Shaping art history since 1949
Antonio Calderara The Double
W I L L I A M K E N T R I D GE L E T US T RY FOR ONCE
marian goodman g a l l er y
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m a rc h 1 â€“ a pr il 2 0, 2019
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AMALGAM 20.2.19 â€“ 12.05.19
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Symbol (1999), foreground, in West’s studio, Vienna
21 February–5 April 2019
David Zwirner London
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Liliane Tomasko The Red Thread Kerlin Gallery 9 March – 13 April 2019
Art Basel Hong Kong Hall 1C Booth 10 29–31 March 2019 www.kerlingallery.com
Alice Neel Freedom
Alice Neel, Pregnant Julie and Algis, 1967. Oil on canvas, 42 3/8 × 64 inches (107.6 × 162.6 cm)
February 26–April 13, 2019
David Zwirner New York
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Mend e s Wood DM
Rua da Consolação 3368 01416 – 000 São Paulo SP Brazil 13 Rue des Sablons / Zavelstraat 1000 Brussels Belgium 60 East 66 th Street, 2 nd floor New York NY 10065 United States www.mendeswooddm.com info @ mendeswooddm.com
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Monochromes After Reinhardt (detail), 2018
SHERRIE LEVINE AFTER REINHARDT FEBRUARY 28â€“APRIL 20, 2019
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David Zwirner New York
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Charlotte Posenenske Work in Progress Opens March 8, 2019
Dia:Beacon 3 Beekman Street Beacon New York www.diaart.org
27 FEBRUARY – 27 APRIL 2019 LONDON
U N T I T L E D ( T H E L I N E – G A M E O F F O R M S) (D E TA I L ) , 2 013 , D R AW I N G A N D C O L L A G E O N PA P E R , 3 5 PA R T S , E A C H 15 × 21 . 2 C M / 5 × 8 I N , C O U R T E S Y T H E E S TAT E O F G E TA B R ĂT E S C U A N D I VA N G A L L E RY, P H O T O : A L E X D E L FA N N E
THE POWER OF THE LINE
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ALWAYS FELT, RARELY SEEN
Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Bad, 2018, oil paint, paint stick, oil pastel, gouache on linen canvas – 35,9 x 28,6 x 3,8 cm – 14 1/8 x 11 1/4 x 1 1/2 in
NATHANIEL MARY QUINN
Brussels March 14 – April 10, 2019
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A 12-month programme to support female artists
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Rose English, Study for A Divertissement: Diana and Porcelain Lace Veil, 1973 (detail)
41 Dover St, Mayfair, London W1S 4NS
Studiosaurus Ferox. Florin Mitroi Works of Art 1974 – 2002 February 23 – April 6, 2019
Potsdamer Strasse 81E D – 10785 Berlin www.estherschipper.com
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Ho Tzu Nyen 何子彥
The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia Volume 8: R for Rhombicuboctahedron 東南亞批判性辭典之八： 小斜方截半立方體
26.03 - 17.05 Hong Kong 香港
GOODMAN GALLERY C O N G R AT U L AT E S
CANDICE BREITZ ALFREDO JAAR TRACEY ROSE ON THEIR PARTICIPATION IN SHARJAH BIENNIAL 14: LEAVING THE ECHO CHAMBER 7 MARCH - 10 JUNE 2019
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A R T B AS E L H O N G KO N G 29-31 MARCH 2019 B O OT H 1 D 0 9
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Galeria Luisa Strinaâ€™s 45th anniversary #gls45 Work by Nelson Leirner for the exhibition Twelve years of working together. Plastic wig over portrait of Luisa Strina, 1986. 45anos_richt.indd 252_AR.indd 252 1
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March 9 â€“ April 13, 2019
MOE MATSUHASHI HIROKI TSUKUDA HIROKO YAMAJI
Capitain Petzel, Berlin
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Visions of the future by leading architects and artists
Book now: 14 February â€“ 12 May 2019
#IsThisTomorrow Aldgate East / Liverpool St whitechapelgallery.org
Marina Tabassum, Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, 2012 (detail) Photo Credit: Hasan Saifuddin â€˘ Whitechapel Gallery, registered charity no. 312162
Whitechapel Gallery Is This Tomorrow?
ArtReview vol 71 no 2 March 2019
One step forward... For the past 70 years a succession of editors have used this page (or, much earlier in ArtReview’s past, the leftover bits of masthead pages, spare ends of columns or otherwise unused spaces the publisher couldn’t fill with ads) to expound their theories regarding the art of today. Their ‘todays’, of course, are today’s yesterdays, as this today will become tomorrow. The present is fleeting, even if it goes on for a lifetime. And yet, when looking back through ArtReview’s archives, which is what, in case the cake on the cover wasn’t a total giveaway, this anniversary issue does, it’s as surprising to find how much has not changed when things have appeared to change so much. For starters, each new editor came to the magazine with a daring new mission to make art more accessible to a wider audience and to give readers the information they might need to make informed judgements about it: to make art popular and audiences critical; to introduce art to life and life to art. And perhaps somewhere in the middle of those two poles to use the pages of ArtReview to tell some sort of ‘truth’. What’s intriguing about this is that each new editorial direction was in essence a reiteration of the old, albeit occasionally dressed up in different clothes, as ArtReview’s originary (largely Marxist) anti-elitist stand evolved into a technophile anti-individualist stand, into a (largely Beuysian) sense of everyone being an artist, into an anti-intellectual (largely Tony Bennish) stand of everyone being ordinary, into a (belatedly Warholian) sense of everyone being a celebrity, and most recently of all into a convoluted postmodern, postcolonial, culturally relative (Bret Easton Ellisish/Salman Rushdieish) sense of no one really knowing
who they are in the first place, let alone being able to communicate it to someone other than themselves. ArtReview, it turns out, has always believed in equality. There have been wrong turns too, like when it believed in Betamax. And some things have stayed the same in a way that is less than positive. During the 1950s ArtReview’s letters pages contained correspondence from readers who were scornful of the sexist attitudes of curators and critics. They were still writing about the same thing during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and to the present day. But ArtReview’s pages have also been the locus of fierce debate. Three successive issues during the 1960s featured Picasso on the cover, first as a hero, then as a has-been and then as a hero again. Similarly, a disagreement about the benefits of globalism versus an insistence on cultural relativism has raged through ArtReview’s pages since its founding, as has a concern for ecology and issues of identity in all their forms; even as this last debate has often included the magazine’s own identity and the role of criticism within the artworld at large. This issue of the magazine aims to tell the story of some of those debates and to chronicle some of the issues with which art has concerned itself over the past seven decades. In that sense it is not a collection of greatest hits (indeed this anthology does not find space for many of the magazine’s best-known writers), more an initial step towards opening up the rich resources in ArtReview’s archives to a general audience and as a site of broader debate. It does, however, mark an important move on the part of the magazine to see the past as something implicated in the present and to take with a pinch of salt any sense of the absolute novelty of now. Of course, all that is probably no more than a reconstitution of words from editorials past, but perhaps the next debate in these pages might be about uncertainty principles versus eternal returns. ArtReview
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William Monk A Fool Through The Cloud
6 March 10June April2018 2019 18 May ––22
6 Burlington Gardens
FORCE FIELD YOUNG POLISH ARTISTS
PATTERN AND DECOR ATION ORNAMENT ALS VERSPRECHEN 23.2.– 8.9.2019
MuseumsQuartier Museumsplatz 1, A -1070 Wien www.mumok.at Miriam Schapiro, Dormer, 1979, Leihgabe der Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, © Estate of Miriam Schapiro / Bildrecht Wien, 2019, Foto: Carl Brunn / Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen
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Art Previewed Previews by Martin Herbert 39
Art Featured 1949–59 by Lawrence Alloway, John Berger, Oswell Blakeston, Lawrence Dame, Bernard Denvir, Joss of ‘The Star’, Hyman Levy, Henri Matisse, Eric Newton selected by Oliver Basciano 50
1960–69 by Cottie Burland, Guy Burn, Janet Daley, Clement Greenberg, J. P. Hodin, Francis Cyril Rose, Pierre Rouve, Barrie Sturt-Penrose selected by Mark Rappolt 62
1970–79 by Guy Burn, Lorraine Craig, Janet Daley, Peter Fuller, Pat Gilmour, Georgina Oliver, Henry P. Raleigh, Pierre Rouve, Frances Spalding, Brian Wallworth, Nadia Woloshyn, Barbara Wright selected by J.J. Charlesworth 76
1980–89 by Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, Mary Rose Beaumont, Larry Berryman, Oswell Blakeston, Hetty Einzig, Clare Henry, David Lee, Michael Petry selected by David Terrien 88 1990–99 by Sister Wendy Beckett, Charles Hall, David Lee, Edward Lucie-Smith, Rosie Millard, Brian Sewell selected by Louise Darblay 100
2000–09 by Stuart Comer, Brian Dillon, James Heartfield, Ana Finel Honigman, Edward Lucie-Smith, Reggie Nadelson, Ian White selected by Fi Churchman 112 2010–18 by Omar Al-Qattan, Oliver Basciano, J.J. Charlesworth, Matthew Collings, Lauren Cornell, Tom Eccles, Anselm Franke, Martin Herbert, Hettie Judah, Pankaj Mishra, Jonathan T.D. Neil, Sarah O’Keefe, Jacques Rancière, Adam Thirlwell, Ryan Trecartin selected by Ben Eastham 124
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Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. by Mark Rappolt Wang Bing, by Aoife Rosenmeyer Camilla Vuorenmaa, by Mark Watson Éntomos, by Max L. Feldman Raquel van Haver, by Sam Steverlynck Melike Kara, by Moritz Scheper Hannah Black, by Rebecca O’Dwyer After Babel, by Michelangelo Corsaro Haroon Mirza, by Daniel Wilson Ren Hang, by Mike Pinnington Gareth Cadwallader, by Ben Eastham D’Ette Nogle, by Jonathan Griffin Sonia Almeida, by Rahel Aima Alejandro Campins, by Oliver Basciano William Kentridge, by Emily McDermott Hannah Perry, by Jacob Boulton Mateo López, by Scott Indrisek
Sovereign Words: Indigenous Art, Curation and Criticism, edited by Katya García-Antón Let’s Talk Abstract, edited by Carolin Scharpff-Striebich Bauhaus Goes West: Modern Art and Design in Britain and America, by Alan Powers Art and (Bare) Life, by Josephine Berry classified advertisements 1949–98 166
page 150 Nina Papaconstantinou, William Shakespeare, Macbeth I, II, 2018, imprint on carbon copy paper. Courtesy the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens & Thessaloniki (included in After Babel )
1.2.–27.5.19 1.2.–27.5.19 1.2.–27.5.19
Objects Objects Objects of Wonder of ofWonder Wonder
© David © David Annesley Annesley
© David Annesley
British Sculpture British British Sculpture Sculpture from the Tate Collection from from the theTate TateCollection Collection 1950s–Present 1950s–Present 1950s–Present
Unter den Linden 5, 10117 Berlin db-palaispopulaire.com Unter Unter denden Linden Linden 5, 10117 5, 10117 Berlin Berlin db-palaispopulaire.com db-palaispopulaire.com
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Sharjah Biennial 14 • Leaving the Echo Chamber • 7 March–10 June 2019 • Curated by Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons. In three unique exhibitions, Sharjah Biennial 14 (SB14) explores the possibilities and purpose of producing art when news is fed by a monopoly of sources, history is increasingly fictionalised, when ideas of ‘society’ are invariably displaced, and when borders and beliefs are dictated by cultural, social and political systems. SB14 is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. @sharjahart • sharjahart.org
Getting old ainâ€™t for sissies 37
1.3-23.6 2019 supports the exhibition
Louisianas Main Corporate Partners:
Pipilotti Rist, Mercy Garden, Audio-Video Installation, 2014 (Video Still) ÂŠ Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine
Previewed 1 The 14th Sharjah Biennial since the event’s inception in 1993, subtitled Leaving the Echo Chamber, references a place many of us visit regularly these days, whether browsing news or navigating social media’s layer-cake of shouting matches. It’s a zone where a limited range of viewpoints gets heard, thanks to corporate influence and/or because we’re marooned inside self-designed filter bubbles. Meanwhile, as is all too apparent in the ‘real’ world outside, everything slips and slides fearfully: history is fictionalised, borders are redrawn, ecocatastrophe looms. This biennial, subdivided into three shows curated respectively by Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons, isn’t going to be so gauche as to suggest how to ‘leave’
this dangerous safe space (for that, try Jaron including Stan Douglas, Ian Cheng and Candice Lanier’s trenchant 2018 manifesto Ten Arguments Breitz. And Tancons’s, whose contributors include Laura Lima, writer/musician Jace Clayton and For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now), Tracey Rose, is concerned with ‘the alternatively pat answers not being art’s job and, frankly, dispossessive and repossessive disposition of curators typically not having those answers. Instead, the project ‘seeks to put into converdiasporisation as an aporetic phenomenon of the sation a series of provocations on how one might contemporary’, a sentence you’d maybe have to re-negotiate the shape, form and function of this inhabit your own special echo chamber to write. 2 chamber, towards a multiplying of the echoes Obscurantism has not been Allen Ruppersberg’s path, as seen in his retrospecwithin’. Butt’s segment, including Khadim Ali, Nalini Malani, Lee Mingwei and two dozen tive fiesta Intellectual Property: 1968–2018 at the others, draws frequently on artists from the Hammer Museum. The Cleveland-born, global south and themes of human movement longtime Los Angeles resident has, for half and the use of tools. Kholeif’s, in the teeth of a century, sociably reframed conceptual art technology, looks at concepts of temporality through the vernacular: visitors to his first and the possibility of slowing down via artists solo show, in 1969, titled Location Piece, were
Alia Farid, At the Time of the Ebb, 2019, production still. Courtesy the artist
2 Allen Ruppersberg, The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg (Parts i–iii), 2003/2005 (detail), commercially printed letterpress posters. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York, and Skirball Museum, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
redirected from the host gallery to a rented office avowedly ‘movement between places, presence mouths (by which he’s clearly captivated), he’s stuffed with an installation of pop-cultural and absence, the book as object and subject, been remarkably consistent over his career, to the memorials, and self-portraiture’: those interests, point where his paintings feel like old friends, artefacts, while Ruppersberg’s well-known small modulations in his style having disproporthe artist demonstrates, needn’t sacrifice seriousWhere’s Al? (1972) paired up photographs of people – assumedly the artist’s friends – eating, ness when they’re treated breezily. tionate effects. Here the focus is on paintings of Staying West-Coastal momentarily, the quick or at the beach – with typed texts wondering twins, with accompanying drawings. where he was. Al, in these works, is a trace Over the past dozen years, particularly since 3 way of describing Brian Calvin might be to call him the slacker Alex Katz, with a dash of early element displaced into artefacts of the mainher inclusion in the touring show wack! Art and Lucian Freud. He emerged during the mid-1990s stream, just as he is in Al’s Grand Hotel (1971), the Feminist Revolution (2007), and not a moment a fully functioning Hollywood hotel/art project with crisply painted, cartoon-bright portraits of too late given that she turned eighty last year, 4 Nil Yalter has been increasingly recognised as open for a month, and The Novel That Writes Itself long-haired, androgynous, fat-lipped, zonked(1978–2014), a slanted summary of the artist’s looking countercultural types, generally doing a key figure in the canon of feminist art. And an pretty much nothing. This fact underlined lifetime via 400 letterpress posters in which adaptable and footloose one, too, even leaving colourful gradients backdrop texts ranging from Calvin’s resistance to narrative, though one aside that her Wikipedia entry contains the actual advertisements for concerts, wrestling sentence ‘In 1956 she travelled to India on foot might glimpse a spectrum of emotions – not matches, etc, to scraps of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl least amorphous anxiety – sliding across his while practicing pantomime’. Her work ranges (1956) and random slivers of speech. For the bug-eyed young faces. While Calvin occasionally from videos such as The Headless Woman or the reorients to Californian landscapes, or just Hammer, Ruppersberg’s central themes are Belly Dance (1974), in which the Egypt-born
3 Brian Calvin, Agreement, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 76 × 102 cm. Courtesy the artist and Almine Rech, Paris
4 Nil Yalter, Exile Is A Hard Job / Walls, 2018, acrylic on offset print in urban space (Heinrich-Böll-Platz, Cologne). Photo: Henning Krause. © the artist
6 Reinhard Mucha, Oderin / Untitled (männer frauen), 1987 / 1981 (detail). © the artist and vg Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy Sprüth Magers, Berlin, London & Los Angeles
5 Diane Arbus, Lady on a bus, n.y.c., 1957, 22 × 15 cm. © Estate of Diane Arbus. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Turkish artist wrote text from René Nelli’s Erotique et Civilisations (1972) on her navel and then belly-danced to animate the words, to 1990s works expressed via 3d technologies and interactive cd-roms. The key piece in her oeuvre, though – and likely to be a highlight of this first major retrospective, Exile Is A Hard Job – is probably Temporary Dwellings (1974–77), 12 panels mixing Polaroids, drawings and text and delving into the difficult lives of immigrant communities in Paris, New York and Istanbul: a work that was timely then and, for obvious reasons, hasn’t really dated. Three years ago the Met Breuer put on 5 a stellar show of Diane Arbus’s early work, a hundred or so small black-and-white photos that repeatedly did what great portrait art does: collapse time, put a gone person in front
of you, their liveliness summarised and restored. social margins since. (Remember to pronounce If you missed that exhibition, it’s now coming her name Dee-anne.) to London, with Diane Arbus: In the Beginning Arbus’s sustained no-show in London, constituting the first uk showing of the great though, is nothing compared to that of 6 Reinhard Mucha, who specialises in making photographer’s work in a dozen years. It audiences wait and whose show at Sprüth focuses on the first seven years of her career, Magers is his first exhibition in the capital for and while some of the work feels canonical – images of female impersonators, for example 20 years. For the pointedly titled Full Take, the hermetic and reclusive German surveys the – it is frequently less sensationalist, quieter and subtler, than the images of outcasts, eccentrics last four decades of his own production, which has often involved elliptical, meticulously and circus performers she’s known for: grainy faces glimpsed in passing taxis, infinitely constructed things that look like gorgeously serious-looking kids, top-hatted old guys in wayward furniture and circle around the interflophouses, performers paused in dressing related subjects of time, preservation and rooms. There’s nary a dud, as the cliché goes, change. Mucha’s cabinets, drawers and vitrines among these intrepid studies, which set the contain all manner of ephemera, often with stage not only for Arbus’s own career but of a bureaucratic tang that relates the work to Germany’s postwar ‘economic miracle’, though so many photographers who’ve dwelt on the
7 Jeffrey Gibson, Wendell and Xavier, 2018, digital photograph, dimensions variable. Photo: Peter Mauney. Courtesy the artist, Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
9 Jakob Kolding, Sketch for Sculptures, 2019, digital sketch. Courtesy Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna
8 Eric Baudelaire, Also Known As Jihadi, 2017, film, colour, sound, 99 min. Courtesy the artist
not always. Here, for example, expect works is of Choctaw/Cherokee ancestry). Judging such as Oderin/Untitled (männer frauen) by his kinetically colourful previous work, (1987/1981), an installation combining formerly we might also expect it to be hypercolourful, separate works that unites crisp white-onas effervescent to look at as it’s underlaid with black-glass text paintings of ‘Männer’ and sadness and – being influenced by Oswald de ‘Frauen’ and a grey sculptural ensemble, Andrade’s 1928 ‘Anthropophagic Manifesto’, the whole vaguely suggesting an extremely with its advocacy of the reuse by the colonised high-end and abstract restroom. of their colonisers’ culture – a pointed mergSculpting with time, part ii: as artist-ining of older and newer aesthetics, the rural meeting the catwalk. 7 residence at the New Museum, Jeffrey Gibson Eric Baudelaire’s practice adapts itself is both producing something in the unfolding 8 present – garments, essentially – and harkening to both galleries and cinemas: he makes what appear to be artworks (photographs, installaback to another era. The clothing he’s making, tions, etc) and feature-length films. While for which is going to be activated by photographs and performances, draws on handcraft practices his previous show at Barbara Wien the Salt Lake City-born artist – nominated for the 2019 Marcel by indigenous tribes before the Europeans Duchamp Prize – showcased his art side, here turned up: ‘Southeastern river cane basket he presents his 2017 film Also Known As Jihadi. weaving, Algonquian birch bark biting, and It’s art, then, although that distinction matters porcupine quillwork’ (Gibson, it bears noting,
less than the ones the film presents between representing and not representing, understanding and not understanding. Drawing on the example of Japanese filmmaker Masao Adachi’s 1969 film aka Serial Killer – which never showed the convicted murderer Norio Nagayama but rather skewed to the places he’d been – Baudelaire builds up a portrait of the radicalised ‘Abdel Aziz Mekki’ (not his real name, though the film is based on a real person) via key landscapes in his life: the Parisian suburb where he grew up, and then later Egypt, Turkey, Syria For Baudelaire, this kind of circumspection is necessary in order to avoid simplifying the story or reducing it to a simplified understanding, or, indeed, any understanding at all: ‘it belongs to us to compose an affective character through our projections’. Meanwhile a series of related silkscreens, collaboratively made and exploring
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the relation between art and current events, that can feel almost sheer, though Kolding’s might help this hazy process along. art is more darkly luscious than it is raw. Also 9 If Jakob Kolding compares his artistic on show here are cutout silhouettes filled in with an image from a different source; between practice to sampling – and he does – then it’s these and the prints, Kolding is leveraging fitting that the dense patchwork of source images in his new show, Pieces, includes Public ambivalence, estrangement, fragmentation, Enemy. The Denmark-born, Berlin-based artist’s symbiosis and the coexistence of difference, layered prints here, designed to look almost not for purely formal reasons but to prioritise interconnection over isolation. No accident opaque and monochrome at first blush and in this regard that his works feel digitally consisting of a panoply of pictorial elements massaged, but end up leaning contrariwise – Spiderman to Caravaggio, Bernini to jazz to the divides that screen life sets up. drummer Milford Graves – might be visual parallels to the Bomb Squad’s vintage producSpeaking of fragmentation: the Kunsthal tions for the legendary hip-hop crew; the details 10 Charlottenborg’s Europa Endlos, with its double-edged, approximately Kraftwerkhave to emerge from a surface of interspersions
referencing title, opens a week before – at the time of writing – the uk is projected to leave the European Union, and close to the European parliamentary elections. That’s obviously no accident: ‘The exhibition will provide fuel for reflections about the current state of Europe and the future role of the eu,’ write the organisers. Meanwhile, for what is likely to be a melancholy affair offset by a feeling of regrouping, they’ve assembled a starry list of talents from Europe and occasionally outside, from Olafur Eliasson to Fischli/Weiss, Monica Bonvicini to Bouchra Khalili, Jimmie Durham to Wolfgang Tillmans and – no doubt with something trenchant to say about Brexit – Jeremy Deller. Martin Herbert
10 Jimmie Durham, Europe (detail), 1994–ongoing. Photo: Maria Thereza Alves. Courtesy the artist and Kurimanzutto, Mexico City & New York
1 Sharjah Biennial 14 7 March – 10 June 2 Allen Ruppersberg Hammer Museum, Los Angeles through 12 May 3 Brian Calvin Almine Rech, Paris 9 March – 13 April
4 Nil Yalter Ludwig Museum, Cologne 9 March – 2 June
8 Eric Baudelaire Barbara Wien, Berlin through 13 April
5 Diane Arbus Hayward Gallery, London through 6 May
9 Jakob Kolding Martin Janda, Vienna 8 March – 20 April
6 Reinhard Mucha Sprüth Magers, London through 11 May
10 Europa Endlos Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen 22 March – 11 August
7 Jeffrey Gibson New Museum, New York through 6 September
53. INTERNATIONALER KUNSTMARKT 11. — 14. APRIL 2019
CONTEMPORARY Akinci, Amsterdam / Mikael Andersen, Copenhagen / Artelier, Graz / Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen / Blain | Southern, Berlin / Jean Brolly, Paris / Ben Brown, London / Daniel Buchholz, Cologne / Gisela Capitain, Cologne / Andrea Caratsch, St. Moritz / Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin / Charim, Vienna / Conrads, Düsseldorf / Continua, San Gimignano / Crone, Vienna / Massimo de Carlo, Milan / Erika Deák, Budapest / Deweer, Otegem / Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin / Eigen + Art, Berlin / Filiale, Frankfurt / Forsblom, Stockholm / Laurent Godin, Paris / Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt / Karsten Greve, Cologne / Barbara Gross, Munich / Haas, Zürich / Häusler Contemporary, Zürich / Hammelehle und Ahrens, Cologne / Hauff, Stuttgart / Hauser & Wirth, Zürich / Jochen Hempel, Leipzig / Jahn und Jahn, Munich / Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf / Klemm’s, Berlin / Helga Maria Klosterfelde, Berlin / Bernd Klüser, Munich / Sabine Knust, Munich / Christine König, Vienna / König Galerie, Berlin / Eleni Koroneou, Athens / Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin /Krobath, Vienna / Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong / Lange + Pult, Zürich / Christian Lethert, Cologne / Löhrl, Mönchengladbach / Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf / Nino Mier, Los Angeles / Mitterrand, Paris / Vera Munro, Hamburg / nächst St. Stephan, Vienna / Nagel Draxler, Cologne / Neon Parc, Melbourne / Neu, Berlin / Carolina Nitsch, New York / Nosbaum Reding, Luxembourg / Nathalie Obadia, Brussels / Alexander Ochs Private, Berlin / Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney / Priska Pasquer, Cologne / Giorgio Persano, Turin / Rupert Pfab, Düsseldorf / Produzentengalerie, Hamburg / Thomas Rehbein, Cologne / Petra Rinck, Düsseldorf / Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg / Philipp von Rosen, Cologne / Aurel Scheibler, Berlin / Brigitte Schenk, Cologne / Anke Schmidt, Cologne / Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich / Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf / Slewe, Amsterdam / Sprüth Magers, Berlin / Paul Stolper, London / Walter Storms, Munich / Suzanne Tarasiève, Paris / Daniel Templon, Paris / Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman, Innsbruck / Van Horn, Düsseldorf / Wentrup, Berlin / Michael Werner, Cologne / White Cube, London / Zilberman, Istanbul / David Zwirner, New York MODERN & POSTWAR Bailly, Geneva / Klaus Benden, Cologne / Bernheimer, Luzern / Boisserée, Cologne / Philippe David, Zürich /Derda Berlin, Berlin / Dierking, Zürich / Johannes Faber, Vienna / Fischer Kunsthandel & Edition, Berlin / Klaus Gerrit Friese, Berlin / Hagemeier, Frankfurt / Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach / Ernst Hilger, Vienna / Hoffmann, Friedberg / Heinz Holtmann, Cologne / Mike Karstens, Münster / Koch, Hanover / Konzett, Vienna / Lahumière, Paris / Levy, Hamburg / Lorenzelli Arte, Milan / Ludorff, Düsseldorf / Maulberger, Munich / Mo J Gallery, Busan / Moderne, Silkeborg / Georg Nothelfer, Berlin / Thole Rotermund, Hamburg / Ruberl, Vienna / Thomas Salis, Salzburg / Samuelis Baumgarte, Bielefeld / Julian Sander, Cologne / Schlichtenmaier, Grafenau / Schönewald, Düsseldorf / Michael Schultz, Berlin / Schwarzer, Düsseldorf / Setareh, Düsseldorf / Edition Staeck, Heidelberg / Strelow, Düsseldorf / Florian Sundheimer, Munich / Suppan, Vienna / Taguchi Fine Art, Tokyo / Thomas, Munich / Utermann, Dortmund / Valentien, Stuttgart / von Vertes, Zürich COLLABORATIONS Ammann, Cologne / Annex14, Zürich / Rolando Anselmi, Berlin / Guido W. Baudach, Berlin / Blank, Cape Town / Clages, Cologne / Conradi, Hamburg / Drei, Cologne / Larkin Erdmann, Zürich / fiebach, minninger, Köln / Mathias Güntner, Hamburg / Natalia Hug, Cologne / Kleindienst, Leipzig / Knoell, Basel / Le Guern, Warsaw / Gebr. Lehmann, Dresden / Lullin + Ferrari, Zürich / Lumen Travo, Amsterdam / Daniel Marzona, Berlin / Parrotta, Cologne / Berthold Pott, Cologne / RCM, Paris / Aurel Scheibler, Berlin / Esther Schipper, Berlin / Tif Sigfrids, Athens, GA / Soy Capitán, Berlin / Super Dakota, Brussels / Tanja Wagner, Berlin / Hubert Winter, Vienna / Zahorian & van Espen, Bratislava / Thomas Zander, Cologne / van Zomeren, Amsterdam NEUMARKT Nir Altman, Munich / Arcadia Missa, London / Emalin, London / Essex Street, New York / High Art, Paris / Jan Kaps, Cologne / LeBlanc, Chicago / Martinetz, Cologne / Max Mayer, Düsseldorf / MX Gallery, New York / Tobias Naehring, Leipzig / Deborah Schamoni, Munich / Rob Tufnell, London
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Now we are 70 ‘In the art of any period there are two processes at work. The one may be called discovery, the other digestion.’ So go the opening words, in a profile of figurative painter Bernard Meninsky, of the first issue of what was then titled Art News and Review (titled so as to distinguish it from the American Art News), published 12 February 1949 as a fortnightly newspaper. The editors enticed Meninsky to contribute a self-portrait to illustrate the article, a regular feature titled ‘Portrait of the Artist’ that would continue throughout the 1950s and (sporadically) into the early 60s, 122 examples of which were acquired by the Tate Gallery Archive in 1982 (Tate exhibited them in 1989). The publication was the brainchild of Richard Gainsborough, a retired British doctor, who felt there was a gap in the market for an art title that would appeal to an audience beyond the Cork Street in-crowd. It operated out of a one-room office in Chelsea with the stated aim of representing the world of the artist to the world of the collector and an ambition to cover every exhibition on view in Britain. Joining Gainsborough was his wife Eileen Mayo, a designer of some note, who had studied with Fernand Léger in Paris and art-directed until the couple’s separation. Mayo would emigrate to New Zealand, where, among her achievements, she designed stamps for the postal service of her adopted country. Art News and Review made much of its coverage of artists in lesser-known groups based outside London or in the capital’s less-fashionable suburbs. While an editorial published on the occasion of the first anniversary set out the newspaper’s project of ‘building up an English school of criticism’, from the off it was interested in art from outside the uk. In 1950 it had retained the services of Lawrence Dame to ‘send us from time to time accounts of the visual disturbances in the United States’. Early articles charted the art being made in India, China, Mexico and particularly South Africa, Gainsborough’s former home, among other scenes. In the main, its aim was to bring art out of its bubble and into daily life, or, from the other point of view, to bring the troubles of daily life into art (In 1949, Mayo, reviewing a book, worried that the object in question was ‘sumptuously produced and bound with pre-war lavishness. It is perhaps too lavish in these days of austerity?’) This has continued as its guiding principle, even as the political stance has veered from left to right and back again in the intervening decades. The newspaper’s original editor, Bernard Denvir, who was key to its foundation, departed in 1954 over a dispute about ‘critical versus financial responsibilities’ (an issue with which every successive editor has continued to struggle) with regard to the matter of gallery advertisements. Gainsborough took over the editorship himself, continuing until his death in 1969, whereupon his son, the architect John Gainsborough, took up the reins, steering the title, which
was simplified to Arts Review in April 1961, through to the end of 1980. At that point it was bought by Graham Hughes, formerly art director at the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, who edited the magazine through to November 1992, taking it from a fortnightly to a monthly publication in January 1992 and giving it a more crafts-based focus. He left with a declaration that ‘our environment’ was the dominant issue of the time and a debate about Nicholas Serota’s rehang of the Tate Gallery’s collection raging in the letters pages (Serota and former Tate Gallery director Norman Reid were among the correspondents). While Hughes retained ownership of the publication, Catriona Warren became editorial director with David Lee as editor. In April 1993 Lee announced that the magazine had changed its title to Art Review, dropping the s ‘to convey to our new readers that we deal predominantly with visual art’ and, in an unconscious echo of Art News and Review’s founding ethos, simultaneously declared that the magazine had a new mission to ‘win back a wide audience for the visual arts’ by ending the ‘unintelligible guff’ that was currently being written about it. By June, ‘the contemplative nun’ and tv star Sister Wendy Beckett had been hired as a columnist and artist Peter Blake was offering up his thoughts on wrestling in the latest instalment of a new sports column (R.B. Kitaj would tackle boxing in September, when a profile of designer Philippe Starck was the lead feature and Iain Finlayson was reporting on Britain’s love of fashion). Lee departed in May 2000, his final editorial lambasting Tate Britain’s ‘foolish rehang’ and a portrait by L.S. Lowry gracing the cover. June saw the arrival of a new editor, Charlotte Mullins, and an editorial lambasting Tate Modern’s opening hang. Fashion and arts journalist, and briefly editor of American gq, Meredith Etherington-Smith became editor in September 2001, opening her tenure with an issue dedicated to the legacy of Surrealism and urging readers to cross the Thames and explore the art scene of South London. By July 2003 she had moved up to editor-in-chief, with former deputy editor Ossian Ward taking over the monthly running of the magazine until the March 2004 issue, featuring a cover by Richard Prince and a focus on the rise of celebrity culture. Rebecca Wilson arrived (from rival title Modern Painters, which had been set up in 1989 by former Arts Review stalwart Peter Fuller) in the summer of 2004 with a promise to present not only the most compelling art criticism but also the views of the best novelists, poets and cultural historians. By the summer of 2006, John Weich, formerly a senior editor at Wallpaper* magazine, was installed as editor-in-chief, announcing his arrival with a ground-zero redesign, a curator (Hans Ulrich Obrist) on the cover and a promise to make contemporary art ‘bigger’ and more accessible. Weich departed in September 2007 when the current regime came into place. The real point, though, is that the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same. Throughout, of course, it has been the writers that have really made the magazine, often under trying circumstances (‘the pay was minimal but the experience was invaluable’, remarked one contributor during the early part of the magazine’s history, tongue firmly in cheek, while the painter Donald Hamilton Fraser, employed as Richard Gainsborough’s assistant between 1954 and 1955, recalls one issue that was almost entirely written by himself under a variety of pseudonyms). Over the next pages we look at some of the more interesting moments in ArtReview’s colourful life (although actual colour was only, grudgingly, introduced to the magazine’s pages during the 1960s).
What I wrote about Charles Ginner had nothing to do with him being safely dead Lawrence Alloway, 1957
One of the most enlightened dealers was complaining the other day that the art trade had become a bastard branch of the stock exchange: investors have exiled the collectors. The canvas has become a share Pierre Rouve, 1957
Dealers exist to sell pictures, not to enjoy them Eric Newton, 1955
Yves Klein is showing, in this, his first English show, nineteen paintings of various coloursâ€Ś The first thing that I observed about his panels is that the blue ones seem to attract flies Ralph Rumney, 1957
1949–59 Born in the midst of Britain’s postwar rebuild, Art News and Review embraced a prevailing spirit of social reform. A 1951 editorial heaped praise on the Festival of Britain as ‘the Academy and its traditions were rejected: the School of Paris, and its affiliations welcomed. Never before have so many “modern” works of art been commissioned on such a large scale.’ The same article called for a Museum of Modern Art in London because, as founding editor Bernard Denvir would write three years later in an article headlined ‘Has the Royal Academy a Future?’, none such existed (the Tate at the time was part of the National Gallery). There was a strong feeling, at least among a section of the newspaper’s writers – not least John Berger and (Peter) Reyner Banham – that art must engage in daily life and be of interest to a wide public. Artists enjoying the ‘cheap accommodation’ and ‘sympathetic environment’ of Paddington, Camberwell and Croydon – as well the ‘provinces’ – were given as much coverage as the Cork Street slew. In a sympathetic profile, an anonymous writer looked back to Wyndham Lewis’s work, marvelling that the artist ‘wanted art to concern itself with life, and not take refuge in escapism’. In 1951 James White, an Irish critic, bemoaned that ‘the faster we [the Dublin art scene] seek emancipation the more desperately our Northern brethren cling to the academy-type artist’ (though there may have been a political analogy within this too). A regular column by Banham, ‘The Shape of Things’, profiled everyday creative expression, from grocery packaging to pub paraphernalia. Mirroring Britain’s own rebuild was the establishment of Israel, whose nascent art scene received copious attention (many of Art News and Review’s writers and editorial staff were émigrés). Barnet Stross, later a Labour mp, writing in 1951, noted ‘a new state requires an influx of human material and capital resources but its ultimate pattern will also depend upon the... aesthetic climate enjoyed by its people’. By 1954 Eugene Kolb, director of the Tel Aviv Museum, accepted that Israeli art mostly operates as an ‘autonomous entity’, a nationalism Pierre Rouve found troubling in 1958. ‘Those who have tried to… produce a hothouse “national” art have fallen into the trap of folkloristic superficiality: the passionate attachment to a “native art” in the Balkans or in South America have all ended in the blind-alley of Ersatz Ethnography dolled up for the benefit of the benevolent art lover.’ Indeed, throughout the decade, much is made of the tension between vernacular culture in Africa, Latin America and Asia and the influence of European Modernism (those artists who bridged the gap were venerated). Of course, with Banham an honorable exception, this groovy forwardthinking only went so far: the newspaper’s colonial language sticks in the craw of today’s reader; a 1951 article by Denvir dances around Pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon’s sexuality (he died in 1905, having been convicted of sodomy in 1873 and having never exhibited thereafter), merely noting the artist’s ‘bohemian life of frustration’. Women only got regular writing gigs in the paper towards the very end of the decade, when Jasia Reichardt became assistant editor. One exception was Mary Sorrell, in 1951, who pointed out in a review that ‘an “all women” show is horribly out of date’.
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22 April 1950
Hyman Levy struggles with art’s elitist tendencies
What’s the good of art anyway?
Front cover, 12 February 1949 below Open air art show in Embankment Gardens, 27 April 1957. Photo: Alamy
We all know the worried look that flashes across the face of the fond parent when his offspring announces his decision “to go in” for art. How on earth is the child going to live? He might as well try to make a living by writing poetry. Visions of garrets and straw beds and unpaid rents sweep across the mind. If only he had gone “into the city” like his father, or become a civil servant like his brother, with an assured pension for his old age. Wouldn’t it be better, the father pleads, to open a small shop in an obscure street and sell sweets and cigarettes? After all, one could paint in one’s spare time. Imagine his son hawking his pictures around trying to persuade all his respectable friends who haven’t the slightest interest in art to store one of his son’s daubs in their drawing-room wall. It would be intolerable. Impossible. And perhaps father is right; he knows his world. Still, it may not be as bad as that. Even the hearts of the local authorities have been known to melt at the thought of “art”! Last summer, one of the public parks close to the Embankment was transformed, for a few exciting weeks, into, an open-air art gallery, or, shall we say, into a Chelsea Petticoat Lane. There they were, yard upon yard of canvasses, watercolours, pastels, pen and pencil drawings, displayed to the uncomprehending gaze of the inquisitive Londoner, while a number of oddly-assorted wearers of Bohemian garments, complete with beards and corduroys, lounged about on neighbouring seats, anxiously
watching to see if any of the bait, so attractively laid out was likely to fetch a bite. If little in the shape of hard cash came from any of it, at least [… we] outsiders watched with interest as the artists discussed abstruse theories that seemed meaningless. It was clear enough that you had some message you were trying to put into shape and into colour, but it was beyond us. We didn’t know where and how to begin. Perhaps you didn’t care whether we understood or not, provided we bought a picture. But if this were so,why paint pictures to sell ? Why not sell matches or bootlaces to us? [...] And yet don’t imagine for a moment that we have no appreciation of things beautiful. Go into any pub after a football match and listen to the analysis of the science and art of the game; or watch the enthusiasm with which someone will recount the artistry of Alex James, the wizard. Only yesterday morning I heard the newspaper boy whistling a theme from a Bach fugue he had probably heard on the radio. He seemed unable to shake it off. The fact is that except for the radio we are starved of art and its appreciation from childhood. It is not for the likes of us and it makes no contact with us. This is not the fault but the misfortune of the artist. The artist and the layman between them are the sufferers […]
14 June 1952 Bernard Denvir looks for art outside the gallery
Painting in the pub Various forms of art are today reaching new audiences through a rather unusual outlet – the British public house. There has been for some time in the brewing
Hyman Levy (1889–1975) was a philosopher and mathematician. A member of the British Communist Party, he was expelled in 1958 after criticising the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union Bernard Denvir (1917–94) was the editor of Art News and Review from 1949–50 Pierre Rouve (1915–98) was born Peter Ouvaliev, and moved from his native Bulgaria to Britain in 1947. His career spanned writing, broadcasting and directing. He was Michelangelo Antonioni’s associate director on Blow-Up (1966) and the director of Stranger in the House (1968) starring James Stewart Oswell Blakeston (1907–85), real name Henry Hasslacher, was a British artist and writer best known for his work in experimental film and its theory. Dylan Thomas called Blakeston ‘a friend of all boozy poets and me too’. He was the partner of painter Max Chapman
industry a movement to increase the social importance of the pub by making it a focal point for the social activities going on – in the neighbourhood it serves. As part of this movement some brewery companies have been promoting different art forms; Tennants of Sheffield hold Sunday Concerts in some of their houses; Mitchell and Butlers recently had an ‘Arts and Crafts’ exhibition in Birmingham, while Taverners have been giving poetry readings and play actings in London and the South of England. Ind Coope and Allsopp have mainly concentrated on painting. The first art exhibition in an Ind Coope pub was held at the Mermaid Hotel, Sparkill, Birmingham, in December, 1948. It was sponsored by the Arts Council and was opened by the Chairman of that body, Sir Ernest-Poolev. Among the contributors on that occasion were John Piper, Ben Nicholson and Stanley Spencer […] No conversion campaign seems necessary to persuade customers into acceptance of art in the pub. After all if a man does not want to look at the pictures on the wall, he need not. Wherever the company has held these exhibitions, however, they have been welcomed by the majority of regulars, and requests for a repeat have been received in many cases. Since the war there has been a growing interest in art by all classes, although it is only of late that any co-ordinated efforts have been made to foster this interest. The large number of gregarious men and women who form the pub-going population often find the atmosphere of art galleries too austere. It is also hard for them to find time to visit them. The same people are glad to see paintings which are brought to them and hung in the saloon bar of their local. By encouraging art in the pub it is also hoped to overcome the tendency among so many people to regard art as beyond their ken.
30 October 1954 J.D.H. Catleugh, James Hull and Redvers Taylor at Gimpel Fils, London, reviewed by Oswell Blakeston
12 August 1950 Ben Enwonwu at Galerie Apollinaire London by an unidentified reviewer
Caught between two places This artist has recently returned from Nigeria, where he is art adviser to the Government, and where, apart from painting and sculpture, he is engaged in encouraging young artists. At his present exhibition at the Galerie Apollinaire he shows himself essentially as a carver in wood. However much he wanders into other fields of art, it is the formal qualities which retain the maximum interest. He designs well in space, but his colours are uninteresting. Although he has learnt a lot from his studies in London and Paris, it is the basic struggle between the wood and the chisel, fortified by centuries of tradition, that produces his best work. When the struggle is hardest, as in the ebony heads, the interest is intensified and a spirituality appears which is lacking in the less resistant materials. One feels, however, that the artist is hovering on the brink of a decision: that is, whether to allow his traditional influences full play, or only to permit them to be transmuted through the filter of a European culture and diluted accordingly.
27 November 1954 Report from Africa, by Joss of ‘The Star’
Propagandists for “art for the people” generally expect workers to enthuse over sordid scenes from their own lives – the still life of a kitchen table piled with unwashed crockery, the portrait of the tough with pneumatic drill looking anguished, etc. Propagandists have superior detachment. In fact collage is probably the real “art for the peep-hole” – the most enjoyable encouragement to art appreciation. Here difficult problems of paintings are removed. One can look at paste-ups for simple immediate pretty-pretty or fun. In spite of the paradox which reserves this happy simplicity for the new, collage is – if only the plain fact could get past the clique barriers – the real lowbrow art of our time. J.D.H. Catleugh’s collages, for instance, cannot fail to please the uninformed observer who is immediately drawn towards the mysteries of art with an A.B.C.
which he might easily imitate in a parlour game. Mr. Catleugh cuts out black stripes and pastes them close in vertical order, and on them he sticks small ribbons of coloured paper. The effect, oddly, is that of looking through slats at a confetti world: it is surprisingly agreeable. These pictures should be bought by public authorities and given to the people in factory canteens, station waiting rooms, etc. to replace contemporary highbrow “social realism” which can only be appreciated by experts who understand the role of anguish in achievement […]
A European goes sketching in Africa Here are the promised notes, scribbled hastily on the last day of a breath-taking sketching-trip of Nigeria and the Gold Coast. Penning this, I tremble. For copies of Art News reach Kumasi and Ibadan, and I know that earnest Africans take your paper and all it says far too seriously. This indeed is my first and deepest impression: the earnest, the spirit of dedication in which African technicians, scientists, teachers (who, incidentally, have clear majorities in the local parliaments) and artists are pushing ahead the development of nearly forty million people. Let me say here and now that before I succeeded in tracking down my most adorable models – the naked or near-naked “pagans” of the Northern Territories –
industry pays £2,000 a ton), rubber and foodstuffs, as well as the construction of roads and plant, and the fight against tsetse and floods take precedence over art. But art does again raise its beautiful head. I say “again”. For bronzes and brasses from Ife and Benin have – if only recently – been accorded the rank of Great Art. Reaching those places, I felt as I did when I first saw Knossos and Delphi, Florence and the Escorial. True, it is almost hopeless to date the best period of Ife (expert estimates vary between 300 b.c. and 700 a.d.) and Benin’s golden age was certainly over by 1500 a.d., but the “Igun Eronm-won”, the Royal Brass Workers, are still there – half a dozen families, direct descendants of the black Ghibertis who fashioned the “Oba’s Head” that recently fetched four thousand guineas at Christie’s. I saw them work in the ancient “lost wax” technique, and even brought back a couple of ivory tools for sculpting wax – precisely the type of tool that was used in the olden days. The skill is still there, though imagination and taste have had to come down to the level of European souvenir-collectors [...] I have no doubt of the future of the West-African nations, or their art. But unless people in authority do something to stop kings and chiefs destroying their wonderful baked-mud and clay palaces – replacing them with deplorably suburban European-type structures – those very nations will cry their eyes out fifty or a hundred years hence when their intellectuals are mature enough not to despise anything that is “primitive” or “native”. They were most surprised when I told them that ancient buildings – though devoid of modern plumbing – were protected and preserved by law in Britain. One day I hope to return, and to see again the mud palaces of Sandema (a honeycomb of giant pottery) and Wale-Wale (spire-studded in Sudanese fashion) – though nobody will see again the mighty ramparts and lofty gates of Kano. Progress, apparently, had no use for them. They are in pieces, and even the pieces are likely to vanish. A few miles away, West-African Airways are more atmosphere-conscious: they have a stalwart dusky camel-rider announcing the arrival of aircraft blowing a long double Haussa-type tuba.
Front cover, 8 December 1956 right Benedict Enwonwu, Africa Dances, 1955, gouache and watercolour, 78 × 27 cm. Courtesy Bonhams
Ben Enwonwu (1917–1994) pioneered Nigerian modernism. Gaining an MBE in 1958, the painter and sculptor would go on to advocate for independence from Britain having embraced the black intelligentsia of Paris and pan-African revolutionary organisations in London. After Nigerian independence in 1960 he became a prime mover of the World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar in 1966 and Lagos in 1977. Frederick Joss (1908–1967) was a Viennese-born political cartoonist, critic and adventurer. Aged 19, he edited Jornal do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro, before moving to Argentina. Joss was expelled for his socialist views and spent a short spell in a Spanish prison before moving to England in 1933 and becoming caricaturist for The Star, one of London’s three evening newspapers. He was bylined Joss of the Star.
11 December 1954 Letter to the editor
A West African responds I saw more brand-new or still rising super-contemporary University colleges, clinics, libraries, administrative buildings, housing estates, experimental stations experimenting in every conceivable field, and even museums than I have seen in any other country. And make no mistake: a few mining areas excepted, this is Black Man’s country. (Certainly – the black West Africans have the guidance of a few eminently able and devoted Whites.) It won’t surprise you that the production of cocoa,
timber, gold, tin, columbite (for which the U.S. aircraft
Dear Sir I want to thank you and Mr. Joss for publishing the letter from Africa. It is good to know that we have such sincere friends who tell the truth to the world and also to us. He is of course right when he says that we don’t appreciate our own national art and architecture. But who has taught us to despise it? The Europeans and more specially the missionaries. Now the missionaries are good people and did much good when we had no government to give us schools and hospitals, and we really ought to be grateful to them, always. But their
Affandi in Paris, 1953. Courtesy Indonesian Affairs
Affandi (1907 –1990) was a painter who pioneered an Indonesian form of expressionism. Largely cut off from western art, the artist’s work was particularly informed by Javanese wayang, or shadow-play theatre
taste in building and woodcarving and other ornaments is not the taste of the Art News. They always wanted us to destroy idols and ritual ornaments, and told us that dancing and drumming was wicked. Now many of our people believe that the missionaries have taught fine civilization and now our taste is just as good as the missionaries taste and that their little pictures of Saints are very fine art but that our ancient wood carving should be burnt and we should be ashamed of everything that is not Christian. Also who destroyed all the old palaces? Perhaps we are wrong but we think they have been destroyed in wars and by soldiers. It is fine that Mr. Joss says our mud palaces are beautiful but he should have seen what they were like before the Ashanti wars and before the end of old Benin. I am glad that Mr. Joss says the taste of Benin brass smiths is bad because they must make what people will buy for souvenirs. I say our wood carving is also very, very bad because Europeans who want souvenirs think they know what Black Man’s art is like and if the Black Man will not make that way the European will not buy it. It is good that Mr. Joss says these things even if he does not tell all the reason. He has seen much of
my country and he tells the truth. He is the friend of the African and he will be very well received when he goes to my country again. I have never seen Art News in the Gold Coast but I have now sent it there. Yours faithfully, A. (West African Student)
31 May 1952 Affandi at the Army and Navy Stores, reviewed by John Berger
A painter of genius Apart from the 1945 Picasso show, this is the most important contemporary exhibition seen in London since the war: important not only because Affandi, who was born in Java in 1910 [sic], is a painter of genius, but also because it indicates the type of work and the attitude which lie behind the new emerging culture of Asia, and because we in Europe will finally have to learn from that attitude [...] Most of the pictures are fairly large and are painted
Front cover, 7 August 1954
Henri Matisse (1869–1954) was a French painter. As a leader of Fauvism – with its strong emphasis on vivid colour – he is regarded as a pioneer of modern art. This was the first English translation of an essay written in 1953
on coarse canvas. The pigment itself usually thick and often applied in line-strokes which literally appear to have hit the canvas, and, having hit it, to have been drawn irresistibly into the orbit of the forms and spaces portrayed. Or more accurately, the magnetic process appears to work both ways: tension of the paintings is dependent on the lines and colours both attracting and being attracted by the development of the presented forms. Or again, to put it in an abstract way: the form and content of these works is indivisible. Their colour is bright, but violent and dignified rather than gay. Their subjects range from landscapes of ricefields, cities and mountains to portraits of the artist’s family, from paintings of animals – buffaloes, horses, boats, to paintings of the people to whom the artist has a complete, unselfconscious loyalty – rickshaw drivers, street musicians, republican soldiers, beggars, serious students. There are also on show a number of extraordinary drawings whose calligaphic quality is oriental, but whose grasp of particular form and expression is more reminiscent of Rembrandt or Goya. Yet what makes any description of these works inadequate (Expressionist is the only label that appears to fit but doesn’t) is that they are different in kind from anything we are accustomed to seeing. Not because of their exotic content – far from it: looking down one of these street scenes, one has no feeling of being on an unfamiliar set of values. Broadly speaking, ‘Art’ in the West has become inflated at the expense of life. Aesthetics have triumphed over vitality. These paintings redress the balance. They are the result of participation rather than contemplation, action rather than introspection. They are not concerned with Taste, for Taste completes and isolates. (This, I think, is the significance of the canvases being unframed and of a few being badly organised and uncorrected.) Instead, they are concerned with the continuity of life, the necessary continuity of being able to risk achievements. One could argue that such attitude means the destruction of art, that a work of art must always be complete in itself. This is true, but such completeness is only achieved by an artist who resolves his continuous, other-than-aesthetic responsibilities, never by one who rejects them. Affandi, working during historic and heroic events (the resistance to the Jap occupation and the war against the Dutch for Indonesian independence) has a profound sense of active solidarity. The public, to whom he accepts responsibility, are not those who may happen to look at his paintings, but those who make, or are implied by his subjects. It is for this reason that his pictures do not present themselves to the spectator, but turning him into a witness, confront him. Looking at one of Affandi’s pictures, one feels that the canvas and pigment, neither cherished nor despised for their own sake, were simply the ground on which the particular situation was fought out: the lines and colours somehow miraculously expressive tracks of the fight. Yet the proof that Affandi has resolved his responsibilities is that his work never appears to be either moralistic (in the narrow sense) or sentimental. On the contrary, its predominant quality is one of tolerance and
exhilaration. Finally, the obvious: Go to this exhibition. What I have said may be irrelevant to many readers. The only thing of which I am absolutely certain is that this exhibition is a supremely important challenge.
6 February 1954 Henri Matisse argues art is the act of subtracting, rather than adding, to life
Looking at life with the eyes of a child Creation is the artist’s true function; where there is no creation there is no art. But it would be a mistake to ascribe this creative power to an inborn talent. In art, the genuine creator is not just a gifted being, but a man who has succeeded in arranging for their appointed end a complex of activities, of which the work of art is the outcome. Thus, for the artist creation begins with vision. To see is itself a creative operation, requiring an effort. Everything that we see in our daily life is more or less distorted by acquired habits, and this is perhaps more evident in an age like ours when the cinema posters and magazines present us every day with a flood of ready-made images which are to the eye what the prejudices are to the mind. The effort needed to see things without distortion takes something very like courage; and this courage is essential to the artist, who has to look at everything as though he saw it for the first time: he has to look at life as he did when he was a child and, if he loses that faculty, he cannot express himself in an original, that is, a personal way. To take an example. Nothing, I think, is more difficult for a true painter than to paint a rose because, before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted. I have often asked visitors who came to see me at Venice whether they had noticed the thistles by the side of the road. Nobody had seen them; they would all have recognised the leaf of an acanthus on a Corinthian capital, but the memory of the capital prevented them from seeing the thistle in nature. The first step towards creation is to see everything as it really is, and that demands a constant effort. To create is to express what we have within ourselves. Every creative effort comes from within. We have also to nourish our feeling, and we can do so only with materials derived from the world about us. This is the process whereby the artist incorporates and gradually assimilates the external world within himself, until the object of his drawing has become like a part of his being, until he has it within him and can project it on to the canvas as his own creation. When I paint a portrait, I come back again and again to my sketch, and every time it is a new portrait that I am painting: not one that I am improving, but a quite different one that I am beginning over again;
Work by Maria Martins at the São Paulo Bienal, 1951. Photo: Peter Scheier. Courtesy Fundação Bienal de São Paulo
Eric Newton (1893–1965) was a British art critic whose radio programmes throughout the 1930s made him famous
and every time I extract from the same person a different being. In order to make my study more complete I have often had recourse to photographs of the same person at different ages; the final portrait may show that person younger or under a different aspect from that which he or she presents at the time of sitting, and the reason is that that is the aspect which seemed to me the truest, the one which revealed most of the sitter’s real personality. Thus a work of art is the climax of a long work of preparation. The artist takes from his surroundings everything that can nourish his internal vision, either directly, when the object he is drawing is to appear in his composition, or by analogy. In this way he puts himself into a position where he can create. He enriches himself internally with all the forms he has mastered and which he will one day set to a new rhythm. It is in the expression of this rhythm that the artist’s work becomes really creative. To achieve it, he will have to sift rather than accumulate details, selecting, for example, from all possible combinations, the line that expresses most and gives life to the drawing; he will have to seek the equivalent terms by which the facts of nature are transposed into art. In my Still Life with Magnolia, I painted a green marble table red; in another place I had to use black to suggest the reflection of the sun on the sea; all these transpositions were not in the least matters of chance or whim, but were the result of a series of investigations, following which these colours seemed to me to be necessary, because of their relation to the rest of the composition, in order to give the impression I wanted. Colours and lines are forces, and the secret of creation lies in the play and balance of those forces. In the chapel at Venice, which is the outcome of earlier researches of mine, I have tried to achieve that balance of forces; the blues, greens and yellows of the windows compose a light within the chapel, which is not strictly any of the colours used, but is the living product of their mutual blending; this light made up of colours is intended to play upon the white and black-stencilled surface of the wall facing the windows, on which the lines are purposely set wide apart. The contrast allows me to give the light its maximum vitalising value, to make it the essential element, colouring, warming and animating the whole structure, to which it is desired to give an impression of boundless space despite its small dimensions. Throughout the chapel every line and every detail contributes to that impression. That is the sense, so it seems to me, in which art may be said to imitate nature, namely, by the life that the creative worker infuses into the work of art. The work will then appear as fertile and as possessed of the same power to thrill, the same resplendent beauty as we find in works of nature. Great love is needed to achieve this effect, a love capable of inspiring and sustaining that patient striving towards truth, that glowing warmth and that analytic profundity that accompany the birth of any work of art. But is not love the origin of all creation?
1 December 1952 The first São Paulo Bienal, reviewed by Eric Newton
Modern above all else The city of São Paulo spreads outwards among dry, rolling hills – outwards and upwards, for new skyscrapers spring up in its centre at what strikes a European as an alarming rate, and a continually thickening belt of little villas adds itself to its circumference as the population increases. Already it contains two and a half million inhabitants. In size it has nearly drawn level with Rio de Janeiro, which has no circumference because it is hemmed in between a long waterfront and impossibly steep mountains. There is no reason why São Paulo should not continue to expand, outwards and upwards, as long as business is brisk and there are fortunes to be made. Unlike Rio, it is not a beautiful city. Despite its wealth it has no air of opulence, though it displays all the symptoms of success. It is the capital of the State of São Paulo, but it has none of Rio’s metropolitan grandeur. It is merely very big and determined to grow bigger. And it is gradually developing a cultural tradition. It contains, for example, two art galleries, housed on opposite sides of the same building, which manage to co-exist on terms of friendly rivalry. Each owes its flourishing existence to local benevolence and local wealth. Senhor Chateaubriand, that restless newspaper millionaire (who has just built a television station on top of the Rio Sugarloaf, thereby giving it the appearance of a sea-lion delicately balancing a large biscuit-box on its nose), is the patron of the biggish Museum of Art, which contains a bewildering cross-section of world art from the Renaissance onwards. Senhor Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho
Lawrence Dame (1898–1981) was the critic for the Boston Herald-Traveler newspaper until 1948, after which he wrote about art and wine freelance for 30 years Lawrence Alloway (1926–1990) was an English art critic and curator best known for coining the term ‘Pop art’ during the mid-1950s. Having been a leading member of the Independent Group in Britain, which met at the ICA, where Alloway was assistant director, he moved to America in 1961. He was a curator at the Guggenheim Museum, New York from 1962 to 1966
provides the energy and the funds that drive the smaller but more select Museum of Modern Art. And to the same Senhor Matarazzo’s enthusiasm São Paulo owes the first South American Bienal which opened last month and contained contributions from twenty-two nations as well as a large Brazilian section of painting and sculpture. The most obvious characteristic of Brazilian cities is a furious determination to be up-to-date. The Portuguese colonists of the middle and late eighteenth century tested the richness of the country’s resources in minerals and precious stones and left behind them a charming record in terms of Provincial Baroque architecture, mainly in Bahia and the State of Minas Gerais. During the nineteenth century Brazil seems to have lapsed into a gentle sleep from which, during the last two decades, it has awakened with a suddenness and an energy that are almost disconcerting. Consequently, Brazil regards with the gravest suspicion today anything in art or architecture that is not of the very latest – or what it conceives to be the very latest – design. Architecturally it is quite confident of itself, for it possesses in Oscar Niemeyer the most progressively energetic and daring of all modern architects, whose only weakness is a folie de grandeur that robs him of a sense of scale and tempts him to think in unnecessarily gargantuan terms. In painting, Brazil is equally determined to be up-to-date but not quite so certain of its standards. My own impression, as a member of the international jury that assembled a week before the opening of the São Paulo Bienal in order to award prizes, is that the Brazilian test of modernity is too simple. Romantic or anecdotal painting is automatically under a cloud. Abstract art tends to receive sympathetic consideration because of its category rather than because of its merit. One felt that in making many of its awards the jury was playing for safety and that, in the face of the abstract obsession, gentle romantics like Tytgat or surrealist romantics like Delvaux were almost ‘hors concours’, that Graham Sutherland and Craxton – both well represented in the English section – were misunderstood for the same reason; and that the preponderance of abstract painting in the Italian, Swiss and German sections attracted more attention than it deserved. In awarding the chief prize for painting to the French painter, Chastel, for a charming and tasteful non-figurative picture, the jury made a sensible rather than a courageous decision. But Brazil is a young country, and the São Paulo Bienal is its latest experiment. If, as one hopes, this is the first of a series of international exhibitions of contemporary art, maturity of judgment will surely, follow at a later stage. The success and the popularity of the exhibition this year is assured, and the fact that it was conceived no more than a year ago and that the excellent building in which it is housed was erected in a space of three months, makes its success almost miraculous […]
10 February 1951 Report from America by Lawrence Dame
A drubbing for the Met’s modern painting show What is the state of American painting today? According to New York’s dictatorial Metropolitan Museum, which long opened its doors to contemporary art only with the reluctance of a housewife to a pedlar’s rap, it has reached the heights beyond which no artist need aspire. While trying hard to curb its modesty, the country’s biggest if not best repository of the arts has made a few discoveries which do not seem quite so startling in less rarified circles. This is quite simply, that a lot of Americans can handle brush and colour nicely today. If the Met had made this statement, acknowledged its snootiness of the past and let the public judge for itself as to the merits of its latest show, all might have been well. Instead, intoxicated by its own generosity in placing a score of galleries at the disposal of contemporaries who could never get into the place before, it is shouting from the housetops that American artists have at last come of age and outstrip those of all other lands. As a matter of fact, in one way, the Met has come of age. While its assertions are immoderate, it ought to have opened its eyes and surveyed the national field long before […] I don’t think London would be terrifically surprised by the 307 [paintings on show here].
14 March 1959 The New American Painting at the Tate Gallery, London, reviewed by Lawrence Alloway
Paintings from the Big Country Compare The New American Painting at the Tate Gallery with the recent exhibition of Russian Painting at the Royal Academy. The Russians did not trust their best art out of the country: the icons and the ‘revolutionary genre’ were, so the people who dig Russian art said, second-level specimens. We were not given a ‘best of its kind’ exhibition: small versions stood in for big pictures; key works stayed at home. This attitude of witholding the goods is opposite to the spirit manifested by the American exhibition. The seventeen artists are represented by first-rate works in every case; even the artists that one likes least are represented by the ‘best of their kind ’ (only Pollock is patchily seen, but then his big one-man show toured currently with The New American Painting). The generosity and seriousness of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is conspicuous in this major exhibition. Leaving out Sam Francis, Grace Hartigan, and Theodoros Stamos (all in their 30s) the artists, the big
Full back-page advertisement for Lust for Life (dir Vincente Minnelli), 16 March 1957
Lawrence Alloway’s love of The New American Painting at the Tate Gallery was not shared by most of his colleagues on the newspapers, whom he lambasted for their judgment in an article titled ‘sic, sic, sic’
ones in the show, were born between 1903 and 1913. It is a generation after Picasso and before the post-war swarm. Who could be put into an equivalent British exhibition? I can think of Sutherland, Pasmore, Scott, Bacon, Hilton, Piper, Moynihan, Ceri Richards. It is clear, even though the British Council or the Contemporary Art Society might enjoy such a show, that the sense of discovery and purpose, power and vitality that marks the American exhibition would be, to put it mildly, missing [...] The point is: Europe cannot match Pollock, Rothko, Still, Newman, De Kooning, Kline, Gottlieb, Guston (and, by the way, Hans Hoffmann). Most aspects of New York abstract painting have been very well covered. Consider that phase in the 40s in which form (an instrument of clarity and solidity between the wars) was being invested with multiple significance. Baziotes and Gorky are helpfully hung together, which brings out their common biomorphism. This can be described as Andre Breton did, in one of his best later writings, by calling it a use of ‘hybrid form in which all human emotion is precipitated ’. Often, however, it is not much more than a custom of sexualising everything the artist can lay his hands on, a vice of Americans hit by decadent surrealism. But Gorky does it with a terrific elegance that cons us into acceptance of that old viscera and those organs busting out all over. Gorky, like Baziotes and Pollock, developed a mature personal style in the mid-40s, before Kline, De Kooning or Rothko. Baziotes learned from European fantasists such as Klee and Miro but set their hybrid forms (it’s a bird, it’s a man, it’s a superflower) in a stiff format with silvery colour reminiscent of Arthur Dove. He has remained within the limits of this thesis made in the 40s, elaborating a patient iconography of the biomorphic kingdom. Stylistically Gorky and Baziotes represent a time when surrealist forms were being converted to new puposes. What the new purposes were can be seen in De Kooning’s Painting (1948) in which the forms, heavy, blunt, rounded, really are referentially all-purpose and not, as in Gorky, mainly sexy. Pollock in his drip-paintings created an image of advancing space. The presence of the paint on the top of the picture surface (where else?) was stressed by thickness of pigment, linear overlaps, metallic puddles and ribbons, so that the surface is pushed at the spectator, not hollowed away from him (as it is in De Kooning and Guston). The basic assumption is of a space effect created by the literal area of the picture as it occupies space, our space, not an imagined pictorial one. Although different from one another Newman, Still, and Rothko have in common the creation of this kind of literal, participative space (in which they have been joined recently by Gottlieb in the Burst series). This is probably the most radical line in the various threads of New York painting, a major resolution of 20th century intuitions about space and that obsession with surface which has nagged everybody since Gauguin and Mallarmé. Rothko’s five paintings show that Dr Sandberg of the Stedelijk Museum, who thinks that if you’ve seen
one Rothko you’ve seen them all, is good and wrong. The Rothkos paraded on a wall at the Tate Gallery show colour variations and changing proportions which are the clearer and more individual for the simplicity of means. Light, which glows in the earlier and glowers in the later paintings, never felt more like ‘ visually evaluated radiant energy ’, part of a wave-band that includes hard-radiation. Still, in his three thick paintings, in which the pigment is scarred and wrinkled, and one thin one in which the paint is lean and dry, defines the stretch of canvas as the reach of space with a rigour and control that does not preclude a sense of unknown forms appearing. Still was not included in two books about American abstract art that came out in 1951 (one by A. C. Ritchie, one by T. B. Hess) though all the works in the current show were painted by then. Recognition of Barnett Newman has taken even longer (though three of his pictures in the present exhibition date from 1949): his presence in The New American Painting is a surprise to everybody (including some of the staff of the Museum of Modern Art, probably) but he is at the top of the show. His economical means and deadpan technique makes everybody else’s work risk fussyness and elaboration. His four pictures (one relegated to the hall – don’t miss it over the catalogue table) are not geometric art (see his statement in the catalogue) though they may look like it at first. His divisions of the picture plane are pauses in his continuous fields of colour, control factors in the expansion of the picture in the spectators’ perception of it. One feels alone with these paintings: you look at them as the last man might look at the world. (It is good to see Tworkov in the exhibition, an able painter whose recent work has acquired a considerable grandeur). This exhibition should make opponents of American art (of whom there are plenty in the newspaper offices, art schools, and drawing rooms of London) realise that it is not all one big splash of paint[...] No other country in the world could put on an exhibition of post-war painting to equal The New American Painting and no other museum in the world could have arranged it so well. In America it is often hard to hear a good word for the Museum of Modern Art but in Europe, which has only one decent modern museum, and that in Amsterdam, we can only marvel at the resources and intelligence of the moma[...]
25 April 1959 Letters to the Editor
Sir With reference to Mr. Alloway’s article, ‘sic, sic, sic,’ my assault on the new American painting (sic) at the Tate was not “co-ordinated” in any way with anyone. Nor is it “symptomatic” of any anti-American attitude. In writing, as in speech, I have always been clearly, consistently and outspokenly pro-American. If you want proof, you shall have it ad nauseam. Mr. Alloway implies – though dare not state – that I am an anti-Semite. This is grossly defamatory and
wholly untrue, as I can also easily prove [...and] I have no recollection whatever of describing myself as “a Tory humorist”. Nor has my colleague, who is called Michael (not Peter) Wharton. If you are to “remember these names”, you may as well get them right. Mr. Alloway’s inaccuracies could, perhaps, be forgiven in a man less censorious of inaccuracy in others. Yours etc., Colin Welch Daily Telegraph.
Eric Newton writes: Lawrence through the looking glass (A Critic’s Carroll) Front cover, 6 June 1959
‘Twas swishblob and the Yankeeboys Did drip and dribble at the Tate. All whimsy was the Alloway And mixed his jibes with hate. “Beware the Cluttonbrock, my son, The words dictated by the Devil: Beware the Berger-bird and shun The dubious Wallis (Nevile).” He took his whimsy pen in hand: In Barr-like thought long time he sate. He bade adieu to Dover Street And wimbled to the Tate. And as in highbrow thought he stood The journalists with words of shame Came snarling through the tachiste wood And dropped bricks as they came. One two! Three four! And even more The whimsy pen went “ Sic, Sic, Sic ”. He left them weltering in their gore. He knew he’d done the trick. “And hast thou slain the Cluttonbrock? The Berger-birds? The Wallises? And hast thou rid the Daily Press Of anti-dribble policies?” “Oh broken Read! Oh Barr! Oh dear! Oh rathe Penrose without a thorn! The critics, when they read my sneer, Will wish they never had been born!” (We simple critics watch and pray, Contrite in heart, like biters bitten. What luck to have an Alloway To tell us what we should have written) ‘Twas Yanktime and the Alloway His brightest adjectives assembled To vindicate the U.S.A. While lesser critics blushed and trembled.
Sir, I don’t know who’s funnier in your rag, Pierre Rouve, that murderer of English, or Lawrence Alloway, that tweedy professional American aesthete. It’s all right when types like them confine their activities to bodies like the ica, but when they loose themselves on the real world it’s really too much. I expect Alloway is cosily aware that he is the only one in step out of the 50 odd, million rest of us. Poor ––––. Ask him to get back inside the ica, wrap his fingers around something pale in a little glass, sit about on those contemporary sofas; then he can giggle to his heart’s content, about reality. I prefer the brutal realism of a Colin Welch, to the simpering of aesthetes. A. L. Davies
Sir, Nice to learn that Mr. Welch isn’t anti-American. I look forward to the day when he is able to write about American art without looking as if he were. Even after his explanation, however, it is preposterous that a man thinks he can talk about burning pictures and express regret at Hitler’s death and only mean to refer to Hitler as an art critic (sic). (It’s alright to burn pictures that Mr. Welch doesn’t like?) There are still people who don’t think of Hitler, even when he is linked with Ruskin, as an art critic and I am happy to stay with those people. Mr. Spencer hasn’t quite got the point. I am not so pro-American that any kind words about American art enchant me. I thought that not only were the adverse critics of the New American Painting show prejudiced but that most of the praise wasn’t worth much (including Mr. Spencer’s). The favourable criticism was hardly of a level either to (1) aid the public’s art appreciation or (2) interest the artists themselves (which are the two kinds of interested readers that a critic can expect). Mr. Davies’ trembling fingers have run away with him. For example, Pierre Rouve and I are not as close as he thinks: I work at the ica but Mr. Rouve’s interests (so far as I understand what these are) are hardly defined by the ica’s activities. ‘ Tweedy ’ in conjunction with ‘American aesthetes’ is mixed up. I suppose what he wanted was a smear word to suggest my folly compared to the manly stuff of Colin Welch. However, American aesthetics is not in the hands of tweedy people and my style is not tweedy. Mr Davies should try and get on the ball if he is going to venture into the real world of words like this. As to Mr. Newton’s poem, I thank him for and, of course, agree with it. Lawrence Alloway
We learn that Her Majesty the Queen, with the cooperation of Prince Philip is acquiring pictures of contemporary appeal News report, 1960
He now told police that he had stolen the Goya to draw attention to his campaign for cheap TV licenses for the Old Age Pensioners. He had done the deed in a spirit of ‘honest-to-goodness skulduggery’ Frank Whitford reports on the recent theft and return of a Goya from London’s National Gallery, 1966
It is becoming clearer that if any artist’s work is to be meaningful today, it requires to invoke a communication reference familiar, relevant and accessible to those meant to receive it Eddie Wolfram reviews Cybernetic Serendipity, 1968
It’s all rather sad… Success came too late. I was an old man when I became known. Nobody remembers that I like talking about other things than paintings. All these things make me feel more lonely L.S. Lowry, 1966
1960–69 The 1960s at Arts Review were defined by the erratic gallop towards the primacy of popular culture and Pop art. The charge was led by Lawrence Alloway, who claimed to have coined the term, and continued to develop a rhetoric that could, for example, blend references to Eartha Kitt, Sergei Eisenstein, the Birmingham Surrealists and Titian into a single profile of Francis Bacon (published in 1960). The course was never direct, however, and hiccups along the way were caused (ironically) by the reemergence in actual popular consciousness of eighteenth-century horse painter George Stubbs (his rise heavily supported by American philanthropist and racehorse owner Paul Mellon), a lingering deference towards the eccentric early-twentieth-century British avant-gardist Walter Sickert and seemingly eternal debates (across three consecutive cover features) about whether Pablo Picasso was a has-been or a hero. At the heart of it all was the definition of ‘pop’: did it mean daily life (in the sense of what Sickert or the newly fashionable work of L.S. Lowry represented); the imageheavy content and agendas of mass media (between adverts for cigarettes and sherry, Arts Review began to review radio, television, film and the nascent computer industry as a new distribution network for the arts); or a culture that existed in opposition to traditional and still prevalent hierarchies of class (‘contemporary art exists beyond the fashionable galleries of the West End’ was a frequent rallying cry)? Meanwhile, Arts Review’s resident India specialist, G.M. Butcher, on a break from reviewing the latest issue of the Visva-bharati Quarterly (from Santiniketan) and taking part in the magazine’s long-term championing of London-based Indians such as F.N. Souza and Avinash Chandra, was worrying that snobbery-related obstacles experienced while attempting to buy an authentic Madras shirt may have (negatively) influenced his review of a Reg Butler exhibition. Butcher’s greater mission, however, was to explore the arts of South Asia in relation to the context that produced them, rather than that of a museum or in relation to their generative force for early-twentieth-century European art. It was a notion that the magazine’s Africa expert, Dennis Duerden, and others, writing about art from East and Southeast Asia, South America and elsewhere, echoed. While Peter Howell might proudly proclaim that art from Australia was now ‘so very close to European standards’, Hansi Bohm, reviewing a show of contemporary Turkish art, despaired that ‘Turkish art now is the same as everywhere else.’ As Britain struggled to find its place in the world at the end of the colonial era, it seemed contemporary art might be a new kind of colonialism in and of itself. Indeed, Arts Review’s writers were never quite sure as to whether they viewed art as a universal or as a particular language. During the mid-1960s Pat Gilmour would be celebrating the democratising effects of technology in fuelling a burgeoning market for prints and editions; by the end of the decade Janet Daley would be worrying that it had destroyed all the particularities of art itself. One thing that almost everyone could agree on was that art had found a new place in popular consciousness, as demonstrated by Frank Whitford’s report of the theft and return of a Goya drawing from London’s National Gallery in 1966. The thief, a ‘17-stone, sixty-one-year-old’ named Kempton Bunton, had done the deed to raise awareness of the outrageous cost of television licenses. By the end of the decade it was the Venice Biennale that became a site for protest against society’s ills.
29 April, 1967 Rachel, Lady Clay at Leighton House Art Gallery reviewed by Cottie Burland
Nice and happy
Front cover, 26 March, 1960
Barrie Sturt-Penrose was an art critic and broadcaster who contributed to publications in the US and the UK Cottie Arthur Burland (1905–83) was a writer and researcher with a particular interest in magic and the occult, and in pre-Columbian and Native American cultures
Five years ago our artist, then over 70, set out to paint. It has been a development of painting for pleasure, and this one can share. The competent watercolours have a direct approach and simplicity of brush work which are pleasing. One feels the pleasure in the paintings of quiet Aldeburgh, in such works as A Misty Morning and The Crag Path. This is all realist work, pleasant in shape and good in colour. There are some quite pleasant oil landscapes, and a series of abstracts which are attributed to the Stereoscan microscope. Dragons, flowers, spines, crystalline patterns, all exciting aspects of fact which only appear factual because of the artist’s note. True they are fantasies on the fact, but so are many other paintings. Also some pictures for children of dolls and china pigs and things of delight. Nice thought here, and happy.
19 February, 1966 Joe Tilson interviewed by Sturt-Penrose
Angry young man English art has reached an extremely interesting and exciting moment in its development. Many of the painters and sculptors who have contributed to its increasing importance now live in London. Are you conscious of belonging to a vital community here in London? No, I don’t think I’m conscious of belonging to a community as such. There’s no art colony in London. I’m conscious of being in a situation where communication between, for instance, New York and London and the rest of Europe and London is very speedy. One seems to travel more than painters did twenty years ago. Thus in a situation where everything has changed I don’t really think it is accurate to say that London has taken over from Paris or New York. It’s true that Paris no longer dominates the international scene at all. London has become one of the other centres where art is possible – with New York. I think we need to be very careful not to think in terms of the past, in terms of thinking that Paris had complete control over every other country, and that London now occupies a similar position. It would be awful to swop the earlier British provincialism for a new form of British chauvinism. But there’s little doubt that there is a feeling of great potential in what has been called the New English Art. You were at St. Martin’s School of Art and at the Royal College of Art. What has been in your opinion the significance of the professional art schools in the formation of the New English Art? The Painting School of the Royal College of Art has changed from the easy-going Fifties, under Professor Rodrigo Moynihan, to a rigid dull regime under Professor Carel Weight and with one exception a list
of the most nowhere artists to be found at the Royal Academy. Around 1954 Riley, Blake, Denny, Smith and myself were there. There was no teaching but great freedom to do what you wanted to and much interchange of ideas amongst the students. Allen Jones and Hockney were at College around 1960-61. Jones was expelled after his first year and Hockney was failed in his Final written exams and was busy printing his own Diploma when the Principal gave in and passed him. No one of interest that I can remember came from the Sculpture School when I was at the Royal College, but under the new Professor, Bernard Meadows, it is very good. The Slade teaching has a much more positive effect, though not necessarily a good one. The Sculpture Department is appallingly bad. The Slade has been more lively lately due mainly to Harold Cohen teaching there plus other Visiting Teachers such as Kitaj, Hodgkin, Auerbach and Denny. St. Martin’s Painting School is zero on anyone’s list. St. Martin’s Sculpture School is the best I have seen and so are the results, both in work and the interchange of ideas between Teacher and Students, and Teachers and Teachers, because it is this second thing that has helped most in London to develop people’s attitudes and ideas. In London, as opposed to New York, everybody teaches. There are obvious disadvantages to this, but one great advantage is that you are forced to meet other painters and sculptors every week in a situation where serious discussion can take place. There are several examples where a serious interchange of ideas took place. Every Wednesday for two years Tony Caro, Dick Smith, Harold Cohen and myself met for lunch when we were teaching at St. Martin’s, and many other people joined us, painters, sculptors, critics, architects. I think that it is this exchange of ideas between painters and sculptors that has helped the London scene. Not the Art Schools, as such, or the older people directing and teaching in them. I want now to talk about your own work. Firstly, what gives you your basic subject matter. Are your images always urban in origin? I’m very conscious of living in a city. I find it visually exciting. I think that in a city like London the rigid pattern of people’s lives tends to make them very unaware of the things around them. I mean the pattern that you get up in the morning, you go out and look at the number of a bus, you pick up information like ‘Is it raining’? In fact you aren’t really looking. For instance, I’m sure the rush-hour crowds passing up Oxford Sheet very rarely look-up at the big neon-sign over Studio One. I did a series of paintings and cutouts based on ideas from neon-signs and cinema architecture. I start from life today in the city and our communications techniques and the imagery they use. I use these within the field of Fine Art – insisting on a rigorously formal solution. I am interested in the transient, expendable, mass-produced dreamworld of the big stores; in television advertising, the movies, the mass media, and life in the city. I am concerned with reality and dreams – the reality that I can discover via my senses, shaped by intellect, becomes this thing
I do. I make objects that stand on their own, with their own life and meaning. They relate obviously also to other things that have been the starting point, but I take over these things and use them to make something completely new. When I view the objects I make, there is an interpenetration of meaning from other things, a sort of two-way process in your mind involving all the senses, and an ambiguity even in the seemingly unequivocal images that I often use. If the form is precise enough a total metamorphosis takes place mainly in the spectator’s mind.
Joe Tilson is a British painter and sculptor and one of the leading figures in the British Pop art movement
Let me ask you a very basic question: What do you consider painting to be all about? After all, the very activity of painting has altered so much during the last four decades that the answer to my question is still debatable. For me, painting is a private action like making love; concerned with the solution of individual problems and not concerned with direct communication except with one self. Painting is about things only half known before the event, clarified in the transformation of concept into form-concept. Paradoxically the most intense and durable communication is made by those painters and sculptors who work without necessarily thinking of the public. Recent developments in non-verbal communication such as the Television and the Cinema, have freed the painter from the many compromising activities connected earlier with painting. […]
5 March, 1966 Letter to Joe Tilson
Dear Joe, You are quoted as saying (‘Profile’, Arts Review, 19th February, 1966) that Saint Martin’s Painting Department is zero on anyone’s list. Is this a case of biting the hand that fed you? You drop a small number of distinguished names; does it not strike you as odd that among them Denny and Auerbach, as well as yourself, should have been painting students at Saint Martin’s, that Blake, Smith and Cohen should have been teaching painting there at the same time as you, and that those illuminating exchanges of yours with Caro, Cohen and Company were during that time? Perhaps something was done for the students, too? If not we share the blame. If the Sculpture Department has provided a ‘school of sculpture’ in the other sense and a rallying point for the best in avant-garde ideas, that was in response to historical need. With painting the need has been otherwise, no one school could or should bag the kitty. After all, there are five famous London Schools under the I.L.E.A., as well as The Slade, Royal College and R.A. Schools, all pretty renowned for painting. By and large Saint Martin’s painting department may have been the most tolerant and given to its staff and students an undemanding environment within which those personal exchanges between individual artists and aspirants might be easily made, which I believe in as much as you do. There are also serious educational aims which may not be so easily measured as you seem to think. To be good does
a school have to be on ‘anyone’s list’? Like a night club or a new men’s boutique? And who were these stultifying greybeards whom you speak of – the older men who gave so little – Kinley, Coker, Greaves, Fussell, de Francia? Ah no, of course you mean myself, who taught you Costume Life Drawing in the Beginners, when we were both new boys and picked over the carcass of the Italian Renaissance together. You were the brightest boy in the art appreciation class and we marked you out then as a likely for the Prix de Rome (and wrote a good recommendation later to help you get there). Yes, Joe, I knew you would go far. But you have not been back to see us lately – not since you gave up teaching here three years ago. Perhaps you ought to come and see if things are just as bad without you. It might be a risk? The only man I ever felled was standing at your mantelpiece, but then he wanted to be felled, didn’t he? Some famous men do. Yours ever, Freddy. Frederick Gore, A.R.A., Head of Painting Department, St. Martin’s School of Art, London
5 March, 1966 Letter to the editor
Sir, Mr Joe Tilson may think it becoming in your columns to foul his own nest and to describe those who have emerged from it since he left, but I think it is right in the interests of accuracy to record that all those members of the staff of the Painting School of the Royal College of Art whom he condemns as ‘the most nowhere artists to be found at the Royal Academy’ were appointed on the advice of Mr Rodrigo Moynihan and were teaching at the rca while he was a student. The only appointments made on the advice of his successor, Professor Carel Weight, are Mr Peter Blake, Mrs Jean Bratby, Miss Sandra Blow and Mr Hamilton Fraser. It is quite untrue that Mr Hockney was failed in his final examination for in point of fact he is only the third person to have received the Gold Medal of the College during this century. He is at present a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Print Making of the School of Graphic Design. Mr Allen Jones did fail to pass the first year examination, but this decision which later turned out to be mistaken, was probably right at the time and he himself has remained a close friend of the rca, and claims to have been trained here. Amongst the painters who have left during the last few years I might mention as an indication of continuing vitality: Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Ronald Kitaj, Frank Bowling, Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips, John Selway, Brian Wright, William Culbert. Many others have not yet had time to make substantial reputations for themselves and I recollect that it was a good many years before Mr Tilson himself attained success. Yours, etc. Sir Robin Darwin, Principal, Royal College of Art, London
Having worked as an assistant to Henry Moore during the 1950s, Anthony Caro (1924–2013) went on to become one of Britain’s leading modernist sculptors Peter Stroud (1921–2008), was a British abstract painter (who later moved to the US) whose works can be found in museum collections around the world Edward Maurice FitzGerald ‘Robyn’ Denny (1930–2008), was a British abstract painter who pioneered new artforms in the wake of Abstract Expressionism and in reaction to a rising interest in popular culture. A public art work at Embamkment underground station was installed in 1985
19 March, 1966 Letter to the editor
Sir, I read with interest that Sir Robin Darwin felt that I was a ‘close friend’ of the Royal College of Art. Pleasant as this would seem, those words have a reciprocal meaning which can hardly describe our relationship. His loaded phrases are not in the ‘interests of accuracy’ mentioned in his letter. Moreover, since we do not know each other, I can only conclude that he has again been misinformed. Yours, etc. Allen Jones
2 July, 1960 Letter to the editor
Sir, we were most entertained by “Atticus among the Art Dealers’ (Sunday Times, May 15), particularly as it revealed the extraordinary light in which art dealers see themselves. They appear to set themselves up as arbiters of taste, but react almost exclusively to the views of their clients. According to the article they regard most of us as irresponsible Bohemians and they expect gratitude as well as a commission in return for their ‘philanthropy’. In the place of the declining connection between the London art dealers and the artists, may we put forward the conditions we regard as essential for an ideal gallery: That it should be the policy of the gallery to search out and exhibit regularly the works of new and significant artists – to be, in fact, a perpetual vanguard; and this requires a continuing contact with progressive trends in painting and sculpture. That the gallery provide adequate exhibiting space and a suitable environment which enables works to be seen their true perspective, rather than providing a chic setting in which significant works look out of place. That a straightforward business relationship be established, the dealer on his side providing efficient promotion and public relations, the artist on his side free to carry out the job. These conditions are no more than inadequately fulfilled by any London gallery, in our view a sorry state of affairs. Yours, etc. Anthony Caro, Peter Stroud, Robyn Denny
22 September, 1962 Milton Avery at the Waddington Galleries, London, by Clement Greenberg
Force of feeling Milton Avery grew up as a painter in the days of the American Scene movement, with its advocacy of an art
that would concentrate on American life and shun esoteric influences. Avery set his face against this, yet the atmosphere created by that movement may have helped confirm him in his acceptance of himself. However misguided and even obscurantist the American Scene tendency was, it did at least urge in principle that the American artist come to terms with the ineluctable conditions of his development; it did remind him that he could not jump out of his skin; and it did prepare for the day when he would stop bewailing the fact that he lived where he did. In any case, Avery started off from American art before the American Scene was heard of; in Hartford, where he grew up, he looked harder at Ryder and some of the American Impressionists than at anything in French art. And when he went on to assimilate certain French influences the outcome was still some of the most unmistakably and authentically American art that I, for one, have seen. Avery himself would be the last to see any aesthetic value in Americanness as such. If his art is so selfevidently American it is because it so successfully bodies forth the truth about himself and his condition, not because he has ever made an issue of his national identity. And it may also be because he developed, owing to circumstances he only half-chose, within what was to a great extent a non-European frame of reference. There are, moreover, different kinds of Americanness, and Avery’s kind may be more apparent than others at this moment only because it had had less of a chance, before the advent of Fauvism, to express itself in ambitious, sophisticated painting. There is no glamour in Avery’s art; it is daring, but it is not emphatic or spectacular in its daring. In part this may have to do with the concrete elements of his painting; the absence of pronounced value contrasts on the one hand, and of intense colour on the other; the neutral surface that betrays neither ‘paint quality’ nor brushwork. But it has even more to do with his temperament, his diffidence. Fifteen years ago, reviewing one of his shows at Paul Rosenberg’s in The Nation, while I admired his landscapes, I gave most of my space to the derivativeness of the figure pieces that made up the bulk of the show, and if I failed to discern how much there was in these that was not Matisse, it was not only because of my own imperceptiveness, but also because the artist himself had contrived not to call enough attention to it. I still quarrel with Avery’s figure pieces, or at least with most of them. Too often their design fails to be total: figures are not locked securely enough in place against their backgrounds, which are so often blank ones. And for all the inspired distortion and simplification of contour, factual accidents of the silhouette will intrude in a way that disrupts the flat patterning which is all-important to this kind of painting. It is as though Avery had trouble handling displaceable objects when they exceeded a certain size, and found his certainty only in depicting things that had grown into the places they occupied and which provided foregrounds and backdrops that interlocked of their
Clement Greenberg (1909–94), was the most influential American art critic of the mid twentieth century. Famously championing Abstract Expressionism, he wasn’t so sure about Pop. By the 1970s Arts Review’s writers had firmly categorised him as a fuddy duddy Born in Goa, Francis Newton Souza (1924–2002), was a founding member of the Bombay-based Progressive Artist’s Group, he supported the Quit India Movement (for which he was expelled from art school) and became a member of the Communist Party of India. He moved to London in 1949, where he struggled for recognition until the mid 1950s and a sold-out show at Victor Musgrave’s Gallery. A painting from the Gallery One exhibition sold for £3.1 million at auction in New York in 2015
own accord. In other words, he is generally at his best in landscape and seascape. Nature is flattened and aerated in his painting, but not deprived in a final sense of its substantiality, which is restored to it – it could be said – by the artistic solidity of the result. The picture floats but it also coheres and stays in place, as tight as a drum and as open as light. Through the unreal means most specific to pictorial art, the flat plane parallel to the surface, Avery conveys the integrity of nature better than the Cubists could with their own kind of emphasis on flat parallel planes. And whereas Cubism had to eventuate in abstraction, Milton Avery has developed and expanded his art without having either to court or ward off that possibility. As it happens, he is one of the very few modernists of note in his generation to have disregarded Cubism. It would be hazardous to say that he has not been affected by it in any way, but it certainly has not had an important part in his formation, and he has flouted the Cubist canon of the well-made picture almost as much as Clyfford Still has. That the younger ‘anti-Cubist’ abstract painters who admire Avery do not share his naturalism has not prevented them from learning from him any more than it has prevented them from admiring him. His art demonstrates how sheer truth of feeling can galvanise what seem the most inertly decorative elements – a tenuous flatness; pure, largely valueless contrasts of hue; large, unbroken tracts of uniform colour; an utter, unaccented simplicity of design – into tight and dramatic unities in which the equivalents of the beginning, middle and end of the traditional easel pictures are fully sensed. His painting shows once again how relatively indifferent the concrete means of art become where force of feeling takes over.
14 May, 1966 F. N. Souza interviewed by Sturt-Penrose
I want my mbe You are widely known in this country and abroad. There is usually some confusion about your background. Perhaps you would sketch in some of your background as an artist. I’m surprised there’s confusion as I am not an Eskimo of African descent. Nor do I claim parthenogenesis. A lot has been written on my background, and there exists a biography as well as an autobiography. When you first arrived in this country you were unknown and poor. How long was it before you came to the notice of gallery owners, collectors and the critics? Perhaps you could say something about your early years in Britain leading to the present time. I came to this country in 1949 and lived in dire poverty for six years, until 1954. Six years of starvation, rags and cigarettes picked up from the gutters. But somehow I kept on painting and never took a job. Then a chance meeting with Victor Musgrave led to a sell-out show in his gallery, Gallery One, in 1955. I made a good bit
of money from subsequent shows in the following years, and, during this time, I was lucky to meet an American businessman in Paris who became my patron until 1960. He bought everything I cared to send him, often before it was painted. I used to call him the Pope. Unfortunately, during these years, I took to drink. A bug craving for alcohol got into me and I couldn’t stop drinking. I squandered some £10,000, drinking myself to death in Paris, Majorca, Rome, Bombay and London – in Bombay despite the Prohibition. By the end of 1960, I got the shakes so bad, I couldn’t hold a brush. I asked myself a simple question one terrible hangover morning: ‘Do you wish to become a famous drunkard or a famous painter?’ I decided to take a cure for alcoholism, and I did, though not through Alcoholics Anonymous. Between 1962 and 1964 I bought a large house, a new car and some more property. I mention this not for its achievement, but as contrast, in a short time, to the destitution of alcoholism. I travelled widely, to the amazement of my friends abroad who couldn’t believe I had changed to a chronic teetotaller. I got divorced in 1964, and married a young girl of 17 the following year, thereupon, my past has begun to lay claims through various litigations which can mean scrapping the lot and starting from scratch: a prerogative artists must use from time to time to maintain complete freedom. Following your outstanding success at Gallery One you became known as a controversial painter. Although few could ignore your work people either grouped for you or against you. Do you still find that people are partisan in the way they look at your paintings? I never realised they were. Thanks for telling me. Success among painters largely depends on the dealers who handle their work. Gallery One, as you know, during the decade of its art dealing, was the most controversial gallery in London. Robert Fraser’s and Kasmin’s galleries have benefited from the existence of Gallery One: Kasmin, in fact, began on its staff. But to answer the question, I’m not really aware of people grouped for or against me. My independent cast of character will never admit that dealers and critics can make or break a painter. Roger Berthoud wrote this about my work: ‘His canvases are very strong meat indeed. I confess it has taken me a year or two to acquire a taste for his work.’ If an art critic took that long, people in general would take longer to digest my stuff. And the ones against me, I should think, are the ones without guts to hang strong meat in their homes. How do you like living in England? Is it very different from living (say) in India where you have recently enjoyed considerable success in exhibitions? You have lived in Paris but you keep coming back to Britain. Is it because your work is understood more easily in this country? My work should be easily understood in any country on the premise that art is universal. Of course, I like England, but I haven’t tried Mexico or New York yet. History shows that artists migrate to find a market if there isn’t one at home. At first I tried Paris not knowing the market there had flagged, whereas in London it had started to flag. There’s no place for the
F.N. Souza, Self-Portrait, 1961, oil on board, 61 × 76 cm. Courtesy The Ruth Borchard Collection and Piano Nobile, London
artist in India. The hungry can’t eat pictures. People there need bread. Even strong meat will not do: they’ll bring it up. Tourists and American diplomats in India buy paintings. Wealthy Indians are devoid of culture. Only recently, one or two from the wealthy class have begun collecting modern art. I keep coming back to Britain for personal reasons. I would find no difficulty in communicating with anyone in the world who has some knowledge and liking for art. A painting of yours was recently included in the Tate’s collection. Have you had a raw deal from the Art Establishment in this country? Bloody raw! Where’s my M.B.E.? Where’s the retrospective at the Whitechapel? And ever since I crashed into the Guggenheim Award as one of five painters to represent this country, I’ve been consistently kept out
of all the national and international exhibitions. Native jealousy in an effort to dampen a trailblazer who is not English. People say: no, no, it can’t happen in England: people are much too civilised here. In fact, I used to think it could happen in every field except art. I am mistaken. The Coventry Cathedral architect has revealed that the City officials wanted to keep Epstein out of the list of commissioned artists because he was a Jew. That painting of mine formerly belonging to Penelope Mortimer, was forced into the Tate, a shotgun presentation no sooner had Rothenstein retired. Before we met, I believe Rothenstein did recommend my pictures for prizes and purchases whenever they appeared in competitions and exhibitions in which he had a say. It was probably on his recommendation I won a prize in the first John Moores Exhibition; and I know for sure the Contemporary Art Society bought
Front cover, 1 December, 1962
my painting acting on his advice. But I met him the first time at an opening of a new night club among naked girls and free sparkling booze. Already drunk well before I arrived at the party, I may have said or done something so obnoxious, I can’t remember what, for as you know the brain does its own censorship. But since that night, Rothenstein and I never got together even if we were in the same room. As for Bryan Robertson of the Whitechapel, I met him also at a nightclub, the Gargoyle, where Victor Musgrave was throwing a party. Robertson told him my work was ‘anti-pathetic to British taste’. As I wasn’t very drunk, I remember saying, ‘British taste being pathetic, I am glad to be antipathetic!’ As I have now given up smoking as well, there’s no doubt I’ll be kept out of the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation on which I believe Robertson is a big smoke without fire. Wild people like me continually live on the optimism that fuddyduddies are bound to retire one day or drop dead. I am told by Denis Bowen that the British Council will never buy or include in their exhibitions abroad any artist who is not British by birth. This ‘British’ stuff and nonsense is a laugh when you think of Leslie Howard, the most English of actors who was Hungarian by birth. And all those Polish grandmothers hanging in the family trees of Englishmen! I know that you feel strongly about art critics. You once said to me that whereas painters were at the constant mercy of critics they rarely had the opportunity to hit back. What is your view of British art critics? I’ll take a bash at the question by quoting a few words from a paper, ‘Notes on Analytic Philosophy and Aesthetics’ by Jerome Stolnitz which was printed in the 1963 July issue of the British Journal of Aesthetics: ‘Unless the critic’s judgement reflects an authentically aesthetic encounter with the work, he forfeits his authority over us. If his ostensibly aesthetic judgement is in fact an evaluation in other terms – economic, moral, snob-appeal – then he is guilty of vulgarity.’ p.218. On the strength of this indictment almost all the critics in London are guilty, but some are more guilty than others. John Russell of the Sunday Times for instance, reviewing the Tate Gallery Exhibition of American painting wrote in 1956 that Jackson Pollock should be slapped. But no sooner had Marlborough put on a posthumous Pollock show in 1961 than Russell came out with banner headlines: ‘The Agony of Jackson Pollock’ and a blah of praises, without mentioning his earlier insulting remarks about this artist. I am well aware one can reverse one’s evaluation logically, the classic example being T. S. Eliot’s revaluation of Milton after eleven years. Then there is Terence Mullaly of the Daily Telegraph. Robert Wraight the saleroom correspondent of the Arts Review wrote to the Telegraph that Terence Mullaly went out of his way to point out that a painting of mine had fetched only £18, without mentioning that a ‘second Souza, of considerably smaller size had fetched £100. This letter was not published’ says Wraight in his column in the Arts Review last year. John Berger gave me a long review in the New Statesman as long ago as 1955. But after I met
him over dinner the same year and told him about my own Marxist theories, he never wrote another line on me; Stolnitz could have added ‘Political’ vulgarity. But we are getting something more absurd from critics like Alan Bowness, who ‘reviews’ the work of other critics, usually American ones like Clement Greenberg. Greenberg apparently names the qualities a painting ‘ought’ to have and then sets out to ‘pick’ the artists as his examples as a reaction to something Greenberg had himself picked before. If this seems confusing let me put it this way: Mr Greenberg is now busy on the lookout to pick some painters who ought to be reacting against the Hard Edge painters he picked, as a reaction to the Painterly Abstractionists he had picked before that! Get it? And the latest pride and joy among art critics, Alan Bowness is bitten by Greenberg, as could be gathered from his contribution in the Observer colour magazine a few weeks ago. During the last three years there is evidence in the work you have produced (e.g. the Black Art) that you are still searching for the ‘ideal’ style to get your ideas across. Why did you stop producing paintings (e.g. ’55-62) which were very successful? I don’t get this one. Someone knowing my work so well as you do. I’m glad you think I am searching for the ‘Ideal’ style. Some people probably think I’m stuck. In fact, I am neither stuck nor am I searching. I am a compulsive painter. I am geared to an ever changing cosmos. I can vividly imagine being a gilled embryo which forms and transforms into many forms, from a miniature dinosaur to a hideous ape. My art is a daily activity. Like Evolution itself, I am neither searching nor stuck. The ’55-62 paintings took some two to five years to become successful and Black Art should take that long to become integrated with the bulk of my art. I never stopped producing successful paintings, but unlike pop art or pop songs, my art is not an ‘instant’ success today and a yesterday’s ‘has been’ tomorrow. I am a born painter: in the tradition of great painters, my greatest work will come as I get older: Michelangelo kept hacking away at 90 on what is probably the greatest work of art, the Rondanini Pieta. Can you tell me what your basic aim is as a painter? To paint. You have said that you paint for yourself. Do you think that the main reason why you are unpopular in certain quarters is the controversial pictures that you paint? Or are there other reasons? I also said that I painted for angels to show them what men and women really look like. I didn’t know I was unpopular in certain quarters, although I am aware of being unpopular in certain camps. An intransigent individual like me, is bound to be unpopular. I don’t belong to any group and I am proud of it. The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone, to quote An Enemy of the People. A recent book, Private View, shows the most clannish grouping of artists in this country and the authors can’t dismiss what I say as sour grapes because I don’t like grapes, what I’m saying is grapeshot!
22 February, 1964 Robert Rauschenberg at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, reviewed by Guy Burn
Milton Ernest ‘Robert’ Rauschenberg (1925–2008), was an American artist whose innovative works anticipated Pop and various conceptual movements of the 1960s and 70s Guy Burn was a regular contributor to Arts Review for three decades, becoming the magazine’s print specialist in 1980 and then its Paris columnist in 1981 Mark Rothko (1903–70), was an American painter of Russian descent. Influenced by Milton Avery, among others, he went on to become one of the most cultishly celebrated abstract painters of the twentieth century
The rapier-like cut-and-thrust of his imagery, the mercurial inventiveness of this so-called Poppa of Pop Art, brings forcibly to mind that other great innovator and iconoclast Picasso. It would seem that in the permanently revolutionary climate of modern art another revolution is possible, and has taken place. Rauschenberg can be explained, he is ready and willing to do a bit of explaining himself, but he cannot be explained away. ‘I work in the gap between art and life’, he says, and indeed looking at this exhibition we are immediately able to divide the Art from the Life content in each picture. Art is symbolised by free painting, abstract expressionist slop-and-trickle. Life by the juxtaposition of junk objects, pulp press illustrations, comic strips and coarse silkscreen prints of photographs and art reproductions; by shirtsleeves and ties stuck on, and even by flashing lights, stuffed birds, and ‘collaged’ radio programmes of French kitsch. The Art/Life ratio in each work is delicately balanced, and varied in proportions. Gloria Weds the Third Time is all Art with a dash of Life – very witty, too, in its repetition. A beautiful abstract, Aen Floga, just the opposite, is a preposterous construction of boards and junk under which is perceived the blank canvas. All Life with no Art – well just a small splosh in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas.[…] Comparison with Schwitters is fruitless, for these pictures are no merzbilder. Schwitters’ preoccupation with the ennoblement of rubbish had a direct bearing on the problems of social inequality so vital in the ’twenties. Today the pressure of ever-increasing, ever more affluent population with its accompanying Admass culture, Organisation men and Salesmen Preachers has aroused the slumbering hulk of modern art, enraged in its esoteric pipe dreams and elaborate mannerisms, to action thanks to the contribution of Rauschenberg. His art is far from being popular in the sense of Pop music; it is another breakthrough, a revolution against established modern art, as when Picasso painted the Demoiselles d’Avignon.
senses, he sanctifies them. He begins where others end : at the furthest limits of psychology. Beyond these distant borders all differences between images and lack of images fade away. There even matter becomes a voice of the immaterial. Dora Vallier was right to stress that in Rothko’s thrice distilled art the dominant theme is the absence of theme: he paints a perpetual epiphany of the ineffable. […]
12 October, 1968 In Homage to Marcel Duchamp July 1887 – October 1968, by Francis Rose
Dead daddy Marcel Duchamp died on October 3rd. This is not the passing away of another “modern old master” like Matisse. He has left us at a moment when he had just become a vital influence on contemporary youth. Duchamp was not the father of the present-day avant-garde outlook on art, but its actual fire. Much of what young artists are doing today is derived from him. He was too intellectual to be an inspiration. Yet he was a rare person who could be an intellectual without being boring; an artist and revolutionary as well as a mathematician. Marcel Duchamp’s work had its real birth in the nineteen-sixties and not with Apollinaire and “Dada”. It had no link with the 19th century, which he cast off with post-impressionism and cubism, when he abandoned painting. In 1913 he developed a system of metaphysics measuring time-space and calculations, that “stretched the laws of physics just a little”. In that year 1913 he started the art of the second half of the 20th century. “The Ready Made” was the special selection and mounting of a commonplace object.
22 February, 1964 Mark Rothko at Marlborough New, London, reviewed by Pierre Rouve
Grandaddy Rothko returns to London at the height of the Rauschenberg rush and it is probable that he will be scorned by the pictorial platoons of the Beatlesbrigade, eager for optical punches and visual hysteria. After all, it is to be expected. Rothko does not scratch the nerves, he stirs the spirit. He does not rape the
Bruce Conner (1933–2008) was an American artist who worked across a variety of mediums (and is particularly influential in the field of moving image) and who began exhibiting during the mid-1950s. He went on to become one of the most significant American artists of the postwar era. Here he is interviewed on the occasion of an exhibition of his assemblages at the Robert Fraser Gallery, London this page, right Bruce Conner, cherub, 1958, mixed-media assemblage, 36 × 36 × 8 cm. Courtesy The Conner Family Trust and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles facing page, left Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, porcelain urinal, 36 × 48 × 61 cm. Photo: Alfred Stieglitz. Licensed to public domain
Duchamp was not a painter, but an adventurer who discovered with genius. In 1925 he launched kinetic conceptions and concrete Poetry, with a rotary demi-sphere and inscribed discs. He had already, in 1920, experimented with electro-dynamics (motor-driven precision optics). I met him in my ’teens in 1925 at the chess tournament in Nice with my master Picabia and Tristan Zara. My clearest recollection of him was of a day spent in the country with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. This was the first time I saw him amused. He told lively stories about his bohemian days, and his friend Man Ray. Duchamp had an argument with Miss Toklas about chess, as she had once been keen on the game, although I never saw her play. Duchamp tried unsuccessfully to convert Gertrude Stein to Robert Desnos’s poetry. Miss Stein had little use for the surrealists. She said they were the vulgarisation of Picabia and Dada, as the futurists had been the vulgarisation of Picasso. “They have no sense of fun; all their jokes are heavy and done seriously,” she remarked to Duchamp. “Literature, which is my job, is continual fun of everything. But the rest of my life is holding back against this tendency.” “Well said and just,” he replied in French. In fact Gertrude Stein’s words could have been applied to him, with his passion for chess
and the perfection of a roulette system whereby one “neither wins nor loses”. Duchamp is dead, but his work is firmly bedded in the future.
26 December, 1964 Bruce Conner interviewed by Sturt Penrose
Artists assemble! I know that you are a painter, sculptor and a film-maker but I believe that it was as an assemblage artist that you first attracted widespread attention. In turning to the assembled medium were you in some way riding with the popularity that it now enjoys in the United States and Europe? It may look that way but in point of fact I was interested in objects for their aesthetic merits and importance long before the post-war assemblage movement got significantly underway. Even at High School in 1950 I was engaged upon quite advanced forms of collage alongside my ordinary studies as an art student. But assemblage, in some form or other, has been known to every civilisation. I certainly didn’t invent it. I merely fashion it to suit my own expression as an artist and, of course, to the times in which we live.
Francis Cyril Rose (1909–79), was an English painter, heavily championed by Gertrude Stein, who made a brief appearance (as ‘Lord Chaos’) in Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising (1972) J.P. Hodin (1905–95) was a Czechoslovak art historian who moved to London during the Second World War. A regular contributor to Arts Review, in 1954 he was awarded the first international prize for art criticism at the Venice Biennale Janet Daley is an American-born journalist who moved to England in 1965 and is currently a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph. She was a regular contributor to Arts Review from the late 1960s through to the end of the 1970s
But the renewed interest in assembled objects as works of art in their own right has no doubt influenced your direction and development? At least your audience has become accustomed to the more bizarre aspects of your medium. Shall we say that the climate has become more receptive for the particular type of assemblage upon which I am working. But I have always taken a highly individual and personal path in whatever I am doing as an artist. For example, when I was living in San Francisco from 1957 to 1962 I found myself repeating the same theme in my painting. Always expressionless white faces emerging from blackness. Whatever I started out to achieve in terms of paint would end up the same way. I wanted to communicate something but it was becoming impossible. I almost decided to give up being an artist. And so it was at this time, almost in desperation, that you turned to assemblage? Yes, I did. I began in San Francisco and then went to live in Mexico for a year. Many of the works in the present exhibition at the Fraser Gallery are the result of my stay in Mexico. I began to see more clearly that there is always a dialogue going on between objects and people. And in my assemblages I wanted to show the important and special relationship that I felt about objects that I’d seen and found. This is somehow difficult for some people to understand. At least if they have conventional ideas about painting. Perhaps you can explain further by way of an example? Well, not long ago I attended a dinner party in the States with Roy Lichtenstein and other well-known American artists. The party was given by Daniel Spoerri. We sat at the dinner table and the host asked each guest what he would like to eat and drink. I chose bread and wine. Some chose pretty large meals, others small meals and so on. After the meal was over Spoerri asked each guest to leave the table. You can guess that the table was pretty littered with objects of all kinds: half-eaten food, silverware, glassware and the like. It was a regular jumble. But then Daniel Spoerri began to fix the objects of each guest in exactly the position they had been left. You see the individual left-overs had become assembled in such a way that they revealed something of the character and the personality of the guest. And it was done unconsciously. How much more an artist can reveal when he works with objects in a consciously creative manner! And so the assemblage medium has added greatly to your vocabulary as an artist? It’s taught me many things. One is that to get your message across to your audience you must change your means of saying things. In my Homage to Jean Harlow I am trying to show how objects – discarded now – once had some very real meaning to the person who wore and owned them. I want to strike at the importance and the meaning that lies behind objects. And the fact that there’s nothing very new in this. Isn’t the British Museum one gigantic assemblage? […]
20 July, 1968 The Venice Biennale reviewed by J.P. Hodin
Besieged biennale With the art students of the Venice Academy in full revolt implying total occupation of their school building, demonstrating with loud-speakers among the holiday crowds of the beautiful Queen of the Lagoon and provoking noisy scuffles with the police at the Piazza San Marco, so that at times no music could be heard – there are usually three orchestras playing at once – and no visitor daring to sit down at the tables of the Cafe de Flore or the establishment opposite, with the entrance to the Biennale area itself heavily guarded by carabinieri with guns, by police in their white marine uniforms and pistols, and plain clothes detectives mixing in great numbers among the critics eager to get in for the press opening – all this caused this year’s great international art show to have a tortured face. There are, and always have been, many reasons for being critical of an institution of this kind, of the way in which it is administered, of the distribution of prizes, etc., but it certainly loomed in no serious critic’s mind (except that of M. Pierre Restany, who was cute enough to publish for the occasion his ‘Livre Rouge de la Revolution Picturale’, in a format reminding one suspiciously of the tiny red volumes waved threateningly by the destructive adherents of the Maoist cultural revolution) to go as far as the Venetian art students whose placards posted in front of the Academy demanded the complete abolition of bourgeois art. ‘The Biennale of the Police’, they called it saying, ‘The largest pavilion at the Biennale is the one for the Police’, ‘The Biennale is no culture, it is business’, and other similar slogans which just miss the point. Titian’s paintings were still deeds of cultural importance although they were well paid for, and a Picasso picture which can reach at an auction the sum of £190,000 nevertheless retains its artistic value. But M. Restany is for the abolition of art altogether – which again is nothing new, for the Anti-art slogans of the Dadaists were produced exactly fifty years ago. Wonder what art these little rebellious commissars would produce themselves? That the French did not show their works (only Arman did, but not Dewasne, Kowalski, Schoffer) ‘owing to circumstances’, i.e. the presence of the police, is understandable: they suffered a great deal in the Quartier Latin from the hands of authority. After all, the works and the artists were there, transported with taxpayers’ money; but the young commissar, Mr. Olle Granath, in agreement with the artists (Arne Jones and Sivert Lindblom), after having communicated a biased message to Stockholm, achieved the approval of the authorities there and closed down their show. Asked whether they would prefer the whole place to be wrecked by hooligans (for they are hooligans, even if they do have grievances; these can be discussed and eliminated in a civilised manner without the
Ugo Mulas, Venezia, 1968. Proteste studentesche, xxxiv Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, 1968. © Ugo Mulas heirs. All rights reserved
categorical demand for first destroying the basis of bourgeois society) – he answered: they want discussion. All this provided this year’s excitement. Otherwise the Biennale is one of the tamest ever. Not that I am clamouring for novelty and shock and surprise a tout prix, but all the narrowly defined trends have become so tired, whether Pop, Op, Kinetic or Hard Edge, their emotional and other appeal so limited, and they exhaust themselves after a few years. […]
12 October, 1968 Janet Daley explores the morality of technology
A disturbing moral crisis Current controversies about multiples and other technological inroads into art, seem to me to be begging some of the more crucial aesthetic questions. The essential points given in favour of technological art are: it is the only valid expression of our contemporary culture, in which the literal uniqueness of objects has ceased to be vital to their functions (and to our appreciation of them); it would seem to be the only economically feasible way of achieving democratisation of the arts. The first argument takes as a fundamental assumption that since we live in a physical environment largely composed of mass-produced objects, it is necessarily the case that our culture (modes of thinking, acting, appreciating, and relating to one another) is dominated by the ethos implied in mass production. This is a feasible contention but it is certainly controversial and requires a decent amount of argument and defence before it can be adopted as the truism for which it seems to be taken in current discussion. It is inevitably the case that cultures are defined and determined by their material environ-
ments? (or their means of production?) The next step in this argument seems to me more obviously dubious; so much so, in fact, that I am tempted to wonder why anyone should even be inclined to suggest such a thing, let alone assume it. That is, that art must not only express the forms of its cultural context but must even utilise the identical means for achieving those forms. Allowing for the moment that the genuine expressions of our culture were the forms of technology: the cool, functional, economic design associated with mass production, why should it be incumbent upon (or desirable for) artists to employ the methods of technology itself thereby undermining what seems to me to be one of the chief criteria of art: that it is symbolic representation rather than simply one instance of the actual artifacts of a culture? I am especially wary of the employing of technological means to the producing of technologicallyinspired forms, because it requires artists becoming entangled in some unsavoury dilemmas: e.g. it is only financially feasible to produce objects technologically if they can be produced in the thousands; hence, artists must consider what works will have a likelihood of selling in thousands before they can get under way. This brings me to the second issue of democratisation in art. While a whole-hearted egalitarian in politics, I am rather distrustful of wholesale attempts at, what one might call, aesthetic levelling. Art is not, and cannot be, I do not feel, the kind of pursuit that seeks out the common denominator. To claim that it must do so if it is to be effective as a medium for a message, is to reduce it to the status of propaganda. The argument that any admission that art is essentially a minority interest leads to a corrupt social elitism, seems to me dangerously wrong-headed: art trends being determined by popularity contest is not libertarianism but its opposite – the most totalitarian form
Front cover, 11 December, 1968
of commercialism. Well-intentioned radicals who see technological art as a way of circumventing the current bourgeois power structure of the art world and its self-perpetuating authority might bear in mind that if capitalist values and artistic values have been found to be incompatible, the solution cannot lie in bigger and better capitalism (which is all that mass-production in art amounts to). To take art out of the realm of individual production and put it into that of technological production does nothing to alter the commercial, nature of the exchange of art objects and the ideological framework in which the value of such objects is determined. It only makes for an even more pernicious situation by putting the rate of such exchange on a grander scale and permitting even less possibility of escape from the demands of commercialism. One leading art figure appearing recently on a late-night television discussion expressed curiosity as to why anyone should assume that the quality of art work will be diminished by mass production when the same phenomenon applied to literature: the inexpensive production of paper-back books, clearly did not reduce the status of literature. This kind of inept analogy only serves to muddle the issue further: the form (e.g. the physical object of the book) is separable from (and irrelevant to) the content of literature (in which its artistic value is contained). Whatever one does to the outward physical aspect of a book, so long as it is still readable, its artistic value is unaffected. There is no such distinction between form and content in (good) visual art, thus to tamper with its form is to interfere directly with its content. Uniqueness, of course, is not a quality inhering in an object but an attribute contingent upon the circumstances of that object. In our culture it has been previously assumed that the value of art lay in the circumstance of its unique nature as the particular personal embodiment of statement. This conception does provide, whatever its drawbacks, a coherent identity for art. I fail to see, for example, how one could distinguish in the new technological realm, between art and interior decoration. Would artists genuinely be prepared to undermine this distinction? This trend in art strikes me as one more manifestation of a highly disturbing moral crisis in Western European culture: a cult of pseudo-scientificism which takes as its model for the totality of the human condition, the technological, the statistical and the computerisable, with a consequent denigration of the personal intuition and the individual perception. I do not regard this as an apocalyptic hint of the ultimate moral decay of civilisation, simply as one century’s arrogant folly – not dissimilar to the eighteenth century’s assumption that “pure” rationality, unfettered by emotional inclination, could attain to the solution of every problem in man’s existence. Technological art is perhaps one of the more frivolous symptoms of this syndrome – behavioural psychology and its various sociological tributaries being a much more dangerous one, for example – but it is dismaying
to note that even art, the bastion of personal insight and individual sensibility should be succumbing to the distinctly fascist influences of this ideological vogue.
5 February, 1969 Letter to the editor
Dear Sir, I wonder if you can give me some enlightenment? I have wandered round and round the Hayward gallery and tried hard to come to terms with Anthony Caro. I have read a number of criticisms in the daily and Sunday press wherein much is made of his originality and creative urge; he is praised for knocking sculpture off its pedestal and in painting the planes. Surely the pedestal has never been an essential part of sculpture; Rodin himself designed his Burgers of Calais to walk through the garden, the Greeks and their Hellenistic successors placed their sculpture on pediments or on sepulchers indifferent to the pedestal. As to colour both the Egyptians and the Greeks used it, and it was common practice in medieval art. I know that sculpture has been divorced from architecture (though I am not quite happy about this) but girders seem to me an essential part of structure; indeed the building in Albermarle Street in which the rolled steel joists appear in their naked beauty convey a sense of tension which arouses an emotion in me, but Caro seems to proclaim an antagonism to the essential nature of the girder: it is no longer thrusting against the body of the masonry mass but fritters away its strength into the air in puny protest! I have an uneasy feeling also that whereas the sculpture must have an essential part in our lives, either in our homes or in our gardens, I cannot see where Caro’s sculptures can go – obviously they are collected by museums, but is it collecting for the sake of collecting and putting sculpture into isolation apart from real life? Yours faithfully, Mavis Wingrove
Alienation would seem to be fashionable, as the population explosion threatens the environment and the communications explosion our thoughts, as a form of defense Guy Burn reviewing Andy Warhol, 1971
One has an obligation to the public to give them a bit of fun every so often Roy Strong, director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1972
Due to continued Government restrictions on power and the acute paper shortage, Arts Review is again reduced in size. Normal production will resume as soon as conditions permit Editorial announcement in an issue in which the lead feature begins on the cover, 1974
Surely, what characterises great works of art is not their fixity but rather their continuing ability to give rise to discussion Andrew Brighton, 1976
1970–79 After the art market boom of the 1960s Arts Review entered the 1970s musing anxiously about the ever-growing production of art – ‘where is all this work to be exhibited and sold?’, it wondered in its opening editorial of 1970. That would end up being the least of art’s problems in a decade that turned out to be challenging for the British artworld, critically, commercially and institutionally. While the stars of British postwar Modernism such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore were now safely part of the canon, the radical currents coursing through British society found their shape in the conceptualist and other ‘avant-garde’ forms being staged by new commercial galleries like the Lisson, Nigel Greenwood and Angela Flowers. Official recognition of conceptualist and alternative trends came with the Hayward Gallery’s The New Art in 1972. Arts Review’s contributors were not always convinced of this new way of making art, which celebrated ‘the intellect’ over ‘the visual’. But the argument over the ‘visual’ in ‘visual art’ was also against the abstract art that had found favour during the 1960s. During a decade in which the relationship between the official artworld and the public became an issue of contention, with contemporary art increasingly seen as ‘elitist’ and incomprehensible, the revival of ‘figurative’ art – in particular painting – was held up as a radical alternative, epitomised by Arts Review’s enthusiasm for the London-based American painter R.B. Kitaj. Image-making, however, was something everyone could take up. In the wake of Pop art and the counterculture of the 60s, images of fantasy and desire coursed through both fine art and popular culture (J.R.R. Tolkien’s watercolours of Middle Earth, Ralph Steadman’s interpretation of Alice Through the Looking Glass and prog-rock album art legend Roger Dean all make appearances in the magazine). And while this could turn up as the sexist and sometimes misogynistic imagery of male Pop painters (Allen Jones’s fetishsourced paintings being the most contentious), it was also the weapon of the artists of the early feminist movement, which Arts Review tracked sympathetically through the decade. Women were anyway making their presence felt across the artworld. A notable feature of Arts Review in the 70s is the growing number of female contributors, and coverage of women taking up roles in institutions; profiles of a young RoseLee Goldberg, Sue Grayson, the Serpentine Gallery’s first exhibitions organiser (they weren’t called ‘curators’ in those days), and young gallerist Lucy Milton all feature. But by the time Arts Review interviewed Milton, she was shutting her doors – a casualty of the oil crisis. By the mid-70s, Arts Review was regularly reporting on gallery closures, as economic recession hit hard. As the decade wore on, and politics in Britain became more polarised, side-taking became more overt; artists and critics engaged in heated debates over the future direction of art, and the ‘social function’ of art became a hot issue. If the early 70s were marked by Britain’s joining the European Economic Community (Arts Review’s opening issue of 1973 ran a special section on ‘Fanfare for Europe’, a season of big exhibitions to celebrate the uk’s membership), by the close of the decade, the influence of Europe was being treated with suspicion, as a stream of big shows from West Germany showcased the radical credentials of German artists, while hinting at the changing balance of cultural power in Europe. At the same time, Arts Review’s reports from the new European art fairs registered the stirrings of the new, international market for contemporary art that would shape the decades to come.
28 February, 1970 Barbara Hepworth at the Marlborough Gallery, London, reviewed by Pierre Rouve
A common language of abstraction
Front cover, 20 November, 1971
Barbara Hepworth (1903–75), was one of the most influential artists in British twentieth-century modernist art Peter Fuller (1947–90), was a prominent and controversial critic who contributed frequently to Arts Review and many other British art magazines during the 1970s. Initially on the left and influenced by the Marxist critic John Berger, he became fiercely opposed to what he saw as the decadence of much of contemporary art. He founded the magazine Modern Painters in 1988. He was killed in a car crash in 1990
AR-March-70s P78-87 RESUPPLY PP78+82.indd 78
Barbara Hepworth has both profited and suffered from the celebrated ‘common language’ which the ‘gentle nest of Hampstead artists’ evolved in the ’Thirties. Much has been said about the benefits from that common language, less about its nature and nothing about its degeneration into a common sounding board preventing two generations from hearing the true ring of Barbara Hepworth’s uncommon voice. It is undeniable that this new visual idiom enabled Britain to make ‘a vigorous and original contribution to the revival of European art’ and Hepworth – ‘to occupy a leading position in this revival’, as Herbert Read wrote in the foreword to her very first exhibition at Tooth’s in 1932. But it is not enough to mention that such common language was ‘spoken by each artist after his own fashion’ – and let the matter rest there, as A.M. Hammacher seems to have done in his otherwise scrupulous scrutiny of Hepworth’s work.To grasp the essence of this new language we must still revert to the first comments on Hepworth by Paul Nash in ‘The Week-End Review’ of November 19 1932 and by Adrian Stokes in ‘The Spectator’ of November 3 1933: they seem to have set the themes and drawn the boundaries of critical discussions beyond which no one has dared to venture for nearly four decades. In those distant days, it was indeed ‘unusual to enter an exhibition and be obliged to attend solely to each work for what it contains rather than for what it is in reference to’. British beholders had to be taught this new language of self-contained abstraction. They had to understand that each object carved by Hepworth is ‘purely sculptural – the embodiment of an idea neither
literary, naturalistic nor philosophical, but simply formal: its meaning is itself, itself the only meaning’. This was the ‘common language’. But, however limpid and enlightening, these statements were much too general: Nash could easily have said the same of Arp or Brancusi. Hepworth’s intentions were clarified but her individuality was veiled precisely by that common language of abstraction. […]
17 June, 1972 Peter Fuller
Women painted by men Ever since the Renaissance, art has been produced predominantly by men, and, since long before the Renaissance, men have oppressed women, politically, economically, socially and physically. Inevitably this oppression has been vividly reflected in art – particularly in painting where woman has so frequently been chosen as the subject matter. The male prerogative over creativity has meant that almost every painting of the female nude, produced within the European Tradition, has been male chauvinist in its orientation. This became accentuated at the time of the Renaissance, when religion ran down as the motor for art, and the demands of monied, male, mercantile patrons became the controlling factor in the market. The Medicis, and their fellow city princes, wanted their women passive, sensuous, available, silent and unquestioning. So, painting reflected those male demands. The women lay on their couches, naked, waiting, watching and vulnerable, displayed by the artist for a third party, a voyeur intruder, who was the purchaser, and is now the viewer. The European Tradition succumbed to this male ethos; historically, such a development was inevitable, as women have only recently become organised to protest over their treatment at the hands of men. But what is disturbing is the complicity of contemporary critics with that chauvinism, and the unchallenged continuance of it by modern artists who claim to be radical. An art which fails to respond to socio-political developments is quite worthless. One of the most significant political developments of our time has been the struggle of women towards their own liberation, the articulation, for the first time, of the beginnings of a theory of their oppression and the start of organised, remedial, revolutionary activity. John Berger has been, to my knowledge, the only person writing and talking about art to perceive this, and to argue its significance in our evaluation of the European Tradition. […] Berger maintains that ‘artistic nudity’, far from being an elevated condition, was a way in which men furthered the process of the objectification of women, and forced them into a stereotype of submission. […] But we can take Berger’s historical arguments further, and apply them to those artists and critics who persist in reifying women in our own day. Most of them
facing page, bottom Barbara Hepworth, Oval with Two Forms, 1971, marble and slate on slate base, 34 × 39 × 33 cm. © Tate, London 2019 this page Richard Long, Three Circles of Stones, 1972 (installation view, Hayward Gallery, London, 1972). © Hayward Gallery
are engaged in magazine, or advertising, production. The male periodicals, Playboy, Men Only and Penthouse offer the consumer, today, what the Titian and Veronese once offered to their patrons in the past: silent, available, unresisting women on tap. The pin-up, one of the most sophisticated and oppressive of post-war art forms, clearly has its origins right in the heart of the European Tradition. But within the confines of that practice still defined as ‘Fine Art’, a similar portrayal of women is continued, and has gained ground in the last four years with the wholesale revival of modern ‘Eroticism’. It is the duty of progressive criticism to combat this development at an ideological level. We are not dealing, here, with a moral issue: such considerations are wholly irrelevant to serious evaluation. What is at stake is political: an image of a woman painted by an artist from a male chauvinist standpoint, collaborates with, and reinforces the oppression of, women. It should have no place in progressive expression, nor summon any praise from forward-looking critics. […] From the rippling courtesans of Titian, the simpering, big-bellied females of Cranach, the undulating odalisques of Ingres, the rosy-tinted sirens of Renoir, to the fetishised club girls of Allen Jones, women have always been painted by men, from the man’s point of view, and new theoretical developments, actively being put into practice by women, have shown that that point of view has been humiliating and oppressive. It can no longer be tolerated. There is a difference between that which is sexist, and that which is erotic. The latter kind of image need oppress no one, but in our own culture no examples of dynamic, progressive eroticism have yet emerged (except perhaps in the work of Penelope Slinger, who is, significantly, a woman). The reason for this may well be that male chauvinism is culturally so endemic that it has wholly hegemonised visual portrayal of the unclothed human body.
26 August, 1972 The New Art at the Hayward Gallery, London, reviewed by Guy Burn
How can visual art not be visual? The history of new movements in modem art – and you can stretch that back as far as Giotto – has been one of anti-growth. A real innovator starts the ball rolling, equipped with an acute intuitive understanding of his times […] While in the past this process could take a hundred years, the recent speed up of the world art communications network has upset the hormonal balance. We really seem to be running out of breath (and innovators) and it is time to stop and talk about it. Conceptual Art – to which this show is devoted – was born some five years ago, fathered by Duchamp, Zen and inspired by the cult of ambiguity increasingly evident in recent modern art. I quote the editorial of Art-Language, the Conceptual publication, first issue of May 1969. ‘Initially what conceptual art seems to be doing is questioning the condition that seems to rigidly govern the form of visual art – that visual art remains visual.’ Just how it could not be so is intriguing, and the spectator is advised to put aside his role of voyeur and enter the Hayward as he would a new School of Athens, willing to be impressed by logic and antilogic and sternly repressing any floating visual libido. The elaborate catalogue is at least as important as the exhibits, and Keith Arnatt appears early on in it photographed with a placard stating I’m a Real Artist. The accompanying argument states... ‘ “A real duck” differs from the simple “a duck” only in that it is used to exclude various ways of being not a real duck ... it is the negative use that wears the trousers’. His exhibit An institutional fact shows the 17 gallery
right Carl Andre at the Whitechapel Gallery, reviewed by Pat Gilmour, 31 March, 1978
The American minimalist sculptor Carl Andre achieved notoriety in 1976 when his sculpture Equivalent VIII (1966), acquired by the Tate Gallery, became the object of a media campaign against the supposed excesses of public funding for contemporary art. Here, Pat Gilmour responded satirically to the artist’s thoughts on art criticism Pat Gilmour is an art historian and critic, who was founding curator of prints at the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia Canberra. She wrote extensively on artists prints in her column for Arts Review during the 1960s and 70s, and was influential in establishing the academic study of artist’s prints By the 1970s, Andy Warhol (1928–87) was an international celebrity, his affectless public persona drawing adulation and outrage in equal measure
attendants at the Hayward each one photographed in the same uniform against the same piece of wall under the same light, unwitting pawns in his romantic game of shaking our faith in reality. Photography plays the most effective part in many of the works. Used by David Dye with his multiple movie projectors superimposing slightly differing views of the same hand writing on a screen revolving at random, by John Hillard’s snapshot series making us intimately aware of time passing by the second and the hour, by Hamish Fulton whose photos of remote bare spots like Arran have philosophical undertones of man in simple communication with the bare earth, by Richard Long whose work in Canada is in similar vein and who also has filled a gallery with three stone circles set out on the marble floor. The large entrance gallery is devoted to those two Art Comedians Gilbert and George. A huge insipid charcoal on paper mural of forest trees covers two whole walls, and the self styled pair of Human Sculptures can be found serenely embedded in the growth, conservatively dressed and posing with glasses of water. […] Keeping a wary balance between naivete and sophistication, they live their lives as works of art – which calls to mind the Douanier Rousseau, except that they don’t paint good pictures. It is Michael Craig-Martin, known for some time by visitors to the Rowan for his intriguing balanced structures, who gets nearest to the classical approach, and perhaps to art. Cezanne’s famous ‘modulations’ involved the introduction of echoes of one colour area into its neighbouring area and vice versa. In Assimilation he substitutes sets of objects for areas of colour – clipboard-pencil-rubber; tin of paint-brushand-board; etc. By introducing one of the objects into a neighbouring set he alters the function in the same way as Cezanne. This is not ‘art’ – but rather a formal exercise which runs parallel, neither starting from the same point nor ending there, which does not work instantly like a Cezanne but slowly through the intellect and helped by written explanations. The only really visual exhibit was Barry Flanagan’s Hayward II – coloured lengths of timber laid at random over the gallery floor reflected in a gently undulating wall of suspended silvered acetate, giving changing coloured distortions. A visual feast.
23 June, 1973 Andy Warhol, interviewed by Brian Wallworth
Andy, we gotta go now Although much maligned by jealous journalists during the past couple of weeks (‘The palest man in the world’, ‘Far too boring’, ‘cadaverous-looking creature’, are just a few of the choice epithets I saw) Andy Warhol is, in fact, extremely clever, always successful at whatever he chooses to do and, consequently, immensely
wealthy. But, and unlike a good many other artists who have become famous, all this fame and fortune has neither turned his head, nor soured his sense of humour: he remains modest, affable and not at all difficult to talk to – provided that is, you can keep pace with his continually-backing glide around the room. He listens with great attention to whatever you have to say. However, when you want a verbal response from him, certain problems can arise, particularly for interviewers. For not only is he laconic to a degree, his speech is almost inaudible. So, as Andy and I glided around the I.C.A., I had to abandon my tape recorder and make notes. ‘Although you were born in Pittsburgh (some 50 years ago) both your parents were Czech. Do you, did you ever, feel any affinity with your Czech ancestry? No, I always feel American – 100 per cent. The subjects of your new pictures inhabit a very different world to the one you are usually associated with: of high society, pop music, movies, etc. How did you get involved in this alien milieu? Richard Weisman thought it would be a good idea for me to paint some famous athletes. He’s a banker.
RoseLee Goldberg is an art historian, critic and curator of performance art. Arriving in London to study, she became exhibition organiser at the Royal College of Art. She left London in 1975 for America, where she founded the renowned Performa performance art festival
Sounds like a business deal? (a wry smile and the blink of a shrewd eye.)
Barbara Wright (1915–2009) trained as a classical pianist, lived in Paris and became a translator of French avant-garde literature, including works by Alfred Jarry and Raymond Queneau. She also translated Samuel Beckett. Wright was a contributor to Arts Review and a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement
The exhibition isn’t quite what I expected, not what I’d hoped to find. I thought there would be paintings of real athletes here – some physical form and flesh, not overfamiliar faces again. Aw. I’m too nervous for flesh ... I couldn’t have asked them to take off their clothes.
The idea had some artistic appeal for you, though? Yes. Well they are very beautiful and intelligent people. More so than movie stars, maybe. They’re now as charismatic as movie stars, and bigger than rock stars.
No. I actually thought when I heard the pictures were of athletes, that you were into runners and jumpers – sort of Eadweard Muybridge stuff? Oh! That sounds like a good idea though. Maybe next time I’ll do that. Do you ever watch sporting events? On video. I prefer that. I think Richard has got us tickets for Wimbledon. How did you like the sporting world? When you were Polaroiding your sitters did you manage to establish any kind of rapport with them? O.K. Yeah… The relationships were sort of tentative at first. It was just a matter of time – we were all very warm by the end of the sessions. What were they like as people – Muhammad Ali, for instance? Aw ... he was kindda sweet. He was… At this point, Richard and the other members of the aw entourage came into the gallery hollering for Andy: ‘Andy, we gotta go now, you’re causing a traffic jam.’ And so the glider took off – leaving me guessing about what else Muhammad Ali was besides sweet.
2 June, 1973 RoseLee Goldberg, interviewed by Georgina Oliver
A significant student-artist forum ‘An art college gallery should be a documentation and information centre of current art whilst providing facilities and space for students and visiting artists to exhibit their work. It should be a place where the theory and practice of art can be discussed’ wrote RoseLee Goldberg in the Royal College publication, Mewspaper. The Royal College of Art’s recently appointed Exhibitions Organiser has the firm conviction that study should be combined with full consciousness of present mainstream activities. Her own career has been an exemplary mixture of sound historical grounding and practical involvement: a ba in Fine Art and Politics in her native South Africa, an ma at the Courtauld, freelancing, working for Bridget Riley, strong ties with art communities in the States, thorough investigation of the European museum and gallery world. At the moment
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RoseLee Goldberg is taking a PhD at the Courtauld at the same time as running the Royal College gallery. Over half the students at the Royal College of Art are designers. RoseLee Goldberg sees the gallery as a unique opportunity for presenting them with a ‘real life’ situation in which they can devise exhibition structures, take photographs, produce catalogues, design graphics. Dated November 1972, a typical college circular reads: ‘I am planning to present a slide show with extensive documentation on Christo’s Valley Curtain project which took place in Rifle, Colorado, this past year. I am looking for a student interested in researching this project and in helping to organise the documentary material, as well as writing explanatory articles.’ With one space for student shows and another devoted to analytical displays of work by international artists, the Royal College of Art Gallery could become a significant student-artist forum. It has already attracted much outside interest, and RoseLee Goldberg is determined to make her schedule synchronise with topical events. She keeps in close touch with such galleries as Nigel Greenwood’s, the Lisson, Situation and Jack Wendler’s, and makes avant-garde literature and magazines available to students in her office. The office, at 23 Kensington Gore, has also been used for week-long information shows at which documents on the work of particular artists are exhibited, the French artist Ben Vautier, for instance. RoseLee Goldberg overflows with ideas for integrating the various school departments and recording art history as it happens, now in 1973. Projects using film, video and environments are planned, and the emphasis is on bringing in artists ‘live’ to initiate experiments and conduct seminars. Personalities as diverse as Gregory Battcock, Bill Beckley, Germano Celant, Christo, Ivan Karp, Barbara Reise have been invited to meet the students. The next major exhibition features Manzoni (October). In her scholarly efforts at making new, radical art come to life, RoseLee Goldberg has genuine educational zeal and efficiency on her side. As Exhibitions Organiser, she not only encourages active student participation, but participation from the whole college, from artists and from the public. Walking through the Royal College with her it becomes apparent that she has made many friends among students and staff. Her approach is a popular one, because it is one of involvement. It entails considering current art concepts not with passive, spoon-fed acceptance or casual indifference, but through taking part, through direct confrontation with the artists concerned. Despite frequently organised events and public discussions, the gallery itself is now open intermittently only, but as from the academic period 1973/74, it will be open all the year round. One of RoseLee Goldberg’s most enlightened proposals is to set up a book stall selling student graphics, post cards, publications, posters and other material. Meanwhile, from 17 to 23 May, the first part of the annual Degree Show offers a glimpse of student work at the Royal College.
12 November, 1976 Daniel Buren at the ICA, reviewed by Barbara Wright
A house-decorator would get the sack
During the 1970s Janet Daley published a series of polemics in Arts Review criticising abstraction and conceptual art and arguing for a revival of figurative art Ronald Brooks Kitaj (1932–2007) was an American painter who settled in London, studying at the Royal College of Art, where he was a contemporary of David Hockney. Initially associated with British Pop art during the 1960s, his work became more figurative and concerned with questions of historical and cultural identity
I do hope that the next time I see an ‘exhibition’ at this gallery I won’t have to report that for the third time running my first question to myself was: ‘Where’s the show?’ The last occasion, you may or may not remember, was The Case of the Chained Books, back in September. In the present exhibition you don’t even see a kind of imitation polling booth, but you do eventually notice some stripes. On the ceilings, and on the windows. Who is Daniel Buren? You may be wondering. Well, the I.C.A. isn’t telling. Nothing about where he comes from or what his aspirations are. Except – three of his books are displayed, and can be bought: Five Texts, for £1.50; Voile-Toile, for £4; and Legend (which comes in two volumes), for £12.55. The Five Texts are ‘translated’, but from what language we are not told. The stripes are in three colours: red and white on the ceilings, black and white in the lobby, and beige and white on the windows. They are 3⅜ inches (or 8.5 cm) wide, and they come in the form of pieces of wallpaper stuck on to the chosen places. They are stuck, incidentally, in a way which would get any house-decorator the immediate sack; all bubbles and bumps. Of course this may be intentional, as may also be the total lack of communication of intentions. The theory may be that it is good for the public to have to use its imagination to work out what artists are up to. An excellent theory – but. but – it is still up to the artist to produce something, however minimal, to make the public want to understand. One observation, though: the ornamental white ceiling in the front gallery really looks very beautiful with red and white stripes round it.
29 April, 1977 R.B. Kitaj, profiled by Janet Daley
An ideologue of figuration Since The Human Clay exhibition (selected by Kitaj for the Arts Council) and the declaration of uncompromising conviction in its catalogue, it has become inconceivable to discuss Kitaj’s painting outside the context of his own complex and passionately held views about figuration. Nor, I should think, would he particularly wish the work to be discussed without reference to the historical dialogue of which it is a part. For above all else that Kitaj stands for, the notion that painting (or, at least, good painting) cannot exist in a historical vacuum, is probably the least understood and appreciated. That painting (or schools, or movements of painting) participates in a dialogue of a conceptual or ideological kind is not to say that its every development is part of a determined progression. [...] The significance of history for Kitaj lies in its inevitability
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as the only possible atmosphere in which art can breathe, and it is the more rarefied atmospheres of pure sensation, or mindless, anti-historical, introverted self-reference, to which he directs his opposition, because these, as he knows, first breed aberrant decay and then prove lethal. [...] Among the new works, the ones which hold most fascination for me are the paintings of single figures. Long, narrow canvases which each contain one character with various of his accoutrements. Moresque is a Renaissance figure sitting at a 20th-century table in a 20th century posture. The Orientalist is a scholarly figure of indeterminate period surrounded by artefacts with their own disparate allusions; Smyrna Greek is an urbane figure with an intelligent, introspective face seen against the interior of a house in the red light district of Athens. These figures (as well as the drawing The Jew, etc. which is to become a painting) are all, Kitaj says, of characters who are expatriates, who live in places other than the ones in which they were born. I use the word ‘characters’ advisedly for these figures have an existence which transcends these particular paintings of them. They are like literary figures in this sense, but by this I mean that they function in a way analogous to literary figures and not that Kitaj is attempting to produce paintings which do what literature does, which are a kind of quasi or ersatz literary form (which tell a story.) In fact, what Kitaj wants to do with these works is quite the antithesis of this: his aim is to create characters who exist nowhere else but in his paintings.[…] Two of the larger canvases are less unlike Kitaj’s previous work than the single figure paintings. That is, they contain more, are complex and problematic, juxtaposing private references, figures and allusions. And above all, they play with a multiplicity of times and a multiplicity of levels of meaning. In From London (James Joll and John Golding), Kitaj has interpolated differing perspectives and conflicting levels of realism: the faces of the figures are drawn with precise representational accuracy but one of their arms trails off in an unfinished blur which makes the paintedness of the image inescapable. And, more pointedly, one section of a head is missing showing the bare canvas underneath which serves the function both of making clear the reality of what the painting as an object consists of, and of making a reference to Italian frescos in which bits have fallen away. Along one edge of the painting two other figures, one a Renaissance boy, occupy their own time and their own perspective. […] When [Kitaj] speaks as an ideologue of figuration, he speaks as a radical (as, indeed, do I, from my ambivalent position as a lapsed Marxist) who sees abstraction as inherently reactionary because it is dehumanised, elitist and by definition incapable of making statements (except about itself, which is to say, of the most limited and tautologous kind). […] The various strands of modernism have been hived off for reasons connected as much with the Byzantine workings of art world politics as with ideological simplemindedness, in a historically illiterate interpretation of modern painting as consisting of ‘forward-looking
painting which is the analogously fashionable development in figurative art. (When photo-realism had its only London showing at the Serpentine some years ago, one of the trendiest young critics, responding with hysterical paranoia, stated that work of this kind ‘should never be shown in London again’, and, indeed, it has not been.) But the fascist thuggery which poses as radical art criticism cannot muddy the issues for very much longer. Especially now that we have these paintings of Kitaj’s to reveal the possibilities of lucidity again.
right R.B. Kitaj, The Autumn of Central Paris (After Walter Benjamin), 1972–73, oil on canvas, 152 × 152 cm. © the estate of the artist. Courtesy Marlborough Fine Arts, London
Henry P. Raleigh (1930–2017) was an American critic, teacher and painter, who contributed to Leonardo, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, among others. He was professor of art at SUNY New Paltz
16 September, 1977 Henry P. Raleigh
abstraction’ and ‘backward-looking figuration’. This splitting off of abstraction from representational values is linked very strongly to a modern Manichean heresy which conceives the visual (i.e. the sensory) content of experience to be separable from the intellectual content and which advocates the purifying of sensation and visual objectives by freeing them from ideas of a wider and more culturally relevant kind. This decapitation of modernism, the lopping off of its intellectual head from its sensory or somatic nature is an arbitrary mutilation, which has no justification in any legitimate reading of the history of modern painting. […] For what is really central to these two opposed conceptions of painting is not their forwardness or backwardness but their inwardness and outwardness. Abstraction purged itself of all reference to anything outside of itself, hoping to isolate the pure sensation of certain colours, certain shapes, certain spatial relations. Pure sensation without reference to outside stimulus is, of course, a precise definition of masturbation. Turning in on oneself indefinitely, as the solipsists discovered, eventually causes the subject matter under examination to disappear for lack of a frame of reference. But the introverted, ultimately autistic purism of abstraction led it toward an inevitable elitism and away from the world on which it may have been possible to comment, in which one might have taken a stand. Minimalism is purist-reductionist abstraction carried to its logical conclusion and conceptualism is its apotheosis: the abyss of absolute introversion. Kitaj calls for a rebirth of belief in figuration because he feels that this point in time could be as crucial to the history of painting as was the turn of the century. Now it is the abstractionist lobby who are the reactionary establishment – the equivalent of late 19th-century salons, and it is their stranglehold which must be challenged by a vigorous figurative revival. It is, perhaps, of some significance that The Tate Gallery, firmly in the grip of some Young Turks of the postabstract purist persuasion, has purchased countless examples of minimalist and conceptual works (in the interests, they tell us, of keeping abreast of all the latest developments in art) but not a single photo-realist
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the artist … is more an anonymous social worker than existential giant The critical position of Richard Cork raises interesting, at the same time, perplexing problems for contemporary art theory. In an interview appearing in Artscribe (July 1977) Cork provides a concise summary of his running editorial statements in Studio International. He unhesitatingly identifies himself as a committed socialist, calling for the ‘integration of art with a broad public ...’, and casting the artist in the role of ‘social agent’. Such a doctrine has seldom been so clearly and definitely enunciated since the days of Sir Herbert Read. Sir Herbert too, envisioned a society of artist/ citizens; he too denounced the self-serving elitism of the art of his time. […] Cork is not singular in this respect. A prominent American critic, Harold Rosenberg, rejects formalist criticism and shares with Cork strong political and social convictions. Cork must certainly find sympathy with Rosenberg’s condemnation of historicism, the blind belief in the inevitable and revolutionary stylistic advances in art which results in the cynical manipulation of the market by dealers, curators and critics. But at this juncture of argument Cork and Rosenberg travel different roads. Rosenberg views art movements as the syntheses of the best energies of prior movements, an avant-garde required only in times of crises. The great synthesizer, the great avant-gardist is essentially a random historic figure, lonely and of heroic stature. This is a romantic notion, perhaps more akin to the cowboy hero of the American Western film genre, closer still to the self-image of American abstract artists of the ’40s and ’50s. It is anything but Cork’s concept of the artist who is more an anonymous social worker than existential giant. The activities of Richard Cork as critic and editor and the American, Max Kozloff, as critic and editor makes a better, more immediate comparison. Over a decade ago Kozloff, then art critic on The Nation, had offered an alternative to formal and evocative criticism – a new intentionalist approach that might deal more effectively with the bland symmetry of Minimalist objects. By 1975, the year he assumed the executive
Front cover, 18 October, 1974
Penny Slinger is an artist who began exhibiting in the early 1970s. Her photocollages, sculptures and performances took on emerging feminist concerns about power, sexuality and womanhood. She was a member of Jane Arden’s radical Holocaust Theatre group. She moved to America in the late 1970s and now lives in California
editorship of Art Forum, a haven for Minimalist and Conceptualist writings, Kozloff had begun to experience an antagonism towards modernist painting and sculpture. Art Forum shifted its attentions, for a moment, to film, photography, dance – Cork’s statement of policy would have done as well for Kozloff: Studio (or Art Forum) was ‘... a ginger group in terms of attending to newly appropriated areas... which had previously received scant critical examination in this country’. Kozloff ’s editorial mission, summed up in Art Forum’s December, 1975, issue caused a stir and three associate editors resigned. The editorial piece suggested that all art is subservient to political ideologies, even individual acts of expression. Lead articles in that issue were given over to support. Little significantly changed in Art Forum thereafter save that issues following January, 1977, no longer listed Kozloff as editor. No published explanation appeared, the only note a letter to the editor in March objecting to the removal of Kozloff and other staff members. The letter was signed by over 100 artists and critics beginning with Vito Acconci. In retrospect Kozloff ’s actions can be found tame next to the sustained efforts of Cork. Any political and social hints in American art criticism, even the mildest, would be surprising. Cork presses his stand with an honest singlemindedness, amounting at times to an inflexibility that leads to odd inconsistencies. A Studio issue theme, ‘Art and Social Purpose’ (March/April, 1976), editorially opens on the ghostly warning words of Wyndham Lewis and moves to the ‘most urgent and important challenge facing art (today)’. For Cork, this is the need to restore, “... a sense of social purpose, to accept that artists cannot afford for a moment longer to operate in a vacuum of specialized discourse without considering their functions in wider and more utilitarian terms’. Yet strangely the socialistic, and occasionally Marxist, rhetoric that fills this issue is mocked and distorted by the avant-gardism of the visual layouts and the Conceptualist slant to much of the photographic documentation. The Review of January, 1977 reveals a reluctant, frustrated backing away from the attack: ‘… Studio has a duty to review at least some of their (the galleries) offerings…’ […] Any confrontation of aesthetic and social philosophies leads to some unavoidable contradictions. Sir Herbert Read struggled with these, seeking outside references in an art that turned out to be self-referential; and seeking next to give to the public the aesthetic meanings of which they had been ‘dispossessed’ – an assumption taken also by Richard Cork – only to find the public more desirous of the symbols of technological status. The privileged elitism of art, which both Read and Cork abjure, is a product of late 19th century art-for-art’s-sake doctrines; these, in turn, deliberately formed by artists in reaction to the kind of natural philosophy espoused by Taine and the positivist socialism of Saint-Simon. In fact, Cork does not dismiss this inheritance of modernism. We must, he says, retain, ‘... the enormous liberties, strategies and abilities which Modernism as a whole has claimed for artwork’.
Therein lies the historic dilemma and it cannot be so easily put aside by simply calling for the redirection of modern art’s priorities. Cork is neither a fanatic nor a radical. His arguments are impressive in their honesty and care in self-examination. The points he makes regarding the usefulness of conceptualism (its expansion of the functions of the artistic act) and the risky attraction it provided art criticism (‘confusing the use of a new medium with a worthwhile extension of art’s language’) are well taken and illuminating. It is unusual to find a critic today who does attempt something more than deplore the present doldrums. It is encouraging, too, to observe a critic who believes implicitly in the fundamental humanism of art’s value. Cork does not mind at all wielding a sizable publication weapon to slay aesthetic dragons – real or imagined. Of course, the call to battle was first sounded in the latter part of the 18th century. The founder of the profession of art criticism, Denis Diderot, with characteristic Enlightenment social concern, railed mightily against the duplicity of art dealers, collectors, the rise of amateurism and the vulgarisation of popular taste. Technique lay in the hands of the artist but ‘meaning’ fell within the special interpretative domain of the critic. The critic would educate the people. As would so many after him, Diderot found himself trapped by the vagaries of art and human nature and in the end concluded, rather unhappily, ‘that taste was a matter of caprice’.
30 September, 1977 Penny Slinger at the The Mirandy Gallery, London, reviewed by Nadia Woloshyn
An aggressive celebration of female sexuality Penny Slinger’s ‘Inner Space’ show is as Roland Penrose puts it, an ‘Aladdins treasure and the feast of Belshazzar’, exotic, ebullient, colourful and erotic. To the visitor, the exploration of Inner Space or the psyche is apparent in only a few of Miss Slinger’s collages; and the exploration seems directed almost uniquely towards awareness. A rose implanted in the sole of a foot in one collage corresponds to a ‘third eye’ implanted in the sole of a foot in another, suggesting that there are areas of the body which can receive sense impressions other than those we normally pay heed to. A Group of collages display a woman’s body, decorated with brightly coloured roses. The titles of Lotus Woman, Hermaphrodite Tree and Gateway, suggest that physical and sexual awareness is the path towards mystic experience and more intense spiritual awareness. The Hermaphrodite for instance, in Socrates’ view, had achieved an enviable state of happiness by recombining the male and female halves of man which had been unfortunately sundered in pre-Historic times. It is this search for spiritual awareness that we must bear in mind when we turn to the rest of the exhi-
bition, the bulk of which might accurately have been entitled ‘The Triumphant Clitoris’. For it is a bold, almost aggressive celebration of female sexuality. In several collages, a life-size clitoris becomes the focal point of the composition, replacing in some cases a woman’s features, (in other words, her mind and personality) and in others, holding sway at the centre of the Universe. Miss Slinger’s talent for the exotic and the decorative emerges most charmingly in four doll’s houses which she has decorated with costly materials, and curiosities, like a 50 cent piece within a tiny bottle which must have been constructed around it, or models of creatures which have the characteristics of both bird and woman. This is an extremely provocative exhibition.
right Penny Slinger, Hermaphrodite Tree (from Scrolls series), 1976, 26 × 102 cm, Xerox body monoprint with collage on paper. Courtesy the artist
Frances Spalding is an art historian who has written extensively on twentieth-century British artists and literary figures, including John Minton, Duncan Grant, John Piper, Prunella Clough and Virginia Woolf. She was editor of The Burlington Magazine and is emeritus fellow of Clare College, Cambridge
1 September, 1978 Hayward Annual 1978, reviewed by Frances Spalding
Some men included If it were possible to divorce this show from the political issue it arouses – the role of women artists in Britain today – it would still rate as one of the most exciting exhibitions of modern art for some time. It not only reflects subtle and penetrating ideas, wit and social commitment, but it is also (dare one say it?) visually alive. It must be all too easy for an official annual exhibition to grow leaden and dead with the weight of reputations and all-too-familiar art (as was the tendency last year). The astonishing achievement of this year’s show is its combination of an element of freshness – new names and new directions – with a high standard of professionalism and presentation. Except in very small numbers, women artists have been systematically excluded from major exhibitions in recent years; last year’s annual included only one. To rectify this imbalance (after protest) the Arts Council agreed that this show should be selected by Rita Donagh, Tess Jaray, Liliane Lijn, Kim Lim and Gillian Wise Ciobotaru. Some men have been included, but the selectors have deliberately sought out women artists whose work has been under-valued and little seen. Surprisingly, only three artists are overtly feminist – Hiller, Kelly and Hunter. Mary Kelly challenges the notion that women cannot play the maternal role and be an artist by making the subject of her project Post Partum Document the relationship between mother and child, which she sees as ‘the basic structure upon which adult socialisation is founded’. Carefully planned and executed, Kelly’s Document conveys a great deal of her absorption in her subject. Alexis Hunter will be found more approachable to those not familiar with Kristeva and other of the theorists that have fired a small intelligentsia in the women’s movement. Hunter’s colour ‘narrative’ photographs have an immediacy that heightens their suggestiveness. Her idea was simply to investigate certain forms of repression and violence. A shiny, high-heeled shoe is discovered to be not a source of beauty but of pain, and is, after fetishistic investigation, set on fire. In most of the series the hands of the protagonist are positioned in such a way as to allow the spectator to identify with them if she
right Jack Smith, Sound Infiltration, 1977, 61 × 61 cm, oil on board. © the estate of the artist. Courtesy Flowers Gallery, London
chooses and thus become the person enacting the cathartic drama. Elsewhere it is possible at times to find a feminine (not feminist) sensibility reflected in Leapman’s gentle repetitions, Donagh’s delicate restructuring of acts of violence, and Julia Farrer’s painstaking creation of geometric webs starred with pinpoints of light. In all is to be found the complete realisation of an idea. Sue Beere activates one wall with wooden frames that play with the relationship between visual illusion and reality. Tess Jaray floats geometric fragments in the infinite space of her canvases, at once still and suggestive of movement. The quietly sensuous concerns of Leapman and Jaray contrast with Leopoldo Maler’s dramatic Last Supper – 13 chairs and a table surrounded by barbed wire, attended by plastic carcasses of lamb and accompanied by liturgical music. Shortage of space prevents adequate treatment of Wendy Taylor’s eye-teasing brick sculptures, Deanna Petheridge’s ink drawings (Vorticism gone mad), teeming with architectural and military allusions, of Adrian Morris’ investigation of the anxiety aroused by the sense of enclosure, nor of Frink, Lijn and Blow. Gillian Wise’s impressive constructivist section is immaculately housed in an installation designed by Ingrid Morris. In it Terry Pope investigates the way we see reality and then confounds it by using mirrors to reverse perspective. From Pope’s sophisticated use of materials one can pass to Chaimowicz’s oblique meditation on the relationship between his private world and its public presentation in a gallery. The success of this show must mark a great step forward in the move to end the cultural repression of women. The indications of self-discovery, untapped energies recently discovered, of cooperation, of content that has direct political and social relevance suggest that women artists today have the potential to become the most explosive force in future British art.
3 February, 1978 Jack Smith at the Serpentine Gallery, London, reviewed by Pat Gilmour
Bones, minarets, testicles
Called by Smith ‘diagrams of experience or sensation’, the paintings are extremely complex. Some look so much like writing – even if in the Cyrillic alphabet – that one tries to read them rather than experience them as visual pattern and stimulation. Document, I swear, says no no no in letters of fire in the top lefthand corner. Beneath two floppy kisses, against a gentle field of eau de nil, a rainshower of small bombs, dog bones, Russian minarets and testicles clackety clack past a row of patchwork shells, through a grid of orange mutating to pale green, only to evaporate in the face of a footnote of red and black squeak and bubble. Or variegated horns, burping dubiously, snake along the axis of another canvas which is elsewhere precisely punctuated by 10 cool white bars. Or narrow horizontal lines change gently from one pastel to another while shaded grey peanuts levitate, rattling. One delightful drawing has stopped the apparently crazy flight of 99 staccato pins. Well, you can see what Kandinsky means about mere words. One is alternately excited by vermilion, paralysed by intense blue, pierced by a shrill yellow, twanged by a resonating orange, silenced by a yawning white, absorbed by an elephantine grey. Above all, one rejoices in an exhibition which must make converts for abstraction, and help give the lie to current seditious nonsense suggesting paintings without people can be hardly human.
Mallarmé talked of the colour of sound, Rimbaud linked colours with vowels, Scriabin made colour notations on his musical scores. To enter properly into the spirit of this retrospective of 12 years work by Jack Smith (that one musician felt he could conduct) one should perhaps sing the review as a recitative, although one would need Cleo Laine to do it real justice. For it, too, links music and painting, sound and colour. As Kandinsky remarked, shades of colour, like those of sound, awaken in the soul emotions too fine to be expressed in words; in this impossibility and the consequent need for some other mode of expression, he thought the opportunity for the art of the future lay.
I don’t think there is any time worth tuppence other than the present Richard Demarco, pioneering gallerist of the Scottish art scene, 1981
A victory for Contemporary Art, a victory for the young of all ages against the old of all ages Daniel Buren on his new installation at the Palais Royal, Paris, 1986
It’s about time craft gets away from the image of homespun muesli eaters turning earth coloured coffee mugs in country communes Letter to the editor, 1983
Venice remains the show we love to go to – on expenses – and laugh at. And it’s not just the fault of the Venetians or the Italians Michael Shepherd, Arts Review writer and editorial consultant, 1988
1980–89 With economic downturn and reviews of exhibitions by Neo-Expressionists both opening and closing the decade as it played out in the pages of Arts Review, the 1980s seemed reducible at times to a fascination with the art coming out of New York and Germany – Julian Schnabel, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, A.R. Penck – and nearconstant fretting about the effects of Thatcherism’s ‘organised philistinism’ on the structures for supporting, acquiring and displaying art in Britain. From the opening of the Tate Gallery’s new extension in London in 1979 to the no-longer-avoidable evidence of profound physical decline at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the late 1980s, writers argued passionately over how to support museums, and by extension culture, one of them even comparing the state of the art sector to that of Britain’s National Health Service, in that ‘it could eat up almost unlimited funds, and still need more’. The other basis for this comparison, of course, is the argument that both should be provided free to the end user. At the same time, the 1980s saw a touchingly vulnerable tone to the promotion of British artists in international settings, whether at the Venice Biennale or on stands at rapidly multiplying art fairs (Art Basel, one of just a handful of fairs when it turned ten in 1979, had been joined by more than a dozen such global events by the mid-1980s, including the shortlived International Contemporary Art Fair in London). In a similar vein, and in the face of some evidence to the contrary, a boosterish editorial headlined ‘Count your blessings’ was published in January 1980, tallying all that was great about the British art scene and concluding that its support structures were better than ‘any nation… may ever have experienced’. By the end of that year, with the British printing industry in crisis and other signs of economic distress evident across the country, Arts Review announced that it was folding, effective immediately. It survived, of course, but lost its last link to founder Richard Gainsborough, whose son John relinquished the editorship when the title changed hands at the end of 1980. In addition to a sudden turn towards crafts coverage (the new editor and publisher, Graham Hughes, came from Goldsmiths’ Hall, a London guild dating to 1327; his first cover boomed ‘Art or Craft? Is there a difference?’), the magazine showed a renewed determination to do what was necessary to keep itself going. Among a profusion of special and sponsored issues, Arts Review managed to maintain an environment for competing voices, split between forces for the status quo and those promoting Neo-Geo, New Painting, German Expressionism, Postmodernism, etc. While these discussions often circled around fundamental questions such as who art is for and how museums should be run, they inevitably reflected class conflict of the time as well, with strident defenders of elitism arrayed, depending on the occasion, against would-be avant-gardists, modernisers, selfproclaimed populists and writers more dedicated to provocation than any particular cause. For most of the 1980s women far outnumbered men on the Arts Review masthead and figured prominently among contributing writers as well.
16 July, 1982 Chia, Clemente, Kiefer, Salle and Schnabel at Anthony d’Offay, London, reviewed by Hetty Einzig
A slap in the face
Front cover, 7 November, 1980
Hetty Einzig is a former journalist and contributor to Arts Review Mary Rose Beaumont, Baroness Beaumont of Whitley, has, throughout her long career, worked as an art historian, teacher, writer and curator
A Schnabel painting is like a slap in the face, an affront. It dares you, cockily, jeering, to face up to it. Walking through the door at d’Offay’s you are confronted with ‘Ole’: Christ’s head, hacked into the canvas, white painted brazen on black, stares wildeyed at us, manic, haggard and compelling. Upper right a baroque figure, chubby and becurled, looks down his Roman nose at the lurid effigy. The painting is sinister, recognisably ‘Spanish’ in its black melodrama. How shocking then is that simple exclamation, ‘Ole’, the letters daubed at Christ’s chin like graffiti, the favourite flourish of every holidaymaker and flamenco dancer on the Costa del Sol. The slap hits home. The painting is one of the two new Schnabels in this mixed show of recent work by the very cream of the most-feted-art-stars of the moment. All quite individual, four of them (the exception is Kiefer) nevertheless share two major factors: an ironic or iconoclastic stance, and the unabashed appropriation of whatever themes, images and styles from art of the past that take their fancy. The level of self-confidence is such it becomes irrelevant to talk influences or sources. What they take is theirs. […] A long triptych by Clemente comes close to selfparody. The same magical, scatalogical world as before but now everything is bigger, wilder, brighter to the point of explosion; mouths choke, eyes swell, heads extend beyond the picture frame. It is as if Clemente were literally trying to overreach himself. Where to now?
A single work by Salle, still little known over here, – a trailer for his forthcoming show Walking the Dog manages to achieve the same hypnotic dream-world of Laurie Anderson’s song; rules of perspective, sequence, scale and relationship follow their own acceptable logic. With Kiefer the whirlwind stops. When faced with these raw, concentrated expressions of anguish, the rest seems so much fairground bluster. The depth of Kiefer’s personal involvement is awesome. His charred visions of despair cannot fail to move, but in this context the blackness and emotional intensity jar. Where colour, energy and bravado are swung about with all the gusto of ball and chain, privacy and seriousness are the first to get hit. At his recent show at the Whitechapel the huge canvases filled the space with their dignity; here these smaller works seem to shrink into their corner, an embarrassment. It is few who do not prefer to turn quickly from the tragic side of reality presented by the sad clown or sideshow freaks back to the clamour and bright lights of the fair.
16 July, 1982 Documenta 7, Kassel, reviewed by Mary Rose Beaumont
Beuys disrupts the press conference Amid all the razzmatazz that surrounds an international exhibition of this kind it is quite difficult to penetrate beyond the fairground atmosphere and the wheeling and dealing going on in the cafes, to the actual Art. The opening Press Conference was turned into a one-man performance by Joseph Beuys, who appropriated the limelight simply by being there.
this page Joseph Beuys, documenta 7 expects everyone to do his duty, 1982, print on paper, 43 × 60 cm (unframed). © estate of the artist/dacs, London. Courtesy Tate, London. Beuys is shown with gold cast copy of the crown worn by Ivan the Terrible (left), melted and recast as the Hare with Sun (right), proceeds from the sale of which helped finance Beuys’s 7000 Oak Trees (1982) for Documenta 7 facing page, bottom Julian Schnabel, Homo Painting, 1981, oil paint on velvet, 295 × 417 cm. © the artist/dacs, London. Courtesy Tate, London
Dave Lee, also known as David Lee and D.G. Lee, wrote on photography and other topics for Arts Review throughout the 1980s and into the 90s before becoming its editor in 1993, a position he held for seven years
His presence was physically reinforced by 700 huge basalt columns heaped up outside the main exhibition centre, the Museum Fridericianum, which the public were invited to buy for 500 Deutsch Marks: with the money thus (hopefully) obtained, an oak tree would be planted, and the fortunate donor would receive a “Tree-Diploma” inscribed with his name and signed “by the hand of Joseph Beuys”. The outraged citizens of Kassel responded by spraying the installation with Day-Glo pink paint, hastily but inadequately removed by the authorities. After surmounting (literally) this obstacle, one enters the Fridericianum itself. […] Baselitz’s perverse upside-down figures have spread like an infection: Joseph Kosuth is doing it, as is Jan Dibbets and even Francesco Clemente. There is an atmosphere of menace and scarcely-suppressed violence in much of the work. Anselm Kiefer, recently seen at the Whitechapel, stands out as by far the best of the young German painters: his powerful pictures, drawing on Nordic myth and German history, have an instant impact. These mythic qualities, although very differently expressed, are also evident in the work of Mimmo Paladino, whose paintings contain hints of early Jackson Pollock, when he was influenced by North American Indian art. Continuing in this vein is Sybersberg’s interpretation of Parsifal, a theatrical installation in a dungeon, the most arresting feature of which is poor Richard Wagner hung by the neck and crucified several times over. The crucifixion theme was carried to its ultimate by Herman Nitsch, who actually hung a man from a cross daubed with the intestines of an ox. Mercifully we were spared the event and experienced it only through lurid photographs. […] The British contingent, consisting of nine artists, represented a cross-section of our contemporary
avant-garde. Barry Flanagan’s enormous leaping hare occupied a central position, and Flanagan also had a smaller hutch to himself, containing other attitudinising hares as well as some stone carvings. Among the younger sculptors, Tony Cragg and Jean Luc Vilmouth showed floor pieces which were both intelligent and blessedly witty. Hamish Fulton had walked through England and the Pyrenees and camped by the Suwanee River, recorded by maps and photographs. Richard Long too had been going walkabout, minutely re-arranging the landscape, photographing it and then leaving it to Nature to destroy his traces. These two artists must confirm the foreigner’s belief in the eccentric British passion for fresh air. Gilbert and George are showing several large photo-pieces which look very fine indeed, and Boyd Webb shows a cluster of his special brand of surreal photographs. Bruce McLean looks the most at home among the Europeans, understandably since he is now living in Berlin, and his large paintings look confident and assertive. […]
18 March, 1983 Dave Lee
Friends – who needs them? After recently talking money with the staff and organising Friends of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, I came away surprised that this appealing collection has survived at all. That it has survived long enough for the Friends of the museum to celebrate this year their Golden Jubilee is in no small part due to the fundraising activities of this body, for the museum, founded in 1889, has struggled on gamely until the last decade without regular
from top Poster competition announcement published in Arts Review, 21 December, 1984, by the Iraqi Cultural Centre, London, on the theme of ‘maltreatment of Iraqi prisoners-of-war by the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran’; and an advertisement for the Captives + Captors poster exhibition, published in Arts Review, 2 August, 1985
means of support. The gallery has, of course, in spite of its precarious finances, performed far more than a survival act. Somehow it has managed to prosper and form a major collection of watercolours and, I am told (for I’ve never looked at it myself), an outstanding array of textiles. The mutually sustaining relationship between the Friends and the gallery is commemorated in two exhibitions until May 7th; The Most Beautiful Art in England: Fifty Watercolours 1750–1850 and A Special Friendship comprising works purchased, assisted by contributions from the Friends. […] A Special Friendship will include many of the stalwarts of the gallery’s permanent collection; Bomberg, Bacon, Freud, Stubbs and, once again, Cozens, Girtin etc. as well as rugs and frilly clothes. These festivities at the Whitworth provide an appropriate moment to consider the activities of Friends’ associations in general. Their history is longer than one may think. Although most have been instituted in the last few years in the wake of central and local government cuts, museums have always been hard up. In one sense museums are like the Health Service: they could eat up almost unlimited funds, and still use more. But also like the nhs the reverse has happened and now a barely adequate service is provided. Friends were established to help arrest the inevitable deterioration in standards. As an execution of the comparison, the work of friends has realised the monetarist’s dream; in the majority, there is close on a hundred per cent profit on turnover and all labour is unpaid. The first society was formed at St. Leonards in 1905, and was followed by the Fitzwilliam in 1909, Leeds (1912), Norwich (1921), Wakefield (1925), Brecknock (1928), Leicester (1930), Birmingham (1931) and The Whitworth in 1933. Among other things that one might deduce from this list is further proof that London’s museums (clearly late starters in the Friends’ stakes) have been better provided for than their provincial relations. There are now 80,000 plus members, and well over a third of them (29,000) belong to the Royal Academy, the average in the larger regional institutions seeming to hover about the thousand mark. The membership of many, however, can be numbered in scores. Over 250 groups form the British Association of Friends of Museums, which is a vocal lobby and which in turn is represented on the council of the World Federation of Friends of Museums. Next stop Mars! The intention of Friends locally is to “advance the cause” of their museum, or, in layman’s language, to make money. The bulk of funds come from annual subscriptions which may be anything from £3 to £20 and the payment of which allows the subscriber free exhibition entry and the use of library and other facilities denied to you and me. It also gets you on the mailing list, which means invitations to trips (some continental), sundry types of ‘do’ and lecture, and concessionary offers on mugs, balls, Christmas cards and prints, etc.
(I’m bound to say that the specially reduced prices are extremely ungenerous.) It becomes apparent once you begin investigations that volunteering membership to a Friends group is a self-motivation to countless temptations of even greater personal expenditure. I was left in no doubt that every ha’penny counts to these aggressive entrepreneurs. And often there’s a whiff of desperation accompanying their exploits: members at Leeds Industrial Museum sold hot potatoes at one of their functions. From this example one gets the financial aspect in perspective, for with Friends we are not dealing with the numbers that alone buy major works. It won’t come as a shock to you to know that the National Gallery doesn’t have a Friends society. Not surprising really, because if the estimates of £6–8 million for the Altdorfer are near the mark, they need the International Monetary Fund as a Friend. No, the sums raised by Friends are pocket money by comparison, with the notable exception of the ra (£300,000 last year). The Whitworth Friends (1,000 of them) raise £4,000 p.a. while those, say, in Gloucester (50) raise £150. These funds are variously disbursed, some on refurbishing galleries (£20,000 this year from the V&A’s 2,800 members), others on conservation equipment, sponsoring students and research and, most significantly, on contributions towards purchases. Small amounts to a local museum with, perhaps, a specialist collection can be just as vital as is monopoly money to the National. For example, Gloucester friends raised £450 in three years but their donation towards the redecoration of the Folk Museum helped generate a further £1,500 because other contributions were contingent on the museum itself exhibiting some enterprise. To conclude, it is difficult to fault the work of Friends. They work hard, often in makeshift conditions. They keep museums alive and assist in the development of collections which might become static and then deteriorate due to poor facilities. And yet many of the cynical suspicions I harboured about Friends proved true. The vision of enthusiastic, tweed-skirted ladies of independent means presiding with an air of Victorian benevolence, sitting about licking stamps and baking cakes, came alive. I was informed by many that the number of members was stationary and that the average enthusiast was, well, past the first bloom of youth. Encouraging younger participants must be a high priority for the future. Furthermore, memberships appear to be limited to those who would normally patronise museums anyway. Most people have been consistently alienated from the appreciation of art by establishment elitism and intimidating jargon. I don’t believe for a second that Friends will have success in rectifying this public apathy to official forms of historical and contemporary culture. Most rooms in most museums are empty most of the time. The Friends may not represent much money, but they do mean local goodwill and that’s a priceless asset. I wish them good luck, anyway.
15 April, 1983 Letter to the editor
(Don’t) Call me Dave
from top Front cover, 25 November 1983; membership form for Friends of Burgh House, London, distributed with copies of Arts Review in the 1980s
Dear Sir May I comment on Dave Lee’s snide and superficial article, Friends of Museums, published in your issue dated 18 March? To start with, I am always gravely suspicious of anyone calling himself ‘Dave’: this immediately signals the desire to be accepted as ‘working class’ in attitudes, if not in origins. The comparable instance of ‘Tony’ Benn springs to mind. My suspicions were confirmed in Mr Lee’s case by the aggressively anti-elitist tone of his article, particularly the ridiculous generalization that ‘Most people have been consistently alienated from the appreciation of art by establishment elitism and intimidating jargon’. The appreciation of art, whether we are talking about Poussin or Puccini, involves effort by the individual. Put simply, if you don’t do your homework, you don’t get much out of a visit to either the National Gallery or the English National Opera. I admit that most working class people have neither the time nor the inclination to prepare themselves properly for such experiences, but why blame society for that? […] On Friends associations, Mr Lee is equally fatuous: of course ‘memberships appear to be limited to those who would normally patronise museums anyway’. Where else does he expect them to come from? On the whole the majority of Friends are white, middle class, middle aged professional people who are keen to make their local museum a cultural focus in their lives and by so doing help that museum to improve its collections and services to the public. […] Jeffery (or should it be ‘Jeff ’?) Daniels Director, Geffrye Museum Ed’s note: Mr Lee always signs himself D.G. Lee but for the purpose of house style by-lines Arts Review adopts ‘Dave’ Lee.
July–September, 1983 Letters to the editor
The state of art in Palestine Dear Sir I was quite surprised to read an anti-Israel diatribe, under the title ‘Expression and Repression: the state of Art in Palestine’, in your issue of 10th June. One thing emerges clearly from the article: your contributor has not the foggiest idea who the Palestinians are or what is or was Palestine. There already exists a Palestinian Arab state. It is called Jordan. The area of the Palestine Mandate, designated as the Jewish homeland, was originally 46,000 square miles. In 1922, Britain unilaterally suspended from the provisions of the Mandate the entire land east of the river Jordan, 36,000 square miles or 78% of the Mandate. This land is sparsely
populated, mainly by Palestinian Arabs. The British, instead of handing it over to its inhabitants, foisted on them a foreign ruler, Prince Abdullah of the Hejaz, thus laying the foundation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is here the Palestinian Arabs must seek ‘nationalist self-expression’. The Palestinian Jewish state – Israel – comprises 17.5% of Palestine. ‘Judea’ (as it is called by historians and cartographers to this very day) means ‘the land of the Jews’, but is called the ‘West Bank’ by the Arabs to obliterate this fact. This tiny area – 4.5% of Palestine – is vital to Israel’s security, quite apart from her historical/legal claim to the heart of her ancient homeland. There can be no second Palestinian Arab state there. But Israel has offered the inhabitants of this area full autonomy: self-government excluding defence and foreign affairs. An autonomy jeered at by the Arabs and their henchmen, but – without the slightest murmur from anyone – denied 12 million Kurds, the Corsicans, the Basques, etc. (Dr) Julian Lax Dear Sir How sad that the Arts Review should have succumbed to the temptation of cheap fashion and agreed to lend its pages to the nasty vogue of Israel-baiting. In your edition of 10 June, Ms. Jenny Scott discusses ‘Expression and Repression (the state of art in Palestine)’, arguing ‘that Israel unashamedly seeks to suppress cultural activity in the occupied territories’, where a ‘cultural genocide’ is perpetuated – nothing less. It is obvious both from its tone and its content that the article is a crude piece of propaganda showing narrow political purpose. Ms. Scott claims to have knowledge of Israel’s ‘anti-cultural’ aims and activities. How, then, would she explain that at the end of June 1983 there took place a Festival of Palestinian Art at the Neve Zedek Theatrical Centre in the heart of Tel Aviv, supported by grants from Israeli authorities? The participants in the festival were Arab artists from Judea – Samaria and Gaza – and their productions included examples of a full range of ongoing cultural and artistic activities amongst which were highly political dramas, ‘protest songs’, musical works, dance, film, literature and of course art exhibitions. Amongst the Arab artists exhibiting his paintings was none other than the same Suleiman Mansour described as a ‘persecuted’ Palestinian. The series of events which marked the Festival ended in a symposium whose participants included some of the most eminent Arab and Israeli intellectuals. There was a high attendance at all events by Jews and Arabs alike, and the Hebrew press was high in its praise for this outstanding cultural event. So much for ‘cultural genocide’. Kariel Gardosh, Counsellor, Embassy of Israel Dear Sir In your issue of 22 July you published letters from
A feature on art in Palestine by artist Jenny Scott in the 10 June 1983 issue of Arts Review, which sparked several weeks’ worth of letters to the editor, a selection shown here
Oswell Blakeston was the pseudonym used by Henry Joseph Hasslecher (1907–85), who wrote for Arts Review from the 1950s until his death. See his full biography in ‘1949–59’
Mr. Gardosh and Dr. Lax about my article on the state of art in Palestine (10 June). I am not a political activist: I am not an “Israelbaiter”: I have never been involved in any political campaign against Zionism. I am an artist, concerned with the freedom of artistic expression, no matter where. My researches into the conditions in which the visual arts are pursued in the areas under Israeli occupation have left me with no shadow of doubt that the extent of Israeli repression of Palestinian artists is unpardonable by any standards that I can regard as civilised. There are, to their credit, numbers of Israeli artists who feel much the same. My article paid them tribute. The recent hosting by the Neveh Tzedeg Theatrical Centre of a Festival of Palestinian Art in the heart of Tel Aviv is a case in point; and the Centre deserves applause for its pioneering initiative in this respect. It does not, however, in any way alter the fact that attempts by Palestinians to hold similar events in the Occupied Territories have been, and are, systematically obstructed by the Israeli authorities. No attempt is made by Mr. Gardosh to deny the instances of this obstruction documented in my article (which was by no means comprehensive) or to refute the other charges of repression to which I drew attention. Indeed they do not lend themselves to rebuttal – as the content of Mr. Gardosh’s letter and the total irrelevance of the arrogant Dr. Lax themselves indicate. If anything was needed to push me into the growing ranks of those actively opposing Israeli political behaviour, the attitudes of Mr. Gardosh and Dr. Lax, whose aggressiveness is surely symptomatic of the bad conscience of the Zionist establishment they represent, supply the need. Meanwhile, I hope that your many readers concerned with the freedom of artistic expression everywhere will not be put off including Palestine in the area of their concern by the certainty of attracting Israeli invective. Jenny Scott
23 November, 1984 The first Turner Prize exhibition, reviewed by Oswell Blakeston
The case for elitism […] The largest item is a Gilbert and George photo blow-up. One must admit that G & G have invented a technique for filling space, and the present item would be a cheering wallspace in a large railway station. That’s the level of achievement. The rest is the manufactured reputation; and one wonders how much longer these performers can go on trying to prop up the crumbling entablature of the music hall. Their success is due to those who believe in what they dare not disbelieve. And then Richard Long! One knows Long as a charming organiser of treasure hunts in the countryside, trails of stones and sticks. But where in these
pretty rambles is an artist’s blood from inexhaustible arteries? Another Long contribution is a River Avon mud circle worked on the wall of the gallery. It may not have done irreparable damage. They may be able to cover it up later and replace it with one of the really vital graffiti one sees around; but meanwhile the appeal is for eyes which are ignorant of inspiration. Yes, from art we should demand miracles. From art we want more than home-made bread and plain wood. Intolerance? What then of William Feaver who says this competition, called for some obscure reason The Turner Prize, must reinforce the general idea “that modern art is a) a con, or b) a conspiracy.” Feaver claims that he would not have chosen from the dealers’ darlings, the names propped up by the publicity campaigns, but that he would have gone for the unexpected. “I’d give the prize,” he wrote, “to an institution which has brought on young artists or to someone unknown.” Myself I’d give the prize, for doing most for art, to one of our stately homes where the visitor may turn a corner to see a picture to stop the heart; and where he may then wander in gardens, and hear bees hum in red-washed brick walls, and regenerate lusts and loves before returning to the house to discover other pictures, looted perchance from Spanish galleons travelling the oceans with ransom for a king; and then the images once worshipped in secret in the grottoes of dreaming parks. Surely in such magnificent mansions people are led to art and to a humour in which art may be appreciated because life is no longer a meal of ashes. Elitism? But what we want is an expansion of elitism. Everyone should be an elitist. To hell with monster hamburgers, plastic ice cream, second-hand clothes-markets, and art shows arranged in the hope of making headlines in the dailies. Enough! Let us return to the exhibition, for there is not so much more of it. There are, however, two abstracts by Howard Hodgkin: casual attention to small random smears. There are two 3d works by Richard Deacon: an aluminium skeleton for a lemon, and some sexplay with comical hats. Finally Malcolm Morley brings in the prize, his selected theme, A Day Fishing at Heraklion. It is dated expressionism, but at least one can see the energy of the physical making of it.
12 & 26 August, 1983 Letter to the editor
Dear Sir I would like to comment on your tasteless and irreverent first page News feature in Arts Review of 24 June 1983. On opening the magazine I was confronted with two photographs with the caption: Images for Sale. One of these two images I would have no hesitation in describing as soft pornography (forget the notion of erotic or sensual). The other image is less explicit but nonetheless conveys a hopelessly passive and stereotyped image of femininity. It is Arts Review which is selling out in this insensitive exposure of two very
above News page with offending images from Arts Review, 24 June 1983 (see Letter, opposite) below Judy Chicago, Virginia Woolf place setting from The Dinner Party, 1979, mixed media. Collection Brooklyn Museum, gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation. Photo: Donald Woodman. © the artist/dacs, London
Judy Chicago is best known for The Dinner Party, a sprawling installation shown first in 1979 at the San Francisco Museum of Art. This, together with projects such as Womanhouse (1972, with Miriam Schapiro) and The Birth Project (1980–85), are cornerstones of her reputation as a pioneering feminist artist Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton is an art historian, curator, writer and editor who, following a decade or so as a critic for Arts Review, relaunched Artscribe International in 1992. She has held executive positions at Arts Council England (1993–2006), AiCA UK (2009–18) and AiCA International (2015–18)
sexist advertisements. The cover of Nova you so boldly feature as an example of ‘real art’ (determined by its saleablility) portrays a woman in a state of half undress posing in an explicitly sexual manner for the consumption by a male gaze, to be devoured and read as advertisement for his fantasy of the continuous availability of female sexuality. This kind of image perpetrates a view of women which is not only unrealistic and untrue, but also manufactured through the making and manipulation of images by men. It is extremely irresponsible of you as Editor to occasionally print reviews and articles about work which seeks to diffuse the power of such sexist imagery as this, and then to give space and therefore credence to the use of the same images under the pretext of ‘art’. Can you explain to me how your editorial policy (if you have one) attempts to cope with such issues? I am sure that there were many other images from this exhibition which you could have chosen to feature, and if so, why did you select these two in particular? Do you have no awareness or consciousness even of the debates surrounding the use of sexist imagery (and language) and its effect upon the lives of ‘ordinary’ women? Does Arts Review feel content to bury its head in the sand, whilst some other art magazines and journals have decided to take a more responsible attitude to the misuse of images of women? […] Michele Fuirer
29 March, 1985 Judy Chicago at The Warehouse, London, reviewed by Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton
Not ‘a truly Feminist work’? I wonder what Virginia Woolf would have thought of her plate, a great green-yellow and pink pod burst open – like D.H. Lawrence’s Figs! The pod sits glistening, inviting, on a pale custard yellow runner. Virginia
loathed custard. Especially with the prunes that were women’s fare at her college table at Cambridge. But Judy Chicago rides roughshod over such delicate palates. Her plates had to rise up (oh dear!) to thrust themselves forward – to symbolise women’s growing struggle for liberation. I have no argument with this, but as she also demands that the work be seen as art, then we have to see The Dinner Party not only in terms of its ideology but in the full context of art, feminism and politics. And I am not sure that The Dinner Party is a truly Feminist work. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1939, Judy Chicago began the project in 1974 after years of working politically as a feminist artist, difficult years which she documents in her autobiography Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist, published in 1975. The Dinner Party was conceived by her as ‘a large scale work of art symbolising the achievements of women in western civilisation’. It took five years to complete with the help of almost four hundred people working under Chicago’s direction. It received not only Federal funding but contributions from thousands of individuals across America. […] The overwhelming scale of the piece in its dark chamber fires one’s pagan imagination. We are witnesses to some ancient, supernatural feast, whose meaning has in part died with the bodies of the absent guests. While we feel comfortable contemplating the plates for the Goddess Kali or the Warrior Queen, Boadiceia, we feel a bit disconcerted by the frilly pink knickers plate for Emily Dickinson, American poet who died in 1886. It is the later plates which seem most pagan, alien almost in their grotesque sci-fi barbarism. While the whole work celebrates the skill of women’s needlework, weaving, china painting – the gross vulgarity of Judy Chicago’s designs seems to me to undermine the brilliant art of women’s past achievement. The fine delicacy of Elizabethan beadwork and lace is not well served by the garish purple plate of Elizabeth I set on its grisly doily. Faced with these monsters, I could not help thinking of the restraint of English Eighteenth century porcelain, designed and painted in most part by anonymous women and children. The repeated use of genital imagery (each plate is a variation on the image of the vulva), however disguised, is also problematic. It is coyly referred to in the Exhibition booklet as ‘the feminine principle’ and left at that. […] Surely the iconography of the vulva in art and literature is so crucial to the work’s message that some discussion is essential? This omission seems to me to underline a paradox in the whole work. The Dinner Party, its conception and its creation, aims to celebrate femineity: female wisdom, female strengths and female qualities. Yet the work is outrageously male in many respects; it is monumental; its surface, its feel is hard and unyielding. In spite of the democratic tribute to its producers the razza-ma-tazz of the work’s installation celebrates the zealous energy, talents and commitment of its creator, the artist Judy Chicago, Boudicca of feminist artists. […]
4 July, 1986 Richard Wentworth at Lisson, London, reviewed by Larry Berryman
Front cover, 8 June, 1984
Richard Wentworth is known for placing and/or making minor interventions involving everyday objects, often small, whose rearrangement results in a questioning of what defines a work as sculpture Larry Berryman (1943–2006), writer and graphic artist, was a regular contributor to Arts Review throughout the second half of the 1980s
“Like a tea-tray in the sky” and starring an Arcoroc glass cup and saucer, one of Richard Wentworth’s minor flights of poetic fancy launches off the wall with the escape velocity that frees wit from sense. In Duck and Drake, cup and saucer intersect and penetrate the plane of an aluminium tray; metal measuring jugs plumb the void, going up and over the event horizon of another tea-tray. “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat/How I wonder what you’re at”. Little more than a jeu d’esprit beside the larger works in this show, each small relief construction epitomises Richard Wentworth’s way with things; a slender but poetic line in nonsense that, like Lewis Carroll’s, subverts expectation to ensnare new sense. Readymades from the local hardware store, old unemployable office equipment, spent lightbulbs and cigarette pack are the company in a grave, alternative, sculptural comedy. An insupportable cylinder of galvanised steel breaks the back of the Camel cigarette pack. Consigned to the wastepaper basket and like days past bearing up the burden of the present, spent bulbs support a leaden sphere. Logo (the word) informs the world as a letter rack filled with and fossilized in concrete. Images of extinction abound. Richard Wentworth not only toys with his readymades but plays metaphysical conceits with metal bins. Two buckets float in coupling galvanised baths; full of themselves and filled with galvanised steel. If it is looking too hard to find metaphors for differentiated consciousness, for avidya and maya in these buckets, they have undoubtedly been down some deep well and have not come up altogether empty.
19 December 1986 David Lee
Unpopular culture […] What it is impossible for the public to understand is why certain types of art are so prominently exhibited, get huge coverage in magazines and newspapers, and command high prices, when works by other artists who are, to them, of greater skill, are ignored. Try and explain to a person in the street why a painting done in the 1960s by Jasper Johns, an artist they are unlikely to have heard of, sold last month in a New York auction for $3.6 million (more than a recently auctioned major painting by Constable), and you’ll see what I mean. What is required from art bureaucrats and taste-setters is the concession that the type of art of which the recent small Turner Prize display at the Tate Gallery is a good example, is of minority interest. […]
This year’s Hayward Annual, which occupied the main temporary exhibition gallery of London for ten weeks, was seen by “under 20,000”. (Precisely how far under? You may well ask). The Renoir exhibition attracted 350,000. The Royal Academy’s PostImpressionism show attracted 648,000. More people saw that show in four days than visited the Hayward Annual in ten weeks. And in order to be seen by the same number of people who recently visited the small exhibition of Picasso Sketchbooks at the Academy, 145,410 of them, the Hayward Annual would have to remain open 7 days a week for a year and a half. The main difference between the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Academy is that the Academy has to pay its own bills. This is not an argument for banishing all of Modernism or even for making it cost-effective. It is simply a demonstration that Modernism has commanded a degree of attention incommensurate with its appeal. Why are Modernist painting and sculpture treated differently to other arts, as a special case apparently insulated against public opinion and accountability? The present arrangement of the Tate’s 20th Century galleries still follows the old historicist view of ‘developments’ in modern art. In its later holdings the collection seems limited to artists represented by about six of the two hundred or so galleries trading in London. This is equivalent to a public library stocking only Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Beckett and so on. That extremity of censorship would, anywhere else but the Tate Gallery, be considered indefensible. […]
9 October, 1987 NY Art Now at The Saatchi Collection, London, reviewed by Mary Rose Beaumont
Something new in the air The present show is a sharp departure from the previous exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery. We have seen established Minimalists such as Sol Lewitt and Don Judd, giants of the Pop generation fronted by Andy Warhol, and, most recently, the unlikely combination, which in fact worked a treat, of controversial sculptor Richard Serra and the best of the neo-Expressionists, Anselm Kiefer. […] Now we are being offered the most recent emanations from the East Village in New York, never before seen in this country, some as recent as 1987. Even having read magazine articles, and seen reproductions of the work, and bandied the term ‘neo-Geo’ about with confidence, I was still not prepared for the shock of actually seeing the things. The austere white spaces of the Gallery look positively crammed: the first object which faces you is an oversize cast steel rabbit sitting up holding a carrot. This is Jeff Koons’ offering. He, like many of them, is into consumer durables, said to be a critique of capitalist society. It is interesting to learn that he was a commodity broker before becoming an artist, so one must presume that he has not taken a drop in income.
right Günter Brus, Wiener Spaziergang (Vienna Walk), 1965. Photo: Ludwig Hoffenreich. Courtesy bruseum/ Neue Galerie, Graz
Clare Henry trained as an art historian and printmaker before becoming an art critic, writing for Arts Review from Scotland, where she was also employed by The Herald. She would later move to New York as a critic for the Financial Times
He has also cast a ‘Jim Beam Train’, something we do not have I think in this country. It is a 10-foot-long model of a train containing Bourbon whisky, and if you open it up and drink the whisky, you have wrecked the sculpture. He also encases brand new Hoovers in perspex cases lit by neon lights (echoes of Dan Flavin) and footballs in aquariums. Sporting equipment also seems to be an obsession with Haim Steinbach, who places footballs and running shoes on Formica plinths, occasionally enlivened by Dracula masks. The formica plinths refer back to Judd and Armleder. So you will see that appropriation is the name of the game. […] A regression to childhood seems to be a pervasive theme. Meyer Vaisman piles up mattressshaped canvases three-deep on the wall, stencils them and collages on, in one case a child’s alphabet building bricks, in another teats from a baby’s bottle. Gober has the last word: one ‘sculpture’ is a real play pen and another is a partially buried sink in a turfed and concrete surround, the nearest thing I have seen to a tombstone in a gallery. Today’s art thus caters for a mass audience from the cradle to the grave. Though critics may click their tongues, I must report that the public is voting with its feet. On the day I was there the gallery was packed, mostly with youngsters, hugely enjoying themselves, a rare enough happening.
13 January, 1989 Clare Henry
Inactionism The last-minute cancellation by the National Galleries of Scotland of their block buster exhibition Vienna 1960: From Action Painting To Actions, due to open for Christmas, forces me to begin 1989 on a very serious note. Censorship of any kind strikes at the very heart of artistic integrity and freedom. International collaborative trust takes a long time to build up, seconds to destroy. At a stroke the National Galleries have put Scotland’s reputation in jeopardy and made Edinburgh a laughing stock. “Richard Calvocoressi and Timothy Clifford should resign,” said one involved. “This has put the clock back thirty years.” As Calvocoressi (head of the Scottish National Gallery of Modem Art under the overall direction of Clifford) tells us on page 30 of the Austrian sponsored, 357-leaf (500 illustrations) doorstop-thick bilingual catalogue, “When I heard last year that Dieter Schwarz (of the Kunstmuseum Winterthur) and Veit Loers (from the Museum Fridericianum, Kassel) were planning the exhibition, I was determined that it should come to Edinburgh.”
Front cover, 15 February, 1985
Michael Petry is an American-born artist and author based in London. He is director of MOCA and cofounder of the Museum of Installation, both in London
Classified advertisement, Arts Review, 26 February, 1988
For the next 12 months the Gallery of Modern Art devoted all its energies and budget towards Vienna 1960. […] The show opened to great acclaim at Kassel in June and went on to do well at Winterthur from September before its planned tour to Edinburgh (with help from Visiting Arts British Council, the Austrian Institute, Austrian Ministry of Culture and Kunstforum Landerbank Vienna who were to pay to bring the artists over and help with general costs). Then, suddenly, 14 days before the Scottish opening, and after the expenditure of a huge amount of money, time, effort – and 18 months’ worth of Scottish salaries – it is cancelled by Edinburgh. No reason is given. All the gma staff slink away on holiday. Rumour has it that Clifford considered the work of the six Viennese artists obscene and that he felt his trustees would not like it. Surely Calvocoressi had acquainted him with the radical, raw nature of the show? And, more importantly, if Germany, Switzerland and Austria can cope with Vienna 1960 (the work is almost 30 years old after all) why can’t Scotland? Indeed why can’t Britain? For Edinburgh was to be the only British venue. Calvocoressi has adopted a very low profile since his arrival 18 months ago, “So that I can get the day-to-day housekeeping in order,” and so far all exhibitions have been originated elsewhere and merely taken in on tour. Indeed overall there have been very few shows at all. Calvocoressi’s curatorial debut was awaited with high hopes, and now that this show has backfired amid serious recriminations from the co-organisers, it throws doubt on all other avant garde projects. If the Gallery of Modern Art does not have the authority to handle thirty-year old experimentation, who has? (Incidentally three of the artists, Brus, Nitsch and their precursor Rainer, were presented by Richard Demarco at the 1973 Edinburgh Festival in The Austrian Exhibition, which subsequently toured to the ica.) […] The main point of this show is that Viennese Action Artists form part of a historically important crucial period of 20th century art which is little known in Britain. (Only the Whitechapel has shown some.) The Gallery of Modern Art felt it was now the right time to present a major, well-researched exhibition about the Actionists. Hartley tells us in his immaculately translated and fascinating essay that the Viennese did not “do it simply to ‘epater les bourgeois’. That is why they struck such a chord when they performed live in London in 1967.” Neither Hartley nor Calvocoressi had taken the dyed-in-the-wool Edinburgh attitude into account, an attitude now probably enhanced by Clifford’s retrogressive stance. Will the gma soon have twee wallpaper and bowls of flowers too? Inevitably excuses of increased costs will be bandied about. Some may even be true. In this case, does the National Galleries have no contract? No figures, no lists, no accounts? And then what about the cost of storage for Vienna 1960 between November 13 when it closed at Winterthur and March 16 1989 when it opens in Vienna?
This is perhaps something for the trustees to discuss at their next, secret meeting. Secret because since Lord Bute resigned as Chairman of Trustees and Timothy Clifford revamped the system, none of the individual head keepers of the gma, the National Portrait Gallery on the Mound, are allowed to attend. As a publicly funded institution, the Scottish National Gallery should inform the taxpayers what it is doing, especially when it seems to be wasting large amounts of money on abortive projects. It has recently been argued that the minutes of the board of trustees’ meetings should be made available to the public. In view of recent events, this would now seem essential.
13 January, 1989 Report from New York, by Michael Petry
Size matters So, on to Jeff Koons at Sonnabend. Is it art, do we care? May be both. What effluent excreted from his mouth do we get treated to this time? Huge porcelain kitsch objects of stuffed animals that I am told are technically exquisite. Who cares? There is a larger than lifesize gilt porcelain Michael Jackson with his chimpanzee Bubbles. I seemed to be the only one to have noticed that Michael has three arms, but who worries at $150,000 each (they are all editions of three), let’s buy one for the grandkids! Everything seems to have sold in triplicate. Then there are the large Tyrolian wood carvings in polychrome colours of even kitscher stuff including the show’s title work, Ushering in Banality. This is a big wooden pig and three kids leading it, in pastel colours. What can anyone say that does not fall into his rhetoric? I only describe it for you and state that if you hate it the best thing is not to write about it and therefore give it publicity, and if you are stupid buy three of each, and if you are smart be blase. I am blase because there is something interesting that has happened. The worms who made the stuff have turned: each article, object, artifact or piece of art or excrement has been signed by the craftsmen who made them. Shame on them, shame on Jeff, shame on the buyers, and shame on me for telling you about it. Jeff has finally crapped in the open mouths of the masochistic art buyer of New York. They wallow in it and pay for the pleasure. What more tacky, gross things can he deliver unto them? I await with open mouth. He might even make a work of art and prove that he is more than just a huckster and salesman of pig-futures. Maybe he is an artist after all, and with all his millions will now make something that requires intellect and not blocked up nose. Perhaps he has a mind not just a second rate wit. Julian Schnabel with his new banana paintings proves he has nothing but hot air for us. His tricks are gone, his last ejaculation was dry. Will Jeff prove a bigger dick?
The visual arts are mired in a period of blind decadence Editor’s letter, by David Lee
It is, of course, tempting to dismiss a show like this as simply a recession-inspired attempt to stir up some controversy by shocking the bourgeoisie, but there are seeds here of a much more complex kind of debate about social values Charles Hall reviews the work of Hirst, Koons and others included in Strange Developments at Anthony d’Offay, 1992
The Tate Gallery has appointed Simon Wilson to be their first Curator of Interpretation. This means that he is the apologist-in-chief for works such as Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII, which might, without Wilson’s interpretation, be seen as just a pile of bricks Unsigned news item, 1993
One day I went off to the beach and made a piece of work… And then the tide came in Andy Goldsworthy, 1995
1990–98 In April 1993, part-quoting Joseph Beuys, Brian Sewell (whose often controversial opinions about everything from gender equality to good taste had provoked numerous letters of complaint ever since his first contributions to Arts Review during the 1960s) wrote that ‘“Everyman is an artist” and Everywhere his exhibition space’. A decade after the German’s death, Sewell noted, his ideas about the democratisation of art and its categorisation as an inherently social concept had found a new echo in the work of a generation of artists emerging from Britain – more specifically, from London’s Goldsmiths College. Many had been taught by conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin (who Art Review’s editor, David Lee, dubbed the ‘intellectual salesman’), and drawing on the ‘Art for All’ motto and self-obsessed imagery of 1980s artists Gilbert & George, they made ‘art about communities, friends, conversations’ that rejected traditional categorisation, and profoundly disrupted the traditional market structures with their entrepreneurial, media-literate spirit and diy approach to exhibition-making (crystallised in the 1988 foundational Freeze exhibition organised by Damien Hirst and fellow Goldsmiths students in a disused warehouse). In the main, however, Art Review, and its editor in particular, were not too keen on that new generation. What emerges from the pages of Art Review in this decade is the image of a polarised artworld: while many were clambering aboard the Cool Britannia bandwagon (the ybas were quickly identified as a cultural brand for the postrecession John Major and Tony Blair governments to promote and export, notably through funding from the Arts and British councils), some critics decried what they perceived as the slaughtering of tradition for the sake of public entertainment and private profit, with the complicity of institutions whose presumed function was to preserve the past. For columnist Edward Lucie-Smith, the nadir came in 1997, when the Royal Academy hosted Sensation, an exhibition of yba art from the collection of their number-one promoter, the collector and advertising mogul Charles Saatchi. Simultaneously attracted and repulsed by this new generation (which alienated the ‘general public’), Art Review under David Lee became an (oft one-sided) platform for discussions about the value and function of art, in which the culturati of the mainstream press and media – the Evening Standard’s Sewell, The Sunday Times’s Waldemar Januszczak, the bbc’s Rosie Millard or the popular art critic and tv host Sister Wendy Beckett – were deployed in a bid to reach those Everymen and -women. Painting, here a cypher for tradition, remained at the core of the debate, with some heralding its extinction, precipitated by the emergence of new technologies and modes of communication (the same ones upon which Art Review’s populist bid was being floated). Yet, as Charles Hall pointed out in 1994, a new wave of painters, indebted to Gerhard Richter, was bringing painting back to heart of the avant garde. By the end of the 1990s the ybas, now in their thirties, had become part of mass culture in the uk and beyond. Their critical and institutional success, supported in part by what Eric Moody called the ‘rise of “the new curator”’ (the rca set up its first contemporary art curating course in 1993), went hand in hand with a meteoric rise in the market. Following a sale of yba artworks orchestrated by Christie’s in a derelict brewery in 1998, Rosie Millard remarked that – not unlike the 1980s American art icons whose works were also being sold that evening – the market had escaped the artists.
May, 1993 Joseph Beuys profiled by Brian Sewell
Tyrant, genius and Leonardo of our age
Front cover, 5 April 1991
Brian Sewell (1931–2015), was a British art critic and media personality. He was the art critic for The Evening Standard for over 30 years, and a contributor to Art Review since the early 1960s Joseph Beuys (1921–1986), was a German artist associated with Fluxus and a self-proclaimed shaman. He once said ‘Everyman [is] an artist’. In 1993, he was the subject of a retrospective, The Revolution Is Us, at Tate Liverpool
I am tempted to liken Joseph Beuys to Leonardo da Vinci, for both were much more than ordinary artists, and in a conventional sense, much less. Both are now creatures of myth, the one dubbed alchemist and shaman, the other a magician; both were devout Catholics turned doubters; both were philosophers, both Plinyan enquirers into the natural world, and both were scientists and technicians; both were concerned with music and, if not the theatre, certainly with performance; both used drawing as an expression of ideas, as forms of notation rather than as works of art in themselves, and in enormous quantities; both were capable of practical jokes; both were physically beautiful and both developed the cult of the persona for adoring followers; by chance, both designed a famous bathroom. Both were famous, as wide as the wide worlds of their very different days; both left an astonishing legacy of ideas and perceptions that in all their subtleties continue to elude those who strive to understand them, and both spawned a host of worthless imitators who degraded their inventions and initiatives. Apart from the differences inevitable between philosopher-artists separated by five centuries, the distinction between them lies in one fact only – that Leonardo’s career was comparatively serene and never in physical danger (except perhaps in Florence with an unsubstantiated charge of sodomy), but Beuys, before he became an artist, had been compelled to look over the edge into the dark pit of death; that, I believe, changes a man irrevocably. The proximity of death formed his imagery and gave him his materials, though at the time that he suffered this experience (a Dance of Death from which he broke away, a motif quite peculiar to historic German art), he was not necessarily destined to become an artist. Born in 1921, of strict Catholic petit-bourgeois parents resident near Cleves, his interests as a schoolboy were more scientific than artistic; he kept a botanical collection, a small zoo, constantly hunted for rodents, frogs, insects and spiders as both exhibits and food, and kept notebooks full of observations. He played the cello in the school orchestra, and took piano lessons. His instinctive skills in drawing and watercolour were enough for the school to give him his first exhibition, but though he made friends with a local sculptor, Achilles Moortgat, and from photographs and reproductions developed a near obsession for the sculpture of Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881–1919), his intention on leaving school in 1940 was to study medicine and become a pediatrician, not an artist. He had served his apprenticeship in the Hitler Youth, had burned books in the school playground, marched to Nuremberg, and had absorbed his share of Celtic and Wagnerian mythology and all its mystical
business of heroic death and revival. Drafted into the Luftwaffe, he served both as a dive-bomber pilot and a radio operator, and in the deep midwinter of 1943 was shot down by Russian guns in the Crimea. Nomad Tartars found him trapped under the wreckage of his plane, skull fractured, ribs, legs, arms and nose broken, his hair burned away and his whole body torn and penetrated by shrapnel; these wounds they tended with animal fat, and wrapping him in the thick felt of which their tents are made, they kept cold death at bay. For weeks he believed that he was blind. He recovered, physically, as young men do, and flew and fought again, but for 10 years the Crimean experience gnawed at his subconscious mind until a second crisis, the breakdown of his intended marriage in 1954, triggered a devastating response for which no psychiatrist could find a remedy; for two years depression and inertia convinced him that he had lost all ability as an artist, hard won at the State Academy in Dusseldorf (1947–51), and he spent long hours sitting in a big black box, suspending life, simply trying not to be. Yet not even this was a useless, artless waste, for when the van der Grinten family (local farmers, friends, supporters and hapless collectors of his work) replayed the part of Tartars, that too bore fruit in imagery when Beuys broke away from his depression and became once more a driven artist, a man of frantic energy and kaleidoscopic purpose. His appointment as professor of monumental sculpture at Düsseldorf Academy in 1961 provided him with the platform from which he was to be the most profound influence on European art in this century – far more powerful than Picasso, Matisse or Henry Moore. As a draughtsman his work was always German to the core, his line inherited from Dürer and his ilk, his sense of sexual mischief (at the expense of women) akin to Cranach, his consummate handling of watercolour a brave match for Nolde, but in his sculpture there were no references to the past, other than, perhaps (and only perhaps), to Duchamp. Duchamp, who died in 1968, lived long enough to remark that Beuys and the Fluxus artists with whom he was associated in violent action and destruction (intended to shock complacent spectators and arouse all their receptive senses) offered no new ideas, and that he himself had anticipated them in every particular – but Duchamp was in error, for, tied to the anti-art of the ready-made object, he could not comprehend Beuys’s all-embracing definition of sculpture and his pro-art stance. For Beuys, anti-art was no more than the rejection of traditional concepts and techniques – an idea was enough both to make a work of art and Everyman an artist, with the artefact itself merely a visual synecdochism for a sequence of associations of often astonishing complexity. From something as simple as a piece of felt one must sense the narrative of his survival in the Crimea, the chill of snow, the burgeoning of body heat, an ancient culture and a modern war; and in a jar of honey one must see not only the food with which the Tartars fed him, but the divine nourishment of old gods and references to the distant distant past, to a life shared
with Eden’s animals, and a reference to art, for honey was once the vehicle for paint on Russian icons, and a binder for gold leaf. Objects of such associations, trapped in a glass case, become not only symbols but art embodying narrative, and there lies a major problem, for one must know everything of Beuys the man before one can understand Beuys the artist – without the biographical keys his work is meaningless, its aesthetic interest obscure. Their meanings known, they become objects of veneration, the contents of reliquaries that take on the nature of thorns from the crown of Christ or fragments of his cross, their virtue draining in to those who touch. With increasing fame, this man of the Sixties (and he was more such a man than any other one might name, the benign revolutionary, acknowledging the value of no traditional barriers) became a modern saint, a second Hermit Peter to crusade against the old false gods. Unlike Duchamp, who made visual assertions merely to discomfit the perceptions of the bourgeois, Beuys expanded the concepts of painting and sculpture, and with them reached into all spheres of human activity, not only into the sister arts of theatre, performance and happening, but into education, society and politics; he broke away from the traditions of teaching and display, from the constraints of art school and art gallery, maintaining that “Everyman is an artist” and Everywhere his exhibition space. This “expanded theory of sculpture” reinvented the role of the artist in society and did away with him as servant of church or state, the subject of bourgeois patronage and supplier to the art market, and even as the artist for art’s sake. To preserve a forest or make a city green became a work of art, so too did bandaging a knife instead of a bleeding finger, filling a piano with powdered detergent and attempting to play it, wrapping himself in felt, building a rampart of margarine, making casts of his armpits, biting lumps of fat, planting potatoes, explaining pictures to a dead hare, and washing the feet of those who came to see a performance. All these had a multiplicity of meanings, but this was perhaps not always so – it is difficult to see his 50th birthday celebrations, covered by his students in raw eggs and rice, as anything other than a reversion to the old romantic notion of new art for new art’s sake; he declared Blutwurst to be better sculpture than anything made by Michelangelo, he swallowed cough mixture as a performance and, maintaining that sound too is sculpture, once gave an audience ten uninterrupted minutes of barking and bellowing into a microphone – yet many acts, at first sight absurd, such as immersing himself in the Zuyder Zee still wearing the hat that was his personal signature and symbol, were by no means ridiculous, for in this case he was making a melancholy environmental protest. Much of his work is and was poignant and poetic, mysterious, innocent and telling, even sensual (fat and felt are essentially tactile), inspired by intellectual conviction and philosophical conceits, by the Christianity of Christ untrammelled by the bigotry of St Paul and the apparatus of the church (the cross was
his recurring image), by respect for and empathy with ancient Celtic and Nordic beliefs and their concerns with birth, death and re-birth, with suffering and creation. With the simplest means and the most ordinary objects of no intrinsic value, eschewing everything that might suggest conventional and material beauty, Beuys introduced his audience to ideas that resonate in the mind, not in the mind’s eye. They require a different perception from that given to traditional art, a probing sympathy rather than a visual response. In 1968 his fellow professors in Düsseldorf accused him of disruption, presumptuous political amateurism, agitation, sinister reforming influences, intolerance, demagogy and the malicious debasement of human values; his pupils they accused of falling prey to his utopianism and anarchy, and becoming the mouthpiece of his pseudo-political babble. One of the professors, Norbert Kricke, defined Beuys’s beliefs as “Technology is evil, today is evil, computers are inhuman... yearning for the past... the world of his things is twilit, airless... his aspiration is to be the surrogate victim.” Surrogate, indeed? With a steel plate in his skull, shards of shrapnel still not retrieved from his body, his pancreas and a kidney gone, a lung almost destroyed, Beuys was no surrogate sufferer but a man who felt deeply and sincerely for a world as wounded as himself. Only when he slid into occasionally disabling ill-health after a coronary obstruction in 1976, did his inspired energy become the stale custom of a very public man, and seem to some the madness of a March hare. Nobody should expect of a work by Beuys what we expect of one by Leonardo – exquisite beauty masking the idea; for Beuys, except instinctively in drawing and his presentation of himself, beauty was irrelevant and many-layered symbolism all, “the work of art the supreme riddle, man the solution – I want to identify this threshold as the end of modernism, the end of all traditions. Together we shall evolve the social concept of art... everyone has a creative potential that is concealed by the aggressiveness of competition and pursuit of success...” Such egalitarian idealism is the appealing but whimsical thinking of the Sixties, still the stuff of those concerned with education, and the nonsense consequence is now to be seen in every art school in sophisticated Europe. There was only one Leonardo, and of him the then pope complained “This man will never do anything, for he begins to think of the end before the beginning.” There was only one Beuys, and he too thought of the end before the beginning, but in changed times achieved everything that he set out to do, the simple synecdochism saving him the complex labour that was Leonardo’s undoing. Alas, in his social concept of art he unleashed a worthless monster; even as early as 1976, when a School of Beuys exhibition took place in Frankfurt, a hostile critic remarked upon “the wretched contents of their closets”, and another, who clearly understood and sympathised with the old master, asked (a question that he could as easily have asked of Leonardo’s feeble followers), “To what extent has Beuys’s doctrine become
an alibi for amateurism, an easy way out of the burdensome demand for quality?” Beuys himself complained that the exhibition was “swamped by democracy”. And there we have it – an artist, to be great, must be a tyrant, and a tyrant can have neither heirs nor rivals. By that measure, Beuys was great indeed. Death came for him again in the deep midwinter of January 1986. I hope that the undertaker lined his coffin in grey felt.
January 1993 Gilbert & George profiled by David Lee
Like common people ‘Living Sculptures’ Gilbert & George are British artists, who came to prominence during the 1980s for their largescale photoworks. They won the Turner Prize in 1986 below Gilbert & George, Family Tree, 1991, from the New Democratic Pictures series. © the artists. Courtesy the artists and White Cube, London & Hong Kong
[…] Their belief in their work is so extreme that they are prepared to pay for it to be seen all over the world. Next year a new show will tour China. Their aim is to convert ordinary people, worldwide, to art: “We believe that we are succeeding in our own way, although it is a slow, gradual process. The Hayward show [in 1989] was seen by 200,000 people on its tour, 39,000 alone in London, the largest number ever achieved by living artists. We’re proud of that. We get to more people than other artists and we succeed because we want the public to understand our art. We want there to be a dialogue between the ordinary person and our paintings. We don’t want to make an elitist art. We believe that art has to be part of a culture to reinvent life. Art has to be reinventing life. Art must have a mission.” There are times when you think you’re listening to a manifesto declaimed by a man with a beard standing on top of an overturned vehicle. It is only with the introduction of their large, colourful and controversial tableaux in the early 1980s – there has been a steady move from black and white to colour during the course of their career – that their art has achieved anything approaching a popular
impact. Prior to that they did performances, sang Underneath the Arches for hours on end, posed in shop windows, made recordings of themselves getting drunk for sale to museums and endless other anarchic, attention-seeking stunts. In the old days they were about as elite as you could get, operating exclusively in the art world which they now purport to have little time for. The question is whether their apparently recent conversion to their own brand of Christian socialism is sincere or just a convenient, headline-grabbing posture. The new series of works is called New Democratic Pictures and it has toured Eastern and Western Europe before ending up at their London dealers. These pictures are nothing if not direct, boldly figurative and brightly coloured like stained-glass windows. For the first time they show themselves naked in works which are at once uncompromising and easily their most accessibly personal documents to date. These pictures elicit a response as ambivalent in meaning as the artists’ own utterances are contradictory. For example, when they show themselves in the company of black youths, such as in Roads, are they grimacing from fear or loathing? Or are they concerned at the fate of youth in a hostile society which considers them troublemakers and outsiders? Are they saying that they should take the road home? It’s hard to tell and denouncing them as fascists or racists is far too simplistic and obvious an answer. “These people who call us fascists don’t know us. It’s only in Britain that we get these kind of responses.” George takes up the defence: “What do these people want? Do they want us to take out everything that offends people. Take out the flowers because they’re kitsch. Take out the shit. Young men, take them out. Garish colours, get rid of them. You’d end up with something grey about this small. And then you wouldn’t discuss it at all. You wouldn’t even get an exhibition. You’d never be heard of. It’s important that all these discussions of race, naked men and so on come out of our art.” Yes, I suppose that makes sense. [...]
March 1996 Young British Artists by Charles Hall
Shock of the new
Charles Hall was the deputy editor of Art Review between 1992 and 1994 right Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991. © the artist and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Forget about Britpop. Britart is bigger. The Americans might not have the first idea what Blur and Oasis are about, but they do love Damien Hirst. But that isn’t the real news. It’s not absolutely unknown for British artists to make it in America, or on the Continent: even in the ’80s artists like Bill Woodrow, Richard Deacon and Tony Cragg were known and respected around the world. What is really new is that, these days, our youngest and most energetic artists are quite well known in Britain, too: you might not know it from the tabloids, but there’s hardly a major gallery in the country that hasn’t broken its attendance records in the last two years. Why, though, should we be seeing all this energy now? It’s not, after all, as though we’ve been living under a particularly enlightened government, or even a philosophically energising opposition. And it’s a bit late to start a ’teen rebellion – the great failure of British culture over the last couple of decades has been its indifference to the merits of anyone old enough to shave. My own guess is that it has something to do with the recession which wiped out so much of the commercial gallery scene in the late 1980s: suddenly artists knew that their only likely audience was their friends. They made work which, however apparently uncommercial, was likely to mean something to them. Because there was no access to smart gallery space, they staged work in unconventional venues, and began to find new ways of working to suit them: it’s no use painting delicate canvases for display in a murky warehouse off the Old Kent Road. In other words, for the first time in years they had to think really hard about what they were doing, and why. And they relaxed: their work veered between the jokey and the confessional, and aspired – as latenight conversations tend to do – to philosophy. It didn’t do any harm, either, that the 1980s had, on the whole, produced so little of lasting worth. The figurative painting which appeared at the time was fresh and fun at best, slap-dash and ugly at worst. It was roughly the equivalent of 1970s Pop – grandiose, derivative and slight. In music, that gave us punk. In art, as the Lisson Gallery’s Barry Barker says, “it freed people to think ‘I’ve got some ideas, let’s have a go’.” There is a definite punk echo in the informality, not to say amateurism, of institutions like the Plunge Club, where one can wander through forests of installation and performance artists (performers on springs squelching into jelly, etc). But the cheerful shabbiness is partly a pose. There are now ten major art schools in London alone, all of them pumping out ever greater numbers of artists. There are not only more makers, but more young people about who know what they’re likely to be talking about. It’s as though all those punkrockers who thought they might as well pick up a guitar had, in fact,
trained at the Royal Academy of Music. But, even if you agree that the work is good, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to sell. This is art about communities, friends, conversations, a world where Sarah Lucas, an artist best known for her blownup versions of spreads from the Sunday Sport, eased her friend Gary Hume back into fashion by showing one of his paintings in her front room. It’s also a world where a prize work might consist of a series of prank phone calls, or an advert in the Lonely Hearts. Physically, any dealer has his or her work cut out identifying an object to sell. When Damien Hirst staged his first exhibition, complete with a spot painting made directly onto the wall, he was shocked to discover someone wanted to buy it. Fortunately the collector was able to explain to the artist how these things were done: he had Hirst issue a certificate and a set of instructions, and went home and painted it himself. Nowadays, of course, Hirst is not quite so naive. In fact the best curators are often artists themselves; apart from Lucas and Hirst, who won last year’s Turner Prize as much for his work as a curator and impresario as an artist, one might think of Tracey Emin who made her name selling Damien Hirst ashtrays and has gone on, tongue firmly in cheek, to establish a museum dedicated to herself. And that, in fact, is one of the few defining characteristics of this generation – it is often impossible to distinguish brilliant ironic marketing coups from the artworks, themselves. All of which may explain why, though it has attracted institutional support (from the British Art Show in 1990 to Broken English and Some Went Mad... at the Serpentine), this is a generation which has tended to rise through the commercial or independent galleries, in association with equally media-literate young dealers – of whom Karsten Schubert and Jay Jopling are the most prominent. The Turner Prize apart, larger institutions seem only tangentially involved – perhaps, as Barry Barker puts it, because public funding tends to convert
Front cover, June 1995
Edward Lucie-Smith is a writer, curator and broadcaster Charles Saatchi is an advertising executive and collector of contemporary art. In 1985, he opened the Saatchi Gallery, in London. In 2002, he was number one on Art Review’s inaugural Power 100 list
galleries into institutions, and “once they have air conditioning they don’t want to know.” All of which has presented our more established galleries with a problem. How, having built up close working relationships with the artists they represent, and the collectors who admire them – and having taken on the overheads in staff and rent which go with an international profile – how can galleries like Anthony d’Offay, the Lisson or Waddington respond to an upsurge of high-profile, low-rent activity on their own doorstep? As Sadie Coles of the d’Offay Gallery puts it, “It seemed that the gallery would benefit from widening the scope of what went on here,” but embracing the new scene wholeheartedly would mean “taking over the whole of Dering Street and another 20 staff.” D’Offay have solved the problem by establishing a project room under Coles’ direction, in which younger artists can begin to develop a relationship: Gabriel Orozco, for example, has now joined the list of gallery artists. The Lisson Gallery have taken a similar line, dedicating a smaller upstairs space to solo shows of (mostly) younger artists. Quite apart from the specific qualities of this particular generation, a gallery of Lisson’s size has to bear in mind the simple truth that, when it comes to raw talents “you’re never quite sure how they’re going to mature”. But what is fascinating is to find out that both Sadie Coles and Barry Barker of the Lisson are agreed that this generation is different. It’s not just that the work demands a different response from the collector, but that their relationships with their dealers have changed. An older generation might have seen a gallery as a liferaft, but today’s stars, with their diy-exhibiting experience, seem less desperate to sign contracts. Waddington, for example, which has taken to augmenting its displays of museum-quality works by the masters of Modernism with the work of rising young Brits like Fiona Rae and Ian Davenport, is to show drawings by Michael Landy this June. You might think that represents a coup at the expense of Landy’s dealer Karsten Schubert – it is true that two and a half years ago, Landy told Schubert he no longer wanted to be considered one of ‘his’ artists. But actually Landy and Schubert continue to work closely together. More than that Schubert and Waddington have taken to collaborating in various projects, including the excellent survey of modern painting, From Here, and an exhibition this spring of works by the Karsten Schubert artist Bridget Riley. Since today’s artists, with their wildly varying use of space, tend to outgrow particular venues, the younger dealers are as much agents as gallerists – some, indeed, have no permanent space at all. Even White Cube, home of the Jay Jopling empire, which looks after the interests of messrs. Hirst, Emin, Lucas and Quinn, is no more than a ‘project room’. Now, it seems, dealers provide not space but visibility: with the burgeoning of media interest, collectors learn about artists through the press as much as through their favoured dealers. It is no longer a question of simply hanging a set of works you
believe in, but of defining and widening your audience: it makes sense for Waddington and Schubert to share the Riley show because the one wants an outlet in cash-rich Cork Street, while the other needs access to Schubert’s youthful Foley Street following. For d’Offay and Lisson that is not such a problem: both made their names with more avant-garde artists whose reputation serves to attract young like-minded artists. But Waddington is best known as a painting gallery, and though, as Hester van Royen puts it, their clients “are always interested in anything we introduce they’re not necessarily interested in buying it.” So far, therefore, it has tended to recruit only those of the newer artists most recognisably engaged with Modernism’s painting tradition. But then again, to see Waddington even trying to address this new generation and its audience is inspiring. It’s not as if the organisation needs the money. With its blue-chip stock, the whole operation could deal from a back room and still draw in the international collectors. But “we will, in time, bring in a few more artists... so as to be a bit more involved in what is happening today. It’s not just about buying and selling.” And as Coles puts it: “here you have three established galleries in London who want to be part of the energy of the scene here, of which everybody is so proud. For the first time in years, we have media interest, wonderful artists and a wonderful audience.”
April 1997 Charles Saatchi profiled by Edward Lucie-Smith
The modern Medici […] Having failed to get its great survey show of the art of the 20th century off the ground, the ra has turned for rescue to Mr Charles Saatchi, and will exhibit a section of his collection under the appropriate title Sensation. Nearly all the works, one suspects, will have been seen previously in Mr Saatchi’s own gallery in Boundary Road, but their impact will be doubled here. They will include such contemporary icons as Damien Hirst’s pickled tiger shark, Marc Quinn’s self-portrait using his own frozen blood, and Marcus Harvey’s portrait of Myra Hindley made from children’s handprints. Several thoughts occur to me in connection with this. One concerns Mr Saatchi’s own role as ‘a modern Medici’, as The Times called him when the exhibition was announced. It added, rather smugly, that ‘the question of whether pickled cows should qualify as art is for critics not collectors. It is they who are supposed to be arbiters of artistic merit’. Supposedly, yes, but in fact that role has been in recent years removed from them, mostly through their own fault, because so many of them now immediately fall at the feet of anything new – or, to put things more accurately, of anything which can journalistically be described as ‘new’, even if it has been done a thousand times before. Regular readers of the chief critic of The Times itself will know precisely what I mean.
Front cover, April 1993 right Visitors queuing for Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Gallery at the Royal Academy, 1997. Courtesy Saatchi Gallery, London
Peter Dormer (1949–96), was a writer, critic and curator
Saatchi’s wealth, his command of the means of publicity (simply because of who he is), his symbiotic alliance with chronically impoverished institutions like the Royal Academy and the Tate – all of these give him a thousand times more influence than any critic. In licking the boots of the sensation-mongering artists whom he prefers the critics lick his boots as well. Everyone is locked in a circle of dependency and mutual legitimation. It’s all very human, and all rather sad. The problem with a nearly, but not quite, closed system of this sort is that the energy contained within it soon begins to leak away. The artists in particular need frequent replacement if the illusory feeling of forward motion is to be preserved. Some new height of vulgarity or shock has to be scaled every year: contemporary art now operates on principles closely akin to those of today’s Paris couture. Institutions like the Tate, the Arts Council or the British Council are currently placed in a peculiarly difficult situation. In theory they support traditional value systems. In fact, they can only justify themselves by putting the best possible face on the existing state of things, which is opposed to such systems. […]
May 1993 Peter Dormer
A question of value Just as the sun has spots which appear in cycles, so British art has crises which appear in cycles. The last of these was 15 years ago. It was heralded (or invented) by the late art critic Peter Fuller. Now there is another which threatens to eclipse the first. In the exotic land of art criticism the dawn chorus of the “Why-oh-Why-nah” birds is growing louder and critics are falling into line with their readers in fretting over “new” art. The shortlist for last year’s Turner
Prize was rubbished as was the Young British Artists ii exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in March. In February two major shows, the Barclays Young Artist award at the Serpentine Gallery and Gravity & Grace, the exhibition of Sixties and Seventies sculpture at the Hayward Gallery, were almost universally panned. It is the unanimity of the disapproval that makes the current chorus of dissent different from past expressions of disgust […] Over the years, however, many of these critics played their part in maintaining the long-established rift between the contemporary fine art world and the public, a rift based on a misunderstanding: that “the public” finds contemporary art “difficult”. I suspect that more often than not the public (at least those who take an interest in art) are not put off by art being difficult. The problem is rather that the intelligent layperson has been unable to see enough value in the art being produced to care about it. This, I believe, is at the heart of the current revisionism among art journalists and critics. They too are looking at art and wondering if what they are seeing is worth caring about. What the public saw two decades ago is that a great many artists appear to have stopped imagining who they were painting or working for, and how their work will strike the community. […] This helps clarify the nature of the current disenchantment with contemporary art. It is not that we cannot “get the point” but that we do not feel that the point has much worth. It must come as a disappointment to critics who have been open-minded, tolerant and often propagandist on behalf of experiments in modern art that they too no longer find much worth in the work. For the public, however, there is a continuing exasperation that their ability to judge worth for themselves is ignored by an art world bent on getting its own way about what is or is not worthwhile in art. […]
The current critical outburst against contemporary art is not simply a new version of Peter Fuller’s conservatism. It is a frustration at the continuing advocacy of art forms for which no intelligible account of worth has been forthcoming since they first began to fill our galleries 20 years ago.
April 1994 Gerhard Richter and the New British Painting, by Charles Hall
Painting lives! Gerhard Richter is a German artist, based in Cologne. He first exhibited in the UK in 1971 at the Whitechapel Gallery
There’s a new mood about. There are major painting shows at those Arts Council bastions of the avantgarde, the Hayward Gallery and the John Hansard, and significant solo shows for painters at Interim Art, Victoria Miro and the Saatchi Collection – the kind of galleries which, even a few months ago, one would have imagined would be implacably hostile. Suddenly, after years of neglect, painters seem to be the in thing. […] Some relatively conventional painters have received the official seal of approval – artists like Paula Rego, Peter Doig (both in the current show at the Hayward) or Jenny Saville. But the last few years has seen the emergence of a generation of painters whose work is intellectually appealing to the critical establishment, and that is what has won over the avant-garde. If there is one word to explain this development, that word has to be Richter. The generation of painters now in their early thirties must have become aware of Gerhard Richter, the German artist, by a variety of routes. But for most I would imagine the crucial moment was an exhibition at the ica, dedicated to a series of blurry greyish paintings effectively reproducing snapshots and police photos of members of the Baader Meinhoff gang, and their deaths (in what are generally referred to as ‘ambiguous circumstances’) in prison. Their fascination lay largely in what one felt was missing. Meinhoff ’s face was unremarkable, yet the knowledge of the crimes she committed, of the thwarted idealism which inspired them, and of her doubtful death, make the sight of it riveting. In art, where we expect some kind of relationship between what we see and what we are intended to understand about it, the chasm between these informal, undemonstrative images and their possible meanings is utterly disorientating. Paintings presented on such a vast scale, handling events of such historical significance, demand to be taken seriously. We expect them to tell us something about the world, make its workings clearer. But these undistinguished blurs did nothing more than force the viewer to realise how very far from self-evident the ‘meaning’ of a painting is. It means exactly what we will allow it to mean: Meinhoff the murderer, Meinhoff the martyr, Meinhoff someone’s inexplicable daughter. And this confusion is all the greater because the paintings so obviously derived from black and
white photos – photographs being, in the popular mind, objective records of the simple truth. Richter begins to edge us towards the idea that the truth might not, after all, be a physical thing – unquestionable, unchanging. So far, so cool. This kind of thinking appears, at first sight, to fit in very neatly with the whole drift of anti-painting (and particularly anti-figurative painting) prejudice. By reproducing photographic images, and in such a hapless style, Richter undercuts two revered ideas of the artist – the inspired, improvisational seer, and the authoritative history painter, whose formal compositions set great events in their accepted order. But young painters saw that he had put something in the place of these old stereotypes – the painter as a puzzled observer, for whom the act of turning a photo into a painting dramatises the struggle to make sense of contemporary events, and an attempt to turn those distant happenings (‘the news’) into something to do with real life. […] There are so many artists taking these and similar ideas and developing them in bewilderingly different directions. Looking again at a seemingly more conventional landscape artist like Peter Doig, for example, it is clear that he is perfectly well aware of all these developments; his ‘landscape’ art is plainly photo-based, and goes out of its way (partly through the creation of odd, even ugly surfaces bearing no relationship to the objects depicted) to stress the artifice involved in the act of making and looking at painting. I recently visited Michael Bach’s exhibition at the Gilmour Gallery. His paintings are basically conventional cityscapes, intriguing partly because they combined a fairly lush paint surface with very accurate, photo-based renderings of grim concrete structures – tower blocks and flyovers. But Bach is a student of Richter, and explained in a catalogue note that he was fascinated by our different expectations and levels of attention when confronted with, respectively, an actual place, a photograph of it, and a painting of it. We want the last to contain an order, an inner coherence, visual and intellectual, which we would not expect to find in the reality. When we cast around further and find artists as diverse and as impressive as Jeffrey Dennis and Jane Harris (both at Anderson O’Day this spring), Peter Doig and Nicholas May (at Victoria Miro), Mark Francis and Paul Winstanley (at Interim), or Callum Innes and Peter Ellis (at the Frith Street and Eagle Galleries, respectively), it’s time to admit that painting is not only back in fashion, but back on course. Not that the establishment has entirely changed its spots. The Hayward show characteristically wastes wall space on European nonentities, squeezing out British artists covering equivalent fields with far greater skill and panache. The new British painting is strong and sophisticated enough to make converts on the international scene, but in the eyes of our blinkered gallery administrators, to be British is still to be damned as provincial.
right Peter Doig, Swamped, 1990. © the artist. All Rights Reserved, dacs/Artimage 2019
Ken Currie is a Scottish painter associated with the New Glasgow Boys, a group of figurative painters who came to prominence during the 1980s Sister Wendy Beckett (1930–2018), was an art historian, critic and TV presenter, who wrote regularly for Art Review during the 1990s.
March 1995 Ken Currie profiled by David Lee
Painting is difficult! […] The complacent attitude of many young artists can be summarised as follows: why should I go to the National Gallery when all the inspiration I might need is contained in glossy American art magazines? Ken Currie’s task as an artist is made far more difficult precisely because he is intimately aware of the weight of the tradition of which he is a beneficiary. It is not, however, a burden but an inspiration. It makes achieving a finished painting more difficult for him but, at the same time, it is more satisfying when effort is rewarded with success. A large painting, for example, takes him six months to complete, a period during which fashionable artists of the Biennale circuit might knock out a couple of entire shows […] With all his paintings the main issue for Currie has been the question which obsesses many artists who wish to use contemporary history as their subject matter: in a world of instant satellite communications, how can a mere static, ancient medium like painting be modern and relevant? In Currie’s case the answer is that it must not resort to illustration and should not flirt with reportage. Photography and video document more quickly and convincingly than ever painting can, and Currie knows that a painting which is all technique and narrative is dead. In order to escape literalness and superficiality he has been forced to build up his paintings layer by layer, glaze by glaze, destroying and rebuilding as he goes. As a result, his single heads, dedicated to describing extremism of one form or another, often look spectral, as though the skin
is translucent. “I just know when it gets to the right intensity”, Currie says, “when all the layers are beginning to resonate through each other and the feeling of textural richness emerges. This layering, I should say, is not just a dry technical process, it’s a layering of emotion as well, like a layering of feeling. It is absolutely essential to work this painstakingly and to work up a level of intensity in order to get the ideas across.”
June 1993 Images of Christ: Religious Iconography in Twentieth Century British Art at St Paul’s Cathedral, reviewed by Sister Wendy Beckett
Let’s pray Images of God are ruled out by definition: God is essentially mystery, the Holy One who cannot be caged in any human box, whether verbal or pictorial. But Christ is a human being, just as we are, and the longing to make some sort of contact through an image is almost as old as Christianity itself. The problem is that no description of Christ is left to us, still less a credible image. When artists “image” him, it is a species of self-portrait that we are given. Graham Sutherland’s Crucifixion is a terrifying depiction of physical and psychical pain. When I was a young nun at Oxford, I made a special journey to St Matthew’s Church to see this painting. It was the first contemporary work of art that I had ever seen face to face, and it overthrew me. As one whose life was completely centred on Christ, I found this painting impossible to deal with on the level of aestheticism. How can one stand back and assess the depiction
Rosie Millard is a British journalist and broadcaster. She was the BBC arts correspondent between 1995 and 2004, and later became the arts editor of the New Statesman and a profile writer at The Sunday Times
of someone who is deeply loved and who is dying in pain? This intensity of personal involvement, which Sutherland immediately invokes, is in itself a silent tribute to the power of his awesome work. Sutherland shows Jesus not only crucified but on public display as crucified. There is a neat rope around the crucified body, set apart for exposure as in a museum. The Christ does not hang on a cross in the real world, with all its vital congestion and confusion: he is isolated in an “art” context. Tasteful cubes of streaky grey are the background to his death, with neat cubes of reddish-brown symmetrically framing the pierced feet. The cross, too, is a designer model, elegant shape, stylish finish. On this clever gallows, there hangs the whitened corpse of a full-grown man. There is blood still flowing from his hands and wounded feet, but it is stylised blood. The thorny reality of his crown is still visible but most of the body is shadowy. It is as though Sutherland had made a determined effort to shield us from the full reality of this death, but in the doing, had only made it more visible. It is, in the most literal sense, a shocking painting, pretending to make an icon out of the Crucifixion while in reality forcing us to confront its horror. As an assault upon the sensibility, let alone that of those who respond to Christ as the Son of God, Sutherland’s Crucifixion has a terrible power. [...] [In Madonna and Child, Henry] Moore makes no attempt at verisimilitude. This is a symbolic mother and her symbolic child – but what a symbol! Moore shows an infant fortified by a fortress mother. The most touching image of the Christ child shows him in his vulnerability. But Moore refuses the easy pathos. His Mary is a great monolith, a giant foursquare to the world, enfolding in her mountainous security the little Christ, who gazes impassively out at us from his stronghold. All the pathos – and it is a true deep pathos – lies in our foreknowledge. This silent little one, pensive in the safety of those massive maternal arms, will one day be slaughtered and given carelessly back to his mother. He will lie flaccid in death upon these massive knees. Mary holds him safe – but only for now. The fortress serenity is only fragile, whatever its appearance, and this is its tragic appeal. We identify with Mary, protecting her son with such intensity of love. We know that no parent can ensure that a beloved child stays safe. The very majesty of this sculpture, its denial of human fragility, makes the conclusion of the story – humanly speaking – more heart-rending. Yet this is not merely a human story, and the power of Moore’s image is that it forces us to transverse and transpose the whole story of Christ. We pass from protected child to condemned and slaughtered adult, on to resurrected Lord. Every stage of the life of Christ is contained symbolically in this great image. We may or may not believe the story, but as a work of art the Madonna and Child makes it certain that we
accept it as a symbol. The huge ugly feet of Mary make it plain that Moore is not appealing to our religious beliefs but to our human capacity to understand birth, maturity, death – and the possibility of transcendence.
June 1998 Rosie Millard reports from an ‘exhibition’ of YBAs orchestrated by Christie’s
How to keep cool when the market is hot You couldn’t have made it up. To advertise its sale of contemporary art, Christie’s decided to go to the BritPack heartland of Clerkenwell, ec1 where the vast and derelict former Cannon Brewery was commandeered and crammed with 117 lots of modern stuff, including Damien Hirst spin paintings, naughty sculptures by the Chapman Brothers, paintings by Basquiat and even a glass and wood igloo which took over the whole top floor. There was sushi for 800 which one could simply pick up off a revolving belt, and free champagne all night. So chic! So happening! There was even a chap in a van outside presiding over a slide show which flashed up on the warehouse’s outside wall. So as you walked in you could read 20 foot-high words spelling out various ideas from the hip world of art terminology (op art.... minimalism, and so on). The overall atmosphere was a sort of Charles Saatchi wish-fulfilment dreamscape.[…] All the Young British Artists were invited, but of course none had turned up. True to form they had done the opposite of what was expected, and while the establishment was purring around Clerkenwell eating sushi, the revolutionaries were storming into Regent Street, heading to Sadie Coles’ hq and the opening of the joint exhibition of Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst. In Regent Street there was neither sushi nor free champagne, just hundreds of people crammed into one room. Sarah Lucas was by the door puffing on a Silk Cut. “Frankly, I thought it was a bit odd to be invited to Christie’s,” she said. “If the sale bombs, it’s no good for me. And if my sculpture sells for loads, then it’s extremely annoying because I won’t make any money.” “Why bother going to some auction preview?” said Angus Fairhurst, whose latest oeuvre, A Cheap and Ill-Fitting Gorilla Suit, is apparently wowing them in Eastern Europe. (This is a 4-minute film of the artist wearing, and subsequently destroying, an old King Kong outfit). “It’s got nothing to do with art. It’s just about sales.” Which is, of course, the whole point […]
I have lived my life putting my all into the path called ‘love forever’ Yayoi Kusama, October 2007
In the artworld, even runaway success is a source of misery J.J. Charlesworth, January 2008
So there’s a couple of people maybe half a block ahead, and [Lawrence Weiner] says to me, ‘Who is that guy? Isn’t he an LA collector?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ And with that Lawrence picks up his cane and starts running after him John Baldessari, January 2008
Now that much of the artworld is obsessed with power and money, it’s a tremendous time to be an art critic. Art critics can write whatever they want and it has no effect on the market Jerry Saltz, November 2008
2000–09 The burst of the dotcom bubble in the early 2000s heralded a crisis of confidence in the old media as much as the new. That many of ArtReview’s bestknown writers of the 1990s – among them Rosie Millard and Sister Wendy Beckett – had become ‘best-known’ thanks to their frequent appearances on television was symptomatic of art’s increasing presence in the ‘mainstream’ press. Under a succession of editors during the 2000s, ArtReview’s response was to go more ‘mainstream’ itself, rebranding in 2002 as a magazine of ‘International Art & Style’: turning its attention to fashion and luxury (with several issues dedicated to such fast-paced frivolity), honing in on the celebrities of the artworld (with the introduction of a gossip column and backpage party pictures), following the money (in a long-running series of market reports) and tracing power (with the annual Power 100 list launched in 2002). ArtReview claimed that it was seeking to ‘bring contemporary art out of the closet and into the broader spectrum of style and culture’ but, with the privilege of hindsight, the magazine appears to have slipped into another bubble that burst with the economic crash of 2008. The terrorist attacks on New York in 2001 cut through all of the above. On the letters page of the October 2001 issue, one correspondent notes that an upcoming exhibition, titled Trauma, would not only ‘resonate’ given the events but ‘will encourage people to think more than ever about the relationship between reality, art and media’. In the same issue, editor Meredith Etherington-Smith paid tribute to a city that ‘has given so many artists refuge… and most importantly, liberty’. Yet the most mediated catastrophe in history – the subject of de rigueur theorising by Jean Baudrillard, Slavoj Žižek and Paul Virilio – only contributed to the sense of alienation beneath the veneer of chronicled champagne receptions and celebrity artist profiles. We Make Money Not Art blogger Régine Debatty writes in 2006 that for artists ‘software is not just a transparent interface but a material that both limits and stimulates their personal virtuosity’. In August 2006, as the ‘War on Terror’ raged, Martin Herbert noted, in a profile of Dominic McGill, that ‘plenty of American artists now position themselves publicly as involuntarily estranged from their own country’. By June 2008, Skye Sherwin, considering Seth Price’s play with mass media and ‘grotesque in the extreme’ political imagery (executions, etc), finds a practice so on-thenose that she is given to ask, ‘Can contemporary art actually mean anything any more or are its values continually slipping out of our grasp?’ On the night of Damien Hirst’s record-breaking sale of £111 million at Sotheby’s in London, as the decade approached its close, Lehman Brothers folded owing more than £3.3 billion. The party was over.
AR-March-00s P112-113 RE Resupply P113.indd 113
July/August 2000 Critic’s Diary by Edward Lucie-Smith,
All a matter of Tate
Front cover, December/January 2000
Ian White (1971–2013), was a performance artist, writer, teacher and curator, and wrote a regular film column for ArtReview. From 2002, he worked closely with LUX, London, where he ran many events, courses and projects until 2007 when he became the organiser and teacher of LUX’s postraduate Associate Artist Programme
So what messages do the building and its contents have to give, now that the doors are open? The first thing to be said is that it is very, very big. It is not merely that the Turbine Hall, through which you enter, is spectacularly vast, but the museum offers a huge amount of gallery space. To look at everything now on display even cursorily takes between two-and-a-half and three hours, and this is only if you decide to devote just a couple of minutes to each of the videos. And though the galleries are skilfully arranged to provide a variety of different spaces, you can sometimes sense how the curatorial team had to strain to find something appropriate to put in them. The unfavourable reviews of Tate Modern have been prompted by dislike of the new arrangement at Tate Britain, which is without question a mess. […] There are of course a few galleries that don’t work at all. One of the bits of hanging which has caused the biggest fuss – the pairing of Waterlilies by Monet with Richard Long – seems to have been the product of a simple miscalculation. There is, I think, an argument about landscape and the representation of the natural world that might serve to link these two artists. But the Monet is brutally bullied by the Long wall-drawing opposite, to the point where it fades into a condition of near-invisibility. This brings me to an extremely significant aspect of the new building, which is that the work of the classic modern artists of the first half of the 20th century tends to fare badly. It fares badly not simply because the Tate collection is full of gaps, but because many of the works are modest in scale and often, though not always, subdued in colour. They were never meant to be seen in these circumstances. It is the large, loud, swaggering public works made from the 1950s onwards that tend to fare best. The destination of most late modern and postmodern artworks is from the start a museum or some other form of public space – the only environment in which they make sense. […] The new museum is making a very serious effort to give proper representation to women artists. This seems to have been one explanation for commissioning Louise Bourgeois to make her gigantic works for the Turbine Hall – the very first artworks one sees on entering the building. Rebecca Horn also suits one of the main stories that Tate Modern is trying to tell. This is that the leadership in art, circa 1975 or thereabouts, passed from the United States to Northern Europe, and to Germany in particular. This leadership was originally seen as being vested in Neo-Expressionist painters like Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer (who are represented in the hang, but not particularly well). Now the hero of the story is Joseph Beuys, who is honoured with a gallery to himself. Horn can be classified as one of Beuys’s followers.
This story has a certain plausibility, and has been the New Testament of curatorial religion for some time, but now it is starting to unravel at the edges. One reason for this unravelling is the everincreasing diversity of the contemporary art world. When one starts to think in these terms, one also sees that Tate Modern’s perspective is in many ways very limited. For example, I saw work by just one Latin American artist – Doris Salcedo from Colombia, who has become very fashionable in New York. There are a few Japanese but no artists from China, despite the fact that the Chinese were the success of the most recent Venice Biennale. One of the truly fascinating things about Tate Modern is that it offers not only a survey of what those in charge of it think is important in the world of contemporary art, but a whispering, not fully calculated prophecy about what might happen next.
September 2003 Ian White
Hacker’s delight Heralding the new is never straightforward, though always a pleasure, and there’s a new scene in New York that’s just such a conundrum. In July, London’s ica presented Radical Entertainment: works on computer, single-channel video and interactive web-based games, curated by Lauren Cornell of Williamsburg’s most adventurous screening house, Ocularis, and the ica’s now former New Media Curator Lina Dzuverovic-Russell. As if to prove that the future is nothing without the past, a number of hot young artists displayed work whose disarmingly old-fashioned craft is a direct engagement with recent technological history. Cory Arcangel and his “programming ensemble” Beige revel in the deliberately limited playground of early computer games; the collective Paper Rad are obsessed with Eighties graphics; while Alex Galloway’s Radical Software Group, like many of these artists, mine (and undermine) the superficially innocent territory of computing and popular entertainment. This positioning, against the dominant culture with which these artists grew up – the gaming industry and the corporate manufacture of programs that promise liberation while disempowering users by hiding operational systems behind a glistening logo – is an echo of experimental film’s stand against commercial cinema. Arcangel, Paper Rad and Galloway strip computer consoles and their games back to the codes in which they were written, exposing, modifying and re-presenting them as profound glitches of their own systems. In Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds (which may be shown on a console, as installation or in the cinema), nothing is left of the original other than a sublime clear blue sky and the formulaic clouds that float across it. His own derivative game, I Shot Andy Warhol, allows the
Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002, handmade hacked Super Mario Brothers cartridge and Nintendo nes video game system, dimensions variable. © the artist. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London
Reggie Nadelson is a journalist, documentary filmmaker and novelist based between New York and London. She is the author of the Artie Cohen crime thriller series
user to aim for the superstar-artist while avoiding such eminences as Colonel Sanders and the Pope. Like the incredible screens of Paper Rad’s website – where multiple layers of Technicolor graphics jostle for retinal prominence, clashing and flashing against each other in celebratory, hallucinogenic montages – there is an unnerving degree of emotion in these works beyond retro-cool, more arresting than nostalgia: the impassioned cry of a generation into a new, lyrical resistance via the means available. Galloway’s How to Win Super Mario Bros is a video of the artist’s hands flickering over the controls as he manoeuvres Mario through the game’s stages. It’s accompanied by a block of computer print-out, a pseudo-conceptual score in ones and zeros mapping the buttons pressed. That the viewer is literally given the key to winning, yet would find it impossible to recreate Galloway’s actions from these instructions, ultimately feels like a joke on him; a paradox that this system is as hermetically sealed as it is revealed. [...] This is just the tip of the iceberg, and our imminent collision with it is a cause for celebration.
September 2002 Reggie Nadelson
One year ago A fireman leans against a fire-truck, exhausted, rubble everywhere. Three cops weep at a memorial service. An abandoned bagel cart stands among the wreckage. A young woman holds her wedding photograph ripped
from a newspaper, hoping someone will recognise her husband who worked in the Trade Center and tell her he’s still alive. Firemen, cops, the wounded and dead: images of September 11 are hung randomly in a SoHo store, anonymous, crammed back to front like laundry in the streets of Naples. Right after the terrible event, photographs went up in this empty downtown boutique, an ad hoc, grassroots exhibition called Here is New York, staffed by volunteers. It has since become a phenomenon, and visitors have flocked to SoHo in unprecedented numbers. Last autumn people waited four hours to get in, and there are now versions of the show in Berkeley, la, Louisville, Kentucky, Chicago, Berlin, Arles. This month, it goes up in Washington dc at the Corcoran. There’s a book and a website; digital copies of the photographs have sold in their tens of thousands, the money going to the children of the victims. It has touched a chord; it has become, it is said, the biggest photographic exhibition since the 1950s’ Family of Man. “September 11 happened so fast, we had no way to comprehend it,” says Charles Traub, one of the show’s organisers and the head of the New York School for the Visual Arts, who is himself a photographer. “Most of us ran to the tv, and also to our cameras. Even when the buildings were burning we had to have some record of our own experience.” Last autumn, just after 9/11, I sat around in my loft staring out of the windows at the gaping hole left by the World Trade Center. I was born, grew up and have lived all my life within a mile of the Trade Center. Like many in New York, I was looking for some voluntary work as a way to cope, not out of any altruism but for
Stuart Comer is a writer and curator. He is currently chief curator of media and performance art at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City Raf Simons is a Belgian fashion designer who launched his own menswear label in 1995. Simons was creative director at Christian Dior from 2012 to 2015, and chief creative officer at Calvin Klein, from 2015 to 2018
something to do on those hot Indian summer days when a cloud still hung over Lower Manhattan. One Sunday morning, getting coffee on Prince Street, I noticed that the long-empty agnes b. boutique had some photographs in the window. I banged on the glass. Michael Shulan unlocked the door. Along with Charles Traub, Magnum photographer Gilles Peress and the photo editor Alice Rose George, Shulan organised Here is New York. He also lives over the store. “Do you need some help?” I said. “Sure,” he said. “What can you do?” “Nothing,” I said. “I’m a writer.” “Me too,” he said. “So you’re in sales.” The intention was to open for a few weeks. By December, people were still crowding in. People came to bring photographs; there are currently about 5,000 in the show’s archive. Documentary filmmaker Etienne Sauté brought us his remarkable film, The First TwentyFour Hours, and we sold it immediately. People came to buy and to bear witness. They came from England, Japan, Israel; movies stars, politicians and ordinary people waited in line. We sold digital copies of the images for 25 bucks each. All of them were sold anonymously and, incredibly for New York, the customers didn’t try to hustle a ‘name’ out of us: you didn’t know if you were getting a photo by a Magnum star or a kid from the neighbourhood and nobody cared. The photographs were potent in the way television never was. People stood silently or wept. The pictures were a kind of communal witness that testified to the power that documentary photography has always had in New York City: Jacob Riis in the city slums; Lewis Hine on the Empire State; Weegee in the underworld. They were potent, too, in a way art couldn’t be. “People came from everywhere and these were not necessarily people who go to art galleries,” Michael Shulan says. “The story was that there was art in what we did, but we were very careful not to talk about it as art. Art was never our mandate: the photographs are about recording, comprehending, bearing witness. Here is New York is about community as much as anything, a public display of private emotions.” Around New York, other photographic exhibitions have since opened, some very artfully curated; but none have had the sheer raw power of Here is New York. The art community seemed to hesitate, to flutter around the events. “The art world,” says Charles Traub, “has become so commodified, so precious, so out of the loop of ordinary people, it was at a loss.” By Christmas people were still coming to the shop, by now known as “the gallery”, and they continued to come through winter and spring. Some of the subjects of the photographs showed up and introduced themselves. I began working on a film about Here is New York” with documentary filmmaker Leslie Woodhead. Over the months we tracked the lives of some of the volunteers and the people in the pictures: Jojo, who walked down from the 87th floor in her bare feet; Lucille, who ran home over the Brooklyn Bridge that morning; Tom and Billy, the firemen who lost all their work-mates in an hour as the buildings exploded.
The exhibition takes its title from E. B. White who wrote a book called Here is New York in 1949, following the birth of the atom bomb: “The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible ... The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.”
September 2003 Raf Simons profiled by Stuart Comer
Teenage fan club Fashion is not art, which may or may not be of serious concern to ‘John’ when he types online journal entries for livejournal.com. He logs on almost daily to portray a hormone-fuelled microcosm of mope-rock lyrics, musings on emptiness, up-to-the-minute outfits, and indie gay slasher films. His evolving web-manifesto hinges on the whims and caprices of being an online cultural scavenger. On 5 April, his “opposition to meaning” and “desire to resist” rendered him “excited, insecure, and apprehensive”. Judging by the microchip-sized self-portrait on his homepage, John might easily make the cut for Belgian menswear designer Raf Simons’s next crop of runway models. Simons is notorious for his use of innocent, non-professional teenage models cast directly from the streets of Paris and Antwerp. John’s edgy adolescent aloofness, angular, androgynous good looks and indistinct ethnicity blur the coordinates of his identity in much the same way as the members of Simons’s catwalk army. But John’s compulsion to exhibit his sensibilities in the public confessional of the Internet links him to Simons in ways more significant than simply having a rough pretty-boy demeanour. John is a major Raf Simons fan who loves the designer – “his designs ... his message ... everything” – and Simons’s work is in many ways an homage to boys like John. Since 1995, Simons’s acclaimed collections have channelled a parallel universe of style, mood and independence built from fragments of his own cultural obsessions and his observations of younger generations of fans and outcasts. Taking inspiration from a steady diet of post-punk power pop and new wave bands, arthouse and horror films, and – increasingly – emerging artists, Simons wears his fandom on his sleeve. Think of the spare elegance of Joy Division’s anxious pop anthems remixed with the purity of a classic English schoolboy uniform and the pleasant austerity of formal menswear. But Simons’s output can’t be reduced to retro pastiche. He is more akin to a sociologist and a producer who researches the various uniforms of youth, both past and present, and then orchestrates their collision to propel them into the future. His visual language is as much at odds with the other major players in fashion as his engaged, but ambiguous, politics. He doesn’t speak “J’adore Dior”. The Bauhaus movement and Kraftwerk continue to
ArtReview introduces its monthly comic strip with Paul McDevitt’s contribution, May 2007
Brian Dillon is a writer based in London. He is currently head of Writing at the Royal College of Art and has published several books including the award-winning In the Dark Room (2005). He is an editor of Cabinet and curated Ruin Lust, an exhibition at Tate Britain in 2014 Sophie Calle is a French artist and writer. Active since the 1970s, she is known for installational and photographic projects she calls ‘private games’, which weave personal narratives with fiction
inform his taste for repetition and industrial precision, but they are part of a loose framework built to accommodate new interests emerging from the designer’s determined cultural prowling. Simons casts his net wide, so the slim, silent silhouettes that stalk his dramatic shows map the history of teen dissent in all its various stages of commodification. Music remains a primary driving force, so The Fall’s Mark E. Smith floats hauntingly on one top, while patches of missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards adorn another. The rock references percolate with more oblique allusions to Eastern mysticism, Antonioni’s Blow Up, Todd Haynes’s Safe, the Addams Family, anti-wto gear and Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. Simons believes in finding a productive space between rebellion and restraint. He is fully aware of the Faustian bargain of fashion and that his status as the leading light of the menswear game makes him complicit in marketing the dissenting voices that motivate him. He seeks individuality in uniformity and his clothes are totems of clever role-play that, when carefully read, resist attempts to pin them with decisive meaning. But his own role within the larger cultural system is also something Simons is concerned to frequently renegotiate. His work has always borne the mark of collaboration. Isolated Heroes, a publication produced with photographer David Sims, documents some of Simons’s ‘found’ models shot on a single summer’s day in 1999. Writer Peter de Potter frequently works with the designer to come up with the words and slogans that play such a strong role each season. This expanded authorship has led Simons increasingly to avoid defining himself as a fashion designer and more as a catalyst: the hub of a vital creative network devoted to all manner of cultural production. Catalyst. Producer. These are terms frequently used in curatorial practice, and it is precisely the role of the curator that currently motivates Simons. There has always been a feverish cross-pollination between art and fashion, and he has drawn inspiration from artists such as Vanessa Beecroft, Simon Periton, Robert Gober, Richard Hawkins, Ashley Bickerton and Evan Holloway. […] After several years of mining the intangible economy of youth, Simons collaborated with Venice Biennale curator Francesco Bonami to organize The Fourth Sex: Adolescent Extremes, an exhibition about the teenage tribe held at the 19th-century Leopolda train station in Florence early this year. Set against a backdrop of apocalyptic adolescence, the range of architecture, music, fashion, art and photography bore witness to the evaporation of youthful innocence into a cloud of commodified relationships. […] Fashion is not art, but Raf Simons isn’t trying to make that claim. He does believe that fashion can effect social change, and he believes in art’s ability to inspire him in making work for that purpose. He understands the urgency in reducing the distance between himself, his influences, and those who would admire him as well. By engaging more directly with
artists, filmmakers and other cultural producers, his clothes become a means to enable an aesthetic network capable of expanding the potential for change.
June 2007 Sophie Calle, interviewed by Brian Dillon
Take care of yourself The journalist turns up at ten o’clock. They told me 10.30, the publicity people, and I’m waking up slowly this morning, so when the buzzer sounds I ask him to come through and wait for me in the garden. I’ve just spilled something sticky – I don’t remember what now – on the kitchen floor and I spend a minute trying to clean it off the tiles, give up and go to the door. No sign. I call out: are you there? He appears from behind a clump of bamboo, and a cat darts away in fright. No, that’s not my cat, I tell him as I close the glass door; my cat is staring at you, though. The journalist looks around, a little startled, at the stuffed animals – maybe he thinks I meant the tiger, glaring down from the opposite corner – before he spots Souris, totally still on the stairs. I go to make some coffee, forget to put coffee in the machine, try again. While the journalist pulls a notebook from his bag I have another go at the kitchen floor. I’m not paranoid, I assure him. Or obsessivecompulsive, he says. I ask if he intends to write our conversation up as a set of questions and answers. I dislike that style; when I read these interviews, I never know myself: it’s not my language. He says his preference is for a proper narrative, though the magazine sometimes favours the Q&A approach. We can always pretend, I tell him, that I insisted on a real text, that that was the first rule of the game. He laughs, says it won’t be necessary: he will find a form. Maybe he’s already decided how he’s going to write about me, how to explain me. Maybe he hopes it will be like the time my writer friend Hervé Guibert interviewed me, and asked me if I was born in 1953, and I told my whole life story, spoke for five hours straight, gave him everything. Or perhaps he has in mind a tale, a fiction, in which case it will be as though he were never here at all. But of course it’s simpler than that: he has come to ask me about Venice, about my projects for the Biennale. So I tell him about the letter, or rather the email. It was two years ago. An ordinary break-up letter, in a way, such as men write to women all the time. A woman would not have written this letter; though I can’t say why, can’t defend that certainty. Except to say that it was not ordinary at all: it was too written, too considered, too stylised, as if that were the point of it: its literariness. And it ended with a sentence that was violent in its formality, its Pilate-like washing of hands, its brusque dismissal of me. It’s the sentence I’ve used as the title of this new work. Take care of yourself. I had no idea how to answer. I showed the letter to a friend, asked how she would respond. And then it
right Sophie Calle, Take care of yourself, French Intelligence officer, Louise, 2007. © the artist / adagp, Paris 2019 and Florian kleinefenn / Aia Productions I received an email telling me it was over. I didn’t know how to respond. It was almost as if it hadn’t been meant for me. It ended with the words, ‘Take care of yourself.’ And so I did. I asked 107 women (including two made from wood and one with feathers), chosen for their profession or skills, to interpret the letter. To analyze it, comment on it, dance it, sing it. Dissect it. Exhaust it. Understand it for me. Answer for me. It was a way of taking the time to break up. A way of taking care of myself.
struck me: I would not reply, but ask others to answer on my behalf. For once – in fact, I’ve done it before, but not when the subject was so personal – I would withdraw, efface myself and let other voices speak for me. I found 107 women – I chose them by profession – who agreed to interpret the email. Among them are writers, actors, dancers, musicians, a chess player, my accountant, an etiquette consultant, a clown, a judge, a moral philosopher, a historian of the eighteenth century and a puppet at the Jardin d’Acclimation, Paris. They are my doubles, my proxies: they understand, dissect, judge. They take care of me because I cannot.I gave the letter to my mother, and she responded, as a mother. I even took it to a family mediator. I sat it on a chair. I said: he is not here, but here is what he would say if he were. She played along. She said: do you know how it makes this woman feel when you say that? And turned to me: tell him how you feel. Does the man in question know about the project? Yes, of course; I told him. He liked the idea, though it’s a little frightening for him. Anyway, he couldn’t imagine stopping me. He is a man of some intelligence and resourcefulness; he’s far from feeble. He can reply if he likes, and in public too. Also, he has a sense of humour. I show the journalist some mock-ups of how the work will look at Venice. I have photographed each of the women, and filmed many of them – the actresses and singers especially – as they reacted to the letter. The email itself will appear in full, also translated into Morse code, Braille, binary and barcode. There will be
the marked-up text as corrected by a proofreader, the email rendered in cipher by an agent of the secret service, a report on its legal standing by a contract lawyer, the reaction of a nine-year-old child, an sms translation. [...] Why this interest, the journalist wants to know, in such ephemeral but formalised texts? Why my taste for such flat modes of writing: the diary, the questionnaire, the list, the report? Why this resistance to metaphor? I tell him that flatness, for me, is writing; when I write, I do it by erasing, cutting, flattening, till my text is as economical and dry as possible. When I wrote my Autobiographies, between 1988 and 2003, it took a year to rid some of them of the excess. It’s just my style, the language I’m comfortable with. Maybe this is why the man’s email struck me: it was far from flat, it was fraught with metaphor. The journalist looks at his notes, lifts his empty coffee cup to his lips, is visibly unsure of his next question. [...] He wants to know where the processing of pain ends and the real work begins. Well, I say, this project: it was all about a letter, not about a man. It’s not as though I’ve spent the last two years agonising about this break-up. I could recite the letter by heart, here, this instant, but it’s just a piece of paper for me now. It’s a thing, to be interpreted. The project takes over. But I need sincerity at the start. [...] Early on, with Take care of yourself, when I knew it was a good idea, I was afraid this man would come back to me. What then? I would inevitably choose him, and lose the project.
right, both images Rosalind Nashashibi, The States of Things, 2005. Courtesy the artist and lux, London
Ana Finel Honigman is an art and fashion critic based between Berlin and Baltimore
The phone rings. The journalist fiddles with his tape recorder while I organise my next meeting, at noon, and ask the young woman who is coming to see me to bring a copy of Libération: they have a short article today on my Venice project. We carry on: he asks me what photography means to me now. What a question. I can’t answer. I know this: the pictures for Take care of yourself are pretty good. In the past the photographs were simply what they were. In 1980, for Suite vénitienne, the photographs proved I had been there, following that man; the camera put me in the situation, made me take the risk. That’s all. In The Hotel, three years later: the same need for evidence, the same danger of discovery, the same carelessness (or incompetence) regarding ‘good’ photographs. [...] This time, when I photographed each of the 107 women, I never expected good photographs. But when I looked at the contact sheets, there they were. People said: be careful, you’re becoming a good photographer. But maybe he, the journalist, thinks they’re really bad? He shrugs. He thinks they’re great: especially the ones where the women photographed turn away, hide their faces. It started because certain professions – the cop, the judge, the woman from the secret service – couldn’t be recognised; then it became a style, not quite a rule. He wants to know about the photographs on my wall: the Diane Arbus, the Nan Goldin, the montage by Linder Sterling that I bought a month ago. But I’m not really a collector. I like Cindy Sherman. I like classical photography. I remember photographs. When I think of my father, I imagine a photograph. When I think of my mother, I remember the last
photograph I took of her before she died. He asks about my memory; I tell him it’s awful, abyssal even. I read books five times and still cannot recall the names of the characters. Everything here is in drawers and boxes, so I can find it. I have to write everything down before it escapes. The time is running out. It’s 11.30 already, and I haven’t talked about my other project for Venice, nor about my mother. So I interrupt the journalist. On 15 February last year I received two simultaneous phone calls. One told me that I had been invited to exhibit at Venice. The other was from my mother: she had a month to live. I wanted to be there when she died, but everybody said: she will go when you leave the room, when you’ve wandered into the kitchen with a cup. So I set up a camera in her room, and for 80 hours I stayed awake, changing the tape each hour, hoping to capture the moment of her death. It was impossible: I couldn’t tell the moment. When I told my mother about Venice, she said: ‘to think that I won’t be there’. But she will be: my film shows the last 20 minutes of her life. It’s called Couldn’t Capture Death. The journalist seems stunned, as if what I’ve described is very strange, or very familiar. To break the silence, I usher him towards the computer at the other side of the room to watch a few of the films from Take care of yourself before he leaves. The door buzzes again; it’s noon. There are mistakes in the Libération article; I will have to phone them. The sun has begun to stream through from the garden. At three o’clock, more stuffed animals will arrive from the taxidermist in the south: a bear and a peacock. I’ve asked for the bear in a sitting posture, so I can install him at the kitchen table. The journalist gets ready to leave, says he has more than enough material. On the screen, the actress Miranda Richardson is reading the letter aloud. The man speaks of his suffering, his confusion, his anxiety. Also of his love for me, which he says requires of him this frankness now. He has not been well recently, he says. In fact, he has not known himself. Take care of yourself. The tape recorder snaps off loudly.
September 2005 Ana Finel Honigman
Against the exotic In ‘The Clash of Ignorance’, his October 2001 article in The Nation, Edward Said argued that the conflict between Islam and the West is based less on ideological differences than mutual ignorance, so that each adversary sees its enemy as a mere cartoon. As Said explained, ‘This is the problem with unedifying labels like Islam and the West: they mislead and confuse the mind, which is trying to make sense of a disorderly reality that won’t be pigeonholed or strapped down as easily as all that.’ Said’s insight raises compelling questions for Muslim and non-Muslim artists of Middle Eastern descent. Do they have a responsibility to act as
right Shahzia Sikander, Pathology of Suspension #8, 2005, ink and gouache on prepared paper, 197 Ă— 131 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London
ambassadors (or defenders) of Muslim culture? Given the impact of gender divisions in Middle Eastern cultures and on East-West discourse, do Middle Eastern women artists who exhibit in the West have a greater responsibility than their male or Western counterparts actively to engage with the issue of womenâ€™s roles and rights in the Middle East? Or are they subject to that double-bind described by bell hooks and other feminist critics, which forces minority women either
to confront manifestations of sexism particular to their own culture, or to give their racial or ethnic identity priority over their desire for gender equality? Women in groups as diverse as Orthodox Jewish, African-American or Muslim might be attacked as ethnic traitors for exposing and condemning sexism within their own culture; or they might find themselves defending practices or beliefs that disadvantage and alienate them. On the other hand, Western
top Front cover, first Power 100 issue, November 2002 above Front cover, first Future Greats issue, December 2005
feminists tend to make generalised assumptions about the conditions and definitions of empowerment for women in other cultures, and in their way become as potentially imperialist and patronising as the men they criticise. For Muslim women artists, or artists of Middle Eastern descent, particularly those whose work is not overtly political, these issues can be difficult to navigate and risky to ignore. Viewers may read political statements into work where none is intended, diverting attention from the actual intent and merits of the work, and limiting the freedom of genuine creative expression. [...] Despite the success of artists like Shirin Neshat, whose work directly engages with Islam’s treatment of women, an emerging group of young women artists of Middle Eastern descent are ambivalent about being assessed through the prism of East/West stereotypes and politics. The sentiment that prevails among these artists is comparable to the idea of ‘post-black’ art, a term coined by Studio Museum in Harlem curator Thelma Golden and artist Glenn Ligon to represent a new generation of black artists. In her introduction to the 2002 Freestyle exhibition, Golden described ‘post-black’ artists as ‘adamant about not being labelled “black artists”, though their work is steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness.’ To the same effect, Rosalind Nashashibi asserts that: ‘I have chosen to take some control of how I am positioned as an artist. I want that to be accurate and truthful rather than overly simplified and pre-packaged, which is often a way to ignore the real relevance of an artist’s work.’ In 2003, Glasgowbased Nashashibi became the first woman artist to win the Beck’s Futures award, on the basis of four 16mm films that expressly addressed ‘diaspora’ issues. Nashashibi’s own ethnic background as the Londonraised daughter of a Palestinian father and a Northern Irish mother has enabled her to be acutely sensitive to issues of cultural displacement. Her film Dahiet al Bareed (District of the Post Office), 2002, screened at the ica as part of the Beck’s Futures show, was filmed in the West Bank, where Nashashibi’s grandfather was a builder in 1956. It follows a sinewy boy kicking a football, getting a trim at the barber, and wandering through the dilapidated landscape that is the source of conflict and misery between Arabs and Zionists. The issue of displacement is dealt with differently in The States of Things (2000). This black and white film, which depicts elderly women rummaging through a Salvation Army sale in Glasgow to the sweet sound of an old Egyptian love song, seems to frame its subject, soundtrack and sentiment in terms of what Western consumer society has discarded or rejected. Yet despite the references to Middle Eastern culture that suffuse her films, Nashashibi is adamantly opposed to having her work defined by a single facet of her background. ‘Why should I latch on to any label that doesn’t fit?’ she asks. ‘It would be exploitative and inaccurate of me to do that. I don’t want to make things simple for people when these things are not simple.’
Where Nashashibi accorded the abandoned and ignored representatives of an older world a respectful dignity in The States of Things, Brooklyn-based artist Pinar Yolacan chose to satirise contemporary Western ageism with Perishables, a series of arresting portraits of elderly ladies modelling garments made from sagging chicken skin, shown at New York’s Rivington Arms last winter. Yolacan, who was born in Ankara, Turkey, studied at London’s Central Saint Martins and the Chelsea School of Art and Design before graduating from New York’s Cooper Union in 2004. For her first solo show at The Pineal Eye in London, Yolacan paid playful homage to the importance of food in Turkish family life by converting edibles into elegant objects, including an eggplant filled with pubic hair, a quilted sheep’s heart and a cabbage covered in decorative studs. Having subtly incorporated her heritage into her own work, Yolacan has reservations about art that leans towards didacticism. ‘Exoticisation of difference plays out very well in this country,’ she says, ‘There are very successful female Middle Eastern artists in the us who were marketed based on identity alone and have made careers out of catering to these stereotypes, regardless of the quality of their artistic production. And the success of this work promotes the fetish for the notion of the “oppressed Muslim female”.’ [...] Tensions between intentions and reception are also central to Shahzia Sikander’s work. Like the Japanese-American artist Masami Teraoka’s ukiyo-e woodblock prints and watercolours depicting geishas dying of Aids or eating hamburgers, Sikander’s anachronistic amalgamations of ancient Muslim painting techniques and Western references eloquently highlight conflicts in cultural imperialism. In an interview with curator Ian Berry for Nemesis, her 2004 exhibition at Skidmore College, Sikander noted: ‘I was exploring experimental drawing while trying hard not to be ghettoised as a South Asian/Muslim/ Pakistani/woman artist. However, most of the readings of my work focused on cultural definitions rather than the work itself. I became the spectacle in many reviews.’ Though Sikander insists upon that distinction, it can difficult to separate her identity from her work as she blends Western and Eastern, contemporary and ancient references in her compelling miniature paintings. Nashashibi’s protest against one critical response that her films have received offers an artist’s counterpoint to Said’s warning that thinking in cartoons can take the place of communication. Rejecting such onedimensional discourse, Nashashibi declares: ‘From the beginning there have been attempts to pigeonhole my work ethnically which is unnecessary. I made The States of Things when I was angry about exploitation by some artists of their own backgrounds, in a way that upheld “exotic” notions of the “East”, rather than articulating actual experience. Actual experience can never promote entrenched ideas of otherness. Experience is always problematic. I don’t want to offer up the Arab world as neatly packaged, so its reality can be ignored.’
December 2007 James Heartfield
The price of everything and the value of nothing
Front cover, July 2006
James Heartfield is a writer and lecturer based in London. His most recent books include The Equal Opportunities Revolution London (2017) and The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society London (2016)
“Shame on you all! You’re spending millions of pounds on these things, and the world is falling apart.” After the crank was ushered out of the saleroom, the real business began. Sotheby’s autumn sales of contemporary art were closely watched for signs that the market would be badly affected by the wobbly money markets. In the event, Damien Hirst’s prices suffered – his 1992 spot painting Adenosine was unsold, and a ceramics cabinet did poorly, though Hello Love (1997-8), with butterflies, did better. But while Damien struggled to live up to high expectations, younger challengers were on hand to take up the slack. Yue Minjun’s Execution (1995) sold for £2.9 million, and Raqib Shaw’s Garden of Earthly Delights iii (2003) for £2.7m, four times the asking price. Overall, Sotheby’s took £34.8m, a little less than hoped, but still three times more than previous autumn sales. Buyers included Larry Gagosian, who picked up a Francis Bacon, among other purchases, and a number of hedge-fund managers bidding up the price of the emerging-economy newcomers. Should Hirst worry? Hardly. In June his Lullaby Spring (2002) pill cabinet made him the highestpriced living artist when it fetched £9.7m. And the day after the Sotheby’s auction, another butterfly mosaic, Eternity (2002-4), was sold by Phillips de Pury and Company for £4.2m, above its £3.5m estimate. Rumours abound that some of these very high profile sales are staged, but the fact stands that the overall market has been healthy for six solid years. If the art is sometimes a bit too ordinary, the prices tell us that these are not household consumer items. At these prices we have to think of these works as investments, as much financial assets as art. And for that reason, their shifting prices reflect influences that lie outside the artworld. As well as the supply side – the quality and quantity of the works being produced – there is a question of the demand side: who is buying these goods, and why. […] The developed world had been investing in industry for ‘30 glorious years’ – years when Patrick Heron and Terry Frost saw precious little cash spill their way – with the result that industries had become unwieldy behemoths. On the one hand they generated vast surpluses; on the other they were so immense that it was difficult to see how any more investment could improve earnings (indeed, now they were in need of downsizing). That surplus cash, redirected into other kinds of assets, created great investment bubbles. The ideal asset would have a high bar of entry to investment, and some kind of intrinsic limit to its expansion, so that it would keep its value as long as the number of buyers exceeded sellers. Newly opening markets,
like those in Russia and Asia during the mid-1990s, were ideal. The belief in new opportunities was more important than the reality; in fact, the investment rush created more market growth than the actual value of Russian state assets. When Russia’s creaky economy proved too untrustworthy, the investors pulled out and put their money into the dot.com companies. Once again the money was made on the sale and resale of shares rather than from any notional future income these companies might earn. […] Elsewhere, as in Britain, restrictions on land use limited housing construction, making real estate a kind of natural monopoly, so that the housing market boomed, too. As a refuge from the flaky world of the ‘dot.coms’ or taking on Russia’s oligarchs, the art market has special advantages. Unlike other commodities, artworks are unique, and so a good store of value. The generational shift that pushed the avant-garde into the same high-earning bracket as the Old Masters has made fine art a sound investment. But the most important condition of the art market boom is not internal at all; it is, rather, the external need of investors to find a good place to store their excess capital. This buying power alone bids prices up to the levels seen today. It is a self-fulfilling appetite, but one which, like the investments that preceded it, are subject to market conditions. If these conditions change – if art prices rise so high that they suffer a confidence collapse, or more likely, if another investment opportunity emerges which offers better appreciation – then prices will fall. A cynic, said Oscar Wilde, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Of course, artworks cannot lose their intrinsic value in the way that Wilde meant it. The work is good or not regardless of the price. By the same token, however good a work, its price can theoretically fall to nothing if there are no buyers. But barring war or revolution, you can discount the extreme. The fluctuations in high finance naturally make people nervous, and there are always Jeremiahs warning that the end is nigh. But still it is more likely that things will continue as they are. For that reason fine art is a good place to park your money, and a rewarding one. No need to worry yet, but keep an eye on those sales.
In 1968, when we were starting out, it was clever people who ran art; now it’s rich people. I said to Bertrand [Lavier] at lunch, ‘You know, Bertrand? Our time, it is over’ Christian Boltanski, 2010
We are in a time which is a kind of interval Jacques Rancière, 2010
I don’t think of [my work] as “political”; it just has a commitment to ethics Beatriz González, 2013
It is necessary to detach uncertainty from fear Jochen Volz, 2016
2010–19 Eagle-eyed readers will notice that that this decade includes an article from 2009. Take this as a disruptive narrative device, not evidence that this editor misunderstood the date ranges. However it happened – and let’s not get caught up in recriminations – it made sense to begin with a response to the crash of late 2008, the aftershocks of which reverberate through the past ten years. That crisis sparked a debate around the artworld’s complicity in principles – globalisation, financialisation, the ‘end of history’ – under renewed interrogation (‘a general accounting is in order,’ wrote Christian Viveros-Fauné in 2010): the critiques complicated by warnings against the pietism of those who would cite some lost purity as reason to insulate art from the world. Writing on the future of art schools, Nicolas Bourriaud worried that this ‘ideology of autonomy is [...] a means of preserving pedagogical authority in its most retrograde aspect’, an attention to the ambiguity of art’s entanglement in wider issues that would inform much of the decade’s best writing (lately, Rosanna Mclaughlin’s 2018 profile of Ana Mendieta). While the positions were various, Mike Watson caught the prevailing feeling: ‘the particular properties of power need examining in their relation to art before art can be honestly appraised in isolation from it’. The wobbles of the neoliberal order also unsettled established art histories. A renewed (see: the 1950s) pluralism is reflected in ArtReview’s coverage of Asia and the Middle East and in criticism that foregrounds difference (as when Nadia Quadmani calls out the British Museum’s 2017 South Africa show). The most important expression of this tendency is the foundation of ArtReview Asia in 2013, but our sister publication will have to wait for its own birthday issue for a proper appraisal of its role in producing new narratives. Disputes around art’s independence informed Laura McLean-Ferris’ writing about the changing role of institutions, Oliver Basciano’s coverage of South America and the proliferation of art and writing on surveillance. A prescient piece by Hettie Judah considered the aesthetics of data visualisation, counselling ambiguity and nuance, while McKenzie Wark wondered whether it is any longer possible to escape capital when our every move – online or off – is transformed into data sold to corporations. Is it true that ‘rather than abolishing work,’ as he put it, ‘the current stage of commodification has abolished leisure’? And what does that mean for art? Reviewing the 2016 Berlin Biennale, Martin Herbert identified how a onceradical position – that art can never be ‘outside’ the system it critiques – now risked seeming like quietism, and frustration at a passive political culture soon gave way to arguments over how to organise resistance. The conflict between ideas of art as an autonomous sphere of human activity and the kind of ‘social’ art that incorporates the world is hardly new – long predating even ArtReview – but the debates of the past decade suggest that it generates a productive tension. Let’s see where it leads.
Pliny the Elder interviewed by Matthew Collings March 2011
Great critics and their ideas In this series, the writers who shaped art history talked frankly to Matthew Collings about what’s on their minds ar What was it like being Roman? Did you puke in vomitoriums and have slaves, and fabulous wealth?
Front cover, January & February 2010
Matthew Collings is an art critic, broadcaster and artist whose television series for the BBC and Channel 4 helped to shape the popular understanding of contemporary art in the UK. His influential 1997 book Blimey! exemplifies the combination of caustic style, wide-ranging reference and informed art-history that characterised his interviews with dead luminaries for ArtReview. Since 2010 he has written and presented BBC shows on Reniassance and abstract art, while also exhibiting the paintings he makes in collaboration with Emma Biggs J.J. Charlesworth is senior editor of ArtReview. He is described in Matthew Collings’s Art Crazy Nation as ‘a young fogey’ who is among the best of a new generation of art critics and in a 2012 edition of ArtReview as ‘our very own version of Clement Greenberg’ by virtue of the fact he is ‘offensively judgemental and smokes a lot’. He no longer smokes
pliny Not vomitoriums – they’ve recently been discovered to be fictional – but yes, slaves and conspicuous consumption, we enjoyed all that. You seem to be on the way to getting it all back, I notice, with your Power 100 lists in ArtReview. In my case, I had various governmental positions, running the navy and so forth, and at the same time I was a writer. I wrote a very good encyclopaedia of every bit of knowledge I could think of, including stuff about interesting metals, and then, connected to that, sculptures made out of metal, and that was really the first bit of art history. I wrote about famous art collections of my time. There was a sculpture representing homosexual lovers who killed a tyrant after the tyrant started hitting on one of them: that’s a complicated ideal because it involves eroticism and democracy. They were Greek heroes, but only crude Roman copies of the work exist in your time. They’re not portraits of the lovers, exactly, more like hero stereotypes. I also wrote about a work that people believed was actually the Laocoön, which was dug up in Rome in the time of Michelangelo. ar Well, you should know if it is or not! pliny Actually, is it really so interesting? For me, the compelling problem about your time is how you find a system of thought to understand the meaning of the big sales recently of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. One of them was $42 million. Now those paintings are genuinely clever and good. But what do you do with the feeling of hatefulness about them when they’re put in those sales? You know they haven’t been bought because of what is good about them, but because they’re trophies for idiots. How can you live with that setup and celebrate it? […]
J.J. Charlesworth January & February 2009
Wanting less There’s more than a hint of melancholy in the artworld. Ever since the bizarre concatenation of events that saw Damien Hirst’s £111 million Sotheby’s auction open on the day Lehman Brothers collapsed, the artworld seems caught between two contradictory sentiments. On one hand the crunch is very real, and very harsh: collectors are finding that they’re not worth as much as they were a few months before, and sales are starting to slide, with
the result that galleries are beginning the miserable business of downsizing. On the other hand, it’s still possible to have that weird private-view conversation which turns on how the economic downturn might somehow be a ‘good thing’ for art. And while there’s something clearly repugnant about wishing for an economic breakdown merely to bring on the cleansing fire of artistic purification, you still get the niggling, unspoken feeling that a lot of people think there’s some sense in the notion. The artworld could do with a bit less, couldn’t it? Of course, a good part of this sentiment is based on understandable Schadenfreude over the fate of the luxury-art-bauble boom. But while part of the resentment towards the shameless top-end spectacle of the art market was provoked by a very liberal distaste for the obscenity of bling, the sense of disgust at the sheer excess of the artworld goes deeper than merely carping about its most visible and outrageous manifestations. Too often in artworld discussions there’s too much complaining about there being too much: too many galleries, too many biennials, too many art fairs, too much art... in short, too much of all this stuff. There is of course something grotesque and vacuous about the way in which a pile of diamonds encrusted on a titanium skull doubles its value with the application of the word ‘art’. Back in the 1980s, the critique of ‘commodity aesthetics’ still seemed fresh. But to criticise Hirst or Koons for revelling in how art is inescapably reduced to the status of commodity by all those vulgarians who spend millions on their work doesn’t now help us when faced with the question of, well, how much stuff the artworld should aspire to. How much is too much? Surely all these galleries, art fairs, biennials and art must mean something more than a diamond skull and an aluminium heart. Mustn’t they? If the Hirsts and Koonses seem unassailable in their glassy eyed celebration of emptiness, it’s only because the rest of the artworld has been so embarrassed about asserting what (other than as luxury lifestyle adornment, subcultural pose or aid to urban regeneration) art is really good for. If the critique of art’s commodification seems to be directed at the excesses of capitalism, it now feeds on a much wider uncertainty about what more of anything is good for. After all, we’ve largely gone along with an environmentalist critique that says it’s our unstoppable production and consumption of stuff that has bought us closer to ecological ruin. In other words, producing more stuff is the problem, and we are its cause. So it may be that all those whingers that you’d overhear (on the long-haul flight to Miami or Venice) complaining about the artworld’s art-fair-and-biennial carbon footprint are now finally getting what they were saying they wanted all along. Of course, there’s little positive about the prospect of an artworld of shrinking communications, opportunities and possibilities, and in this the artworld will directly mirror the fate of the broader global economy. But it would also be dangerous to accept that ‘less is more’ for the simple reason that
right Josh Kline, Crying Games, 2015, lightbox display, plexiglas, leds and power supply, flat-screen tv, media player and wood; hd video, colour, sound, 11 min 51 sec. Photo: Timo Ohler. Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York
Martin Herbert joined ArtReview as associate editor in 2009 and is now based in Berlin. He is the author of Mark Wallinger (2011), The Uncertainty Principle (2014), Tell Them I Said No (2016) and Unfold This Moment (forthcoming). When ArtReview still published photographs of its contributors, Herbert was pictured standing next to a camel
if the artworld in its peak of credit-fuelled debauchery seemed empty of meaning, merely wishing for a bit of austerity won’t help put the meaning back. Just as the act of consuming today seems empty of meaning because modern society has lost sight of what good producing is, so art seems to lack meaning because it now appears to be more about just making stuff than making sense. And while the crunch may dent the fun of the tiny ultrarich minority, it’ll put more than a dent into everyone else. Instead of the fatalistic acceptance that less is ‘a good thing’, we should be demanding more of everything for everyone - an ambition that makes a skullful of diamonds look like cheap tat by comparison.
The 9th Berlin Biennale, reviewed by Martin Herbert September 2016
The present in drag The Berlin Biennale is a highly reactive affair. The 8th, which Juan A. Gaitán steered two years ago, was sober, history-minded and a 180-degree pivot away from the 7th, Artur Zmijewski’s brave but scrappy political sit-in. The 9th is another screeching handbrake turn. With Berlin positioning itself as start-up central, inviting bleeding-edge New York art/fashion/media collective dis as curators makes some sense. What they’ve offered up via The Present in Drag, though, feels like a four-venue wake (plus a boat ride up the River Spree) for brinkmanship-style artistic approaches that track neoliberal culture’s impact so closely, with the aim of making it hypervisible, that they are sometimes indistinguishable from the real thing. Except, perhaps,
that the real thing – unlike some of the artists here – isn’t asserting autonomy while branding itself relentlessly in the face of the very precarity it analyses and emphasises. ‘The 9th Berlin Biennale for contemporary art may or may not contain Contemporary Art,’ wrote dis during their teaser campaign. And, indeed, if you start the tour at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste before crossing the city – taking in the kw Institute for Contemporary Art, the Feuerle Collection and the esmt European School of Management and Technology along the way – then virtually the first thing you see is a showroom, by Liberian-American designer telfar, of purchasable biennale-branded goods: a uniform, basically. Shortly after comes Debora Delmar Corp.’s green juice bar, because Berlin needed another of those. Start from the kw Institute, and you’re confronted with Los Angeles fashion label 69’s denim beach chairs in the courtyard. It’s not that you can’t necessarily lounge, shop, sip or, thanks to Juan Sebastián Peláez’s giant courtyardbased cutout, look at a horrible neo-Surrealist digital collage of Rihanna consciously. But one is reminded that several of the bona fide artists at this show’s core – shock troops of our present’s discontents such as Josh Kline, Katja Novitskova and Timur Si-Qin – have, in interviews, repeatedly had to broach whether admitting there’s no ‘outside’ position to inhabit can be distinguished from complicity, and the answers have not been satisfying. (As has been suggested, such art may come more naturally to a generation whose social media doesn’t include a ‘dislike’ button.) Kline, an expert condenser of ambient anxieties, provides one of the show’s affective highlights: Crying Games (2015), set in an artificial desert in the kw Institute’s basement, is a video experiment in real-time face-swap technology
Front cover, September 2013 right Camille Henrot, Office of Unreplied Emails, 2016, at the 9th Berlin Biennale
Works such as From the Ruins of Empire (2012) established novelist and political essayist Pankaj Mishra among the most intelligent critics of liberal hegemony. In Age of Anger: A History of the Present (2017) he considered how authoritarian leaders have recently taken advantage of popular resentment. The book was widely hailed for its analysis of the rise of nationalism and its challenge to the assumptions of modernity and progress Adam Thirlwell’s work has been translated into thirty languages. He is the author of the novels Politics (2003), The Escape (2009) and Lurid & Cute (2015) and the experimental book Kapow! (2012), which is now in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is London editor of the Paris Review
that finds aged avatars of Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush and Tony Blair tearfully apologising for the last Gulf War. But Kline still feels part of a gang that’s run and exhibited together extensively in recent years, whose moves are familiar; he’s one of the best artists here, yet not someone whose name I particularly wanted to see. At the Feuerle Collection, a windowless and spotlighted concrete bunker whose lack of mobile reception feels like an artwork itself (the inverse of Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum’s installation of a Tor network at Akademie der Künste), a colour-coded spread of literally dozens of Yngve Holen’s Evil Eyes (2016) runs down one wall. ok, so these Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ windows augmented with coloured blown glass, resembling totems sold globally to ward off the mythic ‘evil eye’, add up to a schematic aeroplane that conflates global mobility and bad vibes, old tech and new. But this is an aptly sited pick-yourfavourite-colour parade of product, too, from an artist also selling ‘Hater Blocker’ contact lenses through the biennale’s website, evidently fine with milking the experience economy. On the facing wall, Josephine Pryde’s suite of photographs, featuring hands (that by-now post-Internet iconographic chestnut) touching things, similarly makes its point at about the third iteration. Her antic train on a track, chugging past and manned by viewers or invigilators, is a solid distraction; but you leave this space – past Guan Xiao’s adept, burnished, haptic-hectic updates on the assemblage tradition – feeling like you’ve been in a walkthrough advertisement for someone’s soonopening collection space. And you have. [...]
Adam Thirlwell and Pankaj Mishra January & February 2017
Future imperfect adam thirlwell Can you imagine an innocent utopianism now? pankaj mishra Probably not. Maybe because we are living through the consequences of innocently conceiving utopia. In the eighteenth century, a network of intellectuals, mostly writers, were thinking up some interesting thoughts about what the next society should be: free of religion, free of monarchs, free of aristocratic and royal authority. Their heads were filled with these – essentially optimistic – notions about what individual human beings could do with reason alone. Of course, the natural sciences were also developing at that time, so there was also this idea that science combined with this individual deployment of reason was going to open up scope for what would be, essentially, a perfect society. They could not anticipate that these very innocent ideas – and all admirable ideas, even to this day – had contradictions built into them, all the way through. Those tensions would never be resolved. […] With our faith in progress now diminishing, it’s really interesting to imagine what kind of art there will be. There will be mostly entertainment, I suspect, of which you could argue there’s a lot already.
Jacques Rancière is among the most influential philosophers of recent times. Known primarily for his political thought, he has also made a significant contribution to the study of aesthetics. That the two fields are, in Rancière’s writing, inextricably linked has made books such as The Future of the Image (2003) and The Emancipated Spectator (2008) touchstones for artists and critics calling for a more politically engaged culture
I’m not so sure. I mean: what’s the right form of language to discuss this demented world? We’re in the age of journalism: of the report, and the opinion piece. But those forms are inherently monologic… Someone like Diderot fascinates me because he’s able on the one hand to edit the Encyclopaedia – a monument to absolute rationality – but also write a zany, upside-down novel […] That kind of ironic hectic playfulness makes me wonder if perhaps this is the perfect era for the novel, or a certain kind of novel. The utopian ideal is everywhere – which means dark irony has infinite content to enjoy. I think the scene has shifted from Europe to parts of the world that are now undergoing the kind of tumult that produced the greatest art of the nineteenth century. So it would be interesting to see what comes out of those parts of the world, which are also those in which the majority of the world’s population, today, lives. I think at the same time, one has to remember that even those places have been disenchanted, in the Max Weber sense of the word. […] So this notion of art that we’ve all grown up with, that emerges out of a certain friction, emerges out of a certain tension with your condition, with your circumstances, is missing in many places, even in places that are currently experiencing some of the convulsions and trauma of the nineteenth century. I shouldn’t generalise too much because critics are always made to look foolish by new works of art that come out of nowhere and dazzle you, but I think the historical conditions that facilitated so much of modern art have changed to the point where you have to wonder what new set of circumstances will produce the art of the future. […] I wonder if this is also a problem of maps. There’s a way in which, geopolitically, utopianism will be read as terror: it all depends on your perspective. The same idea in a different place has a completely different valency. It’s summed up in the commonplace saying: my terrorist is your freedom fighter. Again, in the geopolitical context, where there are multiple, multiple contexts, that notion of justice becomes much more complicated. The other thing is that when they were devising these notions during the eighteenth century, people were thinking of a society to replace the one that was passing, the society ruled by kings, a society ruled by popes or their various representatives. And when they were thinking of a new social contract, they didn’t really give much thought as to how that society was going to be regulated. We are still, in many ways, grappling with that particular problem. The notion of justice was very powerful, it was powerful all through the revolution and afterwards. It manifested itself in demands for equality, demands for revolution, demands for a new order, but I think this particular question – how do we regulate ourselves in a given society? – had many answers: you come together, you make the people the sovereign, you create a nation and you’re all citizens of that. Alternatively, there was the idea of the market society, where we’re all self-interested individuals, and somehow our interests will be naturally harmonised.
These particular notions are what we are still dealing with, and we now know that they are actually in deep tension with each other: whether it’s Brexit, or Trump or the idea of creating a society, creating its institutions, this is a never-ending circle. One way to think about this is, essentially, as a problematic. Something with which we have constantly to struggle. There is no destination. I think the problem with utopia was that it always posited a destination and always thought or assumed the present to be a transition on the way to that destination. So many of our assumptions are based on the broad idea that we are in a transition to something else. [...]
Jacques Rancière interviewed by J.J. Charlesworth April 2010
What I’m waiting for... ar If we’re no longer certain of previous forms of political activity or political projects, are we ‘waiting’ for something? I wonder whether you think that we are in a ‘prepolitical’ moment. I am quite curious about this sense of anticipation, which is focused on the possibility of what subjectivity can be. I wonder whether you are also involved in thinking about a more purely social, political project that might be coming, might come or that you might want to come. Are you any more active in that kind of dimension? jr I’m not directly active. Of course there is some kind of interaction between what I see and what I write, and people who are involved in specific political activities, sometimes there is a kind of dialogue. What I’m waiting for is what many people are waiting for, perhaps the idea of a new kind of political movement that could be free at once from all the official notions of politics, elections and so on. And free at the same time from the strategical model of ‘the way to the revolution’. I would think of a political movement that would be the expansion of real experiments of political practice and of a thinking about the possible universalisation of these experiments. You know my point about emancipation is always the same. It’s about politics based on equality, where equality is a presupposition and not a goal to achieve. What can we, from the experiments today, construct as a new form of political subjectivity that would accept the point that we start from equality, from the idea that there is universal competence – that there is a universal capacity that is involved in all those experiments and that we are trying to expand – to expand the field and the capacities of that competence. It is not much, but I think, for me, it’s what I’m hoping. I don’t know if we are in a prepolitical period or more of a kind of interval. Most of my work is devoted to trying to say we are not in the time of the end – but nor are we in a time with a goal – but this doesn’t mean that we are in the end. We are in a time which is a kind of interval. One in which precisely the question is, what do we think we are able to do together? [...]
Jonathan T.D. Neil February 2016
top front cover, January & February 2017 above front cover, January & February 2018
We know that the Islamic State or isis or isil or Daesh, or whatever we want to call these organised Islamist mass-murderers, are interested in at least two things: money and culture. The former they want to accumulate and the latter they want to destroy. Before the attacks in Paris, the culture that is took pleasure in destroying belonged largely to the rich legacy of Mesopotamia and its ancient history. We know that 2,000-year-old Greco-Roman temples and structures, many from the city of Palmyra, have fallen to is explosives. We know that Assyrian sculptures going back at least ten centuries bc have fallen to is sledgehammers, and much else. Yes, Assad’s warplanes and Western policymakers can take some blame for this violent, contemporary rocking of the cradle of civilisation. There’s much fault to go around. But the Islamic State’s theologically inspired iconoclastic zeal sets it apart from other contemporary fundamentalist movements. The destruction of culture is not well stomached by what we like to call the West, which, whether or not it is as idolatrous as its new Islamist foil would have it, goes to great lengths to house and protect both its own and others’ material history (fully acknowledging that many of the West’s ‘treasures’ came from colonial looting campaigns). This is part of the problem, however, because the Islamic State is interested in money too, and one of the ways we know it gets its money is by not quite destroying all of those antique sites and artefacts it appears to stomp across and instead selling them into the market, black though it may be. We must accept then, too, that all of the immediately public and spectacularised images that is distributes of its minions jackhammering and blowing up unesco heritage and other cultural sites in the Euphrates River Valley are meant not only to raise the West’s defenceof-history-and-liberal-values ire, but also to prime the West’s chequebook. The uploaded videos and media coverage of is’s archaeological calamities are just the lead generators of its antiquities marketing and sales group, whose target customer is the insatiable Western collectorate, with its love of culture and of universal history, which, by the way, far outstrips the ambivalent moral cringe that hits its face when viewing wave upon wave of Syrian and Iraqi refugees breaking on the beaches of Europe and dampening the gates at jfk. [...]
Anselm Franke September 2014
What frame for what modernisation? We need an affirmative, positive definition of what modernisation can mean. The socially implicit should
not be left to the nationalists or the religious obscurantists or the ideologues of technocracy. I think that art can play a role in the modernisation of society’s implicit social scripts. Somehow it seems to me that the very subject matter of large-scale exhibitions in particular is the realm of implicit social scripts and their relation to aesthetics, to cognition, expectations, feelings. Exhibitions invoke the common ‘map’ people have of reality, simply because every piece of art demands from us to make sense of it, or to question the very process of making sense, and our own frames of perception. Art throws us always back onto the implicit assumptions we bring with us, individually and collectively. And art can make us travel unexpected routes on the map, or question the map altogether. Modernisation in China is, or has been, a quasisacred task, against the backdrop of its historical victimisation by imperial powers and the resulting ‘wound’, but also against the backdrop of its own imperial authority. Today, as China aspires to surpass the other world powers in wealth and might, it must be hoped that this ‘sacred task’ is not channelled merely into the imperial scheme, into the restoration of ‘lost’ power, and the nationalist, heroic identity such an imaginary projects. Modernity, as a condition, demands the relativisation of collective identities, and embraces pluralism and its contradictions and antagonisms. And this demand can only be met if we are able to negotiate the realm of the ‘hidden’ or the implicit, as the realm where this relativisation and ambivalences are cultivated. Modernisation happens today where that which frames our fields of actions is questioned, but based on the knowledge that ‘the social’ never exhausts itself in any map, or for that matter in anything that can be named. In the final pieces filmmaker and artist Harun Farocki completed before his untimely death, he explores how drastically our ‘maps’ of reality are changing through digital technologies. The map is becoming an ‘ideal-typical’ image of reality, a map that not only covers the territory as completely as possible, but that monitors it, and produces it through the governance of movements, as happens in urban and dynamic social engineering, and increasingly, through social media themselves. In the context of the military, complex, multilayered maps are employed that do not represent a territory but that surveil it, by measuring any unusual movements, any deviation from the ‘map’. In one of his very last pieces, shown for the first time at the Berlin Documentary Forum, he looks at the technology and iconography of digital animation and computer games, and how they produce what we perceive as ‘a world’. One chapter of this work, titled ‘Parallel’, is devoted to the limits of these worlds, to the end of the map, the scripted, programmed field: at such an ‘end of the world’, first-person shooters or other heroes either fall into the dark abyss of black nothingness or walk against invisible walls. It is the task of art exhibitions to show that there is more outside the map, outside the script of particular ‘genres’, whether fictional or real.
A former associate, now contributing editor of ArtReview, Jonathan T.D. Neil is the founding director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art in Los Angeles. He has taught courses on modern and contemporary art and architectural history, the international art market, critical writing, critical theory and the history of photography at Columbia University, Parsons The New School for Design, and the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York Anselm Franke is a curator and head of the department of Visual Arts and Film at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin. He has curated the Taipei and Shanghai biennials, while his exhibition Animism toured from 2009–14. Hettie Judah is an art critic, editor and curator who started writing a column for ArtReview after what she describes on her website as a chance meeting with the editor-in-chief on a trip to Beijing (the editor-in-chief confirms). Her columns addressed topics as various as the politics of food, Paris fashion week and ancient intercontinental cheese networks Tom Eccles is executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York, and was formerly director of the Public Art Fund
Hettie Judah December 2014
Beautiful evidence, pretty lies As surveillance culture and the mass gathering of data have grown, so too has the culture of data communication. All the information swept up in the efficient, automated gluttony of the information-technology data grab needs to justify its rude acquisition – with every movement, transaction or conversation becoming potential fodder in the scramble to find meaning in the pattern of human behaviour, the less sensitive fruits of ‘big data’ are released to the public, making humanity en masse not simply the subjects of the data gathering but, increasingly, the enthusiastic consumers of it too. Given that little of the world’s population is equipped with advanced skills in statistical analysis, or even nimble numeracy, increasingly the way we consume the data made available to us is in the form of diagrams. In the broad sense, the field of data visualisation dates back as far as the earliest analytic or technical diagram, but in the specific contemporary sense – the translation of data sets into the visual language of graphs, maps, charts and diagrams – it emerged properly during the nineteenth century. Thanks to a combination of factors – which include not only data proliferation but also the espousal of the medium by international broadsheets including The Washington Post and Le Monde Diplomatique, and dynamic educators in the field – we are now in its flowering. [...]
ar Ryan, what commonalities do you share with the artists in the exhibition? ryan trecartin I think many artists in this Triennial are actively inventing space for themselves in culture – rather than creating work that functions solely as an act of rejection or, conversely, making work that just accepts the status quo or well-worn art-historical narratives, their work operates as an act of invention, drawing freely and widely from diverse aspects of culture and multiple histories. I think that I’m naturally drawn to artists who care as much about form, craft and skill as they do about concept, ideas and vision. Many of the artists in the show assume a position that attempts to push past tired and reductive binary logics, while finding more expanded ways to explore social and political ideas.
ar The mid-1970s seems the cutoff point for [artists included in] this edition of the triennial. In simplistic terms, these are all artists that grew up in the digital age. What common traits would you say emerge from the artists and their work that you have chosen? lauren cornell […] We organised the show around connections among artists we felt strongly about. These connections or lines of inquiry included: how are representations of the body and persona evolving in an image-laden culture in which surveillance is widely dispersed and editorialising one’s life in public is the norm? How does the seepage of state and corporate power into our intimate spaces (say, via social media) change the terms of critique (ie, if we can no longer stand outside of the powerful forces, how do we resist them)? How are artists reconsidering the boundaries of fine art through activism and engagements with an expanded popular culture? Many of the artists in the show are engaging with the notion of what we are casually calling a surround culture – Josh Kline’s installation reflects a dystopian world in which we are wilfully surrendering our private data; Exterritory Project seeks to find space for the circulation of images outside of potentially censorious networks; Juliana Huxtable’s selfportraits are inspired by her work on social media in which she consciously constructs an evolving persona for a growing audience. In these works, we see the possibilities of a culture in which we are increasingly ‘surrounded’ as well as emergent anxieties about being invaded or overseen. Again, these are only a few of many themes.
ar How do the commissioned projects differ from others in the show? sarah o’keeffe In one sense the commissioned
ar I was taken aback most by how many of the artists you have selected actually make ‘things’: sculptures, installations, even paintings… My surprise is maybe
2015 New Museum Triennial curators Lauren Cornell, Ryan Trecartin and Sarah O’Keeffe interviewed by Tom Eccles January & February 2015
projects root the show firmly in a particular time. Though we were in conversation with artists for years, most commissions started to arrive at their final form during the summer of 2014, in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Hong Kong, the Ebola outbreak and events in Gaza. In response to those events, we found that many artists were thinking about the body as a nexus point, a site where questions about visibility, safety and agency are staged. There were periods when the artists we were in dialogue with in Hong Kong and Israel became mute on email – they were deeply involved with the protests, and our projects with them had momentarily to go on pause. One of these Hong Kong-based artists, Nadim Abbas, is constructing a series of chambers, replete with comforts of a domestic space on their interior – beds, posters, books – but completely sealed from the outside world. Viewers can feel inside these chambers by placing their hands into medical grade gloves on the glass walls. While Nadim’s works spur questions about locating a safe space for the body, we found other artists were working through questions about their own bodies in space.
right Juliana Huxtable, Untitled, 2014. Courtesy the artist.
A binary between online and offline, object and ephemera, is out of date in a society where online platforms mediate our lives, our social relationships, and our existence
because of your (Lauren) longstanding notoriety as a foremost curator in the digital realm but also because I didn’t think that so many younger artists continue to work with objects as such. Among video and photography, the ‘plastic arts’ seem alive and well in this Triennial. Did that surprise you too? lc I think there is an anticipation that, with our backgrounds, Ryan and I might organise a show that would be made entirely out of holograms, or only be online, or be on one heavy app, but I think this comes out of a misunderstanding of our work and how artists engage digital tools today. It’s true that Ryan and I are both very interested in contemporary culture and emerging media; and many
people see his work as emblematic of the ‘digital age’. But those interests are not separate from objects. A binary between online and offline, object and ephemera, is out of date in a society where online platforms mediate our lives, our social relationships, and our existence, and artworks exist within a chain of materialisation, dematerialisation and rematerialisation. Our show includes works that move easily between the gallery and other platforms, for instance social media and performance, showing that a kind of versatility between disciplines and cultural spheres is a way artists take advantage of an expanded cultural terrain.
Laura McLean-Ferris is curator at the Swiss Institute, New York, and contributing editor to ArtReview. From 2009 to 2012 she was editor at large. She was part of the curatorial team for Performa 13 and has curated exhibitions at David Roberts Art Foundation, London, Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Cell Project Space and Chapter NY. Oliver Basciano joined ArtReview in 2010 and is currently international editor. In 2018 he was a member of the Turner Prize jury and chaired the Artes Mundi prize. On the contributor pages of 2010/11 issues he is pictured clutching an air rifle at what looks suspiciously like a village fete. He also writes obituaries for newspapers
The environment of performance, by Laura McLean-Ferris May 2015
People. Objects. Language. Exchange. The conversations that happen at the periphery of art shows are important, yet difficult to record. Changes in mood are rarely noted in official documentation, nor are the informal conversations that happen away from panel discussions and interviews. Yet this is how we change our minds about art, and how thinking develops. Not that we should be in the business of recording everything – the nsa does that for us – but with regard to performance, artists’ historical struggles with the deadening aspects of documentation have often hinged on problems with capturing vitality. Excluded elements might include some of the following: the weather, emotional atmosphere, smell, taste, the day’s events, coughs, stumbles, late arrivals or mistakes. Putting these issues centrestage, several recent performances have sought to document informal movements, memories and chatter of audiences and performers by describing them with language in real time. […] I’ve seen several performances that use performers’ bodies as vehicles for memory. Siobhan Davies Dance’s Table of Contents at the ica in London in January 2014 was a live archive of the company’s choreography performed and reconfigured by the dancers as they described their memories of performing these works over time. Tino Sehgal’s participants in works such as These associations (2012) routinely describe their own memories to members of the public as a conversation starter. What was striking and exciting about Gerard & Kelly’s p.o.l.e., and Reverberations, is the way that they summoned the museum as an active space for drawing in conversations that occur at the margins, which then unfolded over the course of weeks. In Reverberations we heard about moments of conflict and confusion with speakers such as [Andrea] Fraser and [Chris] Kraus, or among audiences, as well as performance memories. It felt as though the peripheral conversations in the gallery, and input from streets, subway cars, marches, nightclubs and beds, were drawn into the space and suggested as places or moments of significant exchange. It was a form of live research that seemed tangibly to grow over time and reach a high number of people in an intimate manner, so that audiences could take part – in moments that we would have otherwise missed – as we were channelled through the memories of a living being.
The 13th Lyon Biennale, reviewed by Oliver Basciano December 2015
La Vie Moderne As titles go, it’s broad: La vie moderne – modern life. Attractively archaic, it’s also curiously ambiguous.
Any use of the word ‘modern’ in an art context shifts our attention from the here and now to the historical, to Baudelaire and his 1863 essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’. Yet there is no art from this period in curator Ralph Rugoff’s sprawling Lyon Biennale; just works by 59 contemporary artists installed in two main venues. But if the show isn’t ‘modern’ – in its art-historical meaning – then it must be about, er, life. I mean, life. As crazy as it sounds, Rugoff takes this humdinger of a theme and actually goes some way towards nailing it. Like the curator’s 2007 exhibition The Painting of Modern Life, at the Hayward Gallery, the London institution he directs, and after Baudelaire, this is an exhibition that spans from the grand themes to the intimacies of the everyday (in 2007 these were represented by – two examples from many – Gerhard Richter’s portrait of the grieving Jacqueline Kennedy, Woman with Umbrella, 1964, and Malcolm Morley’s monumental painting of chatting cruise-liner passengers, On Deck, 1966). So too, La vie moderne. After a bombastic start (the worst offender being a one-liner installation by the incomprehensibly popular Céleste Boursier-Mougenot involving peanuts falling from a height onto a drum kit), the type with which visitors to Rugoff’s later series of family-friendly sculpture shows at the Hayward – the 2009 Walking in My Mind for example – will be familiar, the biennale settles into a welcome, dreamily detached meander through the tropes of the first 15 years of the twenty-first century. Some of these are the big themes of the day: celebrity (Johannes Kahrs’s brutal oil-oncanvas depictions of Justin Bieber and Amy Winehouse, for example); urbanism (Magdi Mostafa’s The Surface of Spectral Scattering, 2014, a large sculpture that, activated by sound, maps an imagined pilot’s-view of Cairo in led lights, replicating the pathos of arriving in a city after a long night-flight); ecology (Lai Chih-Sheng’s expertly dispiriting Border, 2013–, a room space in which the artist has piled all the rubbish generated during the biennale’s installation); and race (the acutely strange and enjoyable music video created by Cecilia Bengolea and Jeremy Deller in which an older white man walks through his expansive suburban house rapping in French while a troupe of young black women dance and twerk). These are countered by several works that have a far more personal outlook: Cameron Jamie’s series of photographs, hung in a higgledy-piggledy domestic way and taken in the lead-up to Halloween, of the decorated front lawns in his Los Angeles neighbourhood, is a paean to the artist’s hometown; Alex da Corte’s claustrophobic installation of everyday objects, the whole room washed blue by overhead coloured lights, references illness and the closed intimacy of mental health. There are a few stupid moments, such as Jon Rafman’s usual look-here-is-the-Internet banality and Simon Denny’s laddish installation The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom (2013), but generally Rugoff’s exhibition is an immensely enjoyable thing to walk around – not least because of the endless visual quotes the curator employs to hold all these diverse stories together. The car emerges as a motif. Gorillas are in absurd proliferation too, including within one of the best works of the
exhibition, Sammu Baloji’s installation of archival colonial-era images depicting Congo. Strung together, what emerges is an exhibition that reminds one of an issue of Life or the Picture Post (with Rugoff as picturedesk editor) in which disparate portraits of the modern world – ‘the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent’ (to quote Baudelaire slightly out of context) – are filed from near and far.
Omar Al-Qattan November 2013
Culture and power in a globalised world
from top front cover, November 2014; front cover, November 2015. Artwork by Heman Chong; front cover, November 2016. Artwork by Trevor Paglen
Omar Al-Qattan is a trustee of the AM Qattan Foundation and chair of the Palestinian Museum and of the Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture in London
[...] A truly global culture, predicated upon principles of equality, respect, serious intellectual enquiry and artistic inventiveness must at the very least be aware of the power struggles and inequalities at its core and, if possible, militate against them. If authenticity is no longer even conceivable because so many world cultures have undergone cultural genocide – to borrow Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ominous phrase describing the destructive effects of capitalism on Italian peasant culture – we must ask ourselves what value a work of artistic expression can have if it does not at least express a point of view; if it relinquishes historical accuracy; if it loses sight of issues of genuine universal concern for humanity or remains stuck in narrow identity politics, conceptual game-playing or formalistic posturing, as so much globalised culture has been in recent years. And to return to the Arab world, the profound upheavals it has witnessed in the last two years may begin to shake its elites out of their cocoons and force them to reengage with the concerns of their fellow citizens. This may also happen in the many other areas of the world in which social and political protests are taking place. Perhaps then it is time to look at an alternative ‘power’ list of people whose work genuinely resonates among the poor, dominated and marginalised grassroots; who can find alternatives to violent ideology and dominance through their inspirational work and who can offer a genuinely universal and liberating voice in a global cultural conversation held on an equal footing between all its participants.
On the Power 100 Over the past year most people will have come to associate any mention of ‘power’ with a story about its abuse. And that’s because for some time, perhaps even for all time, power dynamics have been exploited by everything from species, races, nations, governments, associations and corporations, all the way down to individuals. There are so many examples of this at present that it would be hard to know where to start
any catalogue of abuses, let alone to know where it might end. By now you might have the feeling that power is something with which no sane person would want to associate themselves. But influence still exists, and being influential (and hence having some degree of power) is not always a choice that you make; it is also something that happens to you as a result of how you and your works are perceived by others. On an individual level, power is about being able to do what you wish. On a societal level it’s about being able to do what you wish regardless of the wishes of others. Or, to put it less bluntly, to influence or control the behaviours of others (which is where abuse comes into the equation). On an ideal level it’s about making sure that the wishes of as many people as possible are accommodated. The first incorporates the ‘freedom of art’. The second incorporates the ‘power of art’ (to influence the attitudes and worldviews of those who encounter it). The third is an ideal upon which the discourse and debate around art is founded. While art has often been courted by the (few) powerful to legitimate their power, it has also been enlisted to acknowledge the presence of those (many) to whom power is denied. […] There are still more men than women on this list (58 percent to 42 percent), particularly in its upper reaches, and it is still not as ethnically and globally diverse as the frequently promoted idea of a ‘global artworld’ would suggest. This is a list of influence in art as it is, not an index of how ArtReview’s anonymous panel of selectors might wish it to be. It recognises that the art we are exposed to and that is promoted to us is often the product of a web of networked interests pushing a particular view of the world. Nevertheless, that there is both a desire and a force for change in the structure of the artworld, as much as there is in the structure of society at large, is acknowledged by the presence of the #MeToo movement near the top, and by the presence of artists such as Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker, and thinkers such as Gayatri Spivak and Simon Njami, who are seeking to diversify and expand the idea of contemporary art and its histories, while simultaneously highlighting its longer-term blindnesses. Their power, of course, is in part an acknowledgement that such efforts are a work in progress, even as museums and commercial galleries around the world begin to build up narratives of art history that include diverse genders, geographies, ethnicities and the historical contexts that generate these. […] It is only by acknowledging and understanding the systems of power that structure our engagement with the world that we can hope effectively to change them. And it is ArtReview’s belief that art remains one of the best stages from which to fight the status quo.
Adrianna eu Afonso Tostes Alan Fontes Alexandre Mazza Alexandre Sequeira Almandrade Armando Queiroz Bruno Miguel Carolina Ponte Daniel Escobar Daniel Lannes
sp-arte/2019 3 - 7 april pavilhão da bienal / são paulo / brazil
Eduardo Kac Fernando Lindote Gê Orthof Gisele Camargo Igor Vidor Güler Ates Ivan Grilo João Louro Jeanete Musatti Lucas Simões Marcelo Solá Marina Camargo
Luciana Caravello Arte Contemporânea Rua Barão de Jaguaripe, 387 - Ipanema, RJ www.lucianacaravello.com.br
Marina Perez Simão Nazareno Paula Trope Pedro Varela Ricardo Villa
ART DUBAI CONTEMPORARY ADDIS FINE ART, Addis Ababa · AGIAL ART, Beirut · AICON ART, New York · AKAR PRAKAR, Kolkata / New Delhi · ANDERSEN’S, Copenhagen · ASPAN, Almaty · PIERO ATCHUGARRY, Pueblo Garzón / Miami · ATHR, Jeddah · ATISS DAKAR, Dakar · AYYAM, Dubai · CARBON 12, Dubai · GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Havana · CUSTOT, Dubai · DASTAN’S BASEMENT, Tehran · ERTI, Tbilisi · EXPERIMENTER, Kolkata · ISABELLE VAN DEN EYNDE, Dubai · GAZELLI ART HOUSE, Baku / London · GREEN ART GALLERY, Dubai · GROSVENOR, London · HAFEZ, Jeddah · LEILA HELLER, Dubai / New York · KRISTIN HJELLEGJERDE, London / Berlin · IN SITU-FABIENNE LECLERC, Paris · MICHAEL JANSSEN, Berlin · DR. DOROTHEA VAN DER KOELEN, Mainz / Venice · KORNFELD, Berlin · KRINZINGER, Vienna · ANNA LAUDEL, Istanbul · LAWRIE SHABIBI, Dubai · CHRISTIAN LETHERT, Cologne · MAM, Douala · MEEM, Dubai · VICTORIA MIRO, London / Venice · FRANCO NOERO, Turin · OFFICINE DELL’IMMAGINE, Milan · ORBITAL DAGO, Bandung · OTA FINE ARTS, Shangai / Singapore / Tokyo · GIORGIO PERSANO, Turin · PRIMO MARELLA, Milan / Lugano · PROJECT ARTBEAT, Tbilisi · RONCHINI, London · THE ROOSTER, Vilnius · ROSENFELD PORCINI, London · SANATORIUM, Istanbul · SEISMASUNO, Madrid · SFEIR-SEMLER, Beirut / Hamburg · SMAC, Johannesburg / Cape Town / Stellenbosch · FILOMENA SOARES, Lisbon · SPRÜTH MAGERS, Berlin / London / Los Angeles · WALTER STORMS, Munich · TORE SUESSBIER, Berlin · TEMPLON, Paris / Brussels · THE THIRD LINE, Dubai · VOICE, Marrakech · WADI FINAN, Amman · ZAWYEH, Ramallah · ZIDOUN-BOSSUYT, Luxembourg · ZILBERMAN, Istanbul / Berlin BAWWABA · Curated by Élise Atangana 856G, Mandaue City – Kristoffer Ardeña · AICON CONTEMPORARY, New York – Adeela Suleman · ANNE-SARAH BÉNICHOU, Paris – Chourouk Hriech · CANVAS, Karachi – Hamra Abbas · GUZO ART PROJECTS, Addis Ababa – Wanja Kimani · GYPSUM, Cairo – Gözde İlkin · EMMANUEL HERVÉ, Paris – Sérgio Sister · JHAVERI CONTEMPORARY, Mumbai – Shezad Dawood · PERVE GALERIA, Lisbon – José Chambel · VERMELHO, São Paulo – Marcelo Moscheta RESIDENTS · Curated by Fernanda Brenner & Munira Al Sayegh A GENTIL CARIOCA, Rio de Janeiro – Laura Lima · PIERO ATCHUGARRY, Pueblo Garzón / Miami – Verónica Vázquez · BARRO, Buenos Aires – Nicanor Aráoz · RUTH BENZACAR, Buenos Aires – Luciana Lamothe · CASA TRIÂNGULO, São Paulo – Rodolpho Parigi · GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Havana – José Manuel Mesías · INSTITUTO DE VISIÓN, Bogotá – Mazenett Quiroga · MENDES WOOD DM, São Paulo / Brussels / New York – Luiz Roque · GALERIA PILAR, São Paulo – Flora Rebollo · REVOLVER, Lima / Buenos Aires – Jerry B. Martin · SERVANDO, Havana – Luis Enrique López-Chávez · LUISA STRINA, São Paulo – Alexandre da Cunha ART DUBAI MODERN DAG, New Delhi / Mumbai / New York · DHOOMIMAL GALLERY, New Delhi · ELMARSA GALLERY, Tunis / Dubai · GROSVENOR GALLERY, London · MARK HACHEM, Beirut / Paris / New York · HAFEZ GALLERY, Jeddah · GALLERY ONE, Ramallah · PERVE GALERIA, Lisbon · SANCHIT ART, New Delhi · TAFETA, London · UBUNTU ART GALLERY, Cairo
207th Exhibition 3 to 18 April 2019 10am to 5pm daily
Over 400 contemporary works in watercolour FREE to browse and buy ENTRY
with this voucher
The Mall, London SW1 www.mallgalleries.org.uk
Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon Handsworth Self Portrait - 40 Years On 23 March – 2 June Part of a free season of photography at Midlands Arts Centre this Spring.
‘Then & Now’ a new 170 page hardback book relating the fascinating story of the RI from its inception up to the present day, will be available to buy at the exhibition.
Royal Photographic Society International Photography Exhibition - IPE 161 Sat 30 March – Sun 12 May
Image: David A Parfitt RI Autumn Water (detail)
Kate Holt Brave -The Girls of South Sudan Sat 30 March – Sun 19 May macbirmingham.co.uk
0121 446 3232 Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) Cannon Hill Park Birmingham, B12 9QH Registered company no 718349 Registered charity no 528979
Photo from Handsworth Self Portrait (1979) © Bishton, Homer & Reardon
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Photograph taken at Cattle Depot
Participating Galleries # 10 Chancery Lane 303 Gallery 47 Canal A Miguel Abreu Acquavella Aike Alisan Anomaly Antenna Space Applicat-Prazan Arario Alfonso Artiaco Artinformal Aye B Balice Hertling Beijing Art Now Beijing Commune Bergamin & Gomide Bernier/Eliades Blindspot Blum & Poe Boers-Li Tanya Bonakdar Isabella Bortolozzi Ben Brown Gavin Brown Buchholz C Gisela Capitain Cardi Carlos/Ishikawa Chambers Chemould Prescott Road Yumiko Chiba Chi-Wen Sadie Coles HQ Contemporary Fine Arts Continua Paula Cooper Pilar Corrias Alan Cristea Chantal Crousel D Thomas Dane Massimo De Carlo
de Sarthe Dirimart du Monde E Eigen + Art Eslite Gallery Exit Experimenter Selma Feriani Fortes D‘Aloia & Gabriel Fox/Jensen G Gagosian Gajah gb agency Gladstone Gmurzynska Goodman Gallery Marian Goodman Gow Langsford Bärbel Grässlin Richard Gray Greene Naftali Karsten Greve Grotto H Hakgojae Hanart TZ Hauser & Wirth Herald St Max Hetzler Hive Xavier Hufkens I Ingleby Ink Studio Taka Ishii J Annely Juda K Kaikai Kiki Kalfayan Karma International Kasmin Sean Kelly Tina Keng
Kerlin König Galerie David Kordansky Tomio Koyama Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Andrew Kreps Krinzinger Kukje kurimanzutto L Pearl Lam Simon Lee Leeahn Lehmann Maupin Lelong Lévy Gorvy Liang Lin & Lin Lisson Long March Luhring Augustine Luxembourg & Dayan M Maggiore Magician Space Mai 36 Edouard Malingue Matthew Marks Mazzoleni Fergus McCaffrey Greta Meert Urs Meile Mendes Wood DM kamel mennour Metro Pictures Meyer Riegger Francesca Minini Victoria Miro Mitchell-Innes & Nash Mizuma Modern Art The Modern Institute mother‘s tankstation N nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder Nadi Nagel Draxler
Richard Nagy Nanzuka Taro Nasu neugerriemschneider nichido Anna Ning Franco Noero O Nathalie Obadia OMR One and J. Lorcan O‘Neill Ora-Ora Ota Roslyn Oxley9 P P.P.O.W Pace Pace Prints Paragon Peres Projects Perrotin Petzel Pi Artworks PKM Plan B R Almine Rech Regen Projects Nara Roesler ROH Projects Tyler Rollins Thaddaeus Ropac Rossi & Rossi Lia Rumma S SCAI The Bathhouse Esther Schipper Rüdiger Schöttle ShanghART ShugoArts Side 2 Sies + Höke Silverlens Skarstedt Soka Sprüth Magers Starkwhite
STPI Sullivan+Strumpf T Take Ninagawa Tang Templon The Third Line This Is No Fantasy dianne tanzer + nicola stein TKG+ Tokyo Gallery + BTAP Tornabuoni Two Palms V Vadehra Van de Weghe Vitamin W Waddington Custot Wentrup Michael Werner White Cube White Space Beijing Barbara Wien Jocelyn Wolff Y Yavuz Z Zeno X Zilberman David Zwirner
Mind Set Pifo Star Yuka Tsuruno Watanuki / Toki-noWasuremono Wooson Yamaki Discoveries 1335Mabini A+ Contemporary Sabrina Amrani Christian Andersen Capsule Château Shatto Commonwealth and Council Crèvecoeur Ghebaly High Art Hopkinson Mossman hunt kastner Jhaveri JTT Maho Kubota Emanuel Layr Michael Lett MadeIn mor charpentier Nova Contemporary Project Native Informant Société Tabula Rasa Tarq Vanguard
Insights A Thousand Plateaus Asia Art Center Bank Baton Beyond Dastan‘s Basement Don Empty Gallery Espace Fost Hunsand Space Yoshiaki Inoue Johyun Richard Koh
March 29 – 31, 2019 201_AR_Art Basel.indd 201
The first 40 years of our life give the text, the next 30 furnish the commentary on it 141
Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. National Gallery Singapore 16 November – 14 April ArtScience Museum Singapore 16 November – 14 April By the time I left this enormous, double-venue exhibition featuring over 150 works, I no longer had the faintest clue as to what ‘Minimalism’ means. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Art can be at its most powerful when it unsettles rather than affirms. Particularly in the context of the current fetish for retelling art’s histories and reexamining old tales from different points of view, a trend of which this – billed as the first survey of minimalist art to be staged in Southeast Asia, and the first exhibition on the subject to incorporate art from the region under the Minimalism brand – is selfconsciously a part. The exhibition at the National Gallery (where around 120 works are housed) begins traditionally enough, with some of the precursors to the heyday of New York Minimalism during the 1960s, albeit paintings (variations on the theme of black, largely from the late 1950s) by Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Frank Stella are grouped together in the opening corridor of the show in such a cramped way that the ultimate sensation is that the curators simply wanted to dispense with art-historical givens as quickly as possible. Further in we come across works by the stars of the gang – Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Robert Morris – but by then the territory has been expanded, both geographically and temporally. We start to encounter works by Tang Da Wu, Lee Seungtaek, Lee Ufan (and a section on Mono-ha), Roberto Chabet, Rasheed Araeen, Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, Richard Long, Mona Hatoum and Olafur Eliasson. Some, such as three works from Haegue Yang’s Sol LeWitt Upside Down series (2017), made up of white mass-produced Venetian blinds and riffing off LeWitt’s concerns with linearity, seriality and modularity, make self-conscious reference to precedents from the Western canon. (Although the fact that the South Korean’s works are supported by walls or ceilings, rather than freestanding as are LeWitt’s structures, and hung upside down might be seen as an oblique insistence on some form of contextual difference.) Others, such
as self-taught Myanmar artist Po Po’s Red Cube (1986), come from somewhere else altogether. The work comprises a red oil painting that might, given its tonal variations, suggest two faces of a cube, the one face with a hole in it, hung at an angle above a pile of gneiss rocks. It’s informed by an interest in subverting the traditional viewing of paintings as portrait or landscape as well as Zen and Theravada Buddhism (Buddhist monks are known to retire to the jungle and build stone pagodas to focus the attention). In the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, the artist asserts that he had never even heard of Minimalism when he created the work (until late 1988 the country was relatively isolated). At moments like this (and there are several), you wonder whether the New York version of Minimalism needed to be addressed at all. But other works in the exhibition build on and complicate such ambiguities. A selection from Simryn Gill’s photographic series My Own Private Angkor (2007–09) documents a compound of abandoned houses, built during the 1980s, in Port Dickson on Malaysia’s west coast. Each image features rectangular panes of glass, bright when the sun shines on or through them, dark when it does not, that have been removed from their window settings so that they could be stripped of their valuable aluminium frames. Apparently without value, they are carefully rested against walls or balconies. To a degree, the panes of glass and their bare architectural setting offer a formal echo of the opening hang of Newmans and Reinhardts, but the situation Gill documents is found, rather than constructed (albeit the photographs are), and speaks to the passage of time, economics, recycling and ruination in an equatorial context: the kind of factors that Minimalism of the hardcore 1960s variety would see as external to the artwork. While the exhibition might be arguing for Minimalism as a global movement, Gill’s work insists that regional specificity has a role to play. If New York Minimalism was about pulling down the blinds on anything external to the work of art, this kind of Minimalism is open to the world.
facing page, top Po Po, Red Cube, 1986, oil on canvas, paper collage and gneiss, 218 × 154 × 50 cm. © Hla Oo and Po Po. Courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery, Singapore
Within the context of both parts of the exhibition, but in the display in the ArtScience museum in particular, that notion is further pursued by the staging of Minimalism as something grounded in Asian spirituality and religion. The Rig Veda is quoted in wall texts, the teachings of the Buddha more openly evoked. Again, the fact that such philosophies have a much deeper history than Minimalism itself somewhat begs the question of why Minimalism (rather than, say, Asian mysticism, which also had an influence on many minimalists in the us and Europe) provides the framework for the show. More successful is a direct attempt to document the historic contribution of women artists (among them Simone Forti, Mary Miss, Carmen Herrera) into the expanded narrative of what is largely a male preserve. As is an expansive mini-exhibition of soundworks: an important reminder that Minimalism, as displayed here, was operative across disciplines (dance and performance are included in the National Gallery) as well as across time and space. There’s a sense, given the expanded chronology, geography and substance of the works in both institutions, that this show fits into a wider theme of destabilising the past (in terms of its accepted narratives and geography) in order better to understand our unstable present. On the other hand, its sheer inclusivity can at times mean that Minimalism seems to mean nothing because it seems to mean everything. To the extent that you wonder if all this ‘blockbuster exhibition’ really demonstrates is Minimalism’s brand value. No more so than in an iteration of Martin Creed’s Work no. 1343 (2012) installed in the National Gallery café. The work incorporates a mishmash of furniture, utensils and receptacles (‘visitors are invited to contribute their own wares to the artwork as long as they are in good condition’) within the framework of the existing refectory. On the menu: a Pu’er Mousse Cake inspired by Ai Weiwei’s Ton of Tea (2008) and the Infinity Drink – ‘an invigorating blend of ginger flower, lemon, mint and soda’. Mark Rappolt
facing page, bottom Olafur Eliasson, Room for one colour, 1997 (installation view, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2015), monochromatic light, dimensions variable. Photo: Anders Sune Berg. © the artist. Courtesy the artist, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York & Los Angeles
Wang Bing Kunsthalle Zürich 8 December – 3 February Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing makes documentaries that closely observe their people, employing extraordinary physical proximity given the artist’s long, unhurried regard. Two of the relatively small number of works he has produced since 2002, played successively on a single screen, make up his Kunsthalle Zürich exhibition: Mrs. Fang (2018), in an extended version of the film first shown at Documenta 14 in 2017; and Man with No Name from 2009. The latter, 99 minutes long, follows a man subsisting in rudimentary shelters dug into and built out of rural land outside Beijing that is alternately muddy and dusty, which he cultivates for his food. Mrs. Fang observes the eponymous subject and her acquaintances for 102 minutes as she lies on her deathbed, her surrounding family and neighbours passing the time chatting, watching television, examining their phones and making illegal nighttime forays into electrofishing. Wang’s apparently unfettered access to his subjects suggests most of them have absolute trust in the filmmaker and his colleagues, to the degree that the camera is generally ignored.
He records inside the man’s small, abject shelters, watches dirt-smeared hands prepare food and make repairs; we see inescapable mud in the fabric of everything, deliberate movements, moments of stillness and occasional inexplicably violent gestures. The man speaks rarely, and when he does it’s seemingly not to anyone in particular. Distant traffic can be heard from time to time, but as the seasons pass the man’s universe remains tiny. All his accoutrements are broken or worn, plastic bags pile up around his cooking pot and his chopsticks are twigs, yet his actions suggest that he has a place and purpose for all the things around him. Mrs Fang, on the other hand, could not have consented to this film: in the short opening section, during which she considers the camera, she is already silenced by dementia. Cut to a year later and she is skeletal, lying under a duvet cover with her mouth apart and eyes open but rarely focused. Communication seems impossible, so her children monitor her pulse and try to raise a reaction from her. When she rolls to one side, hands gather her back to a safe position. Life goes on while she is stuck in limbo.
Both films are portraits, though their greatest revelations come through effectively turning a mirror on the viewer. The sight is neither pretty nor comfortable. Wang makes us consider poverty long after we would like to look away. The gallery viewer is manifest proof of inequality of income and prospect. We are enjoying health, at least relatively, and clear perception as life seeps out of Mrs Fang. Greater understanding may bring greater respect, but the artist also illuminates the yawning gaps in that understanding. While all of us on earth must live and die, our perspectives are utterly different; sensitivity to the plight of others absolves us of nothing. In our Western ivory towers (and if ever there was an ivory tower city, it’s Zürich) we bemoan the plastic that litters the world – and the man’s mud dwellings – while enjoying its convenience. We may wince at the sight of scales being scraped off a still-living fish, yet Wang’s cast are trawling polluted backwaters for the few fish that survive the industrialisation, fed by European buyers, that is all around them. Thus he collapses the distance between us and them while ensuring we know, nonetheless, how far apart we remain. Aoife Rosenmeyer
Man with No Name (still), 2009, hd film, colour, sound, 97 min. Courtesy the artist and Chantal Crousel, Paris
Camilla Vuorenmaa Roses, Black Birds and Witches Helsinki Contemporary 11 January – 3 February In light of recent online witch hunts, we could argue that new communication technologies have, for all their enjoyable benefits, not led to a more civilised society. Such a claim would be supported by the paintings of Camilla Vuorenmaa, which depict the persistence of mythic thinking and folklore in contemporary life. Roses, Black Birds and Witches presents 13 paintings on wood, gouged into with chisels, produced by the Finnish artist during a yearlong stay in the Govanhill district of Glasgow: the rough-hewn effect and traditionalist approach, though, only thinly veils a pictorial sensitivity that alludes to current media trends and horror films as well as myth and witchcraft. Vuorenmaa’s triumvirate of witches (Witch 1, Witch 2 and Witch 3, all works 2018) appear as ghoulish, awkward and imposing figures, occupying their wooden grounds – each measuring 160 × 60 cm – as if hunched in prison cells, clothed in white with blue decorative patterns taken from details that the artist says she found while walking in Scottish cemeteries during her stay in Glasgow. As stated in the press release,
the series is intended both as a self-portrait and a representation of the ‘three wise monkeys’ motif, and in addition to considering the artist’s ‘relationship with morals or double standards’, the Witch sequence might also be interpreted as a reflection on (the perceived absence of) wisdom in the age of the meme. In a further exploration of the predilection for fantastical thinking and irrationality in twenty-first-century society, Zombie draws on the legend of the ‘Gorbals vampire’, an iron-toothed monster that in 1954 terrorised the schoolchildren of Glasgow. The painting features a childlike figure with arms outstretched, its body composed of deeply chiselled hatching, outlined in a dayglo pink. As with many of Vuorenmaa’s figures, the subject’s eyes stand out, coallike and rendered from just a few marks, evoking the late style of Old Masters such as Rembrandt in their offhand eloquence. In the background the artist depicts a repeated pattern of symbols found, while out walking, on the walls of the Connal building – a historic warehouse in Glasgow – including a ship, a pig’s head and an insect.
The melancholy of the paintings is complemented by the aggression of the artist’s rough scoring into the wood and her sensitively applied brushstrokes. In Blue eye she depicts a woman wearing a white blouse featuring a dense network of images drawn in black, including stars and a blackbird. The title derives from the Finnish expression sinisilmäinen, which literally means blue-eyed but also signifies someone who is overly credulous, and was inspired by Maggie Smith’s performance in the 1969 film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as a rebellious schoolteacher in Edinburgh whose naive ideals are at odds with society. Brodie is in a sense the everywoman who is persecuted for acting with the best of intentions. The figure in the painting, with a cherryred mouth and a tear running down her grey face, appears both sinister and kindly and is intended, the artist told me, to evoke the plight of witches; the phrase ‘witch hunt’, of course, is now applied to the mob ‘justice’ and personal attacks meted out on social media. This work, like Vuorenmaa’s oeuvre as a whole, is so densely packed with cuts and strokes as to be dizzying and claustrophobic, yet somehow never overbearing. Mike Watson
Blue eye, 2018, painting and carving on wood, 115 × 119 cm. Phot0: Jussi Tiainen. Courtesy the artist
Éntomos Prague City Gallery, Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace, Prague 21 November – 3 March The Czech artist Anna Hulačová and her Hungarian contemporary Zsófia Keresztes, both sculptors, share some grounding ideas; they express them, though, in quite different ways. One mutual reference point for their eerie sculptures is Surrealism, and the proto-Surrealist fantasies of Hieronymus Bosch, especially The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490–1500), clearly influence Keresztes’s lurid visions. And that Prague Surrealism, still underappreciated outside the Czech Republic, inspires both artists is made clear by the inclusion of František Janoušek (1890–1943), a significant figure in the movement, to anchor their work in classic Surrealist practice. Éntomos, named after ἔντομον, the Ancient Greek word for ‘dissection’, ‘insect’ or ‘to offer as a (sacrificial) victim’, places the sculptures of Hulačová and Keresztes alongside Janoušek’s energetic illustrations for Life of the Bee (1901) by the Belgian Symbolist poet Maurice Maeterlinck. The magnificent seventeenthcentury Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace is an appropriate location: Janoušek’s drawings are part of the Prague City Gallery collection housed here, and the building’s Baroque interiors contrast Hulačová and Keresztes’s wild imagination. Hulačová’s work has changed in recent years. Earlier pieces like Cult of Personality (2016) use wood and honeycombs, but she’s recently moved towards concrete sculptures and pencil drawings. Despite this shift, her sculptures still contain recognisably organic figures: human bodies, insects, plantlike things. Their sombre tone has
a darkly humorous edge as her characters appear in the colours of pale flesh, ghostly apparitions or grey brutalist architecture. Portrait with an Ant (2017), for example, looks from some angles like a typical bust, with shoulders, a neck, ears and hair made from pale pink ceramic with white streaks. Yet the face, or lack of it, is a shock, replaced with an almost blank white digital print, a single ant crawling across what would once have been a forehead. This work sets the tone for Hulačová’s other works, in which human body parts are replaced with consumer goods. A piece from the series Ascension Mark I (2017), first shown at Frieze London, is just one example of a tool – a rotary shaver – taking the place of a hollowed-out human head. The creature in Praying Mantis and Rotary Shaver (2017), a glass box containing these figures made of Super Sculpey polymer clay, glares menacingly out at the viewer, perched on top of the shaver like a conquered enemy. Keresztes, meanwhile, is not inspired by humanity’s relation to nature, but virtual reality. She makes nebulous, fluid creatures from ghoulishly pink, yellow and violet glass mosaic tiles, resembling natural oddities from a horticulturalist’s dreams mixed with interior design features from the imperial baths in Budapest. The Safety of Distance (2018) is in portrait format, hanging on the wall, but stubby tentacles protrude from the picture plane as if reaching out from a portal to another dimension. Altar (Sharing Our Final Belongings) (2018) is a strange
creature, like a monument honouring the third gender of ‘androgynous creatures, with both male and female elements, descended from the moon’ described in Aristophanes’s speech from Plato’s Symposium. Two congealed, lumbering slabs of bio-matter appear to hover just aboveground. They have horn- or earlike appendages at the top, and a lolling yellow tongue dangling just between their ‘heads’. Though the two halves form one creature, they are constrained by orange ropes with dollops of liquid hanging from the bottom. There are points in the middle where the creature’s clumpy ‘arms’ and ‘legs’ are coiled with rope and swollen like clotted flesh. Hulačová and Keresztes’s works stand and fall with the current fashionable interest in the Anthropocene. Though this makes their interventions timely, they are both joining and competing with many other artists in questioning whether it is even worth representing human bodies in any conventional sense. The stakes of this kind of work are, nevertheless, shared by all of us, since we all face unprecedented conditions. Not only are we all overwhelmed by ‘cyberblitz’, but the whole species is threatened by ecological crisis, which has already seriously damaged the insect and bee populations necessary to support natural life as we know it. Portrait with an Ant and Altar…, in particular, ask if the reimagination and reconfiguration of organic life is a threat or, perhaps, something to be embraced as a way to survive impending disaster. Max L. Feldman
Anna Hulačová, Portrait with an Ant, 2017, ceramic, digital print mounted on metal sheet. Photo: Michal Czanderle. Courtesy the artist
Raquel van Haver Spirits of the Soil Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 25 November – 7 April Born in Colombia but adopted at an early age by a Dutch couple, Raquel van Haver grew up in the Bijlmer, historically a ‘difficult’ neighbourhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam. This mixed cultural background also seems reflected in the subject matter of her work: van Haver feels at home not only in the Bijlmer but also in places like Trinidad, Surinam, Cuba and Nigeria, whose urban life she has portrayed in great detail in her work. On fieldtrips to these countries, she’s taken thousands of pictures of various forms of street life. In the opening room of this show, for example, she uses and rearranges photos taken during a residency in Lagos into colourful, kaleidoscopic collages that capture the dynamics of that metropolis: images of passersby, ethnic masks, dice or a bottle of local beer are all assembled and then scanned, delineated against a black background by fluorescent colours. All of this could be seen as, and serves as, a prelude for her paintings, also based on myriad photos but made according to an idiosyncratic expanded-painting technique. Van Haver augments oil on canvas with bits of burlap, cardboard or chalk, giving her
compositions remarkable texture and physicality and blurring the line between painting and sculpture. At times, the works recall basreliefs. Yet van Haver does not pay tribute to, say, military generals, instead focusing on the man in the crowd who has to scrape to make a living, but who, judging from the paintings, seems to embrace life while doing so. Take Dem Smoke and Blaze under Royal regime (all works 2018), the first painting in the show, a dynamic scene of a group of men sitting on plastic chairs while drinking and smoking. Central in the composition is a table, filled with bottles of beer and packets of cigarettes, including real butts glued to the canvas. Van Haver also folds in tar, plastic, charcoal, even fake hair – materials one does not immediately associate with painting – with which she almost seems to sculpt elements in her compositions and manages to impart a spatial and highly tactile dimension to the flat canvas. Though one can still clearly see the frame’s rectangular form, bits of the canvas exceed it, reinforcing the painting’s makeshift appearance. The same applies to The eyes must be Obeyed… One 1000 Soldiers with One 1000 Dices. When They Start Make you no go Anywhere, a lively rendering
of people drinking and chatting in front of a refreshment kiosk, or Change the Rhythm of the Dancehall… It’s Still the Same Groove, which captures a moment of euphoria during a party, parts of the dancers’ hands protruding from the canvas. The exhibition builds towards a grand finale in the last room, where a black wooden construction, a kind of stage onto which one can climb to observe the compositions in detail, is specially made for the three paintings on view. Not just a scenographic trick or a way of reinforcing the metaphor of the theatre of street life, this serves as a spatial apparatus for giving the work the attention it deserves. This especially holds true for We do not sleep as we parade all through the Night…, which not only impresses by its monumental size (9.2 by 4 m) but also by the vivacity of the scene around a long table where people – young, old, of various skin colours – eat, drink, fight and play in a vernacular variant on Leonardo’s The Last Supper (c. 1490). Though van Haver’s subject matter is not boundless – variations on the theme of community and street life – the work doesn’t bore for a second, thanks to the way her inventive play with material reinforces the dynamism of her subject matter. Sam Steverlynck
Spirits of the Soil, 2018 (installation view, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam). Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. Courtesy the artist
Melike Kara Speaking in Tongues Jan Kaps, Cologne 14 December – 10 February Melike Kara uses her first gallery show in her hometown of Cologne to question everything that ‘home’ means to her. Born and raised in Germany, she’s also part of a Kurdish Alevi family forced to flee Turkey because of the persecution of their culture. Nestling in a cross-media arrangement of works, the highly personal video Emine (all works 2018) portrays the artist’s grandmother from a respectful distance. The old lady, marked by life, moves unsurely through her own home: Alzheimer’s is gradually erasing her awareness of her identity. With this loss, meanwhile, goes part of the family’s Kurdish identity, as Emine is the only one who still speaks Zazaki, the language of their homeland in eastern Turkey. The wall piece fal (a) bakmak (‘reading coffee grounds’) also refers to the grandmother, siting her as keeper of Kurdish rites. About 300 mocha cups are embedded into a wall in a huge grid. Each cup contains, indeed, coffee grounds, whose portents the exhibition’s visitors – unlike Kara’s grandmother, who practises tasseomancy – probably won’t be able to read. It’s not only the past that dims without the grandmother but also the future. Accordingly, fal (a) bakmak light-footedly bridges both identities of the artist as part of a globalised international art
clique and a nearly archaic national community. Pointedly, the coffee grounds of this Turkish magic are embedded in a vocabulary – the grid – that resembles Minimalism, whose universal claim famously marks the beginning of a uniform, transnational form of expression. It’s instructive also to regard the constellations of figures in front of a white background – resembling the paintings for which Kara is best known – as closed societies. Their interactions are opaque to outsiders and their codes inscrutable, which is to some degree the case with both minority ethnic communities and the artworld. And yet there are also explicit hints of the artist’s Kurdish origins in these groups of figures, which merge into homogeneous groups, social bodies, using calculated colour concepts. For example, there’s the fat goat that stares at the viewer in Munzur (like she shapes us), blocking large parts of figures, whose silhouettes barely emerge from the sloppily applied sandy tone of the creature’s fur. The animal here serves again as code for a traditional, antiquated Kurdish lifestyle, with its ritualised goat slaughtering that clearly traumatised the artist at a young age. The pairing of two other paintings stands out. On the right, a group of figures with a goat, Tiefe Schluchten langer Schnee (‘deep canyon, long
snow’), sketched in quick, light brown oil pastel outlines accentuated here and there with washedout pink; on the left, the neatly painted Hacı Bektaş Veli (Hadschi Bektasch Wali), a depiction of a spiritual leader from the thirteenth century, adored by the Alevis. He holds in his arm a miniature stag; on his lap rests a predatory cat. The depiction of the saint reads as a condensed image of the influence on the artist of her heritage and family background. At the same time Hacı Bektaş Veli is a fitting counterpart to the aforementioned video Emine, in which at one point a giant lion is inserted, digitally, into the grandma’s living room. In the stylistically very different Tiefe Schluchten langer Schnee, by contrast, men and goats – both rendered in a profane, expressive vocabulary – are barely distinguishable from each other. The painting brings to mind the artist’s raw, sketchy compositions from four or five years ago and thereby also functions as a guide to the reading of her recent paintings. Kara has refined the distinguishing features of the figures in her constellation, so that now they recall the masks of Noh theatre, which appear near-identical to those unfamiliar with the codes of the form yet reveal subtle differences to those in the know. Moritz Scheper Translated from the German by Liam Tickner
Hacı Bektaş Veli (Hadschi Bektasch Wali), 2018, oil stick and acrylic on canvas, 60 × 50 cm. Courtesy the artist and Jan Kaps, Cologne
Hannah Black Aeter Eden Eden, Berlin 26 November – 2 February Eschewing the traditional press release, Hannah Black’s Aeter is accompanied by six short citations referring to slavery, cannibalism and psychoanalytic countertransference; their link to the work is not immediately discernible. In the centre of the gallery’s ground floor, a pair of clay sculptures, Clay Aeter 1 and Clay Aeter 2 (all works 2018), resemble termite mounds in a process of disassembly. Each is sitting on a plinth. Over the course of the exhibition a gallery worker scrapes handfuls of clay from one to the other, until the first is bare save for its polystyrene support. Then the process begins again in reverse. Intimately entangled – like lovers, or analyst and analysand – each sculpture is always either cannibalising or in the process of being cannibalised. To think one independent of the other does not make sense. Suspended in front of the shuttered gallery windows are three white plastic masks (Shame Mask 1, 2 and 3). Vaguely redolent of tribal artefacts, lengths of jewellery chase through their surfaces like talismans. It is difficult to work out these masks’ function: whether they are made to celebrate and disarm individual shame; or, rather less comfortingly, as a means of excising
it, or passing it on elsewhere. Referring to a passage from the Book of Genesis used historically as slavery’s justification, Curse of Ham 1 is a rectangular, human-height, white advertising banner. Hugging the wall, it has two eyeholes cut into its surface, making it resemble both a perfunctory ghost and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Looking through the holes, suggestive of a two-pronged Étant donnés, we see a piece of paper tacked lightly to the wall behind: a film-still showing the naked figure of the actor Michael Fassbinder in Steve McQueen’s 2011 feature, Shame. Consuming as we look, shame here is the at-times nauseating self-awareness of the gaze. In the projected videoworks Aeter [Sam] and Aeter [Jack], two interviewees recount separate kinds of cannibalism: bone transplant and compulsive nail biting, respectively. Alongside these, three further videoworks, Hey 1, 2 and 3, play out on stocky monitors sitting on the gallery floor. Peering down to look at them, we wait for something to happen. From these flat squares of red, lines of halting text stumble out, like awkward or conciliatory text messages: ‘Hey. Baby. It’s Just. Hey...’ Received on its own as an sms, the word ‘Hey’ can strike fear. It
threatens something more serious or intimate: a breakup, a confession or even a request for help. There is an anthropophagic charge in this waiting: pushed into anxious intimacy, we feel ourselves slowly siphoned away too. The psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott claimed that, in order to treat a psychotic patient, the analyst needs to create the conditions for them to grow up. For the analyst, this infantilisation can breed hate, and, as a result of that hate, shame. Given Black’s status as a woman of colour in an overwhelmingly white artworld, this idea is productive; even more so as an artist known to vocalise the failings of that same world, prompting it towards a kind of adulthood. The Situation (2017–18), an orderly pile of ash placed atop a small pile of carpet, refuses the terms of this exchange. Sharing its name with a book made from (already partially redacted) conversations with Black’s peers, and shown as part of her 2017 solo show Some Context at the Chisenhale Gallery, London, in which viewers were invited to shred the volume, this new work seems to say, and without shame: whatever the book said is no longer being communicated – at all. Rebecca O’Dwyer
Aeter, 2018 (installation view). Courtesy the artist, Eden Eden, Berlin, and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
After Babel Annex M, Athens 5 December – 10 March In ‘The Library of Babel’ (1941), Jorge Luis Borges conceived a library that accommodated all possible 410-page books, ‘each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in colour’. Here was a collection that, the library’s inhabitants believed, included every intelligible book that could ever be written. After Babel, curated by Anna Kafetsi as the second part of a trilogy of exhibitions under the title ‘The Unwritten Library’ at AnnexM, takes Borges’s short story as a starting point to reconsider the basic parameters that define what a book is. Take for example Nina Papaconstantinou’s Mourning Diary (2016): the drawing, presented in a series of table display cases, is made by filling the spaces separating the words in Roland Barthes’s 1977 text. Literally interpreting the expression ‘between the lines’, the work emphasises that the pages of a book are also filled with material and metaphorical absences or gaps. In a mesmerising 36-minute video (Bookworks Revisited 1986), Ulises Carrión delivers
a visual and spoken commentary on his personal archive of artist books, presenting them in front of the camera and pronouncing the author’s name and the title while flipping through their pages. In doing so Carrión argues that an archive of artist books could be an artwork in itself, like a collection of diverse artistic personalities – another little Babel, just to stay on subject. The exhibition also considers the idea that books are the site of cultural revolutions, as elaborated by Michael Mandiberg in his Print Wikipedia (2009–16). The work is conceived around the idea of printing the online encyclopaedia in a series of volumes, a small selection of which are displayed on bookshelves while the spines of the missing copies are reproduced to scale on wallpaper covering a lofty room. The idea in itself might feel like an excessive simplification of the revolutionary collective endeavour that Wikipedia has come to represent. Yet the scale of the ‘poetic gesture’, so to speak, is instead impressive and useful in visualising how technology transformed the form and
function of books. Benny Brunner’s film The Great Book Robbery (2007–12) prompts gloomier considerations by telling the story of books looted from the houses of Palestinian refugees in 1948 and indefinitely held in the National Library of Israel under the label ‘Abandoned Property’. The documentary looks at a collection of 70,000 books hijacked by conflict and turned into symbols of loss and dispossession. Designed as a labyrinthine sequence of halls and corridors, After Babel is laid out in spaces that cleverly respond to the monumental architecture of the library described in Borges’s story. At the same time the show accommodates the perspective of the 25 participating artists to create a place in which books are regarded as something more than a technology for the dissemination of ideas through written language. The result steers away from the systematic and logical principles that organised Borges’s Library, towards a boisterous multitude of voices that itself deserves to be called a Babel. Michelangelo Corsaro
Michael Mandiberg, Print Wikipedia (detail), 2009–16, in situ installation, wall print, shelves, books. Courtesy the artist
Haroon Mirza reality is somehow what we expect it to be Ikon, Birmingham 30 November – 24 February Haroon Mirza develops concepts of coherence, idea-transmissibility and cross-connectivity at their most lateral; being unable to scan the qr code for this exhibition’s audio guide using my 2005 cell phone suggests that I might, in this respect, have to up my game. Mirza is known for tapping into led lights to eavesdrop on their electrical workings: deprived of in-ear commentary, eavesdropping in the space seems the best alternative, which no doubt chimes with Mirza’s interest in fostering acoustical primacy in a culture he has called ‘ocularcentric’. An overheard rallying cry from students touring the show confirms Mirza’s point: “wow, look!” brought a group to peer into the led-lit depths of a watery dustbin straddled by a mangled, water-triggered Casio sa-21 keyboard – just one element of An_Infinato (2009). That work – as well as its antecedent, Taka Tak (2008), also here – emerges from an era that saw the term ‘circuit-bending’ popularised through Reed Ghazala and Nicolas Collins’s instructional tomes advocating the hacking of commercial electronic audio hardware as a means of creating divergent new sounds. The influence is apparent in five silent lightworks, from the led Circuit Composition series (2015–18), resembling waveguide antennae wired with Lecher lines, intermingling dielectric yantras: their deceptive audio cable ‘outputs’ are actually mains power cable inputs for the leds. The circuit-bending ethos serves as a
springboard: Mirza ‘bends’ culture, notably in Taka Tak’s combination of tensions pertaining to Islamic strictures, street cookery and audiovisual technologies, and in An_Infinato’s ‘appropriations’, wherein a 1970s Guy Sherwin film projection electro-optically triggers the aforementioned dustbin-water-keyboard while also shredding the soundtrack accompanying the ‘flocking bats’ scene in Jeremy Deller’s 2003 film Memory Bucket, shown on a neighbouring screen. The elementariness of the appropriations makes them effective building blocks, collectively representing ideas of influence on the artist. Influence, a recurring theme, is also apparent in the inclusion of Channa Horwitz’s scores. A Chamber for Horwitz (2015) draws on her partial Sonakinatography I (1969) score, realised by Mirza as a sequenced colour composition powered by the gallery’s lighting circuit, with the buzzy 50hz harmonics of his trademark sonified led components. These expressions of influence reach their acme with Mirza’s Rules of Appropriation series (and related 2018 pieces) addressing intellectual-property theft by incorporating fake Louis Vuitton accessories within solar-powered electronic melodramas, some paradoxically sporting both copyright and open-source logos. These works are almost conceptual short-circuits: self-referential nuggets born of Louis Vuitton’s own (unsanctioned) derivations of Mirza’s work in a recent window display installed by the Acierta design
company. They raise the question: at what combinatory point do elemental natural principles become intellectual property? A solar-charged smartphone embedded in Power to Instagram (2018) provocatively displays Acierta’s Instagram posting of the suspect exhibit. The tensions in this room culminate in Welcome to the Machine (2018); onto the screen showing an Osman Yousefzada film, documenting Bangladeshi sweatshop machinations, Mirza has taped a soundmaking circuit, functioning as a soundtrack for the film and heard through wireless headphones. Other engagingly referential works are shown, spanning ten years of artistic practice, but it’s interesting to find The National Apavilion of Then and Now exhibited. Originally a sitespecific piece for the 2011 Venice Biennale, it consists of a bright halo of leds suspended from the ceiling of a triangular anechoic dark room with a mesh grille floor (‘No high heels’ warns the entrance sign). The floor is presumably from where the sound emerges: a swelling, phased buzzy hum derived directly from the leds’ electricity. A casual viewer may overlook its essential associations with the Biennale, but its sheer audiovisual thwack remains stunning, approaching Op art as the viewer experiences persistence of vision when the O-ring shuts off, leaving silent darkness and visual disorientation, invariably prompting gallerygoers to vocalise its shape: “oh!” Daniel Wilson
reality is somehow what we expect it to be, 2018 (installation view). Photo: Stuart Whipps. Courtesy the artist and Ikon, Birmingham
Ren Hang Wake Up Together Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool 15 November – 17 February Ren Hang picked up a point-and-shoot camera aged seventeen to relieve the boredom of studying advertising. His photographs are populated by friends, who regularly posed nude in a variety of locations, including indoor settings and in nature. Internationally, such work helped place him in the vanguard of a new generation of photographers prior to his death, aged twentynine, in 2017. His relationship with China was ambivalent, however, where his fearless and playfully explicit images earned him notoriety. Falling foul of the country’s obscenity laws, he was often arrested, and frequently suffered having works defaced or removed from exhibitions. Asked about challenging such taboos in China, he’d said: ‘I don’t intentionally push boundaries, I just do what I do’. Consequences, though, included reduced opportunities for him to exhibit throughout the country. Undeniably, defiantly sexy at times (‘I don’t want others having the impression that Chinese people are robots with no cocks or pussies,’ he remarked to the editor of his 2016 artist monograph), these photographs are far from seedy. This first uk exhibition of his work demonstrates that his
images are instead vibrant and nonjudgemental. They succeed in deftly depicting bare flesh in a fluid, nonhierarchical way; quickly, you cease to notice – or pay much attention to – gender. These are bodies, beautiful and youthful, yes, but it matters little what genitalia they come equipped with. Gender, Ren said, only mattered to him when he was having sex. This exhibition was conceived shortly before the artist’s death, and one wonders what he would have made of the resulting presentation, particularly the omission of some of his more graphic works. When asked, the gallery said this was a decision based on the delicate balance between Wake Up Together and the other exhibition on show here, Robin Hammond’s Where Love Is Illegal (stories of the oppression of people identifying as lgbtqi+). The strapline for the pairing, ‘Two bodies of work pushing for the right to exist in our own skin on our own terms’, leads one to question whether showing Ren Hang as intended might have been a better option. Those that do make the cut, however, confirm that there is more to Ren’s work than simple shock value. In one photograph, we see
a woman in profile, whose strands of hair, like tendrils, surreally meld with a mass of foliage. In another, almost stranger still, a reptile is perched on the shoulder of a young man. Here the artist is experimenting with art history, beginning to extend his reach. And while there is a glossy immediacy common to the works, perhaps carried over from his time shooting for the likes of Gucci, nowhere does this read as masking a lack of depth. Rather, it is considered and challenging. In a far-from-free society, where ‘pornographic images’ are banned, a couple pose naked and defiant on a rooftop. Another photograph sees a head floating amid lily pads, serene; the woman’s hair is wet and slicked to her head, her red lipstick untroubled. The strangeness of this composition is striking. One of the most powerfully evocative photographs places a female figure in the foreground, standing before a wintry expanse. In the distance are trees; leaves shed, they are as naked as she is. But far from suggesting vulnerability or exposure, this scene is rich with elemental wonder and, somehow, arrival. Mike Pinnington
Wake Up Together, 2018 (installation view). Photo: Scott Charlesworth. Courtesy Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool
Gareth Cadwallader Half-Lowered Eyelids Josh Lilley Gallery, London 18 January – 16 February The pressure on artists today to explain themselves in simple propositions means that painters increasingly feel obliged to demonstrate that they are, in fact, postpainters by incorporating text, cinema, performance or any other medium more legible to contemporary audiences. This exhibition of small landscapes, still lifes and portraits by Gareth Cadwallader offers a reminder of how, instead of importing it from other sources, paintings can generate meaning through the pure act of picturing. This meaning is not declarative, but instead consists in the organisation of colour and form to express a set of principles about art and its relationship to reality. The paintings, each measuring around 25 × 30 cm, are hung without frames across two floors of Josh Lilley Gallery. They describe tightly choreographed scenes in what appears initially to be a precise photorealist style: in Egg (2017–18) a woman leans over a glass table-top with a curved edge counterpointed in the opposite corner of the canvas by the slant of books on a shelf; in Pile of Oranges (2017) a man stands in a clearing with his arm extended over the pyramid of bright oranges positioned in the centre of the frame on top of a table draped in white cloth. Each structural element in these paintings is fixed to a simple underlying schematic, creating an impression of compositional stability that is complicated by the altogether more hallucinogenic treatment of detail. So the nightmarish forest visible through a window
behind the woman resembles a pulsing knot of tendrils interleaved by shards of prismatic colour, while the ground beneath the man’s feet is a whorled current like the flickering surface of the sea when the sun is low. The box trees and conifers interrupting the rolling hillsides of Trees (2017), meanwhile, are on closer inspection constructed from tessellating geometric shapes in lambent blues, yellows and greens. Those interlocking forms resemble passages from Paul Klee’s Burggarten or Cityscape with Yellow Windows (both 1919) and call to mind Paul Cézanne’s advice to Émile Bernard that he ‘treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone’. And, indeed, those established categories of painting – still life, portrait and landscape – into which I earlier divided the works are hardly useful when the elements in the work so clearly serve a structural rather than narrative or symbolic purpose (there are human figures and there are motifs across the paintings, such as oranges, but they are treated equally and thoroughly subordinated to the overall composition). While, for instance, the landscapes also recall the dreamlike late work of Paul Nash, their small scale works against the possibility that the observer can imagine herself happily lost in nature. Instead their effect, as with the other works, relies on their capacity to provoke the kind of intense scrutiny under which pictorial signs break down into visual patterns, like a looped word collapsing into phase music.
The lysergic quality of these images is exaggerated by the disproportionate attention paid to – and rewarded by – areas of the canvas that would normally be relegated to the background. Quickly tiring of the pallid flesh of two middle-aged lovers in Shunga Tea Time (After Kuniyoshi) (2018), for instance, the eye travels to the kaleidoscopic folding screen decorated with branching lines that amplifies the outlines of their bodies. The rapturous visual intensity of the byōbu (which doesn’t, incidentally, feature in the Shunga print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi to which Cadwallader’s title alludes) compensates for a slightly unconvincing attempt to inject greater dynamism into the composition. These paintings are at their best when fixing the viewer’s perception and by doing so unsettling it. In those moments the boundaries separating figuration from abstraction are dissolved, and the pleasure consists not in trying to redraw the distinction but instead in contemplating the synthesis. Independently of what they depict, these paintings carry a pictorial meaning by undoing the habits of seeing and alerting the viewer to the possibility that the world might be other than it normally appears: a reality ordered by timeless harmonies, the perceptible properties of which are in a constant state of becoming. This vision of a world in which change is neither destructive nor chaotic offers, at the present moment in time, an appealing kind of metaphor. Ben Eastham
Egg, 2017–18, oil on canvas, 27 × 22 cm. Courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley Gallery, London
D’Ette Nogle D’Ette Nogle 2019 Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles 29 January – 27 April It’s easy to forget how tranquillisingly reassuring the standard commercial gallery format is until you are obliged to seek out exhibitions in other settings. D’Ette Nogle’s exhibition, titled D’Ette Nogle 2019, is mounted not in the not-yet-refurbished 1952 Paul Revere Williamsdesigned modernist villa that will soon be Hannah Hoffman Gallery’s new home, but in a public storage facility down the street. Access is via the loading bay, then up an unlit stairway. The exhibition is by appointment only, and on my visit, several other viewers shuffle uncertainly through a succession of four storage units separated by dim corridors of padlocked doors. It is like visiting a jail for art. Putting viewers on their backfoot is, I suspect, one of Nogle’s favourite artistic tactics. This exhibition – subtitled Problems and Achievements for Storage – is described in the press release as ‘a mix of changed, reproduced, ripped (or plucked), and restaged works along with some new and stolen material’. The earliest date on the checklist appended a sculpture titled 2001 ½ from How Deep is Your Love? (2001),
made for an exhibition named after a 1977 Bee Gees single. An illuminated sign reads ‘2001 ½’ – the exhibition’s approximate date and also the street number of John Baldessari’s studio. There is more to the backstory, of course; a specially printed ‘digest’ relates the convoluted details, impossible to parse here, alongside guilelessly pointed questions addressed to the artist by a local high-school’s Curators Club. (‘Do you think the number holds any importance to the viewer or the public?’) Pointing at it was Last Minute Arrow (2019), a remake of another mdf sign from the 2001 exhibition, allegedly thrown together the day before the opening in order to deflect viewers’ attention from other ‘bulky’ sculptural elements. I must refrain from describing every piece in D’Ette Nogle 2019, but I hope it is already obvious how the most seemingly offhand gestures can accrue around them, in Nogle’s work, a range of significances that are temporal, memorial, situational, authorial and – sometimes – deeply personal. For All The Artists [Work (A-Version)] (2015) is a compilation of movie clips
showing pregnant women, or women giving birth. I don’t know if Nogle is a mother, or if the work is solely a metaphor for the artistic process. Which would be more personal? The final work in the show, presented in a storage unit all its own, floored me in its simple effectiveness. Stand Up (2019) is a video showing Nogle in various domestic interiors, doing unpolished standup comedy for an unseen audience. Immediately one gleans she is inhabiting a persona (or personas); sometimes she speaks from a man’s perspective, then at other times she adopts a subject position that might match her own. At times she is laughout-loud funny. Often she is uncomfortably crude. Maybe I’m slow, but it took me about 15 minutes to realise that Nogle was appropriating verbatim bits by Louis C.K., the disgraced comedian once beloved by progressive liberals. Nogle’s détournement of C.K.’s work is at once painfully barbed – a kind of trap – and sweetly generous, pulling out of deep storage material that is, in her hands, almost viable again. Jonathan Griffin
For All The Artists [Work (A-Version)] (still), 2015, single-channel video, 35 min 53 sec, monitor, a/v cart, 72 × 46 × 158 cm. Courtesy the artist and Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles
Sonia Almeida Perpetual Dizziness Simone Subal Gallery, New York 6 January – 10 February What came first, the page or the scroll? How about online? In Perpetual Dizziness, Sonia Almeida extends skeuomorphism to the manuscripts of the Late Medieval period. Skeuomorphs are designs that imitate older technologies, often via graphic representation: early pottery textured to resemble woven baskets, for example, or electric candles, or the mechanical, shutterlike ‘click’ of phone cameras. Previous paintings by the artist, from 2013–14, played with symbols like play, pause and fastforward – which refer to the direction and speed of tape in a reel-to-reel tape deck, and the caesura of poetry and music in the case of ‘pause’ – as well as colour systems like rgb and cmyk. This suite of new oil paintings on plywood, aluminium and paper also takes inspiration from publication design old and new, from illuminated manuscripts and books and web pages. But here the skeuomorphism has been inverted, and a number of two-panel works boast slider mechanisms that can be manipulated by the viewer to reveal or conceal the
lower panel. Depending on the panels’ position relative to each other, the result alternately suggests a double-page spread or the features we associate with much newer technologies like time-based media (animated gifs) and web design (parallax scrolling). Almeida’s imagery, meanwhile, remains decidedly medieval. Particularly attractive are the occasional manuscript ribbons, whose sinuous ripples are echoed in various silhouetted figures: women, the press release says, but there’s a lovely, lithe androgyny to them. Their bodies are contorted into letterlike shapes, in the manner of anthropomorphic alphabets. The glyphs are indicated by the paintings’ titles and include a variety of cases. In Magnetism / Upper case Z (all works 2018), a figure kneels as if in prayer, but its torso is canted to form the letter’s diagonal stroke. In Muscle memory / Lower case h, meanwhile, the form balances on an elbow and knee, reaching one elongated arm upwards. Painlessly, though, as that title suggests: the figures seem to relax into the positions with the
ease of well-honed muscle memory. If skeuomorphs are predicated on aesthetic familiarity, these figures suggest flesh and sinew. And there’s a nod to even earlier forms of inscription too, with a recurring brick motif suggesting the proverbial writing on the wall. The hybridised palette is decidedly more contemporary, a brilliant mix of savoury, vegetal tones that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an altarpiece, and bright, sherbetty pastels. The latter, along with flat outlined shapes, gives the whole affair an art-deco feel. But of course, because this is 2019, I see flat design 2.0, particularly in the unsubtle drop shadows of Face Formation. And just like flat design, these paintings depict illusionistic 3d space in an abstracted form. Similarly, the occasional palimpsestic gesture – translucent figures, gradiented washes of colour – reminds me of nothing so much as Photoshop’s opacity filters and the dizzying array of options its own sliders provide. What can I say? I was raised on the Internet too. Rahel Aima
Muscle memory/ Lower case h, 2018, oil on aluminium and plywood, sliding mechanism, 121 × 152 cm (open). Photo: Tony Luong. Courtesy the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York
Alejandro Campins Miedo a la muerte es miedo a la verdad Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana 2 November – 5 January Like many of Havana’s cultural institutions – and indeed much of Cuba’s postcolonial architecture – the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam is a little rough around the edges. Outside, the walls have long faded in the Caribbean sun, inside the tiled floor is scuffed. This ‘romantic’ decay is mirrored in Cuban artist Alejandro Campins’s paintings of bunkers, some five metres in width, the canvases propped up on the floor by blocks of wood, that fill the cultural centre’s cavernous galleries. Campins’s depictions of these neglected concrete buildings (Brutalist in design) are tightly framed within a landscape of brooding colour. The boxlike bunker depicted in Sistema Orgánico ii (2018) is built on several concrete stilts across a dusky blue plain over which a gloomy sky hangs. The bunker in Marea baja (2018) sinks into a sandy beach, the scruffy dunes interrupted only by the occasional rock. s/t (2018) entertains a rare site-specific feature: a set of goalposts stands in front of a concrete tower that dwarfs this otherwise empty terrain.
No clue is given as to the locations of these buildings, or whether they are real places at all – though in a separate room the artist exhibits black-and-white photographs of bunkers. None, however, exactly matches those painted. These renderings of lonely-seeming ruins could run the risk of nostalgic fetishism: a Caribbean version of the numerous photography books on Soviet-era Brutalism that currently flood the coffee-table-book market, a mirror perhaps to the tourist sell of Cuba as socialist curiosity. Indeed the country built its own Cold War bunkers, a defensive strategy against a us invasion that Fidel Castro was sure would come (and, given the hell the us inflicted elsewhere on the continent, El Caballo was diligent in his caution). Most of these are found along the coastlines (though, famously, the gardens of Havana’s iconic Hotel Nacional also boast a few). Yet the exhibition literature notes that Campins also took inspiration from examples located outside Cuba, in Europe and
the us, and the fictive nature of the end paintings pull this project beyond gawping documentary. The French theorist Paul Virilio has pointed out the anthropomorphic quality to bunkers, and the buildings in Campins’s paintings – standing upright, their curving silhouettes isolated in the landscape – could at a squint suggest a bodily shell. There is a sense of atomisation and alienation in the compositions: the buildings imbuing, in Virilio’s words, ‘a feeling, internal and external, of being immediately crushed’. A hint, too, of geopolitical commentary in their being shown in Cuba: a country cocooned by its own government from the outside world, a time capsule nearly destroyed by American sanctions, it is easy to see the decaying buildings of Campins’s paintings as standing for the nation’s political isolation. Yet the works hold a more universal significance (Campins has visited bunkers all around the world, after all), suggesting a basic solipsism in human nature. Bunker down in the knowable self, the outside world but a wasteland. Oliver Basciano
Miedo a la muerte es miedo a la verdad, 2018 (installation view). Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, Havana, Beijing, Les Moulins & San Gimignano
William Kentridge kaboom! Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg 13 October – 10 November Comprising more than 30 intricate drawings and sculptures, plus a three-channel video installation, kaboom! feels as overwhelming as its title. While individual works allude to storylines concerning war and slavery, as a group they beg the question of what might be learned from an exhibition largely made up of fragments from previous projects: is this show, like an explosion, supposed to spread shrapnel? Or could these parts be reassembled into some sort of coherent whole? Included here are 12 charcoal-and-redpencil drawings originally made for Kentridge’s 2017 production of Alban Berg’s 1925 opera Wozzeck and the performance The Head & the Load in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall last year, both of which reference the First World War. Some of these drawings were used as projections and others resemble blueprints for action onstage: separated from their narratives, they struggle to fulfil the exhibition’s stated intention to unveil hidden histories. For example, it’s confusing that, when Berg’s Wozzeck tells the story of an individual soldier in rural nineteenth-century Austria, Kentridge’s drawings (all 2016) show destroyed and darkened European landscapes, a fallen soldier, a nude woman and a bombed-out city.
The one-and-a-half million African porters and carriers used by both sides in the First World War were given voice in The Head & the Load; presented independently, however, the juxtaposition of Kentridge’s panoramic landscape drawings with three maps of Africa – marked by red arrows and a combination of English, French and German to denote colonies – is jarring. In Untitled, (Drawing for The Head & the Load, Tondo ii) Kentridge creates a kind of roulette wheel, the numbers replaced with icons of destruction, war and hope – a rhino with a red target on its side and the busts of Léopold Sédar Senghor, the first president of Senegal, and Pixley ka Isaka Seme, one of the first black lawyers in South Africa and a founder of the African National Congress. But none of the figures are identified, so unless the viewer is well versed in the continent’s history, their significance remains obscure. Some of these characters – including an unnamed soldier, his face anonymous under a gas mask – reappear in small bronze sculptures, part of Kentridge’s ongoing Lexicon series (2013–), as well as in the exhibition’s eponymous video installation, which continues The Head & the Load. Created for the show,
a portion of the 20-minute film follows a procession of silhouetted figures as they march across the bottom of three screens, their knees buckling under the weight of the cutout cannons, gasmasks and trumpets carried atop their heads. The backdrop morphs from a drawing made for The Head & the Load to a collage of death reports filed by colonial companies, the causes ranging from yellow fever and malaria to heat fever, typhus, bronchopneumonia and ‘unknown’. Later on, German is again juxtaposed with English through textual overlays. ‘Hope causes no shame’ appears on the centre screen, while ‘There is no hope’ and ‘Hoffnung es gibt keine’ appear on the left and right, backgrounded by a cascading waterfall. Although the works in the exhibition point towards histories of colonialism and forced violence, the absence of context prevents any overarching narrative from revealing itself. Telling a story in such a way could reflect the fact that history is disrupted by simultaneities and written from different perspectives, yet ultimately these sketches only affirm that there remains a market for Kentridge’s work, however fragmented. Emily McDermott
Untitled (Drawing for The Head & the Load, Tondo ii), 2018, charcoal, red pencil and digital print on paper, 148 cm (diameter). Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg & Cape Town
Hannah Perry gush Somerset House, London 3 October – 4 November The human hearing range peters out at around 20 Hz; that’s 20 vibrations a second. Below this, frequencies only register in the rattling of your body, like tremors. It’s into this uneasy sonic territory that Perry’s sound sculpture Rage Fluids (all works 2018) takes you. The air in Somerset House’s bare River Rooms is punctuated by thick bursts of low-frequency sound belting out of naked subwoofer speakers – the type with which boy-racers pack their boots. The subwoofers are strung along curving steel racks that form walls around the edges of the space. Stretched taut over the other side of the racks are tall sheets of reflective, bronze-coloured car body wrap, the two almost touching. When the speakers lurch into gear the car wrap trembles and in it you see the outlines of your faint, smoky reflection ripple and warp. In the next room gush, a film projected onto a 360-degree screen, searches restlessly through fragments of a life catalogued online.
Snapshots and webcam videos parade across the screen, dredged up like old bottles from a canal. A male voice wanders through snippets of poetry, Facebook statuses and journal entries, returning to Facebook’s corporate refrain of “Hannah, we care about you and the memories that you share here. We thought that you’d like to look back on this post from 8 years ago”. Many of these posts relate to Pete Morrow, a close friend of Perry’s, who, as we learn from the introductory text, took his own life. It’s this unseen figure that gush encircles but never fully locates, whose outlines remain unclear, whose voice, like the submarine scream of Rage Fluids, lurks just out of hearing range. At times the film runs close to the socialmedia self-indulgence found in many contemporary artworks reflecting on loneliness and identity in a networked and over-archived world. But gush manages to avoid feeling like a byproduct of self-therapy; it does this by letting others in, offering up loss as a site on
which to foster collaborations. Some of the lines of poetry, coauthored through workshops with young people and delivered by a calm, collected voice, puncture the sterile backdrop of the Facebook chant: “the view of the moon through a roadkill hedge is a glimpse of the grey-eyed madness of you”. In one scene of the video, two dancers’ bodies snake around each other, never touching, but enveloping us. The soundtrack, a collaboration between London Contemporary Orchestra and Coby Sey and Mica Levi of the Curl collective infuses it all with an atmosphere that’s cold but reassuringly familiar, like the calm, blue glow of a laptop screen. gush acknowledges the distances embedded into contemporary social architectures on- and offline, their tendency to estrange and isolate us. But working with the technologies accused of driving us apart, Perry strives instead to move us closer. It’s deeply personal but not protectively so: out for solidarity over solipsism. Jacob Bolton
gush, 2018 (installation view). Photo: Tim Bowditch. Courtesy the artist and Somerset House, London
Mateo López Play Casey Kaplan, New York 11 January – 16 February “The relation you have with the object is yours, not mine,” Mateo López said on a recent Thursday afternoon at the gallery, where he was on hand to personally activate and engage with his most recent exhibition. An heir to Hélio Oiticica and the Neoconcrete tradition, the Colombian artist makes work that evinces a light touch and a precious fragility – enough to make one think twice before manhandling these airy pieces, composed of cardboard, wood, metal and the occasional mango. Their visual logic is often closer to that of puzzles and games than sculpture, but Play contains enough nuanced notes to keep it from being a simple exercise in kid-friendly interactivity. López’s invitation to become involved in a bodily way begins near the entrance, with two poster-style drawings on paper. One, from 2018, exhorts the viewer to ‘Be the Sentence’, depicting a series of anatomical dummies contorting their forms into the phrase’s constituent letters. The other, Disclose (2016), offers more obtuse commands: ‘Log out’, ‘Leave the house’, ‘Face the mob’. From there, López’s exhibition sprawls out like a messy playroom, with Parquet (2018) taking up the centre of the space – a collection of connected tiles that can be flipped or stacked
in various combinations. Like everything here, it’s in a state of flux, begging to be tweaked. Nearby there’s a trio of wood-and-textile wall pieces (modelled on the children’s game Jacob’s ladder), constructed in such a way that they can be folded and manipulated. It’s clear that López views his ideal collector as someone who is engaged, anxious of stasis, possessed of a certain restlessness and a lust for the modular. A side room collects a suite of smallscale works, including one that borrows a font designed by Josef Albers to spell out and abstract ‘truth’. Appropriately for our current moment, manipulating the work’s four movable wooden slats garbles the word beyond all recognition. Spatial construction No. 19 with mango (2015) is a tiny wooden cage trapping the titular fruit inside it: Sol LeWitt goes to the tropics. A stop-motion animation, meanwhile, shows various tiny structures being made, broken down and reassembled out of colourful bricks – a manifestation of the artist’s own fidgety, constructive urges. López studied architecture before dropping out to pursue a course in fine art; his practice celebrates the joy of building, without being dragged down by the pesky demands of bureaucrats, engineering and structural stability.
But there’s something so innocent about Play that I was left looking for a bit more bite. That, I found (or imagined) in a matt-black handrail running the length of one wall. The sculpture in question is unassuming, but on second look turns out to be a succession of police batons, joined end to end. A further, welcome note of perverse humour is provided by I am Sitting in a Room (2017), a wooden door that has been cut and articulated so that it resembles a drunk man passed out in a doorway. Threshold (Umbral) (2017) is the show’s most expansive piece, a room-sized installation comprising rectangular colour blocks applied to the walls and three grey structures mounted on bright orange wheels, resembling generic wardrobes or empty storage units. The idea is to manoeuvre these rolling containers, which can be joined together to create linked hallways – you’re allowed to walk inside, carefully – or pushed against the walls, synced up with the same-heighted wall paintings. Whereas most of Play solicits a youthful sense of wonder and experimentation, Threshold (Umbral) recalls a different sort of childhood remnant: the timeout. It’s possible to tuck oneself away inside the piece, to hide for a moment – just the right mix of the juvenile and the transgressive. Scott Indrisek
Play, 2018 (installation view). Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York
Books Bauhaus Goes West: Modern Art and Design in Britain and America by Alan Powers Thames & Hudson, £24.95 (hardcover) Corpse. Zombie. Doppelgänger. These words recur throughout Alan Powers’s vigorously researched and rewarding investigation into what became of the Bauhaus as its prime movers left Nazi Germany and travelled west. As Powers charts the Bauhaus’s evolution from school and teaching model, to descriptor for 1930s European Modernism, to stripped-down mode of industrial design in which form is secondary to function, to belief system in which mechanised rationalism counters ornamentation, bad taste, sentimentality, romanticism, the heart… well, you start to see why deadness, undeadness and relentless, ghostly accompaniment are themes in this particular history of the institution founded a century ago. He traces this transformation initially through the lives of ‘the big three’ – Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and fellow teachers Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy – over the short time each spent in England during the late 1930s (the Bauhaus itself, ultimately located in Berlin, had been disbanded in 1933, under pressure from the Gestapo, who had branded it ‘unGerman’). The crux of Powers’s argument is that what has long been considered Britain’s shameful failure to embrace Modernism and
its Continental disciples needs fundamental reframing. The environment, as Powers presents it, was far more complex. For one, an indigenous English proto-modern movement predated ‘first contact’ with the Bauhaus (alongside the living dead, Powers invokes anthropology, tribalism and the clash of civilisations, with a mix of irony and affection, particularly for the ideological battles, purity tests and thought police that he sees ‘patrolling Modernism’s border’), with the result that, once contact was made, a significant exchange of ideas occurred between émigrés and hosts, transforming both in the process. Powers lays out the evidence at length, recounting what Gropius, Breuer and MoholyNagy found upon arrival in Britain: where they lived, how they supported themselves, who they spent time with and what they talked about. Contrary to popular belief, the Bauhausler received a respectable number of commissions given the general hostility towards modern architecture at that time. Gropius, Powers writes, rediscovered ‘a simple and more cordial accent, an easier and more spontaneous contact with the things of the world’, while Breuer, in his Gane Pavilion, a temporary building in Bristol, created what he would later consider one of the two most
important projects of his career (the other being the unesco headquarters in Paris). Moholy-Nagy, whose character was perhaps the best fit for an English sensibility (‘that lovely madman’, ‘a Harpo Marx character’ who valued Britain for its amateurism, perhaps in contrast to the frighteningly efficient Nazi bureaucracy he had left behind), created a film about lobsters, which, it is generally agreed, did not represent his best work. What none of these three educators found in England was a teaching position. Gropius soon departed for Harvard, writing back to his former colleagues, ‘it’s fantastic here! don’t tell the English, but we are both ecstatic that we have escaped the land of fog and of psychological nightmares… here the girls look you right in the eyes’. With this the Bauhaus went further west, but Powers treats this better-known history in less detail. That said, he tracks the Bauhaus legacy with dogged persistence as far west – metaphorically speaking – as it goes, through 1968, up to Habitat and ikea, and even into the tv series Queer Eye, confessing towards the end of this study that some of the stories told here ‘begin to sound like a deranged game of Consequences, which may be how they felt to the displaced protagonists at the time’. David Terrien
Let’s Talk Abstract Edited by Carolin Scharpff-Striebich Distanz, €32 (hardcover) Abstraction is probably one of the most discussed subjects of twentieth-century art history; as such, any new publication on the subject either risks being a touch anachronistic or sets itself the difficult task of finding new ground. That hasn’t deterred Carolin ScharpffStriebich, director of the Scharpff Collection, in Berlin. For this volume, she has invited 16 art historians, collection managers, critics, curators and artist-estate managers to select an abstract painting as a conversation piece. At their best, the selected pictures (which date from 1955 to 2016) and the conversations they generate open windows through which the reader can view the larger context from which these works emerged. The Guggenheim’s
Richard Armstrong, for instance, describes Al Held’s transition from overtly illusionistic compositions to more complex studies of perspective, and his relative isolation once he didn’t fit Clement Greenberg’s logical evolution of abstraction. Elsewhere, collector Pamela Joyner uses a canvas by Jack Whitten to locate a generation of African-American abstract painters emerging under the mentorship of Norman Lewis, some of whom considered abstraction a way of making art without specific reference to identity politics. Too often, though, the conversations become frustrating descriptive discussions about qualities that are lost in the flat reproductions included here, an experience only exacerbated by the
hyperbolic remarks served by the interviewer, as she transforms herself into abstraction’s high priest (one painting is ‘a blessing’, others are ‘incredibly open’, or ‘an incredible provocation’). And here lies the fundamental problem of this book: Scharpff-Striebich struggles to offer a counterpoint to the interviewees’ readings of the works, giving the whole thing the feel of a series of random and insider speed dates with artworlders who, she tells us in her foreword, she’s friends with or wants to meet. As if to ram the point home, the interviews are organised according to the interviewees’ rather than the artists’ names. Art really does become abstracted in the middle of this social whirl. Louise Darblay
Sovereign Words: Indigenous Art, Curation and Criticism Edited by Katya García-Antón oca/Valiz, €22.50 (softcover) George Orwell once wrote that autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful: ‘A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats’. The same could be said of any attempt to document a global history of modern and contemporary art; disgrace and defeat are what frames the long history of colonisation to globalisation. And it’s precisely that narrative that major museums of art around the world are frantically reconstructing their displays and collections to describe. This is not the happy art-history of intellectual, societal and technological progress that has been celebrated by so many institutions in the West for so long. Because this is not simply a question of being more inclusive or encyclopaedic. Sovereign Words is born out of a gathering of 16 ‘indigenous peers’ from three continents, organised by Norway’s Office for Contemporary Art at last year’s Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh. The book’s preface counts 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, belonging to 5,000 different communities, located in 90 nation states, the majority of them in Asia. The common sense of indigenous peoples as outsiders and throwbacks who cannot enter the present because their traditions trap them in the past has been used, for most of modern history, to lock them
into a remote, if not invisible, cultural space. Which in turn makes it seem ‘easy’ to uproot them from their lands. This book argues both for a learned sense of what it means to be indigenous and for an acknowledgement of the problematics of accommodating indigenous artefacts and artworks in global (even national) narratives and the institutions that purport to tell them. Ánde Somby, a specialist in indigenous rights law, offers a summary of the current legal characterisation of indigenous peoples: marginalisation within the nation states in which they reside; historical presence within a territory; distinctiveness (that for any number of reasons, among them history, language or clothing, indigenous people are different from the general population of a nation state); and the fact that they self-identify as a people. For Somby this means that any encounter between indigenous peoples and the nation state exists on three levels: the ontological (do the same rights apply to everybody or are indigenous peoples a special case?), the epistemological (what knowledge does a society consider valid or invalid?) and the axiological (how can two communities share time and space in a manner that can be seen as fair?). It’s on one or all of these levels that the majority of the texts here operate. The questions raised are myriad. To have a learned sense of indigenous art, do you need
to be an indigenous person? Who has the right to speak on whose behalf? What language should that speech occur in given that language is one of the tools by which repression has happened and continues to happen? To what extent can artworks or artefacts stand in for a discussion of human rights? Discussing the European encounter with Australia’s first peoples, Aboriginal journalist Daniel Browning cites the argument that the latter ‘did not express their dominion over the land (in codes that Europeans could identify)’ as one of the old excuses for colonial brutality. Is that excuse still in play today? Anthropologist Prashanta Tripura points out that ‘the separation between art and other domains of social life may not have existed traditionally’. Is a culture ever static? At times it can seem like the entire field is mined. But if you believe that one of the fundamental qualities of art is that it opens up alternative ways of seeing, then David Garneau, who is Metis and a professor of visual arts at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, offers a way out: ‘What [indigenous art] hopes to stop is a reproduction of the colonial, and the misguided, idea that art, criticism, and identities are forms of revealed and universal truth, rather than agreements among similarly trained elites’. Perhaps multiple elites are better than just the one. Mark Rappolt
Art and (Bare) Life by Josephine Berry Sternberg, €25 (softcover) What is the function of art in a society that measures culture according to its contribution to gross domestic product, gentrification or tourism? Lamenting art’s presumed subordination to the neoliberal regime, Josephine Berry takes Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower – which describes the modern state’s policing of citizens’ bodies – and identifies it with contemporary art’s infiltration of the everyday. This blurring of boundaries between art and life, she proposes, undermines the ‘entire notion of originality and autonomy’. And so the myth of individualism that art embodies in the popular imagination is used to mask the conformist desires upon which consumer capitalism depends. It is hard to argue with the premise, however well-worn: London’s recent housing developments include Avantgarde Tower, while
Heathrow airport’s newest pub is The Curator. Yet Berry’s call for an ‘errant’ art, and good points about its relationship to self-expression, race and sexual politics – notably in a chapter touching on valie export, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Carolee Schneemann – are obscured by the tortuous prose in which they are delivered. Amid sentences that don’t scan (‘Like the Superman, art also endlessly refold [sic] the fold between humanity and its outside to (re)produce autonomy’) and maddening phrasing (bodily organs are ‘visceral’) are some bewildering statements. I was surprised to learn, for all that the state has co-opted the body, that ‘being well-educated, fit, and healthy are deemed more desirable because they are more economically valorizable than being uneducated and unwell’; I was labouring under the misapprehension that
concern for one’s health and intellect were other than symptoms of neoliberal brainwashing. Admittedly, a book with sections including ‘Lyricism – The Acceptable, Petit Bourgeois Voice of Power?’ isn’t looking to be judged on its stylistic elegance. More problematically, there lingers the impression that the neoliberal shibboleths it abjures – globalisation, urban regeneration, the free market – are already in collapse, opening up new vistas of violence and injustice. In which light, a more pressing question might be how art resists the retreat into isolationism and nativism by intersecting critically with the social and political spheres. Identifying the freedom of art with its detachment from society’s structures, not to mention couching it in impenetrable academese, risks condemning it to irrelevance. Ben Eastham
My friend on the six-twenty-five does not collect pictures because, as he so rightly says, they harbor dust and he is anxious to avoid the germs of disease as well as the seeds of inspiration Richard Gainsborough, founder of ArtReview, 1962
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Art and photo credits
on the cover photography by Dan Matthews, food styling by Jack Sargeson
Words on the spine are by Ralph Waldo Emerson, those on page 39 are by Bette Midler, and those on page 141 are by Arthur Schopenhauer
on page 161 photography by Mikael Gregorsky
Harrogate School of Art. Assistant Teacher, Drawing and Design. Salary (men) £375 × £18–£30; (women) £338 × £15–£504. A.A. Ingham, Education Department, Municipal Offices, Harrogate (Feb 1952)
Athletic young male nude, scooter-borne (Aug 1965)
Artist, commencing work on Greek Gods, requires two well-proportioned models – one male, one female (Feb 1966)
Business executive, aged 37 years, manager status, desires responsible position in the Art World (Mar 1961)
Mrs Lea Bondl Jaray thanks all friends for their kind wishes for Christmas and New York and apologises for not replying personally on this occasion. She would like to inform her friends that the St George’s Gallery premises at 81,Grosvenor Street having closed down, she is conducting her activities from 2, Lambolle Road, nw3. Tel. Prim. 0847 (before 11 am) (Jan 1950)
Models wanted: Male beginners, special terms. Fine skin (Jun 1960)
Artlink is a new internet gallery and allows you to exhibit all forms of art, 24hrs a day over the World, from £2 a week (Jul–Aug 1998)
commissioned by the Shulton Company of America, to interpret their Desert Flower range of toiletries, are being shown in Britain for the first time
at selfridges store in london (may 1961) Major continental artist with unique style (abstract – somewhere onwards from Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko and beyond) now working in complete seclusion in England seeks reputable, competent Agent… (Nov 1980)
Forget the romance… how about some money?
listen! Do people do that when you discuss the arts? If not, try ‘Adventures in the Arts of Mankind’, the brilliant new home study course. You’ll soon be giving opinions worth listening to on all arts matters (Jul 1966)
reward £200 will be paid
call luke oxlade (april 1994) responsible young english artist (at present Sunday painting) hitherto regularly employed, and with proven honesty, seeks situation offering mean living wage and studio accommodation, allowing ample time for own studies. anywhere on earth will do, providing art materials can be replenished near at hand. Logical and realistic suggestions most welcome (Feb 1960)
three paintings by salvador dali
usa Representative for Church Furnishing company A policy of expansion provides a vacancy for a Permanent Residential Representative for our usa Office. To avoid possible conscription, applicants must have served at least 18 months in military service, or be over 27 years old (Sep 1967)
for any information leading to the recovery of 400 original oil paintings, in sound condition, which were stolen on 19th April 1967, from premises at Talbert Road, Forest Gate (May 1967)
The Friendship/Marriage Centre. Cultured people specially catered for (Aug 1965)
Sam Barrett, of 8 South Hill Park is presenting the first art show to be staged in a London Butcher’s shop (Feb 1962)
seeks another July– August holiday abroad. serious painting; good hotels (may 1960)
euston gallery – is always pleased to hear from artists of quality wishing to exhibit sor but prices must be sensible as we are a progressive gallery intent on selling (Jan 1969)
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ArtReview turns 70 The first issue of Art News and Reviews (as ArtReview was then called) was published on 12 February 1949, by Richard Gai...
Published on Mar 11, 2019
ArtReview turns 70 The first issue of Art News and Reviews (as ArtReview was then called) was published on 12 February 1949, by Richard Gai...