Nosferatu he ain’t
Polish archaeologists have uncovered the burial of a 16th to 17th-century “vampire”. The body, excavated in the town of Kamien Pomorski, had a brick shoved in its mouth and a hole in one of its legs, which is thought to have once been attached to a stake; the brick was thought to stop a vampire from feeding, while the stake secured the hated creature of the night to the ground, preventing it from rising from it grave. Belief in vampires was rampant in medieval Eastern Europe, and people would often take precautions to ensure that the dead did not return to harm them.
Comrades in art
The American artist Jim Dine is probably not a communist, but he certainly understands collaborative labour. A few years ago, two German friends presented the artist with a trove of lithograph stones made by students at an East German art school before the collapse of the country and the unification of Germany. Dine spent two-and-a-half years printing images from the plates, which were largely designed in the then-dominant Socialist Realist style. The resulting works, which go on view at the Alan Cristea gallery in London this September, will be shown under the title “A History of Communism”—an appropriate title, considering that Dine and the anonymous makers of the plates share credit for the work.
Interactive art history
The photographer Cindy Sherman is a woman of many faces—and now you can examine them all, thanks to a new iPad application. The company Art Intelligence released an app devoted to the mercurial artist on 22 May. For 99 cents, users can examine high resolution images of Sherman’s entire body of work, comb through a collection of books, music and films that have inspired her and use an interactive timeline to compare her photographs with depictions of women in the media since 1975. The art historian Bridget Goodbody developed the app in partnership with the artist and with the cooperation of her gallery Metro Pictures. “It was fascinating to see a mash-up/mix-up of cultural goings-on compared to each phase of my career; connections made that are obvious to me now, but weren’t at the time,” Sherman says in a statement. Art Intelligence, which has already produced two similar apps about Keith Haring and Patricia Piccinini, hopes to expand beyond individual artists to create apps that use art to teach other subjects, such as American history. Is it only a matter of time before students are learning about art from an app instead of a book?
Gainsborough's tough medicine
A newly discovered Gainsborough recipe for cough medicine is published in the May issue of The Burlington Magazine. The artist wrote out his instructions: “Take two calves’ feet, two quarts of spring water, two ounces of sugar candy, one ounce of hart’s horn shavings, and one quart of milk; put them into an earthen pan, and send them to the oven to be baked after the bread is taken out, and to remain all night in the oven.” Some of the ingredients in this revolting concoction may have been at hand in his studio. Sugar candy (crystallised sugar) was mixed with ink to add lustre and skimmed milk was used to fix chalk drawings. Fortunately, the cough mixture proved a success. “This cured Mr Gainsboro of a galloping consumption," concludes the 1750s recipe which was spotted by curator Chris Fletcher in a British Library document.
Come fly with me
What’s better than taking a private plane to the art-filled desert town of Marfa, Texas? Travelling with a companion who also happens to be the director of one of the most prominent museums in the US. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s annual Collector’s Committee fundraising event last month, the institution auctioned off a day trip to Marfa with its director Michael Govan. (The plane will be lent by one of Lacma's trustees.) Sadly, Govan, who is a licensed pilot and wrote an essay earlier this year for the Wall Street Journal about teaching his daughter to fly in his bright yellow 1968 Cessna 150, won’t be in the cockpit himself. Nevertheless, the opportunity to visit Marfa with Govan contributed to the more than $800,000 raised during the live auction, as well as a total of $4.1m raised for acquisitions through the entire weekend. The money will be used to purchase ten works for the museum’s collection, including the painting Odalisque, 1815, by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, a print by Pablo Picasso and a 3,300-pound sculpture by Roni Horn.
The cost of some face-time
Want to eat a home-cooked Milanese meal with Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli? Or take a private tour of the Pérez Art Museum Miami with its former director Terence Riley? Now you can—but it will cost you at least $1,600 and $750, respectively. The experiences have been donated, along with 28 others, to benefit the architecture and design non-profit Van Alen Institute. The organisation, which is dedicated to advancing innovation in urban design, asked its famous friends to volunteer interactive items for its auction, which runs through 23 May on the website Paddle8. The most sought-after experiences include a helicopter ride with the architectural photographer Iwan Baan, whose aerial shot of Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy landed on the cover of New York Magazine (current bid: $2,000) and an early-morning breakfast with the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (current bid: $3,000). Sadly, nobody has yet bid on the former Cleveland Art Museum director Aaron Betsky’s offer of tea and a one-on-one Skype conversation. Bidding starts at $250—but the winner still has to supply his or her own tea.
Port of protest
A major demonstration against the vast cruise ships entering Venice is planned by the "No alle Grandi Navi" protest group and was announced on 21 May by a 40m long banner that hung for a few minutes from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. Despite a resolution by the Italian government in 2012 to ban the ships from sailing down the Giudecca canal, a decision reiterated last summer, they continue to arrive—more than 1100 sailings a year back and forth through the city— because of the major contribution they make to the economy of the port. The largest of the ships is 110,000 gross tonnes and the length of three football pitches; the Titanic was 46,000 gross tonnes.
Irony pours forth at V&A
Last night, the Prix Pictet, the international photography award worth SwF100,000 went to Michael Schmidt, the very austere German activist photographer, for his bleak photos of the food industry. He was not at the huge party announcing his win in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, however, because he is gravely ill in Berlin. Pictet is a Swiss private bank so there was a crush of City folk and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, unlimited champagne and a red carpet outside. Just as Kofi Annan, the former head of the UN, was announcing the winner and saying “We cannot go on consuming like this”, there was the pop of a champagne cork. Obvious paradox, but then the rich have always enjoyed a little hellfire and brimstone.
Carolyn's curatorial conundrum
We know that curators are very intelligent and deeply cerebral, but we were foxed by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev's curatorial statement for the 14th Istanbul Biennial which launches September next year. Christov-Bakargiev, the artistic director of the critically acclaimed Documenta13 in Kassel, will, according to a press statement, work closely with other illustrious art world figures, seeking "the artistic advice of [the artist] Cevdet Erek, the intellectual rigour of [the art historian] Griselda Pollock, the sensitivity of [the artist] Pierre Huyghe", among others. And what is Christov-Bakargiev's vision for Istanbul? "The 14th Istanbul Biennial will embark looking for where to draw the line, to withdraw, to draw upon, and to draw out. It will do so offshore, on the flat surfaces with our fingertips but also in the depths, underwater, before the enfolded encoding unfolds,” she says. Answers on a postcard please.
Lawrence of Arabia railway restored
Near the tombs of Mada’in Saleh, a station of the famous Hejaz railway has been carefully restored, together with its 1906 locomotives, made in the Rhineland, and is open to the public. This famous railway line was built by the Turks to transport pilgrims from Damascus to Medina in four days instead of the arduous four-month journey across the desert. As shown in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”, it was blown up during the First World War and the Saudi stretch was never repaired.
Welcome to the land of Jing Bang
Obtaining visas at the last minute to travel to fairs and exhibitions across the world can often prove problematic. But there is a country free of red tape that can be accessed in seconds at the heart of Art Basel in Hong Kong. The Republic of Jing Bang is an ephemeral nation created for the fair by the Chinese artist Sun Xun. A spokeswoman for the Singapore-based institution STPI, which is behind the project, says: “Nobody is refused a visa.” An etching of a visa is $100, a digital version $30—and fair-goers can also buy Sun’s “citizenship briefcase” (edition of 100, priced at $13,000 each), containing items for the fully-fledged Jing Bangian (Jing Bangese?). These include a fetching flag, passport and ID card. But what sort of nation is Jing Bang? Sun says: “The republic is like a country built upon the back of a whale; it starts to exist as soon as the whale leaps out of the water and disappears the moment it dives back under.” The artist adds: “The transient republic of Jing Bang does not advocate any political beliefs, which it considers bullshit.”
Jean-Michel’s golden balls
You can’t miss the eye-popping installation of golden baubles in the lobby of the sumptuous 50 Connaught Road Central building. The beautiful balls, entitled Double Collier Autoporté Or, 2014, are an intriguing taster for a show of work by the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel in Galerie Perrotin, on the 17th floor of the grand venue. Emmanuel Perrotin, the gallery’s owner, says that the security guards love the blingy behemoth suspended gracefully in the lobby. “That sure is the best pearl necklace I’ve ever seen,” quipped one passerby, with a serene smile on his face.
Murakami is happy happy
The jovial Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was on fine form at an Asia Society Hong Kong bash earlier this week, held in honour of Murakami and three fellow artists. He waxed lyrical about his new best friend, the musician Pharrell Williams, who is due to organise an exhibition of 40 works by 32 artists at Galerie Perrotin in Paris later this month. Murakami has made a charming piece (above) for the show, depicting Pharrell and his wife, Helen, locked in an embrace. He’s also forged a firm friendship with the pint-sized pop star. “Pharrell is a really generous guy—so polite and so different from other celebrities,” Murakami gushed.
Big fish in Siggs’ pond
Not only are Uli and Rita Sigg two of the most influential collectors of Chinese art, they also know how to show their favourite artists a good time when they stay at the Siggs’ castle in Switzerland. “We have taken many Chinese artists fishing for pike in our private lake,” said Uli Sigg at the ceremony for The Art Newspaper Asia Prize on Tuesday, where he was among the award winners. He doesn’t organise cormorants to catch the fish in the Chinese manner, though. “We hate the birds,” Sigg said, adding: “In Switzerland, they can be shot.” Instead, artists such as Zhou Tiehai, Zhang Huan and Liu Ye are offered a line and reel to haul in the pike, which Rita then cooks for a no-doubt-delicious supper.
Deal or no deal
If you’re an art fair virgin, fear not—the organisers have provided a handy sheet of tips for novice buyers. “Don’t be deterred by a red dot,” says the illuminating guide. “Many galleries place a red dot next to a work that has sold; however, they may be able to lead you to other editions of the same piece.” But the most useful nugget is about how to deal with dealers. “Do be respectful in your negotiations and aim for a fair price,” it says. “Galleries work on tight margins and while a slight discount is sometimes offered, you should not expect to receive a substantial markdown.”
A series of “knock-off” T-shirts, emblazoned with art-world names given a cheeky twist, are stopping people in their tracks at the fair. The quirky clothing comes courtesy of the artist Anastasia Klose, represented by Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne, who says: “Artists and curators are now like luxury brands.” The HK$600 ($77) T-shirts bear highly pertinent slogans, such as “Art|Blasé”, “Hans Ulrich Obrist: Just Do It” and “White Noise by Jay Jopling”. But our favourite is a bold take on a blue-chip gallery: “L’Hausér, NYC, Zurich, London: because you’re Wirth it.”
The French designer Mathieu Lehanneur spent February in the enchanting Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura mountains, seeking inspiration for a commission from the luxury watch-maker Audemars Piguet. Lehanneur eventually found his artistic raison d’être among the rocky outcrops, and decided to cast replicas of the boulders. A passing skier was startled to see the artist’s technician decked out in a mask and overalls, applying a silicon mould to the rocks. “Are you in the military?” enquired the curious local, “or even an astronaut?” The replica geological specimens now adorn the Collectors’ Lounge at the fair.
It ain’t the end of the world
The end of the world is nigh, according to the Hong Kong-born artist Nadim Abbas, who is presenting a doomsday scenario in a pop-up Absolut Art Bar in a commercial building in Causeway Bay. Abbas foresees the end of civilisation, creating a claustrophobic post-apocalyptic bunker fashioned from hundreds of sandbags. Guests are lapping up beetroot cocktails served in blood bags, or ginger-and-lime concoctions with effervescent calcium tablets. But Abbas’s all-in-one outfit, designed by the Hong Kong tailor Moustache, is also a talking point, with one guest describing it as an “apocalyptic onesie”. Coming soon to a fashion retailer near you…
Kris Martin makes sweet music
Music lovers should head for the Sies & Hoke gallery stand (1B24) at Art Basel in Hong Kong which is showing a series of a works by the artist Kris Martin that combines medieval melodies with modern music giants. Martin has transposed songs by musical legends such as Frank Sinatra, Roxy Music, the Beatles and Radiohead on to a series of late 17th-century song sheets purchased in a Belgian antiques store. The musical masterpieces are going for a song at €18,000 each.
Because you're Wirth it
A series of “knock off” T-shirts—emblazoned with a series of strangely familiar art world names—are stopping people in their tracks at Art Basel Hong Kong this week. The quirky clothing is courtesy of the artist Anastasia Klose, represented by Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne, who says that “artists and curators are now like luxury brands”. The T-shirts, available at HK$600 each, are prompting titters from the fair floor. Amusing slogans include “Art Blasé”, “Hans Ulrich Obrist: Just Do It” and “White Noise by Jay Jopling”. But our favourite is this bold take on a blue-chip gallery: “L’Hausér, NYC, Zurich, London: Because you’re Wirth it.”
In a desert far, far away…
At the end of April, visitors to Tunis were shocked to find the city streets overrun with storm troopers, bounty hunters and the worrying presence of Darth Vader. Luckily, rather than an intergalactic invasion force, it turned out to be a parade organised by the 15-member-strong Star Wars Tunisia Fan Club and the Ministry of Tourism to promote the Star Wars film sets, still standing in the desert near Tozeur after more than 30 years. In the movies, Tunisia doubled for the planet Tatooine, itself named after the Tunisian city of Tataouine. “The [filming] sites are part of the cinematographic heritage of Tunisia,” Mariem Oueslati Ameur, a member of the fan club, told Tunisia Live, adding that they need to be protected for future generations. With a new Star Wars movie currently in production (though not in Tunisia), authorities hope that the renewed interest will attract visitors to the legendary home of Luke Skywalker.
Not that kind of dealer
Marc Jacobs (above) played a bit of word association at the fair on Thursday. When a man on Timothy Taylor Gallery’s stand told Jacobs that he had to meet some dealer, the fashion designer shuddered and said: “Every time I hear the word ‘dealer’, it sounds like something nasty. Like car dealer, or drug dealer.” (Lest we forget, Jacobs has admitted to battling heroin addiction in the past.) The man pressed on, but Jacobs and his companion—intriguingly, his ex-fiancé Lorenzo Martone, who makes bespoke bicycles—insisted they must be on their way. “Actually, we were going to grab a coffee,” Jacobs said. But not all of the fashion world’s Frieze New York attendees were as flippant. We spotted Raf Simons—the creative director of Dior, who was in town to debut the French house’s Cruise 2015 collection on Tuesday night—laughing with representatives of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. When Style.com’s editor-in-chief, Dirk Standen, asked him how he liked the fair, Simons responded: “I love it.” And they say art hearts fashion.
Hands off for Hemingway
When we caught up with the model and actress Dree Hemingway (above, left) at the Whitney Art Party on Thursday night, she hadn’t yet been to Frieze New York, despite the fact that her boyfriend, Phil Winser, is running a pop-up version of his Orchard Street eatery, The Fat Radish. (If you can’t make it through a day of pushy buyers without a hit of the ol’ kale, The Fat Radish is your jam.) But she did get to see the art up for auction at the Whitney’s bash. After a few minutes, we stopped in front of a work by Liz Magic Laser called Diagram: Delsarte System of Oratory. It’s a chart of nine different palms in various stages of movement. “Maybe it’s hand emotions,” said Hemingway, whose great-grandfather, Ernest, palled around with a pretty decent slate of artists in his day. “It’s like the little things people do with their hands.” Would she bid on it? She said she probably wouldn’t.
PS1 goes Goop
MoMA PS1 is throwing its annual Night at the Museum party. For those still standing after the infinite cavalcade of galas and cocktail bashes that makes a fair week oh-so-charming, it will surely be a grand time, hosted by ubiquitous art-world figures such as Klaus Biesenbach, Marina Abramovic, Elizabeth Peyton, Ryan Trecartin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickalene Thomas… wait, hold on. Gwyneth Paltrow? “Basically, she’s a friend of Klaus and always supports us when she can,” says a source at PS1. Although a friendship with Biesenbach doesn’t quite bestow instant art-world legitimacy, Paltrow’s not a complete novice. In 2011, she wrote a Goop newsletter on “Decorating with Contemporary Art”, and she also spoke to Ellsworth Kelly for Interview magazine that year. But don’t go on Saturday looking for the actress (right). “She’s probably not attending,” the source said, “just lending her name in support.”
Shimmering like a second river—and rustling with an “intense, wild sound”—Scarecrow by the Lithuanian-born, Queens-based artist Žilvinas Kempinas is due to be unveiled this weekend at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. The 250ft-long kinetic work, the largest ever installed by the public art space, is made from 200 mirrored steel poles and 7,000ft of silver Mylar tape, stretched from pole to pole in a curving sweep towards the Manhattan skyline. Kempinas likens the piece to a gigantic musical instrument. “When the wind is really strong, it’s a little scary to be around,” Kempinas says. Like all good things, it could never have been realised without a little help from his friends—in this case the Lewben Art Foundation, which supports artists in the Lithuanian diaspora, and the Miami-collector Martin Margulies, who has been early supporter of the artist and owns several of his pieces. “He launched my career,” Kempinas says. And the collector is equally fond of the artist. “I have a great deal of respect for Kempinas, he’s a serious, thoughtful person,” say Margulies, who plans to be in New York for the contemporary auctions next week and is anxious to see the new work. However, he couldn’t say if he might bring the work to his warehouse space in Miami. “We’ll see how it looks,” Margulies says.
No rest for the wicked
Glenn O’Brien didn’t have time to hit the Frieze New York VIP preview on Thursday, primarily because being Glenn O’Brien is a pretty demanding job. By the time we chatted to him at the Boom Boom Room that night, during a dinner for the Andy Warhol and Yves Klein show at Skarstedt Downtown, O’Brien—a habitué of Warhol’s Factory and an early editor of Interview magazine—had already had a full day. “I filed two stories, I got interviewed and filmed for a documentary, I did Pilates, I made my playlist for tonight.” Glenn put his DJ skills on display at Chez André, named after the hotelier André Balazs and that wily graffiti artist André Saraiva. Why throw a party, Mr Saraiva? “What else would people do during Frieze?” he shrugged, before cosying up to Adèle Exarchopoulos, the quite striking 20-year-old star of the French film “Blue Is the Warmest Colour”, who had, we feel obliged to tell you, bummed a cigarette off us earlier. “What is this?” she said, taking a drag and making a face. “It’s a Marlboro,” we responded. Sorry, Adèle, fresh out of Gauloises. Anyway, back to the matter at hand: what was on O’Brien’s playlist? Well, there was a lot of disco, plus that classic Peaches song about how to survive an art fair, “Fuck the Pain Away”.
Bloomberg at rest
What a relief it must be to not have to run a city anymore. Michael Bloomberg has always been a Frieze attendee, but he’s never ambled down the aisles quite as leisurely as he did on Thursday, during the VIP preview of the fair. Spies told us that Hizzoner lingered around the booths for hours, chatting up James Cohan and perusing his gallery’s selections. Naturally, bodyguards escorted him through the maze of paintings, and his security appeared to be impressed by the glamour and glitz of, well, an art fair in a giant tent. “Man, I am in the wrong line of work,” one member of the detail said to the other, while looking at a hoard of stylish wealthy people.
And because it’s just that easy for a billionaire to find a fellow billionaire at Frieze, Bloomberg happened to run into Alice Walton — heiress to the Walmart fortune and perhaps the nation’s richest art collector — at Cheim and Read, where they were both eyeing the Lynda Benglis ceramics.
Yet, a potential mayoral showdown never happened: despite rumours, Mayor de Blasio did not show up to the fair, but sent Tom Finkelpearl, his commissioner of cultural affairs, instead.
Fisticuffs among Frieze VIPs?
Despite what you may have thought, Gap Lounge is not an exclusive enclave reserved for Frieze VIPs. It’s as open and egalitarian as its namesake clothing company. Which leaves the NeueHouse VIP Lounge as the only safe place for the upper crust to avoid the masses who lack all-access Frieze passes. It’s fairly swanky in there: the rosé is endlessly flowing, gallerists sit munching on chicken-liver paté on charred crostini, NeueHouse stocked the joint with copies of expensive-looking magazines, and there are a couple of wooden cabanas thrown in just for fun. During the first few days, one could spot members of Pussy Riot, KAWS, Rosalee Goldberg and Daniel Arsham in the clubhouse by the water. But it appears the cordial atmosphere got interrupted Thursday by some decidedly non-VIP behavior. “I got punched in the face at the Frieze VIP room,” a source alleged in a text message. “Some Russian guy was trying to get in front of me at the bar.” Note to self: don’t mess with Russians in VIP rooms.
Tanks a lot
The militaristic mood that has gripped Russia in connection with the annexation of Crimea is spreading to the country’s museums. Russia’s culture ministry is working on creating a major new tank museum at the site of the Battle of Prokhorovka in the southern Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine. The battle between Soviet and Nazi forces was one of the biggest armoured clashes in history. Meanwhile, an existing T-34 tank museum near Moscow is about to undergo major expansion. And the All-Russian Decorative Arts Museum in Moscow, which is known more for exhibiting objets d’art, is getting in on the act with an exhibition called “Industrial Design of Defense Production: Expressive Severity and Reliable Functionality” (until 11 May). The display includes the winning designs of a competition for a “21st-century military transport automobile” and is dedicated to May’s Victory Day celebrations marking the end of the Second World War. According to a museum press release, the models on show in the museum courtyard “are astoundingly contemporary, but also completely functional.” The competition is sponsored by Intrall, a Russian-British automotive company.
After reading the latest issue of Artforum, longtime contributor Gary Indiana felt compelled to write to its publisher, Knight Landesman, about the review of the Whitney Biennial penned by Helen Molesworth, the chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. “Aside from the obvious question, eg ‘When was the last time Helen Molesworth ate a dick?’…” Indiana’s email begins. The reason for his ire? Molesworth, in her dispatch, referred fleetingly to Indiana’s multimedia piece—which features a few stray male nudes among a vast array of other elements—as “run-of-the-mill porn fetishism”. We asked the critic, visual artist and novelist to expand on his email. “I’d be happy to,” he said. His comment was as above.
He later elaborated: “The young men depicted in my wall piece, who are all personal Cuban friends, were thrilled to see pictures of their portraits hanging in a museum in the US,” said Indiana, who spends a few months in Cuba each year. “I am almost grateful that their restricted access to the internet prevents them from reading about the piece.” A spokeswoman for the Boston institution said that Molesworth is on sabbatical and unable to comment.
Rules, rules, rules
A few helpful reminders when you get to Frieze New York, courtesy of the official signs outside the tent. First, no firearms, knives or, um, “glassware”. There’s no smoking anywhere on the island, so bring Nicorette. You, the attendee, can’t officially take any pictures of the art (good luck enforcing that one, guys) because at Frieze, the art takes pictures of you. “CCTV is in operation throughout the fair. Images may be recorded, retained and reproduced at the discretion of the organisers, and may be used in the realisation of art works,” the sign reads. And then there’s the section headed “Art work”, presumably for those poor unrepresented artists: “No unauthorised art work may be brought into the fair.” So leave those self-portraits at home.
In 1971, Allen Ruppersberg opened Al’s Grand Hotel, a creative space masquerading as a flophouse inn, at 7175 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. To resurrect the old thrust of the place, Frieze Projects has installed a pop-up version at the fair, allowing a very select clientele the chance to stay in one of the two rooms—the Jesus Room and the Bridal Suite. But did the tenants, the winners of a phone lottery system, know what they were getting themselves into? Regulations ban the lodgers from leaving between 6.45pm and early the next morning, and there will be round-the-clock security. (Isn’t the Manhattan Psychiatric Center supposed to be on Ward’s Island, not Randall’s Island?)
“It must have been fate that my name got chosen, as I’ve been researching the artist in anticipation of promoting Independent Curators International’s new book, Allen Ruppersberg Sourcebook: Reanimating the 20th Century,” said Adam Abdalla, the vice president of arts and culture at Nadine Johnson PR, who was plucked off the waiting list. Abdalla and his fiancée will weather the performance-art incarceration with snacks, chargers and electronic cigarettes, hoping that their embargoed goodies will tide them over until they’re released in the morning. And despite his recent engagement, Abdalla didn’t snag the Bridal Suite—he’s in the Jesus Room.
Secret of the sphinx
Was your Instagram feed flooded with pictures of a 35ft-tall, 75ft-long sugar-coated sphinx with exaggerated female features at around 6.30pm on Tuesday? Well, what you saw was Kara Walker’s installation A Subtlety, housed in the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, and what you realised was that all your friends were at the Creative Time Spring Gala having a blast without you. Few resisted the urge to whip out an iPhone, even when viewing the anatomically correct backside of the statue. To her credit, Chloë Sevigny stayed mostly by the bar. “I hear the Absolut Elyx is just delicious,” she said to her companions, the artist and musician Kim Gordon (below left, with Sevigny) and the New Yorker writer Hilton Als, flashing a smile—Sevigny is the face of the luxury vodka. “But,” she said, “I’m going to have a champagne.”
Are you there, Hans?
At last count, 949 members had signed a Change.org petition entitled “Appoint Kanye West to Curate the 2015 Venice Art Biennale”. Of the nearly 1,000 people supporting the #BiennalYe movement, one signature caught our eye: Hans Ulrich Obrist. “Because we need what is current, what is the new now,” the maybe-real-maybe-not Serpentine co-director says by way of cryptic explanation. Hans, is that really you? Look, it’s possible. The rapper and the curator are, at least, acquaintances: during last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, Obrist interviewed a super-enthusiastic Kanye West and a slightly perplexed Jacques Herzog. And West has contributed to Obrist’s Instagram project, “The Art of Handwriting”. (West’s pearl of wisdom: “Good taste is a gift but bad taste is a privilege.”)
We contacted Obrist so that he could confirm his support, reveal plans to record a spoken-word track on West’s new album, talk about his time babysitting North etc, but sadly that’s not the case. “[Obrist] asked me to let you know that he didn’t know about this petition and didn’t sign it,” a spokesperson for the Serpentine told us. “Unfortunately, it must have been someone else.” At least he’s as disappointed as we are.
Haters gonna hate
Oscar Murillo (right), the young Colombian-born artist heralded as the next big thing, got his first taste of reality this week via a scathing review of his solo show at David Zwirner by New York magazine’s Jerry Saltz. Still, his gallerist seemed in good enough spirits during the cocktails for the Whitney American Art Award, held just steps away from the museum’s future home in the Meatpacking District on Wednesday night. “You know, I did not see it, and I won’t read it,” Zwirner said of the review, but he did indicate that he knew something of its tone. “I think there’s a pattern in the local press, where they’re very hard on young artists who don’t live here, who come from other places,” he said.
“I’m tired of that.” The show, which recreates a Colombian chocolate factory, complete with free candy, runs until 14 June. If you have a sweet tooth, head on over.
Lyotard: the sequel?
The mega-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, a man who never seems to sleep, says he is planning to organise a follow-up show to the epochal 1985 exhibition "Les Immatériaux" which opened in Paris in the mid-1980s. Obrist told the UK newspaper The Guardian: "I was inspired by how philosopher Jean-François Lyotard curated the 1985 exhibition 'Les Immatériaux' at the Pompidou in Paris. It dealt with how new information technologies shape the human condition, but what interested me was that, rather than writing a book, Lyotard made his philosophical ideas into a labyrinth in the exhibition." Obrist said in his latest publication "Ways of Curating" (published by Allen Lane) that he plans to put on the show at the Luma Arles campus in southern France, a venture spearheaded by the Swiss pharmaceutical heiress Maja Hoffmann. The artist Philippe Parreno, who is working on the project, says meanwhile that the sequel could go on show at the Centre Pompidou—the original exhibition's home.
Getting stressed for the sake of art
Stress and anxiety are the scourge of the 21st century so why not create an arts festival exploring this prevalent mental health affliction which affects countless people worldwide? Cue a new London-wide arts bonanza aptly called "Anxiety", which is organised by the Mental Health Foundation and funded by the Maudsley Charity. Participating institutions include the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Freud Museum, while Kathrin Böhm’s new exhibition at Peckham Platform (20 May-27 July), Money Distribution Machine and Other Useful Contraptions, will launch the new festival. Anxiety's organisers cannily point out that "anxiety has been associated with art since the beginning of the 20th century, starting with the close relationship between early modernist artists and psychoanalysis, and the rise of art practices within psychiatric hospitals" (so getting tense is not always a terrible thing).
Public art is coming to New York’s fashion district. The Garment District Alliance, a not-for-profit group, has commissioned the artist Chakaia Booker to install five large sculptures to liven up the midtown neighbourhood this summer (2 June-9 November). The New York-based artist says the monumental works, which she created from rubber tyres and stainless steel tubing, symbolise “how this neighborhood has grown into the vibrant, creative and artistic center it is today”. Her work was selected from more than 70 submissions. To create her sculptures, Booker uses design software to create small-scale models and then works with a fabricator to manipulate the tyres into her desired forms. The process and material are fitting for the Garment District, where many fashion and design companies are located—and where traffic is notoriously congested.
Happiness is a blowtorched gun
A group of artists recently took their pick of a cache of guns seized by, or handed over to, law enforcement officers, the New Orleans Advocate reports. The artists will put them to a good cause, turning the decommissioned weaponry into works of art for an exhibition due to open in October as part of the Prospect Biennial. The show revisits one in 1996 that was inspired by city’s unenviable status as America’s murder capital (a title it has thankfully passed on). “Back then guns were much easier to come by, at least for artists,” one of the project’s organisers, the gallerist Jonathan Ferrara told the newspaper. It took 18 months and much negotiating with the mayor’s office, city council and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for the organisers to gain access to the guns and only after they had been blowtorched and bent out of shape. Ferrara is incredulous about the effort needed to get the guns legit. “You could get them illegally online in about 15 minutes,” he said.