Archive for the 'Museums' Category


Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Punta Della Dogana, Venice

The Venice Biennale is the oldest, and remains the grand dame, of the international art expositions for contemporary art. This year it encompasses 89 national pavilions, 37 official collateral shows and other parallel events, on view through November 27. The exhibition is spread between the Giardini, the Arsenale, the six administrative units of the city plus the nearby islands.  The Biennale is a complex weave of aesthetics, politics, competition and mercantilism.  It strives to be meaningful and historic.  The contemporary art plays against the legacy of the great Venetian masters such as Tintoretto which adds to the visual tapestry of it all.


Christoph Schlingensief, the German Pavilion, Giardini

Prizes are awarded for the best national pavilion and the best individual artist.  The Golden Lion for the best pavilion went to Germany for the haunting installation by Christoph Schlingensief, who passed away in August 2010.  The installation involves a recreation of his piece, “A Church of Fear vs The Alien Within” originally conceived in 2008.  Schlingensief portrays his illness, using his own painful experience to examine the existential cycle of life, suffering and death.  Engaging film and music as well as key influences such as the art of Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement, maxiumum effect is achieved.  The environment is rarified.

Christian Marclay, "The Clock", Arsenale

The Golden Lion for best artist went to Swiss-American, Christian Marclay, for his astounding film, “The Clock”.  Composed of thousands of movie clips that feature clocks, watches and the conjuring of time, it is literally a 24-hour clock that corresponds exactly to the viewer’s real time.  It is a huge love letter to the movies while being the quintessential work of appropriation art.   The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently acquired one copy of the film from the edition of six for their permanent collection.


In addition to the German Pavilion, other standouts are the pavilions of the US, Egypt, Poland and Korea.  Death and politics emerge as shared themes.  While the sun shines and the water laps against the docks, challenging content reigns.

United States

Allora and Calzadilla, "Gloria", US Pavilion, Giardini

The US is represented by the team of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.  The presentation focuses on unedifying aspects of American military presence, domination, and commercialism.  For sheer audacity and ingenuity, it makes an impact.  The installation involves several performative pieces and an interactive piece.  Outside the pavilion an overturned tank is crowned with a treadmill.  Each hour an Olympic athlete runs atop the tank to a cacophony of sound that cannot be avoided or ignored.  Inside a large harp-like structure houses a working ATM machine from which a user can extract euros.  Upon the dispensation of money, music rings out.  While the metaphors are witty and the execution is unique, for this American the whole felt somewhat embarrassing and certainly elicited no pride.


Ahmed Basiony, Egyptian Pavilion, Giardini

Egypt is represented by Ahmed Basiony.  The artist was shot and died in January amid the protests against the Egyptian government in Tahir Square.  This tribute exhibition includes footage of his last performance in 2010, “30 Days of Running in the Space”. He jogged for an hour each day for 30 days in a plastic suit.   His sweat levels and the distance traveled were converted into a digital display.  The video of this piece is displayed alongside footage he filmed during the revolution before he was assassinated. It’s a powerful duo.  The artist running in his suit with echoes of the Olympian running on the tank nearby created an unexpected and eerie dialogue.


Yael Bartana, "...and Europe Will Be Stunned", Polish Pavilion, Giardini

Israeli-born Yael Bartana represents Poland.  She is showing three films based on her provocative invented entity, the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland.  The movement calls for the return of millions of Jews to their Polish homeland.  The startling concept is presented with complete conviction and veracity, so that one questions its reality.  The possibilities give full sway to the imagination.


Lee Yong-baek, "Pieta:Self Death", Korean Pavilion, Giardini

Lee Yong-baek represents Korea with a mixed media installation titled “The Love is Gone but the Scar Will Heal.  “Broken Mirror” is a room of mirrors that engage a high-speed camera and complex electronics.  The mirrors shatter by shot from flying bullets and then dramatically and repeatedly reconstitute themselves.  Two large-scaled sculptures have a non-threatening presence but perpetuate a theme of death and violence.


Urs Fischer, Statue of Rudolf Stingel, Arsenale

Urs Fischer, "Rape of the Sabine Women", Arsenale

In addition to the remarkable Christian Marclay work, Arsenale pieces by London-based Urs Fischer and sisters Shadia and Raja Alem from Saudi Arabia are memorable.  Urs Fischer created a full-scale wax copy of the 16th century sculptor Giambologna’s  “Rape of the Sabine Women”.  Facing this work is a wax portrait statue of friend and artist, Rudolf Stingel.  Both works have wicks integrated within them. When lit, the pieces gradually burn down and assumedly will be a puddle of wax.  When I was there, the head had come off the Stingel figure.  Both pieces were rendered majestically and had a commanding, ephemeral presence.

Shadia and Raja Alem, "The Black Arch", Saudi Arabia, Arsenale

Shadia and Raja Alem are officially representing Saudi Arabia with a sculptural stage-like work titled “The Black Arch”.  The work integrates the artist’s collective memories of blackness from their home in Mecca.  The references of blackness originate from the black silhouettes of Saudi women, the black cloth of the Al Ka’ba and the black stone which is said to have enhanced their knowledge.  As a counter point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, meant to reflect the present and the light of Venice.  Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive a car.  They must seek permission from their husbands to attend school or to travel.  And yet, the government finds women suitable to represent their country in this international exhibition.  Is it a comment on the insignificant regard in which they hold contemporary art?  Or perhaps they have overlooked the power inherent within it.


International mega-collectors have pushed the public/private sphere onto center stage in Venice. Since 1980, Peggy Guggenheim’s spectacular collection of European and American art of the first half of the 20th century has been an anchor in Venice.   The museum’s current exhibition of the late Ileana Sonnabend’s collection is a splendid view of another astute female dealer’s personal choices.  Featuring Italian and international artists, it makes an informative complement to the other collateral exhibitions.

Privately Funded Initatives

Maurizio Cattelan, Pinault Collection, Punta Della Dogana

In 2005, Francois Pinault, one of the largest collectors of contemporary art in the world, acquired the Palazzo Grassi.  He has subsequently presented three distinct exhibitions showcasing works from his collection there.  In 2009, Pinault opened a second location, the Punta della Dogana, where his collection will be on permanent display.  Works of seminal artists, impeccably installed, fill both locations and offer an excellent picture of some of the top artists from the last two decades in contemporary art.

In 2006 Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, established the PinchukArtCentre, the first and largest contemporary art center in Central and Eastern Europe.  In Venice, the PAC presented the Future Generation Art Prize, the first global art prize to discover and offer long-term support to a future generation of artists.  The show is strong on video, including international favorites, Nathalie Djurberg and Cao Fei.  Of the works on view, 13 were made especially for Future Generation and 7 were premiered at the venue.  This may not be a must-see for the art, but for the ambition of the venture, take note.

Pino Pascale, Prada Foundation

Jeff Koons, Prada Foundation

Key among the privately funded initiatives is the Prada Foundation.  Housed in a restored 18th-century palazzo, the exhibition highlights  the collection and the architectural plans for the Foundation’s new headquarters in Milan, designed by Rem Koolhaas.   Italian Art from 1952-1964 forms the core of the presentation.  Individual works by Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Thomas Demand, among others, glorify the spaces.  A discerning sense of choice and acute sensitivity pervades the exhibition and it is wonderful.

Palazzo Fortuny

The Palazzo Fortuny transformed its’ four floors into a treasure trove of viewing, titled “Tra.Edge of Becoming”.  Organized by a curatorial team that included Rosa Martinez and Axel Vervoordt, the exhibition is a seductive cross-section of time, cultures and aesthetics meant to encourage the viewer to read the world through art.  If you love objects, this is your show.  Some of the artists included are Rodin, Abramovic, Fontana, Kapoor, Tapies, and Neshat, juxtaposed in a manner that enlivens them anew.


Barry X. Ball, Ca Rezzonico

Ca Rezzonico is one of the most beautiful museums in Venice, dedicated to 18th Century Venice.  As part of the Biennale contemporary artist, Barry X. Ball, integrated his classically inspired sculpture into the collection.  With exquisite execution and placement of the work, his sculpture creates an even more gratifying experience.

Antonio Canova's Tomb, Frari Church, Venice

One cannot depart Venice without a visit to the rich collections of the Accademia, the Frari Church and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.  Two other favorite churches are Santa Maria della Salute near Puntal della Dogana and Il Redentore on the Guidecca, designed by Palladio.

Ciao Venezia!  On to Basel!


Once again, the Basel Art Fair proved to be recession-proof.  The first days were a frenzy of buying activity.  Buyers at the fair are highly educated and selective.  The early vibes are intense and competitive. The quality, variety and depth of the work on show is simply breathtaking.  Since many acquisitions are made in the first hours and days of the fair, dealers come prepared to change their booths.  New pieces are put on view daily throughout the fair.  In addition, dealers are selling works that may be at their galleries or in other exhibitions.  Every dealer has an iPad – the most effective presentation tool on the planet.

Jason Rhodes, Art Statements, Basel Art Fair

Anish Kapoor, Art Statements, Basel Art Fair

Art Statements, the venue for large scale sculpture and video, has become one of the most compelling sections in the Fair along with Design Basel.  Both venues open the day before the main fair, so increasingly the audience arrives in advance for these first views.  With nearly 300 galleries, it takes two days to make a single, focused pass through the entirety of the Fair.  With all of the lectures, films, satellite fairs and local museums, check off a few more days.

Constantin Brancusi/Richard Serra, Beyeler Foundation, Basel

The Basel museum exhibitions were not as exciting as in other years.  However, a visit to the Beyeler Foundation is de rigueur.  The current exhibition “Constantin Brancusi and Richard Serra” seeks to create a dialogue between these two giants of sculpture.  I found the concept to be a stretch, but either artist alone inspires.  The Brancusi’s were sublime.

David Keating, "I Like for You to be Still", 2010, carpet, steel, pigment

Among the satellite fairs, Liste is the most salient for me.  It’s a good place to identify new talent, whether or not you’re buying and even if works have been sold out.   Mark Barrow’s paintings on linen that deal with the structure and geometry of weaving sold out at Elizabeth Dee.  The Zurich gallery, RaebervonStenglin, was making their debut at Liste and won a prize for the best booth which included the sculptor, David Keating.


Franz Gertsch, "Winter", Kunsthaus, Zurich

The Franz Gertsch Retrospective is on view at the Kunsthaus in Zurich through Sept 18.  The Kunsthaus is considered one of the most important museums in the world for modern and contemporary art.  It is always part of my Basel itinerary.  Gertsch is counted as one of Switzerland’s leading contemporary artists. The exhibition features approximately 30 large-scale paintings and woodcuts, culminating in his recently completed “Four Seasons Cycle”. Initially the exhibition seemed quiet and unsurprising.  But it opens up with a great fullness.  The meticulous work and thoughtful installation rewarded a contemplative viewing.


A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with

access and expertise,throughout the international art community.

Los Angeles / Spring Highlights

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

"Art in the Streets", Journal page detail, MOCA

Museum of Contemporary Art/”Art in the Streets”

April 17 – August 8, 2011

The much anticipated exhibition at MOCA, “Art in the Streets” created widespread controversy before it opened and continues to do so. Graffitti is blooming afresh around Los Angeles as viewers debate whether the work constitutes “art” and whether the museum is sanctioning and encouraging vandalism, among other issues. The show itself bristles with energy. The downside is its’ tendency to veer towards a Hollywood backlot feel. The upside is a genuine authenticity in much of the work.  Controversy aside, this exhibition can be celebrated for its vitality and for its insight into street culture.

Chauvet Cave, drawing detail

The Discovery at Chauvet
Current Release

Speaking of art on walls, the new Werner Herzog film, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”, is now in theaters.  Herzog gained exclusive right to film in the Chauvet Cave located in the valley of the Ardèche River in France. Discovered in 1994, Chauvet contains the earliest known cave paintings created more than 30,000 years ago. It depicts lions, mammoths, rhinos, bison, bears and horses, some of which are now extinct. Perhaps one can say graffiti has a very long history. Man is driven to express himself in the places within his reach and with the materials at hand. He draws to tell his story.

Francois Boucher, "Lady Fastening Her Garter", 1742, Getty Museum

The Getty/”Paris: Life & Luxury”
April 26 – August 7, 2011

A very grand and different story is on view at the Getty. “Paris: Life & Luxury” features the rich, material ambiance of Paris during the mid-18th century. Exhibiting furniture and clocks, dressing gowns and jewelry, musical instruments and games, a picture emerges of elite society in Paris, the fashion and cultural epicenter of Europe at the time. The signifiers of status, the values and expression of wealth, were not so different then than they are today. Read the wall labels as part of the pleasure of this frothy fare. It’s a long way from the streets.

Vija Celmins, "T.V", 1964, LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum/Vija Celmins
March 13 – June 5, 2011

While the sweeping exhibitions above tap into large cultural phenomena of their time, focused shows of individual endeavor offer an alternate experience. “Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster 1964-1966″ is an exhibition of exceptional rigor and conceptual depth. Celmins is best known for her night skies, ocean waves and spider webs. They were beautifully presented in her drawing retrospective at the Hammer Museum in 2007. This is the first exhibition to concentrate on the early paintings and sculptures that laid the technical and thematic groundwork for her later work. This show is a jewel and well-worth a visit among the smorgasbord of offerings at LACMA.

John Frame, sculpture detail, Huntington Library

Huntington Library/John Frame

March 12 – June 20, 2011

“Three Fragments of a Lost Tale”, the John Frame exhibition on view at the Boone Gallery, is one of  the surprise hits of the spring season.  A completely immersing exhibition combining sculpture, photography and a film of stop-motion animation, the show represents a huge leap forward for this Southern California artist.  The three dozen meticulously carved sculptures are fascinating along with the impeccable still photographs.  But the film is absolutely transcendant with its elusive narrative and stunning musical soundtrack.  The show is both entertaining and provocative as it  encourages each viewer to use his or her own imagination to find meaning in the whole.

Desert Garden, Huntington LIbrary

And of course, no trip to the Huntington is complete without a stroll through the themed gardens.  The Chinese Garden has filled out nicely since its’ inauguration in 2008.  The Japanese Garden is currently under renovation. My personal favorite, the Desert Garden, is in bloom and forever a story of sculptural form in nature.


A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with

access and expertise,throughout the international art community.


Friday, March 11th, 2011

Kathy Butterly at Tibor De Nagy, ADAA Fair

It was another frantic and fabulous week in New York for the art fairs and accompanying activities. The Armory Show on Piers 92 and 94 was too large and needed vetting, but it galvanized the audience. The ADAA show was tightly curated and elegant with high quality works. From Alice Neel’s intriguing paintings at Zwirner to the witty ceramic sculptures of Kathy Butterly at Tibor De Nagy, the range was broad and less predictable than in years past. Overall the mood was optimistic. New York exhibitors enjoyed synergistic business between their galleries and their booths.

Matthew Monaghan at Anton Kern, Independent Fair

Of the satellite fairs, my favorite was The Independent. No walls separated the booths. A spirit of comraderie and openness pervaded the entire three floors of the former Dia Center. Exhibitors were united in their distinctive vision and accessibility. The Modern Institute of Glasgow hosted a wonderful installation of the talented Victoria Morton. New York-based Anton Kern showcased a powerful sculpture by Matthew Monaghan. It was a community table of visual delight; we ate with our eyes.

Community table is a theme manifest all over town, literally and figuratively. People flock to Mario Batali’s Italian marketplace, Eataly. The new Foodhall beneath the Plaza Hotel is an upscale winner. Shoulder-to-shoulder, diners pack both counter-seating and shared tables. On Fifth Avenue, once the exclusive stronghold of high-end fashion, Prada and Gucci share street cred with H&M and Forever 21. The egalitarian attitude fostered by both economics and the internet is now part of the cultural fabric.

Kalup Linzy, "Lollypop", MOMA

Nowhere is the integration of multiple viewpoints more successfully presented than at the Museum of Modern Art. When High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, opened in October 1990, it created a firestorm of controversy. How prescient it was. Now the influence and coexistence of high and low culture, mix and match, represent style and intellectual inquiry at its best.

Paula Hayes, Lobby Installation, MOMA

On the top floor at MOMA, Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures focuses on the artist’s cinematic portraits and non-narrative, silent films from the mid-1960s. Downstairs Looking at Music 3.0, the third in a series of exhibitions exploring the influence of music on contemporary art practices, focuses on New York in the 1980s and 1990s. Abstract Expressionist New York and Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 alone would sate the palate, but then add contemporary art from the collection. A riveting video on view for the first time, Lollypop, 2006, by Kalup Linzy was worth watching twice. Gracing the lobby, one can marvel at artist and landscape designer Paula Hayes’ updated terrariums, botanical sculptures made from blown glass, silicone, or acrylic and filled with a rich variety of plant life. The style and breadth of MOMA programming sets the bar for every other institution.

Egon Schiele, Neue Galerie

Exhibition highlights elsewhere included the George Condo and Lynda Benglis shows at the New Museum, selections from the Emily Fisher Landau pledged gift at the Whitney Museum, the unparalleled Schieles at the Neue Galerie and the great David Hammonds show at L&M. While the art fairs bring everyone to town, New York remains a stellar event on any occasion.


A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with access and expertise, throughout the international art community.


Monday, November 1st, 2010

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

Paris is a favorite city for many people and now the art world has a compelling reason to put it on the calendar at least once a year. FIAC has come into its own and will become a growing force. The Fair included more international galleries this year, yet it’s size was very manageable.

FIAC, The Grand Palais

The Grand Palais, which held the main fair, was spacious and beautiful, a refined environment for presenting and viewing the work. Business was steady for quality works such as two Basquiats sold by New York dealer Van de Weghe. David Zwirner sold out his show of Adel Abdessemed. Paris dealer, Kamel Mennour, reported a sold out booth and other gallerists reported considerable sales. The second section of the Fair of mostly younger galleries was held nearby at the Cour Carree du Louvre. It was short on highlights. I also breezed through two of the four satellite fairs. These fairs were mostly European with predominantly French participation.

Thomas Houseago in the Tuileries

The Tuileries, the lovely gardens between the two FIAC venues, was installed with both permanent and temporary sculpture. Among the standouts were Thomas Houseago’s bronze figure, “Lumpy Man”, an intriguing work of snakes by Subodh Gupta, an Ugo Rondinone tree in the main pool and a colorful sculpture by the consistently engaging Franz West.

There was much debate among gallerists and visitors over whether FIAC or Frieze is the more desirable fair, especially given the proximity of their dates one week apart. Frieze has gravitated towards younger, edgier, less expensive offerings, while FIAC is emphasizing substantial, established artworks within a highly aesthetic presentation. Some galleries did both fairs and a few collectors managed both of them as well. It has grown into a more heated competition.

Yayoi Kusama at FIAC

In a nod to Paris, Larry Gagosian inaugurated a new branch of his gallery off the Champs Elysees during the Fair period. The opening exhibition was an impressive show of Cy Twombly paintings and sculpture. Among various speculation, word has it that Gagosian is establishing himself in the French capital ahead of Bernard Arnault’s museum, the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, designed by Frank Gehry. The Foundation is expected to be a transforming addition to the contemporary art scene.  Needless to say, it is also an opportunity for the gallery to exhibit unrepresented artists in the area and serve some very significant clients.

Eugene Delacroix, "Raft of the Medusa" at the Louvre

Whether it is Paris or London, these two world-class cities always have much to offer in terms of visual culture, not to mention food, fashion and architecture. In Paris, it is still a thrill to stand before the great works from art history such as Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa” at the Louvre or Manet’s “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe” at the D’Orsay. The list is long. Many days can be filled with visits to stellar institutions including the Pompidou, the Musee d’art moderne de La Ville de Paris, the Palais de Tokyo, the Jeu de Paume, the Musee Guimet, the Palace of Versailles, and on. I did my best. And of course, the Eiffel Tower still melts even the most cynical heart.

Jitish Kallat at the Chicago Art Institute


Prior to my French visit, I spent a few days in one of our own world renown cities, Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago unveiled their new modern wing designed by Renzo Piano in Spring 2009. It is an outstanding addition that truly enhances the viewing of the collection. A new site-specific installation by acclaimed Mumbai-based artist, Jitish Kallat has just been installed on the grand staircase of the main building. It is the first major presentation in an American museum of his work, on view until January 2, 2011.

Aaron Curry at the Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art featured “Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance and Joy”. This wonderful convocation of sculpture housed an entire room of the ebullient Alexander Calder. Adjacent were seven contemporary artists, chief among them LA-based favorite, Aaron Curry, and Jason Middlebrook. The Luc Tuymans exhibition, previously at SF MOMA was upstairs.

Chicago Skyline from Lake Michigan

A great Chicago pleasure is the architectural boat trip of the historic Chicago River and Lake Michigan skyline. This one-hour boat cruise introduces over 40 landmark buildings of modern American architecture and represents a historical chart of the power and wealth of Chicago. Between the architecture and the public sculpture, especially in Millenium Park, it is clear that Chicago is way beyond the “second city”.

Windover Hall, Milwaukee Museum of Art

Another significant architectural landmark, only 90 minutes by train, is the unique Quadracci Pavillion at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Highlights of the building are the magnificent cathedral-like space of Windhover Hall, with a vaulted 90-foot high glass ceiling and the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable sunscreen with a 217 foot wingspan that unfolds twice daily. I was fortunate to see it unfurl in all of its splendor.

Burke Brise Soleil, Milwaukee Museum of Art


Stephen Prina, "Aristotle-Plato-Socrates", 1982

“The Artist’s Museum” opened at MOCA on Oct 30 and runs through Jan 31, 2011. It is a survey show of 146 artists based in LA who have shaped the region and beyond since the museum opened in 1980. It is a pleasure to see some rarely exhibited works from the collection such as Mike Kelley’s, “Pay for Your Pleasure” and Stephen Prina’s, “Aristotle-Plato-Socrates” among others. But with the majority of artists represented by only one work, the extremely varied conceptual concerns, mediums and scales, it is a tough show to navigate with any clarity or cohesion. The exhibition certainly illustrates the explosion of pluralism of the last 30 years. But it raises the question of what aesthetic or intellectual contribution is made by a show like “The Artist’s Museum”? It has an aspect of generosity from the artist’s standpoint but runs the risk of feeling like an art fair without the sales component.  For an opposite and very edifying  experience, take another walk through the permanent collection which currently shares the space on Grand Avenue.