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  • 03/02/14--15:52: Coffee Art for the Oscars
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    Happy Birthday, Michelangelo: Notes on the First Celebrity Artist

    It is hard to guess what Michelangelo Buonarroti would have made of such contemporary cultural stars as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, or Lady Gaga. Although he was no stranger to dead bodies (for dissection purposes), provocative nudity, or fanciful costumes of his own invention — see the Sistine Ceiling — one suspects he would not have been a fan of that trio. Nonetheless, there are good grounds for arguing that Michelangelo — who turns 539 years old on Thursday — was the first true celebrity artist in the contemporary manner.

    For one thing, he was one of the very first artists in history to become seriously rich. After he died — we have just passed the 450th anniversary of his death on February 18, 1564 — the chest in his bedroom was found to contain around 8,000 gold pieces. That amount was close to the sum for which the Palazzo Pitti in Florence had recently changed hands. Admittedly, the Pitti was later enlarged, but on the other hand the cash in that box was only a portion of the old man’s wealth. The remainder was cannily invested in property around Florence. 

    Michelangelo was worth enough to keep his family in comfortable idleness for the following three centuries. All this money was earned from his art, and then as now, big prices were the result of fame — and that renown needed to be nurtured.

    There are signs that Michelangelo took a personal interest in his image. He may well be the first person in history to be the subject of two biographies, published in his lifetime — one in effect authorized, one unauthorized. The second came first, in 1550, as the culmination of the first edition of Vasari’s “Lives of the Artists.”

    This was fulsome in its praise, but nonetheless there were certain points that the great man wanted emphasized, others glossed over. So, only three years later, in 1553, another biography appeared, written by one of his assistants — Ascanio Condivi— in which much of the text reads like a modern as-told-to celebrity life. Michelangelo was especially keen to stress that it was not his fault that the tomb of Pope Julius II had taken 40 years to complete — which even by the standards of major projects today was embarrassingly far behind schedule.


    Michelangelo's Last Judgment (1537)
    (DETAIL: Courtesy Sistine Chapel via Wikipaintings)

    Many of his contemporaries admired Michelangelo to the point of hero-worship, but the artist also had his critics. When “The Last Judgement” was unveiled in 1541, it attracted not only praise but also that essential ingredient for modern cultural fame: controversy. Some hailed it as a great masterpiece, others were outraged that he had covered the altar wall of the papal chapel with muscle-bound nudes, many of them full-frontal. Just before Michelangelo died, the church took a decision to censor the picture. Consequently wisps of cloth and pieces of saintly underwear were painted over the fresco in strategic positions. It is perhaps a sign of Michelangelo’s continuing power to shock that four and a half centuries later many of those are still in place.

    Musings on Michelangelo, 539 Years Later

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    McQueen Pulls Out of Gugg Prize, US Renews China Import Deal, and More

    — McQueen Pulls Out of Hugo Boss Prize: Steve McQueen, whose “12 Years a Slave” won last night’s Best Picture Oscar, has withdrawn his name for consideration from the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize due to the demands of promoting the film. McQueen, who won the Turner Prize in 1999, has not publicly commented on the withdraw. “Mr. McQueen will be unable to fulfill the requirements of the selection process,” read a posting on the Guggenheim Museum’s website. [TAN]

    — US Renews Art Import Deal With China: The US and China have renewed a landmark trade agreement that will restrict the import of a large portion of Chinese antiquities to the US for the next five years. While this deal is an attempt at curbing the smuggling of looted objects, many in the art world are saying it has hurt US institutions. This has created “an uneven playing field in which US museums, collectors and dealers are harmed and China’s elite-run, monopoly businesses thrive,” said art lawyer Kate Fitz Gibbon. [TAN]

    — How the Corcoran Merger Happened: The Washington Post gives a detailed account of the events leading up to the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s recent merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The University of Maryland, which the Corcoran was previously in a partnership with, knew little about the oncoming deal with GWU and the National Gallery. “I was highly impressed and very much looking forward to the outcome that Maryland was going to have with the Corcoran,” said Maryland Delegate Jon S. Cardin. “I was in­cred­ibly surprised when just a few weeks later” the rival agreement was announced. “I am tremendously disappointed.” [WP]

    — Frieze Meets With Teamsters: After criticism that Frieze New York used non-union labor to build its Randall’s Island tent, representatives from the fair sat down with local union leaders to discuss their labor practices. [TAN]

    — D.C.’s Lady Directors: Here’s a look at the 13 women who are at the helms of Washington, D.C.’s cultural institutions, including the National Portrait Gallery, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Phillips Collection. [WP]

    — Is a Bubble About to Burst?: “But how can a market crash when the people now driving its growth are seemingly rich enough to be impervious to the fluctuations of the wider economy?” — Scott Reyburn contemplates trophy art and speculates on the potential burst of an art world bubble. [NYT]

    — Police have arrested Louis Lassalle for allegedly stealing three paintings from Brooklyn’s Cotton Candy Machine Art Gallery. [NY1]

    — Protest has erupted at Kennesaw State University’s new museum after officials pulled a piece about race from the museum’s first show. [CBS]

    — Avant-garde filmmaker Alain Resnais has died at age 91. [The Guardian]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Happy Birthday, Michelangelo: Notes on the First Celebrity Artist

    Valie Export’s “Invisible Adversaries” to Screen at MoMA

    Review: Molly Zuckerman-Hartung at Corbett vs. Dempsey

    Review: Pablo Bronstein at REDCAT

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Steve McQueen

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  • 03/03/14--11:05: Cologne
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    As if the 86th Annual Academy Awards red carpet wasn't big enough on wattage, the statement jewelry hanging off the necks, ears and hands of boldfaced stars was also competing for the limelight.

    In Best Supporting Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence's (American Hustle)  case, the Neil Lane diamond necklace complementing her Dior Couture gown, reportedly worth $2 million, hung seductively longer in the back than in the front.

    Cate Blanchett's outfit sparkled from top to toe: She was radiant in a nude Armani Privé gown featuring Swarovski crystals, opulently paired with pendulous Chopard opal earrings. Her best accessory, however, goes to her Oscar for Best Actress (Blue Jasmine).

    Charlize Theron, resplendent in a black Dior Couture number with mermaid hem, rocked a giant Harry Winston diamond piece hanging serenely on her neck.

    Lupita Nyong'o, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (12 Years a Slave), accessorized her sweet, ice blue pleated Prada confection with understated earrings and headband by Fred Leighton.

    Meanwhile, Tiffany & Co. helped add shine to two actresses: Best Actress nominee Amy Adams (American Hustle), wearing a navy Gucci number, accessorized with the brand's rhodochrosite, lapis and turquoise earrings; while Jessica Biel paired her Chanel gown with drop earrings and a bow bracelet with emerald-cut aquamarines and diamonds.

    To see all these looks and more, click on the slideshow.

    Stars Shone With Statement Jewels at the Oscars
    Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars

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    CAPE TOWN, South Africa — In comparison with other collectible design fairs, Guild is a small operation. While Collective debuted in New York last year with around 20 exhibitors, and Design Miami/ will show in Basel this June with more than 50, Africa’s first such event, which opened Thursday at Cape Town’s Granger Bay waterfront, had only four: Milan’s Rossana Orlandi, São Paulo’s Coletivo Amor de Madre, New York’s R & Company, and Johannesburg’s Southern Guild, whose founders, Trevyn and Julian McGowan, also launched this fair. The advantage of such sparsity, however, doesn’t seem to be limited to allowing for more floor space — it also offers greater opportunities to explore ideas of national identity.

    Take R & Co., for example. “We kind of looked at this more as an expo,” co-founder Evan Snyderman told ARTINFO, citing two reasons: Cape Town is the World Design Capital 2014, a biannual designation which hosts international conversations on urbanism and social design policies; and Cape Town’s lack of design fair history means no obligations to the design fair orthodoxy of focusing solely on selling. “Trevyn asked us to come and represent what’s happening in contemporary design in America, which makes this more than just another selling fair,” Snyderman said. And so under the heading “The American Studio Artist,” Snyderman and partner Zesty Meyer’s booth celebrated the American resurgence of a certain rarity: artists who actually make the things that they design, from legend Wendell Castle’s voluptuous functional sculptures in wood and fiberglass to David Wiseman’s beautifully ornate, contemporary interpretations of classic decorative arts that employ porcelain, bronze, and glass handblown into snake-like fixtures.

    Nearby, Coletivo Amor de Madre, which specializes mostly in Latin American design, focused solely on the work of Brazilian artists, including Guta Requena’s 2013 “Cadeira St. Efigênia,” a reinterpretation of Lina Bo Bardi’s 1987 “Giraffe Chair” that involved scanning the legendary architect’s design, merging the file with sound waves culled from the streets of Brazil, and running it through a 3-D printer. Just a booth over, Orlandi brought the postmodern Italian humor that her gallery is known for with Fornasetti chairs and their bold iconography, and Fubini Mansueto e Verrando’s Tee Stool, a teed golf ball sculpture around the right size and shape to be used as a seat. The globe-spanning galleries were supplemented by exhibitions put on by various organizations. Shows by the V&A in collaboration with the British Design Council and Agents of the 3D Revolution explored the evolution of crafts from bookbinding to 3-D printing.

    As counterintuitive as it seems for Africa’s first collectible design fair to feature mostly foreign exhibitors, the inclusivity can serve to show that African design, despite its underrepresentation on the global market, stands up just fine against international veterans. And in any case, African creativity remained the central focus. Southern Guild, which has become known for bringing to light a recurring hybrid aesthetic in South African design — contemporary European sensibilities with strong influences of African craft and tradition — presented new works in a very sizable booth that announced its presence in bold swaths of bright pink and yellow. A new favorite of this reporter’s is Adam Court, who designed for Okha“Shattered Mirror,” a wall-mounted collage of raised, reflective glass backlit by blue LEDs. “Design Origins Africa South,” presented by Johannesburg anthropological museum the Origins Centre, showcased the evolution of African artifacts from 10,000 years ago through the present day, while just across the aisle from Orlandi’s booth, an exhibition of the collective Design Network Africa showcased works by its members that had previously shown at the 2013’s London Design Festival “Graphic Africa” exhibition.

    The show-stealer was made in Cape Town: Handspring Puppet Company’s “Joey the War Horse,” the mechanical metal title character of the London West End show “War Horse.” Strolling through the fair midway through the vernissage, its dramatic performance (animated by two operators controlling it from within and a “trainer” leading it forward) was so compelling that fairgoers came to a full stop in its presence. A wide-eyed Orlandi was overheard expressing the desire to bring it to Milan during the Salone del Mobile in April. If she succeeds, so will Guild Design Fair in having made a major inroad for South African design on the global market.

    South African Design Meets the Global Market at Cape Town's Guild Fair
    Design Network Africa's spacious booth at Cape Town's Guild Design Fair

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    THE DAILY PIC: What Warhol's Portraits Were Really About

    This is Warhol’s 1973 portrait of the gallerist Ileana Sonnabend, from the show that celebrates her at the Museum of Modern Art, through April 21. This is the first of my Pics to appear on BlouinArtinfo.com, so it seemed appropriate to commemorate the moment by featuring an image of a great and daring patron, by the most important artist of the last half century. (Sure, I’m biased: I’m spending the next few years writing Warhol’s biography.)

    The occasion also gives me a chance to fight back against the seemingly unkillable cliché that Warhol, like every other portraitist ever deemed worthy of cliché, was all about flattering his subjects by making them look gorrrgeousdahhhling. That bromide does violence to the reality of the Warhol pictures: Sonnabend, like most Warhol sitters, hardly comes across as a great beauty. A van Dyke or a Sargent Warhol was not, and didn’t want to be. 

    I also find it hard to imagine that a great sophisticate like Sonnabend would have expected or wanted to own a work that wallowed in such a stale approach. I’d like to think that she was savvy enough to spot the overall homeliness of the work, and revel in it. What Warhol could offer her wasn’t an improved version of Ileana, but a  Warholized one. That is, he could offer her the same artistic transformation that he’d effected on Campell’s soup cans and dollar bills and Brillo Boxes: He could take an everyday human and turn her into signature art. That’s what all the sloppy, turgid impasto is really about: It is a sign of generic artification, rather than a  functional device for achieving actual aesthetic effects. (God knows the picture would look better without it.) Repeating that brushy mess across the two canvases helps make clear just how arbitrary it is; can one side of the diptych really be said to be any more attractive – or any less ugly – than the other?

    By this point in Warhol’s career, he’d realized that to stay on the cutting edge, he'd have to drop traditional aesthetics from his artistic agenda; “business art” would take over instead. After abandoning painting during some of his most creative years, he’d returned to it because he came to believe in its sales, not in its visual, potential. That means that the real privilege that he was offering his sitters wasn’t the chance to own a hand-painted Warhol; the privilege came in paying him for it. By handing over a check, you could play a tiny part in the economic performance that Andy was becoming. (The Sonnabend Collection, ©2013 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

    For a full inventory of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

    Andy Warhol's "Ileana Sonnabend," 1973, part of The Sonnabend Collection.

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    Trend Report: Fashion Goes Neo-Ethnic

    PARIS — Neo-ethnic looks have emerged as one of the key trends for Fall 2014, with modern-day tribal accents surfacing across collections.

    Pucci cited Native American and Inuit cultures among its inspirations, with creative director Peter Dundas reinterpreting the house’s iconic prints in tribal graphics — expressed in embroideries, studs and sexy, tattoo-style laser-cut dresses. At Marni, one of the industry’s major trendsetters, bodices came festooned with tribal-infused décor, including Dutch duck plumes that resembled dried grass.

    Among the more subtle odes, black tribal graphics cropped up in the opening section of Isabel Marant’s show, enlivening cream basics. And Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz referenced tribal tweeds in a highly textured collection that was tricked out with beautiful beading and feather treatments. For his fast-paced show at the Trocadero, meanwhile, Rick Owens cast his inner circle — or tribe — of friends, employees and models to model his collection, based on an urban-edged primitive uniform in shades of stone, black and aubergine. Using skinny leather motorcross pants, headgear, gloves and armlets as the base, silhouettes moved from felt cocoon capes and workwear-style shifts in leather, fur and suede, to slim patchwork leathers with pleated inserts.

    For her take on the theme, eco-warrior Vivienne Westwood folded a range of ethnic influences into her mid-nineteenth-century-flavored collection, including African prints, Peruvian ponchos, and eastern beaded headdresses. Playing the part, the designer took her runway bow in a burnt-orange tribal printed tunic accessorized with a bead and feather headdress, her red locks freshly shorn.

    Eye on the Runway: Fashion Goes Neo-Ethnic

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    "Those Who Kill" and the Problem With Boring Television

    This was supposed to be a review of “Those Who Kill,” a new show airing March 3 on A&E starring Chloe Sevigny. But honestly, the show isn’t remarkable, or even good enough to watch casually. I don’t have much to say. I drifted off the first time I watched it, started doing dishes, and realized I had no idea what was going on. When I forced myself to watch it a second time, I realized that the show was just confusing, more than a little sadistic, and frustratingly ordinary.  

    On that last point: What I want to talk about is what Grantland’s television critic Andy Greenwaldcalls“American television’s endless fascination with the tormented psyche of white men and/or serial killers.” We all know the shows, some better than others — “True Detective,” “The Killing,” “The Bridge,” “Dexter,” just off the top of my head as I type this. According to a Hollywood Reporter piece from last summer, 2013 saw a 35 percent increase in shows about serial killers. Why are we so interested in watching people kill other people on television?

    The most disturbing part of this trend is that the violence in these shows is often against women. In its first episode, “Those Who Kill” features a serial killer who kidnaps women, brings them to an abandoned warehouse, and locks them in a box while torturing them. It’s difficult to watch. Recently, I attempted to sit down and watch “The Fall,” a BBC show that is now available on Netflix. I couldn’t get through more than two episodes because of its extreme focus on the gruesomeness of its serial killer. There’s an argument to be made that what viewers are interested in is seeing the killers brought to justice — the investigation — but the way each of these series attempts to up the ante on televisual sadism often results in shock value alone. The only way you can tell the shows apart is by how violent their serial killer is.

    I’m not advocating for more prudish television. I’m just asking for less serial killers. Making the investigator a woman (“The Fall,” “Those Who Kill”), or moving away from the “tormented psyche of white men” (“Luther”), is not enough when the rest of the show is straight from the serial killer mold. If you’re looking for a procedural, go watch “Law & Order.” You can spend days, even weeks, lost in the world of that show(s), which smartly designates the violence, for the most part, to the first few minutes. If you like cops on television, go watch “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which is not violent or offensive, unless you count the occasional moments of corniness. The rest of the time it’s a funny and intelligent take on a familiar genre. All these serial killer shows should learn a lesson. 

    "Those Who Kill"

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    Breitling Launches New Bentley-Inspired Midnight Carbon

    Breitling, the Swiss watchmaker known for precision-made chronometers for aviators has launched a watch modeled after the biggest engine of luxury carmaker Bentley.

    Called the Breitling for Bentley 6.75 Midnight Carbon, the model, limited to just 1,000 pieces, is the latest addition to the Breitling for Bentley collection, and is a tribute to the 6.75 liter engine that powered the Bentley’s Mulsanne limousines.

    Stylistically, the watch reflects many of the Bentley’s design elements: the knurled bezel is inspired by the limo’s famous radiator grills; the vertical open-worked dial offers a glimpse of the movement inside; and the five-spoke motif is an iteration of the car’s distinctive wheel rims. For a sportive effect, the self-winding chronograph comes in a satin-brushed steel case with special ultra-resistant carbon-based treatment, and on a rubber strap with a central raised motif echoing that of the bezel.

    It is also chronometer-certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC), and distinguished by its original “large aperture calendar.”

    Breitling will unveil the piece at the Amelia IslandConcours d’Elegance on March 8.

    Breitling for Bentley

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    Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” at the Metropolitan Opera

    Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” is a hysterical opera, quite literally. The composer, like many of his contemporaries in the Second Viennese School, was swept up by theatrics of the First World War. Eager to join the front, Berg spent a month in training camp before suffering a breakdown, leaving him confined and unable to compose. In the notepads he kept during his stay at the military hospital, where a superior reportedly tormented him, appear the first sketches of what would become “Wozzeck.”

    Based on Georg Büchner’s unfinished play, “Wozzeck” will return to the Metropolitan Opera beginning March 6, conducted by James Levine, a “longtime champion” of the work, with Thomas Hampson singing the title role and Deborah Voigt playing Marie.

    Büchner, who tragically died at the age of 23, based his play on the true story of Johann Christian Woyzeck (Berg changed the “y” to a “z” to make the title more pronounceable), a former soldier who killed his mistress and was deemed fit to stand trial despite signs of mental instability. New Yorker critic Alex Ross notes in his book, “The Rest is Noise,” that Büchner used transcripts of Woyzeck’s psychological examinations as source material, and that “no writer had ever given such a matter-of-fact report on a murderer’s mind.”

    Berg first saw Büchner’s play in 1914 and, according to reports, “immediately muttered aloud that someone had to make an opera out of it.” That someone, of course, would be him; Berg, somewhat disturbingly, personally identified with the play. “There is a bit of me in [Wozzeck’s] character,” he wrote to his wife a few years later, according to Ross’s book, “since I have been spending these war years just as dependent on people I hate, have been in chains, sick, captive, resigned, in fact humiliated.”

    Berg’s opera is considered one of the finest examples of atonality. “The music scrapes like a razor,” writes Ross, and is indebted to the work of Berg’s former teacher, composer Arnold Schoenberg, “who pronounced the subject matter inappropriate” and felt Berg should be working on something more worthwhile: a biography of Arnold Schoenberg.

    Büchner’s play, and Berg’s operatic version, have inspired many interpretations over the years, most notably the 1979 film version directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski, and Robert Wilson’s musical featuring songs by the gravelly-voiced singer Tom Waits.

    "Wozzeck" at the Metropolitan Opera

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  • 03/04/14--12:53: Chanel's Supermarket Sweep
  • PARIS — Leave it to Chanel to transform the Grand Palais into a brightly-lit giant supermarket — christened by Karl Lagerfeld as the Chanel Shopping Center — with a grid of aisles making up the runway, stocked with row upon row of Chanel-branded products.

    In what is perhaps a statement on the state of consumerism in fashion, models made their way — some pushing trolleys — around the cheese counters and fresh fruit and vegetable stands, where among the thousands of goodies on offer were Gabrielle grapefruits, Little Black Tea and Jambon Cambon. There were even a couple of checkout counters at the exit, with one of the numerous colored signs reading “Un Grand Magasin Pour Un Grand Palais.” (Showgoers would, as expected, later raid the shelves of the designer produce and document the frenzy all over social media.)

    Undoubtedly cheeky are the season's It bags, which came in the form of metal supermarket baskets — replete with the house's signature chain design for handles; classic quilted shoulder bags plastic-wrapped with stickers saying "100% Agneau"; and clutches emblazoned with plays on the founder's name, like "Lait de Coco".

    Out came the models in metallic sneakers, in a cool evolution on the house’s couture collection that was presented in January. Their dreadlock-style ponytails threaded with colored weaves gave a raver twist, as if they had swept into the store after a night of partying. ‘It’ girl Cara Delevingne had thrown a roomy tweed coat over her distressed pink sweats and crop top, broken by a belly chain, that were full of designer holes. 

    The collection’s tiered looks also referenced the dominant silhouette of the spring couture collection, working a short jacket with a slim waist and a flared skirt in chunky tweeds and knits — a spot-on trend in a season of rich textures. 

    The bulky knitted jumpsuits weren’t so flattering, nor were the knee-high sneakers. But the vibe overall was ultra youthful, from the colored coats lined with vibrant graphics, and sweaters dotted with what looked like colored pills or Smarties, to tweed suits worn with skinny pants in reflective rainbow and glitter finishes.

    Moods ranged from prim and proper, to pink and fluffy, to dark and industrial, offering up different characters for the supermarket scene.

    Chanel's Supermarket Sweep
    The Chanel Shopping Center

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    Curated exhibitions at art fairs have become fairly ubiquitous attempts at keeping presentations fresh, and the Armory Show’s Modern section is now following suit. This year Pier 92 will see the debut of “Venus Drawn Out,” a show curated by Susan Harris and the Modern section’s first such exhibition.

    Composed entirely of drawings by 20th-century women artists, the show will bring roughly 35 works by Anni Albers, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Lygia Clark, Helen Frankenthaler, Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nancy Spero, and Hannah Wilke, among others, to the fair for its four-day run, March 6-9.

    “Since the Armory is so schizophrenic and there are so many things going on simultaneously, I wanted to create a space where people could really stop and enjoy looking at the art,” Harris said. “My strategy for creating that kind of space was drawing. I love drawing and I thought that the intimacy and directness of drawing would enable people to come close and would draw people in.”

    The curated work, which will be presented at four sites throughout the pier, will be delineated from the rest of the booths by eggplant-colored walls. Harris decided to source the pieces almost entirely from the galleries participating in the Modern section and nearly all of them will be for sale. “Most of the galleries that I had conversations with were very supportive of this because they’re hoping that it raises not only the visibility, but the quality of the fair,” Harris said.

    The decision to showcase female artists in this exhibition could be viewed as commentary on gender imbalance in the art world — even today, museum holdings, auction records, and representation at art fairs indicate that the legacy of Modern art is still largely considered the work of a select few male artists — but Harris contends that the choice to focus on women was not a political one.

    “I looked at the lists of artists. None of the galleries, it seemed to me at the time, were featuring the artists. But, buried in their artist lists, I saw some women’s names. I wasn’t thinking of this as a political statement. I just thought I wanted to do a show that I wanted to see.”

    Deborah Harris, the managing director of the Modern section (no relation to Susan Harris), said the decision to focus on women arose organically. “We chose a curator first and through our discussions with Susan Harris we came up with the theme of women artists and focusing on works on paper came after that. We wanted to lend a little bit of curatorial weight to the fair and balance the commercial aspect. We reconfigured the floor plan so it allowed us more public space to do something like this.”

    Deborah Harris agrees with Susan Harris that the show’s message isn’t purposefully political. “It was just a way of focusing on some artists that are generally underrepresented at the fair,” she said. “Maybe it will be the first time there are more works by women artists in an art fair than before.”

    In addition to the salon style hangings, there will be three solo presentations, including a 15-foot drawing by Inka Essenhigh that was supplied by Pace Prints, a set of four drawings by Lynda Benglis from Birmingham’s Hill Gallery, and an original work produced in situ by 73-year-old New York-based artist Pat Steir, who currently has a show of paintings at Cheim and Read in Chelsea.

    “The idea was to activate the pier with this project,” Susan Harris said of Steir’s drawing. “She is coming in on Sunday and working through Tuesday to do this wall drawing across these two perpendicular walls. One is 12 feet and the other is 32 feet.” Steir’s “Floating Line” drawing, which will be destroyed when the fair ends on Sunday, is located at the entrance to the Modern section adjacent to the Contemporary side.

    When asked about the political implications of such a show, Steir insisted that the gender of the artists is a moot point. “It’s 2014. I don’t think that it’s political to show women artists,” she said. “I think that’s required. I’ve seen thousands of exhibitions with a hundred men and no women. So, an exhibition with a hundred women and no men must be normal. It’s normal. It’s showing people what they missed. Most of the women in the exhibition are not as famous as they should be.”

    One such artist is Anni Albers (who was married to Josef Albers), whose geometric watercolor on silkscreen “Wall XI” (1984), supplied by Alan Cristea Gallery, is a standout piece in the show. “She studied weaving at the Bauhaus in 1922 because that was the only path open to her at the time,” explained Susan Harris. “She didn’t want to do weaving. She fought against the notion of weaving as being a feminine thing that people do in the home and she became one of the most, if not the most, important American textile designers.”

    “In a sense,” she conceded, “everything becomes political.”

    Another exemplary piece is Nancy Spero’s “F111” (1968) from Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. “She is so highly regarded by so many people, but she was so angry in her lifetime because she didn’t get the kind of recognition that she should have gotten,” Harris said. “The power of what she did is profound and will live on, but it’s shocking that her works were so difficult to sell and that they didn’t have proper representation in museum collections. That’s the case with a lot of these artists. That’s the part where I say, ‘Are we really still talking about this in 2014?’”

    “You can’t help but veer of into a political conversation,” Harris added. “But the main focus is just to feature and celebrate all these amazing works of art by wonderful artists, many of whom haven’t been properly seen and valued.” 

    The Armory Show Modern Gives Nod to Women In Its First Curated Show
    Pat Steir's "Floating Line."

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  • 03/04/14--16:58: Wrist Art: Metiers d'Art
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