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See Inside a $18.5 M. New York Townhouse Decorated by Julian Schnabel and His Former Wife

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 18:32

A five-story townhouse in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood that was decorated by painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel has hit the market for the first time in 30 years—with a price tag of $18.5 million. Roughly 6,600 square feet, the Italianate townhouse at 132 West 11th Street has been in the Schnabel family since the 1990s. Though the artist and his first wife, art collector Jacqueline Schnabel, did not reside there—they lived a few blocks away—the interior bears their work. A cavernous dining room is outfitted with baby-pink patent leather chairs, and a white carpet is offset with green and fuchsia paint. A bull’s bleached skull emerges from the hearth of a fireplace in the home office.

“When you are there, you feel as if you are traveling on a boat down the Nile,” Lola Montes Schnabel, Julian’s daughter, said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. “Natural light floods the house from every direction, as if bouncing off water.”

According to the listing agent, Michael Bolla of Sotheby’s International Realty, the house includes four bedrooms, four terraces, a light-filled art studio, library, and a 1,000-foot basement. Past visitors to the townhouse described an environment that embraced spontaneity. According to a 1994 profile in T Magazine, a George Condo painting was once perched in the fireplace (“I put things where I can enjoy them, that’s all,” Jacqueline told the interviewer).

Although divorced, the duo worked together during the renovation. Julian laid the kitchen floor and made furniture, including the kitchen table and Jacqueline’s rolled steel bed. They instructed the architects, David Piscuskas and Jurgen Riehm of 1100 Architect, to restore the house to its 19th-century spaciousness. The architects, in turn, tore off the house’s rear and added a glass-bottomed terrace on the third floor.

Unfortunately for the new tenants, the apartment won’t come with Schnabel’s art collection, which includes works by Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, and Francis Picabia (among many Schnabels, of course).

Take a tour of the house in the slideshow above.

View an $18.5 M. New York Townhouse Designed by Julian Schnabel

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 18:30

A five-story townhouse in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood that was decorated by painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel has hit the market for the first time in 30 years—with a price tag of $18.5 million. Roughly 6,600 square feet, the Italianate townhouse at 132 West 11th Street has been in the Schnabel family since the 1990s. Though the artist and his first wife, art collector Jacqueline Schnabel, did not reside there—they lived a few blocks away—the interior bears their work. A cavernous dining room is outfitted with baby-pink patent leather chairs, and a white carpet is offset with green and fuchsia paint. A bull’s bleached skull emerges from the hearth of a fireplace in the home office.

Unfortunately for the new tenants, the apartment won’t come with Schnabel’s art collection, which includes works by Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, and Francis Picabia (among many Schnabels, of course).

Take a tour of the house in the following slideshow.

New Court Filing Reveals Further Details in Case of Embattled Dealer Inigo Philbrick

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 18:17

Rudolf Stingel’s 2012 painting Untitled which sold at Christie’s New York in May for $6.5 million but has not been paid for in full, remains under lock and key at the auction house while a battle over its ownership unfolds in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Today, one of the vying parties filed a fresh memorandum of law that further unpacks the murky nature of who exactly holds clear title to the painting.

The selling agent behind the disputed painting, a 95-by-76-inch blow-up of a 1930 black and white photograph of Pablo Picasso smoking a cigarette and elegantly outfitted in a double-breasted suit and tie, was the 32-year-old art dealer Inigo Philbrick, the subject of several lawsuits in three jurisdictions amid allegations of a massive art fraud some experts peg in the $100 million range.

What today’s memorandum makes clear is that the case revolves around a transaction that looks like a purchase, but in fact represents a loan made to Philbrick. As attorney Judd Grossman put it, “That is the real story here of what is going on with all of these Inigo deals—there was a lot of easy money allowing him to perpetrate these frauds, not only from the Reubens but others as well.”

The Reubens would be Guzzini Properties Limited, a British Virgin Islands’ registered entity that is a subsidiary of the Geneva based Reuben Brothers SA. Guzzini claims it is the rightful owner of the Stingel, along with Wade Guyton’s Untitled from 2006 and Christopher Wool’s Untitled enamel on linen painting from 2009, having acquired the trio of works from Inigo Philbrick in June 2017 for $6 million.

The sale and purchase agreement under the Guzzini Properties Limited letterhead is described as a “finance document,” which in English law, the governing law of the Guzzini document, covers financial obligations to a lender or other secured party. It lists the works’ respective values in this way: $10 million for the Stingel, $6 million for the Guyton and $9 million for the Wool, all told, $25 million worth of canvas.

In the memorandum of law filed today by Grossman, the attorney representing “for parties in interest” Aleksandar Pesko and Satfinance Investment Ltd., another entity vying for title, states in part, “Although Plaintiff here (that’s Guzzini) alleges that the total “purchase price” for the Stingel and two other artworks was $6 million, according to the loan agreement, the total value of the three works is actually closer to $25 million…. These figures are more in line with the typical loan-to-value ratio for art-backed loans, rather than the alleged “purchase price” for artwork in a purported arm’s length, non-distressed sale, as Guzzini claims was the case here.”

Today’s memorandum includes several exhibits, among them an email written by Pesko in October to Lisa Reuben, the daughter of the multi-billionaire Simon Reuben and a former executive in Sotheby’s contemporary art department, and apparently the point person in the Guzzini matter.

Pesko attached to the email the invoice and payment proof of $3.35 million in January 2016 to Philbrick for a 50 percent share in the Stingel.

Efforts to reach Reuben by email went unanswered, as were phone and email requests for comment from Guzzini’s attorney, Wendy Lindstrom of Mazzola Lindstrom.

If the competing claims over title of the Stingel in the Supreme Court of New York matter sounds complicated, the picture is further tested by a separate action in the Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County where the German entity, FAP GmbH (Fine Art Partners) alleges it acquired the same Stingel from Philbrick in 2015 for $7.1 million.

FAP filed its complaint in October in Miami, where Philbrick maintained an eponymous gallery, which abruptly shut down shortly after the FAP filing.

In the Guzzini sale and purchase agreement, revealed for the first time today, Philbrick, the seller, had a buy-back option on the three artworks for a fee of $10,000 and a stipulation that the buyer (Guzzini) “undertakes not to sell the Artworks until any option for the Seller to buy back the Artworks expires.” That expiration date was August 2019, three months after the Christie’s non-sale.

The Guzzini agreement was provided to Grossman, Pesko’s counsel, by Philbrick before he went missing sometime in November.

Adding to the confusing drama of the battle over the sequestered painting, Guzzini’s action for winning clear title in New York wasn’t filed against Philbrick but the painting itself, “Untitled by Rudolf Stingel, 2012” and as a court document duly noted, no representation of an attorney was recorded.

It seems that the Stingel needs legal aid and the action must set a precedent for a painting being the sole defendant in a court case.

“The Guzzini filing in New York seeks to clear title for the Stingel,” said a spokesperson for Christie’s, “after the fraudulent activities of the selling agent (Philbrick) involved in the sale were discovered. Christie’s agrees that determination of rightful ownership of the Stingel work by the courts is the next necessary step forward.”

Saskia Noor van Imhoff on Materials with Contradictory Functions

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 14:57

Saskia Noor van Imhoff is an Amsterdam-based artist whose photographs and sculptures explore systems of perception. She often takes apart familiar objects and recontextualizes them, always building on her own previous works. Her show of new pieces at Grimm gallery in New York, titled#+40.00,” incorporates colored plexiglass, neon tubing, plaster molds, and aluminum casts, as well as parts of a museum climate control system. These last components are from the humidifier van Imhoff utilized for “#+23.00,” her 2016 exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which mined the institution’s collection and architecture. Fittingly, we met to discuss her first New York solo (on view through December 13)—set in a basement gallery filled with a thick layer of salt—during New York’s inaugural snowfall of the season. Below, the artist discusses her use of materials and how her exhibition has shifted over the course of its run.

A purple LED light floods the staircase leading visitors down to the show. It’s the kind of light often used to grow plants indoors. In this basement exhibition, concepts like day and night begin to fade away. The staircase is usually a functional space, but I wanted it to become part of the artwork: I titled this piece #+40.01.

View of Saskia Noor van Imhoff’s exhibition “#+40.00,” 2019, at GRIMM.

After spending time under the purple light, you’re left with a green afterimage when you enter the gallery. The longer you stand in front of the purple light, the more intense the experience becomes. It lasts quite a long time, but slowly, the look of green light starts fading away.

The plexiglass I used to make some of the sculptures—#+40.06 and #+40.02—is similar in aqua-greenish color to the afterimage. There’s no green light in here, even though it might seem like it. What you see is either the afterimage, or reflections from the plexiglass. I like to play with the truth of an image and the reliability of our perception: it’s fascinating how just this purple light can manipulate our entire understanding of what we are looking at.

I often use materials that have seemingly contradictory meanings or functions. For instance, I bought large bags of salt, and then dumped them on the floor, smoothing the salt with my hands and a rake: it felt like playing in a sandbox. Salt destroys some materials but is used to conserve others. I’m always looking for these kinds of contradictions in my work as a way to ask: what is the truth?

#+40.02 incorporates parts of a museum climate control system used to regulate temperature and humidity. Usually, you don’t see this infrastructure. The salt under your feet feels more stiff and firm in the areas closer to the water source; it’s looser and softer elsewhere.

I show plaster molds of objects in #+40.04 and #+40.07. But for #+40.06, I first made molds of different things—a branch, for example—then poured in molten aluminum. The metal, which is very hot, burns away the object inside the mold. The process leaves behind different textures in the plaster, depending on the object that was burned. For #+40.06, I cast the corner of a picture frame in aluminum, which is displayed on a plexiglass version of a Donald Judd bench that here is used like a low shelf. Like the salt, this casting process involves simultaneous preservation and destruction: it yields, for instance, a very solid and stable facsimile of the frame, but the original is burned away.

View of Saskia Noor van Imhoff’s exhibition “#+40.00,” 2019, at GRIMM.

I worked with a neon fabrication company to produce the neon sculptures draped over the plexiglass, set in the molds, or sitting on the salt floor. Usually, neon works are flat on the wall, but these occupy a three-dimensional space. The glass shapes were quite difficult for the factory to blow because the structures rely on various supports, which are difficult to use while the glass is molten. The tubes are very fragile. But I’m interested in questioning what, exactly, a material is supposed to do. I left the cords visible—I didn’t want to hide their function—and draped them in a loose way to mimic the neon forms. During the run of the show, the cords’ positions have shifted and they’ve become partially buried in the salt.

I love that the salt moves and the afterimage changes over time, and the work becomes something new during the exhibition. My work is always iterative, meaning that I use elements from older installations in new works and recontextualize them. For instance, the neon pieces trace the edges of found plaster molds: the molds came first, and the neon tubes respond to them, sometimes tracing their contours. That’s why my titles are always numbers.

—As told to Emily Watlington

Brent Wadden’s Abstract Weavings Are Equal Parts Anni and Josef Albers

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 11:45

Anni and Josef Albers did not have children. If they had, the kids might have grown up to make work like Brent Wadden’s. The Canadian artist uses Anni’s medium, weaving, to create abstract “paintings” whose color interactions would have made Josef proud.

Wadden trained as a painter, but he has been working exclusively as a weaver for almost a decade now, producing textiles by hand. Ten new examples were on view in his recent exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, “Second Life.” All but one were variations on a single theme, consisting of vertical compositions bisected by diagonals formed by transitions between different colors of yarn. The exception, a tripartite horizontal composition, shared this basic language. The diagonals wobble pleasantly as they make their way across the pieces, their irregularity the result of Wadden’s inexactness as he weaves, and the slight distortion of the textiles that occurred when they were stretched for their framed display. A machine loom—or a more careful weaver—could have created perfect vectors. But those were not what Wadden was after. Like many other artists who have adopted fiber in recent years—such as Josh Faught—he has said that he prizes his own inexpert craftsmanship, seeing it as a means of infusing his work with an expressive touch.

Brent Wadden: Untitled, 2019, hand woven fibers, wool, cotton, and acrylic on canvas, 71 1/2 by 56 3/4 inches; at Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

When he began weaving, Wadden employed a black-and-white palette, the better to emphasize his structural decisions. Color has become increasingly important to him, and for the works in this show, he ventured into vivid polychrome: bright oranges, deep blues, rosy pinks. The yarns are miscellaneous wools, cottons, and synthetic fibers, all sourced online from amateur weavers’ unused stashes. (Perhaps this recycling explains the exhibition title.) The mix of materials introduced further variation to the proceedings, with similar but not-quite-matching yarns creating striations in Wadden’s color blocks, and tightly spun yarns contrasting with mohair-like texture.

The vertical works are perfectly proportioned to a smartphone screen, perhaps a slight concession to digital consumption in a show that otherwise demanded in-person viewing. Their upper and lower halves are made up of separate woven lengths that have been turned sideways, so that the fine white warp runs left to right and the thicker weft vertically. The seams between the lashed-together halves function as something like a horizon line, affirming the textiles’ pictorial status.

As this slightly technical description may suggest, although Wadden positions himself in the lineage of abstract painting—his works echoing those of Richard Diebenkorn, Bridget Riley, and Agnes Martin—it helps to know a little about craft and its history to appreciate what he is up to. The details of process and materials, and the cultural associations of the handmade, give his pieces some of their life.

Wadden has spoken of his admiration for the celebrated quilters of Gee’s Bend and the Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. In 2014, he was included in Nicolas Trembley’s exhibition “Mingei: Are You Here?” at Pace Gallery, a consideration of the Japanese craft movement of the 1920s and ’30s and its legacy. This was an apt context for him. Like the cosmopolitan figures who formulated mingei theory, Wadden’s cultivation of the imperfect has a certain knowingness to it, even a degree of self-contradiction. To create spontaneous and serendipitous effects, he seems to require a highly structured system. He is constantly negotiating between conscious sophistication and instinctive expression, walking a line that wavers like the diagonals wending across his woven abstractions.

50 Art Collectors to Watch, Onetime Schnabel Home Lists for $18.5 M., and More: Morning Links from December 13, 2019

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 08:57

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News

Sotheby’s New York will stage an auction of contemporary Indigenous art today, marking the first such sale outside of Australia and Europe by a major international house.
The Sydney Morning Herald

A Greenwich Village townhouse once home to the Schnabel family has listed for $18.5 million. Property records show its current owner is Julian Schnabel’s first wife, Jacqueline Schnabel.
The Wall Street Journal

ARTnews reported that superstar painter George Condo is in talks to join Hauser & Wirth gallery.
ARTnews

Weekend Reading

The ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list has a fresh look online.
ARTnews

Also now online: a list of 50 Collectors to Watch, which includes K-Pop stars, a former NFL linebacker, an Instagram cofounder, and many more.
ARTnews

Jerry Saltz named his 10 best art shows of 2019.
Vulture

In case you missed it: Here are the controversies that defined the 2010s.
ARTnews

Artists

Art in America asks, “Did Sturtevant Invent the Meme?”
Art in America

Sebastian Smee writes that Rachel Harrison’s work “feels like the inside of a very smart person’s head after a nasty concussion.”
Washington Post

Sara Roffino talks with artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden, who won the Bucksbaum Award for her participation in this year’s Whitney Biennial and whose work is currently on view in New York at Company gallery. The artist also addresses her decision to remain in the biennial, while some artists asked to pull their works.
The Brooklyn Rail

On the occasion of his solo show, “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist,” at the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden, Michael Rakowitz discussed his work.
Malmö Konsthall/YouTube

50 Art Collectors to Watch

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 08:10

Looking to the future of collecting, ARTnews consulted our expert sources—top dealers, curators, auction house specialists, collectors, and other art-world players—to round up the 50 most promising, up-and-coming collections being built today around the world. (For more on the field of art collecting, view our 30th-anniversary Top 200 list.)

Alireza Abrishamchi
London
Telecom and investments
Old Masters; postwar and contemporary art

Troy Carter
Los Angeles
Entertainment
Contemporary art, with a focus on artists of color

Jay Chou
Taipei
Entertainment
Contemporary art

Ai Weiwei’s Divina Proportione is part of the collection of Hong Kong–based Lawrence Chu.

Lawrence Chu
Hong Kong
Investments (BlackPine Group)
Contemporary art

Lindsey and J. Patrick Collins
Dallas
Oil (Cortez Resources)
Contemporary art, with a focus on British artists

Moisés Cosío Espinosa
Mexico City
Inheritance (hotels)
Contemporary art

Theo Danjuma
London
Real estate investment
Contemporary Western and African art

Eva Dichand
Vienna
Publishing
Modern and contemporary art

In his 2008 “African Spirits” series, photographer Samuel Fosso embodies various figures from the African diaspora. In this image, part of the collection of Sindika Dokolo, Fosso portrays runner Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Sindika Dokolo
Luanda, Angola
Investments
Contemporary African art

Dana Farouki
New York
Philanthropy
Contemporary art, with a focus on art from the Middle East and North Africa

Cecilie Fredriksen and Kathrine Fredriksen
London
Shipping
Postwar and contemporary art

Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Kasbah, 2008, is a core work in the collection of the Fredriksen sisters.

G-Dragon
Seoul
Entertainment
Contemporary art

Alex Hank
Gstaad, Switzerland
Artist
Contemporary art

Markus Hannebauer
Berlin
Software (think-cell)
Contemporary time-based art

Markus Hannebauer’s Berlin arts foundation Fluentum owns Hito Steyerl’s Guards, 2012.

Thomas and Nasiba Hartland-Mackie
Dallas
Energy (City Electric Supply)
Contemporary art

Eleanor Heyman Propp
New York
Inheritance (investments)
Contemporary art

Tarini Jindal Handa
Mumbai
Inheritance (steel)
Contemporary art, with a focus on art from Southeast Asia

Alexander Köser
Cologne, Germany
Real estate
Contemporary art

A recent purchase by Mike Krieger and Kaitlyn Trigger is New Zealand sculptor Francis Upritchard’s Tree.

Mike Krieger and Kaitlyn Trigger
San Francisco
Tech entrepreneur
Contemporary art

Lance Larsen
Omaha, Nebraska
Refrigeration (Millard Refrigerated Services)
Contemporary art

Alan Lau
Hong Kong
Investments (Tencent)
Contemporary art, with a focus on Chinese conceptual art

Jade Lau
Hong Kong
Inheritance (real estate)
Contemporary art

Othman Lazraq
Casablanca, Morocco
Real estate
Contemporary African art

Sources: George Condo, Whose Paintings Sell for Up to $6 M. at Auction, In Talks to Join Hauser & Wirth Gallery

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 16:52

The art market has been rife lately with news of artists leaving one gallery for another. On Thursday, news broke that the young painter Avery Singer would head to Hauser & Wirth. But that is not the only new painter that the international heavyweight may be taking on. George Condo, 62, whose work has sold for as much as $6 million at auction, is in talks to join Hauser & Wirth, according to several sources.

Reached Thursday afternoon, a representative for Hauser & Wirth declined to comment.

Particularly since Condo’s retrospective at the New Museum in New York in 2011, his paintings have been highly desirable on the art market. A 2014 piece, Nude and Forms, set his current auction record of $6.16 million at Christie’s New York in May 2018. Last year, Artsy charted Condo’s rise, detailing how powerful collectors like Steven Cohen and Aby Rosen own his work.

Condo’s imagery has seeped into popular culture through the cover he created for Kanye West’s 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Recently, Condo spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the paintings in his current exhibition at Per Skarstedt in New York and how they relate to his recovery from a heart attack he suffered this past summer.

Condo’s current galleries include Per Skarstedt in New York; Sprüth Magers, which has locations in London, Berlin, and Los Angeles; and Simon Lee in London. Condo had been showing with Sprüth Magers since 1999, Simon Lee since 2004, and Skarstedt since 2005.

Hauser & Wirth has spaces in Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, and Somerset, England; two in New York; and three in Switzerland (in St. Moritz, Gstaad, and Zurich); with one in Menorca, Spain, on the way.

Hirshhorn Staffer Nabs ‘Registrar of the Year’ Award, Gives $5,000 Prize to Smithsonian Internship Program

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 16:41

Rajshree Solanki, who is responsible for managing the 12,000 works held by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., as its chief registrar, received the first annual Registrar of the Year award at a ceremony at Artist’s Space in New York on Wednesday. The newly created prize, which was established by the fine-art logistics company Atelier 4, comes with $5,000, and was presented after a multi-part nomination and judging process.

However, Solanki will not be taking home the money. She said that she plans to donate the purse to the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Fellowships and Internships to support its minority internship program, which the registrar herself participated in at the start of her career.

“It seemed more important to put forth good energy into the universe and the hope is that we can create a situation where more students would be interested in collection management and registration,” Solanki told ARTnews, adding that she hopes a more diverse group of people will enter the field in coming years. 

Solanki said that it was an “honor to be recognized” with the award. Though “registrars are definitely behind the scenes,” she said, they “wear so many hats,” dealing with legal issues, risk management, budgets, shipping logistics, and more at art institutions. In addition to her work at the Hirshhorn, she has assisted the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. with moving its collections, and early this year, during the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, Solanki organized a Facebook support group for furloughed federal employees.

Other shortlisted finalists for the award included Gaby Mizez, the director of registration at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland; Amy Linker, museum registrar at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Claire Pingel, chief registrar and associate curator at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia; and Christine McNamara, registrar for the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York.

Art Handler magazine founder and editor-in-chief Clynton Lowry, who judged the award, said in a statement, “Solanki stands out for her willingness not just to take responsibility and care for the well-being of priceless objects, but for the lives of those around her. From her colleagues she works with every day, to the volunteer work she committees to, Solanki makes the world around her a better place.”

Portland’s Artist-Run Spaces Thrive Under the Radar

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 16:14

Last fall I moved back to Portland after a decade-long absence. When I lived here from 1998 to mid-2009, the national DIY trend of that era often manifested itself in Portland’s art scene as a series of ambitious, sprawling curatorial projects. For example, 2003 saw the debut of both Modern Zoo, a scrappy summer-long exhibition series in a 120,000-square-foot warehouse under the St. Johns Bridge, as well as Core Sample, a ten-day 140-artist series of exhibitions produced by volunteers as a response to Portland’s omission from “Baja to Vancouver: The West Coast and Contemporary Art,” a survey that toured four cities in its geographic purview.1 These undertakings were one-off experiments, but others were repeated and expanded, such as the thematic exhibition-in-print zine Portland Modern produced by artist Mark Brandau. Portland Modern ran from 2004 to 2007 and expanded from print into a brick-and-mortar exhibition site for eight months in 2006 before the entire project ended in 2007. Writing about Portland in 2003, novelist and screenwriter Jon Raymond categorized the moment as “a regional art scene arriving at some kind of critical mass, communally discovering the intoxicating new emotion called ambition.”2 

High-reaching projects were possible when Portland was smaller and cheaper, when vacant light-industrial spaces could be borrowed from developers for a few weeks or months. Now that rents have risen 64 percent and the population density has increased 18.5 percent since 2006, no one is handing out free space. As I unpacked my boxes, I wondered what possibilities Portland still offers for ambitious artists. Had the last decade’s influx of tourists, tech money, and luxury-dorm apartments exsanguinated Portland’s punk ethos? Or were new strategies galvanizing artist-run projects?

Copies of the Grapefruit Juice Artist Resource Guide, published in September 2018.

I snagged a 2018 copy of Grapefruit Juice Artist Resource Guide, a directory of venues and resources for artists produced by Martha Daghlian (who also ran Grapefruits Art Space from 2017 to 2019), and began to investigate. Some of the projects listed in the compendium had already closed; others appeared to host events but not exhibitions; some were pop-ups and itinerant enterprises. But on the whole, among a host of established commercial and nonprofit institutions, many conceptually driven, independent visual arts spaces run by practicing artists seem to be thriving. Where Modern Zoo and Core Sample aimed to provide big, splashy overviews of Portland’s arts landscape, today’s projects are often intimate, idiosyncratic efforts, many inhabiting out-of-the-way corners of the city. Some of these new spaces seem intentionally modest: both Conduit and Chingada Gallery, for example, have nearly inconspicuous digital footprints and came to my attention only through word of mouth.3   

In addition to this below-the-radar ethos, I encountered other themes. Most of these spaces appear unconcerned with the regional art market—or, indeed, with any market at all. “As part of our politics, we don’t sell work,” Diego Morales-Portillo, who co-runs Chingada Gallery with rubén garcía marrufo, said in an email. “The model of the gallery is based on transmitting ideas that can travel.” Chingada collaborates with artists from Latin America, such as Regina José Galindo and Jonathas de Andrade, who email files, videos, and instructions to Portland. “We like to think that the space works as an embassy,” Morales-Portillo wrote.4

Similarly, the program at Conduit, an apartment gallery and spare-bedroom residency run by Jade Novarino at the far southeastern edge of town, emphasizes installations, social practice happenings, and workshops. “I’m a first-generation American. Security and space, not money, are important,” Novarino told me. In 2017, Conduit received a one-year Precipice Fund grant from the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art; Novarino stretched that $3,500 to cover two years of operating expenses.5

View of Keith J. Varadi’s show “Concorde: A Western Tone Poem,” 2018–19, at Chicken Coop Contemporary.

Not too far from Conduit is the three-year-old Chicken Coop Contemporary, run by Srijon Chowdhury. As the name implies, the projects are housed in a small barn, among resident poultry. A recent exhibition showcased artist Keith J. Varadi’s altered readymades hung on the whitewashed plywood walls and nestled in the straw. “The program is a response to a ‘what if’ mentality,” Chowdhury explained. “This is all a form of research for my own work—in a way, it’s pretty selfish.”6 When I visited the gallery this fall, the chickens came running to greet me, like paparazzi.

Other spaces offer something closer to the classic gallery experience. Located in the same building as Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, the white-walled Carnation Contemporary runs an exhibition program of local and national artists (full disclosure: my work was exhibited there in 2018). Carnation is a seven-artist collective whose approach is market-neutral. “We don’t need to sell work to keep the gallery afloat, although, of course, you won’t find us complaining if work is sold,” cofounder Jeremy Le Grand said. “The artist gets 100 percent of the proceeds.”7

View of Jessie Weitzel Le Grand’s show “Bloom Tomb,” 2019, at Carnation Contemporary.

It’s surprising that Portland, where the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is now around $1,500, still has affordable commercial space.8 Private Places, run by artist Bobbi Woods in a studio space in the Hollywood district, welcomes visitors to solo and two-person exhibitions by appointment. Most of the artists in Woods’s program hail from Los Angeles. Duos—Kelly Akashi and Cayetano Ferrer, Mark Flores and William E. Jones—have recently exhibited new collaborations in sculpture and collage. Private Places sits halfway between the traditional and the atypical, providing a fitting space for established artists who want to investigate new ways of working. Its small square footage and offbeat location give it an unorthodox atmosphere, but its presentation and program feel thoroughly professional. Woods credits part of Private Places’ potential to her $300 monthly rent. “Portland’s economy still allows for experimentation,” she said. “There’s room for different voices, and you can step away from convention.”9

Whether by design or circumstance, not many artist-run spaces last for more than a few years in Portland. Melanie Flood Projects is an exception. Having started the space in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood in 2008, Flood relaunched here in 2014, developing the gallery from an apartment operation into a more traditional enterprise. “It was always a project to serve fellow artists,” she said in an interview, “but it’s come a long way from the ‘let’s see what happens’ vibe that it started with.”10 By all accounts, Flood’s ambition has paid off: sales from one show nearly covered her annual rent (the space costs $750 per month). She is planning to show at NADA Miami this month and mount an exhibition of Carmen Winant’s work in 2020.   

 

View of Jeremy Le Grand’s show “The Genesis Lobby,” 2019, at Carnation Contemporary.

Every arts community needs the stability of long-term organizations to balance the sparkle and pop of more eccentric, evanescent projects. Alarmingly, in the last year and a half Portland witnessed the closing of two important institutions, the Art Gym at Marylhurst University and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. In 2018, Lewis and Clark College cut its sole curatorial position. There’s a noticeable hole left by these disappearances, and a very real limit to what small, underfunded, precarious projects can do to make up for the loss. Even if some of these spaces hoped to expand into the territory normally occupied by larger nonprofits, they would find little support. While the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the Regional Arts and Culture Council both provide grants to underwrite the launch or early operations of artist-led projects in the city, there are few other resources (beyond day jobs or trust funds) to sustain culturally beneficial but noncommercial enterprises. “We need to figure some stuff out at the institutional level,” acknowledged Grace Kook-Anderson, curator of Northwest art at the Portland Art Museum. “There’s a lot of energy for small-scale, one-off, limited-term engagements with the community, but there’s a perpetual cycle of always doing things at a grassroots level.”11

There are overlapping factors at work here, including a lack of long-term funding, a transitory population, and a shift in community priorities. Perhaps the situation is also partly affected by the steady creep of the gig economy, which proffers the flexibility and independence of short-term engagements rather than security and collectivity. “There are good artists, but a lack of support hampers this place,” Chowdhury said. “We need two more well-funded institutions.” This desire for greater institutional assistance was a recurring theme in many of my conversations, though ideas of how to address the problem differed. Some, like Flood, feel that Portland’s governing bodies have to be more involved in the arts. “We need more interest and support, more investment from the city,” she told me. “We need the city to have skin in the game.”

View of Martha Daghlian’s show “Ceremonial Vestments,” 2019, at Melanie Flood Projects.

Entangled with the desire for effective support is a need for greater critical dialogue, in a town that can sometimes feel averse to criticism. Directly raising issues about the current and long-term health of the arts ecosystem is sometimes taken as accusatory rather than investigatory. It can be tricky for members of the art community to speak publicly about challenging issues, particularly when the environment is largely defined by a paucity of means. When everyone is struggling to stay afloat, efforts to promote a more critical discourse can seem counterproductive, even antagonistic. “Living in a smaller city with limited resources, it’s difficult to be critical in a room with only twenty people,” said Flood, “because you have to have good relationships with everyone.” And yet, without rigorous criticality, it’s hard for a regional art scene to refine its practices and garner the kind of recognition that might, in turn, attract greater support.

Readers from other parts of the country will note that these issues are not unique to Portland. Cities throughout the US have experienced a similar dynamic in recent years: sharp increases in housing and living costs, a commensurate loss of spaces and resources for the arts, and a visible de-prioritization of creativity in state funding. Exhibition spaces everywhere, no matter how modest or unconventional, require labor and resources to keep going; galleries are particularly tough to operate while trying to maintain an art practice and juggle the requirements of a day job, as the artists cited here do. 

Exterior of Private Places.

The renewed desirability of urban centers, seen throughout the US in recent years, is due in part to cities’ heightened cultural activity and production. Yet a failure to adequately protect unremunerative enterprises has seriously eroded the viability of the arts in many midsize urban settings. “A lot of artists come here because they’re not bound by commercial limitations,” Kook-Anderson noted, “but of course if you’re even a little bit more ambitious, it can be a challenging place.”     

After seven years in San Francisco and two in Warsaw, I’m calling Portland home again, and I’m in excellent company: Portland has the fourth-highest concentration of artists in the nation, after New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.12 For the immediate future, experimentation and risk-taking are still possible, and collective political action could help secure some key components (like stable rents and allocations of arts funding) of a thriving art ecosystem. Alternative venues are still brimming with vitality in Portland, just as they were a decade ago; the next step is to address the relative absence of major institutions, which normally provide larger-scale social spaces and professional opportunities to artists and curators.

 

1 Organized by Ralph Rugoff, Matthew Higgs, Toby Kamps, Lisa Corrin, and Daina Augaitis, the exhibition was on view at the Seattle Art Museum (Oct. 9, 2003–Jan. 4, 2004), the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (Jan. 23–May 16, 2004), the Vancouver Art Gallery (June 5–Sept. 6, 2004), and the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (Oct. 6, 2004–Jan. 10, 2005).
2 Jon Raymond, “The Modern Zoo,” Artforum Critic’s Pick, Aug. 1, 2003, artforum.com.
3 Other spaces may actively reject publicity. In a few instances, requests for meetings sent through gallery and personal contact pages went unacknowledged, and in one case a gallerist dropped an ongoing email exchange, leaving my questions unanswered.
4 Email to the author, Oct. 8, 2019.
5 Interview with the author, Sept. 27, 2019.
6 This and subsequent quotes from Chowdhury are from an interview with the author, Sept. 17, 2019.
7 Email to the author, Oct. 8, 2019.
8 Figure cited in Jared Cowley, “Average rent in Portland went down last month, but still up over the past year,” KGW, Feb. 20, 2019, kgw.com.
9 Interview with the author, Sept. 16, 2019.
10 This and subsequent quotes from Flood are from an interview with the author, Oct. 7, 2019.
11 This and subsequent quotes from Kook-Anderson are from an interview with the author, Sept. 26, 2019.
12 Dan Kopf, “The US Cities with the Highest Concentrations of Working Artists,” Quartz, Oct. 28, 2017, qz.com. The US Census Bureau category
“artist” depends on self-reporting and includes, in addition to visual artists, designers, actors, dancers, musicians, and announcers. See the National Endowment for the Arts report “Artists in the Workforce 1990–2005,” arts.gov/sites.

 

This article appears under the title “This Story Shall Not Be Passed On” in the December 2019 issue, pp. 52–57.

Recently Discovered Cave Paintings May Be World’s Oldest Figurative Artworks

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 15:00

The archaeologist Hamrullah may have discovered the world’s earliest narrative and figurative artwork in the Maros-Pangkep limestone cave system of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. According to the New York Times, the painting, which depicts eight figures approaching wild pigs, dates back some 44,000 years, and a scientific paper published this week reports that the work is “the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.” Hamrullah, who uses one name, first came across the work in 2017.

The characters in the painting seem to possess a mix of animal and human features, and they carry tools that could represent spears and other weapons. The painting predates the next oldest work of this kind, which is located in Germany, by 4,000 years, and it is over 20,000 years older than the storied pictures created on the walls of the Lascaux Cave in France.

“This scene may not be a depiction of an actual hunting scene but could be about animistic beliefs and the relationship between people and animals, or even a shamanic ritual,” Sue O’Connor, an archaeologist at Australian National University, told the Times.

Archaeologist Adam Brumm, one of the writers of the report on the finding, told the publication that his team “had never seen anything even remotely like this before in the hundreds of cave art sites we’d documented” in Indonesia.

Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton in England, said in an interview with the Times that the discovery is significant “because it was previously thought that figurative painting dated to a time shortly after modern humans arrived in Europe, perhaps circa 40,000 years ago, but this result shows it has an origin outside Europe.”

Pike, however, has doubts about the notion that the work is the oldest example of visual storytelling because the figures in the work have not yet been conclusively dated. The archaeological team behind the discovery thinks that the figures were most likely painted at the same time as the animals depicted, whose age has been conclusively determined using uranium-series dating.

Stolen Gustav Klimt Painting May Have Been Discovered in an Italian Gallery’s Wall

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 14:21

Earlier this week, a gardener clearing ivy at the Ricci Oddi Modern Art gallery in Italy made an astonishing discovery: behind a metal panel adorning the gallery’s exterior wall was a painting half-hidden by a black trash bag. Immediately, staff at the gallery began to wonder if the vivid picture they found was Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady (1916–17), a painting valued at a $66 million and stolen from the space almost 23 years ago.

Now, police have confiscated the canvas as they investigate its authenticity. Could one of the world’s most sought-after paintings have been hidden at the scene of the brazen crime all along? The gallery has declined to make an official announcement until the painting’s authenticity is confirmed, but the director of Ricci Oddi Modern Art, Massimo Ferrari, told the Italian newspaper La Libertà that “the stamps and wax behind the picture are original.”

Portrait of a Lady was created by the Viennese art nouveau painter as part of a series of female portraits. Ten months before the theft in 1997, art student Claudia Maga discovered via X-ray analysis that Klimt made Portrait of a Lady by painting over another piece—Portrait of a Young Lady, a canvas considered lost since its last sighting in 1917.

Portrait of a Lady went missing amid preparations for an exhibition at Ricci Oddi in which the painting was to be its centerpiece. Investigators at the time suspected it had been removed three days earlier, possibly by a suspect connected to the gallery. Its broken frame was found on the gallery’s roof, leading investigators to believe that the work may have been hauled off the wall and reeled with fishing line through an open skylight. An investigation was reopened in 2016, following the discovery of DNA traces of a possible thief on the frame. This week, investigators said that the painting was in excellent condition and that its colors were still vibrant.

“If the findings confirm the authenticity of the painting, it would be a sensational discovery and we would be ready to exhibit it in the gallery as early as January,” Jonathan Papamerenghi, a member of the Piacenza council, told the Italian publication La Repubblica. “We are talking about the most sought-after stolen painting in the world after Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence.”

Criminal Charges Against Swiss Dealer Accused of Fraud Dropped in Monaco, as Bouvier Affair Continues to Churn

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 14:14

Never let it be said that the “Bouvier affair” is a dull one.

A criminal case in the Principality of Monaco against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier was dismissed on Thursday, according to court documents reviewed by ARTnews, marking the latest twist in a long-running legal affair that has seeped into the highest echelons of the art world.

In 2015, Bouvier was charged with fraud and money laundering in Monaco. (He denied the allegations.) He had sold more than $2 billion in artwork to Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, and is accused of peddling some of the world’s most expensive artworks to the billionaire at a secret markup of nearly $1 billion. Artwork that Rybolovlev bought from Bouvier includes Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500), which has since become the world’s most expensive painting ever to hit the auction block, selling for $450.3 million in 2017.

Monaco’s court of appeals found on Thursday, December 12, that the 2015 investigation into Bouvier was “conducted in a biased and unfair way.” The court case has rocked the tiny principality, especially after its top judicial official was removed from his post when evidence of bias in the case was uncovered.

The court said that actions of Montaguese investigators violated the principality’s judicial code.

The court decision said that Rybolovlev’s lawyer, Tetiana Bersheda, “actively participated in the investigation strategy and the investigators regularly sent her reports as if she acted as an unofficial investigator.” Philippe Narmino, formerly the top justice official in Monaco, was apparently invited to Rybolovlev’s vacation home in the Swiss Alps by Bresheda. He subsequently left his post. “We will use tomorrow’s confrontations to reinforce the competence to Monaco,” Christophe Haget, then head of Monaco’s Criminal Investigation Division, wrote in a 2015 email to Bresheda, a lawyer representing Rybolovlev.

Speaking to ARTnews from his Paris apartment in the week before the criminal charges were dropped, Bouvier said that “from day one there was something not normal with Monaco. There was no jurisdiction with Monaco. The only thing linked with Monaco was the fact that Rybolovlev was the president of the Monaco football club.”

Bouvier said that as a result of the court cases he has essentially been blacklisted in the art world. He claims to have suffered significant financial losses in the process, and to have had virtually no business when it comes to art dealing.

“Deceived by this fraudulent scheme, the companies of the Rybolovlev family paid [Bouvier] hundreds of millions in unauthorized markups for more than ten years,” a lawyer for Rybolovlev said, adding that his legal team was planning to appeal the decision.

Thursday’s decision is not the end of the winding legal feud between Bouvier and Rybolovlev, however. There are also open legal cases involving both of them in France, Singapore, and Switzerland. Rybolovlev has also launched a $380 million lawsuit against auction house Sotheby’s in the United States, alleging that it “materially assisted” Bouvier in marking up the price of a number of works sold to him. (The auction house denied this, and has said it will “vigorously litigate” the case.)

Bouvier told ARTnews that the affair was not finished. “When it is over,” he said, “this will be a Netflix series.”

As Arts Institutions Expand Digital Programming, Rhizome Names New Editor and Curator

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 13:57

While museums have been rapidly expanding their digital programming in recent years, the New Museum in New York has been at it longer than most, thanks to its 2002 acquisition of the art-and-technology nonprofit Rhizome. Now that closely watched organization has tapped one of its staffers for a new leadership position.

Rhizome has named Aria Dean as its new editor and curator. Dean, who also works independently as an artist, was previously the organization’s assistant curator of net art and digital culture.

“I grew up on reading Rhizome in college and really came to contemporary art and net art through it, so it has a special place in my heart as a publishing platform,” Dean told ARTnews.

Among Dean’s biggest projects for Rhizome to date, which oversees a blog as well as exhibitions, public programming, and the commissioning of new works, has been the Net Art Anthology, an essential resource that offers restored versions of pioneering digital works and historical texts related to them that she oversaw with Michael Connor, Rhizome’s artistic director. The anthology surveyed nearly three decades of art, and its offerings were later turned into a book and a New Museum show.

Such research-based work will continue to be a focus for Dean at Rhizome. She said that, over the coming year, the group will focus on several themes—radicalization online, the use of digital currencies, and the role of technology within indigenous cultures.

Dean’s promotion comes amid major changes in the art-tech field, with the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow launching an ambitious new website for art that exists online, and the Serpentine Galleries in London investing in augmented and virtual reality works.

“The niche that Rhizome has existed in gives us a very particular sort of expertise,” Dean said. “Our lens is useful as a way to think about all these things museums are already looking at, but we can dig deeper into certain sides of it.”

The ARTnews Top 200 Collectors at 30 and Beyond

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 13:37

Times have changed since ARTnews started the Top 200 Collectors list 30 years ago. Back then, the artworks breaking records at auction tended to be Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which sold for $82.5 million in 1990, held the record for the highest-priced painting at auction for 14 years, and the people who bought art at such scale tended to come from small and rarefied circles.

[See the list.]

As the recession of the mid-1990s wore off, the market was dynamized with record pricing, an accelerated pace between the primary market (when works sell for the first time) and the secondary market (when works change hands through private sales or at auction), globalization, and, more recently, a rising interest in the output of an increasingly diverse array of artists. Tastes have shifted toward elevating the historically overlooked and excluded, including women and artists of color.

The prices may be not be as high, but the significance of this latter development is huge. Last October at Sotheby’s London, Jenny Saville’s 1992 painting Propped set the auction record for a work by a living female artist when it sold for $12.4 million. (Compare that with the record for work by a living male artist, set twice in the past 12 months when David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist [Pool with Two Figures] sold for $90.2 million last November and Jeff Koons’s Rabbit went for $91.1 million in May.)

In the past, if works by African-American artists appeared at auction, they tended to be by young artists and on offer in lower-value day sales. But in the November 2018 sales, Sotheby’s gave pride of place in its New York evening sale of contemporary art to The Businessmen, a 1947 painting by Jacob Lawrence that sold for a record $6.2 million. That same week, Christie’s offered Sam Gilliam’s Lady Day II (1971) in its evening sale, where it sold for a record $2.2 million, nearly doubling a previous record for the artist set only months before at Sotheby’s London. At Sotheby’s New York this past May, 10 of the 63 lots in the house’s contemporary art evening sale were by black artists.

Last month, Sotheby’s offered the vaunted contemporary evening sale platform to paintings by two other African-American artists, both of whom died 40 years ago: Charles White and Norman Lewis. (Those works sold for $1.7 million and $2.78 million, respectively.) And Christie’s, too, offered a painting by White, which sold for $1.22 million.

“There is this great shift in what’s going on in collecting,” said Sara Friedlander, Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art. “Collectors across the board are looking for something new that is also of great quality—in concert with what’s happening curatorially in museums and in scholarly gallery shows.” The result, she said, is “shifting the conversation away from simply dead white men to artists of color and women.”

[Explore the 30th Anniversary Edition of the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list.]

These recent developments are tied to another one: the opening up of the art world in general. “There was a level of inaccessibility that was daunting 30 years ago,” David Galperin, the head of contemporary evening sales at Sotheby’s, told ARTnews. “As information becomes more quickly transmitted and easily accessible—and works are sold in a radically different way—you’re a seeing a different kind of collector emerge at all levels. You don’t necessarily need to be an ‘insider’ anymore to get access to the best material.”

The rise of social media has also helped art find fashionable status among cross-cultural crowds and collectors of sneakers, skateboard decks, and more. “The art world at this point is hard to miss, whether online, on Instagram, or at an art fair that’s coming to a city near you,” said Jackie Wachter, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby’s.

In Hong Kong, a significant percentage of active buyers are millennials. According to the latest Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, 39 percent of collectors in Hong Kong fell into this demographic, while Sotheby’s said 50 percent of their buyers in Hong Kong this spring were millennials.

In addition to more a global reach, the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list increasingly includes more diverse collectors—among them Pamela J. Joyner & Alfred J. Giuffrida, Raymond J. McGuire & Crystal McCrary, and Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean & Alicia Keys. All have built serious collections focusing on artists of color who are being newly acknowledged as momentous in cultural as well as financial terms.

“This is a defining time, with the long-overdue recognition of these critically important artists to the world as we know it—and as we will know it,” said McGuire, who first ranked as a Top 200 collector in 2014, of the African-American artists he favors. Along with his fellow music star wife, Dean, a new addition to our list this year, actively advocates for artists of color. As he put it, “What we like to do is collect living artists, give them life, and show the world their mission.”

What’s also changed is the sheer volume of information and analysis available to collectors. And that has translated into collectors looking for new opportunities. “As collectors armed with more information look for the best quality, where they’re looking now is in markets where prices are less developed than for what we would traditionally define as blue-chip, like Abstract Expressionism or Pop,” said Galperin, of Sotheby’s.

Joyner, whose collection of African-American abstract art and contemporary art of the African diaspora has been the subject of a recent traveling exhibition, believes the definition is expanding for the better. “Blue-chip is blue-chip,” she said. “What we are experiencing is simply the removal of this artificial barrier that defined blue-chip as Western-white-male-oriented.”

“We at the auction houses are guilty of setting up a system where the highest bidder is rewarded,” Friedlander said. “I don’t know if that’s what makes a top collector. The market is always looking for excellence, and that is not always tied to the highest prices. We’ve often equated the greatest with the highest prices. That’s changing.”

McGuire concurred. “The shift is in the recognition of very important artists who have not been included in the conversation— the result of which is a heightened interest now in making certain that collections represent all important artists, not just a select few.”

Such a commitment can be beneficial to all, Joyner said: “The inclusion of more narratives raises the bar.”

Did Sturtevant Invent the Meme?

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 12:14

Sturtevant: Dark Threat of Absence, 2002, two-channel video, 14 minutes and 37 seconds; at Freedman Fitzpatrick.

Sturtevant didn’t copy, appropriate, or forge; Sturtevant repeated. The artist, who died in 2014, at age eighty-nine, is best known for paintings and sculptures that redo the signature works of other artists, ranging from Marcel Duchamp to Felix Gonzalez-Torres. When she took up video in the new millennium, Sturtevant often repeated the juicy burgers and waving flags of commercial television instead. Freedman Fitzpatrick’s recent exhibition of her rarely seen videos framed the works anachronistically as “memes”—a term whose association with digital imagery had barely begun at the time she made most of the videos. The designation makes a certain sense, insofar as it highlights the videos’ short length, deceptive simplicity, monotony, and wit. But these works resist the most crucial quality of memes: virality.

View of Sturtevant’s exhibition Memes, 2019, at Freedman Fitzpatrick.

The show was arranged as a face-off. Projected on one wall was The Dark Threat of Absence (2002), a fifteen-minute, two-channel video reprising Paul McCarthy’s video Painter (1995), which mocks the pretensions of Abstract Expressionism. Like McCarthy, Sturtevant struggles with condiments and paint while wearing a wig, smock, and rubber hands. But her version adds repetitions not present in the original, in the form of her grunting as she finger-fucks a jar of red paint or muttering “sex and death, sex and death, sex and death.” The opposite wall and part of a third were gridded with eighteen synchronized monitors playing a sequence of two dozen shorter videos (between forty seconds and five minutes long) assembled from ads and stock footage. When the McCarthy video played, the shorts did not, and vice versa; the gallery was always only half-activated, creating an atmosphere of suspense.

Two thirty-second videos continuously playing on box monitors facing each other on plinths cut some of the tension. Both videos starred a paper hand waving from the cleft of a plastic butt. In one, a tiny voice says, “Hello!” (HELLO, 2006); in the other, “Hey, assholes!” (HEY, 2006). The exhibition ultimately asked whether Sturtevant’s mediation of the canon permits future variations, too—whether her repetitions can be repeated by others. This pair of screens provided the answer. Sturtevant waved hello to Sturtevant: her work is a closed loop.

Sturtevant: HELLO, 2006, single-channel video, 27 seconds; at Freedman Fitzpatrick.

Instead of meme-hood, what emerged from the collection of videos was Sturtevant’s critique of value. The shorter works picked out and repeated ad absurdum the ways in which commercial culture tells us what matters. One particularly mind-melting short, Shifting Mental Structures Millionaire / Money (2000), features a montage of several crane shots over the sets of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” followed by a clip, repeated twenty-eight times, of a businessman fanning out stacks of cash as he declares, “Real live money.” Sturtevant’s videos shun the Darwinian-capitalist impulse of click-seeking memes. As she reused materials, she also rebranded them in a way that took them out of normal circulation. Many of these works come with a disclaimer from the artist in the credits: NOT FOR SALE. This is more a statement of principle than of fact. You can buy her art (including editions of these videos), but her art isn’t selling anything.

For Dealer Friedrich Petzel, a Successful Gallery Is About Precision, Not Expansion

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 11:19

One morning a couple weeks ago, the art dealer Friedrich Petzel was sitting in a backroom of his Upper East Side spaceon the third floor of an elegant town house—and discussing his gallery’s future. His downstairs neighbor, the veteran dealer of American modernism Vivian Horan, had told him earlier this year that she was retiring, he said, and she asked him if he might be interested in taking over her space. “Absolutely it’s of interest to me because it’s the so-called parlor floor!” he exclaimed.

At 56, Petzel exudes a boyish enthusiasm; he speaks quickly but quietly. The parlor floor, he said at a clip, comes with extra-tall ceilings and large windows—it’s an ideal space for showing art—and so he went for it. “This is a unique opportunity to expand a little bit the exhibition program,” he said. Renovation work was just getting started, and Petzel will open there in late February while keeping his space up above for private viewings of various works.

First up in the new venue is a solo show by a new addition to Petzel, the esteemed Los Angeles artist Rodney McMillian, whose work leaps across media while considering race and class in the United States and its art history. (He’s been without a New York gallery since Maccarone shuttered its branch in the city in 2017.)

But while his program may be growing, Petzel was emphatic that the move is not a true real-estate expansion. “It’s an enhancement, not an enlargement,” he said, with a mischievous smile. That may sound like splitting hairs, but the point is characteristic of a businessman who has built one of the era’s most respected contemporary art galleries at a steady, deliberate pace that is a bit out of step with the rapid-growth approach so visible in the market today.

Petzel first opened in SoHo in 1994, two years after Hauser & Wirth went into business and one year after David Zwirner. But while those enterprises have become global behemoths, Petzel has kept a comparatively low profile and maintained a considerably smaller footprint. In addition to locations in Chelsea and the Upper East Side, he has a partnership with fellow German dealer Gisela Capitain in Berlin, because that’s where his artists want to show, he said. And that’s it for now. (Though Petzel said he does have Asia on his mind.)

Petzel.

The gallery’s roster has about three dozen artists, a significant number but modest in comparison to some other outfits. “My imagination does not allow for 80, 90, 100 artists,” he said. “I think there’s a certain expectation of precision from people who enter the gallery.”

Petzel’s precise artist list includes wily painters like Charline von Heyl, Dana Schutz, and Wade Guyton as well as the late Joyce Pensato, the design maestro Jorge Pardo, and the tech-interrogator Simon Denny—rare figures with both curatorial cachet and collector clout.

They are also artists who balance aesthetic delectation with intellectual frisson, so it’s perhaps not a surprise to learn that Petzel got his start in academia. (With a scarf swirled atop his blazer, he actually looked more like a well-off European professor or even an artist than a market maker.) Growing up in the Cologne area, he spent long days at the Museum Ludwig as a child, played bass in punk bands, and pursued graduate studies in art history.

What was his dissertation topic? Petzel thought for a moment and picked his words very carefully. His subject of study was a question, he said. “Can a painting express the opposite of what it represents?” Or, to put it another way, “How can you talk about something intelligently without getting into questions of taste?”

Petzel arrived in New York in the early 1990s ready to pursue his doctoral work and quickly fell into the hothouse Manhattan art world. He worked for the omnipresent adviser, collector, and publisher Thea Westreich and the gallery Metro Pictures (another place that has pursued distinct artistic interests while spurning international expansion).

He fell in love with the city. Germany has begun to feel “a bit insular,” he said, and, “I was glad to be in New York, which had a very different perspective on how to interpret the world.”

The current Upper East Side Petzel space, which opened in 2015, has focused on jewel-box-style shows of historical series from gallery artists, like early paintings by von Heyl or, right now, 1980s-era paintings by Georg Herold that the artist made by taping together hunks of wood. Pointing to an example by the door, Petzel said that, when he first bought the work years ago, he showed it to his parents. “They thought I had lost my mind!” he said. He made a copy of it for them as a present.

The new parlor-floor venue will have a more expansive remit, showing new work by Petzel artists as well as figures who have not worked with the dealer in New York, or at all. The young German painter Stefanie Heinze, who is repped by Capitain Petzel in Germany, is one of those artists on deck.

The gallery landscape is topsy-turvy right now, with some New York dealers relocating to Tribeca or Brooklyn, but Petzel is enjoying the Upper East Side. “There’s kind of a closer relationship to your clients, because they come for a coffee and you talk,” he said. “In Chelsea, I sit on the third floor and no one ever talks to me.”

The new space seems to be a way for Petzel to nurture small communities—of artists and of collectors—and hone his eye. It’s a chance “to really play,” he said, grinning. “If I felt I had to open a gallery in Madrid, I would feel like, ‘Oh my god, this is just another headache.’ This is a chance to have fun.”

Laurent Asscher Collection

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 11:00

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