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    Late Flowering: The Cultural Aftershocks of the Arab Spring

    Saudi Arabia’s escalating feud with Qatar, which heated up last month with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal demanding that Doha modify its regional policy, is one of the newest and most prominent bilateral rifts in a region that has seen massive political transformations over the past year. The uncharacteristically public showdown between the two Gulf states — and the fractures that are emerging in the usually close knit Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — are some of the many effects of the seismic changes that have taken place in the Arab world since 2011.

    Alongside the clear political fractures that have emerged between and within governments in the region are also less obvious cultural shifts that have quietly begun to transform and redefine the relationship between individuals and state authority. Nationalism, Pan-Arabism, and Islamism have all been called into question as their respective proponents have vied for influence in the wake of the upheaval that has beset the region since the Arab Spring. The Arab world remains a region in rapid transition.

    An artistic exploration of some of these transformations can be seen in Fotofest’s 2014 Biennial, at which a groundbreaking exhibition dedicated to contemporary Arab photography and art is currently taking place. “View From Inside” showcases the work of 49 Arab artists from 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and, while some artists focus self-consciously on engaging with preconceived notions about the Arab world, many also turn their lenses inward to personal explorations of identity in the midst of this rapidly changing climate.

    Photographs that show individual alienation from the mechanisms of the changing state are notable examples here, including Ahmed Mater’s “Later Be Past,” which depicts two children gazing at Mecca — prominently surrounded by the shadows of the many cranes involved in the holy city’s commercial redevelopment — from behind a fence. This theme of development and desolation can also be seen in Palestinian-Kuwaiti artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein’s work, which similarly presents anonymous figures facing down their changing environments from a distance.

    Gazes toward the future are, however, outnumbered by perspectives on the past. The surrealist approach to geometric design employed in Steve Sabella’s Metamorphosis series, with its allusion to (and distortion of) classical Islamic art, makes a powerful statement about warped views of past conventions. Acclaimed Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem’s sampling of traditional Islamic artwork takes this a step further with its placement of silhouettes of soldiers in the foreground of his provocative “Men at Work.” The use of these evocative designs raises questions about history, its role in shaping present-day viewpoints, and its utility in driving an agenda. And the inextricable links between history and the present is a point of painful salience throughout the exhibition. Hazem Taha Hussein’s collage of historical imagery — with a Facebook logo prominently featured in the center of faded Egyptian colonial-era pictures — comments on the importance of the social media giant’s place in the scope of Egypt’s modern history.

    The exploration of these currents on its own achieves the exhibition’s goals of bringing nuance to the portrait that outsiders may have of the Arab world. But, perhaps more importantly, it offers a window onto the dynamic cultural and social transformations taking place in a region where the old order, for better and worse, has been shaken to its roots by the events of the past few years. The successes and failures of the Arab Spring have been much debated in its aftermath but, if one thing is clear, it is that the reverberations of the uprisings have disturbed the cultural life of the region as deeply as they have its political life. And this is, in the end, a good and necessary thing.

    A version of this article originally appeared on BLOUIN News on March 20, 2014.

    A visitor walks past the work of Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul during  Art Duba

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    Detroit Retirees Go After DIA, Sudan Heritage Given $135M, and More

    Detroit Retirees Demand DIA Art Assessment: A committee of Detroit's retirees has panned the city’s revised bankruptcy plan and is calling for more information on the value of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The committee filed a subpoena demanding 35 categories of records from the museum, some of which date as far back as 1919."In light of the City's actions, it would be foolish for the Committee to stand on the sidelines and not assess the value of the art," said Michael Karwoski, a retired city attorney and member of the committee. [Michigan]

    Qatar Gives $135M to Sudan: Qatar has pledged $135 million to the rehabilitation of archaeological heritage sites and cultural studies in Sudan. The money will fund 29 projects including antiquities restoration, museum construction, and language studies. "This is the biggest amount of money for Sudanese antiquities in their entire history," said Abdurrahman Ali, head of the country's museums. [AFP]

    — Artist to Live Inside Bear Carcass: French artist Abraham Poincheval is staging a two-week long performance where he will live inside the sterilized carcass of a bear at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris. During “Dans La Peau de L’Ours (Inside the Skin of the Bear)” — first performed at the CAIRN Centre for Contemporary Art in Digne last year — two cameras will capture Poincheval’s experience inside the animal’s body. Inspired by animal carcasses he came across while performing in the French Alps, the artist said in statement before last year’s performance, “This transcendence between man and bears endures since the dawn of time.” [Independent]

    — Civil Rights Museum Reopens: The National Civil Rights Museum will reopen at its location inside the Lorraine Motel after a $28 million reconstruction on this Saturday, April 4th, the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [NYT]

    — NEA Finds Thousands Moonlight as Artists: New research from the National Endowment for the Arts reports more than a quarter-million Americans moonlight as artists in addition to their primary occupation. [Pacific Standard]

    — Ancient Burial Containers Recovered: After intercepting a gang of looters accused of stealing caskets from a cave near Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority has recovered 11 ancient stone ossuaries (some still containing skeletal remains) that were used for burial in the Second Temple period nearly 2,000 years ago. [Art Daily]

    Jackson Pollock’s recently restored painting “Mural” has increased attendance at the Getty by three percent. [LAT]

    — The Drawing Center has tapped Margaret Sundell to be the next executive editor of their publication Drawing Papers. [Artforum]

    Wassan Al-Khudhairi, formerly a co-artistic director at the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, has been named the new curator of modern and contemporary art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. [Alabama]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Late Flowering: The Cultural Aftershocks of the Arab Spring

    Jazz Pianist Jason Moran Joins Luhring Augustine Gallery

    The Biennale des Antiquaires Looks to the Future

    Sotheby’s to Show Cecil Beaton's Photos of How British Aristocracy Partied

    VIDEO: The “UNDERWORLD” Circus Of Klara Kristalova At Perrotin

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

    Checklist: Detroit Retirees Go After DIA, and More

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    Last night, the New Museum celebrated its annual spring gala at Cipriani’s Wall Street, honoring Lynda Benglis and Annabelle Selldorf. The former is a sculptor known for contorting latex into uncanny, alien shapes; the latter is one of the art world’s favorite architects, responsible for a number of recent projects in New York, including gallery spaces for Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner. A star-studded crowd mostly abided by the stated dress code of “red and racy.” Perhaps in order to match tones with the evening’s sponsor, Ferrari, Simon de Pury added a dash of color by draping a scarlet sweater across his shoulders — for better or worse, no one’s attire pushed the definition of “racy” close to, say, Benglis’s infamous, very NSFW Artforum ad. The event was co-hosted by actress Greta Gerwig and W magazine editor Stefano Tonchi. De Pury auctioned off personal portrait commissions courtesy of Alex Katz and Takashi Murakami; in total, the event raised $2.5 million. Dinner guests — including Cindy Sherman, Rashid Johnson, Michael Stipe, Lucien Smith, Malcolm Morley, and Rita Ackermann— were entertained by Swedish musician Lykke Li, who is gearing up for the early May release of her latest album, “I Never Learn.” 

    Click on the slideshow to see images of guests at the New Museum’s spring gala.

    Cindy Sherman, Lucien Smith, Michael Stipe Celebrate the New Museum
    The New Museum's Spring Gala 2014

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    Kraftwerk's Nostalgia Tour: Not Human After All

    It seemed a fitting tribute to Frankie Knuckles, the legendary spinner of dance music who passed away on March 31 from complications related to diabetes, that I was uptown last night at the United Palace Theater, a former movie palace repurposed as a high-functioning music venue, to feel the robotic pulse that influenced Knuckles and countless other deejays across the globe: Kraftwerk.

    There are very few groups that can truthfully claim the kind of influence Kraftwerk has had on modern pop music. There were others, certainly — Giorgio Morodor, for starters, not to mention hundreds of deejays from New York, Chicago, and Detroit — but the mechanical rhythms and arpeggiod synth lines that glide along like sleek trains became an integral part of hip-hop, house, techno, and its many offshoots, while their robotic personas were enough of a blank slate — devoid of standard celebrity personality — that it was easy for various subcultures to take their work as the raw materials to build upon.

    Techno artist Carl Craig once claimed, in an attempt to explain their appeal within African-American dance subcultures, that Kraftwerk “were so stiff, they were funky.” I’ve always liked that turn of phrase, and even more so today because the group, or what’s left of them — Ralf Hütter is the sole remaining original member — is decidedly not funky. Their recent performances, including highly touted stints at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London, have been part of an attempt to stake their place within an art historical context. That’s wonderful, and needs to happen more. The problem of course is that “music” and “art,” especially when defined by institutions, have tunnel vision, and have yet to realize that the two worlds are not mutually exclusive.

    This is how I ended up at a Kraftwerk show where nobody danced. Looking around the theater at one point, observing the stillness of the audience’s enraptured gaze under the three-dimensional projections behind the band, letting out a little cheer every time an object on the screen appeared to be whooshing over our heads, gave the entire thing the feeling of being in a planetarium.

    This is a nostalgia tour after all, so I shouldn’t have had such high expectations. Kraftwerk ran through the hits — “Autobahn,” “Trans-Europe Express,” “Computer World” — and ended their two-hour set with some recent numbers that left the crowd a little restless. While the projections were often literal — lyrics from the songs, an image from a train during a song about a train — and bordered on the absurd, I’ll admit that listening to “Radio-Activity” in a room that size, absorbed by the sound and lights and projected images, was genuinely moving. It was also the song I was looking forward to the most, so it’s possible I was just trying really hard to have an emotional experience, even if it was like squeezing water out of a rock.

    But maybe this is the logical place for a group like Kraftwerk to end up. “The Robots,” the song they opened with, is a declaration of their aims, and their concept of the “man-machine,” stripped of human emotion, emphasizes the idea that these bandmates are interchangeable objects. That’s partly why nobody seems to care much that other, faceless-nameless old men have replaced three of the four original members. But it’s also why the music that was once so stiff that it was funky is now just stiff.

    German electronic music band Kraftwerk performs during a concert in 3D.

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    Consequences of a Sculpture: Karla Black at David Zwirner Gallery

    How Not to Know, 2014, a collapsed sculptural window of paint-smeared cellophane, introduces Scottish artist Karla Black’s first solo exhibition at David Zwirner (through April 12). On the other side, pale luminous stripes of pink and white chalk powder abut a mottled blue plane in a formation that recalls a vast and fragile flag. Black’s pastel palette is unsaturated but not unassuming, evoking traditionally gendered color schemes, but the work’s delicate formal qualities are not shorthand for femininity. The powder remains on the brink of drifting away even as it sinks into the cracks and dimples of the concrete gallery floor. Although the exhibition fills most of the space, the wrong gesture or exhalation could easily destroy its order. It generates a haptic temptation, requiring effort to look but not touch.

    Vertical strips of Scotch tape run floor to ceiling, marked by the artist’s fingerprints. The tape gently sways, reflecting lines of light. One corner of the piece is broken up by dribbled marks and crumbling fragments of bath bombs. These casual gestures are an intrusion into a system, subtle yet unanticipated interjections to measured arrangements. This juncture is one of several places where traces of the hand and readymade products combine in the artist’s sculptural vocabulary.

    Black fluidly combines drug-store products with traditional art supplies, and conceives the overlapping pieces that make up this exhibition as individual sculptures rather than a single installation. Bisecting the room, small flat works hang on intersecting tape and threads, each seemingly on the verge between two states. One is composed of petal-like nail polish remover pads stained in the faintest blue, recalling Helen Frankenthaler’s color fields. Other hanging forms include a suspended cellophane work and paintings on torn paper, which are bracketed by For However Long, 2014, another collection of circular nail polish remover pads. A configuration of four lifesize chalk-covered paper objects rest near the back wall.

    Black refutes interrogations of meaning, choosing instead to question the object’s position in real time and space. In a 2011 video interview she asked, “What are the consequences of this sculpture?” Her combination of unfixed yet carefully arranged components creates a tension between formlessness and form. At first glance, her insistence on the autonomy of these objects as single works could seem perplexing, but there is a more layered operation in her work: the gesture of gathering, of forming a temporary convergence of materials, followed by their eventual dispersion out into the world.

    A version of this article will appear in the June/July 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine. 

    Karla Black at David Zwirner

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    Eternal Flame: Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive"

    “Trust a minimalist to make absences as important as presences,” the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote about film director Jim Jarmusch. Presented on screen, it’s a practice that could easily be misunderstood as vague or pretentious, and often is. It’s why Jarmusch, over a long career that’s produced 11 films in just over three decades — which are being screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in a retrospective pegged to the release of his latest film, the superb “Only Lovers Left Alive” — is routinely labeled as self-consciously cool, a filmmaker who makes work where nothing happens, all style and no substance.

    But what makes Jarmusch an interesting and oddly consistent filmmaker, contra popular belief, is that there’s often a lot happening between what’s there and not there, the absences and presences Rosenbaum describes. “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and traversed the festival circuit through the end of the year, contains the biggest absence in any of Jarmusch’s films — centuries lived by the two main characters, vampires Adam (Tom Hiddelston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). When we meet the couple they are living in Detroit and Tangiers respectively, cities on opposite ends of the globe not coincidently marked by a certain chiseled away or burned out absence. Erudite outsiders with years of knowledge and experience behind them, they are forced to hustle to acquire the blood they need to survive — you can’t just go biting people’s necks anymore, can you? — while living out their final days in darkness as the world closes in on them.

    What Jarmusch crafts out of these materials is maybe the longest love story in history. But Adam and Eve’s idyllic fading into the good night is disrupted by the appearance of Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), whose reckless behavior threatens to suddenly and tragically end what they’ve been holding onto for years.

    Like many of Jarmusch’s films, “Lovers” is as much about the characters as it is about time itself. The lack of a sustained plot, another absence, is intentional, which results in wonderful scenes of the two simply being present. You get the feeling Jarmusch is more than happy making an entire film in one room with Adam as he plays obscure blues records and strums feedback-laden chords on his guitar.

    And it’s time that has strengthened the bond between Adam and Eve. As the two come to terms with the end of their experience, you feel the weight of that time pressing down on the film — what makes this work uniquely powerful is the way that, beneath the surface, there exist depths of emotion that are felt but not explained. They don’t need to be. In the film’s final moments, it’s hard not to think Jarmusch had the words of a former collaborator, Neil Young, rolling around his head (or blasting out of his speakers): “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

    Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in "Only Lovers Left Alive."

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    If heels could kill… you’ll find them in the Brooklyn Museum’s new exhibition, “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe,” opening September 10 and running through February 15, 2015.

    As it turns out, gravity-defying footwear isn’t a 20th century invention: more than 160 artfully-crafted high heels from the 17th century through the present will be on display here, exploring the provocative and transformative quality of the vertiginous shoe — not to mention its connotations of power, fantasy and identity.

    Historical highlights will include a mid-17th century Italian chopines made of silk, leather, and wood; 19th-century cotton and silk embroidered Manchu platform shoes from China; and Ferragamo’s famous multi-colored platform shoe.

    Slightly more fantastical specimens will be the stiletto mules of silk, metal, and glass by Roger Vivier for House of Dior (1960) and a wool "heel hat" made by Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Salvador Dalí (1937-38). 

    Meanwhile, heels designed by architects will include Zaha Hadid's chromed vinyl rubber, kid nappa leather, and fiberglass “Nova” shoe (2013), made in collaboration with United Nude; the “Eamz” pump with an inverted chair leg for a heel by Rem D. Koolhaas (not to be confused with his uncle Rem Koolhaas of OMA); and a black leather platform bootie with an 8-inch heel designed by Rem D. Koolhaas for Lady Gaga (2012).

    All told, the shoes will range from conceptual and not-mass-produced, to plausibly wearable, and explore all sculptural, architectural, and artistic possibilities of footwear.

    Notwithstanding exhibits that the museum deems to defy categorization, the exhibition will be organized in six thematic sections: Revival and Reinterpretation; Rising in the East; Glamour and Fetish; Architecture; Metamorphosis; and Space Walk.

    The exhibition will also feature six specially-commissioned short films by artists Nick Knight, Marilyn Minter, Steven Klein, Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Zach Gold, and Rashaad Newsome— that are all inspired by high-heels.

    “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe” will include other designers like Manolo Blahnik, Chanel, Tom Ford, Pierre Hardy, Iris van Herpen, Nicholas Kirkwood, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Prada, and Vivienne Westwood, as well as works from the Bata Shoe Museum.

    After its stint at the Brooklyn Museum, it will travel to other venues to be announced.

    Click here to see highlights of the exhibition.

    The Art of Killer Heels at Brooklyn Museum
    Christian Louboutin, “Printz,” Spring/Summer 2013–14

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    Ai Weiwei Stars in Sci-Fi Film, Stolen Gauguin Recovered, and More

    — Ai Weiwei Stars in Secret Sci-Fi Film: Ai Weiwei is the star of a Kickstarter-funded, short sci-fi film called “The Sandstorm,” that was recently shot in Beijing “under the radar.” Written and directed by Jason Wishnow with cinematography by Christopher Doyle, the film features Ai as a smuggler in a dystopian world without water. “We told no one what we were up to,” said Wishnow. “The crew used code names and ever-shifting modes of communication.” [Hollywood Reporter]

    — Stolen Paintings Recovered in Italy: Italian police have recovered a Paul Gauguin still life from 1889 and Pierre Bonnard’s “Woman With Two Chairs,” two works that were stolen from a London home in 1970. The works had been hanging in the home of a factory worker for 40 years after he bought them for around $70 in an auction of unclaimed objects left on a train. Gen. Mariano Mossa, the chief of the cultural heritage division of Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri police, has estimated the Gauguin to be worth around $48 million and the Bonnard to be worth around $690,000, while New York auction house experts valued them at $15 million and $2 million respectively. [NYT]

    — Artists Support Ukraine Online: Painter Fred Tomaselli, Russian artist collective AES+F, and media artist Lara Baladi, among others, have joined an online effort led by Kiev-based Kadygrob Taylor Platform for Contemporary Art to draw public attention to the crisis in Ukraine. Sporting the banner #SupportUkraine, “Artists Support Ukraine” pairs specially created artworks by participating artists with written messages of support. AES+F, internationally known for its work at the Pinchuk Art Centre and First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2012, posted a message, part of which reads, “The Government of our country uses the power and a lie” against Ukraine and its citizens. [TAN]

    — Ohio’s Art Scene Blooming: Ohio’s Miami Valley arts community is celebrating after the capital budget allocated $9.3 million for arts and cultural projects in Dayton, further exemplifying Ohio’s flourishing art scene, which was touted in a 2012 study by Americans for the Arts, which noted that the “Columbus area arts and cultural non-profits generate $226 million annually for the local economy — three times the economic impact from Ohio State sports.” [Dayton Daily NewsColumbus Alive]

    — Banksy Vandal Could Serve 5 Years: David William Noll has been charged with felony vandalism for defacing two of Bansky’s well known works, “Girl on Swing” and “Peeing Dog,” which could land him up to five years in prison. [TMZ]

    — Art Historian Implicated in Knoedler Case: Swiss art historian Oliver Wick, a curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich, has been named as a defendant in the Knoedler Gallery case for knowingly participating in the scam as a consultant. [NYT]

    — Madonna has chosen Miley Cyrus as the next guest curator of her Art For Freedom project. [Billboard]

    — Op Art sculptor Mon Levinson has died at age 88. [NYT]

    — Austria has declined to buy the $344 million art collection of struggling millionaire Karlheinz Essl. [Reuters]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    He Said, She Said: Robert Heinecken’s Strange Stories at MoMA

    Consequences of a Sculpture: Karla Black at David Zwirner Gallery

    Kraftwerk’s Nostalgia Tour: Not Human After All

    VIDEO: Watch the 3D Printing of a Canal House in Amsterdam

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

    Ai Weiwei Stars in Sci-Fi Film, "Sandstorm"

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    The focus of “Re: Collection,” the Museum of Arts and Design’s farewell exhibition to recently retired chief curator David McFadden, “is not about me,” McFadden insists, but rather, about “people who know what they’re doing.”

    Not that McFadden doesn’t know what he’s doing — quite the contrary. Prior to announcing his retirement in October, he served a 16-year tenure at the museum. As a final send-off, MAD asked that he put together a show of greatest hits pulled from the acquisitions made during that period, in which the collection tripled, growing from 800 pieces to more than 3,000.

    “My first cut had almost 200 objects,” McFadden told ARTINFO over the phone, “and then the reality of the gallery space set in.” After painstakingly hewing down his selections, he produced a densely packed, 70-piece exhibition of a wide breadth of media, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, furniture, and textiles meant to highlight various aspects of the museum’s history.

    McFadden said that he stuck to “work that is extremely accomplished in its physical fabrication,” many methods of which are experimental. The exhibition spans late 19th-century Moroccan silversmithing to contemporary works, like Nendo’s 2008 Cabbage Chair Prototype, comprised of hundreds of sheets of discarded paper rolled into a tube and slit down the middle to unfold into a seat, and Jennifer Trask’s “Intrinsecus,” 2010, a shiny play on the 17th-century vanitas, tailored to MAD’s 2010 “Dead or Alive” show by incorporating gilded animal remains. “Re: Collection” also highlights the tendency of artists to make forays into crafts atypical of their bodies of work: Judy Chicago and Audrey Cowan’s large-scale tapestry “The Fall (from the Holocaust Project),” 1993, blankets a gallery wall with woven images of thousands of years’ worth of atrocities; Cindy Sherman’s “Madame de Pompadour (née Poisson),” 1990, transfers her signature self-portrait work onto a design object. 

    The show is a rarity in that, given the occasion, its curator was able to provide his personal point of view. Each object is presented alongside a narrative that reinforces its relevance, either to the museum or to the artist. Sandy Skoglun’s “Breathing Glass,” 2000, for example, a photograph of sculpted mosaic, is an image that marks the moment the museum bridged photography with three-dimensional art. Belarus-born Vitra Mitrichenka’s “Victoria” tea set, 2008, a sculptural collage of shards of china, is an homage to her Russian grandmother who had always insisted on reusing rather than discarding broken wares.

    “All of these objects speak to us,” McFadden said. While it sounds cliché, the selection of greatest hits, culled from the museum’s past, actually sets down a trajectory for museums to follow when considering design, a point that some seem to have lost. It’s not “objects that are made just to look good,” McFadden continued. “They have tremendous reverberations throughout culture, society, ideas about ourselves, relationships about each other, and the human condition.”

    “Re: Collection” is on view at the Museum of Arts and Design through September 7. Click on the slideshow to see highlights from the exhibition.

    MAD Bids Adieu to Chief Curator
    MAD's Chief Curator Emeritus David McFadden

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    Let BLOUIN ARTINFO be your guide to the small island of Guam, the USA’s most far-flung territory.

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    INTRODUCING: Guam
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    Situated in the far west Pacific, south of Japan and east of the Philippines, the small island of Guam is the USA’s most far-flung territory. Part of Micronesia, a group of islands that includes the diving paradise of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, it is often overlooked as a destination compared to the more well-known tropical paradise islands of the region. But the fact it is less frequented by independent travels is part of the appeal. Escape the resorts booked full by Japanese and Korean tourists, and Guam has plenty to offer.

    Home to the indigenous Chamorro people, who have exhibited Hispanic customs in their language, music and cuisine since Spanish colonial rule from 1668 until 1898, Guam is Hawaii-lite. Though lacking Hawaii’s rampant commercialization, Guam  nevertheless combines modern American conveniences of megamalls, fast-food restaurants and a strong military presence, with a surprising amount of untouched greenery, hiking trails, white sand beaches, and small local towns around its coastline.

    Visitors will need their own four wheels to explore, but once out on the road, visitors can find plenty of essential places to stop; from lively night markets and the romantic “Two Lover’s Point” to one of the most extraordinary remnants of World War II – The Yokoi Hideout. Let BLOUIN ARTINFO be your guide.

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    Guam is sprinkled with its fair share of resorts rammed with package tourists, mostly from Japan and Korea, but it does have one gem of an independent boutique hotel in a prime location in Hagatna Bay, where jetskiers skim across turquoise waters in front of the picturesque tree-lined Alupang Island.

    With its own line of beach and “infinity” swimming pool, the privately run Hotel Santa Fehas a local island atmosphere to it, with an Oceanside Cocktail Bar and terrace in the shade of palm trees.

    Despite its seemingly small size, it contains 105 guest rooms with ample room, some of which include large Jacuzzis in their centers. Live music is performed nightly at The Grille, which specialities in Spanish heritage food including paella and empanadas.

    Hotel Santa Fe also perfectly located and will offer guests all the help they need to get around, including to the nearby Chamarro Village and night market.

    Hotel Santa Fe: 132 Lagoon Drive Tamuning, Guam 96913, tel. +1 671 647 8855

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    EAT: Lemai Cafe & Restaurant
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    Lemai Cafe & Restaurant
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    Most of Guam’s restaurants cater to a distinctly American taste, but it's in the markets where the locally grown food can be food, from fresh coconut to star fruit, tuba to papaya. To taste these and more cooked the Guamanian way, the best place to stop is Lemai Café & Restaurant, where the menu features exotic names like kadu, fritada, beef tinaktak, and chicken chalakilis, was named after a grove of breadfruit trees that lay right beside the open-terrace eatery, and where you can see the fruits growing before they are picked when ripe to eat. The breadfruit are used in Chamorro-style doughnuts called buñelos lemmai, baked with seasonal yam, banana or mango.

    For those unlucky to find themselves in bad weather, Lemai is prepared for that too, offering its homemade dishes in a Quonset hut, a corrugated metal structure that originated in Rhode Island and spread during to Guam during World War II.

    Lemai Café & Restaurant: 673 Purple Heart Highway, Route 8 Maite, Guam 96910, tel. +1 671-475-6262

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    Courtesy Lemai Cafe & Restaurant
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    DRINK: Jeff’s Pirates Cove
    Image: 
    Jeff’s Pirates Cove
    Body: 

    Just outside of picturesque Talafofo, Jeff’s Pirates Cove is quite the trek, but a stop well worth it for those circling the south of the island. Established in 1952, it’s much more than just a bar, offering a Sea Museum and some of Guam’s most famous seafood – but the bar itself, shaped like a ship and named the S.S Genereux, plays center stage.

    The Cove comes with quite a story too. It was acquired as a quiet beach bar by Jeff Pleadwell in 1979, who was named one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 10 environmental heroes for his work improving ocean safety, and preserving coral reefs. The former Las Vegas chauffeur then set about developing the property, opening a 5,000 square foot A-frame Seaside Museum in 2000.

    Still a local spot for islanders in the south, those who stop by can expect to occasionally wander in on local community events, as well as share a tipple on the port or starboard of the S.S Genereux.

    Credit: 
    Robert Michael Poole
    Title: 
    SEE (1): Two Lovers Point
    Image: 
    Two Lovers Point
    Body: 

    Designated a National Natural Landmark, Two Lovers Point (“Puntan Dos Amantes”) is not just a place for romantics – it also offers one of the best views of Guam’s coastline. Perched high above the sea, the lookout is the site of a legend that dates back to Spain’s rule of Guam.

    According to the story, a wealthy aristocratic father and his Chamorro wife arranged for their daughter, known for her beauty and charm, to marry a Spanish captain. Upon discovering this, the young girl fled, and hid on shores in the north of Guam, where she met and fell in love with young warrior from a local Chamorro village. Her father heard of the news, and along with the captain chased the two lovers to the cliffs over Tumon Bay, where the couple tied their hair together and jumped in to the sea.

    The area is ablaze with messages tied along the railings on pink heart-shaped tablets, written in languages of visitors from around the world.

    Credit: 
    Robert Michael Poole
    Title: 
    SEE (2): Gef Pa'go Chamorro Cultural Village
    Image: 
    Gef Pa'go Chamorro Cultural Village
    Body: 

    Little remains of Guam’s old culture, but fortunately there are efforts to preserve it, and a drive to southern town of Inarajan can give a little insight into past times. The Gef Pa’go Cultural Village has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, and though a small area, gives a sense of traditional culture, with eight thatch-roof huts and a small store selling crafts.

    The highlight though is the living museum, in which some of the elder Chamorro people show how they used their rudimentary tools for making rope, and cutting and craving coconuts into sweets.

    Just opposite the village, and well worth a wander, are streets the represent another step in Guam’s history. Houses occupied by early Spanish settlers, with colorful painted murals still visible on the walls, are largely being returned to nature. But ask at the village and they will take you inside one locked house that is being kept for posterity.

    Credit: 
    Robert Michael Poole
    Title: 
    SEE (3): Soldier Yokoi Hideout
    Image: 
    Soldier Yokoi Hideout
    Body: 

    One of Guam’s most famous ever resident’s is one of the least likely. There are many tales of Japanese soldiers who were left stranded across Pacific islands at the end of World War II, but perhaps the most famous of these is Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, whose story led to him meeting Emperor Akihito in 1991.

    Yokoi hid in the jungles of Guam in July 1944, when U.S. forces stormed the island. With contact to command lost, he dug a hideout below the ground, covering it in bamboo, where he committed to waiting until his fellow soldiers came to recover him. It wasn’t until 28 years later, in 1972, that farmers from Talofofo found him, and though he begged to be killed, he returned to Japan to a heros welcome.

    His cave was eventually destroyed in a typhoon, but a recreation of it can be found at Talofofo Falls Resort Park, while his tools are preserved at the Guam Museum in Hagåtña.

    Credit: 
    Robert Michael Poole
    Title: 
    BUY: Chamarro Village
    Image: 
    Chamarro Village
    Body: 

    Observing is as much fun as purchasing crafts and gifts at Chamarro Village, a bustling night market that takes places every Wednesday night from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

    Traditional villages dances entertain hundreds of visitors, mostly from Japan and Korea, on the outdoor stage, while in the market’s center, live bands perform Latin music and the elder locals persuade their guests to dance tango and salsa with them.

    The best purchases are the local food, including BBQ meats, banana lumpia (banana eggrolls in honey), and all manner of fresh juices. But with tiny independent stores tucked away in the old-Spanish style buildings, there are also plenty of unique artworks and crafts to be had.

    Credit: 
    Robert Michael Poole
    Title: 
    DO: Ritidian Beach
    Image: 
    Ritidian Beach
    Body: 

    Guam has failed to gain the reputation of other Pacific islands when it comes to idyllic beaches, but anyone claiming that the resorts have claimed them all is probably just trying to steer you away from the quietest white beach that can still be found deserted – Ritidian.

    Visitors will need their own four wheels to reach the island’s most northern tip, Ritidian Point, reached via access road 3A, a bumpy gravel track that might seem like heading to nowhere. But at its end can be found the Guam National Wildlife Refuge Ritidian Unit, and pristine white sands which are weekdays especially, you can have all to yourself.

    Credit: 
    Robert Michael Poole
    Cover image: 
    Short title: 
    Guam - Relaxation on America’s Distant Territory
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    Top Story - Colombia: 

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    International Contemporary Furniture Fair Set for 2014

    North America’s premier platform for what’s up-and-coming in contemporary design, the 26th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), returns May 17 to 20 to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, bringing together 570 exhibitors from 33 countries, touting the best in design of furniture, flooring, lighting, and materials over 165,000 square feet space.

    Like a fashion week for furniture, the fair is where designers go to launch their new creations and where the public goes to get a glimpse of what's new in the world of design. Branch chandeliers were popularized here, as were technology-friendly tables and consoles.

    This year’s fair has filled up 30 percent more quickly than last year, and will draw close to 30,000 interior designers, architects, retailers, developers, facility managers, wholesalers, store design professionals, hotel and restaurant designers, and manufacturers. Produced and managed by GLM, ICFF is also debuting a few partnerships, including one with Architizer on their second annual A+ Awards, which honors the best architecture, spaces, and products in more than 60 categories, and another with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to present an array of educational sessions during the fair’s run.

    Confirmed exhibitors for ICFF 2014 include: Assembly Design, Calico Wallpaper, Council, Egg Collective, Flavor Paper, Fritz Hansen, Gabriel Scott, Inside Norway, Interiors from Spain, Kasthall USA Inc., Lladro, O&G, Phillip Jeffries, Rich Brilliant Willing, and Vitra.

    International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), May 17 to 20, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City

    Tom Dixon

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    Since 2010, biennials have been created in Kiev; Montevideo, Uruguay; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Panama City; New Orleans; Cluj-Napoca, Romania; and Kochi, India, among other places. Functioning as both an antidote and a complement to the equally rampant proliferation of art fairs, biennials have become obligatory markers of status for cities signaling their readiness to be participants in an ever more global art world. The sheer number of biennials has become a common topic of conversation as well as a gripe of those who fly the annual circuit from Venice to Basel to Wherever. As new biennials continue to pop up in far-flung places around the globe, those who operate within the conventional Western art world are prone to wonder what purpose they serve. Who sees them? Will they fit into the already packed schedules of the globe trotting art elite?

    After a visit to the very first edition of one such far-flung biennial, La Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Cartagena de Indias (BIACI), it is this reporter’s conclusion that there are far more interesting questions to ask: How did it impact Colombia’s artist communities, students, and average people? When the international visitors leave, the VIP openings end, and the cocktails for collectors cease to flow, what impact did the bienal have on the cultural life of Cartagena?

    BIACI artistic director Berta Sichel, who previously worked as director of the Department of Film and Video at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, hopes that the bienal will be a catalyst for generating greater interest in contemporary art in the region. “There are a lot of biennials,” Sichel told ARTINFO. “I wouldn’t have called it a biennial, but when I arrived the name was already selected. In a way, biennials are special when they are not already major events like Venice or Documenta. I like to compare what’s happening to Istanbul. In Istanbul, the biennial had a very large influence on the development of contemporary art in the region. I hope this biennial, in a couple of years, will have taught people to see what contemporary art is.”

    Conceived in 2013, the bienal was assembled in just eight months with a two-month run, from February 7 to April 7. Just prior to the bienal’s opening, Cartagena hosted its first international art fair, ART/Cartagena, which ran January 9 through 12. The city also annually hosts three other festivals: The Hay Festival of Literature, the Cartagena Film Festival, and the Cartagena International Music Festival.

    With a population of nearly 850,000, Cartagena exists as two cities: The one inside the Colonial Spanish wall that caters to tourists and the one outside, where most people live. The bienal attempts to bridge the divide with installations and exhibitions taking place in both parts of the city. Sichel has curated the four largest exhibitions of the bienal, which are spread across four sites: Casa 1537, the first church in Cartagena; the Palacio de la Inquisición, the inquisition museum; the Museo Naval Del Caribe, the naval museum; and La Casa Museo Arte y Cultura La Presentación, a local college.

    There is also a section devoted to Colombian artists that was curated by Miguel Gonzalez, Gabriela Rangel, and Stephanie Rosenthal, and located in both the Museo de Arte Moderno de Cartagena and the Plazoleta Joe Arroyo. Additionally, there are more than a dozen locations with in situ artworks and installations throughout the city. These include a dilapidated house overtaken by Oscar Murillo, a Yoko Ono wish tree at the edge of town, and a Jesper Just video within the wall of the little-known Museo des Fortificaciones, among many others.

    Like other biennials that are spread throughout an entire city — Prospect New Orleans and the Venice Biennale, for example — the Cartagena bienal is a lot to take in over the course of just a few days. Visitors are compelled to travel across the city, inside the wall and out, to see everything. While the large number of locations was a necessity due to the extreme difficulty the organizers faced in finding venues, that struggle led to what is ultimately a great strength of the bienal. Some of the most interesting moments in the show arise from odd juxtapositions and interesting installations. Emeka Ogboh’s sound installation “Trancemission” echoes out of a well that sits just a few yards from the torture instruments that are part of the Palace of the Inquisition’s permanent collection.

    Sichel purposefully tried to create these types of juxtapositions and to install work in overlooked and unexpected places. She didn’t want to assign an overarching theme to the bienal, but instead curated from the idea that the presence of the past is very strong in the city. She also intentionally shied away from using the bienal to make any overt political statement.

    “There’s no work that speaks directly about the internal conflict about Colombia,” Sichel said during a press conference (which, along with other public events cited here, was conducted in Spanish and translated to English for the press). “I’m not here to make Colombian political art. I feel like it would be an intermission on my part to talk about the political situation of the country. There are works that have a heavy historical weight, but always in the manner that is not a political pamphlet.”

    While some may find fault with the decision to not directly address the political situation of the country, bienal director Natalia Bonilla pointed out that “political pamphlet” art perhaps would have fallen on deaf ears.

    “Actually in Colombia everyone is used to that,” Bonilla told ARTINFO. “Everyone is used to seeing the newspaper. It’s all bad news, all huge images of people dead or something really violent. Sometimes you are so used to it that you ignore it, because you have to live with that. So we thought that that’s not the way to make people think about it or make reflections about it. Because you are so used to it that you don’t even care. So the thing is, how to make other languages, to have other languages different than that so people can just start thinking, ‘Oh, there can be another possibility.’”

    This “other language” of contemporary art was something that most people in Cartagena weren’t very familiar with. “There was no presence and no continuity of contemporary art here in Cartagena,” Rafael Ortiz, a local artist and BIACI director and advisor of educational initiatives, said during a press conference. “A great part of the public has no ideas about contemporary art so they’re much more open to the experience.”

    As part of the education initiative, 2,500 schoolchildren from Cartagena and 380 students from 12 universities in Colombia came for the event, 75 students from three universities in Cartagena and surrounding cities did internships, and more than 100 young people from Cartagena acted as gallery guides. When they started inviting students to visit the bienal, many didn’t even know what the word meant. The large presence of students was a major mark of success for Bonilla. “I think that it’s really successful when you see all people coming to the biennial,” she said. “Not only the critics, artists, or curators, but the real people that live in Cartagena. That’s one of the things that we really wanted to have. For me, I think this is one of the best things that we have done.”

    The bienal was also an important milestone for the city’s artists. “It’s no secret that for a long time it had become a frivolous city,” Álvaro Restrepo, a Cartegena-based artist and founder of non-profit Colegio del Cuerpo, said, speaking on a panel of local artists. “A place for partying, vacation, and blind to the enormous social problems around it. This type of event obviously is taking the city in the right direction. The fact that all the events are free is extremely important. There are still sectors that don’t feel involved in these events, but it has enriched the city. I’ve been working here for 30 years. I know how hard it is to work in Cartagena. It’s been very positive.”

    While Cartagena-based artists are generally positive about the presence of the bienal, they also remain skeptical about how much change a two-month exhibition can actually bring.

    “Cartagena is a very strange city,” said artist Octavo Plástico, during the same panel discussion. “There’s all these festivals but then the rest of the year, it’s a desert. As an artist, how do you move your work in a desert? Local artists start figuring out temporary spaces to show our work. We can’t wait for institutions to support us, to validate us. The mayor’s office doesn’t totally support us. We’ve got two hands and a brain and we have to generate things on our own.”

    Another local artist, José Olano, also pointed out that there are very few institutions or spaces in the city that are dedicated to showing art throughout the whole year, and there is little support from the government. “Ninety percent of the artists in Cartagena do curating and producing work on their own. We have had to be more than artists. We’ve become directors, curators, jacks-of-all-trades. In the season after the festivals, you see the lack of the city’s policies. We work all year through to support culture.”

    A solution for the dead time may be a long way off, but Bonilla confirmed that there will be a second edition of the bienal in 2016. Although Cartagena’s first bienal is certainly not a quick fix for the lack of support for the region’s artists, it is a positive first step in bringing a greater awareness of art to the city.

    “For a city like ours, where for a while we thought something like this could never come, the fact that it is happening now is of capital importance,” said artist Lobadys Pérez, another panel member. “We should reposition the place of artists and culture in a society like our own. We think culture doesn’t contribute to the growth of individuals. We have to think that culture and the work of artists is of immense value.”

    Click on the slideshow to see images from La Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Cartagena de Indias.

    Notes From Colombia: Why the World Needs Another Biennial
    Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle's "Geometría Popular," 2003.

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