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  • 09/25/14--11:49: New York
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    Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy of Arts

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    The New York City Ballet Fall 2014 Gala

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    The 52nd annual New York Film Festival is underway, running September 26 through October 12. Within those days is a lifetime of films, from the massive main slate — this year better than ever — to the entire sidebar of documentaries, a reimagined experimental film program, all the trans-media work, as well as revivals and an entire retrospective dedicated to the work of classical Hollywood filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Trust me, I’m winded just writing that.

    With that breathlessly said, a complete rundown of everything happening at the NYFF is nearly impossible. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be providing many dispatches from the event in the form of reviews and previews. Here is the first one, a summary of the festival’s opening week.

    Before we begin, we want to make note of a few things: First, we’ve not included here, as you may notice, the bigger films premiering this year. There will be no mention of David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” based on the mystery novel by Gillian Flynn, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Thomas Pynchon-adaptation “Inherent Vice,” or the Michael Keaton-starring “Birdman,” which closes out the festival. There will be more on those films and others soon. For this preview we’ve focused on some of the lesser-known films, work that might have slipped into the shadows under the glare of the bigger names in the program. We have films from French masters, American actors, provocateurs, and more. All are worth seeing.

    Click on the slideshow to see our complete guide to week one at the New York Film Festival. 

    Preview: New York Film Festival's Opening Week
    A still from Martín Rejtman's "Two Shots Fired."

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    There are many sides to the work of the German artist Anselm Kiefer. Those lucky enough to visit his studio complex at Barjac in the South of France encounter a staggering array of installations, underground tunnels, and tottering concrete towers resembling some contemporary equivalent to the fortifications of medieval Tuscany. But wisely, the Royal Academy has chosen to present Kiefer largely as a painter in a huge and triumphant exhibition of his work, running September 27 through December 14.

    This was astute because the RA’s grand Main Galleries at Burlington House were built in the high Victorian age specifically to display paintings. No spaces in London — and few anywhere — do that job so well. They look fabulous filled with old masters, and equally splendid hung with Kiefer’s canvases. The result is to put him firmly and clearly where he belongs: in the great line of German art from Dürer to Caspar David Friedrich.

    This is one of those exhibitions in which a major artist’s work and position in art history fall into place. You walk out feeling Kiefer is a giant figure in contemporary art. The show is visually stunning in an old-fashioned way, through the force of brush-stokes, paint surfaces, and, often, sheer scale.

    These are some of the largest, most powerful, and also — as the president of the Academy, Christopher Le Brun, mentioned in his speech on the opening night — the heaviest pictures ever displayed at the RA. Kiefer’s paintings are weighted not only with extraneous materials — slabs of lead, desiccated sunflowers, even diamonds — but also with history.

    Works such as “Osiris and Isis,” 1985-87, are overwhelming in their physical size (in this case 12 by 18 feet), and also in their subject matter. This is a picture of a massive stack of mouldering dun-coloured bricks. It reminds you of Egyptian pyramids and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, however it’s not exactly a topographical picture of these, but something more universal: ancient and modern at the same time. Among the objects attached to its surface are a television circuit-board and shattered fragments of porcelain bathroom fittings.

    Although figures appear in some of his works (most frequently that of the artist himself), as a painter Kiefer is essentially a landscapist. More exactly — this is one of his links to Friedrich — he is a painter of landscapes and buildings that express states of mind and spirit. But where Friedrich painted bleak terrain lit by a distant hope of divine salvation, in his earlier work at least Kiefer presented a post-apocalyptical world of menace and destruction.  

    He was born in March 1945, a few months before the end of the Second World War. He grew up in a landscape of bombed-out ruins, the remnants of a culture that had catastrophically failed. The introductory room contains early works such as the watercolor “Winter Landscape,” 1970, in which a severed head in the sky drips blood on a desolate, snow-covered land (Kiefer can be small-scale and delicate as well as epic, a point the exhibition makes clear).

    A lot of his work of the ’70s and ’80s was concerned with coming to terms with the horrors of Nazism. A painting such as “Interior,” 1981, based on a room in the New Reich’s Chancellery — designed by Hitler’s favorite architect, Albert Speer, and destroyed in 1945 — has a grim funereal chill. In the aftermath of the war and the Holocaust, there was a feeling that German culture had become irredeemably toxic. In 1949 the philosopher Theodor Adorno famously stated that to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. 

    In his first two decades as an artist, Kiefer was engaged in an attempt to use the language of earlier art to examine the disaster that had occurred — and so bring it back to life. The second room of the exhibition is full of paintings of interiors built of planks and beams patterned with vigorous wood-grain. Trees and forests are ubiquitous in German art and myth. In “Nothung,” 1973, Siegfried’s sword is impaled in the floor: a Wagnerian symbol, still penetrating threateningly into what was, in reality, the wooden loft where Kiefer worked in those years.

    As time went on, and especially after his move to the South of France in the early 1990s, Kiefer’s focus broadened. He hasn’t forgotten the cataclysms of the mid 20th century. In the courtyard there are two huge vitrines — one of the few examples of sculptural installations in the exhibition — in which lead models of warships are lurking like so many metallic sharks. But here the reference is wider, as the title makes clear: “Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War,” 2011-14.  Khlebnikov, a Russian Futurist, suggested that great sea battles occur cyclically at intervals of around 300 years.

    The cycles of history of are one of Kiefer’s themes, as is time the destroyer, the burgeoning and death of everything — hence those sun flowers that interest Kiefer as much as they did Van Gogh — and the stars of the cosmos. These are weighty subjects, too ponderous you might think for any art to carry. But somehow, Kiefer does it. This exhibition is monumental, magnificently over the top, and marvellous.

    Weight of the World: Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy
    Anselm Kiefer's "The Orders of the Night (Die Orden der Nacht)," 1996.

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    Week in Review: From Malkovich to Bowie, Our Top Visual Arts Stories

    John Malkovich posed as various celebrities — including Alfred Hitchcock and Marilyn Monroe — in Sandro Miller’s homage to iconic photographs.

    — Anneliese Cooper checked out the documentary “David Bowie Is,” released concurrently with the exhibition’s debut at the MCA Chicago (on the city’s newly designated David Bowie Day, of course).

    — Scott Indrisek reported on highlights from this year’s EXPO Chicago.

    — Frieze announced the 20 artists who will exhibit in its 2014 sculpture park.

    — Anna Kats visited the newly reopened Met Plaza and enumerated its many impressive renovations — made, of course, with a controversial donation from David H. Koch.

    — Scott Indrisek noted this week’s five must-see gallery shows, from Daria Irincheeva to Jim Shaw.

    — Anneliese Cooper raised an eyebrow at the New York Times’ declaration that fashion photography is now en vogue

    — Glenn Kaino debuted his delicately balanced sculptures in a solo exhibition at Chicago’s Kavi Gupta Gallery.

    Eddie Martinez discussed the newfound sculptural inspiration for his paintings.

    — The 2014 Blouin Creative Leadership Summit brought together experts from a cross-section of industries to discuss a wide range of pertinent global topics, including panels on creativity and the art market, as well as a keynote address by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte.

    Week in Review: From Malkovich to Bowie, Our Top Visual Arts Stories

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    Slideshow: Highlights from JJ PEET's Pottery

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    British Royals Ascend on Broadway

    More than 200 years after we threw off the yoke, the British Royals are back in power in America — if only on Broadway. This season, the theater-going public has the opportunity to pay homage to Henry VIII, Elizabeth II, and Charles III.

    Charles III?  If you know your history, you know that is a future title. And indeed, in “Charles III” — Mike Bartlett’s fanciful tale that is a current smash hit in London — Prince Charles finally ascends the throne after the death of his mother and gets enmeshed in all sorts of palace and parliamentary intrigue. As reported in the New York Post, the play will transfer this Spring to Broadway with Tim Pigott-Smith reprising his acclaimed performance in the title role. It’s not clear now whether other roles will be re-cast, including those of Camilla Parker Bowles, Princes Harry and William and, of course, Kate Middleton, whose character was described by some of the London critics as “poisonously ambitious.” Written in iambic pentameter in the tradition of Shakespeare, the play also features a ghost — that of Diana, no doubt laced with vengeance on the House of Windsor. Bartlett — whose last play in New York, “Cock,” was about contemporary sexual mores — has said that he wrote the drama, directed by Rupert Goold, as much for theater snobs as for the readers of gossip rags. “Everybody is welcome,” he said.

    Princess Diana is also a ghost of sorts in Peter Morgan’s “The Audience,” which will arrive stateside, beginning performances on Broadway on February 17 and opening officially on March 8 at the Schoenfeld Theatre. The episodic drama, in which Queen Elizabeth II alternatively holds a weekly meeting with eight of her twelve Prime Ministers, stars Helen Mirren, who won an Olivier for her commanding performance. (Her Oscar-winning turn in Morgan’s “The Queen” was good training in the royal manner.) Mirren will be a strong contender to finally add a Tony Award to her mantle, having been nominated twice before: in 1994 for “A Month in the Country” and in 2001 for “Dance of Death.” Directed by Stephen Daldrey, the play is an inside peek at Her Majesty’s respective relationships with Britain’s leaders over the past sixty years of her reign. In the words of Walter Bagehot, a 19th-Century journalist, the Queen is there  “to be consulted, to advise, and to warn” her ministers. Apart from that she is above politics. Or at least should be. 

    That makes the Queen’s encounter with Maggie Thatcher one of the most highly amusing scenes in the play. The Iron Lady is furious over leaks, apparently coming from Buckingham Palace, that are highly critical of her tough policies, especially toward the country’s indigent. But the emotional core of the play has to do with Princess Diana in an audience with John Major. The Prime Minister informs the Queen that her son’s disastrous marriage is beyond repair and that Diana has taken the gloves off in her criticism of the House of Windsor. Since there is no written record of the Queen’s weekly tête-à-têtes with her ministers, it is left to Morgan to imagine them.   But what comes blazingly through is the utter loneliness and isolation of the monarch. 

    That may well be true of Henry VIII’s predicament in “Wolf Hall Parts 1& 2,” the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s best selling books, which has been a five-star, hot-ticket hit since it opened first in Stratford and then, last Spring, in London. Mike Poulton has adapted the works, which focus on Thomas Cromwell’s tempestuous relationship with the mercurial king. Ben Miles will re-create his role as Cromwell as will Lydia Leonard, as Anne Boleyn, and Nathaniel Parker as Henry VIII.  The two-part plays — nearly six hours in total — will be a surfeit of theater for buffs, with a cast of more than twenty playing seventy-some roles. Directing the traffic is Jeremy Herren, who makes his debut with this pair of epic, prize-winning dramas. The Broadway production begins performances at the Winter Garden on March 20 with an opening on April 9. This will be an event with a capital “E.”

    Helen Mirren, who still star in Stephen Daldry's upcoming "The Audience" as Quee

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    Alta Moda by Mario Testino at Dallas Contemporary

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    “Gone Girl”: A Modern Love Story

    “Gone Girl,” the new film from David Fincher based on the best-selling book by Gillian Flynn, does not need much explanation. If you don’t know what it is or have never heard its name, you probably don’t pay attention to things like the Internet or TV or newspapers. But to get it out of the way, the gist is this: the missing girl at the center of the book is Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) and the main suspect in her disappearance is her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). What happens within that one line synopsis is weirdly funny, constantly on edge, and horribly depressing. The film premiered September 26 at the New York Film Festival to a packed crowd of journalists, and it has retained tight control on my fragile headspace ever since. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that’s not a great headspace to be in, especially if you’re in a relationship.

    “Gone Girl” is really a love story in its own bizarre way — a story about how love is impossible or meaninglessness or simply dishonest, perhaps, but still a love story. And Fincher, in his clinical dissection of the cat-and-mouse game the couple plays, is taking a stab at contemporary upper-middle-class values. All the things we’re told we want, all the goals and aspirations that have become locked in our collective conscious as markers of a meaningful life, the film seems to be saying, are a sham. We’re all actors in a constantly shifting narrative that’s out of our control and deeply influenced by the media that surrounds us. Happiness has nothing to do with keeping a relationship going. It’s all about knowing the role you’re supposed to play and staying in character. It’s a horribly bleak way to look at human relationships, bordering on the nihilistic. But since Flynn’s “Gone Girl” was a huge success, I have to assume there is more truth to that view than I’d like to admit — truth in numbers or something like that.

    Here I should say that I have not read the book. I wanted to experience the movie free of preconceptions, as a work existing in a world separate from its origins. This was a decision I was glad I made. I’m not sure how closely the movie follows the book, or what was left out — something I’m sure people will fret over. These conversations often mean nothing when thinking about a film as a film. But what Fincher does with the material, completely detached from its previous incarnation between paperback covers, is pretty astonishing. The film opens on a strange sequence of quick cuts of suburban postcard tranquility — quiet houses, perfectly manicured lawns, empty streets — that zooms past us. It implies tension or suspense, and then jumps right out so suddenly that I was sure something was wrong in the projection booth. Titles appear and disappear before they can even be registered. It’s a jarring shift in tone and makes for a disorientating sequence.

    For most of the film Fincher isn’t working in his normal modes. There is a sense of dread that lingers throughout the almost three-hour running time, but it’s different than “Zodiac,” to throw out on example. In that film, the accumulation of information — and all Fincher’s films in some way are about how we organize information — drives the characters insane, sometimes literally. It’s different here. There are scenes of intense violence, but they do not anchor the story in any way, and if anything they seem odd within the rest of the film. “Gone Girl” is not trying to shock its audience. It’s more about surprise, which is a different thing. What you think is there is not there. You never really know what is happening, and you never will.

    There’s a lot going on in “Gone Girl,” from an exceptional score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to a larger incitement of the media’s obsession with tragedy, not to mention Fincher’s dense visual style, which seems at once naturalistic and overly precise, as if the camera is aware its creating a semblance of reality within the frame instead of simply capturing reality. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time and will need to see it again, and maybe again and again, before I put more words down. For now, I’m going to go hug my girlfriend and make sure she doesn’t want to kill me.

    Gone Girl at NYFF

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    Corcoran Staff Hold Museum Funeral, Christie's Adds 2 Percent Fee, and More

    — Corcoran Gets a Funeral: On Sunday, former staff members of Washington, DC’s Corcoran Gallery of Art gathered to mourn its takeover by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University rather literally — that is, with a full-on funeral ceremony, including black veils, eulogies, and a hearse. “We are left with a gorgeous building, but it is now no longer the Corcoran, but a cenotaph, a memorial to something that is not there, an empty tomb,” said former director Michael Botwinick, while probably fist-pumping that he found an occasion to use the word “cenotaph.” No news yet on whether or not the museum staff were in fact participating in a backdoor pilot for a spin-off of SNL’s “Goth Talk.” [Washington Post]

    — Christie’s Adds 2 Percent Performance Fee: The auction house would be eligible for this new 2 percent commission when a lot goes for more than its highest estimate. As Art Market Monitor’s Marion Maneker speculates, amid complaints of hype-based estimate hikes, this might actually encourage Christie’s workers to keep their speculations low. [TANArt Market Monitor]

    — SF Murals Get Makeover: Twenty-nine New Deal-era murals in San Francisco’s Rincon Center, a former post office, are set to be restored. Congress once denounced the controversial works by Anton Refregier, which include unfavorable portraits of pioneers and a hammer-and-sickle. [SF Gate]

    — Tracey Emin Looks Back at Her Career: “A lot of men, their career peaks when they’re in their 40s. But women keep going. It’s the same as sex. Men have one big ejaculation, whereas women just keep coming and coming.” [The Guardian]

    — A Day with Eric Fischl: The New Yorker spent the day with Eric Fischl at Art Southampton and lots of feisty comments and a minor car accident ensued. [The New Yorker]

    — MONA Might Get Casino: David Walsh, the founder of Tasmania’s wacky Museum of Old and New, wants to install a casino at the institution. [The Guardian]

    — RIP Walter Josef Fischer, AKA “Oz,” a legendary German street artist killed by a train in Hamburg. [The Guardian]

    — Camille Henrot won the 2014 Nam June Paik award. [Artforum]

    — Berry Campbell Gallery now represents Stephen Pace’s estate. [Art Media Agency]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    "I’m Not Making Hippie Pottery": A Q&A with JJ PEET and Tom Sachs

    Reviews in Brief: 3 Gallery Shows in Berlin

    Francesco Clemente Plans Talks with Nas, Alfonso Cuarón

    Doll Breaks World Record at Auction With $394,000 Sale

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

    The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

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    Gabriel Acevedo Velarde
    Arratia Beer // September 11–October 18

    At first glance, there seems to be little dialogue between Velarde’s geometric paintings and music videos, but upon closer examination, they playfully expose the failures of two modernist aesthetic strategies: abstraction and montage. “Sketches for an Airport’s Hallway,” a series of canvases, whose title implies banal corporate design, toys with the former. In his videos, Velarde employs the latter to criticize Peru’s consumerist modernity; yet the mesmerizing images set to catchy electronic beats provocatively drown out the message.

    “Pictures, Before and After”
    Galerie Buchholz // August 28–October 31

    This fascinating tribute to art historian, cultural theorist, and activist Douglas Crimp brings together an array of objects and figures from Agnes Martin to Gran Fury, divulging the many aesthetic, social, and political issues that have occupied him during his long career. Unfortunately, the University of Rochester professor’s published texts lie in vitrines, restricting the viewer from accessing the works that make Crimp so deserving of the exhibition.

    Fernando Bryce
    Galerie Barbara Thumm // September 20–November 8

    Newspaper articles, film stills, portraits, book covers, and advertisements dating from both World Wars fill the gallery, but only by way of Bryce’s mimetic analysis: his signature practice of copying archival material by hand. In reproducing these artifacts with such an imperfect process and installing them in politically divergent constellations, Bryce strips these images of their historical and mechanical authority, showing them to be just as subjective and suspicious as any scribbled note.

    A version of this article appears in the December 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.

    Reviews in Brief: 3 Gallery Shows in Berlin
    An installation view of Fernando Bryce's "To The Civilized World"

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    Gabriel Acevedo, Fernando Bryce, and more

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    Delvaux's First Parisian Boutique Opening

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