October 30th, 2009

London / New York

frieze-fair-sign

LONDON – The Frieze Art Fair has morphed into a city-wide phenomenon of massive proportions. Six full days in London still required choosing among the  fairs, museums, galleries, auctions, lectures, receptions, shopping and nightlife.

Mike Nelson, "Amnesiac Shrine", Zoo Art Fair

Mike Nelson, "Amnesiac Shrine", Zoo Art Fair

Frieze is jammed from the moment it opens. This year featured 150 international galleries plus outdoor sculpture in Regent’s Park and a panoply of events, talks, film, music, etc. A new section of the Fair, titled Frame, was dedicated to solo artist presentations from young galleries. The fair was very lively with plenty to see, although not equal to Basel (Switzerland) in terms of the breathtaking quality and range of the more senior fair. The accompanying Zoo Fair was alternative and edgy,  featuring video, installations and casually installed object works. The Fairs are just the  beginning of the visual feast in London.

Frieze Art Fair
Zoo Art Fair

Damien Hirst at the Wallace Collection

Damien Hirst at the Wallace Collection

London’s bad boy, Damien Hirst, managed another coup during the Fair with his installation of paintings at the Wallace Collection, a national museum of  unsurpassed holdings including French 18th century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and world class armor. The juxtaposition of the Hirst paintings with the historical material in the stately mansion created a huge buzz.  Hirst’s paintings are by his hand, purportedly sans assistants, and herald a new chapter in his work. Although the paintings were widely panned in the press, they were reportedly all sold, generated enormous crowds and conversation, and once again, seemed to give him the last word.

Wallace Collection

Anish Kapoor at the

Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy of the Arts

The Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts was spectacular.   Internationally acclaimed, a 1991 Turner Prize winner, and one of the most significant sculptors of his generation, this was a show to savor and to remember. It occupied five galleries, a first for a contemporary artist at the RAA. It surveyed Kapoor’s career to-date, showcasing new and previously unseen works. It was my favorite show of the week, along with “Maharaja”, a blockbuster at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Royal Academy of Art

Portrait from "Maharaja" at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Portrait from "Maharaja" at the Victoria and Albert Museum

“Maharaja” presents the splendor of India’s royal courts, from the beginning of the 18th Century through the influence of the British empire and on to the establishment of India’s independence. Over 250 objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity including, paintings, jewels, furniture, photographs and even a car, dazzle in their beauty and refinement. Historic film footage adds to the immediacy of the exhibition. It’s the kind of show in which the V&A truly excels.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Eva Rothschild at Tate Britain

Eva Rothschild at Tate Britain

Tate Britain has become a wonderful amalgam of historic British works combined with the best of the up and coming Brit artists. The lobby featured the Duveens’ Commission, a hypnotic installation by Eva Rothschild. Other galleries showcased the 2009 Turner Prize nominees. They include Enrico David, Roger Hiorns, Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright.  The winner will be announced on December 7. Also on view was “Turner & the Masters”, an exhibition which juxtaposed the great Turner paintings with related works by Rubens, Canaletto, Rembrandt, Poussin and Titian.

Tate Britain

Ed Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery

Ed Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery

Southern California had a huge presence in London with two major retrospective exhibitions, Ed Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery and John Baldessari at Tate Modern. Both shows were terrific and both artists were present to be feted and make themselves available through lecture presentations and conversations at the institutions and at Frieze.   The SoCal presence extended through the Saatchi Gallery exhibition, “Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture.   Dominant artists from LA included Patrick Hill, Sterling Ruby, Mark Bradford, Jonas Wood, Matt Johnson, Bart Esposito, and Jedediah Caesar.

Hayward Gallery
Tate Modern
Saatchi Gallery

Video still, Takashi Murakami, Tate Modern

Video still, Takashi Murakami, "Pop Life",Tate Modern

In addition to Baldessari’s show, “Pure Beauty”, which features more than 130 works including paintings, books and prints, Tate Modern is presenting ”Pop Life”. This major overview show unites artists from the 1980′s such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and others who have embraced commerce and the mass media to build their own “brands”.  Reviews have been mixed.  However, using music, memorabilia and lively installations, the exhibition captures the energy, innovation and boldness of the period. In addition to the above, Sophie Calle was at Whitechapel with the fabulous show, “Take Care of Yourself”, a highlight at the Venice Biennale in 2007. The Courtauld Gallery featured  Frank Auerbach’s paintings of London building sites, considered to be among the most important contributions to post-war painting in Britain.

Whitechapel Gallery
Courtauld Gallery

Not to be outdone by the museums, the shows at the London galleries were stellar. Among the most memorable were Anselm Kiefer at White Cube; Glenn Brown at Gagosian; Grayson Perry at Victoria Miro,  Yinka Shonebare at Stephen Friedman, and Walead Beshty at Thomas Dane. And then there were the auctions at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s…I covered so much ground in London, I actually got shin splints!

Robert Frank, from "The Americans", Metropolitan Museum of Art

Robert Frank, from "The Americans", Metropolitan Museum of Art

NEW YORK – I always like stopping in New York for a few days on the way back from Europe to mitigate jet lag. I caught two pivotal shows at the Metropolitan, among other significant ones around town. Robert Frank’s “The Americans” celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of his seminal suite of black and white photographs made on a cross-country road trip in 1955-56. The book of prints depicting American Life was initially criticized.  Eventually it became recognized as a masterpiece of street photography.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johannes Vermeer, "The Milkmaid", Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johannes Vermeer, "The Milkmaid", Metropolitan Museum of Art

Another masterpiece, “The Milkmaid” by Johannes Vermeer  (1632-1675) is on view from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in a cameo exhibition of wonder. The exhibition brings together all five paintings by Vermeer from the Met’s collection along with a select group of works by other Dutch artists to lend historical context. This occasion marks the first time “The Milkmaid” has been seen in the US since the 1939 World’s Fair.

Vermeer/Metropolitan

September 3rd, 2009

Saatchi

Charles Saatchi, 2009

Charles Saatchi, 2009

Uber-collector, Charles Saatchi, rarely gives interviews, so a provocative article in the August 30 edition of The Observer was of keen interest.  In advance of the publication of his new book, “My Name is Charles Saatchi and I Am an Artoholic”, Saatchi shared some viewpoints.  His razor-sharp wit leavened with wry humor and seasoned insight is a great read.  On the subject of undiscovered talent, he noted “By and large, talent is in such short supply that mediocrity can be taken for brilliance rather more than genius can go undiscovered.”  The book is due out on September 8, Phaidon Press.  The Observer

Damien Hirst, "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of

Damien Hirst, "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living"

Saatchi is also launching a new reality television show, “Saatchi’s Best of British” on BBC2 this November.  It will feature six artists which Saatchi has personally selected from relative obscurity.  They will be put through a specially created art school for three months with the goal of discovering the next great artist, perhaps another Damien Hirst.  Saatchi TV Show The Saatchi website has already become a portal of its own.  Saatchi online

August 26th, 2009

Aspen

Fred Tomaselli, Aspen Art Museum

Fred Tomaselli, Aspen Art Museum

Aspen is one of the great summer destinations due to its exceptional combination of the outdoors and first-rate cultural programming.  Hiking the Maroon Bells in the morning and listening to Mozart at the music tent in the afternoon is an unbeatable combination.    The Aspen Art Museum had an outstanding exhibition of work by Fred Tomaselli.   The show chronicles the work over the past fifteen years and it is an impressive group of paintings.  The show will travel to the Brooklyn Museum and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.    Aspen Art Museum

One evening there was a presentation of the film “Herb and Dorothy” (no relation!)  which recounts the collecting history of the Vogels.  They were clients of mine in the 80′s.  I visited their apartment in New York, and it was very much as depicted in the movie.  Artwork hanging off the blinds, under the bed, and stacked everywhere.   The film perfectly captures the passion of collecting and proves it can be done on a shoestring, given a sharp eye, an inquiring mind and personal conviction.  Check it out.

James Surls sculpture, view from the studio

James Surls sculpture, view from the studio
James Surls, sculpture

James Surls, sculpture

Aspen and the surrounding communities are also home to a number of working artists.  Chief among them is the sculptor James Surls.  This summer Surls’ sculpture graced the medians along Park Avenue in New York.  His studio near Carbondale is a dream come true for space and location, with a view that is breathtaking.   Scale and ambition have no bounds in this environment.  Surls’ aura has always been slightly larger than life, and so it continues here in the Rockies.   James Surls

Jody Guralnick, unique plate

Jody Guralnick, unique plate

Painter, Jody Guralnick, has created a more intimate direction by translating themes and patterns from her work on canvas to dishware, via an inspired new company, Dish Studio.   Every piece is unique, front and back, and hand patterned, painted, glazed, and fired in her studio.  Dish Studio

The convergence in Aspen of creativity, intellect, food, real estate and people from around the globe, all happily enjoying the mountains, conspires for a heady mix indeed.  And for a little extra edge, there are plenty of bears!

June 18th, 2009

Basel

 

Yoshitomo Nara, Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

Yoshitomo Nara, Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

The Basel Art Fair is the world’s premier international art show for modern and contemporary  works.  Approximately 300 leading  galleries from around the globe featuring more than 2500 artists, ranging from modern masters to emerging talent, are on view in the show’s multiple sections.  The quality and quantity of works for sale is awesome and overwhelming.   Despite opening anxiety due to the current market conditions, business was much better than expected.  The fair reported 61,000 art lovers in attendance by the closing day.  Although there were fewer Americans than usual, Europeans were out in full force.   In it’s 40th year, Art Basel is the main event, but the entire town is given over to art during this period.  Satellite fairs included Scope, Volta, Liste, and Design Miami.  The major museums including the Kunstmuseum, the Kunsthalle, Schaulager and the Beyeler add to the must-see list.

 

Bharti Kher, "The Wag Tree", Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

Bharti Kher, "The Wag Tree", Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

The Art Unlimited section of the Basel Art Fair was launched in 2000 to showcase large-scale installations, video projections, massive sculptures and live performances.  Works are selected by the Art Committee and curated by by Geneva curator, Simon Lamuniere.  In addition to the individual gallery booths, this section is always a lively highlight of the main Fair.  The sculpture above by renown Indian artist, Bharti Kher, is a fallen tree made of fiberglass whose leaves are hundreds of gargoyle-like animal heads.

 

Chairs, Design Miami/Basel

Chairs, Design Miami/Basel

Following its success in Miami Beach, Design Miami/Basel has become a more highly anticipated part of the scene, featuring both historical and contemporary furniture.  The historical works exemplify pioneering forms and techniques of  impeccable quality and rarity.  The contemporary works represent the height of limited-edition production while embracing the most progressive design directions.  The presentation is closely vetted, moving  from pieces of exceptional refinement to exhilarating new statements.

 

Franz West installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

Franz West installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

 

Installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

Installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

The Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel, was designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 1997.   The collection comprises approximately 200 works by 40 artists beginning with Late- and Post Impressionism, through Cubism,  American Abstract Expressionism and selected European modernists.  These works are supplemented by sculptures from Africa, Alaska and Oceania.  The exquisite aesthetics of the architecture framing the artworks of exceptional quality combine for an unparalleled viewing experience.  Every time I am in this museum, I am moved to tears.  It is visually and intellectually arresting at the highest level.

 

Dionisio Gonzales, "Post Utopias" (detail), Scope Art Fair

Dionisio Gonzales, "Post Utopias" (detail), Scope Art Fair

 

Cordy Ryman, Volta Art Fair

Cordy Ryman, Volta Art Fair

In contrast to Art Basel, the satellite fairs generally offer younger and less well known artists at prices that are more accessible than those found at the main fair.  The presentations may be quite uneven, but combing through them is informative and useful for discovering new galleries, new artists or familiar artists in unexpected places.  Whether you’re a connoisseur or a novice, a week spent in Basel during the fair is one of the richest art experiences of the year.