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    VIDEO: Idris Khan Combines the Poetic and the Political at Sean Kelly Gallery

    At first, when you look the opening pieces in Idris Khan’s latest show, “Overture,” at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York, you’ll notice they’re abstracts — lopsided bursts of white on white, like new, unstable stars. But upon closer inspection, the shapes reveal themselves to be overlapping lines of text, stamped and re-stamped painstakingly by Khan and a cadre of assistants. Born of a particularly difficult period in the artist’s personal life, the works took shape through the cathartic, mind-clearing act of pressing ink to paper, over and over. Now, the technique has evolved to tackle new topics, such as text relating to the displacement of refugees, and new forms, including stamping on glass panels. Khan even created a large site-specific example on the gallery wall.

    The exhibition also showcases Khan’s photographic works — gnarled black and white images that combine painting and photography, blurring the lines of each medium. One of the more figurative examples, “Why Do They Go,” 2015, superimposes a shadowy silhouette over itself in receding iterations atop a faded image of bustling figures. It’s a more literal exploration of his refugee theme — more blatant, at least, than the sheer unease engendered by text that refuses to be read, of words that cannibalize themselves, crowding each other out by their own abundance.

    Ultimately, the title, “Overture,” marks this show as a sort of opening act for Khan’s synthesis of his full artistic practice, using one medium to complement the other, swaying from clean white to messy greys, shaky figures to self-obscuring messages, guiding viewers smoothly from serene to unsettled by show’s end.

    Idris Khan’s “Overture” is on view at Sean Kelly Gallery through October 24.

     

    Indris Khan

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    Video: Bill Viola Premieres “The Trial” at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

    The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) is premiering a new work by pioneering American video and installation artist Bill Viola as part of a major survey of the last 20 years of Viola’s influential career. Situated in YSP’s Chapel and Underground Gallery, the immersive exhibition of ten works is the most extensive exhibition in the UK by the artist for over 10 years.

    Viola engages with the universal human experiences of life, death, love, and spirituality to create video installations that explore what he describes as “the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge.” He draws inspiration from Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism.                       

    Viola’s new installation, “The Trial,” which is on show in the YSP’s Underground Gallery, portrays the “five stages of awakening through a series of violent transformations.” The intense two-screen work depicts two bare-chested figures, one male and female, as they are drenched with a series of different coloured liquids in an ordeal that fluctuates in intensity as the cycle changes and progresses.

    The Underground Gallery also features three works from the “Transfigurations” series as well as “The Unveiling,” “Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity” (2013), “The Dreamers” (2013), and “Night Vigil” (2005/9). The 18th century Chapel houses “Fire Woman” and “Woman and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall)” (both 2005).

    Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at YSP, said that the exhibition aims to be especially meaningful to the Sculpture Park’s intergenerational audience. “The exhibition is a journey through time and landscape, presenting both intimate and dramatic experiences in one of the most powerful and singular exhibitions of Viola’s career,” he said.

    See the video above to see an exclusive excerpt of Viola’s new installation “The Trial,”

    Video by the Bill Viola Studio. Courtesy the Bill Viola Studio

    The Trial

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    Jon Rafman Mixes Sexy Tech With Video in London Art Show

    Jon Rafman mixes passion, technology, video games, sculpture, a maze and a short action movie in an inventive show in London.

    The Canadian artist’s first major solo exhibition in the U.K. takes over the Zabludowicz Collection, which is based in in a 19th-century former Methodist Chapel.

    On first glance, the installations may seem to have little in common. Look again and it is clear that Rafman (born 1981) is constantly investigating desire in all its forms – how it is created and satisfied in this increasingly digital age.

    There are other art shows where the theme, the common thread, seems a little grafted on as an afterthought, almost as if the artist or gallerist wanted something to make a bigger statement and pretend the show is not simply an unrelated collection of random works. Here, however, the approach is everything, the starting point not an end vision, and it works.

    One of the most immersive works is Rafman’s latest, produced with Daniel Lopatin. “Sticky Drama” was made with more than 30 London children and with a soundtrack by Warp Records of music by Oneohtrix Point Never. The casual violence of games and childish role play are shown in the film.

    Visitors can also wonder through a large-scale real maze hedge or get lost in virtual reality devices which produce a disorienting mix of Internet memes and flickering images: soothing, scary, futuristic and then looking back nostalgically to past romantic literature and art. In addition, there are scattered references to so very modern nightmares of memory loss, hacking and computer crashes.

    The Zabludowicz Collection has worked with many artists on its annual commissions: Matt Stokes, 2009; Toby Ziegler, 2010; Laurel Nakadate, 2011; Matthew Darbyshire, 2012; Andy Holden, 2013; Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, 2014. With a list like this, and Rafman’s latest, this commission is definitely one to watch for those in search of future promising artists.

     

    Jon Rafman continues through at Zabludowicz Collection, 76 Prince of Wales Road, London NW5 3PT, though December 20. Telephone +44 (0)207 428 8940

     

    Mainsqueeze

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    “Room” Brings the Fear of Confinement to Life

    What is your greatest fear? For me, and I imagine many others, confinement to a small space, with only the slightest chance of catching a glimpse of the outside world, is pretty high up on the list. Add to this the elements of being confined to a small space against your will for a long period of time, with no idea of when or even if you’ll be able to leave, and you have the makings of a nightmare.

    This is the basic premise of “Room,” or at least the first half of it. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the film is written by Emma Donoghue — based on her novel of the same name — and is currently in theaters. It’s the recipient of that tenuous thing called “Oscar Buzz” due to its being awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in September — in the past six years, winners of that award have racked up a total of 53 nominations, with three of the films winning Best Picture.

    Brie Larson plays Joy, the woman who is locked in a room. At first we don’t know why she is there, or even if she’s there against her will. With her in the room is her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a surprisingly intelligent if emotionally stunted child, considering it seems as if he has spent his entire short life in their small living space.

    The two have developed a close bond, spending their days exercising, playing games with the few resources at their disposal, and watching a small television with bad reception. Before going to bed, Jack walks around the room saying goodnight to the stove, the toilet, the couch, and the television. They are his only friends.

    It’s through Jack’s attachment to the television that Joy begins to explain to her child the reality of their situation, but the fact that a world exists outside their room is impossible for him to grasp. The only thing he knows is his mom, their few belongings, and the mysterious man named Old Nick, who arrives once a week bringing groceries and who, in exchange, has sex with Joy while Jack sleeps in a small wardrobe closet. Are they members of a doomsday prophesying cult? When Old Nick leaves he locks the door behind him, and the room has the distinct feel of a bunker.

    The script does a good job of slowly laying out details, piece by piece. Joy is remarkably calm most of the time, resigned to her situation. It’s only when dealing with her son, and his lack of understanding of why they are in the room, that she begins feel an immediate pressure to escape. She finally tells them why they’re in the room, how long she has been there, and why they need to get out as soon as possible. From there, she devises a plan.

    There’s no way of talking about the second half of the film without revealing the climax of their attempted escapes, which ends in a heart-racing sequence that practically gave me a panic-attack. But what can be said is that the film has more on its mind than exploring Joy and Jack’s life in the room. Other characters are revealed, and we are also thrown into the outside world. When the mystery of “Room” is solved, the film loses focus, resorting to clichés about abandonment and reconciliation. The first half is a like a powder keg ready to explode, and when it finally does it’s brilliant. But it’s a tension — will they or will they not make it out of the room? — that could have been contained for even longer. Instead, “Room” stops short. The aftermath does not live up to what came before. It shifts gears too quickly and in doing so, manages to turn a good movie into a mediocre one.

     

    Jacob Tremblay Brie Larson Room

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    MENA Design Outlook Report Shows Promising Market, But Obstacles Remain

    The first MENA Design Outlook report, released by the Dubai Design & Fashion Council, painted a positive picture of the design market in the Middle East over the coming years. It also highlighted some of the obstacles that remain to be conquered, especially those of perception and intellectual-property protection.

    The report offers a comprehensive view on the design industries in the region, showing it is gradually transitioning from importer and consumer of design to a creator and exporter of design-driven products and services, explained Emmanuel Durou, partner at consultancy firm Monitor Deloitte, which authored the report.

    According to the report, the design sector in the MENA region grew at more than double the pace of the global industry over the last four years, surpassing $100 billion in combined revenues, with the UAE taking the largest 27 percent share. The report predicted that the MENA design industry will grow at an average 6.5 percent per year to reach $147.5 billion by 2019, contributing by then 5.2 percent of the global design market compared with the current 4.4 percent.

    “MENA is a sizeable market and we believe there is tremendous opportunity for growth,” said Durou, adding however that there are limitations in the market that require more government support, “Beyond incubations and funding, there is a need for enforcement of IP protection regimes. Most of the IP laws exist in the region, with very decent protection frameworks, but it’s more about the enforcement. The second key gaps are on talent and education.”

    Dubai has announced plans to become a global design and fashion hub by 2020. Earlier this year, it launched the first phase of its new Dubai Design District comprising 11 buildings to house 10,000 professionals. The second page is expected to be completed by 2018, with a final phase due in 2019.

    This week, the Dubai Design District is hosting the first Dubai Design Week, a large umbrella event that incorporates the Downtown Design fair, a curated exhibition of small national pavilions highlighting design talent in the region, and 12 large scale art and design installations peppered across the city, amongst others.

    LUZ

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    VIDEO: Billy Childish On His Paintings at Lehmann Maupin

    You can’t miss Billy Childish. When the artist and musician entered the Lehmann Maupin Gallery before our interview, all eyes turned toward the man elaborately dressed in what appeared to be a safari uniform, his grin revealing a gold tooth buried in his mouth. A true performer, he regalled us as the camera began to roll with a story about once opening for a band at Radio City Music Hall, where, after angering the theater’s union employees, he was banned from the venue and not allowed to attend the after-party. Mischief, it seems, is not a problem for Childish. Rather, it’s a major part of his artistic practice.

    Among his long recording and writing career — somewhere near 125 albums and 45 books — Childish has established himself as a painter of some renown, evident in his latest show at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Manhattan: “flowers, nudes and birch trees: New Paintings 2015,” plainly titled, is just that. Much of the work is large-scale and autobiographical, including revealing nudes of his wife (along with a few equally revealing self-portraits) and images of the forest and flowers that speak less to the pastoral imagination than a darker, more sinister view of what rests beyond the trees.

    Billy Childish Talks Painting Flowers, Nudes, and Birch Trees at Lehmann Maupin

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    5 Films to See This Week in New York: “The Royal Road,” “Insiang,” and More

    “The Royal Road,” Anthology Film Archives, opens October 30

    Jenni Olson’s remarkable essay film, which was one of the best things to screen at the “Art of the Real” series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center earlier this year, is making its official New York theatrical premiere with a weeklong run at the Anthology Film Archives, with Olson in person at select screenings. “I crave the catharsis of narrative,” Olson says in her voice-over narration, which is spoken throughout over landscape shots of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the path that connects them — El Camino Real, or The Royal Road, which once connected the missions of California.

    “In my essay films I like to utilize a poetic, first-person voiceover as the persona which will tell a story that is partly fictional, partly my own personal reflections, and partly an exploration of various non-fiction topics,” Olson said in an interview with ARTINFO back in May. But the fiction is a ruse, a mode of survival. All the stray narratives the film acquires — the life of Franciscan missionary Junípero Serra, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” Cassanova’s “The Story of My Life” — circle back to a personal story of love and loss and remembering. Olson traces these different narratives because they form a bridge between the past and the present. Telling these stories is a cure for the melancholy of real life.

    Despite the dominating narration, the visuals — simple, direct, often quiet and unpopulated landscape shots — shouldn’t be ignored. They are not simply blank spaces with room for introspection. Each empty street, weathered building, or rolling hill also contains its own narratives. Sometimes the visual track lines up with the narration and sometimes it doesn’t, which leaves the viewer wondering: is there another narrative in place here, something unspoken, maybe even unknown, but plainly visible if we look deep enough?

    “The Royal Road” is a deeply exciting work of poetic-cinema, both emotional and cerebral.

    “Insiang,” Museum of Modern Art, opens October 28

    Filipino director Lino Brocka’s Shakespearean tragedy from 1976 is making a week-long appearance at the Museum of Modern Art after showing up at the New York Film Festival in September as part of their Revivals sidebar, following its unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival back in May. Restored earlier this year by Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata, with funding by The Film Foundation (non-profit founded by Martin Scorsese), the film concerns the struggles of the beautiful Insiang (Hilda Koronel), who lives under the thumb of an overbearing mother (Mona Lisa) and in a house filled with stray family members. Everybody is struggling, and there is barely enough food to feed them all. When Insiang’s mother, who, ever since her husband left her has been emotionally unstable, kicks the rest of her family out of her home, the neighborhood shuns her decision because they know the real reason is so she can spend more time with her younger lover, a brutish Lothario named Dado (Ruel Vernal).

    Dado, though, has other intentions than shacking up with an older woman. As soon as he starts spending more time at the house he begins to make eyes at Insiang, who hates him and refuses to give him any attention. But soon enough, Dado has intimidated her boyfriend, the childish Bebot (Rez Cortez), into never seeing her again, the first steps in a devious and horrific plan to take control over Insiang. When he ultimately succeeds, Insiang plots revenge against the man who has rendered her powerless.

    Brocka reportedly shot the film on a limited budget in around 11 days in the streets of Manila, all the while dodging government censorship. The film is masterful as it navigates the confined spaces of the neighborhood — specifically, Insaing and her mother’s apartment, which is so cramped you can sit on the toilet and eat at the dining room table at the same time.

    “Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands,” Bow Tie Chelsea, October 26

    This unflinching and comprehensive look at the life of German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder is screening as part of NewFest, New York’s LGBT film festival. The film is hinged on select, and previously unseen, interviews with Fassbinder conducted by journalist and filmmaker Christian Braad Thomsen. Its analysis of Fassbinder’s life and work — much of it cribbed from Thomsen’s excellent book “Fassbinder: The Life and Work of a Provocative Genius” — is the kind that’s unusual for this type of exhaustive bio-doc: sharp, detailed, and provocative. No matter if you’re familiar with Fassbinder’s work or have never heard the name, the film is equally engaging.

    “The Assassin,” IFC Center/Film Society Lincoln Center, ongoing

    “If I wasn’t going to do it now I was never going to do it,” the director Hou Hsiao-Hsien said of his latest film, “The Assassin,” in a recent interview with ARTINFO. An exploration and personal vision of the wuxia genre that had interested him, like many others, since childhood (he added that “all these stories are a part of me,” expressing his lifelong fascination), the film is also typical of his previous body of work, with a visual style of long, contemplative shots, and a narrative interest in the historical complications of China.

    “Heart of a Dog,” Film Forum, ongoing

    Is Laurie Anderson’s latest film — about her dog, her mother, her friends, the N.S.A, and 9/11 — personal? “I do use the word I in the film, and it does refer to me as a person, but it’s a trick,” she said in an interview with ARTINFO. “I’m not interested in telling you my life story, but in asking questions about things. So I use myself almost as a character who wanders around in a series of questions. It’s very personal and in other ways very neutral.” But it’s also, maybe even to Anderson’s surprise, extremely moving and intimate, with her narration acting as a guide through understanding the weight of loss and the progress of life (sometimes the truth can exist even when you try to hide it). The biggest loss, never explicitly stated in the film but fully there, is that of Lou Reed, Anderson’s husband who passed away during the making of the film. 

    The Royal Road

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    On the Block: Major November Sales at Sotheby's, Christie's, and Phillips

    Change is in the air and on the ground as auction giant Christie’s redraws the salesroom boundaries of 20th-century art, in the process upending years of evening sale categories identical to those at Sotheby’s, its longtime rival.

    “I’m pleased we did it first,” said Jussi Pylkkänen, global president of Christie’s. “They’re not just auctions anymore; they’re curated exhibitions, and we’re very much going down that track.”

    Phillips, newly invigorated by ceo Edward Dolman and a rash of recent hires, has changed its evening sale date to a Sunday—having been all but forced out of its Thursday evening slot by the Christie’s Impressionist and modern art sale—and has rebranded its department as 20th-century and contemporary art. For the moment, Sotheby’s is sticking to the old schedule, offering Impressionist and modern art a week prior to its postwar and contemporary lots.

    Just as postwar and contemporary has become the favored category of an immensely deep-pocketed global buying pool, the long, illustrious precinct of so-called Impressionist and modern has lost some of its luster and firepower, due largely to changing tastes and a dwindling supply of prime material. This season, however, collectors will have ample opportunity to fill out their holdings when the estate of A. Alfred Taubman, who died at age 91 in April, hits the block at Sotheby’s. The ghost of the one-time owner of the house, who almost single-handedly changed the auction arena from a closed, wholesale market dominated by dealers to a retail bazaar for the wealthy, is sure to have a grand time rattling the proverbial dishes.

    November 4 – Sotheby’s – The Collection of A. Alfred Taubman: Masterworks
    The fall season gets off to a heady start with a single-owner sale devoted to the huge and eclectic collection of the auction house’s onetime owner—and major shareholder once he took the firm public—shopping mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman, who resigned in disgrace from his chairman’s role in 2000 as the price-fixing scandal between Christie’s and Sotheby’s unfolded.

    Guaranteed by Sotheby’s at a cool and record-setting half-billion dollars, after torrid competition from Christie’s, the estate includes hundreds of works to be sold over the course of four auctions (three this month, and one in January 2016). Top entries include the demure and fully dressed Portrait de Paulette Jourdain, circa 1919, by Amedeo Modigliani, estimated at $25 million to $35 million. Taubman acquired it from Acquavella Galleries in 1983, at a time when the auction record for a Modigliani hovered below $2 million.

    Like many of the estate entries, it is fresh to market, as is the case with a stunning Dora Maar portrait from Pablo Picasso, Femme assise sur une chaise, 1938, also tagged at $25 million to $35 million, which depicts the artist’s muse as a lilac-skinned empress, enthroned in a high-back armchair. The retail mogul acquired the picture at Sotheby’s London in December 1999, a very different time in the art market and just prior to his downfall, for £3.3 million ($5.3 million). It hailed from the Gianni Versace collection.

    Other highlights in the cross-category sale include Edgar Degas’s large, masterful composition on paper Danseuses en blanc, circa 1878, estimated at $18 million to $25 million, and Willem de Kooning’s rambunctious abstraction Untitled XXI, 1976, pictured at left, tagged at $25 million to $35 million. A key painting from that sought-after period, the latter was acquired from Los Angeles dealer James Corcoran.

    “The collection is broad in its sweep,” says Simon Shaw, international co-head of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s. “Taubman trained as an architect and he understood space. It meant he gave a particular vision to the way he put the collection together. Even though it’s eclectic, you can see why it all fits.”

    November 5 – Sotheby’s – Impressionist & Modern Art
    The star Impressionist offering is the exceptionally rare-to-market Vincent van GoghPaysage sous un ciel mouvementé, a panoramic windswept landscape painted in the fields of Arles in mid April 1889, the year before the artist’s suicide, and estimated at $50 million to $70 million. “It’s the best Van Gogh to come to auction since the 1980s,” declares Shaw, who notes that another Van Gogh landscape, L’Allée des Alyscamps, 1888, sold at Sotheby’s New York this past May for $66.3 million.

    The later Arles picture comes from the Belgian collection of Louis and Evelyn Franck, who acquired the painting from Galerie Moos in Geneva in 1955. It has been on extended loan, along with other masterworks from the Franck collection (also on offer here), for some 20 years at Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, Switzerland. Other notable works from the Francks’ time-capsule collection include Picasso’s melancholic yet sultry, large-scale, Blue Period pastel Nu au jambes croisées, 1903, estimated at $8 million to $12 million; Paul Cézanne’s luscious Fleurs dans un pot d’olives, 1880–82, at $5 million to $7 million; and a spooky yet compelling James Ensor symbolist composition, Les Poissardes mélancoliques, 1892, at $3 million to $5 million.

    Other highlights include a radical and pristine 20th-century masterpiece—Kazimir Malevich’s Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval), 1920–22, right. Estimated at $35 million to $45 million, the painting, along with four others from the artist’s revolutionary series, resided at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum from 1958 to 2008, when the group was restituted back to the artist’s heirs after protracted negotiations with the city of Amsterdam. On behalf of those heirs, Sotheby’s sold Suprematist Composition, 1916, for $60 million in New York in November 2008, and Suprematism, 18th Construction, 1915, for £21.4 million ($33.6 million) at Sotheby’s London this past June.

    What implications might there be for Sotheby’s, which holds the sole Imp/mod sale of the week, since Christie’s decided to hold its sale in that category alongside postwar and contemporary offerings the week following? According to Shaw, “there’s no simple answer, but we’ve got the week all to ourselves.”

    November 8 – Phillips – 20th-Century and Contemporary Art
    Surprise, surprise! Phillips has carved out a new, hybrid category that further shakes the old alignments between 20th-century and contemporary art, and it is staging its rebranded sale on a Sunday evening, about as big a change as when department stores decided to open their doors on the seventh day. “It’s a strategically well-placed sale date,” says August Uribe, deputy chairman of the Americas at Phillips, explaining the change to a Sunday evening slot, “where we’re able to dovetail buyers from both markets.”

    The house is offering Giorgio de Chirico’s Neoclassical Gladiateurs au repos, 1928–29, left, which depicts a brawny crew of scantily clad Roman gentlemen who appear to be admiring one another. Estimated at $4 million to $6 million, it appears on the block for the first time, having been originally commissioned by de Chirico’s Paris dealer, Léonce Rosenberg, for his bespoke apartment. That commission consisted of nine large-scale gladiator paintings that have since been dispersed around the world in various museums and private collections, including the Barnes Foundation and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

    November 9 – Christie’s – The Artist’s Muse
    Following May’s headline-making “Looking Forward to the Past” curated sale, which totaled $705.8 million, Christie’s plans another cross-category offering. The delectable headliner this round is Modigliani’s rare and unassailably sexy reclining odalisque Nu couché, 1917–18, expected to achieve in excess of $120 million. The current artist record stands at $70.7 million, set by Tête, 1911–12, a stone sculpture that sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014, trailed slightly by Nu assis sur un divan (La belle Romaine), 1917, a vertical-format nude that made $68.9 million at that same house in November 2010. Nu couché is in the preferable and more languorous horizontal format, depicting the raven-haired beauty propped by a pillow with arms spread, cactuslike. “It’s truly one of the artist’s greatest examples,” says Brooke Lampley, New York head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, “and in the last five years, a Modigliani nude has been on the top of every collector’s wish list.” Speaking of this example, Lampley adds, “She’s a very sensual woman.”

    Other notable lots include Pablo Picasso’s Homme à l’épée, below, depicting a wild-eyed musketeer and dated July 25, 1969. The large-scale canvas, which carries an unpublished estimate in the region of $25 million, last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2009 for a mid-estimate £6,985,250 ($11.5 million).

    Alberto Giacometti’s iconic painted oil portrait James Lord, 1964, depicts a celebrated chronicler of artistic life in Montparnasse who died in 2009. It is estimated at $22 million to $30 million. Lord sat for 18 days in Giacometti’s cramped Paris atelier and wrote about the experience in his 1965 volume, A Giacometti Portrait, published by the Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the Giacometti retrospective there.

    November 10 – Christie’s – Postwar & Contemporary Art
    The evening sale is rich in British works, with Lucian Freud’s The Brigadier2003–04, a life-size portrait of Andrew Parker Bowles—better known as the former husband of Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall—shown seated in full-dress uniform. It is estimated at $25 million to $35 million and was featured in the “Lucian Freud: Portraits” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2012. The work comes from the estate of financier Damon Mezzacappa, the former vice chairman of Lazard Frères. The estate also includes Jasper Johns’s stunning Gray Painting with Spoon, 1962, above right, complete with ruler, magnet, and spoon and estimated at $8 million to $12 million.

    The blue-chip names continue with Agnes Martin’s six-foot-square Minimalist abstraction Happy Valley, 1967, bearing the faintest of perfectly inscribed lines. It too carries a $5 million to $7 million estimate. Martin is still undervalued in the scheme of unassailable masters; only five of her paintings have sold for more than $4 million at auction, topped by The Beach, 1964, which fetched $6.5 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2013. “It’s exactly what the market wants, especially coming on the heels of the Tate retrospective,” says Sara Friedlander, head of the postwar and contemporary evening sale at Christie’s.

    A unique phosphorous-bronze sculpture by Bruce Nauman, Untitled (Hand Group), 1997, composed of a double row of otherwise cut-off outstretched hands that fairly shout with Nauman’s imprimatur, is expected to bring $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

    November 11 – Sotheby’s – Contemporary Art
    With so much contemporary firepower discharged from the Taubman single-owner sale selections on November 4, Sotheby’s reserved one of the season’s standout offerings, Cy Twombly’s astonishing blackboard painting Untitled, 1968 (New York City), seen at right, for this evening. Expected to realize in excess of $60 million, the painting comes from the collection of Audrey Irmas, the Los Angeles–based philanthropist who has pledged $30 million from the offering to benefit the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and its campaign for a new building designed by the Rem Koolhaas–led Office for Metropolitan Architecture. The rest will benefit the Audrey Irmas Foundation for Social Justice, making this lot a charitable bonanza.

    The 68-by-90-inch abstraction, executed in oil-based house paint, wax crayon, and pencil on canvas, is one of approximately 35 so-called blackboard paintings, of which 14 are large-scale, and 8—the most desirable, including one in Jasper Johns’s collection—bear Twombly’s fully and beautifully formed chalklike loops that race across the black background. This looped example, acquired by Irmas 25 years ago, is the largest in the series. A somewhat smaller version (61¼ by 74¾ inches), Untitled from 1970, sold at Christie’s New York in November 2014 for a record $69.6 million. The seller was Nicola Del Roscio, the artist’s longtime studio assistant.

    Sotheby’s is also offering a satyrlike Francis Bacon painting, Portrait, 1962. Featuring a naked man dead center on a heart-shaped couch in a typically barren Baconesque chamber, it is estimated at $12 million to $18 million.

    “I’m a little more cautious this season on the very young front and staying more focused on the classic contemporary,” says Alexander Rotter, co-worldwide head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s. “Freshness to the market is more crucial now than it ever was. As for our Twombly, it is the biggest and the best and blows everything else out of the water.”

    November 12 – Christie’s – Impressionist & Modern Art
    Sculpture leads the evening with an impressive grouping, including a 19-inch-long Henri Matisse bronze, Nu couché II, from a 1951 cast and consigned by Jacquelyn Miller Matisse, daughter of New York dealer Pierre Matisse and granddaughter

    of the artist. It carries a $1.5-million-to-$2.5-million estimate. The house is also offering a group of European bronzes from revered San Francisco collectors Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson (better known as Hunk and Moo in the collecting community) that includes Max Ernst’s lifetime bronze Un ami empressé, 1957, estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, and Jacques Lipchitz’s monolithic Tête, a lifetime bronze conceived in 1915 and cast before 1968, pegged at $300,000 to $500,000. The Andersons acquired it from a Los Angeles dealer in 1971.

    The sculpture parade continues with a rare Expressionist figure by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Tänzerin mit gehobenem Bein, 1913. The unique, 26-inch-high piece, in scored, carved, and painted oak and depicting a posed and costumed ballerina, is pegged at $3 million to $6 million.

    There’s also an unusual Picasso bronze, Le bouquet, 1953–54, just in market time for the Picasso sculpture retrospective at moma. With a surface incised in Abstract-Expressionist fury and bearing a brown and green patina, it is estimated at $1.5 million to $2.5 million. “Picasso sculpture,” says Brooke Lampley, New York head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, “is relatively undervalued and under-explored, compared with his paintings and drawings.”

    There are also plenty of Picasso offerings on canvas, including the early and pretty Tête de femme, 1900, bearing the telltale signature “P Ruiz Picasso” and estimated at $1.5 million to $2 million, and an ominous and imposing Le hibou sur la chaise, 1947, still bearing the darkness of the war years, at $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

    Impressionist selections are rather thin this season, though Christie’s has a first-rate Camille Pissarro, Le jardin de Maubuisson, Pontoise, 1881, depicting the verdant surroundings of the beautiful townscape, expected to bring $3 million to $5 million.
    The Pissarro originally came from Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie in Paris, whose founder, Paul Durand-Ruel, was the subject of an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that closed in September. There is also a late Claude Monet oil, Iris jaunes au nuage rose, 1924–25, left, which is estimated at $6 million to $8 million. 

    A version of this article appears in the November 2015 issue of Art+Auction.

    Pablo Picasso's "Femme assise sur une chaise"

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    3 Questions for Architect James Wines

    James Wines, the architect, artist, and founder of SITE Environmental Design, is something of a living legend. When the idea of form for form’s sake became popular in the architectural profession in the late 1980s — a trend that’s just now wearing off — Wines and his storied 45-year practice took the long view. A champion of sustainability, environmental conscientiousness, and architecture that responds first and foremost to its context and its program, Wines and his impressive output in architecture, product design, and sculpture are being revisited with urgency by a younger generation of architects who share — and hope to build upon — the architectural concerns he began exploring in the 1970s.

    And so it’s fitting that Wines is part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, an exhibition up through January 3, 2016 that focuses primarily on much younger and less-established architects — many of whom would consider him not only a forefather or predecessor, but also an icon. Wines is best known for his comical (perverse, even) 1970s shopping center designs for Best Products, a now-defunct catalog showroom company. Yet his show at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, which was timed to open alongside the Biennial as a complementary project to the main exhibition, brings to light a slightly lesser-known element of Wines’s work: his drawings. And while the exhibition of flat files closed on October 24, the projects and themes they depict synthesize some of the wide-ranging narrative arc of SITE’s output. ARTINFO sat down with Wines at his studio in New York to get the lowdown on his drawings, his interdisciplinary work in art, and his altogether unusual take on the world at large.

    The drawings at Rhona Hoffman Gallery span the breadth of your career in architecture, from the 1970s to the present. What are some of the concerns you’ve focused on in that timespan?

    My whole career has been a critique of architecture. It really is problematic; you can’t really do anything effectively without the so-called “capitalist system.” Was it Schwarzenegger who said, “Did you ever get a job from a poor person?” That’s true! In architecture, it’s completely predicated on — and has always been predicated on — the rich. Somebody has to feed down the money to get this thing done. And then what is done is often so obscene in terms of energy and humanity… it’s very problematic. It’s profoundly problematic in terms of the moral values that are expressed in architecture. But, you know, the capitalist paradigm is also highly questionable!

    What alternatives have you developed for working within this seemingly inescapable paradigm?

    A good sense of irony, from day one. I was a Constructivist sculptor — actually pretty successful — before this. But I thought, hasn’t this been done before? I was always interested in architecture anyway. Then I started looking around in architecture, and I realized that the situation is pretty sad in many ways: die-hard formalism, and it’s pretty narrowly framed in terms of what most practitioners do. They’re not brains, exactly.

    How would you characterize the role of drawings in your practice — as art objects? As technical documents? As both? As a bridge that allows your practice to exist between the two worlds?

    It is a bridge, there’s no question about it. Clearly, the fact that our drawings have been selling so well over the past year to major collections… somebody finally figured out that they’re probably more art than they are design. Design drawings, especially computer drawings — I mean, who wants them? They’re mechanical tools. I wonder, who’s left that knows how to draw? But I think a lot of people are interested in the fact that ideas do emerge from hand-drawing. I do a lecture on drawing, and I have this thing at the beginning about the human brain… there are like 500 million, billion connections in the human brain that make any computer on earth look like child’s play.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

    James Wines

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    $200M Van Gogh Will Stay at Yale, Obamas Opt for Abstract Art, and More

    — $200M Van Gogh Will Stay at Yale: A $200 million stolen painting by Vincent van Gogh will remain at Yale University, after a federal appeals court backed the university in a dispute over its ownership. During the Russian Revolution, “The Night Café” by the Dutch master was taken by the Soviets from Pierre Konowaloff’s family and sold to the school in 1961. The federal judge cited the doctrine that US courts do not honor foreign governments’ expropriation demands. [GuardianWP

    — Obamas Opt for Abstract Art: The Obamas are swapping out some of the fusty portraiture and landscapes in the White House for more modern and contemporary works, such as pieces by Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg. “There was discussion about the president and first lady liking more abstract art,” said William Allman, the curator of the White House art collection. “Our collection doesn’t really have any of that,” he said of the 500-piece collection. Melissa Chiu, the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which has let the Obamas borrow several paintings, said: “The recognition of African-American artists is a big piece of that. At many levels, you are seeing a diversification of the selection of artwork and artists that reveals the story of the United States.” [NYT]

    — Beirut’s Aishti Foundation Opens: A fixture of Beirut’s proposed cultural renaissanceTony Salamé’s $100-plus million Aishti Foundation opened on Sunday. The David Adjaye-designed “museum-cum-shopping mall” combines 90 retail spaces, for brands like Gucci and Prada, with 4,000 square meters of art exhibition space. “We’re thinking of having yoga classes in between the sculptures,” Salamé added. “This is a place where art is not intimidating.” The opening show, titled “New Skin” and drawn from Salamé’s personal collection, was curated by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni, who noted that the shopping sector is, in his opinion, “not challenging or problematic. Tony makes the money behind the [gallery] wall and he spends it in here. Fashion can really open up the audience to art.” [TAN]

    — Islamic State Detonates Palmyra Columns in Execution: On Sunday, the Islamic State executed three people by tying them to historic columns in Palmyra and blowing them up, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Activist Mohammad al-Ayed added: “IS is doing this for the media attention, so that IS can say that it is the most villainous, and so it can get people’s attention.” [ArtDaily]

    — Eduardo Chillida’s US Renaissance: Spanish modernist sculptor Eduardo Chillida is getting renewed attention in the US, including a pop-up show opening this Friday on Madison Avenue. [WSJ]

    — Hammer Museum Plans Expansion: After acquiring a full city block of property from Occidental Petroleum in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles for $92.5 million, the Hammer Museum plans to use the additional 40,000 square feet to expand its galleries, including permanent display space for works on paper and the Hammer Contemporary Collection. [LAT]

    — Melik Ohanian wins 2015 Marcel Duchamp PrizeBasel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rame win Abraaj Group Art Prize. [ArtforumTANArtnews]

    — Oops, cleaners have thrown away more art — this time, a piece made up of party debris by Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari at the Museion in Bolzano, Italy. [Telegraph, Independent]
    — And in light, pleasant news, French artist Christian Boltanski is counting down the seconds to his own death. [Guardian]

    $200M van Gogh Will Stay at Yale, Obamas Opt for Abstract Art

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