Inside the superb: SFMOMA

 

The newly expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Credit Henrik Kam/Sfmoma

SAN FRANCISCO — Inside the newly expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, one of the most startling sights is the absence of works on the towering walls flanking the main zigzagging staircase.

The blank walls are awaiting the arrival of a pair of paintings next year by Julie Mehretu, the Ethiopian-born, New York-based artist. “She’s working on the commission,” said Gary Garrels, a senior curator, climbing stairs with the ease of someone who has given many museum tours. “The paintings are so large that she has to use an old church in Harlem as her studio.”

When the museum officially reopens on May 14, after a three-year closing, a $305 million addition by the architecture firm Snohetta and a campaign that elicited some 3,000 works of art from donors, it will have bragging rights on many fronts.

Spanning a full city block at its widest, with a dynamic white structure that resembles a cruise ship, the museum will be the largest in the Bay Area. It will have more exhibition space dedicated to photography than the Getty in Los Angeles, and more gallery space than the current Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

It will also have extraordinary concentrations of 20th-century art: Calder mobiles, Warhol silk-screens, Richter paintings and LeWitt wall drawings across three floors, thanks to a 100-year loan by the Gap founders Don and Doris Fisher that necessitated the expansion.

But curators at the museum, who don’t want it to be seen as the Fisher Museum of Modern Art, are already working hard behind the scenes to bring the museum into the 21st century, with major commissions like Ms. Mehretu’s, as well as lesser-known discoveries. They are seeking to bring a visual and cultural diversity to the museum that the Fisher collection, rooted in blue-chip work of the white male art world of 1960s America and Germany, is lacking.

“S.F. MoMA has always had a commitment to the emerging, the experimental and the new, but that has waxed and waned over the decades,” Mr. Garrels said. “It’s more important than ever that we strongly commit to being engaged with contemporary art in its global dynamics.”

“Global contemporary” is a buzz phrase heard in museum board rooms throughout the country. “It will be interesting to see: What’s going to set them apart from every other museum in every other city that has contemporary ambitions?” said Ian Berry, who runs the Tang museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and was an early visitor to the Snohetta building. (He called it “a great achievement.”)

Among the contemporary initiatives underway are film programs, community-driven projects and residencies for performance artists. The museum’s director, Neal Benezra, plans to hire a curator this fall to focus solely on contemporary art “across all collecting categories,” shaking up departments long organized by medium: photography, media arts, architecture and design, and — Mr. Garrels’s area — painting and sculpture.

Mr. Benezra has earmarked one large lobby for new art, once the Fishers’ 214-ton Richard Serra sculpture is removed in a couple of years. “It will be like our version of Turbine Hall,” he said, referring to the Tate Modern’s vast and enormously flexible space.

Elsewhere in the building, signs of the museum’s commitment to the hyper-contemporary and geopolitically diverse are already visible. A project room on the fourth floor has a new Bauhaus-inspired installation by the Berlin-based Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes, while the seventh floor (the top floor for visitors) has a survey of recent donations: major pieces by Ai Weiwei, Mark Bradford and Mark Grotjahn, as well as some less predictable choices.

One surprise is Brad Kahlhamer’s 2014 hanging wire sculpture “Super Catcher,” which looks like dream catchers caught in an archaic fisherman’s net, studded with small bells. “The rattling makes me think of native dance rituals,” said Mr. Garrels, who placed the work in a new gallery exploring “issues of cultural identity.”

Another standout is a vibrantly patterned and painted collage, by the Nigerian-born Njideka Akunyili Crosby, that depicts her own cross-cultural wedding. She kneels in traditional African dress and offers her American husband, who wears jeans, the ritualistic palm wine. “We bought it straight from her show at the Studio Museum, before she even had a gallery,” Mr. Garrels said.

Katie Paige, a trustee at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (and whose father, Charles Schwab, is board chairman), has started a contemporary-art support group to organize studio visits with artists, trips to biennials and fairs. It’s meant for new collectors, including the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors whom everyone in cultural philanthropy seems to be chasing, with little success.

The guests at the first event, a March conversation between Mr. Garrels and the artist Carol Bove at Ms. Paige’s home, included the Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger; his wife, Kaitlyn Trigger; and the venture capitalist Anthony Schiller, who works with the longtime museum patron Dick Kramlich.

“Maybe we can’t compete with L.A. or New York in terms of the depth of museums or galleries or community of artists,” Ms. Paige said. “But we certainly compete very strongly on the collectors’ end. And this group is a way for the museum to reach a new generation, a younger donor base.”

A long-running group affiliated with the museum supports Bay Area emerging artists; this newer one has a more global focus, in line with the curators’ expanding interests.

“I think their big challenge,” said Mr. Berry, the Tang Museum director, “is to be attentive to their local audience and community of artists while simultaneously finding the time and resources and energy to get out and see as much as they can in the larger world of art making.”

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THE GUARDIAN LONDON

SFMOMA’s reopening: a ‘game-changer for San Francisco’ – and contemporary art

With its newly acquired collection of Richters and Warhols and a multi-million dollar renovation, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is aiming to join the top rank of galleries. Ahead of its reopening, Paul Laity takes a tour

Grand entrance … Richard Serra’s Sequence (2006), in the Roberts Family Gallery at at SFMOMA.
Grand entrance … Richard Serra’s Sequence (2006), in the Roberts Family Gallery at at SFMOMA. Photograph: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

For years, workers at the San Francisco HQ of the clothing chain Gap walked past an enormous piece of fruit. At the entrance to the company cafeteria sat the 8ft-high Geometric Apple Core by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen – the “Gapple”, a classic of contemporary art. Though held in great affection, however, the sculpture was, in those offices, rather commonplace. Art was everywhere, including a 1963 silver Triple Elvis by Andy Warhol, a roomful of monumental Chuck Close portraits and an array of dazzling Ellsworth Kelly abstracts.

Gap’s founders, Donald and Doris Fisher, used their millions from the 1970s onwards to amass 1,100 works of prestigious mid and late 20th-century art – including 21 Warhols, 23 works by Gerhard Richter and 45 Alexander Calder mobiles. It was recognised in art circles as a hugely significant collection, but, outside their firm, was kept largely under wraps.

All that changed in 2009 when, just two days before Don died, a longstanding agreement (unusual in the art world) was reached to show the collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for at least 100 years. It was a momentous occasion for SFMOMA, which began to plan a major expansion to accommodate the new treasures. Having been closed for nearly three years for the redevelopment, the museum – now doubled in size, with three times the gallery space – reopens on 14 May.

An external view of Snøhetta’s expansion.
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An external view of Snøhetta’s expansion. Photograph: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

Alongside 260 pieces from the Fishers – the first trawl – will be not only the old permanent collection but hundreds of new works donated by the region’s art collectors, as part of a special campaign led by the museum’s director, Neal Benezra. The new SFMOMA is about to join the very highest rank of galleries of contemporary art in the world.

The museum, which opened in 1935, got its own building 60 years later – the postmodern structure by Mario Botta, recognisable by its stacked boxes of red brick and central cylinder wrapped in zebra stripes of black and white stone. This exterior has been left alone, but wedged around it is a distinctive new building on seven floors, created by Norwegian architects Snøhetta: its white rippled facade, we’re told, evokes the waters of the bay surrounding San Francisco and the rolling in of the city’s famous fog.

The interior has been designed to merge the two buildings seamlessly. Benezra and I walked around as the installation of the art was in its final stages, and only a few pieces were left in crates or cellophane. Much of the ground floor is near-complete: a huge Richard Serra sculpture, Sequence – two spirals of weathered steel transported to the museum on 11 flat-bed trucks – has long been in place at one glass-walled gallery entrance; a dozen people had just lifted a 26ft-wide Calder mobile to help in its suspension over the main atrium.

The director talks of the reopening being a “game changer for San Francisco”, but is careful to emphasise that the museum is now world-class in “contemporary” art – work, that is, from the last four decades of the 20th century and since – rather than “modern”. “I define modern art as going up through abstract expressionism,” he explains, “then with Warhol and Lichtenstein and the pop artists, Johns and Rauschenberg, there is a return to the visible world in one way or another. And to me that’s … contemporary art.”

When the Botta building opened in 1995, reviews noted how “spotty” or “skimpy” the museum’s permanent collection was: its highlights include Matisse’s Femme au Chapeau and works by Paul Klee and the Mexican masters, but it has no examples of futurism or Russian constructivism and no significant Picasso. There are plenty of first‑rate pieces to fill the galleries now, but SFMOMA still has a different, less historical, story to tell than its New York equivalent, the core collection of which comes from the early 20th century.

Gerhard Richter’s Geäst (Branches) (1988).
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Gerhard Richter’s Geäst (Branches) (1988). Photograph: © Gerhard Richter

So there is not much in the way of cubism, but plenty of pop art and minimalism – as well as postwar German masters (Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Beuys) and the works of such California painters as Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud and Joan Brown. There is a whole room of Calders, a sun-filled gallery devoted to modern British sculpture (by Anthony Caro, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley, Richard Long and many more), and a new centre that, Benezra hazards, “might just” make SFMOMA the most prominent photography museum in the US.

Benezra offers no apology for where SFMOMA’s strength lies, and as we tour the galleries his excitement at the remarkable bounty of the new museum is obvious. “You’ll be hard pressed to see a better room of Warhols,” he says, pointing out celebrated new acquisitions including Silver Marlon, with Brando on his Triumph motorbike from The Wild One, and the Triple Elvis, as well as the museum’s own famous study of Elizabeth Taylor on horseback, National Velvet. There is also a “museum within a museum” of 26 works by Kelly, who became a good friend of Doris Fisher. These include the jazzy arrangement of rectangles Cité from 1951, and the vivid stripes of Spectrum I, as well as the sliced shapes of Red Curves (1996) and Blue Panel (1985). The Kelly rooms, Benezra says, are “strikingly beautiful”: “We expect our colleagues in other museums to be green with envy.” Geometric Apple Core proudly sits on the fifth floor (after a special party was held at Gap HQ to say farewell).

The Fishers collected certain artists, among them Kelly and Calder, in great depth. Partly in consequence, according to Benezra, the new SFMOMA “runs counter to normal museum practice these days. Most museums – the Tate is a pretty good example of this – are working more thematically. You’ll go to a gallery and … the curator has authored an idea and the pictures illustrate that idea. We’ve done something just the opposite, and terribly old-fashioned … we’re refocusing on the artists and letting each one speak. The curators are not imposing their will on the paintings at all … You work with what you have, and with artists in such depth, why would we do anything else?”

Benezra talks of how big public art galleries have changed their role, from being “good stewards of the works of art in their custody” to more popular and fully public institutions, places where people come to meet and spend time. To reflect this, the new museum has more free-access space: the architects have knocked out the forbidding stairwell that dominated the old atrium to create a brighter entrance – where two enormous Julie Mehretu murals will eventually adorn the walls – and built a new wood, cantilevered “grand stair” that leads to an admission-free “art court”. The architects’ buzzwords include “reaching out” so that the museum becomes “more extroverted”.

Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis (1963).
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Andy Warhol’s Triple Elvis (1963). Photograph: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Allied to this now obligatory inclusiveness is Benezra’s desire to explode the cliche that contemporary art is difficult. “For me,” he says, “if you want something really hard to understand, you’ll stand in front of a multipanel Renaissance altarpiece – you have to know who all the saints are, and why they’re there.” Contemporary art such as minimalism is, in contrast, much more accessible, and people shouldn’t think it esoteric because of its simplicity – gallery goers “should feel very confident about what they bring to the work”.

There are several new welcoming features at the museum. One is the vivid green “living wall” that lines a courtyard on the eastern side and comprises nearly 20,000 plants, all California native species. This triumph of vertical gardening involved planting in huge sheets of porous felt. Another is the expanded restaurant, called In Situ, run by chef Corey Lee, who Benezra calls, with a straight face, “our curator of food” – the idea being that, as well as serving up his own dishes, Lee will “borrow recipes from chefs around the world” much as “a curator putting on a Picasso exhibition would identify and borrow the best pictures”.

To help with the design of the galleries, an astonishing, tiny replica of SFMOMA has been constructed: over the past four years, a model-maker has made maquettes – detailed, accurate and some as small as half an inch long – of at least 2,000 artworks, which have been moved around by the curators to see how effective different hangings are, and what connections between pieces are suggested from different viewpoints.

Benezra calls the gifts recently acquired in the “campaign for art” an “outpouring”: news of the museum’s expansion “enabled us to tap more fully into the energy all around us, in a region known for its special creativity” and philanthropy. Much of this campaign involved approaching known collectors: “We tried to be as specific as possible with our requests”, asking for work by a particular artist or from a critical period in an artist’s career. “We know who owns what.” Before recent efforts, for example, SFMOMA had almost no works by Beuys: now there are drawings, a vitrine, a blackboard. Other donations include major works by Rauschenberg, Philip Guston, Lee Krasner, Pollock, Cy Twombly and Brice Marden.

A sculpture by Alexander Calder beside a living wall on the Pat and Bill Wilson Sculpture Terrace.
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A sculpture by Alexander Calder beside a living wall on the Pat and Bill Wilson Sculpture Terrace. Photograph: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

The campaign shines a fascinating light on how a major American art gallery such as SFMOMA operates; it is also the latest chapter in the story of how the museum has been transformed by the tech-led boom in the Bay Area. One aspect of this is the neighbourhood, SoMa, in which the museum stands: as recently as the early 90s it was, Benezra points out, “not a place where polite company would go looking for culture. Today it is one of the centres of the tech industry, dynamic and lively.” Another aspect is the availability of great wealth. “Entrepreneurship is a big thing in San Francisco, and the visual arts are particularly amenable to it,” investment mogul and chair of the SFMOMA board Charles Schwab said in 2000. “The art world moves … quickly … It reflects our changing society.” According to Benezra, the city has, outside of New York, “the greatest body of private collectors of contemporary art” in the US.

On SFMOMA’s board are real estate magnates, venture capitalists and the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer. The museum’s trustees have dug deep into their pockets and it has benefactors that represent really big money – the families behind the Hyatt hotel empire, for instance, and Levi Strauss retail. And when the museum held a party to celebrate its 75th birthday, Mark Zuckerberg came along.

The Fishers are, of course, the most obvious embodiment of immense wealth combined with a loyalty to San Francisco and an intense desire to collect art. The LA Times has described their collection as “very 1980s … big, brash, expensive, even vaguely avaricious in tone. Call it Dynasty-style acquisition” focused on “big-ticket artists … born of the American art world’s first, big, market-driven era”.

Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Barnett Newman) two (1971).
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Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Barnett Newman) two (1971). Photograph: Don Ross/Katherine Du Tiel

Yet the quality and range of Fisher pieces on show at SFMOMA, from David Hockney to a Louise Bourgeois black spider, speaks for itself. At one end of the fourth floor is a hexagonal Rothko-type chapel of superb near-monochrome minimalist works by Agnes Martin. When I ask associate curator Sarah Roberts to choose a few favourites, she mentions untitled (to Barnett Newman) two by Dan Flavin, a rectangle of red, yellow and blue fluorescent tubes; the coils and drips of Note 1 by Twombly; and Bracket by Joan Mitchell, a 15ft-wide late-career work.

Perhaps the best instance of an artist the Fishers collected in depth is Richter, the world’s most revered (and expensive) living painter. He is also the practitioner of contemporary art par excellence thanks to the famed plurality of his output. “The whole set of assumptions about modern art was that it was incumbent on an artist to define for him or herself a particular signature style, something that was indisputably their own,” Benezra explains. “So Jackson Pollock poured and dripped paint, and so on. But with contemporary art you don’t allow yourself to be boxed in.”

On the sixth floor of the new museum it’s possible to see Richter “in all his conceptual glory”. The variety of his work is immediately evident in one room, which juxtaposes the conventional-seeming grey-blue Seascape with the “near-abstract aerial view of a city” titled Townscape Madrid and 256 Colours, one of his canvases based on paintshop colour charts.

Nearby is the well-known, Vermeer-influenced study of Richter’s wife, Sabine, The Reader, and – yet another contrast of style – examples of his big abstractions made using a squeegee. Propped against a wall, waiting for hanging, is the Richter work Benezra describes as perhaps the most important for the Fishers in their entire collection: the delicately blurred Two Candles, which the family took off the wall and slipped into the back of their car twice a year, as they moved back and forth between their house in San Francisco and their place just south of the city, on the Peninsula.

The top floor of the museum leaves the Fisher collection behind and brings the museum’s holdings up to date, by showing media arts and works made since 1980. “We wanted it to be the most contemporary space,” Benezra says: instead of a ceiling, the ductwork has been left exposed for a rather predictable touch of industrial chic. We walk past a Jeff Wall light box not yet switched on, and pieces by Ai Weiwei, Matthew Barney and Richard Prince.

Perhaps the most noteworthy piece for the reopening, however, is Sleeping Woman, a solid stainless steel sculpture by Charles Ray of a clothed black woman, clearly homeless, asleep on a bench. With the influx of tech money, the homeless situation in some neighbourhoods of the city has become acute: it’s a “powerful piece for San Francisco”, Benezra comments.

Strenuous efforts are being made in the marketing of the new museum to link it to all parts of the local community. (One initiative is free admission for under-18s.) Benezra expresses the hope that San Francisco remains “not just a great consumer of culture but also a producer of culture”. That’s “a big challenge” because it’s increasingly “hard for people of ordinary means to live” in the city, and those “who produce culture” – the up-and-coming artists themselves – “are often-times doing so on a shoestring”.

With its Calders, Warhols, Richters and Kellys, SFMOMA is about to rise high up the table of art museums and become an unmissable attraction on the west coast. Without doubt this achievement is in part a product of the money-fuelled transformation of the Bay Area – and the gallery’s expansion is unlikely to silence the increasingly loud talk of how the tech industry has stripped San Francisco of its culture and its soul. Yet both the Snøhetta building and the augmented collection will surely continue to please and impress after any number of Silicon Valley bubbles have burst. And as its director reflects: the new museum represents something that simply “would not have been possible in another place at another time”.

SFMOMA reopens on 14 May at 151 3rd Street, San Francisco. sfmoma.org.

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THE ECONOMIST LONDON

Contemporary art in America

Going public

The biggest contemporary-art museum in America will be unveiled next month. Building it took ingenuity, persuasiveness—and a lot of money

IN MANY countries rich art-buyers are deserting public institutions in favour of building their own private museums. Not in the Bay Area, where some 200 collectors have been persuaded to donate over 4,000 works of art to the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). As if that were not enough, they have also contributed generously to a new $305m building designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian firm, and to a healthy endowment of $245m. When it opens on May 14th, SFMOMA will be the largest museum of modern and contemporary art in America.

Five years in the making, the new SFMOMA reflects the confluence of old money from the American West and new wealth from Silicon Valley. And it proves, in a way that few other projects could, how important collecting contemporary art has become as a measure of wealth, taste, ambition and civic duty.

Nearly three-quarters of the works on show in the inaugural exhibitions are recent gifts. Neal Benezra, the director, engineered a “Campaign for Art” in which the museum cherry-picked works from important local collections. “We did not just drop a net to see what we could catch,” he explains. The museum has focused on filling gaps in its collection and bolstering areas where it is already strong.

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Robin Wright, a lifelong philanthropist and vice-chair of the board, helped SFMOMA solicit gifts. She gave the museum a list of the works in her collection; the museum chose 36 pieces, including a rare Ed Ruscha painting from 1973 entitled “Evil” and made with the artist’s own blood. “It’s hard to imagine dying,” says Ms Wright. “And who could be a better guardian of your art once you’re gone?” Collectors can enjoy knowing that their art pieces are (literally) museum-worthy, and that they will return home when the museum changes displays. It all, says Mr Benezra, contributes to “great estate planning”.

A decade ago, many donations to American museums were “fractional gifts”; collectors could benefit from tax write-offs on a proportion of the changing (often increasing) market value of their works. When the rules were changed by the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the practice became financially unattractive and art donations fell.

Another system known as “promised gifts” began to take precedence. SFMOMA has done a good job of spelling out the psychological and social benefits of this form of philanthropy. Just as it was confirming Ms Wright’s gift, Charles Schwab, chairman of the board, and his wife Helen made an offer of their own—27 works, including stellar paintings by Fernand Léger, Jackson Pollock and Francis Bacon. Soon afterwards, seven other important collectors pledged over 100 more works.

By far the largest contribution came from Donald and Doris Fisher, co-founders of Gap, a clothing chain. In September 2009, just before he died, Mr Fisher shook hands with Mr Benezra on a deal which granted SFMOMA a 100-year loan of 1,100 works, including 25 by Alexander Calder, 22 Gerhard Richters, 18 Andy Warhols and 18 Ellsworth Kellys (some of which can be seen pictured).

Fascinated by the creative process, the Fishers had bought “in depth”, sometimes following an artist’s career over several decades. “In many museums, you see one of this and one of that,” says Bob Fisher, the eldest of three Fisher sons who is president of the SFMOMA board. “You gain an understanding of what Abstract Expressionism or Minimalism is, but you aren’t given the chance to appreciate the mind of an artist.” Neither the Fishers nor the museum will disclose the value of the collection, but experts suggest it is worth well over $1 billion.

The partnership of SFMOMA and the Fishers is unprecedented, and it comes with strict rules. Every ten years, the museum must put on an exhibition that focuses exclusively on the Fisher collection. At other times, the museum can mix the Fisher works with those from its own and other collections. SFMOMA will also take care of conserving and promoting the art. In return, the Fishers contributed an undisclosed “very generous” sum towards the new building and its endowment.

The challenge of presenting this onslaught of gifts to the public has fallen principally to Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture, who spent three years contemplating scale models of the museum’s seven exhibition floors and has been installing the works since December. The museum decided to include at least one work from each of the campaign’s 231 donors, so the installation will offer a portrait of the Bay Area collecting community rather than an art-historical narrative.

Visitors can enter the museum through the elegant new Snøhetta structure into the sort of grand light-filled space that has become a standard requirement of art museums (Tate Modern, which will open its own new extension a month after SFMOMA, will have one too). In San Francisco the space will be filled with a classic rusted-steel sculpture by Richard Serra; upstairs in the atrium is an uncharacteristically joyful, blue-and-white wall drawing by Sol LeWitt entitled “Loopy Doopy”.

What will make SFMOMA unique is the enfilade of rooms offering mini-retrospectives of individual artists. Thanks to the bounteous gifts the museum has received, these are so good they will become destinations in themselves. One has an exuberant range of mobiles and other sculptures by Calder, who went to the same San Francisco high school as Donald Fisher. Another, nicknamed “The Chapel”, is an octagonal room with a suite of seven serenely geometric paintings by Agnes Martin.

San Francisco is the Wall Street of the West, but it is also the historical hub of hippies, gay liberation, the farm-to-table movement and digital culture. It is a creative city that sprang from nothing in 1848, when the Gold Rush hit. Its citizens know all too well that culture does not just happen; it has to be made, underwritten, nurtured. “One thing I’ve learned through this fund-raising process,” says the museum’s director, “is that this community loves a big idea. They are willing to take chances and risk failure, but they want the next awesome idea.”

Jun 6, 201602:27 PMPoint of View

In Detail: Snøhetta’s SFMOMA Expansion

In Detail: Snøhetta's SFMOMA Expansion

All images courtesy Paul Clemence


Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta, compares libraries and museums to theatres and cinemas—people go to experience the magic (not observe the nuts and bolts of making). With the expanded SFMOMA, however, the Norwegian-based firm has made explicit the increasingly collaborative relationship between artist and community, art and public, and visitor and architecture. The architecture both privileges and exposes the vital act of dialogue. And the magic, albeit slightly demystified, is still there.

Despite a challenging and constricted urban lot, the architects came up with an intriguing solution: a voluptuous volume whose shape is both a functional and aesthetic gesture. “The bows allow for extra gallery space without the extra volume having to go all the way to the ground of the building,” says Dykers. “But it also helps us manipulate the scale relationship with the neighboring buildings and the city fabric.” Interestingly, this play of curved void & volume also appears in a sculptural installation of Richard Serra’s “Sequence,” which will be occupying the ground floor gallery facing the street (with only a glass wall separating it from the sidewalk, this gallery will be free and open to the public).

For the facades, the architects developed undulating cement and polymer fiber panels (less than a quarter of an inch thick) produced by a high tech robotic system that makes unique panels more cost-effective than repeated ones. The resulting effect adds even more movement to the building’s design. “The rippling façade gestures towards the identity of San Francisco – the fog, the bay waters, all pull together into the shaping,” explains Dykers.

Inside, the transitional spaces, hallways and staircases become opportunities to engage the visitor. In Dykers words, “We wanted to create an experience of architecture where people could feel they owned their moment, whether alone or in a crowd. When you invest personal energy into using a building—and when you invest in something you feel you own—this is kind of like a handshake with the design.” Staircases become exercises in transparency, with views in different directions, hallways act as breathing spaces, and the façade opens up to generous open vistas to the city.

For an even more guttural connection to the surrounding cityscape, a long open terrace on the fifth floor gives visitors a broad, perched urban overview. From this terrace, visitors will also be able to peek through glass walls into the room where the SFMOMA team and visiting artists will be busy at work planning, producing, conserving or even creating the pieces that later will appear in the galleries.

7 x 7

Art + Design

First Look: Inside the Newly Transformed SFMOMA

It’s been nearly three years since SFMOMA shut its doors with the promise to return much bigger and better in 2016. On Saturday, May 14, the celebrated art museum will finally unveil its richly expanded collection in a striking new home.

THE NEW BUILDING

(The views from the new museum are just as wonderful as the art.)

SFMOMA’s gorgeous new home will have social media buzzing for months. In 2010, SFMOMA tapped international firm Snøhetta to design a new structure to exhibit the museum’s expanded collection and seamlessly meld with the existing building designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta in 1995. The new 10-story structure rises above SoMa like a futuristic edifice from the planet Hoth. The facade is comprised of 800 unique panels that appear to ripple and shift with the light, a literal reflection of our famously foggy climate. Made of a lightweight material embedded with sand from around the Monterey Bay, the 235,000-square-foot addition actually weighs less than the original 225,000-square-foot building.

(A Richard Serra sculpture greets guests as they enter on Howard Street.)

Guests now enter on Howard Street, catching sight of ghost signs that were exposed when a fire station was removed to lend space for SFMOMA’s expansion, as they walk in. Visitors are greeted by a gargantuan Richard Serra sculpture of burnished metal and a bold patterned wall painting by Sol Lewitt dubbed Loopy Doopy. As part of the museum’s commitment to community access, the first two floors — nearly 45,000 square feet — are free to the public. The museum will also offer free admission to everyone 18 and under. Director Neal Benezra stated, “We want to mean more to more people than ever before.”

(The largest living wall open to the public graces the third floor terrace.)

Guests are sure to swoon for the third floor outdoor terrace, anchored by a dramatic 150-foot living wall — the largest public one in the U.S. — whose stretch of green looks like a mini Golden Gate Park affixed to the building. Another terrace on the seventh floor offers invigorating views of the downtown cityscape. Craig Dykers, lead architect and founding member of Snøhetta, encourages visitors to take the stairs. From the spectacular Roman Steps on the ground floor to the floating staircases of the upper floors, each unique stairway functions as its own sculptural objet d’art lending strong incentive to bypass the elevators.

Even restrooms delight with a shock of of monochromatic color — a different hue for each floor — that wouldn’t be out of place at the clubby W Hotel next door. As arresting as the art and interiors are, some of the best visuals are outfacing via huge wood-framed windows that offer glimpses of SoMa’s hidden rooftops and busy alleyways. With so much visual info to digest, museum fatigue is real. Bleary-eyed patrons can seek refuge in smartly designed “palate cleansers,” a series of composed spots to rest, reflect and mind your Instagram feed.

NEW ARTWORK

When SFMOMA moved to their new South of Market location in 1995, the museum possessed 12,000 pieces of art. Today, the number has grown to 33,000, thanks to over 1,000 pieces made available from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection — a remarkable assemblage of masterworks that began as decoration for bare Gap walls — in addition to the museum’s Campaign for Art which committed 3,000 works from over 230 individuals associated with the museum.

The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection is a boon for the museum with postwar and contemporary works from artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, and Gerhard Richter. The inaugural shows feature beautiful galleries of some of the Fisher’s favorite artists. For the late Don Fisher, big powerful works by Anselm Kiefer, and for Doris, serene paintings by Ellsworth Kelly whom she maintained a close friendship with until the artist’s death.

The new SFMOMA also aims to be an epicenter of photography and film. Occupying most of the third floor, the Pritzker Center for Photography is the largest gallery and research space devoted to photography among art museums in the nation. Plus, a new partnership with the San Francisco Film Society means a new film program, Modern Cinema, exhibited in the newly renovated Phyllis Wattis Theater

Aiming to embody a 21st century art museum, SFMOMA also premiered a new app that guides guests through galleries with commentary from a wide range of personalities including Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani of HBO’s Silicon Valley as well as players from the SF Giants.

NEW RESTAURANT

Corey Lee, chef-owner of the Michelin three-star restaurant Benu and Monsieur Benjamin, is opening the museum’s destination eatery. In Situ will present a rotating menu of dishes contributed by an all-star list of 80 international chefs including Rene Redzepi, David Chang, and Alice Waters. The restaurant is expected to open in June. For more casual fare, Cafe 5 will serve a contemporary cafe menu adjacent to the sunny fifth floor sculpture garden. And San Franciscans will feel right at home at the museum’s Sightglass outpost, a hip mini coffee bar carved out on the third floor.

OPENING DAY

SFMOMA is offering free admission on opening day but all visitors must have a ticket via online reservation system and the museum is currently sold out. Still, eager fans can join ribbon-cutting festivities with city dignitaries at 8:30am that morning.

SFMOMA will be open to the public seven days a week from 10am to 5pm through Labor Day, with extended hours until 9pm on Thursdays. Admission ticket prices are: General admission $25, Seniors (65 & older) $22, Ages 19-24 $19, Ages 18 & Under Free. Membership starts at $100. // SFMOMA, 151 Third Street (SoMa), sfmoma.org

Art Basel 2016 articles and images collection

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 ROBB REPORT

Top 10 Most-Anticipated Highlights for Art Basel 2016

  • Davide Balula Burnt Painting
  • El Anatsui Gli Wal
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Mira Schendel
  • Scarlet Cheng
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Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, is now the granddaddy of all modern and contemporary art fairs, drawing over 98,000 visitors and featuring about 286 international art galleries and museums from 33 countries. They bring the works of modern masters, as well as emerging art stars, to one of six main show floors, works meant to wow fairgoers and help add to their collections. Things kick off with a grand vernissage (by invitation only) on June 15, followed by public viewing days June 16 through 19. Tickets are priced from $29 to $124. Below are 10 of the most-anticipated highlights. (artbasel.com)

Bergamin & Gomide (São Paulo, Brazil)

This Brazilian gallery will feature works by Mira Schendel. Known for her drawings and sculpture, she is one of the most important Latin-American artists of the 20th century. The gallery will showcase works from the important phases of the artist’s career.

Fondation Beyeler (Basel, Switzerland)

Every year, this museum presents something special to coincide with Art Basel, and this time it is a retrospective of the man who made mobiles famous, Alexander Calder. The exhibition features 75 works spanning 4 decades of his productive career, juxtaposed with the collaborative work of contemporary artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

Blum & Poe (Los Angeles and other locations)

In the Parcours sector, Blum & Poe galleries will present Sam Durant’s installation Labyrinth (2015), a large-scale steel structure made of chain-link fencing materials. The work was developed by working with prisoners at State Correctional Institution—Graterford near Philadelphia, Penn., and designed as a space for reflection on issues of freedom and imprisonment, movement and stasis. The gallery booth will feature a smaller version.

Gagosian (New York and other locations)

Gagosian will showcase the work of Davide Balula, both as part of its gallery presentation and as part of the Unlimited sector (in conjunction with Galerie Frank Elbaz). At the latter, Balula’s Mimed Sculptures employs mimes “shaping” the air with their hands over empty plinths, recreating canonical sculptures by Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, and others.

Goodman Gallery / Marian Goodman Gallery (New York / Johannesburg, South Africa)

The galleries will feature noted South African artist William Kentridge, whose bold freehand drawings are often used to make stop-action videos. Both his dynamic and often stream-of-consciousness drawings and videos will be shown at Art Basel.

Kukje Gallery / Tina Kim Gallery (Seoul / New York)

In the Unlimited sector, the galleries will present a major installation, Sol LeWitt Upside Down—Structure with Three Towers, Expanded 23 Times, Split in Three, by leading Korean contemporary artist Haegue Yang. The work is made up of stacks of open cubes with Venetian blinds inserted into them.

Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey, Filmmakers

Their new documentary film Burden (2016) will present a special screening as part of Art Basel. The subject is pioneering avant-garde artist Chris Burden, whose career spanned early performance art to large-scale installations, including Urban Light, which graces the entrance pavilion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Metro Pictures (New York)

Metro Pictures will showcase the newest body of work from iconic American photographer Cindy Sherman—her first since 2012. In this series Sherman transforms herself into movie-star heroines in the style of 1920s publicity stills—heavily made up and in stylized poses.

Regen Projects (Los Angeles)

This leading American gallery will be presenting a selection of works in various media by gallery artists, including art stars Doug Aitken and Anish Kapoor. Born in Bombay, Kapoor has worked in London since the 1970s, and the gallery will feature his radiant Mirror (Laser Red to Oriental Blue) (2016).

Jack Shainman Gallery (New York)

Located in the Unlimited sector, the gallery features El Anatsui’s Gli (Wall) (2010), five hanging curtains made of recycled materials, coming together to create a large contemplative enclosure. El Anatsui is internationally famous for refashioning humble material into monumental sculpture.

—–
THE OBSERVER LONDON

Art Basel: Politics as Unusual

The world’s leading contemporary art fair broadens its reach—sort of

Art Basel, in Basel, Switzerland, 2016.

Art Basel, in Basel, Switzerland, 2016. Courtesy Art Basel

Going to an art fair always brings to mind the great song by the 70s LA punk band Fear, “New York’s All Right If You Like Saxophones,” which we amend in this case to “Art Basel’s All Right If You Like Julian Schnabel’s New Purple Paintings.” Even if it’s the big apple of art fairs, in other words, we’re going to pretend to hate Basel (which wound up on Sunday), or at least complain about all those big galleries and all that money everyone was throwing about, from the $4.5 million for Paul McCarthy’s goofy, Mr. Potato Head-inspired Tomato Head (Green) to the $8.35 for two scoops of ice cream at the Mövenpick kiosk.

Meanwhile, in nearby Zurich, Manifesta 11 (the ‘nomadic European biennial’) was getting underway with the organizing theme of “What We Do For Work.” If that isn’t a sly poke at Art Basel by the exhibition’s curator, Berlin artist Christian Jankowski, it should be.

In any case, don’t believe any of the stories that suggest that the 47th Art Basel—with 286 very commercial galleries in attendance—was political in nature. A few politically savvy installations in its Unlimited section doesn’t mean the fair wasn’t about what it always is: money, those who have it and spend it, those who benefit from it, and the rest of us who come along to check out the action and wind up thoroughly exhausted, overwhelmed by the commerce as much as by the art, but at least partially enriched in the process because there’s actually so much worth seeing. Finding it amid the trudgery—yes, trudgery—along with the mental space to enjoy it, is both the challenge and the occasional pleasure.

It proved to be even more of a challenge at Liste, the adjunct fair for young galleries and emerging artists, which seemed to be Liste-ing with Godawfulism. Notable, happy exceptions included the clean, bold paintings of Cornelia Baltes at Limoncello (London); Erika Voigt’s exuberant knife paintings at LA’s Overduin & Co; the funny cellar installation by the now-surely-post-emergent Liz Craft (Truth & Consequences, Geneva); and Yuji Agematsu’s tiny beautiful-ugly assemblages at Real Fine Arts (Brooklyn). Agematsu, a Japanese artist living in Brooklyn, gathers street detritus daily into a cigarette box, then makes a sculpture from it and places it inside the box’s vitrine-like cellophane wrapper. Straddling Art Basel and Art Brut, Agematsu was for me one of the real pleasures of the entire fair.

In the main hall the next day, when I came across a small red match-box sculpture by the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, at Alison Jacques Gallery, it felt like an echo, as did the miniature inks-on-paper by Wilfredo Prieto at Annet Gelink Gallery.

With the world’s top galleries in attendance, such beautiful works abound—two small Morandis that sold for $1 million apiece at David Zwirner, others from Günther Förg, Etel Adnan, Eva Hesse, Dorothea Tanning, Albert Oehlen, Hélio Oiticica, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Ryman, Otto Piene, Martin Kippenberger, Sigmar Polke ($6.5 million! again by Zwirner), two incredibly lovely Richard Tuttle pieces on wood (I think). Gavin Brown showed some great little rough-hewn Alex Katz studies, a welcome relief from the artist’s usual neat-freak control.

Inside the Basel Messe, it’s a sort of upside down Downton Abbey affair: the super rich are downstairs—here a Hauser, there a Wirth, everywhere a Schimmel—with a few moderns thrown in for an occasional reality check, while most of the edgier contemporary personalities are found upstairs. It didn’t hurt Gavin Brown to be positioned just at the top of the escalator, where he leaned six large new Kerstin Brätsch marbleized paintings, all of which sold to museums and foundations at $60,000 apiece, according to the gallery. From there, depending on your level of exhaustion (or checking account), it is either an amazing smorgasbord of leading contemporary artists or one massive, eye-and-brain-numbing exercise in wishful thinking, aesthetically and otherwise.

Dan Finsel at Ramiken Crucible in the Statements section, Art Basel 2016.

Dan Finsel at Ramiken Crucible in the Statements section, Art Basel 2016. Courtesy Art Basel

Some respite is afforded along the edges, where galleries in the curated Features and Statements sections are situated; some might say exiled. Feature galleries on both floors focused on established or “historical” (read: dead) artists. Among the most interesting were Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner and Jay Defeo (all dead) at frank elbaz, filmmaker Pat O’Neil (still kicking) at Cherry and Martin, and the very much alive Sadie Benning’s sumptuous paintings on cut-and-inset wood at Susanne Vielmetter. Memorable in the Statements section for solo projects by emerging artists were L.A.-based Dan Finsel’s large organic pods at Ramiken Crucible and the Baloise Prize-winning videos of Sara Cwynar and Mary Reid Kelley at Foxy Production (New York) and Arratia Beer (Berlin) respectively.

Allan McCollum at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Parcours section at Art Basel 2016.

Allan McCollum at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Parcours section at Art Basel 2016. Courtesy Art Basel

Outside the main hall, things got a bit more Documenta-ish, and socially aware. In the Parcours section, a mildly engaging series of site-specific installations, interventions or performances in the old town area along the Rhine, Sam Durant erected a prison-like labyrinth of chain-link fencing meant to represent the lines between freedom and captivity, movement and immobility. (These notions seemed lost on a group of small children running through it happily.) The New York-based Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar offered visitors to the Münsterplatz a small blue box, The Gift, inside of which recipients found means to donate to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)—the gift of giving. The question is, how many people at a short-lived art fair have the time or energy for a walking exhibition, especially in the rain. My guess is: not many.

Tracey Rose of Goodman Gallery in the Parcours section, Art Basel 2016.

Tracey Rose of Goodman Gallery in the Parcours section, Art Basel 2016. Courtesy Art Basel

Better attended was the nighttime performance by Anne Imhoff at the Kunsthalle, which featured several young performer/dancers interacting in various guises, including amusing/horrifying contempo-fashion runway striding, as well as a falcon and several cans of Pepsi. Does this sound intriguing? It was a come-and-go affair over five hours, and most visitors did just that, at times seeming to be part of the performance—or the performers seeming to be part of the audience. Some of the intrepid, those who stayed till the midnight end, were later seen at a bar called Kaschemme, listening in a tiny smoky dungeon to a young woman playing cello with three guys fiddling sonic dials. Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel were nowhere in sight.

Unquestionably, the most interesting aspect of the fair—for the non-buying audience at least—is Unlimited, featuring a who’s who of top artists: El Anatsui, James Turrell, Dieter Roth, Tracey Emin, William Kentridge, Tony Oursler, Julie Mehretu, Jannis Kounellis, Francis Stark, Anish Kapoor, Frank Stella, Laurie Simmons, Wolfgang Tillmans, Pope L., Kader Attia, Allison Knowles and Isa Genzken. Set in a giant, otherwise empty hall, and curated once again by the New York-based curator at large for the Hirshhorn, Gianni Jetzer, Unlimited affords generous space to exhibit work unshowable in an ordinary fair context. And yes, that meant yet another oversized (and over-conceived) piece by Ai Wei-Wei, who may as well be known as Ai Wei-Wei-Too-Much.

Unlimited at Art Basel 2016.

Unlimited at Art Basel 2016. Courtesy Art Basel

But it also meant a suite of Martha Rosler’s incisive “Bringing the [Vietnam] War Home” series, House Beautiful; Mike Kelley’s 1989 Reconstructed History (which Skarstedt sold for $1.5 million); and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Zoom Pavilion, which offered entrants insight into surveillance and social media creepiness. There was also a wonderfully understated and pedestrian piece by Christo called Five Storefronts. When a friend photographed it, a woman said, “How can you take a photo of that?” Too real, too ugly, not fun! Somewhere in the main hall was a selection of Ed Ruscha’s old banality projects—on gas stations and every building on the Sunset Strip, etc. But it was another L.A. artist, Khalil Joseph, who with his stunning 2014 short film m.A.A.d., set in the less-than-serene streets of Compton, brought a serious dose of gritty “reality” to the otherworldly life cushion that is Basel, or at least Art Basel.

Then it was outside again for some more $8 ice cream.


Ocula Report

A blended mass: A report from Art Basel 2016

Stephanie Bailey Basel 24 June 2016

Image: Gerwald Rockenschaub at Unlimited, Art Basel 2016. Courtesy Mehdi Chouakri, Galerie Vera Munro, Galerie Eva Presenhuber. Photo: © Timothée Chambovet & Ocula.

It was both a conservative and global year for the 47th Art Basel, as Scott Reyburn reported for The New York Times. Volatile markets—and politics—explained the wealth of historical pieces featured amongst more contemporary installations in Gianni Jetzer’s Unlimited section, this year with a record number of 88 works in total from an impressively global list of artists (including, as Jetzer noted, ‘three of the most important contemporary female artists from India’: Archana Hande, Prabhavathi Meppayil and Mithu Sen). There was a monumental 1970 painting by Frank Stella, Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I), and a historical 1993 piece by Vlassis Caniaris, In Praise: a cube of vintage cement sacks wrapped with Greek flags presented by Galerie Peter Kilchmann (in collaboration with Kalfayan Galleries). In one room, visitors were able to experience the 1968 work Microfoni by Gilberto Zorio courtesy of Galleria Lia Rumma, in which microphones hung within the space for visitors to participate in a spontaneous, sonic symphony.

Image: Frank Stella at Unlimited, Art Basel 2016. Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery, Dominique Lévy Gallery, Sprüth Magers. Photo: © Timothée Chambovet & Ocula.

Newer works presented at Unlimited offered an overview of contemporary practices that engage in the world cross-cartographically. Nina Canell, brought to Unlimited by Barbara Wien, presented Shedding Sheaths (2015): sculptures produced for the Swedish artist’s first institutional Asian show at Arko Art Center, in which Canell presented a series of gutted—and deformed—fibre-optic cables based on her research into cable recycling facilities located on the outskirts of Seoul. Stan Douglas presented, with the support of Victoria Miro and David Zwirner, a single-channel video projection titled Luanda-Kinshasa (2013) that explores the African origins of the early 1970s New York music scene through the prism of historical migration and cultural synthesis. In the case of William Kentridge’s excellent Notes Towards a Model Opera, produced in 2015 as part of the artist’s solo exhibition at UCCA in Beijing and presented here with Goodman Gallery, we see a globalised reading of the political and social history of modern China, namely the Cultural Revolution and its operatic ballets, through a prism of, as the artist has stated, ‘cultural diffusion and metamorphosis’ placed within ‘a history of dance that spans continents and centuries’.

Image: Nina Canell at Barbara Wien, Unlimited, Art Basel 2016. © Art Basel.

Meanwhile, Davide Balula offered a more tongue-in-cheek homage to the weighted history Art Basel offers not only in terms of the fair’s identity as one of the first of the modern art fairs, but also as a fair that emphasises a certain kind of historical canon. In Mimed Sculptures, placed at the entrance to Unlimited, performers mimed the forms of various canonical works, from Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure: Hand (1979) to Barbara Hepworth’s Curved Form: Bryher II (1961), and Louise BourgeoisUnconscious Landscape (1967-8). Approaching the notion of the canon in a different way was Samson Young’s impressive performance piece, Canon, which appropriated a Long Range Acoustic Device, normally used as a sonic weapon to disperse crowds, to capture distressed birdcalls. These sounds were transmitted into the Unlimited hall, and within a prison-like room, presented in Unlimited by team (gallery inc.) and Galerie Gisela Capitan (and featuring Young dressed in a Hong Kong policeman’s uniform).

Image: Samson Young at Galerie Gisela Capitain, team gallery inc, Unlimited, Art Basel 2016. © Art Basel.

Tellingly, Canon comes with project statement that makes a note of the fact that in music, a ‘canon’ refers to the technique of imitative counterpoint—that is, a sound that is at once inter- and in- dependent. It is a way of exploring existence—and expressions of it—from a complex grid, made up of crosshatchings and inter-weavings that are at once singular and part of a larger whole. The ambiguity of such an expansive position, underscored in the connection Young makes between state apparatuses (LRAD, for instance, and the police who deploy it) and the art world, is punctuated further with razor-sharp ambiguity in the so-called Zoom Pavilion by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Presented at Unlimited with Carroll / Fletcher, the work consisted of a room in which the faces and scenes captured from within the exhibition space were projected from the lenses of 12 surveillance cameras. To this end, though curator Jetzer made a concerted effort to create a truly global frame, there remained a sense of unease when it came to thinking about the supposed globalism of the art world, and who gets to define it.

Image: Sadie Benning at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Features, Art Basel 2016. © Art Basel.

This blended—and inescapably contradictory—complexity seeped into Art Basel’s Hall 2, where some 286 galleries from 33 countries presented works by a cumulative number of more than 4000 artists. At Features, 32 galleries offered a series curatorial projects, many of which with historical leanings, from Sarah Benning at Susanne Vielmetter, Jannis Kounellis at Luxembourg & Dayan and Mira Schendel at Bergamin & Gomide, to Braco Dimitrijevic at espaivisor—an artist who last showed at Art Basel during the fair’s inaugural edition in 1970. Balancing out Features’ history-heavy showings was Statements, in which 18 galleries introduced an exciting crop of young artists in solo booths, from Sara Cwynar (with Foxy Production) and Lantian Xie (with Grey Noise), to Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (with Carroll / Fletcher), and Piotr Łakomy (with Stereo).

Image: Piotr Lakomy at Galeria Stereo, Statements, Art Basel 2016. © Art Basel.

As always, Hall 2’s first floor was reserved for the blue chip galleries dealing in the kind of names one would expect to see in the two environments created for Unlimited that spoke specifically to the market context: Hans Op De Beeck’s creation of an ashen Collector’s House, and Elmgreen and Dragset’s Secondary, which saw two auction lecterns placed on either side of block of chairs arranged in rows, the recordings of auctions playing from each. Among this global spread were staples of canonical art history, including a breadth of Fontana works, from canvases to ceramics, to some choice Basquiats (including one commemorating the Chinese year of the boar). There were canvases by Robert Mangold at Pace and The Mayor Gallery, a 1997 example of Kusama on canvas at Greta Meert, a fantastic collection of works by artists including Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, Francis Picabia, and Man Ray at Natalie Seroussi, and a focus on ZERO artists in a number of spaces, including Galerie Thomas, who also showed some beautiful Peter Halley works on paper. Meanwhile, James Cohan offered some remarkable plastic panels created in the 1960s by Robert Smithson; Landau Fine Art featured Chun Kwan Hung’s abstract surfaces created from Korean mulberry paper wrapped around block shapes; and Kukje and Tina Kim Gallery offered an excellent selection from the Dansaekhwa movement.

Image: Installation view, Tina Kim and Kukje Gallery at Art Basel 2016. Photo: © Timothée Chambovet & Ocula.

Across the main Galleries sector, there was a trend for a kind of blended curatorial, which offered both a balanced scope of practices from around the world, as well as a mix of abstract works and more overt, political gestures. At Galerie Lelong, abstract pieces by Zilia Sánchez and Hélio Oiticia were presented next to two lightboxes by Alfredo Jaar capturing interventions the artist staged in New York’s Times Square, A Logo for America (1987–2014) (2016), in which ‘THIS IS NOT AMERICA’ is written over the image of North America in one image, and ‘AMERICA’ is written over the entire Americas (North, South, and Central). Meanwhile, at Mehdi Chouakri, a cross-eyed portrait of Karl Marx by Hans-Peter Feldmann stood out amidst abstract works by artists including Charlotte Posenenske, John M. Armleder, and Gerold Miller, not to mention a haunting installation featuring Japanese lanterns by Saâdane Afif. More Feldmann was on view over at Galerie Hans Mayer, where a cross-eyed portrait of Lenin added to the many historical faces that were being remembered throughout the fair floor. These included Indian ink portraits of Fanon and Patrice Lumumba by William Kentridge, showing at Goodman Gallery, and brightly coloured busts of such figures as Simon Hawking, Yuri Gagarin, Nicolaus Copernicus and Isaac Newton fastened to the ends of long metal rods arranged into various configurations as part of the “International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation” by Goshka Macuga, showing at both Andrew Kreps and Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle (the former also showing Andrea Bowers and Hito Steyerl, among others).

Image: Installation view, Galerie Lelong at Art Basel 2016. Photo: © Timothée Chambovet & Ocula.

In all, walking through Art Basel 2016 felt like—to borrow the words of a Lawrence Weiner presented at MAI 36 Galerie—being ‘between; and ‘beneath’ a ‘resolved mass’, in which a kind of emerging globalism has taken firm root. That is, visual languages appear to be coming together, intermingling, and developing in tandem. This was most evident in some of art history’s most common tropes, such as the colour spectrum a la Gerhard Richter’s colour panels of the 60s and 70s, or Ellsworth Kelly’s Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance 1 from 1951. Damien Hirst showed Spectrum (Oil Paints, Studio Colours) (2015), at White Cube: a canvas of various colours that recalled Henryk Stazewski’s Relief No.30 from 1969, presented at Starmach (a small canvas presented a colour spectrum divided five by five), and Manuel Espinosa’s Los ciclopes, la taberna de Barney Kiernan from 1977—a black canvas offering a similar colour spectrum to Stazewski’s relief. Bringing the notion of colour blocking into the present was Colour Test (182) (2015) by Spencer Finch showing at Stephen Friedman: an LED lightbox that presented blocks of colour transparencies overlapping; as well as Zheng Guogu’s Fortune No. 9 (2009) showing at Chantal Crousel, in which colour blocking was re-mixed into a mass of brightly-coloured text scrawled over in oil paint over black silk. (Funnily, the use of colour against a dark backdrop was invoked in Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s characteristically sinister—yet colourful—installation at Giò Marconi).

Image: Installation view, Stephen Friedman at Art Basel 2016. Photo: © Timothée Chambovet & Ocula.

Yet, despite the quality of the works on show in both halls, it was the exhibition that took place outside of the Messeplatz that offered the real experience of the year. Parcours, this year curated by Samuel Leuenberger, offered a meticulously planned route from the Wettstein to Mittlere Bridge. Nineteen site-specific installations included entry into the garden of a stately home on Rittergasse, where Alberto Garutti presented a series of benches on which sculptures of various dogs rested, modelled after those that belong to the families of Trivero, and the perfect installation of Bernar Venet’s cluster of large steel curves—Effondrement:Arcs (2015)—in the courtyard of Ramsteinerhof, Rittergasse 17. Walking the Parcours route, Leuenberger’s knowledge of Basel—he is the curator of SALTS at Birsfelden—as well as his affection for the city, became palpable in the precision of each work’s placement. This included the installation of an outdoor toilet by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov—what felt like a ruse to draw visitors down the stairs from Münsterplatz in order to walk along the rushing river that defines so much of Basel’s character, and to connect with the city beyond the confines of Art Basel itself.

Image: Bernar Venet at Parcours, Art Basel 2016. Courtesy von Bartha. © Art Basel.

Of course, when it came to thinking about the world beyond the fair, and indeed, beyond the city and its location, Alfredo Jaar offered a clear link, both as part of the conversations programme and Parcours, for which Jaar distributed ‘gifts’ to whomever crossed the paths of those carrying blue cardboard boxes in large sacks. These boxes were offered to passersby as a gift, with instructions to turn them inside out in order to reveal a message inside—a link to make a donation to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The address is: http://www.moas.eu/donate. —[O]

Art Basel 2016

Art Basel puts photography in the frame

Wolfgang Tillmans to get Beyeler’s first show of photos, as collectors buy major works at the fair

by Julia Halperin  |  16 June 2016
Art Basel puts photography in the frame

Cindy Sherman’s exhibition opened at the Broad in Los Angeles at the weekend, making her the first artist to get a solo show in the new museum. Her works dominate Metro Pictures’ stand at the fair. Photo: David Owens
Move over painting and sculpture: the definition of blue-chip is expanding. As the International Center of Photography prepares to reopen in New York next week and the new Pritzker Center for Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art welcomes its first visitors, dealers at Art Basel are dedicating extensive (and expensive) wall space to photography, which is being embraced by a new generation of collectors.

Meanwhile, the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel, is planning its first major solo show dedicated to a photographer. We have learned that an exhibition of works by Wolfgang Tillmans is due to open next year (27 May-1 October 2017). At the fair, his inkjet prints sold at Maureen Paley for $180,000 (Greifbar 29, 2014) and David Zwirner for $80,000 (mid-air flap movement, 2013).

“Photography is part of the family; it’s at the table alongside painting and sculpture,” says Andreas Gegner of Sprüth Magers. The medium has prices to match. The gallery sold a print by Andreas Gursky (Aletschgletscher, 1993) for €450,000 and a work by Cindy Sherman (Untitled #108, 1982) for $250,000.

Not so long ago, photography was considered niche. “In my lifetime, it wasn’t even allowed to be exhibited at Art Basel,” says Genevieve Janvrin, Phillips’ head of photographs, Europe. Photography dealers were marooned in a dedicated section of the fair until 2002.

The line between photography and contemporary art began to blur well before the market acknowledged it, says Eva Respini, the chief curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. From the 1960s, Bernd and Hilla Becher—whose images are on show with Fraenkel Gallery and Kicken Gallery—influenced a younger generation to look beyond the history of photography for inspiration, while technological advancements enabled artists to create works on the same huge scale as their painter peers.

Although the market for photography took off in the 1990s, the medium still offers a chance to get a brand name for less. “People come in and buy a $35,000 photo and say, ‘We got off easy today,’” says the dealer Edwynn Houk. The most expensive photograph sold at auction last year (a film still by Sherman) made nearly $3m, but 85% of photographs sold for less than $10,000 in 2015, according to Artprice’s annual report.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, many are keen to cultivate photography’s crossover potential. “There are artists who are included in photography sales and contemporary sales, but most artists we know would prefer to be in the contemporary art sale,” says Robert Goff of David Zwirner. This autumn, the gallery will present large-scale prints by William Eggleston, who joined its roster earlier this month.

Even so, “there is still a bias towards painting because it has a much longer history”, says the art advisor Todd Levin, the director of the Levin Art Group. “If you are looking at an exceptional painting and an equally exceptional photograph, the painting is going to outperform.”

See the major photo shows, buy the works in Basel

László Moholy-Nagy, Die Schlemmer-Kinder (1926). Image: Galerie Berinson, Berlin

László Moholy-Nagy, Die Schlemmer-Kinder (1926). Image: Galerie Berinson, Berlin

László Moholy-Nagy, Die Schlemmer-Kinder (1926)

This vintage print at Galerie Berinson (€450,000) is unusually large for Moholy-Nagy, whose survey is on show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (until 7 September).

Wolfgang Tillmans, New York Installation, PCR, 525 (2015). Photo: Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Wolfgang Tillmans, New York Installation, PCR, 525 (2015)

Tillmans, who will have solo shows at Tate Modern (15 February-11 June) and the Fondation Beyeler next year, takes over a room in Unlimited with an installation featuring portraits of activists from around the world ($1.2m, presented by David Zwirner).

Stephen Shore, Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974 (1974).  Stephen Shore: Uncommon Places, The Complete Works, (New York: Aperture, 2004).

Stephen Shore, Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974 (1974)

New York’s Museum of Modern Art is planning an exhibition of work by the early adopter of colour photography, who also has a retrospective at the Huis Marseille in Amsterdam (until 4 September). An example from his Uncommon Places series is at Edwynn Houk ($40,000).

Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1967). Photo: David Owens

Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1967). Photo: David Owens

Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J. (1966)

Ahead of a presentation of early works by the US photographer at the Met Breuer in New York (12 July-27 November), Fraenkel Gallery sold this prime example ($575,000). “When you say Arbus, you think twins,” says the gallery’s Frish Brandt.

ARTSPACE

Art Fairs

10 of the Best Artworks at Art Basel 2016

By Andrew M. Goldstein

June 15, 2016

10 of the Best Artworks at Art Basel 2016

A view of Art Basel 2016

This year’s edition of Art Basel is, on the whole, not a place to find something you didn’t already know—go to LISTE for that. Instead, it’s best approached as a repository for new quirks in the accepted canon, little progressions of the art-market battleships to the left or the right. Here are some works that stood out in the vernissage, with a focus on the fair’s more contemporary second floor.

 

ROBERT LONGO
Untitled (Wall of Ice) (2016)
Galerie Hans Mayer (Düsseldorf)
Around €400,000

ROBERT LONGO Untitled (Wall of Ice) 2016 Galerie Hans Mayer (Düsseldorf) at Art Basel

For the last decade or so, Robert Longo has been synonymous with his dark, brooding, chiaroscuro-heavy large-scale drawings of epic imagery—shark attacks, terrorist incidents, mushroom clouds—all at the point of culmination. Now, with this latest body of work, Longo seems to be stepping into the light. Inspired by a trip to Iceberg Alley in Newfoundland, these grand charcoal drawings of sheer cliffs of ice are like the photo negatives of his darker works, and also recall the photography of artists like Sebastião Salgado and Thomas Ruff. On display at Art Basel, the series was debuted at the much-in-demand artist’s recent show at Thaddaeus Ropac Galerie in Paris and will be included in his upcoming show at the Garage in Moscow.

CADY NOLAND
Push Papers (1986)
Luhring Augustine (New York) 
$425,000

CADY NOLAND Push Papers (1986) at Luhring Augustine (New York) at Art Basel

This is the moment for Cady Noland. An artist who for decades has been examining the ugly gunk on the bottom of the American Dream, Noland makes work that captures the anger, the pathos, the desperation, the violence, and above all the scary, fascistic tendencies of the country’s white underclass. Look at this 1986 piece, and all the cues are there: the fetishistic tools of authority, from the badge to the cuffs to the life-altering pencil, and the copy of Guns & Ammo, with a schlubby man in glasses relishing the power of a gun on the cover and the magazine opened to an article boasting that “this highly accurate and reliable assault rifle represents real ‘state-of-the-art’ among military hardware.” It’s Trump Nation she’s talking about here, 20 years ago.

DAVID HOCKNEY
Untitled No. 7 from the “Yosemite Suite” (2010)
Annely Juda Fine Art (London)
£20,000

DAVID HOCKNEY Untitled No. 7 From the Yosemite Suite (2010) at Annely Juda Fine Art (London) at Art Basel

It’s been three years since David Hockney debuted his iPad paintings, and it’s worth savoring these marvels every time they make an appearance. Hockney is 78—a youthful 78, but still—and he stands as the paragon of a historical kind of painting, one that goes back through the Modern era to the Impressionists to Gainsborough and Corot to Rembrandt. For him to be the one to accept the iPad (and its digital ilk) as the successor of the plein-air palette has a certain symbolic heft, a bit like when Degas picked up the camera. Interestingly, Hockney started out making art on his iPhone, embracing the clumsy limits of the drawing program as not a bug but a feature, but now uses it primarily as a sketching tool while the iPad serves as his painting canvas. This series, the “Yosemite Suite,” will go on view in full at Annely Juda’s London space on June 28th.

CINDY SHERMAN
Untitled (2016)
Metro Pictures (New York)
$300,000

CINDY SHERMAN Untitled (2016) at Metro Pictures (New York) at Art Basel

In her 2008 “Society Portraits” series, Cindy Sherman took an arch view of the artificially preserved patronesses of the upper class—a milieu she knows well from her collectors—and caught some flack for her portrayal of them as pure vessels of vanity. Too cold, too mean, too unsympathetic. Her latest series, shown in its tender glory at Art Basel, is a corrective: again portraits of women of a certain age, these lived-in portrayals are not satires but celebrations, showing beautiful women whose lined faces tell of struggles and laughter, and whose postures are not brittle but calmly self-assured. Based on publicity stills of 1920s actresses like Louise Brooks where the artist has run the age clock forward, the photographs are most telling as candid portraits of the artist herself, particularly this one set against the backdrop of Sherman’s own backyard in her Long Island home.

LUZIA HÜRZELER
Self-Portriat for the Cat (2006) and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (2016)
Galerie Gisèle Linder (Basel) 
5,500 CHF for the video, 13,000 CHF for the cat

LUZIA HÜRZELER Self-Portriat for the Cat (2006) at Galerie Gisèle Linder (Basel) at Art BaselLUZIA HÜRZELER Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (2016) at Galerie Gisèle Linder (Basel) at Art Basel

Ten years ago, the Swiss artist Luzia Hürzeler made a sculpture of her head out of cat food and filmed her cherished cat as it licked away at her face, eventually munching off her nose. She called the video—which of course suggests a more animal-involved version of Janine Antoni’s 1993 Lick and Lather—Self-Portrait for the Cat, which is a double-entendre because of the German slang term where to do something “for the cat” means to do it for no good reason whatsoever. This year, the cat died, so Hürzeler had it taxidermied to display her pet at the fair next to its artistic claim to fame. The video comes in several editions, a gallerist helpfully explained, but its accompaniment “is an edition of only one, because this is the cat.” Art is a many-feathered thing.

KATHRYN ANDREWS
Labor Day (2016)
David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles)
$75,000

KATHRYN ANDREWS Labor Day (2016) David Kordansky Gallery (2016) at Art Basel

After driving again and again past billboards of provocatively posed American Apparel models hawking skimpy undergarments, the Los Angeles artist Kathryn Andrews hired the same models and took them to her studio. She gave them each garments of her own design and asked them to pose individually with oversized cardboard tools, then printed these images and displayed them underneath replicas of the front doors to American Apparel stores. The result is dripping with indignation: young women wearing ridiculously phallic cartoons while posing sexily with symbols of their own capacity as tools for Dov Charney’s notoriously misogynistic corporate brainchild, imprisoned within the store’s commercial setting. Eight of these ripostes were made in total, and they’re far more effective than a simple angry honk on the car horn while driving past an ad.

PIERRE KLOSSOWSKI
Diane & Acteon (1990)
Cabinet (London) 
£250,000

PIERRE KLOSSOWSKI Diane & Acteon (1990) at Cabinet (London) at Art Basel

The older brother of the artist Balthus, Pierre Klossowski is known primarily as the author of such philosophical texts the La Monnaie vivante and Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, which were major influences on the work of Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari. He was also a collaborator of Surrealist paragon George Bataille, and a lifelong draughtsman who worked out many of his literary concepts, and the themes for his fiction writing, as large-scale drawings that he would then describe in print.

Later in his life, he met a fabricator who was able to transform his art into three dimensions in resin and wood, and this monumental work—of a sculpture joined with the backdrop of a painting—brings to life a particularly twisted telling of Ovid’s myth of Diana and Actaeon. Here, the rapacious hunter is becoming a stag just as he grapples for the virginal forest goddess, licking her armpit with his cervine tongue while one of his dogs licks at Diana’s genitals and another bites at his ankle, preparing to devour his ensorcelled master. Taking plentiful cues from Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, the work has the psychological layers, muted palette, and relished perversity of one of the artist’s brother’s paintings.

PAWEŁ ALTHAMER
Seated sculpture (2016)
neugerriemschneider (Berlin) 
Low six figures

PAWEŁ ALTHAMER Seated sculpture 2016 at neugerriemschneider (Berlin) at Art Basel

Celebrated for his gloopy Venetians installation at the 2014 Venice Biennale, featuring portraits of that island city’s denizens made from extruded gray plastic, Paweł Althamer is best when he places his plausibly lifelike creations in theatrical settings, like life-sized dioramas of humanity. This sculpture arises from one of those environments, a recent installation at neugerriemschneider’s Berlin gallery that placed this self-portrait of the artist—sitting cross-legged while carving a sculpture of his mother from a piece of wood—in an ancient mise-en-scène of mud, vegetation, and live birds, like some squalid, smelly patch of prehistory. Fabricated from plaster in the Pergamon Museum, which is famed for its stellar collection of antiquities from the Near East, the sculpture’s ancient affect is undercut by the contemporary tattoos the artist burnt into his ersatz body.

ALLISON KATZ
Irish Cock (2016)  
The Approach (London) 
Around £19,000 

ALLISON KATZ Irish Cock (2016) at The Approach (London) at Art Basel

Living in London for the past several years, the American painter Allison Katz has gained an enthusiastic following among collectors, curators, and critics alike for her fresh and exuberant paintings of all manner of things, but especially for her irresistible portraits of monkeys and birds. The paintings tend to express personal themes from the artist’s life, though not in an overt way, and the viewer does not need to know that Katz recently got married to appreciate this heroic, vivacious view of an Irish Cock showered with handfuls of real rice. (Previous paintings in the series have featured rice as well.) Katz will have her next solo show with The Approach in September, so watch out for it.

WADE GUYTON
Untitled (2016)
Petzel (New York)
$600,000

WADE GUYTON Untitled (2016) at Petzel (New York) at Art Basel

In 2014, Wade Guyton used Art Basel as the staging ground to launch a retaliatory salvo against Christie’s following its sale of one of his fire paintings for $6 million—a price the artist thought smacked of pure speculative frenzy—by giving an identical painting to each of his five dealers at the fair, New York’s Friedrich Petzel, Cologne’s Galerie Gisela Capitain, Milan’s Gió Marconi, Paris’s Galerie Chantal Crousel, and Zürich’s Galerie Francesca Pia. Revenge, if you can call it that, was sweet: each sold the $350,000 painting in the early hours of the vernissage.

Guyton evidently enjoyed that, because he’s done it again this year, and then some: each of his dealers has come to the fair with a brand-new oversize piece from a new series that he made, this one an inkjet print of a photo he took of the floor of his Brooklyn studio, showimg his foot in the lower left and patches of blue tape throughout. Recalling both Jasper Johns and Gustave Caillebotte’s The Floor Planers, the piece—at nearly twice the size and price as last time—is actually a diptych, since the printer couldn’t do the whole width in one go, and the series will go on view in Dijon later this year.

BONUS:

SARA CWYNAR
Soft Film (2016)
Foxy Productions (New York)
$15,000

ARTNEWSPAPER LONDON
Special reports

Art Basel’s Unlimited section is one big party

Curator Gianni Jetzer says that organising the show is like party planning—and with a record 88 works this year, he has pulled out all the stops

by Julia Michalska  |  15 June 2016
Art Basel's Unlimited section is one big party

A detail from Mithu Sen’s MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2016). Photo: David Owens
Unlimited curator Gianni Jetzer. Photo courtesy of Stefan Holenstein

Unlimited curator Gianni Jetzer. Photo courtesy of Stefan Holenstein

“It’s like organising a birthday party,” says Gianni Jetzer of overseeing Unlimited (until 19 June), Art Basel’s special section dedicated to large-scale installations. “The cake is the foundation, but as the curator, I have to add the icing, the candles, the cherries and some music to celebrate.” Jetzer, who is also curator-at-large at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, has brought together a record 88 works for Unlimited in this, his fifth year, including four performance pieces. “Performance art is part of the 21st-century museum,” Jetzer says. “It addresses the public in a completely different and more direct way.” Amid his party planning, Jetzer tells us about six key works.

Davide Balula, Mimed Sculptures (2016). Photo: David Owens

Davide Balula, Mimed Sculptures (2016)

“Around 20% of the works in Unlimited are new productions and this is one of them. There are seven ‘sculptures’ on show—by artists including Henry Moore, David Smith and Louise Bourgeois—but they’re invisible as long as they’re not activated by the hands of mimes. The work draws on the theories of two art historians: Herbert Read and Clement Greenberg. The artist did a huge casting for the mimes, and there was lots of training involved. They are dressed in white and wear pink gloves, which really emphasises their hands. The market for performances is still quite difficult: production is costly and prices are still very reasonable.”

• Galerie Frank Elbaz (Paris) and Gagosian Gallery (Paris)

Mithu Sen, MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2016). Photo: David Owens

Mithu Sen, MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2016)

“There are three female Indian contemporary artists in the show this year. This work is comprised of [Mithu Sen’s] collection of fetishes, curios and souvenirs, much in the tradition of the cabinet of curiosities. Basel has beautiful cabinets of curiosities because it has such an old university and has a long history of collecting. In India, the artist was unable to show this work in its entirety because of its allusions to homosexuality, religion, mixed marriage and all kinds of matters that are impossible to speak about publicly. When she had an offer to show a redacted version, she turned the curator down, saying that it would be like cutting off one of her arms. This work is an exhibition within an exhibition, almost like a Russian doll.”

Chemould Prescott Road (Mumbai), Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna) and Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris)

Chelpa Ferro, Jungle Jam (2010). Photo: David Owens

Chelpa Ferro, Jungle Jam (2010)

“This Brazilian collective, made up of three men, often works with musical compositions. Here, they are using blenders, ordinary household items that are reconfigured as musical instruments. Each one is attached to a MIDI controller, a digital steering device that activates the blenders. The work is like an orchestra of plastic bags and the MIDI controller is the invisible conductor. The plastic bags are from various stores, most of them Brazilian but some European. Chelpa Ferro have not had many museum shows in Europe, so it’s great that they’re included this year, as so many international curators come to Unlimited. It’s really exciting to work with artists who are still relatively unknown.”

• Sprovieri (London)

Hans Op de Beeck, The Collector’s House (2016). Photo: David Owens

Hans Op de Beeck, The Collector’s House (2016)

“[The Belgian artist] Hans Op de Beeck is a regular at Unlimited. This year’s work is brand new and is having its premiere here. It’s a re-creation of a collector’s house in an almost Stanley Kubrick way; everything is intensified and over the top, like the pond in the middle of the living room. The work reflects the neo-bourgeois culture that comes with collecting. On the other hand, it looks almost like a 21st-century Pompeii, as if an ash rain has come down on this home and frozen it for eternity. Time and colour have been sucked out.”

•Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York), Galleria Continua (San Gimignano), Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna)

Koji Enokura, Untitled No. 11, 12, 13 and 14 (1978). Photo: David Owens

Koji Enokura, Untitled No. 11, 12, 13 and 14 (1978)

“[Koji Enokura] is relatively unknown, but I think he’s very important; I’ve always loved his work. This particular piece was created for the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1978. He uses a wooden plank that has been dipped in used oil to produce the images on the four canvases. He omits the frame and just hangs the fabric directly on the wall, showing all the irregularities, the staining and the creases. The leaning wooden panel has a long art-historical tradition. It builds a bridge between the floor and the wall, between three-dimensional and two-dimensional space. This work has more to do with reduction than accumulation. Unlimited is itself an accumulation of works by 88 artists, but this work creates an oasis in which you can almost refresh your mind.”

• Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo)

Elmgreen & Dragset, Secondary (2015). Photo: David Owens

Elmgreen & Dragset, Secondary (2015)

“This piece shows a mirrored auction room with two auctioneers bidding in parallel. It is titled Secondary, which is a reference to the secondary art market. Auctions have become a form of entertainment; there’s an excitement around them. They have a formula that pops up in movies and novels; everybody knows what it feels like to be in an auction. But, like in Hans Op de Beeck’s work, all the colours and imagery have been left out, which in turn triggers the images that we have stored in our mind. At a time when auction records keep being broken, this work seems very timely. It also addresses the relationship between secondary and primary. Unlimited is a platform for sales, but it’s a primary one—so here the secondary is infiltrating the primary.”

• Galería Helga de Alvear (Madrid)

Lucy McKenzie, Lina Mouton (2016). Photo: David Owens

Lucy McKenzie, Lina Mouton (2016)

“Lucy McKenzie is a Scottish artist who went to a decorative painting school in Brussels, the Ecole Van Der Kelen, to learn how to paint faux wood and marble, so this technique forms a large part of her work. Here, she turns the furniture, which is all hand-painted, into a three-dimensional canvas. It’s kind of Lucy’s take on Richard Artschwager, showing the tension between representation and decoration, 2D and 3D. It also reminds me of Claes Oldenburg’s Bedroom Ensemble from the 1960s. There is no personal element in this work; she has removed the bedding and the linen. It has also been created especially for Unlimited.

Galerie Buchholz (Berlin) and Cabinet (London)

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