Nick Lord, 25, wins commission to paint Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel for a portrait which will hang in the British Library.Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
It has bejeweled the upper crust for over a century. A new retrospective in Paris looks back at the house’s work from its birth in 1847—including Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara.
At MoMA, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin riff on Bertolt Brecht's take on conflict.
These are two pages from “War Primer 2”, a gripping artist’s book by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin that I saw in the New Photography 2013 show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The book is an intervention into another volume: Bertholt Brecht’s own “War Primer”, which he published in German in 1955. It consisted of press images from World War II paired with four-line poems that cast light – and doubt – on the photos’ meanings. Broomberg and Chanarin have simply taken Brecht’s pages (in their 1998 English translation) and collaged on images of our recent “War on Terror” that they found on the Web. It’s sad, but I guess inevitable, that over more than 50 years the issues and imagery have stayed so much the same. The artistic strategies have too, which is much more surprising. When they work this well there may be no reason to change them.
David Blatherwick's videos fill a church with bird calls.
This is a detail from David Blatherwick’s installation called “I Wish I Knew”, in St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto. Blatherwick videotaped five members of the church’s fine choir as they whistled transcriptions of real bird song, then mounted the results in various corners of the sacred space. (Click here to see video of the piece.) When you first enter the building, you think a small gaggle of songbirds has somehow got trapped in the church. And when you spot the little video monitors showing the singers, that impression doesn’t much change: We’re so used to humans who make human sounds that birdsong never quite seems to come from their lips, even when we see it coming forth. For centuries, European composers played with the idea of incorporating bird song into their music. (The clavecinistes of the French baroque were especially keen on the idea.) Blatherwick does without the music, and finds enough pleasure just in the birds. Saint Francis would have been proud.
You missed it. The biggest bash of the year and you weren’t even there. Good thing all of these people were. What the tongues are wagging about at the end of Miami Art Basel.
“What I love most about the art week in Miami is the incredible contrast between the absolute professionalism of fair directors, gallerists, and artists by day and our absolute debauchery by night on boats, behind bushes and in sultry underground dens of iniquity,” says Shiva Lynn Burgos, an artist with work at Freight & Volume at Pulse. “Case in point Tuesday's White Cube kick-off party at Soho House and Le Baron at the Florida Room Delano last night.”
I was not at the White Cube bash nor at Le Baron. Mundane but pressing matters kept me away from Art Basel Miami this year, which was frustrating because pre-fair buzz had suggested that things were finally going into hyperdrive, that the branding events and celeb parties were going to euthanize – or Kardashianize - the art.
I decided to call a few friends and write about ABM anyway. So here we have it: The Tongues of Art Week. Or some of them.
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Sinning in Miami Beach? Talk to Father G, better known as writer Glenn O’Brien, who launched ‘Penance,’ based on his performance art, complete with a Catholic-style confessional booth.
Each year at Art Basel in Miami Beach, the fashion and art crowds parachute in for a week of parties and debauchery where sinning is aplenty.
So Alldayeveryday, the group behind the pop-up Newsstand in Brooklyn’s Lorimer subway station, and writer Glenn O’Brien seized the opportunity to launch his book, Penance, along with a Catholic-style confessional at the bayside Standard Spa.
Penance is an account of a performance that O’Brien held in May 2012 at New York’s iconic Chelsea Hotel, where he took on the pious role of Father G, listening to people’s dark secrets and offering them advice in an actual confessional booth, while surrounded by artworks by artist Richard Prince.
Unfortunately, the original confessional wasn’t able to make its way to Florida, so visitors sat with O’Brien and cleared their conscience as he signed books and offered advice in a fresh enclosure created just for the event.
His Black Paintings are too lovely not to also be jokes.
The last in a week of 1960s Black Paintings by Ad Reinhardt, inspired by the show now at David Zwirner in New York. As I hope has been clear from the images (if not the texts) of my weeklong celebration, Reinhardt’s paintings are, among other things, gorgeous to look at. Arrayed in orderly series around one of Zwirner’s deluxe white-walled spaces, they are all you could ask for in elegance and grace. I can’t imagine any lofty condo that wouldn’t look better with two or three on the walls. And that’s one of the pitfalls of these pictures, and of pictures in a similarly “spiritual” vein by the likes of Rothko and Agnes Martin: Their artistic substance can easily sublimate into stylish but vaporous design. Reinhardt’s black-on-black paintings often seem to slide into the same register as the lovely black-on-black crepes of a classic Armani suit – but without the extra heft that function always lends to fashion.
That’s why I’ve spent this week stressing the conceptual side of Reinhardt. If we imagine his paintings as both beautiful, visually, and more than a bit absurd, conceptually, I think that can keep them, and us, a bit off-balance, as the Black Paintings and their viewers must have been in the 1960s.
One art historian I know took exception to the way I’ve been implying that Duchampian art (and therefore what I’m claiming as its Reinhardtian progeny) is made up of immaterial and un-visual, or even anti-visual, gestures. He’s pointed out that the specifics of what a readymade is – the shape and size and nature of the object the artist selects – mattered to Duchamp, and ought to matter to us. I completely agree: I’ve written about how, to understand Duchamp’s “Fountain”, we need to understand the original meanings of porcelain urinals, which came closer to being deluxe than abject or common. But I still think that what Duchamp made clear is that such readings are destabilized – made richer than the usual propellers-are-beautiful line – when the objects we are reading also seem absurd and almost arbitrary. When we believe that Duchamp might as easily have chosen another piece of plumbing (but didn’t) and when we imagine that Reinhardt could have juggled different blacks (but didn’t), we are made to look and think longer and deeper. Reinhardt’s surfaces are stunning, but they’re better for the guffaw underneath. (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, purchase, with funds from The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund, ©2013 Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London)
A brilliant documentary, directed by Teller of Penn & Teller fame, chronicles a 5-year quest to solve a 350-year-old mystery—and gets to the heart of what it means to be an artistic genius.
What if you could paint like Johannes Vermeer? What if everyone could? How would that transform our beliefs about artistic genius?
Tim Jenison/Sony Pictures Classics
Those are the questions at the heart of the brilliant new documentary Tim’s Vermeer, which was released Friday in New York and was just shortlisted for an Academy Award. (It opens in L.A. on Dec. 13 and nationwide on Jan. 31.) Directed by Teller, the silent half of the legendary Penn & Teller magic team, Tim’s Vermeer tells the story of a tech geek named Tim Jenison who embarks on a quixotic 5-year-long quest to solve the 350-year-old mystery of how Vermeer achieved the unparalleled light effects that made him one of the most revered and unfathomable painters of all time—and to try to achieve the same effects himself, even though he doesn’t really know how to paint.
Yayoi Kusama’s new mirrored-room installation has turned her exhibition at New York’s David Zwirner into one of the final “must see” art shows of the year. Beware the lines.
Art galleries have always been a great escape for those looking to appreciate art while avoiding the throngs of spectators that tend to congregate at the major museum exhibitions. But, the David Zwirner gallery in New York City is proving that may no longer be the case.
On November 8, the contemporary art gallery’s 19th Street location opened its doors for the debut of Yayoi Kusama: I Who Have Arrived In Heaven. Within days people were lining the block. But, they weren’t queuing up to see the paintings that lined the walls—there’s little to no wait for that portion of the exhibit. Instead, the one to three hour wait is for a brief immersion inside the celestial Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.
The gallery expected a big turnout, but after pictures from inside the reflective room began hitting social media, both locals and visitors started showing up in droves, turning the exhibition into one of the final “must see” art shows of the year.
Kaitlyn Bradford, 20, took time in between classes at New York University to experience the attraction with her roommates. “We heard about it from friends after seeing their photos on Instagram,” she said. “I missed the big rain show at MoMA because the lines were out of control, but I can manage an hour wait.”
Reinhardt's subtlety makes us look until we can't look any more.
Yet another picture from my week-long study of the Black Paintings of Ad Reinhardt, now being celebrated at David Zwirner in New York. This canvas was painted in 1960.
So far this week, I've been stressing the conceptual, even anti-retinal side of Reinhardt's project, but it would be crazy to go too far in that direction. The extreme subtleties in his paintings do demand the closest of looking, to be made out at all: The less there is to see, the more work we must do to see it. But as I sat there staring and staring and staring at Reinhardt's modulated blacknesses, something strange started to happen: I couldn't see them, or much of anything, anymore. The strain such looking put on my entire perceptual system, from eyeball to retina to cortex to mind, brought it close to a point of collapse. Staring at an almost-black square, brightly lit on a white wall, has some of the same blinding effect as staring too long at a black dot on a sheet of white paper: Generalized dazzle replaces the details of vision, to the point where you can't tell what's an illusory spot thrown up by your exhausted eyes and what's a real feature of Reinhardt's painting. This means that a painting that, more than most, invites close contemplation also sets out to foil it – which of course is as much a conceptual gambit as a sensory one.
Reinhardt's game of sensory exhaustion reveals something else: Paintings that seem to be all, and only, about the details of their surfaces – paintings that seem entirely self-contained, within the limits of their frames – are actually hugely interactive with their environments and their viewers. (To use Michael Fried's famous language, they seem "absorptive", like a Frank Stella, but turn out to be "theatrical", like a Donald Judd.) The Black Paintings change radically as the lighting on them changes; they change as we move side to side in front of them, and as we move close and then retreat, and as we grow tired then refresh ourselves. And they seem to demand such changes and displacements, across both space and time, to fully reveal themselves.
Even as they offer such visual self-revelation, however, Reinhardt's paintings don't provide the kind of stable stimuli that we associate with perceptual art, but provide instead the extreme, disabling flux of the most radical conceptualism. Yet where many conceptual works can boil down to a single conceit or joke or gesture, the perceptual richness of the Black Paintings – even their disabling dazzle – keeps us looking for more. Maybe they enable thinking by letting us watch as our looking gets disabled.
‘The Final Member’ chronicles the race between a womanizing nonagenarian and a well-endowed kook to get a human penis in Iceland’s Phallological Museum. Only one penis can win.
Iceland is home to many wonders. Volcanic mountains. The Blue Lagoon. Musical acts Björk, Of Monsters and Men, and Sigur Rós. Four-time “World’s Strongest Man” winner Magnús Ver Magnússon. The evil ice hockey team in D2: The Mighty Ducks.
Icelandic Phallological Museum. A collection of penises from mink whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). (commons.wikimedia.org)
It also has the distinction of hosting the world’s only penis museum.
Located in Húsavik, a tiny waterside town about 50 km below the Arctic Circle, The Iceland Phallological Museum boasts the world’s largest display of penises—and penile parts. The collection consists of 280 specimens from 93 species, including foxes, pigs, and walruses. The biggest penis on display is that of a sperm whale, measuring 5 feet 7 inches and weighing 154 pounds—and that’s just the tip. The smallest item in the museum is the penis bone of a hamster, which measures less than 2 mm and has to be observed via microscope. There’s the penis of a Cave Bear, a species that became extinct 10,000-15,000 years ago, as well as the alleged penises of Huldufolk (Icelandic elves) and trolls.
To see how much it could raise.
As Detroit struggled with its descent into bankruptcy, it always had at least one bright spot: its world-class Detroit Institute of Arts. Now, as the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, pressures the museum to contribute to helping with municipal debt, experts from Christie’s have valued the most lucrative parts of its collection at between $453 million and $866 million. Creditors have been pushing for the museum’s assets to be auctioned off, saying the collection isn’t essential. Previously, art experts valued 38 of its masterpieces at more than $2.5 billion.