Art Basel 2016 articles and images collection


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. (

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.


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: —[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.


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.


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.

Push Papers (1986)
Luhring Augustine (New York) 

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.

Untitled No. 7 from the “Yosemite Suite” (2010)
Annely Juda Fine Art (London)

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.

Untitled (2016)
Metro Pictures (New York)

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.

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.

Labor Day (2016)
David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles)

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.

Diane & Acteon (1990)
Cabinet (London) 

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.

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.

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.

Untitled (2016)
Petzel (New York)

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.


Soft Film (2016)
Foxy Productions (New York)

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)

Painting and Conceptual Art: Notes on the impact of critical theory on 21st century American Art

Modernism/Paris/New York: the impact of critical theory on american art

notes on the impact of critical theory from Paris into New York and Los Angeles

Portrait of chess players 1911 by Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp: Portrait of Chess Players (1911)

These comments come while thinking through the history of Modernism in Painting via Paris and New York, and the subsequent seizure of American Art by European Conceptualism via the needle injection of French critical theory. It has struck me deeply to think of how both French painting and French theory have been embraced and then rejected by American artists, then embraced once again today. Equally it is strange for me to consider that Conceptual Art no longer dominates art production, but it does its discourse and rational. Contemporary painting today has lived through its various calls for its death. Perhaps it is so smart now because of having had to fight through decades of critical intelligentsia writing it into oblivion. When I think of painting in how it developed from the Italian church and the veneration of God, to it expanding to Paris through Nicolas Poussin and other artists, its regal powers seem to have lived through the ages of painting left reality and closed itself off from the world.  When I recall that Painting separated itself from the church, and became portable, or not portable, but used to paint history – its powers are real and clear. Its countless images continue to dominate our imaginations. Its powers cause artists who do not historically come from painting to take it up. Yet it was the collapse of aesthetic and intellectual rigor surrounding painting that let Conceptual Art say it was the smart art and Painters were blind to the world, dumb in the head, and possibly fools. So here now I write these notes in consideration of the impact of critical theory on American art producton, from Los Angeles. A place where the old ways of working from a century or more ago in Paris are both rejected, refined, studied and loved. Painting seems to carry many of its originary powers. Certainly its capacity to render the beautiful and the marvelous have found new studios to realize its startling powers.

Here is an early example of the Conceptual Art model in music:

John Cage on Schoenberg’s statement to him on harmony : “After I had been studying with him for two years, Schoenberg said, “In order to write music, you must have a feeling for harmony.” I explained to him that I had no feeling for harmony. He then said that I would always encounter an obstacle, that it would be as though I came to a wall through which I could not pass. I said, “In that case I will devote my life to beating my head against that wall.”

“A photograph of Monet in his third studio at Giverny (c. 1924 -25), in front of the Nympheas panel Morning.

Paul Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence

Paul Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence

Paul Cezanne’s studio

Paul Cezanne’s studio

Monet in his studio with the Duke of Treviso looking at the central part of the Luncheon on the Grass in 1920.  via

“Monet in his studio with the Duke of Treviso looking at the central part of the Luncheon on the Grass in 1920.”

Fernand Leger, Paris, 1954.  Photo by Mark Shaw.

“Fernand Leger, Paris, 1954.  Photo by Mark Shaw.”

Henri Matisse in his studio in the south of France, 1948

“Henri Matisse in his studio in the south of France, 1948”

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse in studio

the impact of critical theory on american art

During grad school in Los Angeles in the mid 1990’s,  one of my mentors was a Paris born and bred, Louvre Ph.D art historian, who came to LA to write about Mike Kelley. i also studied with sylvere lotringer, the theorist who brought the major french theorists to america. he continues to write texts and publish some of the major theorists from paris and worldwide now in his publishing platform called semiotext. once i asked my mentor from Paris why critical theory was so dominant, where is the american discourse on art, which has been pushed into the background of the world of ideas by paris. she said “we had to think for you.” we meaning the french civilization, the historic paris intellectual. i recall realizing that it was the truth that i had never engaged so many waves and generations of self-critical razor analysis such as what came from paris. and having read French literature from end to end, understood the artist positions of the authors who were deconstructing the literary texts. as i have said before, critical theory is the self-critical, self-reflexive intellectual wing of the paris avant-garde of the 1950’s and well before that too, translated in the 1960’s. it was taught at only the nova scotia art school – the precursor to cal arts, in the mid 1960’s. then it migrated to cal arts when it opened in 1970, having already made its way to new york in 1968 with the establishment of the whitney independent study program, whose reason for existing was to elevate the american artist intellectual with french thought. here then was the continuation of french cultural theory that extents from diderot to camus through foucault. it is the living embodiment of the most self-critical and analytical of minds, but far more importantly – it is the carrier that injects into the american artist intellectual the height and highlight of french thought on culture and civilization. the whitney program used it to infuse the american artist with the update on what would have been thought through in the salons in paris. theory allowed the school of paris to keep cultural authority even after rise of the new york school through painting and u.s. government intervention, using the new york school as propaganda that the american mind was now superior to paris. as we know from critical theory putting a stranglehold on the american university, americans did capitulate to paris. so even though the u.s. continues to dominate in the current artworld and art market, the one percent of american artist intellectuals exposed to critical theory remain under its influence. and on the curatorial end of the artworld, critical theory and its visual counterpart, conceptual art, continue to reign.

Burghers of Calais - Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin, Burghers of Calais

Claude Monet in his third studio, surrounded by panels of his large Water Lilies series, 1920s. Photo by Henri Manuel, collection of the Musee Marmottan, Paris.

“Claude Monet in his third studio, surrounded by panels of his large Water Lilies series, 1920s. Photo by Henri Manuel, collection of the Musee Marmottan, Paris.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in studio

paperimages:Claude Monet in his studio

Claude Monet in his studio

we know that critical theory defamed painting and said painters were the idiots of the artworld. it sees duchamp as its master, who once painted in paris, then stopped to entertain the idea of art as a world not of images but ideas. his geometric thinking overthrew the school of paris painters, including matisse and picasso. after this time america’s abstract expressionism, america’s first cultural product in the visual arts joined jazz on the world stage. it was the parisian intellectuals who told new york that the negro who was eventually renamed the african americans had produced a brilliant new musical form, jazz. paris also told new york that hollywood had in its ranks a handful of auteur film giants, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Douglas Sirk to name a few. abstract expressionist painting continued to be taught in american art schools, then fell away but painting as an artisinal craft continued to be taught across the nation. only a tiny amount american artists, much less than one percent, were invited to study critical theory and philosophy.

“photo:  Rainer Maria Rilke at his desk in the Hôtel Biron in Paris
(now the Age of Bronze room of the Rodin Museum)” Rilke was Rodin’s secretary.

i recall reading that the american artist felix gonzalez torres, who like myself studied at Pratt in its painting department, wrote a scathing letter to the school after attending the whitney progam. he stated that it had taken him a decade to understand the implications of what he had been taught in the whitney program by its deconstructionist scholars. he attacked Pratt for teaching painting, which he then perceived as worthless and a lie. as we know he had a short but brilliant career as a conceptual artist, from miami, florida, trained in new york, and that his work is still used to convey the notion of the gift as an art form.

JSS's Paris studio with Madame X in the original 'missing' gold frame. The painting stayed in his studio for over 30 years until she died. in My Photos by
John Singer Sergeant’s Paris studio with Madame X in the original ‘missing’ gold frame. The painting stayed in his studio for over 30 years until she died.
Joan Mitchell in a Paris studio, 1957Life magazine photo by Loomis Dean

Joan Mitchell in a Paris studio, 1957

Life magazine photo by Loomis Dean

Robert Motherwell in his studio

Robert Motherwell in his studio

texturism:Willem de Kooning in 1952

Willem de Kooning in studio, 1952

Henry Ossawa Tanner in his studio, c. 1900   Smithsonian

Henry Ossawa Tanner in his studio, c. 1900   Smithsonian

Jackson Pollock, photo by Arnold Newman<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you.  There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have  any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it  was. “     Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, photo by Arnold Newman

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was. “
     Jackson Pollock

Full Screen Image

Romare Bearden in his Long Island City Studio
with a photograph of his paternal great-grandparents,
c. 1980, photo by Frank Stewart”

Jacob Lawrence in corner of studio at 306 West 141st Street, Harlem, 1930s.”

here we are now years later in the 21st century and Painting has burst back onto the scene, having pushed back critical theory to where it dominates in the curatorial world but not in the art market. Paintings rise in the past decade can be traced to the taste for it by the collectors who decide what art will be art. Art Basel Miami Beach which debuted in full in 2002, was one major date of paintings return. In London the Saatchi Collection’s the Triumph of Painting shows began in 2005 just after the tragic fire in a London warehouse destroyed Saatchi’s entire collection of YBA Conceptual Art. This mimicked John Baldessari burning up most of his paintings and becoming a Conceptual Artist. Yet even Baldessari, who once taught Post-Studio Art courses, had returned to making traditional art by using fabrication. Twenty-first century collectors went wild for painting and sculpture, traditional art forms, over non-visual and information style Conceptual Art projects. Yet in Documenta, the Whitney Biennial, and other survey curatorial shows, Conceptual Art retained full power. Something also happened to Conceptual Art. The fabrication of sculpture using techniques from the 19th and early 20th century in Paris and Rodin’s studio returned. Collectors desired to see Conceptual Art sculptures that were to the standard of traditional museum art. Whereas in painting, that desire did not manifest itself, but allowed for painting to return to full force as an artifact of the height of western civilization culture. It was no longer marginalized and ridiculed and thought of as being the carrier of negative master narratives that had caused the world’s problems. Art in general no longer needed to be “emptied out” of its narrative content. the idea that narrative had to be destroyed was itself destroyed. Now we see art again being made in every possible way, without the conditions and restrictions or the domineering eye of Paris. MoCA in LA has three consecutive shows on painting. There are major curated painting shows in the works in London and Paris, some by world-class curators that will be in enormous commercial gallery shows. The other stranger in the room is this phenomenon called Conceptual Art Painting. It would be the child of a Painter and a Conceptual artist were it a person. Somehow, despite all the 40 plus years of railing against painting by Conceptual art, many formally trained painters who were then trained as Conceptual Artists have returned to pure painting. This is an area I would like to understand further and explore, while asking the question about how did this happen, or is it merely the obvious – the market kicked open the doors and the ghost of Conceptual Art shot away.  In the back of my mind is the London and New York based group know as Art & Language, who published major theoretical treatises that served to invalidate Painting in every possible way and regard. That they also explored both anti-painting and real painting is part of my immediate concerns. Also here I would like to point out that none other than the Italian Conceptual Artist Pierre Manzoni opened a gallery to show paintings by his friends. Manzoni also published a magazine that was a defense of the works shown in his gallery. I ask: how then did it become the case that American artists chose the strain of Conceptual Art that denigrated painting. As a serious joke I had asked this question almost 2 decades ago – surmising that it was because artists not born with the native talents of museum artists found Conceptual Art to be a way into art history. This of course would be impossible in music, where a music theorist or music historian who had no native talent but enjoyed a huge capacity for criticality, would be considered a musician by contracting actual musicians to produce every aspect of his work. except for the idea itself. Yet in visual art the notion of Artist as Producer was pushed to its limits by artists hiring talent and then showing the product as their own. Various logic was enjoined to produce answers to how this could be art by saying that architects do not building the buildings. my response was that when I visited the Art Institute of Chicago, and saw not only drawings by Le Corbusier, but paintings by him of his architectural ideas, and volumes of texts by him, that is not remotely like having an idea and then having others execute it. And that is the point – they are not similar, they work in a Conceptual Space not defined by the hand of the artist with the idea. I studied with Jack Goldstein, who was an artist as producer. I knew his paintings well before meeting him. When I saw them years ago I had no idea that he had not personally created them. Yet they were marvels of visual virtuosity. Yet now the individual hand is again highly valued, while contracted paintings continue to be made and shown as that from the Artist’s Studio. The reason for this in the cases where the artist did initially render their own work, is that they can no longer satisfy their collector market in a timely manner by making each work without an army of assistants. So here we return to where August Rodin was at the end of the 19th century. His studio had 50 assistants. Yet it is Rodin’s work that is seen as a major model of the true historical artistic achievement today.

“It has been speculated that Rodin had as many as fifty assistants working for him during these decades. (1900-1917).  In 1908, Rodin moved his studio and showroom to the Hôtel Biron in Paris. The rent was very low and Rodin was able to occupy much of the ground floor. Several other famous or soon-to-be-famous tenants were there, including writer Jean Cocteau, painter Henri Matisse, and dancer Isadora Duncan.” Cantor Foundation

“Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) seated beside his work in his studio (b/w photo) by Dornac (Paul Francois Arnold Cardon) (1859-1941) Archives Larousse, Paris, France”
Sam Francis in his Paris studio working on  his work entitled “Painting”, 1956
[Sam Francis in his Paris studio, working on his painting titled Painting]

duchamp’s paris studio 1917

Marcel Duchamp, Paris 1960. Photo by Vera Mercer

Paul Cezanne in 1904<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />photo by Emile Bernard

Paul Cezanne in 1904, photo by Emile Bernard

Duchamp: bride-stripped-bare-by-her-bachelors-the-large-glass

-Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California

July 29, 2012

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson: The October Paintings

October Painting 1 and 2, Los Angeles, California by Vincent Johnson

The October Painting 1 and 2, Los Angeles, California by Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings - numbers 3 and 4

The October Paintings – numbers 3 and 4 – The October Paintings (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson) – the paintings are at the underpainting stage. They will be allowed to dry in my studio and then a layer of white glaze will be added. That will dry. Then I will work on each work, layer by layer, allowing each layer to dry, or be worked or added to as I desire. Our car Roxy is in the background, her back arched as she defies a mushroom to move.

October Paintings 3 and 4 - three of three

The October Paintings (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson) – paintings 3 and 4. Taking advantage of the fabulous weather in LA.

October Paintings 3 and 4 - two of three

The October Paintings – paintings 1 and 2 (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson) – with our cat Roxy playing in the back yard.

October Paintings 5 and 6, underpainted on October 31, 2013. Van Nuys, CA

October Paintings 5 and 6, underpainting – layer one – October 31, 2013. Van Nuys, CA

October Paintings 5 and 6.on 11.01.13 no .3 October Paintings 5 and 6.on 11.01.13

The October Paintings, 2013, under painting layers, Los Angeles, California, by Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings, 2013, paintings one and two, under painting layers, Los Angeles, California, by Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson)

The October Paintings – paintings one and two (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson)

The October Paintings are comprised of nine 4×4 foot oil on canvas paintings. These are the largest canvases I’ve worked on since my return to painting after two decades of working with photography. I was trained as a representational painter at Pratt Institute and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My graduate degree is in critical theory and painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. The works are a continuation of my exploration of the history of art materials, combined with using the layering techniques of representation to create singular new abstractions. This is my first time working on several large-scale canvases at once. What I’ve noticed over the years is that every significant work I’ve made eventually finds its way into the world, often through unanticipated opportunity.  The works are visceral, visually rich, emotively engaging. They follow the six large-scale paintings in the COSMOS SUITE that is also ongoing and was started in 2012, and the NINE GRAYSCALE PAINTINGS in LOS ANGELES that I completed in 2011. In my work I have always sought to reach for and produce imagery that lends itself to a serious consideration of the ideas that come to the mind when approaching the image. For me these works seek to substantiate themselves in the world, to be both evocative and provocative, beautiful and remarkable in both concept and realization. As these works are fully developed I will continue to record the journey am taken on with them, until they are complete.

OCTOBER PAINTING - Scumble glazing, second phase of the paintings.

OCTOBER PAINTING – Scumble glazing, second phase of the paintings.


October Paintings – scumble glazed and drying in studio.

During the scumble glazing layer of the painting, where I knock down the underpainting colors so that the next layers can deliver a fabulous punch, I thought about the magnificient, enormous paintings I saw this summer at the Menil Collection in Houston, by Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko. The high seriousness of Rothko’s chapel paintings was amazing. Yet on that day it would be my discovery of the excellence of Cy Twombly as a painter of the primordial and playful sublime that captivated my attention in his purpose built stand alone large gallery space that showcased his work far beyond the circular swirls I know but care nothing for at all. It seems that when Twombly switched to specific subject matter – whether it be abstract landscape paintings, where he had simply marvelous deep rich green works, or his overall giant abstractions, filled with playful and powerful singular and exciting moments, both satisfied in wonderful ways. I was fortunate to make two trips to Houston this summer. The Late Byzantine to Today was a marvel to behold; I also had no idea that the Menil is a world class repository of Surrealist art. I was also privileged to see the James Turrell retrospective at the MFA Houston, which itself will be expanding soon with a major new building devoted to modern and contemporary art. The Menil Collection itself will be adding seven new individual artist showcase galleries, which combined with their traveling shows will make Houston as important a center for seeing art as anywhere in the US outside of New York. I am looking at the nine 4×4 foot October paintings in my studio. Its the largest body of work I have ever produced as a painter. I can see so many possibilities in this new direction. It gives me reason to continue to push to get my work into the world, despite all of the difficulties I have experienced. Painting makes me see beyond my own being.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, CA

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Golden Dream (2012), part of the Cosmos Suite of paintings

California Toilet, Filthy Light Switch (2010) by Vincent Johnson. Archival Epson print (Private Collection, Miami, Florida). I provided this image as I realized its clear similarity to Golden Dream, which I completed a week ago in my studio in Los Angeles.

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings, Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 15, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting: The Storm (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting, Snow White/White Snow (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson, Nine Grayscale Paintings, Beacon Arts Center, Los Angeles, (2001). Oil on canvas. Each panel is 20×24 inches.
photograph of silver paint on my hands in studio, Los Angeles, during the creation of Nine Grayscale paintings.
Vincent Johnson – in Los Angeles studio working on Nine Grayscale Paintings, 2011

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 for the Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles. His painting The Cosmos Suite: Celestial Storm was featured on Paddle 8 for the LAXART auction, November, 2013. Johnson also recently exhibited in the Open Project, Palace of the Inquisition, Evora, Portgugal, summer of 2013.

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