you click “here” and you are “there” and you cannot see the route you travel. But, actually, everything is being mapped by Google so maybe the only way to move without being watched is to go back to the old way – under the ground.

The national pavilion is a cute concept. Of course, it smells like yesterday and we can say it’s old school but it brings a discussion. Nowadays our identity is being shaped by different models, but still the model of the nation state is maybe the strongest.”

Stefano Rabolli Pansera, co-curator, Angolan pavilion

From the series 'Found Not Taken' by Edson Chagas

From the series ‘Found Not Taken’ by Edson Chagas

“I am an architect working in Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa. In 2012, my partner Paula Nascimento and I proposed to the Angolan minister of culture that they participate in the Architectural Biennale [the Venice Biennales for art and architecture happen on alternate years].

Angola is one of the fastest growing economies and one of the largest exporters of oil to China. My argument to the minister was that, as it becomes an economic centre in Africa, it is important that Angola takes a stand from the cultural point of view. The Biennale is not simply an entertainment, it is really a moment of critical reflection upon the development of Luanda [Angola’s capital] and how artists can contribute.

We were keen to answer to the theme of [this year’s International Exhibition], The Encyclopedic Palace. We are exhibiting the work of a young talented photographer called Edson Chagas, who takes pictures of derelict objects in Luanda. It becomes a sort of catalogue of urban conditions; he discovers a beauty in the daily objects we dismiss. Venice is a great opportunity for an unknown Angolan artist to introduce his work to the world art community.”

Stamatina Gregory, deputy curator, Bahamian pavilion

“This is the first time for the Bahamas at Venice. We thought it was an interesting platform because people usually see the Bahamas as a tourist destination. Coming to the Biennale is an initiative on the part of the country. It’s really about people who want to join the conversation, a conversation which started in the 19th century with colonial powers displaying their cultural spoils. Now the Biennale is seen as a place where you can assert a national identity, so you have places participating such as Catalonia, which has being trying to assert itself as a nation for decades.

It’s exciting to take part in a new pavilion. It’s a chance to say something not only about the artist [Tavares Strachan] but about the supposedly transnational space of the Venice Biennale. The national pavilion is a curious anachronism; it makes for a complicated space that many artists try to deconstruct.

Although none of [the three curators] are Bahamian, we’re well suited because of our long relationship with Tavares. But it would be seriously remiss if future curators were not from the Bahamas. This is the beginning of a process, not the statement on Bahamian cultural production in the international arena.”


55th Venice Biennale – review

There is some unforgettable art at the 55th Venice Biennale, but most of it is outside the star pavilions of the Giardini

alison lapper pregnant
‘Britain puffed up’: Marc Quinn’s inflatable edition of Alison Lapper Pregnant, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
A silk-suited oligarch rides high above the crowds in the Russian pavilion, booted and saddled on a lofty beam, idly tossing peanut shells on the worthless groundlings below. In the next room, cascades of bright coins rain down from the cupola. A sinister middleman draws the money back up from the basement by the bucket-load, returning it by conveyor belt to the roof – where the cycle begins all over again. This is Danaë’s golden shower in perpetual motion: an allegory of power and monstrous greed. How is anyone to stop it? You could break the system by refusing to put the coins in the middleman’s bucket, but that would bring an end to the spectacle in which all the art-worlders at the biennale have become willing stooges, picking the money from the floor. Vadim Zakharov is a brave and ingenious artist who worked underground in Moscow for decades; his startlingly powerful drama clearly centres on Putin’s regime. But it carries many other levels of metaphor too, some of them piquantly lost on this audience. Russia is getting it in the neck at the 55th Venice Biennale. In the British pavilion a towering William Morris hurls Roman Abramovich’s superyacht into the lagoon in disgust, though the public quay where such symbols are moored remains cordoned against the riff-raff. Hungary is presenting a drastic visual record of the many tonnes of Soviet shells dropped on the nation during the last war. These linger in the landscape still undiscovered and unexploded: the damage never ends. The biennale is sombre, provocative and rich in art for anyone prepared to walk the needful treasure-seeking miles across the city. For the usual order has been turned on its head. The official Giardini is dense with dud pavilions, including every one of the so-called Big Three. America has an irritatingly complex “ecosystem” composed of millions of fribbling bits of paper, string and gum by Sarah Sze for which there is simply not world enough and time. France has swapped pavilions with Germany, but Germany is showing what is conceivably the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei‘s least interesting work, a hanging garden of wooden stools; while the French have selected an almost classically boring three-screen video installation by Anri Sala that attempts to orchestrate images to Ravel’s Piano Concerto in D Major. Sala’s conceit turns upon a hopeless Ravel/Unravel pun; still the music soars undiminished. Jeremy Deller‘s British pavilion is by general consent the main attraction at the Giardini, and a wondrously Reithian experience it is. Here you may hold ice age axes found in the Thames in your palm, with archaeologists in attendance answering your every question, or make prints using the woodblock techniques practised by William Morris. A superb film of a hen harrier on the wing cross-fades into its rapine counterpart, a demolition machine clawing a Range Rover from the scrapheap and crushing it to death (you are sitting on top of the cubed wreckage) to the sound of a steel band performing Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World. Weapons, predators, princes (two rare hen harriers were shot by nameless persons, let us say, on a royal estate), manufacturing, cars, steel: only connect. Bowie is the soundtrack to a year – 1972 – of political headlines and photographs that take you back into a past that turns out to be anything but another country, as a subsequent gallery devoted to David Kelly, Iraq and WMD reveals. I am missing out here a hundred nuances set up by the juxtaposition of objects, words and images in this 360-degree portrait of Britain, which culminates with the Lord Mayor’s Parade filmed in all its staggering variety, and climaxes with a rush of children bouncing joyfully all over Deller’s blow-up Stonehenge. The associations are enthralling, lucid and quite remarkably unforced. Deller, whose material is drawn straight from the life around him, from people’s experiences, from writing and history almost as it happens, is an enabler, intermediary, collaborator and all-round enlightenment artist. He has more intelligence and generosity of spirit than many of his predecessors in Venice and entirely deserves this pavilion. Elsewhere, Britain is puffed up – the banners for Anthony Caro’s solo show dominate St Mark’s Square, which takes some doing – then properly deflated. Marc Quinn’s self-serving gigantism – yet another edition of his nude statue Alison Lapper Pregnant, in mauve and blown up so huge it obscures the façade of San Giorgio Maggiore – turned out to be inflatable and briefly subsided one fine day. In the Arsenale, the Vatican has filled its first-ever pavilion with quasi-numinous videos in the style of Bill Viola and paintings that appear to weep gelatinous tears. Fellow newcomers the Bahamas have a counterintuitive meditation on the weightless white world of the north pole, beautifully strange with starry bears and smoking columns of ice. The Italians have crowdfunded their own show for the first time (and filled it with murmuring crowds: all conversation welcome). And Georgia has built a frighteningly perilous plywood edifice up the side of the old munitions factory. Known as a kamikaze loggia back home in Tblisi, this is fast becoming the only kind of shelter most people can afford. Art can take you anywhere. In Venice, up the Grand Canal, a 14th-century palazzo transformed into an Iraqi home is filled with sharp art. How else would one ever come across the succinct political cartoons ofAbdul Rahim Yasser – a man with a gun frisked by a man with a gun – or the film of Iraqis smuggling alcohol over the Kurdistan border by night? Saddle-sore, stinking of horses, exhausted but desperate for a living, one young man holds up a can of Amstel: “For this I am shot at?” Cross the water and you are in eastern Congo by way of the Irish pavilion and Richard Mosse‘s astounding stills and videos of rebel-filled forests made using military surveillance film that turns the world psychedelic cobalt, magenta and puce. A forgotten war, in all its horror, yields a wonderland of cruel and indelible beauty. Keep on, and you’ll find Wales’s marvellous Bedwyr Williams musing on terrazzo flooring, inspiration for a picaresque film trip through the cosmos from marble chips to moons to broken teeth and home-cooking in a tiny backstreet chapel; James Joyce with added humour. On again, and here is the Sisyphean Finnish artist who puts shattered trees back together, root and branch, producing supernaturally animated glades. The sense of possessive joy in discovering gold at the end of some remote Venetian labyrinth is a galvanising spur at the biennale – this year more than ever, given the disappointingly weak official pavilions. The most unforgettable sight, for me, came without any of the usual fanfare, not even the customary handout puffing all the numerous curators and sponsors involved. It was a small white boat drifting slowly across the final harbour of the Arsenale bearing a crew of musicians playing a graceful lament by the Icelandic composer Kjartan Sveinsson. It touched everyone who stopped to listen to the elegiac music, and to witness this haunting vision of sailors crossing the bar. And it will be there still, continuously returning and departing even in the mists of November, long after all the superyachts have gone. Jeremy Deller‘s British Council commission is at the Venice Biennale until 24 November and will tour national venues in 2014 Read Tim Adams’s interview with Jeremy Deller her


Venice Biennale, June 1-November 24,

May 27, 2013 5:23 pm

Ai Weiwei, S.A.C.R.E.D., Venice Biennale – review

By Barnaby Martin

The Chinese artist’s latest work was spurred by his illegal detention in 2011
‘Doubt’ from Ai Weiwei’s ‘S.A.C.R.E.D.’ (2011-13)©Ai Weiwei

‘Doubt’ from Ai Weiwei’s ‘S.A.C.R.E.D.’ (2011-13)

In the spring of 2011, just after his release from illegal detention in Beijing, I interviewed Ai Weiwei about the 81 days he had spent inside. Now that he was “free”, I asked him, would he return to work? After all he was one of the lucky ones: many people who were arrested at the same time as Ai have not been heard of since. Surely he would now give up art and activism and go and lead a quiet life?

“All the time I was inside,” said Ai, “I thought that if ever I get out I will stop all this – I will just go and sit on a beach. But then a day after I was released, a human rights lawyer friend who had also been detained and tortured came to my door. Under the terms of my bail, I was not allowed to meet this man, but there he was outside on the street. I couldn’t turn him away. And also I couldn’t just forget about all those people who were still inside. I will have to carry on.”

Ai Weiwei has been as good as his word. The mammoth work now on display in the Church of Sant’Antonin in Venice is the product of the two years that have passed since he was released. The work is made up of six black shoulder-high iron boxes, each one about 5 metres by 3 metres and weighing 2.5 tonnes. The boxes occupy the nave of the church, which has been cleared of pews. At first glance, the containers appear to be hermetically sealed boxes, or perhaps even lumps of solid black iron. There is something deeply, viscerally unsettling about their brooding presence in the church, their heaviness and scale.

On closer inspection, the viewer notices that each metal block contains a letterbox-like viewing slit. Inside, shrunk to three-quarter size we can see Ai going about his prison routines. In one box he is eating while two guards stand to attention next to him; in another he is showering, with two guards watching his every move; in another he is sleeping, the two guards standing over his bed. Watching this series of horrific tableaux is nausea-inducing. It is a very simple and incredibly powerful work.

In a phone interview, just before the opening of the Biennale, Ai explained the genesis of the work. “All the time I was in jail, I kept thinking about my father. He was an artist and he went to Paris in the early 1930s to study art. But when he returned to Shanghai in 1932, it was the time of the civil war and he was arrested by the Nationalists. He was in jail for almost three years. Obviously he couldn’t paint, so he began to write poetry.”

Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei’s father, wrote many poems in jail. They were smuggled out, and very quickly he became the unofficial poet laureate of the fledgling Communist party. In 1942, Chairman Mao wrote to Ai Qing and invited him to come to the party headquarters at Yanan and discuss how poetry and art should be treated after the revolution. Today the poems that Ai Qing wrote in jail are often quoted by Politburo members during official speeches.

“When I was a small boy, my father used to tell me about his time in jail. He almost died of pneumonia but he was always a positive man. I think I always felt jealous of him for his experience in jail. It was so important to him: it made him a great poet. And when I suddenly found myself sitting in a cell, I think I was a bit relieved. I thought: ‘Now at last, I am like you. I will use this time like you did.’ So, I memorised every crack in the ceiling, every mark on the wall. I am an artist and an architect, so I have a good memory for these things.”

Ai’s goal from the start has been to expose the bullying and the torture methods of the Chinese regime, to turn his prison experience – the interrogation, the guards, the Politburo – into a ready-made work in the manner of Marcel Duchamp, who turned non-art objects into works of art.

Ai’s 81-day experience has been recreated in many different media. The transcripts of my original interview with him became the basis for my book Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei. Hanging Man in turn became the basis for Howard Brenton’s play #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei . A week ago, Ai released a music video, “Dumbass”, which again portrayed his time inside. Now, finally, with the opening of “S.A.C.R.E.D.” in Venice, we get the artist’s definitive recreation of what it is like to be arrested and detained without trial at the beginning of the 21st century in China.



Simon Mordant | Commissioner of the Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale of Art, 2013

By Louise Martin-Chew | Posted in Art Class | 23 May 2013 12:01PM

In Australian public life it is refreshing to find an individual who connects business and culture. Simon Mordant AM is one of these and his contribution is both inspirational and passionate. As Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Greenhill & Co Inc., he operates at the highest level and remarked, ‘I love my work in advising major corporates. I also enjoy, greatly, our community engagement’. This year, he is Commissioner of the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which opens to the public on June 2.
Simon Mordant, Venice Biennale 2013
The Venice Biennale is the Olympics of contemporary art, and our national representation is highly scrutinised. Mordant noted, ‘The Venice Biennale is the world’s most important contemporary art exposition and the only Biennale where countries select their own artists. As such, it is a unique opportunity for Australia to present itself. In the Vernissage [opening] week, over 30,000 curators, collectors, and arts media are present and almost 500,000 visit during the six month exhibition.’
Venice Biennale 2013
Representing Australia may be a life-changing experience for the selected artist. Previous Australian VB artists include Bill Henson (1995), Howard Arkley (1999), Patricia Piccinini (2003), Ricky Swallow (2005), and Hany Armanious (2011). This year, artist Simryn Gill’s ruminations on place, and the fluidity she finds in the occupation of space, titled Here art grows on trees, will fill the Australian Pavilion.
Simon Mordant is working to ensure the 2013 Venice Biennale is a significant success for Gill. He describes her exhibition for the Australian Pavilion as a quite extraordinary body of new work. ‘Visitors will be intrigued by the way Simryn has engaged with the Pavilion, blending the everyday elements of her practice toward a powerful, radical result.’
Simryn Gill
The role of Commissioner is little understood and Mordant describes it as, ‘leading the advocacy for Australia in the international art community and looking after our supporters’. He is comfortable on the international stage, given his position on the Executive Committee of the Tate International Council (London), the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, and the Leadership Council of the New Museum (both New York). His familiarity with the Venice Biennale is also significant. Simon and wife Catriona have been visitors for over twenty years, and Mordant has been part of the Australian Commissioner’s Council since 2009. His reappointment as Commissioner for 2015 is indicative of his efficacy.
Within Australia, Mordant is recognized as a philanthropist and is best known as Chairman of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. He led by example in the fundraising for the MCA extension, contributing $15 million toward the new Mordant wing that opened in 2012.
Simon and Catriona Mordant are passionate supporters of all art forms and their cultural directorship interests range from the ABC to the Sydney Theatre Company and Queensland Ballet. This commitment derives from a long held belief: ‘If you want a vibrant society and the type of community that we all want to live in, then the arts and creativity are central. We enjoy the creative process and our time with creative people. Supporting institutions that we are passionate about and where we believe in the vision and creative leadership is central to our involvement.’
The Mordants are also unusual in that they have pledged to make a difference within their own lifetimes. On this Mordant is unequivocal. ‘We want to leave the community in better shape during our lifetime. We don’t believe in significant inheritance and have seen the damage it has done to some families. We get enormous pleasure from the community endeavours we are involved with.’
Mordant also noted that making a contribution to your community does not need to be financial. ‘Australians are generally a generous nation, but some wealthy Australians haven’t thought enough about their community. Statistics show wealthy Australians lag very much in peer metrics for charitable endeavours. However, the issue shouldn’t just be about money—there are many ways people can help their community.’
Indeed. Simon and Catriona Mordant walk their inspirational talk.
Where: 55th International Art Exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace: Venice Biennale of Art, Venice, Italy.
When:  Opens 1st June until 24th November 2013, Previews from 29th-31st May.
TUL Note: Louise Martin-Chew’s most recent book LINDE IVIMEY explores the life and work of the Sydney-based sculptor.  Louise is co-director of mc/k art (with Alison Kubler) and their current project (with architects Richards & Spence) is creating an integrated art program for the redevelopment of the Brisbane International Airport. Louise is travelling to the Venice Biennale later this month and will share her experience of five nights in Venice with TUL.
Image Credits:
Simon Mordant: Brendan Read and courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Venice Biennale: Universes in Universe
Simryn Gill: Jamie North
Home » AO Preview – Venice: The 55th Venice Biennale, June 1st-November 24th, 2013

AO Preview – Venice: The 55th Venice Biennale, June 1st-November 24th, 2013

May 28th, 2013

The Venice Biennale The Venice Biennale

Every two years, the floating city of Venice floods with with the multitudes of art visitors, customers, gallerists and exhibitions that are all a part of the Venice Biennale. This year, marking the 55th edition of the world’s largest art fair, sees the continuation of an event that first began in 1896. Between June 1st and November 24th over 300,000 visitors will travel to Venice for the expansive installations of exhibitions of work from artists in 88 nations, at both official and fringe sites. Art Observed will be on-site this week, with photos from variety of events around the city.

Ai Weiwei, Straight (2012), via Art in America Magazine Ai Weiwei, Straight (2012), via Art in America Magazine

The main exhibition, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), is displayed at the Giardini and in the Arsenale. Taking its inspiration from the project of Italian-American artist Marino Auriti, the Palazzo Enciclopedico refers to an imaginary museum intended to display all worldly knowledge. The beacon to universal understanding was modeled to have 136 stories and to be seven hundred meters tall. The Biennale’s version of this noble concept, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, explores Autri’s dream on the artistic landscape. The show combines works of contemporary art with historical artifacts and found objects, and takes an anthropological approach to artistic imagery. The central pavilion includes the work of more than 150 artists from 37 countries, including the original manuscript of Carl Gustav Jung’s The Red Book, the paintings of Hilma af Klint, video work by Steve McQueen and a smaller show within the main pavilion, curated by Cindy Sherman.

Massimiliano Gioni, Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia Massimiliano Gioni, Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia

Gioni’s pavilion will also include a group of young British artists, hailed as the next generation in the lineage of challenging talent from the British isles. The trio of artists; James Richards, Ed Atkins and Helen Marten, are the youngest artists chosen by Gioni (himself the youngest curator the Biennale has ever had), and are linked by their insights into art in the post-digital age, with their skilled use of processes and techniques that blur the line between digital rendering, art theory and conceptual frameworks.

Tano Festa, Senza titolo, (1976), © Collezione Jacorossi, Roma Tano Festa, Senza titolo, (1976), © Collezione Jacorossi, Roma

In addition to the Central Pavilion, the Giardini will house 29 additional country pavilions. Each pavilion is a permanent structure, built and owned by the individual country. Notably, Gerrit Rietvald, a major contributor to the Dutch artistic movement called De Stijl, designed the Dutch pavilion, and the Finnish pavilion was designed by Alvar Aalto. The United States has selected Boston born, New-York based artist Sarah Sze to exhibit in its national pavilion. Sze will reveal one of her signature installations, a large-scale, intricate compilation of thousands of ordinary objects, from toothpicks to light bulbs, which engage with the architecture of their surroundings.

Simon Denny, Deep Sea Vaudeo (2009), Courtesy Galerie Buchholz

Simon Denny, Deep Sea Vaudeo (2009), Courtesy Galerie Buchholz

The Vatican Pavilion, one of the many nations that will be displaying work at the Biennale this year, is participating in its first ever Biennale, presenting a show about creation, destruction and renewal from Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka and painter Lawrence Carroll. Through these artists and thematic elements, the Vatican aims to offer conceptual and modern interpretations of subjects addressed by a myriad of renowned artists over the history of art, including Michelangelo’s frescoes from the Book of Genesis on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Shirazeh Houshiary, Between (2010-11), via Wall Street International Shirazeh Houshiary, Between (2010-11), via Wall Street International

In keeping with the overarching theme of universal knowledge, the Latin American Pavilion will feature artists from 16 South American countries and 3 European artists showcasing artistic collaboration between the continents. Titled The Atlas of Empire,the show was inspired by Argentinean author Jorge Luis Borges, who envisioned an empire so intricate and precise that only scale cartography suffices. As such, the artists on view have each designed his or her own personal, symbolic cartography, including work by Juliana Stein, Guillermo Srodek-Hart, and Humberto Diaz.

Ragnar Kjartansson Bliss (2011), Courtesy of the artist, i8 Gallery, Reykjavik and Luhring Augustine, New York Photo: Elísabet Davíðsdóttir Ragnar Kjartansson, Bliss (2011), Courtesy of the artist, i8 Gallery, Reykjavik and Luhring Augustine, New York Photo: Elísabet Davíðsdóttir

In addition to the exhibition at the main pavilion, this year will also see an additional 48 collateral events, up from 37 in 2011, featured throughout Venice. The events are all organized by non-profit organizations. A highlight of the event will be Glasstress, involving over 50 artists, including Tracey Emin, Cornelia Parker and Ron Arad at the Palazoon Cavalli Franchetti. Also among the lists of artists contributing are Ai Weiwei, Lawrence Weiner, Antoni Tapies, Shirazeh Houshiary and Thomas Zipp. The Biennale will mark Ai Weiwei’s only major solo show in 2013, presented by Zuecca Projects at the Zitelle Complex and the church of Sant’Antonin. The church will house new work by the Chinese dissident artist; while the Zitelle Complex will hold his installation Straight, developed from his ongoing practice of using steel reinforcing bars recovered from the schools that collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Josef Koudelka, Trittico, (2010-2011), Courtesy © Magnum Photos Josef Koudelka, Trittico, (2010-2011), Courtesy © Magnum Photos

True to its goals of universal knowledge, the 55th Venice Biennale promises a nearly endless global contribution of works for the visiting art lover. While Autri’s palace may have been 136-stories, this Encyclopedia Palace provides a new model for the expansive space of knowledge, incorporating a whole city.

Helen Marten, Dust and Pirhanas (2012), Courtesy Sadie coles, HQ © Helen Marten Helen Marten, Dust and Pirhanas (2012), Courtesy Sadie coles, HQ © Helen Marten

Studio Arruzo, In Principio (e poi), (2013), Courtesy © Studio Arruzzo and the Venice Biennale Studio Arruzo, In Principio (e poi), (2013), Courtesy © Studio Arruzzo and the Venice Biennale

Carl Gustav Jung, The Red Book Carl Gustav Jung, The Red Book, (1915-1959), © 2009 Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, Zürich. First published by W.W. Norton & Co., New York 2009

—C. Stein



New Guide in Venice

Samuele Pellecchia for The New York Times

Massimiliano Gioni, 39, the 2013 Venice Biennale curator is also the associate director and director of exhibitions for the New Museum. More Photos »

Published: May 23, 2013
Massimiliano Gioni, the artistic director of this year’s Venice Biennale, was marveling at the rich history of this 118-year-old international contemporary art exhibition.
“Klimt showed there in 1905,” he said. “That is mind-blowing to me. Since then there has been Morandi and Picasso, Rauschenberg, Johns and so on. Maybe I’m romanticizing, but the past is still very present.” On a rainy afternoon in April Mr. Gioni was having lunch at his regular haunt, a tiny Italian restaurant in Lower Manhattan near the New Museum, where he is associate director and director of exhibitions. His BlackBerry was buzzing with e-mails and his phone kept ringing. Yet Mr. Gioni, 39, ignored it all, speaking earnestly with his usual intellectual intensity jolted with unexpected moments of deadpan humor. He was explaining what it’s like to be the youngest artistic director in 110 years to organize the first, oldest and most venerable international art event in a calendar packed with an unrivaled number of them. “Of course I’m nervous,” he said. “This is center stage and it’s difficult because it comes with so many expectations and so much history.” As he braces for the art world to descend on Venice for three preview days beginning on Wednesday, followed by the public opening on Saturday, Mr. Gioni estimated that nearly 500,000 people would come to see the Biennale by the time it ends on Nov. 24. As artistic director, his job is not only to be the diplomatic face of the Biennale but also to organize an enormous exhibition in two sites: one in a central building in the shaded gardens at the tip of Venice where the national pavilions are, and the other in the nearby Arsenale, the meandering medieval network of shipyards. The job entails an overwhelming amount of juggling and his ambitious vision has only made it worse. Even though Mr. Gioni was born in Italy — in Busto Arsizio, 40 minutes northwest of Milan — the logistics of working in a city like Venice are a notorious nightmare. Adamant that this will not be a boiler plate survey of contemporary art, Mr. Gioni has enlisted 158 artists, nearly double the number of the two previous Biennales. “It will zigzag across histories, covering 100 years of dreams and visions,” said Mr. Gioni, noting 38 countries are represented. “A biennale can be pedagogical without being boring.” “The Encyclopedic Palace” is the theme. It is taken from the title of a symbol of 1950s-era Futurism — an 11-foot-tall architectural model of a 136-story cylindrical skyscraper that was intended to house all the knowledge in the world. Its creator, the self-taught Italian-American artist Marino Auriti, dreamed it would be built on the National Mall in Washington. The model now belongs to the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan, which is lending it to the Biennale. “It best reflects the giant scope of this international exhibition,” Mr. Gioni said, “the impossibility of capturing the sheer enormity of the art world today.” Paolo Baratta, the longtime president of the Biennale, said that “after 14 years of having traditional curators I thought it was time to ask a man of the next generation.” “At a time when contemporary art is flooding the world,” he added, “it seemed to make more sense to present a show that doesn’t just include a list of artists from the present but rather looks at today’s art through the eyes of history.” Philippe Ségalot, a private art dealer, called Mr. Gioni “a rising star.” “Even though he’s so young,” Mr. Ségalot said, “he’s already a brand and one of the most sought after curators around. As a result expectations are unusually high. Everyone wants to see what he’ll deliver.” Mr. Gioni is mixing high and low, with masters mingling with self-taught and outsider artists. Besides Mr. Auriti, there will be work by names likely to be unfamiliar to even art world insiders. There are arcane objects like a deck of tarot cards created by the British occultist and artist Aleister Crowley, abstract paintings by the Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint and shaker drawings on loan from the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass. For one show within a show, the photographer Cindy Sherman is organizing an exhibition at the Arsenale. Known for photographing herself transformed into hundreds of different personas, including movie stars, Valley girls and menacing clowns, she appealed to Mr. Gioni because, he said, “image plays a big role at this year’s Biennale, and Cindy has spent her life representing herself as others.” Ms. Sherman is creating a kind of bizarre doll’s house with works by little-known artists, prison inmates and popular figures like Robert Gober, Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy and Rosemarie Trockel. An old ship is coming by boat from Iceland; a 200-year-old church is en route from Vietnam; and dozens of contemporary artists need hand-holding while they grapple with installing videos or preparing for complex performances. “Right now I wish there was another me,” Mr. Gioni said with a sigh. Besides organizing the event he has also been a fund-raiser. Money is always tight at any Biennale, and his budget of about $2.3 million simply wasn’t enough to cover his expenses. He has raised more than $2 million on top of that, he said, “mostly from private individuals and foundations and philanthropists.” Although Mr. Gioni is considered something of a star within the close-knit world of contemporary art, he had a larger presence early in his career as the doppelgänger of the mischievous Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. Mr. Cattelan, who is more than a decade older, routinely sent him in his place to do radio and television interviews and even lectures. The prank worked for a while, Mr. Gioni recalled, until a series of mishaps. He was speaking at a lecture organized by the Public Art Fund when Tom Eccles, its director, showed slides of Mr. Cattelan’s self-portraits. “It was obvious I wasn’t him,” Mr. Gioni recalled. Then there was the time he posed as Mr. Cattelan on television and the station’s switchboard became jammed with viewers complaining that an impostor was on the air. “Maurizio was so in demand and I liked it because I thought it was a way to be a committed critic, giving your words to an artist,” Mr. Gioni said. Less than a month before the Biennale was set to open, Mr. Gioni could be found sitting around the dining room table of his apartment, a spare sun-filled East Village walk-up that he shares with his wife of three years, Cecilia Alemani, director of art at the High Line. With him were three assistants, each glued to laptops. Wearing jeans, a white shirt and red sneakers, Mr. Gioni had a way of juggling complex issues with a cool head, quoting wise words from a philosopher one moment and making a wry joke the next. The group was reviewing each artist in the exhibition, name by name, and checking the status of their work. What about Roger Hiorns? Mr. Gioni asked. “He’s concerned his installation will be too near a door,” replied Helga Christoffersen, an assistant. Mr. Gioni explained, “It’s a pulverized altar from a church from England.” “That’s going to be a big hit with the Catholic folks,” he said deadpan, receiving a big laugh from the group. (For the first time the Vatican is represented in its own pavilion at the Biennale.) Camille Henrot? “Missing in action,” Mr. Gioni said slightly nervously. The group then looked at images online of the “S. S. Hangover,” the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s fishing boat that will have six horn players performing on the water in the Arsenale for four hours every day for six months. “We’re working with a conservatory in Venice to find the players,” Mr. Gioni said. When trying to visualize the installation of the circular entrance in the main pavilion where he plans to display 40 pages of Carl Jung’s “Red Book,” an illuminated manuscript on which he worked for more than 16 years, Mr. Gioni grabbed a ruler, went into the living room and measured out the space on the floor with masking tape, trying to figure out the correct height for the climate-controlled vitrine. “He’s obsessed,” Mr. Cattelan said. “When he gets in bed at night he’s not just thinking about the big picture but also about the number of electrical outlets or the height of a video. He gets caught up in the details most curators normally don’t take care of. Being super bright helps; so does his superior knowledge of art.” Mr. Gioni’s methods may be a bit unconventional, but then he didn’t come to the job in the same way as many of his predecessors. He never got a Ph.D. in art history; nor did he spend years climbing his way up the curatorial ladder. But at 39 he has had more hands-on experience overseeing biennales than anyone of his generation: In 2003 he was the curator of the section called “La Zona” at the Venice Biennale. In 2004 he was co-curator of the fifth edition of the traveling biennial Manifesta, a roving European event that was held that year in San Sebastián, Spain; in 2006 he organized the fourth Berlin Biennale in collaboration with Mr. Cattelan and Ali Subotnick, a curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. And in 2010 he was the youngest and first European director of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, its eighth, which attracted more than 500,000 visitors and got rave reviews. Besides his role at the New Museum, where he has spearheaded many ground breaking shows including “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus,” its first triennial, he is also artistic director of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in Milan. Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum, said Mr. Gioni “sees curating as an art form.” “He is terribly well read without being academic so that he can cut across centuries and create a new story,” Ms. Phillips said. Although it all sounds like pretty serious stuff, but Mr. Gioni has a lighter side too. In 2002 Mr. Gioni, along with Mr. Cattelan and Ms. Subotnick, started “The Wrong Gallery,” a minuscule space that was little more than a doorway with a classic Chelsea aluminum-glass front door on West 20th Street. (In 2005 the spoof gallery was evicted, then decamped to the Tate Modern in London in 2005, closing three years later.) Mr. Gioni’s parents are retired — his mother was a schoolteacher and his father was the manager of an ink factory. When he was 15 he moved on his own to Vancouver Island in Canada, where he attended the United World Colleges; later he received a degree in art history from the University of Bologna. The youngest of three siblings, he describes himself as the black sheep of the family. To support himself through school he worked as a translator and eventually became editor of the Italian edition of Flash Art, where he met Mr. Cattelan; in 1999 he moved to New York as its American editor. He met Francesco Bonami, now an independent curator, and did some work with him. Mr. Bonami was the artistic director of the Venice Biennale in 2003 and it was he who asked Mr. Gioni to organize “La Zona” there. Ms. Phillips hired him at the New Museum in 2006 after seeing the Berlin Biennale, which she called “a standout.” Despite the instantaneous nature of culture today and the proliferation of art fairs and giant exhibitions, Mr. Gioni still believes there is a place for biennales. “I grew up with them,” he said. “I saw my first one in Venice in 1993. They are no longer a fixed formula. This is the first decade of a new century and this show will deal with our age of hyperconnectivity, by looking at what goes on in our heads rather than online. It is about the synchronicity of the past, the present and the future.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: May 23, 2013 An earlier version of this article and an accompanying caption misstated the age of Massimiliano Gioni. He is 39, not 40. The article also misstated the employment status of Ali Subotnik. She is a curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles — not an independent curator.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 26, 2013, on page AR1 of the New York edition with the headline: New Guide in Venice.




  Marc Quinn,55th Venice Biennale, Germano Celant
New Marc Quinn Exhibition Parallels 55th Venice Biennale - ArtLyst Article image

New Marc Quinn Exhibition Parallels 55th Venice Biennale

DATE: 01 MAY 2013
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A major exhibition of works by Marc Quinn, opens on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore on 29 May 2013, at the Giorgio Cini Foundation. Running in tandem with the inauguration of the 55th Venice Biennale of Visual Arts, the show is curated by Germano Celant and includes sculptures, paintings and other art objects by one of the original YBAs. Admission to the exhibition is free and it runs until 29 September 2013.

Consisting of more than 50 works, including the public debut of at least 13 new works, Marc Quinn will be one of the artist’s most important exhibitions to date. In addition to reuniting Quinn and Celant, who last worked together on the exhibition Garden at the Prada Foundation, (Milan, 2000) Marc Quinn marks a return of the artist to Venice, following his 2003 show at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, The Overwhelming World of Desire, and highlights the Giorgio Cini Foundation’s growing interest in contemporary art.

Marc Quinn began his career exploring issues such as the relation between art and science, the human body and its survival mechanisms, life and its preservation, and beauty and death. Slated to open to the public on 29 May 2013, Quinn describes the exhibition as “a journey from the origins of life” that celebrates through very powerful works “the awe and wonder of the world in which we live.”

The works on view will include a unique site-specific installation specially adapted for the island of San Giorgio titled Evolution (2005). This series of ten monumental flesh-pink marble sculptures represent foetuses at different stages of gestation. Placed in the water these sculptures conjure up the mystery of life as an extraterrestrial gift that emerges from the lagoon. In another homage to nature, seven colossal seashells in the series The Archaeology of Art seem to ask if art is an enigmatic, intrinsic part of nature. These perfectly symmetrical, naturally occurring forms belie a strange intelligence and seem to follow some order greater than themselves. Lastly, also on view is a new form of the artist’s monumental work, Alison Lapper Pregnant (2005), the original having been previously installed in September 2005 on the fourth plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square. Also a prominent feature in London’s Paralympic Games’ closing ceremony, the work celebrates the triumph of life force over adversity and suggests “a new model for female heroism” in which love, maternity and vitality take on an unexpected form and reach new heights.

Quinn’s conceptual practice incorporates sculpture, painting, installations and films. The artist’s preoccupation with the metamorphic ability of both human life and nature points to his fascination with our innate spirituality. Quinn questions the codes of nature through his use of uncompromising materials such as ice, blood, marble, glass and lead. Through the use of such materials, Quinn’s works are at once poetic and confrontational through their exploration of life, death, sexuality and religion. Quinn transforms the act of seeing by forcing us to question what is around us, propelling us into the unknown in order to rediscover.

Marc Quinn A solo show of works curated by Germano Celant

Marc Quinn and Fondazione Giorgio Cini onlus – 27-28 May 2013, 10 AM – 7 Pm –  29 May – 29 September 2013 – 10 AM – 7 PM – Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice         ==


Venice Biennale Italy

Massimiliano Gioni’s journey into ‘the delirium of the imagination’

The curator of the 55th Venice Biennale discusses his exhibition, “The Encyclopaedic Palace”

By Franco Fanelli. Focus, Issue 247, June 2013 Published online: 24 May 2013

Massimiliano Gioni. Foto by Giorgio Zucchiatti, courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

The Art Newspaper: What are the themes and questions raised by your exhibition?

Massimiliano Gioni: The title is taken from a project that Marino Auriti, a self-taught American artist, presented to the patent office in Pennsylvania in 1955. His museum, which was never built, had 136 floors and was intended to house all of mankind’s great discoveries and inventions. My idea was to explore the idea of knowledge and the quest for an absolute knowledge that eventually becomes a kind of delirium of the imagination. This also connects with the idea of using images to organise, structure and visualise knowledge, which, in turn, connects to a third theme, which is that of the relationship between internal images—dreams, hallucinations, visions—and external images of the real world that impress themselves upon us. However, Auriti also makes us think about the identity and role of the artist in today’s society. This led to the inclusion of less orthodox artists in the show, “outsider artists” who have close ties to self-taught artists who are constantly battling with their own “innocence”. In a way, I identify with them in relation to my work here at the Biennale.

Outsider artists are enjoying wide exposure in international exhibitions, as are artists who are now long dead. What are you trying to show with this mix and with the references to the past?

My show has, more than previous Biennale exhibitions, a certain historical breadth to it—it goes back to the early 20th century, if not the 19th. I couldn’t explore the notion of a thirst for ultimate knowledge by focusing exclusively on contemporary art by young artists. I also believe that you have to include non-mainstream artists to tackle such an ambitious theme properly. This is why I’ve included work by figures such as Carl Gustav Jung, Rudolf Steiner, Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris. Another reason was my belief that if we look upon contemporary art simply as a profession, it becomes mere visual entertainment. This brings us to the idea that culture and visual communication don’t need to involve the artists any more, despite the fact that some artists are becoming richer and more famous. By including outsider artists and liminal figures, we’re widening the traditional canons and reminding people that art has a primary and existential function.

How far has your vision of what art is [ie, not mere visual entertainment] required the presence of political themes in the ­exhibition?

I debated long and hard over this when organising the show. When you organise a show of this kind, you have to make many choices, edits, exclusions. This is just one of many ­possible shows that deal with a certain intolerance of politics. At the same time, however, and maybe because you only organise the Biennale once in your life, the themes have to transcend the here and now, and should really confront themselves profoundly with the past and the present. Maybe I’m wrong but I think the theme of knowledge and the role of images in relation to mankind’s identity and make-up has a wider scope. Of course, there are works that also deal with the present day, such as the Moroccan artist Bouchra Khalili’s video work that contains interviews with immigrants who speak of their dreams. Rossella Biscotti, meanwhile, started working with female prison inmates eight months ago and discussing their dreams with them. Sharon Hayes has made a documentary about sexuality in America. But it’s not an exhibition about politics—it’s not a replica of Artur Żmijewski’s Berlin Biennial [2012]. Even though politics infiltrate the show, there is still the idea that dreams and visions have the power to imagine a different future. I might be accused of idealism or cryptofascism, just like Breton and Bataille, because I’m putting on an “intimate” show at a time like this. But there are always those who protest against times like these by creating microcosms as ways of escape or as models for the future.

You used the term “temporary museum” when presenting “The Encyclopaedic Palace”, and previously used the term when you organised the Gwangju Biennial. Are the two shows linked in any way?

I think of this show in Venice as the “second volume” of a research project that I started at Gwangju and then carried on in numerous other shows. In Gwangju I focused on the idea of “the image” as characteristic of our present, particularly photography. It was also an exhibition that celebrated the end of analogue photography. “The Encyclopaedic Palace” is a show about imagination, the visualisation of dreams and internal imagery, and relating them to artificial imagery. The main theme in Gwangju was “the portrait”, while in Venice it’s the images that lie within us and our attempts to understand the world and to organise it within our own minds. A “temporary museum” can mean many things—it can signify an exhibition that is less “biennial”, if we take that term to mean a festival in which young contemporary artists do what they want. Instead it’s a mixture of different historical moments, which is even reflected in the layout of the show.

The Arsenale has been the delight and the bane of many of your predecessors. It’s a great space but also sprawling.

I tried to structure the Arsenale according to a museum exhibition blueprint rather than a biennial exhibition blueprint. This means we’ve used a more rigid set-up with spaces that are suitable for small-scale works too. I was thinking more along the lines of a wunderkammer than a contemporary art museum. The model, if you will, of an ethnographic museum.

A show this obsessed with the idea of universal knowledge can’t escape the birth of the internet, can it? What is your take?

I like to think of “The Encyclopaedic Palace” as a kind of prehistory of the digital age. Obviously this kind of exhibition that deals with knowledge and images must necessarily deal with digital information. The end of the show features works by Wade Guyton, Mark Leckey, Helen Marten, Hito Steyerl and Yuri Ancarani that address today’s digital culture. Sure, the exhibition, in a way, is about today’s Wikipedia and Wikileaks society, but it approaches these topics by looking at their precursors and discovering that this thirst for knowledge and understanding has characterised most of the 20th century. The show is an attempt to chart the precursors of this notion and various people’s failings to achieve this desired goal. Given my age [Gioni was born in 1974], people were probably expecting a youth-oriented exhibition. I think that everything that defines the present is the result of the coexistence of various historical moments and knowledge that all become accessible simultaneously in the digital age. It is digital culture that allows the present to coexist with historical moments. The show explores the desire to see and know everything, but it also addresses the melancholy that comes from the realisation that we can never have enough time or brain power to do so.

Who is the artist today?

The “revival” of Marino Auriti is a way of reminding us that the artists that sell at auction aren’t the only artists around. For me, an artist is someone who is capable of producing or finding an image, buried in the “contemporary magma of images”, that has an intensity that sets it apart from all the others. An artist can produce a visual language that rejects the simplification that characterises most of contemporary visual culture.

• This interview was translated from Italian and appears in the June edition of our sister paper, Il Giornale dell’Art



A research-exhibition about relationships and knowledge. The next International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will be titled The Encyclopedic Palace and will be curated by the enfant prodige of the Italian contemporary art, Massimiliano Gioni (on the photo). From June 1st to November 24th 2013, the Padiglione Centrale (Giardini) and the Arsenale will host 155 artists coming from 37 countries, representing a time lapse from the last century to nowadays. Among the news of this edition, there will be the exhibition curated by Cindy Sherman and the presentation of the original manuscript of Carl Gustav Jung’s The Red Book. The title of the exhibition is inspired by a project of the Italo-american Marino Auriti, who patented the idea of the Encyclopedic Palace on November 16th, 1955. It was an imaginary museum that would host all the human knowledge, from wheel to satellite, everything concentrated inside a unique building composed by 136 floors, 700 meters high, that would be able to occupy more than 16 blocks of Washington. “This exhibition wants to explore how the artist can give form to his inner images, when he is surrounded by artificial images, while he lives in a information overload – Gioni explained – We try to talk about imagination through an anthropological approach, taking the Umberto Eco’s idea of encyclopedia as our starting point”. Indeed, the biennials model is similar to Aurity’s dream: it attempts to assemble the endless worlds of contemporary art into a unique place. Aiming to express these ideas, The Encyclopedic Palace will present paintings, films, pictures, videos, bestiaries, encyclopedic figures, performances, installations, without any distinction between the institutional art and the so-called „low“ art, from the academic artist and the self-taught artist. Inside the Padiglione Centrale space, the Hilma af Klimt‘s and Papa Ibra Tall‘s paintings will be close to the Augustin Lesage‘s works, to the Shake community’s or the shamans of the Salamon Island’s drawings. The complete Roger Caillois’ collection of stones or the Rudolf Steiner‘s sketches will be next to Robert Crumb‘s illustrations or to Hito Steyerl‘s and Sharon Hayes‘ videos, and even to the tarots realized by Aleister Crowley (“The clairvoyant role is really contemporary – Gioni clarified – And then he lived in Italy for a period of time”). “In these years, our curators’ desire to put the artist into a historical or relational prospective increased”, declared Paolo Baratta, the President of the Venice Biennale. A prospective that is also so inclusive that it became an exhibition inside the exhibition. Indeed, the artist Cindy Sherman will present at the Arsenale a show curated by her own – more than 200 artworks made by about 30 artists, among which there will be Carol Rama, John De Andrea, Herbert List. “Plato said that there is nothing as sweet as to know everything”, Gioni quoted smiling, and after all he knows a lot about biennial shows. Born in 1973, he curated the exhibition called “La Zona” in the 50th Venice Biennale when he was 30 years old, then he curated Manifesta 5 in 2004 and the Berlin Biennial in 2006 (with Maurizio Cattelan and Ali Subotnick), without considering the other shows and his role as director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. “About art, Italy is a nation that plays in the major league, sometimes with resources that are suitable for the minor league – he confided. So, if they want to make their work known, the Italian artists are forced to travel abroad more than their colleagues coming form the other countries”. The Encyclopedic Palace has been the Auriti’s unattainable dream and, as much as all the unattainable dreams and utopias, it will never stop to inspire art and imagination.

Camille Henrot, Coupé/Décalé, 2010, Video, Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris
Gabriele Girolamini13.03.2013

The Encyclopedic Palace :: 55° International Art Exhibition Giardini e Arsenale Vernice: 29-30-31 Maggio 2013 web:

Venice (Italy), from June 1st to November 24th 201



Venice Biennale: Iraq’s art world emerges from the ruins

Iraq pavilion challenges ‘rockets and bombs’ view of country to showcase an art world painstakingly emerging from shadow of Saddam and invasion

Saddam is Here
Jamal Penjweny’s series of photographs, Saddam Is Here, shows ordinary Iraqis holding Saddam masks over their own faces. Photograph: Jamal Penjweny
“You have no idea how difficult the biscuits were,” said Tamara Chalabi, one of the commissioners of the Iraq pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as she described her idea of providing traditional cakes and tea for visitors along with the best of the nation’s art. “We couldn’t bring them from Baghdad, because of EU regulations. It was too expensive to import them from London. “So I put out a message on Facebook asking if anyone knew an Iraqi living in Italy who could bake them (kleytcha bil joz – sesame seed biscuits stuffed with walnuts, cardamom and rose water). I even contacted an Iraqi nun living in Rome. We found someone, but she couldn’t get a visa. Finally an old family connection appeared out of nowhere, and she had a Swedish passport. She came to Venice and gave a three-day workshop to a Venetian bakery.” Saddam is Here A picture from Jamal Penjweny’s series of photographs, Saddam Is Here. Photograph: Jamal Penjweny The biscuit problem was only one of innumerable obstacles standing in the way of the creation of the Iraq pavilion – the second time the nation has fielded work at the world’s most important international art event, but the first time it has showed artists living and working in the country, rather than those exiled overseas. The first challenge was finding artists in a country where making paintings or sculpture might seem at best a secondary concern compared with keeping body and soul together. But Chalabi, one of the figures behind the Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq, was determined to dent the mainstream western “Newsnight version” of the country: “Tanks, bombs, rockets, blood. It’s not about whitewashing that – but rather about giving a voice to human beings that have been overlooked.” Saddam is Here Another picture from Jamal Penjweny’s series of photographs, Saddam Is Here. Photograph: Jamal Penjweny Chalabi described an art world that is painstakingly emerging not only from the crippling effects of invasion and the struggle to exist in a postwar world of fragile security, but from years of the dead hand of the Saddam regime, when the only art training available was deeply conservative and tinged by a prevailing social-realist aesthetic. “Even self-respecting artists will have had to do portraits of the leader,” she said. But she and British curator Jonathan Watkins, director of Birmingham’s Ikon gallery, went on the road to find and meet artists from Kurdistan to Basra and Baghdad, ranging from the caustically witty political cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir to photographer Jamal Penjweny, whose series of photographs Saddam Is Here shows ordinary Iraqis in everyday situations holding an image of Saddam over their own faces like a mask. The latter work is a reminder, according to Watkins, that the “mentality of the regime lingers in the mind”. WAMI
Untitled, 2013, from Welcome to Iraq by WAMI at the Iraq Pavilion. Photograph by David Levene for the Guardian Hashim Taeeh, from Basra, is one half of an artistic duo called WAMI. Together with Yassen Wami, he makes sculpture from discarded cardboard boxes. A whole room of the exhibition, titled Welcome to Iraq, in the exquisite Ca’ Dandolo on the Grand Canal, is furnished with furniture made from old packaging: a cardboard bed with cardboard pillow and eiderdown; a cardboard lamp, clock and a whole bookshelf loaded with cardboard books. WAMI
Untitled, 2013, from Welcome to Iraq by WAMI at the Iraq Pavilion. Photograph by David Levene for the Guardian Taeeh, a self-taught artist and poet, who also works in Iraq’s agriculture ministry, said: “I started using this material in 1991, the year Iraq was under economic punishment [sanctions]. Everything immediately became extremely expensive, including artists’ materials, so I was not able to buy oils or acrylic paints or canvas, and I was obliged to use this cheap cardboard. It is also a fragile material, like our fragile life. Our democracy is very fragile.”Watkins added: “A lot of the art is about making do and getting by: how to improvise in this difficult situation.”Furat al Jamil, who lives in Baghdad where she works as a film-maker, has one piece in the show: a sculpture of a broken, 300-year-old Mesopotamian ceramic vessel hung over with honeycombs. The pot, she said, might be seen as “symbolic of a broken culture, or of a broken life”. The idea of honey and the beehive, she says, “in mythology represents the soul” – there is, she says, a sense of healing or reparation, however tentative. Saddam is Here A picture from Jamal Penjweny’s series of photographs, Saddam Is Here. Photograph: Jamal Penjweny Chalabi believes “it will take another generation to process what has happened over the past decade: there needs to be more time and distance to discuss the war artistically”. For some artists, making work is a retreat, rather than a place for commentary on politics: “You’d be amazed by how many people are doing flower paintings,” she said.”An artist lives in his or her own world,” said al Jamil. “You create your own environment and keep the outside world at bay. I live in Baghdad in a house with a garden and big walls: I can somehow separate the outside world with what’s happening inside. Of course when you leave and try and get around the city, you get upset: when you stop at a checkpoint you wonder if an IED is going to explode. But after a while you begin to ignore it. It becomes part of life.”==ARTFORUM MAGAZINE

Encyclopedic Knowledge


Left: Victoria Mikhelson and Venice Biennale artistic director Massimiliano Gioni. (Photo: Kate Sutton) Right: Artist Ragnar Kjartansson (left).

EVEN BEFORE THE FIRST BELLINIS could be served, this year’s Venice Biennale kicked off with a hangover. The S.S. Hangover, to be precise—a repurposed Icelandic sailing ship loaded with chamber musicians, the latest in Ragnar Kjartansson’s endurance-based performances. “When I first saw the boat, I thought it looked like something made by a set designer,” chuckled the artist. “It’s like a bastard of all the boats I could have wanted.” We stood on the lawn beside the Gaggiandre, the dock area outside the Arsenale where the work makes its rounds. At that early hour, 10 AM on Tuesday, I harbored high hopes that the biennial would offer a comparable love child—just the right amount of everything. I wasn’t disappointed. This year, Venice may have lost its Charles Ray, but the biennial itself saw some welcome updates. Chief among them was the introduction of a sane and orderly Tuesday press preview, which meant relative calm in the Giardini, with manageable queues, artists breathing easily, and tote bags still available at every folding table. I was a bit taken aback, then, to run into dealer Alexander Hertling and artist Neil Beloufa amid the crowd in front of the Italian Pavilion. “I thought today was just for press?” Leery after reports of unreliable weather, some of us had gone out the door in our shabby-chic (and weather-friendly) reporter duds—hardly a match for a fleet of well-dressed dealers. “No, artists too,” Hertling corrected, as Mario Testino sailed by to double kiss a collector in the doorway.

Left: Artist Jeremy Deller. Right: Artists Lawrence Weiner and Sarah Sze.

Anything goes, I suppose, which was certainly the feel of this year’s main exhibition, “The Encyclopedic Palace,” curated by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni. Rather than try to recap trends of the past two years, the exhibition finds inspiration in outsider artist Marino Auriti, who in 1955 took out a patent on an imaginary museum that could contain all manner of human endeavor. Following this conceit, Gioni has transformed the Italian Pavilion into a “temporary museum” of knick-knacks, oddballs, and hermetic wonders, a disparate collection of works—from Henry Fisher Ames’s hand-carved creatures to critic Roger Caillois’s rock collections to Maria Lassnig’s electric-lemonade-edged “drastic paintings”—that share one thing: a kind of obsessive relation to the world. Some might complain that the “have your cake and eat it too” encyclopedia scenario enables a dicey slippage between museum and biennial curatorial strategies. But of course historical and structural promiscuity has its advantages—and not just for the curator. The Italian Pavilion was riveting from the get-go, with Achilles G. Rizzoli’s early-twentieth-century “symbolic sketches” of people-as-architecture juxtaposed with Jack Whitten’s bricolage memorial to 9/11. Further on, Ron Nagle’s marvelous Sleep Study ceramics (he makes them before going to bed) canoodle with collages by Geta Bratescu and a procession of lilting shiva linga paintings, anonymous works with tantric purposes. An outdoor garden is punctuated with Sarah Lucas’s sculptures, her puckered “Nuds” now cast in bronze, as evocative as ever, though now with more (literal) gravity. A Dorothea Tanning self-portrait of the artist on the edge of a precipice in Sedona, Arizona, is hung so that the abyss she faces is filled with Fischli & Weiss’s Suddenly This Overview, 1981–, a sprawling collection of witty clay sculptures illustrating phrases ranging from “Doctor Hoffmann on the first LSD trip” (a man on a bike) to “Mr and Mrs. Einstein, shortly after the conception of their son Albert” (a couple in a bed). The oldest works in the “Palace” were a set of intricate drawings from a Shaker community that had experienced visions, which they tried to record in what became known as “gift paintings.”

Left: French pavilion curator Christine Macel. Right: White Columns director Matthew Higgs, artist Anne Collier, and dealers Eva Presenhuber and Toby Webster in the British pavilion.

In the Arsenale, Gioni routed visitors through several gauntlets of photographs by the likes of J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Eliot Porter, and Christopher Williams (“He wasn’t kidding about that encyclopedia thing, was he?” a friend mused) before leading into works by Danh Vo, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Albert Oehlen, and R. Crumb, whose sprawling Book of Genesis appears in full. This was all capped by a new three-thousand-square-foot installation by Ryan Trecartin, a section guest-curated by Cindy Sherman, and a pseudoretrospective of Stan VanDerBeek (via his own “encyclopedic” Movie-Drome). In the Giardini, architecture itself seemed the theme of the day, with Sarah Sze dissolving the bounds between indoors and out with her expansive installation Triple Point at the US pavilion, and Simryn Gill removing the roof altogether from the Australian digs. The Georgian pavilion looked a little Swiss Family Robinshvili, a treehouse tacked onto an older building, but, as artists Sergei Tcherepnin and Gela Patashuri explained, this type of parasitic “kamikaze loggia” is a relatively common feature in Tbilisi. In the Israeli pavilion, a giant hole in the floor marks the “tunnel” used by the long-distance spelunkers of Gilad Ratman’s The Workshop, who leave behind crude clay portraits as proof of their passage. Korean curator Seungduk Kim wanted the country’s artist to feature the pavilion, rather than the other way around. Accordingly, Kimsooja’s To Breathe covered the walls and floor in reflective paneling, drawing attention to the building itself. Visitors removed their shoes and went one by one into a sensory deprivation chamber. An intoxicating experience to be sure, but the combined odor of all that calle-cruising had me wishing for a more sustained olfactory deprivation. France and Germany swapped pavilions this year, allowing Christine Macel’s installation of a stunning Anri Sala video to take full advantage of the borrowed building’s height. Germany, meanwhile, thematized the shake-up, expanding the concept of “nation” by importing four non-German-born artists, including Ai Weiwei. Meanwhile, at the British pavilion, Jeremy Deller unleashed some English Magic, featuring, among other engagé works, a mural resurrecting Victorian socialist and aesthete William Morris so he could shuck Roman Abramovich’s yacht Luna—infamous for ruining the vista at the last Biennale—into the Grand Canal. Narratives collide in a film playing in the back room, where viewers watched from a seat on an overturned car. “I haven’t seen anything yet,” Gioni moaned, edging closer to the video monitor. He paused, in obvious thought: “You know, that would actually make for a good show title.”

Left: Artist Urs Fischer and dealer Sadie Coles. Right: Dealer Alexander Hertling and artist Neil Beloufa. (Photos: Kate Sutton)

Show titles made up the substance of the Romanian pavilion across the bridge, where artists Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus used Tino Sehgal–tested tactics to present An Immaterial Retrospective of the Venice Biennale, which retold pivotal moments of the exhibition’s history through choreographed miming with what, at first, seemed incidental audience members. I walked in on David Lamelas’s Office of Information. “There was a desk,” the narrator announces, as one performer gets on his hands and knees. “And a window,” the narrator continues, spurring a second figure to flatten himself into a more or less convincing pane. Next door, crowds recollect their own highlights while waiting for Konrad Smoleński’s bells to ring (every hour on the hour) at the Polish pavilion. The waning crowds and peeling bells reminded me of other, “collateral” commitments. So then it was off to the Palazzo Pisani Moretta for a lavish dinner in honor of Gioni, cohosted by the New Museum, Lietta and Dakis Joannou, Beatrice Trussardi, and Leonid Mikhelson, who presented the man of the week with a photo from an ice-fishing expedition in Russia. “I hooked two fish at once,” the curator beamed. “I don’t know how or what it means, but I did it.” Later on, New Museum director Lisa Phillips stood up to give a toast: “Massimiliano has raised the bar, not only for biennials, but for museums as well.” Gioni ducked under his napkin in embarrassment, then countered with a toast of his own. Pulling out a set of cards (“I know I’m supposed to be the youngest director, but I’m already losing my memory”), Gioni graciously thanked those who have stood by him: “There is this quote I like about how art is exercise to learn the things you can’t understand. Let’s just say, the New Museum has been my gym.” As everyone turned back to their risotto, Dakis Joannou stood to give the last word: “Massimiliano, Lisa said you reinvented fire. The problem now is that you’ve set us all on fire too.”

Left: At the Romanian pavilion. (Photo: Kate Sutton) Right: Artist Helen Marten (left).

Kate Sutton

Left: Julie Abdessemed and Adel Abdessemed. Right: Milla Jovovich performs. (Photos: Kate Sutton)

Left: The Georgia Pavilion. Right: Ei Arakawa and Sergei Tcherepnin work on the Georgia Pavilion.

Left: Artist Jesper Just at the Danish Pavilion. Right: Artist Valentin Carron with collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Swiss Pavilion curator Giovanni Carmine, and Eugenio Re Rebaudengo.

Left: Artist Vadim Zakharov at the Russian Pavilion. Right: Artist Terike Haapoja at the Nordic Pavilion.

Left: Artist Akram Zaatari with dealer Andrée Sfeir-Semler. Right: Art historian Claire Bishop with Portugal Pavilion curator Miguel Amado.


Review: 55th Venice Biennale Giardini, Venice

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Wednesday 29 May 2013


While the pavilions at this year’s Biennale attempt to outdo one another in terms of architectural grandeur and artistic wackiness, to wander through them is a joy. And if the colossal range of art isn’t enough, the people-watching is fantastic. The wealthy, the weird, and the art-loving have turned up to sip bellinis in the Venetian sunshine and contemplate everything from mounds of conceptual rubble (Spain) to graffiti art that appears to write itself onto the gallery wall (Venezuela). The quality of the art is varied but the range is thrilling. Artist Vadim Zakharov has created an installation in the Russian Pavilion that is both enchanting and politically charged. Female visitors are handed transparent umbrellas and ushered into a room wherein gold coins rain down the ceiling; men are barred. Upstairs, a suited and stony-faced bureaucrat keeps watch over bags of money. A flow of cold hard cash runs throughout the gallery. This political allegory works to brilliant (and bewildering) effect. The Finnish Pavilion is another highlight. Artist Terike Haapoja has transformed the gallery into a cross between a post-apocalyptic moonscape and a zen garden. Pools of still water are interspersed with trees fitted with censors. Visitors are invited to talk to the trees, which respond by breathing harder. Their strange scientific petals open. The experience is eerie and poetic. The Israeli Pavilion is likewise fascinating. Artist Gilad Ratman has made a film of hippies tunnelling through the bowels of the earth and emerging into a gallery. They set up a workshop and mould clay into busts; faces take shape. The hippies claw at the eyes and mouths they have created, before burrowing microphones into the clay heads and howling strange incantations. Like a ship of fools, this is art made feral and disturbing. The Encyclopaedic Palace is this year’s international art exhibition, in which a performance art piece by Tino Sehgal takes place in a gallery filled with the drawings of visionary educationalist Rudolph Steiner. They are diagrams of ideas in electrically bright colours on black paper. The Palace is named after a 1955 design proposal for “an imaginary museum” by Italian-American artist Marino Auriti that would “house all worldly knowledge.” While the deluxe yachts line up outside the Giardini and the champagne corks pop, much of the art here retains some revolutionary zeal. It seems to delight in poking fun at the only people who can afford it. 1st June – 24th November ============ FRONT ROW D MAGAZINE – DALLAS

This article originally appeared in the May issue of D Magazine. The Venice Biennale kicks-off this week. Every other year in May, the sinking streets and labyrinthine waterways of Venice are overrun by collectors and curators, dealers and museum directors, artists and art aficionados who descend on the Italian city for the Venice Biennale. The sprawling art expo features a curated exhibition as well as artists chosen by countries to represent them in various national pavilions, thus mixing aspects of major art survey with the boosterism of a world’s fair. This year, however a number of lucky visitors to the Venice Biennale will fine an unassuming publication with a curious tittle slipped into their hands. It is called The Dallas Pavilion. Flipping it open, people will be confronted with images of a foreign landscape – a concrete strip of interstate and a seemingly endless, flat grassland overhung by an expanse of bright blue sky. “Approaching the Metroplex,” the tile reads. “DFW and the Unframed Urban Landscape.” There is no spot on the globe quite like Venice, a compressed and contained urban ecosystem made up of pedestrian-scaled streets, navigable canals, and piazzas that pool between baroque buildings. Compare that with the sprawling, wide-open, uncontained urban environment of North Texas. This jarring contrast is just one of a few disconnects meant to provoke interest in the little book that was imagined, in part, as a way of thrusting the overlooked artistic endeavors of North Texas onto the stage of one of the world’s oldest and most renowned showcases of contemporary art. The Dallas Pavilion is the project of two artists, Jasper Joseph-Lester and Southern Methodist University professor Michael Corris. It is a clever cross between tongue-in-cheek jingoistic civic marketing and renegade pop-up art show, a municipal pavilion couched in the form of an art book. Featuring a series of essays, interviews, and reproduced text-based art pieces and prints, the book presents features on a number of local art spaces and events—from 500X and Barry Whistler Gallery to the Tuesday night lecture series at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the original Fair Park location of the Dallas Museum of Art—as a way of cataloging the locations that exhibit and give form to North Texas’ art community. Think of it as a way of placing Dallas’ creative output in its own book-size pavilion. “A pavilion is just a way of bringing things together,” Corris says. “It doesn’t have to be architectural.” The Dallas Pavilion isn’t the first art book distributed at the Venice Biennale. England-based Joseph-Lester previously created another such publication, Project Biennale. It offered a play on the promotional aspect of the Venice Biennale, serving both as commentary on the form of the biennale itself, a manifestation of art world power structures, and as a shameless display of opportunism on the part of the artists who operate outside the confines of those structures. Joseph-Lester met Corris when they taught together years ago at Sheffield Hallam University, and he took an interest in Dallas when he visited last year and started asking artists and gallerists which spaces in town they saw as important locations for art-making and exhibition. He and Corris figured that those spaces themselves offered a portrait of the local scene. They also determined what locally is understood as art that contributes to the region’s cultural identity—much as a biennale does. Corris says he and Joseph-Lester will print 1,500 copies of The Dallas Pavilion, 500 of which they’ll hand out in Venice. He says outright that he has no delusions about what it will accomplish. While the book bears some similarity to the kind of brochure the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau might distribute (if it were actually savvy to the Dallas art scene), civic marketing is a point of reference or an organizing intent, not an end goal for The Dallas Pavilion. In fact, you could make the argument that the publication’s primary audience is not the bewildered art lovers in Venice who will toss their copies of the book into the bottoms of their suitcases after a week of romping past work by some of the world’s major art protagonists. Rather, from reproductions of provocative works of art to shots of sculpture at NorthPark, from obscure text-based pieces to images of Museum Tower thrusting its way into the oculus of James Turrell’s ruined Tending, (Blue) at the Nasher Sculpture Center, The Dallas Pavilion depicts an eccentric cross section of Dallas culture. It offers local audiences a glimpse of what this city looks like when it’s packed up for international export – even if no one overseas is buying it. Image from The Dallas Pavilion. ====

201304-ss-venice-biennale-museo-fortuny© Worldwide Picture Library / Alamy

Museo Fortuny

Once owned by the ancestral Pesaro family, this palazzo served as Mariano Fortuny’s atelier, where he worked in photography, paint, stage design and, perhaps most famously, textiles. Centrally located in San Marco, the museum, which houses the artist’s original collections, is a safe bet for an unexpected cultural foray. Its new exhibition, which runs for the length of the Biennale (June 1 through November 24), is devoted to the work of the late Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies, who represented Spain in the 45th Biennale in 1993. The show will celebrate the artist’s gaze through many of his key works (both paintings and mixed-media pieces) and those of notable contemporaries like Enrique Tábara, Antonio Saura and Manolo Millares. San Marco 3958; 39-041/520-0995;

201304-ss-venice-biennale-peggy-guggenheim-collection© The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Photo: Andrea Sarti/CAST1466

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Widely acknowledged as one of the most important museums in Italy for early-20th-century art, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the perfect place to put the artistic experience of the Biennale in perspective. The museum is located in Guggenheim’s former home, the elegant Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, and will feature collages by Robert Motherwell, an artist who exemplifies a particular slice of art history—the rise of Abstract Expressionism—from May 26 through September 8. Guggenheim was a longtime collector of Motherwell’s work. He held a solo exhibition at her New York gallery in 1944, and their relationship is evident in the scope of this show. Dorsoduro 701; 39-041/240-5411;

201304-ss-venice-biennale-fondazione-prada-exhibition© StAAG / RBA / Siegfried Kuhn

Fondazione Prada

As the cultural arm of the fashion house, Fondazione Prada, conceived by Miuccia Prada, Patrizio Bertelli and art historian and curator Germano Celant, is committed to coproducing site-specific projects with renowned artists. In honor of this year’s Biennale, the Fondazione is staging a reinvention of the exhibition “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form” (pictured above), which originally showed at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969. Presented at the Ca’ Corner della Regina, the foundation’s Venetian event space, the exhibit focuses on post-pop and post-minimalist art, maintaining the visual and curatorial spirit of the original show with the energy and novelty of a new environment. The result is an examination of how this work evolves, not only in the context of the art world but also through changes in time and space. Santa Croce 2215; 39-041/810-9161;

201304-ss-venice-biennale-il-prato© Courtesy of IL PRATO Venezia

Il Prato

Il Prato is a truly Venetian find devoted to the highest level of artisanship. The tiny shop is known for its fine paper products (sold here for more than two decades), beautifully hand-printed with wooden blocks using a 16th-century technique. You can also find beautiful glassware and luxury leather goods; the leather trays in vibrant shades of red and orange are especially striking. The store’s reputation, widely known among tourists and locals alike, is built on originality and exclusivity, and it is hard to imagine finding these sorts of treasures—like elegant paper boxes secured with ribbon or a set of pencils printed a perfect shade of mossy green—anywhere else. Calle delle Ostreghe; San Marco 2456/8; 39-041/523-1148;

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