In 1968, Donald Judd — the artist known for his boxy, implacable sculptures and wall pieces — paid $68,000 for 101 Spring Street, a graceful but dilapidated five-story cast-iron building, and began his renovation by hauling out truckloads of trash. Over the years, he kept installing art and modifying the architecture in pursuit of an ideal balance. After his death in 1994, the building sat, stilled. Starting on June 3, after a three-year, $23 million restoration, the Judd Foundation will open 101 Spring to the public for guided tours in groups of eight by reservation. Art critic Jerry Saltz and architecture critic Justin Davidson walked through it together.
Way harsh: An Internet Famous painting of a nude Bea Arthur went for just $1.915 million after auction house Christie's estimated its value at anywhere between $1.8 and $2.5 million. You've already seen it. John Currin's infamous portrait, titled Bea Arthur Naked, is not necessarily an accurate rendering of the late Arthur's bosom (the actress never sat for Currin), but has made quite a stir online. With its viral fame already firmly intact, I guess the anonymous buyer didn't really need to pay extra? Or perhaps being famous on the Internet isn't actually related to your monetary value? We've censored her up top, but if you wanna see the real thing, it's (of course) on the Internet.
For the first time in eleven years, the hand on the tiller at Lincoln Center is changing. Reynold Levy, who raised staggering amounts of money and oversaw the $1.2 billion renovation of the campus, is retiring at the end of the year, and his successor, the Broadway impresario Jed Bernstein, now president of Above the Title Entertainment, inherits the next major construction project: the renovation of Avery Fisher Hall.* Bernstein spoke to Justin Davidson from the office that will become his on January 26, 2014.
1. In 1971, Carol Goodden, age 31, was living with her artist boyfriend, Gordon Matta-Clark, whose work involved stunty urban conceptual acts—cutting slices out of old buildings and the like. They shared a loft on East 4th Street. One evening, after a big birthday dinner party, the couple hatched a plan to open a place to eat in what was becoming known as Soho. (There were few options around, apart from Fanelli’s and some Greek diners.) The idea: provide jobs for friends while feeding others. Goodden got it started with a bit of family money.
Jeff Koons Is the Most Successful American Artist Since Warhol. So What’s the Art World Got Against Him?By Carl Swanson
Honk Honk Honk! Honk!
Jeff Koons’s 5-year-old son, Eric, is blowing a yellow plastic toy horn in his face, and the preternaturally unruffled artist is, for a human second, irritated.
“Stop,” says Koons. “No blowing the horn.”
“It’s mine,” Eric says.
“It’s not yours,” Koons says. “It’s Dad’s.” Then he deftly takes it from Eric, handing it off to one of the children’s caretakers.
We are standing in the middle of Koons’s quarter-city-block West Chelsea studio complex with the six children he has with his wife, Justine, who worked here before she married him; their nannies; and his extremely nice assistants, who exude an almost midwestern courteousness.
Here we go again. A handful of politicians and citizens get their low-information artistic panties in a twist, get insulted by whatever work of public art they decide offends them, and start a brouhaha to remove it. The act is always the same. Even though no one else has any objections, city and state politicians become so terrified of standing up for art and alienating any voter that they roll over. Especially if there's a penis or vagina involved and if the location of the public sculpture happens to be one of the most extraordinary spaces in all of Christendom. Welcome to the farcical version of Death in Venice.
Slavery is America’s permanent Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, in which our country carries a cup it can never pass. The closest that white America has ever come to experiencing what James Baldwin described as “the Negro’s past, of rope, fire, torture, castration, infanticide, rape … fear by day and night, fear as deep as the marrow of the bone” was in 1861, when the country tore itself in half over race and money. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s incredibly affecting “Photography and the American Civil War” is a shocking view of a pain so deep, destruction in blood and psyche, that seeing these 200 or so photographs installed in eleven galleries amounts to a silent scream. Viewers walk through this show—its galleries painted charcoal, its walls covered in canvas—in hushed silences, reverent, shaken, respectful of the ineffable suffering and almost mystical sickness depicted. D. H. Lawrence’s words come to mind: “Doom! Doom! Doom! Something seems to whisper it in the very dark tress of America. Doom!” I do not remember experiencing a more poignant and pathos-filled photography exhibition at any museum.
It was probably inevitable that Rain Room was a sensation in London. When you live with as much damp as the British do, wishing for the clouds to part is primal—and in this installation, built by the British design studio rAndom International and opening at MoMA on May 12, visitors briefly gain godlike control over wet weather. It’s a high-ceilinged room, nearly 1,000 square feet, equipped with nozzles that pour down artificial rain—until you step in, whereupon a five-foot circle over your head abruptly dries up. “The installation recognizes the presence of the viewer,” explains rAndom International’s Hannes Koch. As you move through the room, your little ring respite stays with you, like a follow spot. You get to, as Donald Fagen once sang, walk between the raindrops.
Dame Maggie Smith's portrait has entered the National Portrait Gallery, and her likeness looks just as all-knowingly annoyed as the real Dame so often and entertainingly does. It's perfect, so why not take James Lloyd's lovely rendition and incorporate it into some of art's most revered work? A little extra Dame never hurt nobody, so let's class up the joint by adding Maggie to these familiar scenes.
How sad. Just twelve years after it was built on W. 53rd Street next to MoMA, the former American Folk Art Museum is going to be torn down by its new owner: MoMA. What’s sad is not that the building is going; it’s that, despite near-universal rave reviews for its architecture, it was doomed to death as an art museum from the beginning. As soon as the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien–designed building opened, it was obvious to anyone interested in it primarily as a museum that the interior spaces were absolutely unusable for the purpose of showing art. The galleries were cramped and the interior was filled with staircases, which were sometimes accompanied by corridorlike spaces and other awkward nooks for art.
Gallery shows: light of my life, fire of my eyes. I love and long for them. I see maybe 30 a week, every week of the year. Much of what I know about contemporary art I learned from hanging around artists and from going to galleries. Bad shows teach me as much as good ones. A great thing about galleries—especially for someone who spends most of his time alone at a computer, typing—is that they’re social spaces, collective séances, campfires where anyone can gather. I’m a blabbermouth, so in galleries I turn to strangers and blurt whatever I’m thinking about whatever we’re looking at. If they don’t think I’m a creepy geezer, they’ll tell me what they’re thinking, too. Then I see whole new things. As disembodied as they can be, galleries are places where one can commune with the group mind. We have more of them than any other city does, and admission is free.
This weekend's news that Tilda Swinton was sleeping in a glass box at MoMA wasn't exactly met with mouth-agape befuddlement. Even those oblivious to the fact that she's done the piece before in London and Rome weren't particularly surprised. It's just the type of out-there yet chic thing Tilda Swinton would do. She's always been like a stunning alien who really understands the aesthetics of this planet (and has an AOL e-mail address). She has the type of eccentricity you want to take a long bath in. So we assembled a bunch of videos that allow you to do exactly that. Fill up the tub; Swinton will provide the arty bubbles.
Placing living art in MoMA’s airy atrium has become the museum’s crystal meth. The addiction kicked in big-time a few seasons back when Marina Abramovic, the self-styled mystic guru of staring and making people cry just by looking in their eyes, sat in the museum's atrium for months as people lined up for the chance to sit across from her and say they were part of the art. It was a spacey, necromantic circus. Upstairs, her audiences packed the galleries so they could walk between naked men and women standing in doorways ("his penis brushed my thigh") or gawk at a woman high on a wall, naked, astride a bicycle seat ("ouch"). A whole movie was made based on the months-long pageant.
Pretty much everything Tilda Swinton does is great, so when she showed up to sleep alongside a jug of water on a mattress in a glass box at MoMA on Friday, she immediately became the best thing in sleeping art since Andy Warhol's never-ending Sleep film. "Museum staff doesn't know she's coming until the day of, but she's here today," a museum source told Gothamist (who also took some fun photos.) The performance, titled The Maybe, will remain "unannounced" and "random" and will last for a full day when it happens. Swinton (who's done this before in London and Rome) hasn't said anything about the piece, and MoMA's official comments only confirmed that there would be "no published schedule for its appearance, no artist's statement released, no museum statement beyond this brief context, no public profile or image issued. Those who find it chance upon it for themselves, live and in real — shared — time: now we see it, now we don't." This sounds truly magical.
As some readers already know, I do not really look at art at art fairs. I can’t. I’m sorry. Fairs are places where the dealer is always only a few feet away from the art, and I need my own space to see it. As soon as a dealer comes up to me in a booth to explain this or that work, my skin starts crawling, I have wee panic attacks, I begin behaving badly, and I duck away. They think I am insane. And rude. Which I may be. (I avoid fairs after the first day, too. So my ideas about them are very limited.) But when I do go, I go through in a semi-trance, catching reflections and filing away things I see to think about later. At last week’s three big art fairs (the Art Show, the Armory Show, and the Independent), these twenty pieces left traces and impressions on my frontal lobe.
In some ways, art historian, critic, teacher, translator, and studier of Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, and classical philosophy Thomas McEvilley started multiculturalism as we know it in the art world. In 1984, MoMA organized "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern. In a series of brilliantly reasoned scathing letters to the editor of Artforum, McEvilley blasted MoMA, all museums of modern art, and the entire art-historical infrastructure as it then existed. His claim, which was then correct, was that European and American art history was using third world art and artists as footnotes to Western art history without recognizing the primacy of these formal cultures. Asian and African works were rarely not seen in lower hierarchical position to western art — which played the role of masterpiece and genius to tribal art's perpetual role as influence or antecedent. McEvilley's role as spokesperson was elevated to general in the war on cultural imperialism when, to everyone's surprise, the show's curators answered back in Artforum. For a few issues the art world watched and read a war of words take place.
Happy birthday, modern America! For all practical purposes, you were born 100 years ago this month. After February 17, 1913—the opening of what’s now simply called the Armory Show—you have never been the same. Thank God!
Originally called the International Exhibition of Modern Art, the show included around 1,200 works of art by more than 300 artists. Two thirds of the pieces on view were by Americans. Staged on the drill floor of the new 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue and East 25th Street, the show afforded America its first in-depth look at the art of Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, and many others. (Today’s Armory Show, the art fair held annually on the West Side piers, is unrelated.) By the time the show closed on March 15, 70,500 people had poured through. The last day’s attendance was said to be 10,000. When it went to Chicago after that, the attendance was estimated at 188,000.
Only an artist as preternaturally acute and copacetic, as oddly visionary and just odd as Richard Artschwager would be able to lay out the whole course of human evolution and have it make some kind of sense while also seeming like a dazzling insight. "We are animals," he begins. A lot like "plants — just faster." He explains we started with a "certain amount of movement with no particular purpose," somehow acquired "memory," which is a "form of virtual movement," which he says leads to "a whole universe of the subjunctive." Whatever all that means, he surmises, "This would be enough to set art into play," and leads to "the birth of the axiom," which "marks the start of … reason … and proclaims the social space," which is, ta-da, "the natural habitat for art." Who knew? Art-making plants are we.
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