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Articles on this Page
- 01/30/14--07:50: _Zurich
- 01/30/14--08:53: _Park Avenue Armory
- 01/31/14--07:03: _Obama Disses Art Hi...
- 01/31/14--07:58: _Soho
- 01/31/14--07:58: _New York
- 01/31/14--11:02: _Christian Louboutin...
- 01/31/14--11:20: _Sting’s “The Last S...
- 01/31/14--12:49: _Rescued Rembrandt: ...
- 01/31/14--13:29: _Christian Louboutin...
- 01/31/14--13:44: _Performing Arts Wee...
- 01/31/14--14:17: _Slideshow: See artw...
- 01/31/14--14:56: _VIDEO: Mike Kelley ...
- 02/01/14--12:40: _West 20th Street
- 02/01/14--18:55: _Scammed?: Asher Ede...
- 02/03/14--04:33: _Rachel Howard Gives...
- 02/03/14--07:21: _Gurlitt List May Be...
- 02/03/14--08:02: _Philip Seymour Hoff...
- 02/03/14--09:18: _Jena Thomas: Young ...
- 02/03/14--10:49: _Philip Seymour Hoff...
- 02/03/14--14:36: _Kim Gordon's Sonic ...
- 01/30/14--07:50: Zurich
- 01/30/14--08:53: Park Avenue Armory
- 01/31/14--07:58: Soho
- 01/31/14--07:58: New York
- 01/31/14--11:02: Christian Louboutin's Impressionist Masterpieces For Spring
- 01/31/14--11:20: Sting’s “The Last Ship” Heads to Broadway This Fall
- 01/31/14--12:49: Rescued Rembrandt: A Surviving Monuments Men Member Tells His Story
- 01/31/14--14:17: Slideshow: See artwork by Rachel Howard
- 01/31/14--14:56: VIDEO: Mike Kelley Show at MoMA PS1 Ends This Weekend
- 02/01/14--12:40: West 20th Street
- 02/03/14--04:33: Rachel Howard Gives New Voice to Oil Paint
- 02/03/14--07:21: Gurlitt List May Be Released, France to Burn Fake Chagall, and More
- 02/03/14--08:02: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Revered Actor, Dead at 46
- 02/03/14--10:49: Philip Seymour Hoffman: The Cost of Loving Losers
- 02/03/14--14:36: Kim Gordon's Sonic Send-Off for MoMA PS1’s Mike Kelley Retrospective
In the year 2005, while celebrating its fortieth anniversary, Galerie Gmurzynska opened its spacious new headquarters in Switzerland, relocating entirely from Germany. At the same time that it was launching its new flagship location at the famed Paradeplatz in the heart of Zurich, the gallery was also enlarging and updating its two already existing locations in Zug and fabled St. Moritz.
These strategic choices reflect the strengthened and renewed commitment of Galerie Gmurzynska to continue to present unique exhibitions which are both historically well researched and scientifically documented. It is the goal of the gallery to offer uniquely curated shows for its ever widening international public. It is also its goal to differentiate serving the cause of art history and research and mere dealings in art. The gallery continues to work with leading art historians as well as to collaborate with museums in shows and with the enlargement of their permanent collections.
Galerie Gmurzynska continues to represent the estates of some of the world's great artists, in some cases for several generations. Not only are we the leading gallery in the field of Russian Avantgarde, we also have a preeminent position worldwide in the sphere of Modern Art and Classic Contemporary which we believe are culturally and philosophically intertwined.
In the coming years, we shall focus on even more exemplary exhibitions high-lighting early twentieth century artistic achievements and their multifaceted influences on the art today. It is with pride of achievement that we can say that in its forty-year history Galerie Gmurzynska has organized over 150 substantial exhibitions in its own premises.
It has published approximately 100 catalogues, books and catalogues raisonnes in close collaboration with experts worldwide and has organized several international symposiums. The gallery participates at major art fairs and has served on several of its selection committees.
The gallery amongst others has received such distinguished awards as The Golden Medal of the City of Paris by Jacques Chirac, has been selected as the best gallery by Spain's art critics and has won numerous prizes for its publications such as the Best Design Work in 1993 by Designer's Union of Russia for the gallery's "Rodchenko - Stepanova/ Paris-Moscow" catalogue. The gallery's owner, Krystyna Gmurzynska, and her business partner, Mathias Rastorfer, were both awarded the Chevalier des Art et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, and Krystyna Gmurzynska was the first foreigner to receive the merit for special achievements by Michael Shvydkoy, the Russian Minister of Culture, recognizing her "important contribution to scientific research, and for the organization of exhibitions in the field of Russian art of the 20th century."
– Obama Disses Art History Majors: In a post-State of the Union speech stop in Wisconsin, President Barack Obama angered some art history majors (and, oddly enough, a bunch of political bloggers) when he suggested that an art history degree might not be that lucrative. “A lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career,” the president said, “but I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.” Maybe regretting his comparison, Obama followed up: “Nothing wrong with art history degree... I love art history. I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.” [Politico, WP]
– Reporter Rescues Nazi Loot: New York Times writer Doreen Carvajal shares her experience of helping French authorities to track down heirs of Jewish collectors whose artworks were stolen during WWII and now hang in French museums, including successfully reconnecting a Gustave Courbet painting at the Musée d’Orsay with a potential owner. “Several times,” she recounts, “I found what I thought were the families listed in the records only to be proved wrong, or to encounter people with no interest in pursuing whether they were indeed related and heirs to a masterwork.” [NYT]
– Brazilian Art Collective Supports Protestors: The Brazilian artist collective Aldeia Gentil (which means “gentle village”), co-founded by Ernesto Neto, has taken up the cause of demonstrators who took to the streets of Rio last year — many of them brandishing placards painted in Neto’s studio — participating in protests and holding open forums in their gallery on topics ranging from politics and activism to art history. “All these demonstrations are necessary,” said Neto. “They are expressing the refusal of police violence. They reject the police, who aim to pacify the favelas by military means, supposedly in order to do away with poverty. They condemn the authorities who are imposing western-style standardisation, in the name of criteria set by the country’s elite. But it doesn’t work. The people of Brazil want something else.” [Guardian]
– Portugal to Sell Miros: Portugal is selling off $50 million worth of Joan Miro paintings (formerly owned by a bank seized by the state) to pay down its debt. [Bloomberg]
– Street Art Festival Launches in India: The inaugural edition of St.Art, a street art festival in the urban villages of Delhi, will put artworks on dozens of gray cement walls. [NYT]
– Meet the two men leading the charge to save Pompeii: A police general, and the grandson of Italy’s last king (who is also a winning contestant on Italy’s “Dancing With the Stars”). [WSJ]
– The Museum of London will open an exhibition of erotic tiles from the 18th century just in time for Valentine's Day. [Independent]
– Lucian Freud had the hand-writing of a 5-year-old, at least judging by a letter he sent to one of his students in 1996, which is hitting the auction block at Bonhams London with a £2,000-3,000 estimate. [Press release]
– “Oh, Canada,” Mass MoCA’s survey of contemporary art from Canada, will travel to Canada — it will span galleries in Calgary and Canada’s maritime provinces in two separate presentations. [Globe and Mail]
ALSO ON ARTINFO
Check out our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.
When Sting was a little boy growing up in Wallsend, England, a shipbuilding town, his mother dressed him up, put a Union Jack in his hand, and led him down to the docks. Celebrities didn’t visit his small town, recalls the pop star, but royalty did since among their duties was to christen the huge ships built on the sweat of his family’s working-class friends and neighbors. As the massive Rolls Royce of the Queen Mother rode its stately way through the narrow streets, Sting, then known as Gordon Sumner, waved to her. And she waved back.
Making that eye contact, Sting has said, left an impact. “I was infected with something. I was infected with this idea: ‘I don’t want to be on the street. I don’t want to end up in that shipyard. I want to be in that car.”
Sting, of course, went on to make pop music history but throughout his success, he was haunted by the tough and seasoned men that he left behind, the memories of the unfinished hulls rising in the North England sky. Now he’s recaptured those memories in his latest album, “The Last Ship,” a cycle of songs that has formed the basis of a musical, which arrives on Broadway this fall after a Chicago summer tryout. A preview of the story and its inspirations is being offered on February 21 in a concert version aired as a part of Channel 13’s “Great Performances,” performed by Sting and a 14-piece band.
The show was taped last fall at the Public Theater, where it has been in development for the past several years in collaboration with the Tony-winning team of director Joe Mantello (“Wicked”) and book writers John Logan (“Red”) and Brian Yorkey (“Next to Normal”). The concert of the “The Last Ship” stirred a lot of buzz as an intimate romance that unflinchingly looks at the hard lives forged in the blistering heat and noisy roar of the shipyard furnaces. As Sting himself tells it in the TV special — during which he described the aforementioned eureka with the Queen Mum — the show centers on Gideon, a charismatic, cynical, and combative man who fled the town in his youth and has come back for some unfinished business that apparently includes an ex-wife and her husband, a rich industrialist.
“It’s not easy,” he said of writing a musical. “Every song fights for its life… and the landscape is strewn with the bleached corpses.” An apt enough analogy, as the songs themselves are vivid with the infectious reels that he must have had heard as a little boy as well as the nostalgia for a lost time of men ennobled by their craft and frustrated by their limited means of expression. Think, perhaps, of “Once” meeting “On the Waterfront.” If the album is any indication, the show smells like a big fat hit. By the way, you should download the special edition version of the album. You wouldn’t want to miss “Show Some Respect,” one of the best songs ever written for the theater. Unsurprisingly, it is in the whiskey-sodden, balls-out tradition of KurtWeill (“The Alabama Song”), since Sting’s last Broadway outing was performing as Mackie Messer in the 1989 revival of “The Threepenny Opera,” which also featured Cyndi Lauper, another Broadway newbie (“Kinky Boots”).
Sting’s songs have much more heart and affection in them, however, than the Poet of the Weimar Germany. Once you hear “Show Some Respect,” you’ll be hard-pressed to get it out of your head. And you wouldn’t want to:
“These bonds we’ve spliced together, will face all kinds of weather,
Considered altogether, and sailing Hell for leather,
We’ll quit this quay,
And we’ll cast this net of souls upon the sea.
Where will you be,
When we cast this net of souls upon the sea?”
One of six surviving Monuments Men, 88-year-old Harry Ettlinger was tapped for the group in January 1945, the final year of World War II. A valuable member of the team because of his ability to read and speak German, a 19-year-old Ettlinger went down into European salt mines to discover and restitute some of the hundreds of thousands of works that the Nazis systematically stole from private and public collections across Europe. Ettlinger still lives in New Jersey where he emigrated with his family from Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1938. ARTINFO had the chance to speak with Ettlinger at a special screening of George Clooney’s upcoming film, “Monuments Men,” at New York’s Center for Jewish History.
After you were drafted you were assigned to search for looted artworks hidden in salt mines and castles. Did you ask for that task or was it randomly assigned to you?
I was drafted and trained as an infantryman and sent back overseas back to Europe and just as I was about to be shipped with 25 other soldiers to go into the Battle of the Bulge, I got pulled out and spent the next three months traveling from the France/Belgium border to find myself in Munich. I traveled with this temporary camp and there somebody came to me and said to me, “I understand you can speak and read German. They could use you in that office over there.” So, the next morning I went and opened the door and there was an officer standing there. And I said, “I understand you could use somebody who could speak and read in German. I would like to volunteer to do that job.” The captain said great, go sit down here and this man will tell you what to do. That was my entry into the Monuments Men. The man that I volunteered to turned out to be Jim Rorimer, who was one of the leading Monuments Men.
You recovered the stained glass windows of the Strasbourg Cathedral and a Rembrandt self-portrait. Where did you find them? What was it like pulling them out?
These treasures were stored in two salt mines among 40,000 cases. For safety purposes, salt mines are not like coal mines. They are a great environment: 65 degrees Fahrenheit, clean atmosphere, huge halls. It turned out that they [the Nazis] turned them into underground factories. That was the interesting part. One of them was a factory where they were on their way to make jet engines five years before we even got started on them. The workers were Hungarian Jew slave laborers and if they had been successful, the German air force would have been able to shoot down every one of our planes in the battle and extend World War II by one to two years. That fact became evident to a French heroine, Rose Valland, who informed Captain Jim Rorimer about it who realized the criticality that the American force should come to that mine in Heilbronn to stop the production of everything. The fact that they were being used for storage was really secondary.
Do you have a favorite artwork that you found?
The Rembrandt self-portrait. The art museum in the city that I lived in, Karlsruhe, it was their pride and joy.
Did you have an appreciation for art before you joined the Monuments Men?
I had an appreciation for art. My grandfather was a collector of prints. While I did not end up in the art field, nevertheless I have a great appreciation for art and what it did for our way of life.
Christian Louboutin has done it again, interpreting art world classics for his advertising campaigns. This time, he's tapped the Impressionist masters for Spring/Summer 2014, where pastels and floral looks flourished on runways from New York to Paris.
Photographer and artist Peter Lippmann reinterpreted masterpieces such as Camille Pissarro's Pink Peonies, Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers, juxtaposing covetable shoes and handbags around, or within, the still life and flowers.
Previously, for Fall 2013, Lippmann created the lookbook based on paintings by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, including "Two Satyrs", "The Three Graces" and "David Slaying Goliath". In Fall 2011, he reinterpreted yet others like Georges de La Tour's "Magdalene with the Smoking Flame" and Marie-Guillemine Benoist's "Portrait dune Negresse".
For those who can't afford Louboutin's $1,000 red soles, perhaps a life-sized print of one of these masterpieces to pacify the soul.
— We remember folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who died this week at the age of 94.
— Graham Fuller reviews the documentary “Tim’s Vermeer.”
— The musical version of “Titanic,” once considered one of the most troubled productions to hit the stage, will make its return to Broadway.
— Larry Blumenfeld reports from the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards ceremony.
— Craig Hubert reviews the Roundabout Theater production of “Machinal,” starring Rebecca Hall and currently enjoying a Broadway run at the American Airlines Theater.
— BBC Radio will produce an unmade Richard Burton film, based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson with a script by Dylan Thomas.
— We review the New York City Ballet’s Art Series, featuring the street artist JR.
— Patrick Pacheco writes about “The Last Ship,” a musical from rock-star Sting, which is coming to Broadway.
— Our Performing Arts pick of the week is the “Verdi at the Met” 20-CD box set released by the Metropolitan Opera.
This weekend is your last chance to catch "Mike Kelley" at MoMA PS1, the largest exhibition of the artist's work-to-date. The show, which was conceived as a thematic exhibition with the help of the artist, originated at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. That changed following the artist's tragic death last year at the age of 57.
The Detroit-born artist worked in every conceivable medium — drawings on paper, sculpture, performances, music, video, photography, and painting — over the duration of his thirty-five year career, all of which can be seen throughout the retrospective.
From 2005's "Day is Done" to 1995's"Educational Complex" and the later "Kandor," more than 200 works can be seen throughout the exhibition, which occupies the entire 40,000 square feet of gallery space at the museum.
Blouin ARTINFO spoke with both Ann Goldstein, director of the Stedelijk Museum, and MoMA PS1 Curator and Associate Director of Exhibitions and Programs Peter Eleey when the show opened in the fall.
“Mike Kelley” is on view at MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens, through Sunday February 2, 2014.
Jack Shainman Gallery was incorporated in 1984. Its first location was in Washington DC. Soon after opening, the gallery relocated to New York City occupying a space in the East Village before moving to 560 Broadway in Soho and then to its current location at 513 West 20th Street in Chelsea in 1997.
The focus of the gallery, since its inception over 28 years ago, is to exhibit, represent, and champion artists from around the world, in particular artists from Africa, East Asia, and North America, by mounting major exhibitions of their work in the gallery, presenting artworks at important art fairs, securing museum exhibitions, and publishing major catalogues with full-color reproductions and scholarly essays on their artwork. Represented artists employ all mediums, with a tendency towards conceptual as well as politically and socially engaged artwork. The gallery presents approximately 15 exhibitions a year and participates in major art fairs including Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, and The Armory Show. The gallery is a member of the Art Dealers Association of America.
Gallery artists have been included in many important exhibitions, such as Documenta (1992, 1997, 2002, 2007); The Venice Biennale (1990, 1995, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007); The Carnegie International (1989, 1999/2000); the Moscow Biennale (2005, 2009); The Gwangju Biennale (2000, 2004, 2008); The Havana Biennale (2009); The Johannesburg Biennale (2005); and the Whitney Biennale (1997, 2006). Gallery artists have been recognized with numerous awards including a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Grant, a Fulbright, a Guggenheim, a MacArthur, A Louis Comfort TIffany, a Joan Mitchell and the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement, and are represented in museum collections throughout the world and have been documented in countless publications, monographs, and films.
On Friday, Art Assure, the art finance company founded by art dealer and former Wall Street shark Asher Edelman, sued Artmentum, a Swiss company in the business of selling valuable artwork, along with eight other defendants in a New York court for breach of contract and making allegedly fraudulent representations in an effort to bilk Art Assure of hundreds of millions of euros.
According to the complaint, Art Assure was approached last May by Artmentum with an unusual offer involving a large collection of masterworks that it said was being offered for sale. More than 100 19th- and 20th-century works were said to be on offer, by artists including Picasso, Degas, Matisse, Monet, Courbet, Delacroix, and Vlaminck, among many others. The collection was said to be owned by Hiroshima Bank — a company that was described as being owned primarily by the Japanese government — and to be on display at the Hiroshima Museum of Art.
The complaint says that Artmentum was proposing that Art Assure buy the collection, at what appears to be a highly discounted price of 350 million euros (about $470 million), with the goal of later selling off the works at a profit. And the collection would have to be bought through Artmentum, according to what the the Swiss company represented to Art Assure during negotiations, rather than directly from the Japanese government, for reasons of confidentiality. If the transaction were "disclosed," as the complaint puts it, "the Japanese politicians would be dismissed."
"We were told specifically that we had to work through them," said Art Assure's attorney, Frank J. Franzino, Jr., "and that if we went around the defendants, we would never get the works." Artmentum had allegedly arrived at the asking price after a valuation by Sotheby's — which, the complaint says, was represented by the defendants as having itself offered Artmentum 315 million euros (about $425 million) for the collection, a transaction that was never consummated because Sotheby's failed to obtain a letter of financial capability. The defendants also allegedly said that Sotheby's had tried to circumvent Artmentum and buy the collection directly from Hiroshima Bank, and had been told it was not for sale.
While it's not totally unheard of in the art world for artworks to be offered for sale from a secret source, with a requirement of extreme confidentiality and a promise of great profits to be had, some of the details of the situation do seem strange.
"They got an appraisal from Sotheby’s, but they didn’t want to sell through Sotheby’s or Christie’s?” said John Cahill, an art lawyer who represents former customers of Knoedler Gallery, which is currently involved in litigation involving fraudulent activity that occurred there. “Otherwise the government officials will get fired? And why would someone give you something so cheap?"
Still, Art Assure had some guarantees from the Swiss company, according to the complaint. In a binding memorandum signed by both parties in June, Artmentum pledged that it had the exclusive right to sell the collection, that it had firm commitments from third party buyers for six of the works (van Gogh’s “Le Jardin de Daubigny”; Picasso’s “Buste de femme” and “Two women at a bar”; Renoir’s “Place de la Trinité”; Monet’s Matinee sur la Seine”; and Matisse’s “Jeune fille en vert rouge”) for a total of 230 million euros (about $310 million), and that Artmentum would contribute 50 to 70 million euros (about $70 to $95 million) to help finance the deal. For its part, Art Assure would, among other things, provide a formal letter of interest along with a confirmation of financial capability, after which the two parties would enter into a working agreement related to the introduction of prospective buyers. Before the collection could be transported to Switzerland, Art Assure would deposit the full price of 305 million euros (about $410 million), the number they settled on after negotiation, to a bank in Switzerland.
But after both parties signed the contract, and the New York company met with the defendants in Switzerland for a contract verification meeting, things started to sour.
“Basically they were trying to get our client to go through with the deal, claiming that they had a mandate to sell a collection of significant works of art in Japan, when it appears that they never had the ability to sell it,” Franzino said. "It was months and months of negotiations and contracts. It wasn’t just a lunchtime situation. It was a long drawn-out process.”
According to the complaint, after Art Assure sent a formal letter of intent Artmentum never provided verification of its exclusive agreement to sell the collection, failed to provide Art Assure with official authorizations related to the export of the collection, never entered into a working agreement related to the introduction of prospective buyers, and never permitted Art Assure to perform due diligence. And though the memorandum prohibited Artmentum from entering into negotiations with other parties over the collection, the Swiss company allegedly contacted another party, as well as Christie's, with a letter making a similar offer.
Art Assure further discovered from its own investigation that Hiroshima Bank did not own the collection (instead it is owned by a foundation), that the collection is not for sale, that the Japanese government does not own a large stake in the bank (it owns less than 1 percent), and the Japanese government does not want to sell the collection, nor does it have the power to do so. And Artmentum, the complaint says, turned out never to have had a mandate to sell the collection, or to have had it valued by Sotheby's, or to have had third parties ready to buy the paintings from Art Assure. After months of expensive investigation, the complaint says, Art Assure found the transaction to be "a total sham," and now claims to be due damages of $204 million representing lost profits from what it would have made from the sale of the works. It also wants punitive damages, in an amount to be determined by the court.
Edelman is no stranger to contentious financial dealings, including ones involving the art world. He started his career on Wall Street in 1961 as an investment banker, and by the mid 1980s was a pioneer of leveraged buyouts, so much so that he partly inspired the character of Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street.” In 1988, after being involved in several lawsuits, he washed his hands of Wall Street, moved to Switzerland, and started the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lausanne, which lasted until 1995. In 2001, he moved back to the U.S. and opened his first gallery in New York. His second, Edelman Arts, opened in 2008.
In 2009, he once again became something of a financial trailblazer, this time in the wild and wooly business of art financing, where he learned to apply his skills at leveraged buyouts to backing fine art deals. He caused a stir at Art Basel Miami Beach that December, when, in an effort to get compensation for a $750,000 Robert Ryman work he had loaned out to a Zurich gallery that was returned to him damaged, he walked onto the floor of the fair with twelve federal marshals in tow and seized four valuable paintings from the gallery’s booth. He was paid within two days.
How does someone so capable of protecting his own art interests get taken in by a scam of this magnitude?
Edelman’s attorney said the dealings were in the purview of Edelman’s business. “Art Assure is in the business of buying and selling and financing art,” Franzino reasoned, “so that’s exactly what it does.” Nonetheless he conceded this situation was unusual even for Edelman: “This looks novel to me.”
Legally, this may be a tough case for Edelman to win and a tough case to get damages on.
“What did they lose?” said Cahill, the art attorney working with Knoedler clients, who noted that the situation had the air of a “Nigerian email” scam. “They say they lost $204 million in profits, but there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in that: if you got the work for this amount of money; if the art market stayed at a high level; if you sold every one of them; if you could sell it for $204 million [in profit]. That’s a healthy profit. A very substantial profit.”
Cahill also pointed out that it wasn't at all clear that Art Assure would have gotten the paintings to sell, since presumably the defendants would have had to produce the art work at some point during the process of due diligence, which it isn't clear they would have been able to do. "For fraud, you get what you lost, not your future profits," said Cahill. "But it’s not one hundred percent clear that they could actually get the paintings. So that’s the tricky part."
Artmentum, its attorney in Switzerland Thomas Burkhalter, the Hiroshima Museum of Art, and Sotheby’s could not be reached for comment.
So many people have killed themselves in the forest of Aokigahara that the Japanese government has stopped giving out statistics. Signs imploring suicidal souls to reconsider their plans pepper the Sea of Trees, as it’s known, at the foot of Mount Fuji, where the dense vegetation mutes all cries. In Rachel Howard’s painting of the same name, lines of dark oil streak a surface set alight by the brash yellow of a deeply buried undercoat of fluorescent acrylic. Although the picture is abstract, the eye cannot help but recognize landscape-like forms in its ethereal marks: ghoulish trunks, heavy rain, and the silhouette of a great mountain lurking in the background. The scene is blurred as if seen from the window of a passing bullet train.
With the title Sea of Trees, Howard doesn’t just authorize such interpretative digressions, she encourages them. Yet for this piece, as for most of those presented in the artist’s solo exhibition opening at Blain|Southern this month, overly literal narrative readings can be misleading. Howard is a painter in the full, loaded sense of the word: one who tackles physical issues of materiality, scale, color, composition. Her pictures engage the guts before the brain. That is not to say that they are conceptually inconsequential—they aren’t—but they function primarily at a bodily level, in their making as well as in their reception. “I do want people to feel something,” she says when I visit her barn studio overlooking a stunning stretch of English countryside. The artist and her family relocated here from London a year ago. “Since I’ve moved here, I’ve become a complete hermit,” she proclaims with glee. It’s easy to see why. Outside the studio, hills neatly divided by trimmed rows of bushes roll until the horizon. A white pony grazes in the field behind, and the vegetable garden is bursting with Brussels sprouts. It seems like a perfect place to think, and work.
The Blain|Southern show is called “Northern Echo,” an allusion to the artist’s County Durham roots. These paintings didn’t come easily; they rarely do. “I feel like I’m reporting back,” explains a semiserious Howard of this new body of work, which she sees as “a lot less selfconscious” and “much more intimate.” Black is omnipresent but never in the claustrophobic monochrome of an Ad Reinhardt or Pierre Soulages. Here it is all threads and lines, hatching and uncoiling, on the canvases’ surfaces—a nervous scripture spelling out the core of Howard’s pictorial lexicon. Color was a key feature of the artist’s earlier works. Pieces such as Brilliant White Three, 1998, with its yellow, raspberry, blue, and white stripes, or the counterintuitively named Green of the same year, which boasts orange, red, blue, and one very modest virescent patch, dazzle with saturated hues. But the artist has always confessed to having a conflicted relationship with color, that easy trigger of predictable emotions. “These new works keep my color problem under control,” she says. “It’s almost going back to language and paring back everything that could be a distraction.”
Howard grew up on a farm in Easington in the north of England. She was introduced to painting by her uncle, “a proper painter, who painted portraits, horses, and greyhounds,” she says affectionately. “He made being an artist a very normal thing.” The young Howard enrolled at Goldsmiths, from which she graduated in 1991, two years after Damien Hirst, and she worked as his assistant while he shot to stellar fame (“The best spot paintings by Damien Hirst are those painted by Rachel Howard,” wrote Germaine Greer in the Guardian a few years ago). Like her contemporaries Gary Hume and Sarah Morris, Howard adopted household gloss as her medium of choice—perhaps as a way to ground her emotionally charged abstraction, redolent at times of Barnett Newman’s Color Field paintings. Critic Sue Hubbard has described this contrast between the material Howard used and the conceptual territory she investigated as “spirituality for a postmodern world.” For years, gloss was a fertile terrain for the artist, who had even devised a technique of separating pigments and varnish and applying them at different stages of making the painting.
Gloss paint is no longer Howard’s signature. “I’ve gone as far as I could with it,” she says. “It can be very flat.” The artist has now embraced painting’s ultimate medium: oil. “But,” she is quick to point out, “I’m being really disrespectful.” She laughs off the idea of following strict rules when mixing the paint, trying instead to make it yield unexpected results. Often working on four or five pieces simultaneously, Howard applies her colors, lets them rest, then disturbs them with solvents, varnishes, or more paint, a process she refers to as “unpicking” the painting. It’s a push and pull between control and relinquishing control to allow space for the serendipitous. As a result, her surfaces appear unstable, in flux. Spit and Whisper is a case in point. Here, hundreds of black particles flicker as if on a screen, interrupted by waves of looser paint lapping them up. The overwhelming feeling is one of transience—the pictorial occurrence unfolding on the canvas seems about to continue its course. It resists painting’s intrinsic motionlessness.
"Spit and Whisper," 2013 [Courtesy of the artist and Blain|Southern]
It should be noted that Howard isn’t an experimenter for experiment’s sake. And she is acutely aware of the weight of history resting on every painter’s shoulders (“When you paint, every brushstroke speaks of everybody else,” she says). In the studio, a Rubens book lies casually on the piano. Masaccio, Chaim Soutine, and Francis Bacon are among her art heroes, but as the artist told Hirst during an early interview, “If you want to be a painter, you’ve got to embrace and then forget all that shit.” The challenge is to create a painting that is both timeless and relevant. Materials are a crucial factor in this endeavor. Household gloss anchored Howard’s production in a form of modernity; the combination of oil and acrylic in pieces such as the searing fluorescent-yellow and black If This Sounds Like You plays a similar role. Although superficially very different, the flower paintings included in this exhibition obey the same logic: This series of pattern studies was executed by stenciling mass-produced lace. This detail of interior decoration takes center stage, recalling the mundane domesticity of the gloss. It also functions as a compositional exercise in repetition, sitting at the frontier between figuration and abstraction—two areas in which the artist is equally at ease.
Howard is one of the few contemporary painters confident enough to tread this path. She modestly credits Gerhard Richter: “He made it very easy for people like me to navigate between the abstract and the figurative.” Looking at her production, which spans two decades, one cannot but admire the sheer ambition of her project. Selfdoubt and anxiety might have been the price to pay—one of Howard’s recurrent motifs is the black dog, a reference to Samuel Johnson and Winston Churchill’s darkest moods. The artist talks of “the feeling of selfloathing” she has applied to this latest series, of the sleepless nights when she sees paint falling off the canvases. But this creative angst only spurs her on to tackle the formal challenges of abstraction and figuration. On a conceptual level, Howard has painted subjects as heavy as suicide and madness. Perhaps as a result of her Quaker school education, the artist (now a staunch atheist) has also taken on such religious themes as the Ten Commandments and the Stations of the Cross—her rendition of the latter once described by art historian Joachim Pissarro as “sublime,” no less. Yet the artist is at her most ambitious when dealing with the physical material of paint. With this new series, Howard doesn’t simply expand her own practice, she gives oil paint a breathtaking contemporaneity.
Click on the slideshow to see images of work by Rachel Howard.
— Full List of Gurlitt Works May Be Released: A court in Augsburg, Germany has ruled that the list of the 1,400 works uncovered in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt must be given to a journalist working for a German daily newspaper. Despite the fact that the court ruled that the titles and sizes of the works must be released under the Bavarian press law, the public prosecutor’s office is filing an appeal to stop it. [TAN]
— Fake Chagall To Be Incinerated: The Chagall Committee in Paris, headed by the artist’s two granddaughters, wants to burn a fake purchased by British businessman Martin Lang for £100,000. Lang, who brought the painting to the committee for verification and signed a waver that said, “Marc Chagall’s heirs could demand the seizure of the work, and/or any other measures stipulated by law,” is attempting to stop the incineration. “They are getting back to Mr. Lang this week,” said Philip Mould, the art expert on BBC show “Fake or Fortune?” “But, as it stands, this picture will be burned in front of a magistrate.” [The Guardian]
— Corcoran Could Gain From Monet Sale: Due to an odd clause in Huguette Clark’s estate settlement, the Corcoran Gallery will get half the proceeds from the May sale of Claude Monet’s “Nymphéas” at Christie’s — but only if it sells for more than $25 million. The 1907 water lilies painting is the most valuable item among 400 to be auctioned off at the auction house. “This type of painting is near the top or at the top of a lot of collectors’ wish lists around the world,” said Conor Jordan, deputy chairman of impressionist and modern art for Christie’s. [WP]
— Detroit Pensions Put Ahead of Art: A new proposed plan, subject to court approval, will split Detroit’s unsecured creditors into two groups, putting city worker’s pensions as a top priority above the Detroit Institute of Arts. [NYT, Art Market Monitor]
— Modigliani Market Madness: Authenticity issues continue to plague the Amedeo Modigliani market as two scholars work on rival catalogues raisonné of his work. [NYT]
— Drake Hearts Turrell: Drake went to see the James Turrell show at LACMA and took three contemplative selfies in the artist’s light installations. [Fader]
— Warhol superstar, painter, and critic Rene Ricard has died of cancer. [Artforum]
— Without much explanation, Astria Suparak has been fired from her position as director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery. [Artforum]
— A new art fair debuted over the weekend at Paramount Ranch, the 2,700-acre property where Cary Grant and John Wayne films were shot. [Hollywood Reporter]
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Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the most admired actors of his generation, died from an apparent drug overdose in an apartment in Manhattan on Sunday morning. He was 46 years old.
Hoffman was thrice nominated for Academy Awards as a supporting actor — as a priest in “Doubt,” a C.I.A agent in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and as the Hubbard-like leader in “The Master.” That trio of performances could be rearranged to include so many others — as the main character crumbling at the center of “Synecdoche, New York,” or the conflicted and merciless angler in Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” or the heartfelt portrayal of schizo rock critic Lester Bangs, the saving grace of the otherwise lackluster “Almost Famous.” There are so many others, to list them all is beside the point.
As a film actor, he will always be remembered for his Oscar-winning role as the writer Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s “Capote.” The film told the story behind Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” which began as a series of stories in the New Yorker before being published as a book. “Not only does Mr. Hoffman achieve an impressive physical and vocal transformation,” New York Times critic A.O. Scottwrote of the performance, “but he also conveys, with clarity and subtlety, the complexities of Capote’s temperament.”
I’ll always remember him in the role of Phil Parma, the male nurse caring for the dying Jason Robards, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” Watching the film recently, it feels bloated, a whirlwind of ideas and over-the-top characters. But Hoffman’s performance stands out for me because of it’s understatedness, the way he manages to take a minor role and make it the underlying heart of the film. He’s the calm center of the storm that surrounds him.
Hoffman also had an extensive career in the theater, most notably in work with the Labyrinth Theater Company. He would act alongside John C. Riley in Sam Shepard’s “True West” (the actors would switch roles in different performances), and star in two productions directed by Mike Nichols: Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” and most recently as the main character in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”
Earlier this month, Hoffman was at the Sundance Film Festival promoting two films: “God’s Pocket” and “A Most Wanted Man.” Only two weeks ago, Showtime had picked up “Happyish,” a series starring Hoffman, for a full season. To a much younger generation, he appeared in the second film in the “Hunger Games” trilogy, and was set to appear in the third.
He is survived by his longtime partner, Mimi O’Donnell, and their three children. He will be sorely missed.
When he directed Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Tony-winning revival of “A Death of a Salesman,” Mike Nichols told me in an interview that the actor had been the linchpin for the production.
“Phil is a monster onstage,” said Nichols, who’d earlier directed Hoffman in the Public Theater’s production of “The Seagull.” “He can do anything any time. He’s there for everything you’ve thought of and even better at everything you haven’t thought of. Like Meryl [Streep], he’s a practical actor. He listens and in the listening makes things happen. With great actors, it’s about exploring, exploring, exploring.”
We often forget that those explorations can come at great personal cost. Living so close to the skin took its toll on the man known as “the actor’s actor.” Hoffman was found dead, at 46, from a heroin overdose on Sunday, February 1. The outpouring of shock and grief from the both the theater and film communities was a measure of just how admired he was. A statement from Nichols, who’d also directed him in the film “Charlie Wilson’s War,” read: “No words for this. He was too great and we’re too shattered.”
Hoffman had film success — an Oscar win for his uncanny performance as Truman Capote in the film “Capote,” and three more nominations for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Doubt,” and “The Master.” But his heart was in the theater and he periodically returned to it. Not just for Tony-nominated turns in the Broadway revivals of “True West,” “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” and “Death of a Salesman,” but also with his work with the Labyrinth Theater, the adventurous off-Broadway company that he co-founded and where he served as actor, director, and artistic director. (Mimi O’Donnell, his long-time companion and the mother of his three children who survive him, is the current artistic director.)
The name of the theater was well-founded. Its mission is to serve as a crucible where artists could experiment with passionate intensity new works by the likes of such playwrights as David Bar Katz, Stephen Adly Guirgis (“Motherfucker With a Hat”), Stephen Belber, and Bob Glaudini, whose “A Family for All Occasions” Hoffman directed there just last May. At the Labyrinth, Hoffman could freely cultivate his penchant for pathetic losers, misfits, miscreants, and villains far from the glare of Broadway and Hollywood, for which he was so ill-suited. He fearlessly explored those lost souls, whom he loved dearly, with such conviction that it was hard for him to leave them at the stage door. Long after the curtain came down, he still found himself in the maze, confused, lost, and in pain.
But there were joys in the process as well.
Nichols recalled that after a hard day of rehearsals on “Death of a Salesman,” when the company was in the middle of that uncertain phase when there’s much flailing and gnashing of teeth, Hoffman told them a story about when he and John C. Reilly were preparing to open on Broadway in Sam Shepard’s “True West.” Both of the actors, playing feuding brothers, were panic-stricken during the five-week rehearsal period, especially since they’d be called to alternate in the roles in the course of the run. Shepard would occasionally visit rehearsals and promptly fall asleep in the front row. The director, Matthew Warchus, rarely said much to either of them except for the occasional, “You’ll be alright, man.” Finally, in the last three days of rehearsals, they were able to grasp a hold of the two characters. Hoffman breathed a huge sigh of relief and confronted Warchus. “Why didn’t you ever tell us anything?” he asked. To which the director replied, “Well that’s no fun. The fun is figuring it out for yourself.”
Nichols said that when he watched Hoffman work, he felt something that he felt with very few other actors. “He’s such a great actor, so incredibly versatile, that it’s scary. He’s a terrifyingly good actor. ”
Sunday, the final day of the massive Mike Kelley MoMA PS1 retrospective, was a day to contemplate the late artist’s life and work. More than 3,000 museumgoers came to glimpse the bright clusters of stuffed animals hanging in “Deodorized Central Mass With Satellites” (1991/1999) or the glass Kryptonian mini-cities of his Kandors one last time, despite the long lines that formed outside the galleries’ doors. People filled the hallways, the galleries, and even the tiny auditorium, where a panel of art academics discussed Kelley’s relationship with class, the urban fabric of Detroit, and counter-culture, as well as the possible influence the Palladian architecture of his childhood home had on his birdhouses.
In the crowded halls, we ran into Vito Acconci, who recalled his own brief brushes with Kelley’s work. “He and Paul McCarthy had these students do these remakes of videotapes of mine,” he told ARTINFO. “They were all done by relatively beautiful women, and I don’t know if I ever knew exactly what to make of them. I remember showing them to a class of mine once and they didn’t get it. I don’t know if I got it either.”
Inside the VW Dome in PS1’s courtyard, we watched two longtime friends of Kelley’s — former Sonic Youth front-woman Kim Gordon and Berlin-based painter and performance artist Jutta Koether— send off the retrospective in their own discordant, punk-rock way. For just under an hour, they recreated tracks from Kelley’s own 1996 “Poetics” album, which consists of shrill cacophonies, crunching, distorted guitar riffs, relentlessly pulsing bass lines, the tinging of a drum kit being struck by the neck of Gordon’s guitar, and a spectrum of other mystery sounds not unlike those in the exhibition, the source of which would be difficult to name.
Taking occasional breaks from the noise, Gordon and Koether periodically donned their glasses to read (almost in unison) lines from a fax of Kelley’s labeled “PSY-CHIC,” copies of which Koether eventually threw into the crowd, or role-play an interview Kelley had conducted with Gordon in 1991 (Gordon playing Kelley with a throaty, almost Jack Nicholson-like inflection, Koether playing Gordon with the periodic giggles of a Valley girl) that focused on Gordon’s own transformation from an artist-intellect to what Kelley referred to as “the steamy front-girl” of Sonic Youth.
“He always put in the forefront the vulnerability of the artist as a performer,” Koether told ARTINFO, emphasizing the life-changing parallels between the visual arts and music that she, Kelley, and Gordon shared. “The moment you put something out there, it’s not just an artwork, but your whole history, your body, your persona.”
Backstage before the performance, Gordon and Koether discussed with us their take on the exhibition, the personal and professional influences Kelley had on their lives, and the fundamental truths of both art and rock-and-roll.
What are we about to see in your performance and how does it honor Mike Kelly? How is it appropriate for sending off his exhibition?
Kim Gordon: There’s a certain vaudevillian aspect to it. We chose this interview Mike did with me as a text. It’s kind of recycling the idea, playing off this quote of his about sloppy seconds, inverting what it was used for and putting it into another context.
Jutta Koether: It’s an homage to him in a way so far that we’re using some of his materials that he co-produced, meaning parts of his music, his “Poetics,” this interview, parts of our own history with Mike as a fellow artist, a colleague, and friend. It relates performance to audiences in general. It’s part of our shared history and also of conceptually thinking through what makes sense with an offer like this. You wouldn’t just come in here and do whatever you “normally do,” if there’s such a thing. Basically we chose a dialogical form because it is the underlying form in Mike’s work. It really is about communication and communication problems, weird readings and misreadings of culture.
Kim, you have so many shared associations with Mike Kelley — artist-as-musician, counter-culture, punk rock, feminism. You’ve collaborated and you’re well-known longtime friends, but do you see traces of each other’s influence in your respective work?
KG: I guess, yeah, just growing up in the same time period in the ’60s and ’70s and kind of inheriting, or being faced with, this mantle of conceptual art and very formal, minimalist, pure kind of thinking that’s almost an extension of modernism, and having to deal with that in different ways. That’s on one level. When I was in this noise garage band when I was in art school, we played at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Mike claims that he saw us. He said that it inspired him to start a noise garage band, and when he said that, I asked, “So is that what we were doing?” [Laughs.] But I didn’t meet him then. It was this weird coincidence.
JK: An important thing for both of us is Mike’s interest in art, this duality that it follows a very strict, almost internal logic. It owes a lot to a formalist history, and it’s acknowledging that or always mining that for various reasons. It’s part of this fundamental art education, but at the same time, he always put in the forefront the vulnerability of the artist as a performer. That starts with de la Croix or the consciousness that the moment you put something out there, it’s not just an artwork, but your whole history, your body, your persona. You start to act — you start finding vehicles, ways of dealing with that. You have a mask, or you employ the register of a theatrical sort of existence to deal with that. Of course, women in public culture, popular culture have dealt with that. In music, singers have always dealt with that. Also, in visual arts. It’s that kind of notion that it’s not just about the artwork. It’s not just that piece floating on, it’s the whole operating system.
You mentioned these different levels of your relationship with Mike Kelley — as a fellow artist, as a colleague, and ultimately as a friend. What was his personal influence in your life? How did you meet?
KG: I met him at a lecture Dan Graham was giving at Cal Arts. They were arguing about punk rock and who started it.
Did you weigh in?
KG: [Laughs.] I didn’t, but I was fascinated. I talked to Mike and we became friends after that.
JK: I think I knew about his work before I actually knew him. It was through art, of course, him being [in Cologne] for a project or something, and I kept seeing him. There was only a certain amount of people who were interested in this cross-section of music culture and counter-culture and politics and art. If you happened to be one of those people who were, in Mike’s case, writing about it, it was natural and almost inevitable that you would meet these certain people. I met other people, too, but there was not such a shared interest. There were other cultural critics, but without Mike’s sort of knowledge and interest. He was also generous in sharing his materials and information. He had this other level of being an artist that wasn’t just, “I’m an artist, here’s my thing, write about it.” It was a different type of interaction. It had a quasi-underground scholar kind of vibe. I remember evenings, long, long nights, where he was just going on and on, whatever — the history of some music movement of the ’60s. Sun Ra was one of the topics he go on about forever in detail.
KG: But he also brought this sort of Iggy Pop rock-and-roll sense to that. Whether it was a class thing, you never got the sense that Mike was an academic of any kind.
We’re now at the end of an enormous show devoted to Kelley’s work. Were there pieces that have had particular significance for you? I noticed that you’re projecting Kandors above you on stage.
JK: I have to say, I know most of his work. With the exception of the really early ones, I saw them while they were happening. To see this grand finale is really great, much better than in Amsterdam [at the Stedelijk Museum]. The place is perfect, the different rooms, the time you can spend. The structure really makes you aware of how important that this art is presented not as a truncated “Best Of.” It’s so generous, space-wise.
Was it much more contained in the Stedelijk Museum?
JK: Yes. It really helps the people to understand — I’ve been here with different people of very different backgrounds, and it’s very interesting to see how they can relate to something when they have the time and space to do it. The Kandor work — I really didn’t get the Kandor work as much as other works. This is from the last phase of Mike’s where he was just in this other zone with his work. Really, I couldn’t relate to it, but here in the place, somehow I think this was the first time I can actually see it and try to understand what it’s about. We talked about what to use. I thought maybe that would be nice — almost two Manson dolls with the tubes, the red and the blue.
KG: I first saw the show at Gagosian in L.A., and there was other stuff in there, so much that I couldn’t really focus on them. The presentation wasn’t nearly as… Here, it’s incredible.