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Articles on this Page
- 09/10/14--08:51: _Studio Tracks: Ster...
- 09/10/14--10:38: _New York
- 09/10/14--10:57: _Articulating Space:...
- 09/10/14--11:44: _Soul of a City: Art...
- 09/10/14--14:41: _Tassels Galore at t...
- 09/10/14--23:10: _Slideshow: Anantara...
- 09/11/14--00:41: _The Gala Dinner of ...
- 09/11/14--04:00: _5 Must-See Gallery ...
- 09/11/14--07:06: _VIDEO: In the Studi...
- 09/11/14--07:13: _Judd's Last Stack H...
- 09/11/14--08:23: _Slideshow: The 27th...
- 09/11/14--09:56: _Slideshow: Favorite...
- 09/11/14--10:44: _The Biennale des An...
- 09/11/14--11:07: _Biennale des Antiqu...
- 09/11/14--12:37: _An Opening Receptio...
- 09/11/14--15:34: _“Killer Heels” Brin...
- 09/11/14--15:59: _Slideshow: “Killer ...
- 09/12/14--07:19: _O'Keeffe Museum Sel...
- 09/12/14--07:24: _Slideshow: Gamaliel...
- 09/12/14--07:28: _Champaign
- 09/10/14--08:51: Studio Tracks: Sterling Ruby's Eclectic Playlist
- 09/10/14--10:38: New York
- 09/10/14--10:57: Articulating Space: The Architecture of the Sao Paulo Biennial
- 09/10/14--11:44: Soul of a City: Artifice and Authenticity Mingle in "Memphis"
- 09/10/14--14:41: Tassels Galore at the Biennale des Antiquaires
- 09/10/14--23:10: Slideshow: Anantara Promises Hospitality “Without End” in Siem Reap
- 09/11/14--07:06: VIDEO: In the Studio With José Parlá
- 09/11/14--08:23: Slideshow: The 27th Biennale des Antiquaires Tilts Toward the Future
- 09/11/14--09:56: Slideshow: Favorite Artists at Art Rio 2014
- 09/11/14--10:44: The Biennale des Antiquaires on a Budget
- 09/11/14--11:07: Biennale des Antiquaires Tilts Toward the Future
- 09/11/14--15:34: “Killer Heels” Brings the Height of Footwear to the Brooklyn Museum
- 09/12/14--07:24: Slideshow: Gamaliel Rodriguez's "Landview" at Walter Otero
- 09/12/14--07:28: Champaign
This weekend, Sterling Ruby contributes vividly colored stage backdrops — akin to some of the huge textile works recently on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York — for BasilicaSoundScape, a curated music festival featuring the likes of White Lung, Deafheaven, and Swans. The Los Angeles-based artist’s large-scale paintings and hulking sculptures certainly require a great deal of planning, technical prowess, and attention to production detail, and Ruby clearly applies the same level of intensity to his extracurricular passions. “I listen to music in the car and in the studio every day, all day,” he said. “I love good audio equipment. In the car I am running a Burmester system and in the studio I have a rack mounted Behringer EP2500 2X1200 Watt Power Amplifier hooked up to a Numark CDN450 CD player, which can bend, slow, or speed up any CD’s pitch. The speaker combo in the studio is a set of JBL 15” 2-way integrated loudspeakers, two dual 18” subwoofers, and two compression drivers.”
We asked the artist to share his current studio playlist, which is often in flux. “My tastes,” Ruby admitted, “have been inconsistent for as long as I can remember.” Here are the albums that have been recent favorites, including African guitars, boastful hip-hop, Katy Perry, and Lykke Li (who he’d love to direct a music video for).
Elephant Man, “Comin’ 4 U” (Greensleeves Records, 2000)
“Elephant Man! Coming for me? Can’t wait! Elephant’s voice has never wavered over the years, he hasn’t softened or given up the terrifying goofiness that makes him a standout. He could easily be my favorite dancehall figure. ‘Watchie Pum’ is a good example if you can’t handle the whole album — it’s super punchy and will rumble any rearview mirror.”
Miles Davis, “Big Fun” (Columbia/Legacy, 1974/2000), “Get Up With It,” “Pangea”
“Anything Miles did between 1968 and 1975 sees heavy rotation, but these three recordings are mind-bending. If I could only listen to just one song from this period it would be ‘Gondwana’ off of ‘Pangaea,’ which was recorded in Osaka, Japan, 1975.”
Robert Fripp & Brian Eno, “No Pussyfooting” (DGM/Inner Knot, 1973/2008)
“I put this on in the evening when I take that long drive back from the downtown studio to my home in the mountains. Eno’s tape loop recordings of Fripp’s guitar can be ultimately meditative and trance invoking. I can space the fuck out — sometimes I don’t even know how I got home.”
Katy Perry, “Prism” (Capitol Records, 2013)
“Yeah, Katy Perry, that’s right. My two daughters and I listen to her in the morning as we drive to camp. I would be lying if I said that ‘Birthday’ and ‘International Smile’ aren’t absolutely perfect pop songs. I sometimes even keep it in the deck after I drop them off.”
Ariana Grande, “Yours Truly” (Universal Republic, 2013)
“Here’s another from my morning kids commute. Grande is coming into her own as a musician after starting out as a child actor on Nickelodeon’s show ‘Victorious.’ She unfortunately seems to be taking the usual route of trying to sex up her image by using mediocre hip-hop and Beyonce tropes. I am not giving up on her, though. My daughters and I believe that the next album, ‘My Everything,’ which is due out any day now, will be the real proof.”
Lykke Li, “I Never Learn”(Atlantic, 2014)
“This is my album and I think it is really something. I have been sneaking it in on the morning rides and while I thought I would get a ton of resistance because it is not the usual pop, it turns out that the peanut gallery in the back seat love it. As a matter of fact they request it now! It’s so simple, sad, and beautiful. I would love to make a music video for ‘Gunshot’ — Lykke, if you’re interested, let’s discuss.”
Chrome, “Half Machine Lip Moves/Alien Soundtracks” (Cleopatra, 2007)
“‘Alien Soundtracks’ came out in 1977 and ‘Half Machine Lip Moves’ in 1979. I had not heard this until I wound up having a chemical exchange with Helios Creed in his van after a show in 1993, which was something of a life-changing experience for my 21-year-old self. Chrome was a pre-curser to so many things, Damon Edge and Helios Creed were so trashy and disjunct, but somehow they made it all sound sonic and spatial.”
Junior Murvin, “Police & Thieves”(Island Records, 1977)
“His voice is so easy on the ears, I don’t know why I always think Marvin Gaye, but there it is. ‘Police & Thieves’ is the best Murvin album, not that there are very many. The Lee Scratch Perry production makes it organic. I love the cover artwork — how crazy is this cover?— the police and the thieves are all pick pocketing each other in some repetitive domino effect. ‘All the crimes committed, day by day. No-one tries to stop it in any way. All the peace makers turned war officers...’”
Group Doueh, “Guitar Music from the Western Sahara” (Sublime Frequencies, 2007)
“Seattle’s Sublime Frequencies is one of my absolute favorite record labels. They have exposed me to stuff that I would have never realized existed. Group Doueh is a Dakhla guitar band. Sublime Frequencies take on it goes like this: ‘Raw and unfiltered Saharawi music from the former colonial Spanish outpost of Western Sahara.’ Twangy distorted electric guitar and vocals from the poetic Hassania language.”
Günter Schickert, “Kinder in Der Wildnis” (Bureau B, 1983/2013)
“I started listening to Günter Schickert after I ran my Popol Vuh collection into the ground by playing it too much. Schickert started out as a free-jazz musician in the ’70s. He formed the German group GAM in 1976 with Axel Struk. There is a lot of Schickert material, most of it loose, guitar-driven, repetitive, almost mantra-like. He sings, grunts, screams, or just sighs over the rhythms. I like this one because of the sample of the birds that filter their way into the gap between every song.”
Peter Eotvos, “Chinese Opera/Shadows/Steine”(Celestial Harmonies, 1997)
“I would say that Eotvos is the current contemporary composer darling, but maybe I don’t have a clue. I have listened to him for a long time and have never once had a disappointing purchase. He seems like a thoroughbred: Hungarian, Stockhausen Ensemble, conductor at the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, a tradition with film scores, the list goes on. He doesn’t seem afraid to mix traditional courses of classical concerto music with electronic ambience, which is probably why most critics see him as the post Bartók and Boulez. I can’t believe that this recording is already 14 years old. To risk sounding cliche, it is haunting, a great work.”
“I play this in the studio through the Numark CDN450 CD player and slow the pitch down by 16 percent. It echoes through the buildings and gets into every nook and corner of the complex. While I am aware that it might seem blasphemous to change the intonation of the recitation of the Qur’an, I don’t think that it alters the actual expression of the reading; as a matter of fact, I feel like it is a bit more somber, and I like that it lasts longer.”
Trinidad James, “10PC MILD”
“I have been listening to less rap lately; my morals are being tested. That being said, I can’t stop myself from rotating the immaculately styled Trinidad James. ‘10PC MILD’ only has 10 songs. So many mix tapes are just filler, no editing, too many tracks, but T. James seems to have a different strategy. ‘10PC MILD’ is just as good as his first tape, ‘Don’t Be S.A.F.E.’ My favorite is the single ‘Jumpin Off Texa$,’ featuring Rich Homie Quan.”
“Again it’s problematic, but I still have a big soft spot for Gucci. His new mix tape is not his best, not by a long shot, but the single ‘Top In the Trash’ is great. Chief Keef’s short verse is as sloppy and slurry as ever and it works: ‘I drink my champagne straight out the bottle, I don’t fuck with no glass.’”
Diamanda Galás, “Schrei X Live” (Mute U.S., 1996)
“When my friend Brian DeRan first told me about this year’s BasilicaSoundScape festival, there was talk of Diamanda Galás coming. I started remembering the naked, blood-covered performance I had seen so many years before. I immediately broke out every album. ‘Schrei X Live’ is for me the toughest one there is, just vocals with echo and reverb, no musical accompaniment. The track ‘Hee Shock Die’ sends chills down my spine, I listen to it in the car at full volume: ‘Kick my head, OK.’”
The Sao Paulo Biennial, which opened on September 6, is traditionally a contemporary art festival, but this year’s event puts new emphasis on architecture. Chief curator Charles Esche commissioned nearly 70 percent of the exhibition’s artworks, collaborating with a five-person curatorial team that included an architect for the first time in the biennial’s 63-year history (fun fact: it’s the world’s second-oldest contemporary art biennial). That designer, Tel Aviv-based architect Oren Sagiv, who specializes in exhibition design, worked with exhibiting artists to develop and build an immersive, three-part exhibition space inside the Pavilion Ceccillio Matarazzo, which was designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1957. ARTINFO spoke with Sagiv about fitting his vision into Niemeyer’s building, designing an exhibition space without exact artworks in mind, and the optimal relationship between art and the architectural space it occupies.
Oscar Niemeyer’s pavilion isn’t exactly primed for an art exhibition. It’s extremely long and relatively narrow, more like an industrial building than a museum-style display space. What interventions did you make in the interior to improve visitor circulation, and how do they relate to the art currently being shown there?
The interventions were basically aimed at articulating the interior of the building. In the same way that, if you have a very large novel, it would be a very hard experience to start it in one word, to end it on a last word, and to have hundreds of thousands of words in the middle without chapters. There needs to be some kind of inner structure that creates its own dialectics, not just one huge container for art. Speaking with people who have attended many previous Sao Paulo Biennials, like people who have visited since the late ’60s without missing once, I realized that people had the feeling of fatigue. Just looking at this endless divisions and boxes that enclosed the different artworks, separated them into territories; people felt the space was just too large. It wasn’t a good place to stage an art exhibition that makes sense as a whole, singular display. And this building wasn’t designed for art exhibitions — it was designed for industrial exhibitions to show mechanical and agricultural achievements.
Because we are commissioning projects for the architecture, we thought about the building as a site, and understood architecture as the backbone for our curatorial syntax. We had to create a field rich enough, and loaded with qualities to begin with, so that it would be able to receive the artworks. The pieces, as they come, are directed into some kind of architectural field of meaning.
The first thing I did was a thorough analysis of possible ways to articulate the building into various blocks. It’s almost like combinatorics — there are so many possibilities.
So how did you narrow down the possibilities?
At first, I just looked at the different ways and different floors to enter the building. There are four entrances, and you can circulate within the floors in many different ways. I had to start to understand how the accumulation of the different parts started to give me some kind of qualitative information to articulate the building in ways that has to do either with proportions, or to dissect the building in ways that give us very different architectural typologies — ways that accentuate different pieces in order to create a more orienting — or disorienting — experience.
The first physical intervention came directly from choosing one way of circulating and looking at the four parts and calling them by first names. So, looking at their qualities and attributes to determine their identities. We started to program them in different ways. For example, what we call the “park area” — this resulted from a spatial wedge that is piercing through the building vertically at its center. It’s what we call the “middle area,” but it kind of disappeared by allowing for all the areas in front of it and behind it.
The park area is on the ground floor, an area that was meant to receive the people. The idea of this ground floor now is that it’s no longer a public park, but it’s not an art exhibition either. It’s an intermediary space. I designed a very large piece of furniture — almost 200 feet long — that we call the “plataforma.” It’s a continuation of the surrounding park, but also a part of the exhibition site. So people don’t have to immediately feel obliged to see the art exhibit. We wanted to provide a zone of acclimation.
The next area would be what we call the “ramp area.” It has this amazing void that Niemeyer created — it’s the most iconic area of the pavilion. The key idea of separating it from the rest of the building was to create simultaneity. As you enter the first floor of that building, all three floors are exposed to you. This idea of vertical affinities, of vertical connections, of something that you see in the corner of your eye happening on the third floor while you are standing on the first floor — they connect pieces as omnipresent artworks.
When we started to commission artists to create works for the biennial, this idea of simultaneity affected how they went about making their commissions and the way that we, as curators, thought about their projects.
What are some of the ways you used architecture to establish connections between artworks?
We actually divided the space with very few walls. The idea was to direct the vision of the visitor within each of the three floors horizontally, and also the oblique vision. In the vertical, we’re trying to optimize what the visitor can and cannot see. We had to create an architectural matrix to receive the artworks before we knew exactly what they would be. So we created a very potent space to establish relations between artworks, we placed those walls in that area in a way that they organize the vision. We placed walls to organize trajectories of vision within that field of space, and that vision is on the horizontal and vertical level. When the artworks started to come in, we had already created a syntax for them to relate to one another.
The last area that we created, on the other side of the ramp area, is the “columns area.” It’s almost the opposite of what I described in the ramp area. It’s a very deep horizontal space that goes on for 130 meters, and it’s based on horizontality and depth. Here, something is hiding another thing. You have to move and explore 29 different galleries that are surrounding you from the center to the periphery of that space. It’s a very different experience of what it means to engage with artworks. In the ramp area, every move one makes changes your perspective and changes the way you see the accumulation of the artworks. But in the column area, one is basically paying attention to one work at a time.
Memphis, the new film from director Tim Sutton (Pavilion, 2012), opens in a television studio. A talk show is in session, the crew sweating in the shadows, and from the background emerges the musician Willis Earl Beal, playing himself. “In your wildest dreams,” the host asks, “did you ever think you’d have an album out and be in a motion picture?”
“Yeah, I did,” Beal responds, half jokingly. “In very many ways I created this. Life is artifice, man. It’s all artifice.”
Artifice and authenticity are both deep in the soil of Memphis, a city built around performance, its mythology tightly bound to the music that was created there. Its sonic history can be traced back to three distinct styles. The first is the blues, brought to the city by W.C. Handy in the form of “Memphis Blues,” reportedly the first song to feature “blue notes.” The second is country and rock ’n’ roll, popularized by Sun Records head honcho Sam Phillips and his roster of misfit artists, including Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. The third, and most important to the film, is soul, distinct from the sounds emanating from Detroit and popularized by the driving backbeat and harsh brass playing coming out of Stax/Volt and Hi Records. Cautiously, I’m relegating Memphis rap, a still-vibrant scene filled with mystery and a deep appreciation for the roots of the city’s musical heritage, to a footnote here because the genre doesn’t play a part in the film (even though it could have, and maybe should have). But for the sake of Memphis, it’s useful to see all this music as part of a lineage, with a shared archetypal character manifesting throughout the songs: the wanderer, the charlatan, the midnight rambler.
Memphis is about this mythology more than anything else. The film’s narrative, or what exists of one, could easily have been lifted from an old soul song: A musician, battling personal and creative dilemmas, moves from the bar to the recording studio to the church, looking for answers. He sleeps on couches, rope-a-dopes with his demons on Beale Street, and seeks guidance in the wise words of a cigarette- smoking street corner hustler. But even though Beal claims to harbor secret powers—interchangeably referring to himself as a wizard and a sorcerer—there seems to be nothing stopping his life from vaporizing under the Tennessee sun.
This journey through the mythological landscape is also a showcase for the genuine weirdness of Memphis’s lead performer. Beal, a real-life musician whose lo-fi recordings bridge modern soul with a simple and unadorned form of the blues, is a modern trickster who seems to take delight in conflating the fact and fantasy of his public persona. In the film, both are present. Fitted with a retro porkpie hat, leather jacket, and exaggerated limp, he ambles toward darkness, an apparition fusing the past and present.
Structurally, the film mirrors this ghostlike ambience, moving along at the slurred pace of a Southern drawl and smearing the traditional modes of fiction and nonfiction. The result is what film critic Robert Koehler calls a “cinema of in-between-ness,” a style that derives from the tension between a documentary impulse—Sutton utilizes a cast of non-actors, including Beal—and a rigid formalism. These two poles of the filmic spectrum are seemingly at odds, but when handled with care, they create a space that neither could achieve on its own.
One benefit of this approach is the sense of place the film creates. Memphis isn’t simply a character in the story; every inch of its cultural and sociopolitical history is captured on camera, which Sutton lets linger on the dusty roads and abandoned storefronts. The neighborhoods Beal traipses through are hollowed out, the life that once existed there still hanging in the dust of the late-day air. The main character’s disintegration is also that of the city, a largely African-American metropolis rich in cultural history but slowly collapsing under the weight of financial turmoil. The sadness, and ultimately hope, that permeates the film is not just for the protagonist to make it out of the darkness that surrounds him, but for the city itself to move past its death toward an afterlife.
Which makes Memphis a celebration and an elegy for a city on the brink of erasure. But what the film wants to tell us, using Beal as a vessel, is that, even as the real-life structures supporting the city are in the process of crumbling—in truth, the fatal damage may already be done—the dream life, lived through the songs that float on the air, will never die. It will keep reinventing itself, keep being reborn, the steady backbeat a pulse that never slows down or fades away.
A version of this article appears in the September 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.
Foregoing canvas for gouged-and-painted slabs of Aqua-Resin, VanDerBeek creates funky, upbeat swarms of form and color that recall Mark Grotjahn’s wilder side. Faces and foliage are sometimes apparent; in other instances the artist seems to be capturing mere spasms of energy or movement. Many of the works are hung on a metal fence that winds through the gallery, complicating sightlines and providing access to the paintings’ strange, lumpy backsides. A series of giant-sized figurative sculptures — like humanoid scribbles composed in wire — are less impressive, but add an additional whimsical kick to the overall installation.
A showdown between two styles of painting, with Doston’s crisply-lined and illustrative aesthetic facing off against Jurek’s color-drenched, thickly applied material hedonism. The former takes stills from Disney films like “Cinderella” and “Peter Pan,” altering colors and patterns for psychedelically charged riffs on the original animated moments. (He’s not the only contemporary artist fascinated by Uncle Walt’s legacy — over at Gagosian, Dan Colen has a suite of massive paintings based on “Fantasia” stills). Meanwhile, Jurek presents two delightful sculptures — both of cats — as well as a range of paintings rendered in lush gobs, splats, and smears. She’s also got a collection of drawings that imagine a libidinally charged alternate universe — one in which cat-women and horny wolfmen engage in their weirdest fantasies.
The playlist Helms put together for ARTINFO had its fair share of intense doom-and-gloom, but his solo exhibition at Marianne Boesky’s new LES digs has plenty of light, color, and humor (albeit of the slightly unnerving, skin-crawling variety). Gouache-on-paper works adapt images from films like “Apocalypse Now” and Soderbergh’s “Che,” adding bulbous nose appendages — elephantine, semi-phallic — to the actors’ faces. The marshal bent of some of the source material brings Helms back full circle to his earliest drawings, in which fictional militia-men hid behind bizarre, wooly masks.
At more than 260 feet long, this Polish artist’s new sculpture — modeled in part on Mies van der Rohe’s Lakeside Drive Apartments in Chicago — could be seen as yet another take-a-#selfie-with-it spectacle. But this crumpled steel behemoth provides more than a simple opportunity to marvel at the labor and cost required to produce it; the looming form has a dejected poetry, its architectural origins bent into a beached whale or an industrial rib cage.
“somebody place” is plush, and hard, and faux-fur, and light bulbs; it’s a ton of deodorant-bottle-shaped sculptures set within a Judd-like shelf contraption; it’s sticks, rods, painted poles, fuzz, fluff, and shamanic-looking symbols. Coolquitt continues to prove himself a light-hearted, sure-handed mad scientist, conjuring weirdly lovable assemblages out of all this stuff.
ALSO WORTH SEEING: Helene Appel’s trompe-l’oeil paintings on linen of fabrics, spilled water, and other everyday things, at James Cohan Gallery through October 4; the legendary anthropologist-turned-sculptor Richard Nonas at Fergus McCaffrey, through October 25; and two very different takes on text: Despina Stokou at Derek Eller, through October 4, and Samuel Jablon at Freight+Volume, through September 20.
Click here to see previews from all five of these shows.
NEW YORK — September is a big month for José Parlá. The Brooklyn-based, Miami-born artist is working to complete an expansive mural that will hang in One World Trade Center. He is also staging his second solo exhibition at Chelsea’s Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery. “In Medias Res,” which opens September 12, will feature new paintings, sculpture and another large-scale mural installation. Parlá says the exhibition—its title drawing from a film and writing technique—chronicles his life, beginning with his childhood and including his travels around the world.
Blouin ARTINFO visited Parlá’s studio as he was working on the exhibition and the WTC mural.
“In Medias Res” is on view at Bryce Wolkowitz through October 18.
— Judd’s Last Stack Hits the Block: Christie’s has announced that Donald Judd’s “Untitled (Bernstein 93-1),” 1993, will go up at its evening sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 12. Created just before the artist’s death, the piece represents an important landmark that the auction house reportedly thinks will break records. Currently, estimates place the bid at $7 to $9 million. [Art Market Monitor]
— Helsinki Bucks Guggenheim: The Guggenheim’s architectural competition for its planned Helsinki outpost may have ended this week, but a local group has proposed an alternative competition. Calling themselves Next Helsinki, the group is pushing back against the Guggenheim’s corporate presence and hoping to “attract innovative ideas about how to more fully meet the city’s cultural, spatial and sustainability needs.” [The Guardian]
— Hammer Museum Honors Joni Mitchell: The Hammer Museum has announced details of its annual gala and the event is set to be a celebrity fest. Not to be outdone by LACMA’s Leonardo DiCaprio-chaired event, the Hammer’s fundraiser will be co-chaired by Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. Artist Mark Bradford and musician Joni Mitchell are honorees. [LAT]
— Australian Art Prize Judge Knocks Aboriginal Art: Claiming she saw “nothing fresh or original,” judge Perpetua Durack Clancy declined to award the Shinju Matsuri prize for Indigenous art at all, instead rolling over the $1,000 winnings to next year’s competition. “It’s so insulting to the artists there, where you’ve got an old non-Indigenous lady saying these Indigenous art works are not worthy of being awarded any prize,” said attending artist Michael Torres. [ABC]
— New Program for Art in Natural Disasters: Just in time for hurricane season, CultureAID promises to provide information and resources for artists and art institutions in the event of another storm like Sandy. [NYT]
— LA non-profit LAXArt is relocating from Culver City to Hollywood. [LAT]
— Here’s Linda Yablonsky’s entertaining diary of the past week of fashion/art world hoopla. [Artforum]
— Ron Dominguez is a New York City doorman — and an art collector! [WSJ]
ALSO ON ARTINFO
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PARIS — The Syndicat National des Antiquaires unveiled its Biennale des Antiquaires today, and in every (Jacques Grange-designed) aisle, phrases like “from the collection of the Duc de…” “just like one in the Getty…,” and “imperial provenance” were in the air. The well-heeled crowd in attendance at the VIP vernissage looked poised to receive the objects into similarly good homes.
Some dealers in Old Masters and other studious subjects demurred on first-day sales, noting that most of their collectors take a few days or up to a week to close a deal. Not so Hicham Aboutaam, president of Phoenix Ancient Art, who had already overseen several transactions in his bustling booth, to the tune of 15 million euros. “It couldn’t have been better,” he said with a note of disbelief. Two standouts included an Attic kylix, or wide wine-drinking vessel, from 490-480 B.C. painted with Antilochus’s departure in black (likely the hand of Makron on a ceramic pot by Hieron, who inscribed his name), and an improbably large sphinx ring wrought from a single block of rock crystal, circa Egypt’s New Kingdom Ramesside period, 1295-1069 B.C.
More contemporary bijoux were newly prominent, with the fair welcoming such jewelers as Bulgari, Chanel (featuring a new collection dubbed “Café Society”), Dior, Graff, Alexandre Reza, Giampero Bodino, Van Cleef & Arpels, Sigelson, Cartier (with the most cavernous stand of all), and the Hong Kong-based fabulist Wallace Chan. His “Gabriella Rose” necklace was freighted with a purple sapphire of 164.39 carats. More than one dealer remarked that the expanded jewelry offerings had drawn a different crowd than usual, and were hoping for a bit of sparkle to rub off.
The eclectic staging by many dealers of antiques and Renaissance through 19th-century paintings suggests that they have paid attention to what works at competing fairs like Frieze Masters, where the goal is to get the collectors in the door and instigate crossovers. Even the venerable Steinitz — purveyors of gilded 18th/19th-century French furnishings — had enlivened their mobbed stand with a sprinkling of modern artworks, including a small Fontana.
The stand of Galerie Gradiva, launched in May by Thomas Bompard, formerly the director of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern department in Paris, was presented in conjunction with Galerie Hopkins and boasted a dramatic Louise Bourgeois spider of about six feet in diameter clinging to its main wall. By the time the VIP opening kicked off, it had sold, as had a fine, heretofore unseen work on paper by Joan Miró, for a seven-figure price. Unusually large in size at about 19 by 25 inches, the blue-daubed drawing was a birthday gift to Florence Loeb, the artist’s dealer’s daughter, on the occasion of her 7th birthday. Pointing out Miro’s modestly small signature, Bompard jested, “I’d be surprised if Picasso, say, had done the equivalent for a 7-year-old’s birthday.”
Asian and Middle Eastern items were moving briskly, judging from the red tags dotting the booths of Islamic specialist Corinne Kevorkian and Japanese and samurai art dealer Jean-Christophe Charbonnier. Gisele Croës, the eminent Brussels dealer in ancient Chinese artifacts, reported strong early sales, including a large bronze horse for 5.5 million euros, bound for “an important foundation,” and a handful of others to a Beijing-based collector new to the gallery.
Certainly China — the subject of a major publicity campaign organized by the ousted SNA president Christian Deydier — was on many dealers’ minds. “I try to choose exotic subjects,” said Paris-based Jean-Gabriel Mitterand, whose booth was given over to whimsical-functional works by the Lalannes, when asked whether the potential depth of Asian pocketbooks had been a factor in his choice of what to show. Of the staging, which featured copious amounts of tastefully faux bamboo, he added, “My idea was to bring a kind of terrace, like they have in Thailand.” He had sold two unique versions of a mini-size rhinoceros cabinet by François-Xavier Lalanne in copper for 250,000 euros each and had reserves on a suite of chairs, table, and giant mirror featuring a delicate gold bamboo motif by Claude Lalanne.
Among early 20th-century decorative arts, Galerie Marcilhac and Galerie Alain Marcepoil made strong showings, the latter with a booth featuring André Sornay’s personal office — circular-swiveling desk, chair, and shelf-lined walls — in mahogany wood outlined with his signature tiny nails, presented at the 1937 Exposition du Trocadero. Oscar Graf’s austere take on Art Nouveau yielded rare chairs by Josef Hoffmann and Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, as well as a nickel silver teapot with ebonized handle by Christopher Dresser that even in 1879 anticipated the forthcoming machine age.
Two Italians received tributes in multiple booths. There were Venetian waterscapes by Michele Marieschi, an 18th-century follower of Canaletto, at both Richard Green, of London, and Ana Chiclana, of Madrid. The other was Enrico Castellani, whose satiny-matte monochrome canvases with proturbant patterns were shown by both Tornabuoni and Dominique Lévy. The gallery’s Lock Kresler noted Castellani had recently been discovered by South American buyers.
Kresler, the newly installed director of Lévy’s forthcoming London outpost, confirmed that several of his top items had been snapped up by the time the fair opened to the general public, including a giant 1957 canvas by Pierre Soulages for an undisclosed price. It’s a pity it will have to be removed from its spot on the eelskin-covered wall above Peter Marino’s similarly striated bronze cabinet, but such are the small tragedies of a well-executed temporary booth.
The Biennale des Antiquaires runs September 11-21 at the Grand Palais, Paris.
“How do they walk in these things?” a limping Jack Lemmon asks in the classic film “Some Like It Hot,” reluctantly femmed up and complaining about his newly acquired high heels. It’s a question that comes to mind often when strolling through the Brooklyn Museum’s latest exhibition, “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe,” which boasts more than 160 shoes — from slim stilettos to 10-plus-inch platforms — by 68 different designers spanning four centuries. (The movie clip in question loops, fittingly, next to a pair of Marilyn Monroe’s black Salvatore Ferragamo pumps.)
Of course, the show features the expected boldfaced names in footwear —Westwood, Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, and so on — but according to curator Lisa Small, it’s not a simple runway rehash. “We’re in a moment, obviously, where fashion exhibitions have become very popular for museums,” Small said (herself sporting United Nude’s Eamz heel, designed by Rem Koolhaas to mimic Eames furniture). “Fashion itself has a high profile in culture, and museums are always looking to connect. But I maintain and feel very strongly that objects of fashion are important aspects of material culture. Many of these shoes were commercially available, but we’re putting them in here and trying to look at them in different ways.”
Instead of a basic retrospective organized through a timeline, the exhibition’s thematic structure seeks to highlight conceptual tensions lurking within the very idea of the “high heel” — between form and function, empowerment and objectification — and examines the many roles it’s played as an indicator of social and cultural affiliation, from a sign of nobility in the 17th century to its centrality to drag culture in contemporary times. A section titled “Architecture” emphasizes structural stability, pointing to pieces like Zaha Hadid’s metallic “NOVA,” 2013, while “Metamorphosis” explores the symbolic potential of shoes, looking at such items as Elsa Schiparelli’s “Shoe Hat,” 1937-8, and Maison Martin Margiela’s Cinderellian glass slippers.
Also embedded throughout the exhibition are six commissioned films, including works by Steven Klein, Rashaad Newsome, and Zach Gold — whose interest in “fashion films” sparked the initial idea for the show, and whose bright, fragmented “Sketch for 4 Screens,” 2014, now marks its entrance. Based on the single prompt of “high heels,” each film finds a unique way to combine shoes with movement, further blurring the line that distinguishes heels as functional items or purely visual pieces.
“Some people just want to buy [my shoe] and put it on their table, but I do like them to be worn,” said Dutch artist and fashion designer Winde Rienstra, whose handcrafted “Bamboo Heels,” 2012, present a modern counterpoint to traditional Japanese geta. “But they are not always easy to wear.” Still, returning to Lemmon’s initial protest, it seems the point of “Killer Heels” is to move beyond asking “how” one might wear these varied creations and to start asking “why.”
“Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe” is on view at the Brooklyn Museum until February 15, 2015.
— O’Keeffe Museum to Sell Three Works: The news that the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe plans to auction off three works at Sotheby’s is huge, in light of the strong reaction provoked by other deaccession cases (at the Delaware Art Museum and the Maier Museum of Art) this year. The museum wants to sell the works, which could collectively bring in as much as $19 million, to add to its acquisitions fund. “The museum holds half the artist’s output throughout her life,” said director Robert A. Kret. “But still there are gaps that need to be filled.” [NYT]
— Schwarzenegger Portrait Unveiled: The official painting of Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger has debuted at the California state Capitol. However, Schwarzenegger’s former assistant, Clay Russell, revealed that the portrait went through one key modification since it was first commissioned several years ago: a pin on the governor’s lapel, depicting his now-estranged wife Maria Shriver’s face, has been painted over. The painter, Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, cryptically confirmed that the portrait contains “one little interesting detail… which I cannot give away because I am not allowed to tell, but it was very important and meaningful to the governor.” [SFGate]
— Rauschenberg Foundation Creates New Grants: With the newly launched Artist as Activist program, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation is offering assistance to artists with socially engaged practices. Included in the grant is a two-year fellowship and other travel and research grants worth up to $100,000. Proposals are due by October 13. [TAN]
— Art Basel Teams Up with Kickstarter: The Art Basel Crowdfunding Initiative will raise money for nonprofit art groups across the globe, starting with ScupltureCenter in New York, the Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound in Los Angeles, Gasworks in London, and 4A Center for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney. [NYT]
— Activists Protesting Koch Detained: During a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art honoring billionaire David H. Koch, who contributed $65 million to the institution’s renovated plaza, three activists projected the words “Koch = Climate Chaos” onto the front of the building. [ArtNet]
— An Independent Scotland Could Lose Art: Old Master paintings on loan to the Scottish National Gallery might be sold off, as potential changes in tax structure have art collectors questioning their future. [The Art Newspaper]
— Carol Vogel gives us an in-depth look at Bunny Mellon’s $100 million collection, up for sale at Sotheby’s in November. [NYT]
— Here’s a profile of Hobby Lobby owner Steve Green and his D.C. bible museum plans. [WP]
— Lehmann Maupin has added Belgian artist Patrick Van Caeckenbergh to its stable. [Observer]
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