“This is a collection that was created in a time of stress and continued throughout times of stress,” says Jennifer Tonkovich, a curator at the Morgan Library & Museum, describing the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, one of Europe’s most distinguished collections of drawings. Now through January 6, 2013, the Morgan is hosting a selection of those pieces in “Dürer to de Kooning: 100 Master Drawings from Munich.” Rarely seen works on this side of the Atlantic, ethereal in their mastery and purpose, they tease the entire collection, which is comprised of an unimaginable 450,000 sheets.
The works themselves get under your skin. The soaring Bavarian Baroque design in the trompe l’oeil ceiling of a southern church by Melchior Steidl; the vibrant color in Nude Girl in an Interior by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (pictured above); the studied diplomacy of a portrait by Reubens of the Duke of Lerma, upended by his collage-style use of Charles V’s head as placeholder for the Duke’s; the beauty of Pontormo’s hooded figures drawn in red chalk; Matthias Grünewald’s extraordinary portrayal of a Bavarian woman in prayer, fingers resting patiently at the bottom of the frame.
Many of these drawings were saved from history. Before the entire collection’s 50th birthday in 1794, the works moved away from French Revolutionary forces and out of harm’s way for the first time. In July 1944, drawings not evacuated from Neue Pinakothek, the only museum in Munich to remain open during World War II, were bombed. A third of the collection, nearly all of the pieces from the French and British schools, vanished in a brightly illuminated act of irony.
These 100 sheets have total clarity of vision, revealing the ages of humanity without the scrims of politics or history. Die Brücke, a movement founded in Dresden in 1905, contributes German expressionism using gesture and color. A 1925 portrait by Rudolf Schlichter shows the subject’s exquisitely modeled features, none idealized, rendered in simple pencil. And an extraordinary painted image by A.R. Penck is “…not unlike Outsider Art,” observes Tonkovich. “He’s completely self-taught. Unlike [fellow painters] Polke and Baselitz, he didn’t get out of the GDR.”
Penck sent his modern work—which was not sanctified there—over the wall, showing it under pseudonyms in the west. The Morgan showcases a piece called I and the Cosmos: black sky, blank spots for stars, one ill-proportioned red figure looking up in profile, the only apparent feature his eye. It, like the exhibit, is unforgettable. Through January 6, 2013; 225 Madison Ave.; 212-685-0008; themorgan.org.
Frieze—the youthful contemporary art fair come to save us from its more overblown predecessors—has had a big year. It inaugurated Frieze New York in the spring, and opens Frieze Masters today on the opposite end of Regent’s Park from where the now-classic Frieze London sits.
More than 90 galleries will show at Frieze Masters, standing shoulder to shoulder in a temporary space designed by Annabelle Selldorf, displaying great artworks of every era, from antiquity to the 20th century. Such staple modern and contemporary galleries as Gagosian, Pace and Acquavella will show alongside heavy hitters from, one might say, other museum departments, such as Galerie Meyer Oceanic Art of Paris and Daniel Katz, whose London gallery is more neoclassical manor-house-library than white cube.
Paris’s Galerie 1900–2000 specializes in dark, heady works of Surrealism, while London’s eminent Colnaghi gallery (established in 1760) will show treasures from its sepia-tinted collection of unimpeachably beautiful European paintings. “We want people to see works with fresh eyes,” says Victoria Siddall, the new fair’s director. “A gallery that shows 1960s minimalism might be next to a medieval gargoyle, and we hope that they both benefit from these unexpected encounters.”
At the Talks element of the fair, contemporary artists like Cecily Brown and Luc Tuymans will speak with curators about the historic collections of the National Gallery and the Louvre, seeking to articulate continuity between the art of the past and the work of the moment—or even to blur the distinction altogether. And for those who don’t care to make the 15-minute trek from one end of Regent’s Park to the other to see both Friezes, a fleet of BMWs will be available to ferry visitors back and forth. October 11–14; Regent’s Park, Gloucester Green; friezemasters.com.
Once simply the place to be seen, Le Bristol Paris hotel is now the place to drink as well. After two years of planning, eight months of perspiration and roughly $4 million dollars of aspiration, Le Bar du Bristol opened at the illustrious hotel last week with a well-deserved round on the house for a gathering of loyal guests and Parisian socialites.
The décor, jointly designed by architect Pierre-Yves Rochon and owner Maja Oetker, is classic English lounge by way of Grand Palais Paris (a fruitful union, considering the neighboring countries’ contentious history). Highlights include floors of Versailles oak, bookshelves flanking the fireplace, richly upholstered armchairs, studded leather barstools and an Aubusson tapestry (circa 1740) of a Chinese garden.
True to the hotel’s dignified history as an 18th-century aristocratic hideout—the French nobility, not much for stomaching death, fled Versailles in 1715 for the Faubourg Saint-Honoré after Louis XIV died—almost everything in Le Bar comes with le pedigree. The English wild-pine paneling is from Esher, Surrey, and is more than 100 years old. The mantelpiece is a 19th-century marble affair from Sienna, Italy. Even Maxime Hoerth, the 26-year-old head barman, is decorated, designated Meilleur Ouvrier de France—the Best Craftsman in France—last year.
Pure tradition, however, is overthrown here, in part by leopard-effect gold silk upholstery and two frescoed murals (one on the ceiling) by Thierry Bruet. White-jacketed mixologists whip up new and classic cocktails, including signature varieties of the old-fashioned on a beautiful granite bar that hails from Montana. Raise a glass to Paris’s new, mixed-blood elite. 112 Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré; 33-1/53-43-42-41; lebristolparis.com.
Pigment prints of the sleepers and dreamers of Varanasi, India, line the walls of Pace/MacGill Gallery for the exhibit “Fazal Sheikh: Ether” (opening September 7). If a person dies on the Ganges River, his or her soul is believed to dissolve into the five elements (earth, air, water, fire, ether), freeing it from the eternal cycle of reincarnation. This is why Hindus pilgrimage to Varanasi, the sacred city also known as Banaras. Sheikh’s elusive images, soft in both color and calm, illuminate Varanasi’s nighttime peace—infants in maternity wards, a sleeper under a purple blanket (pictured above), the dead in the cremation ghats near the Ganges—as the lifecycles of its inhabitants pause. September 7 through October 20; 32 E. 57th St., #9; 212-759-7999; pacemacgill.com.
The stuff of those dreams—the abstract bending of nature—is on view downtown at Bruce Silverstein Gallery, where “Seven Americans” revisits Alfred Stieglitz’s landmark 1924 show at his Gallery 291 in New York. The original show sought to define a vision of what American art was, or could be, and exhibited the penetrating, abstract works of five painters and two photographers: Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, Paul Strand and Stieglitz himself, who exhibited his photographs of clouds (Songs of the Sky). The most dreamlike images here, surprisingly, are the photographs: Strand’s eloquent still lifes of driftwood (pictured here) and Stieglitz’s brooding skies. The paintings—refracted, perceptual landscapes by Marin, for instance, and O’Keeffe’s dramatic leaf paintings—ground the photos. “Seven Americans” calls up the ghost of Stieglitz’s original show, but the entire effect ultimately constitutes an apparition of the American landscape. September 6 through October 20; 535 W. 24th St.; 212-627-3930; brucesilverstein.com.
Marie Godeau and Alexandra Zelman-Doring. Photo by Adolfo Doring
The Flea Theater hosts a three-week run of Act Before You Speak, a new production of Hamlet by Throes Theater company (opening August 3). The 70-minute play, written for two women (who remain silent throughout) and a violin, distills the words of the original down to their composite emotions—grief, love, revenge, madness. (Hedvig Claesson directs the production, with an original score composed by Jirí Kaderábek and Mahir Çetiz.) Each scene wraps itself around a single quotation from Shakespeare’s work, seeking to crack open and expose the organs of the text, bending physics so socks become skulls and the entire story of Hamlet occurs in six distinct encounters with six different characters. We sat down with the stars of the play, author and actress Alexandra Zelman-Doring and actress Marie Godeau.
Q: What was the inspiration for the play?
Alexandra Zelman-Doring: It developed organically from work in the theater. Actions, encounters—we’re going for more universal elements. So we have Hamlet and his best friend, Hamlet and his mother. Today you find a lot of Shakespeare that’s all about the language, and you forget what’s physical.
Q: Would you be able to do this without music?
AZD: Well, I wouldn’t want to. Put it that way.
Marie Godeau: The music is so present, and the violinist [acclaimed composer and violinist Ana Milosavljevic] is constantly on stage. There are no blackouts, no curtains. There are some moments where she doesn’t play, but even in silence she’s present. And she scares people. She is the ghost, she is the narrator—perhaps the puppeteer.
Q: Shakespeare wrote his plays almost entirely as dialogue and speeches. Was there something about Hamlet in particular that called for silence?
AZD: Silence can be a way of speaking. He performs actions that speak as clearly as words, really. Because we’re going for clarity, it’s not supposed to be some super avant-garde you-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-is-going-on performance—it’s really not that. It’s very clear. It’s actually more simple even than the words. Actions can strike at the heart of something.
Q: Like music. Is it because actions don’t play games in the way that words can, through wordplay and double entendre?
MG: Of course there is double entendre and games with words. We do it every day with the way we carry ourselves and our bodies. There’s always duality in what we show and what’s really happening in the inner, inner self. But because that’s all we have onstage, because there are no words, it’s very bare. The audience sees everything.
AZD: We’re better at performing it than we are at speaking about it.
Through August 26; tickets, $20; The Flea Theater, 41 White St.; 212-226-2407; theflea.org.
Technology both distinguishes humanity from our evolutionary ancestors and threatens some of our species’ greatest qualities. The man-versus-machine debate has reached fever pitch in recent years, with East Coast students decrying a cyborg generation and the biography of Steve Jobs flying off shelves faster than his gadgets function. “Ghosts in the Machine,” which opened July 18 at the New Museum, offers a “prehistory of the digital age,” which investigates—without judgment—the relationship between art and technology and explores the debate through the minds of more than 70 artists, writers and thinkers. Hope and fear—two definitively human qualities—propel many of these works, from Kafka’s mechanical torture device to Richard Hamilton’s Man, Machine and Motion (pictured above), which uses modern technology to imagine a new role for art in society. On view through September 30; 235 Bowery; 212-219-1222; newmuseum.org.
Meanwhile, the collages of cult artist Mark Flood are fun-house mirrors held up to that same society, which, in his vision, is artless, populated by the relics of American pop culture. His early work—as well as a smattering of his more recent, acerbic lace paintings done in the colors of an oil spill—has taken over the townhouse gallery Luxembourg & Dayan in “The Hateful Years.” The top floor has been turned into a basement-like punk-rock lounge filled with small works and the scraps of a celebrity obsessive, complete with a Mark Flood stand-in chosen from the ranks of the artist’s studio.
Flood’s work parallels the appropriative collage art of the Pictures Generation (a movement including artists like Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman), but his is more abrasive, emotive and obsessive—and more difficult. Instead of engaging intellectual abstractions like “What is art?” it questions the sources of the dreams we share and the identities we idolize, puncturing holes in our assumptions with xeroxes of a paperback copy of the book Sybil and thrift-store canvases. “Peel Back to See If You Are a Winner” demands one piece in block letters. It is a warning—suddenly you realize you’re not sure if you are. On view through September 29; 64 E. 77th St.; 212-452-4646; luxembourgdayan.com.
Louis Eisner, Yellow Right Turn, 2012, Oil on Linen 64 X 62 inches, Courtesy The Still House Group
Of all American myths, it is that which surrounds the land that has enthralled us most through our nation’s young history. A kind of manifest destiny, the inalienable right of all Americans to stake their claim has returned in recent years in the face of a sudden identity crisis with the loss of houses at its heart. Eight photographers’ perspectives on the notion of home and place make up the almost entirely peopleless exhibition “Real Estate” at Pace/MacGill Gallery.
From the glowing, noir-ish L.A. nightscapes of Henry Wessel’s “Nightwalk” series to the exquisitely colored prints of Richard Benson, the show’s dreamlike images capture not just the landscape but also the imagined lives with which this real estate is imbued. “My mother did not love my father,” Duane Michals scrawled beneath a photograph of his childhood home. “She loved another.” Works such as this illustrate how it is the American condition to hold our brightly tinted dreams over the head of a faded reality. “Real Estate” runs through August 22. At 32 E. 57th St.; pacemacgill.com.
The rebellious patriotism of the The Still House Group’s young artists has taken a slightly different form: a pioneering move from the art capital of Manhattan to a Civil War–era industrial building in Red Hook, Brooklyn. But on June 28, they returned to the island with an energetic, self-curated show called “Here Comes” at Mark Fletcher’s project space. “Here comes what?” asks cofounder Isaac Brest. “We wanted to convey our vision of an exhibition as an announcement without a subject [and] without a conclusion.”
Whether or not a conclusion is possible, the refusal to strive for one reveals itself in the show’s heavy use of irony: Cinderblocks balance on their corners, building blocks holding up nothing; a painting of a yellow slide twists to the right too quickly, negating the risk of it spilling into the room. The greatest moment is a pencil made to look like it was thrown into a ceiling, giving the sense that if it was pulled out, the levees would break. “Here Comes” runs through July 27. At 24 Washington Square N.; markfletcher.com.
Photo by David Regen / Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Artistic innovation often follows in the wake of war, borne of both necessity and an urgent desire to record a changed landscape. In late-1960s Japan, this tendency gave rise to the Mono-ha phenomenon (“The School of Things”), which pulled away from a more traditional investment in objects, permanence and symbolism and moved toward ideas of perception and encounters, blurring the definitions of reality.
“Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha”—a monochromatic show of suspension and contingency done in grainy photographs, works on paper and sculptures built out of juxtapositions—opened last Thursday at Gladstone Gallery (through August 3; 530 W. 21st St.; 212-206-7606; gladstonegallery.com), in collaboration with Blum & Poe in Los Angeles. The disconcerting, eerily-lit land images of Koji Enokura call to mind the recent meltdown at Fukushima, and the smooth stones in pieces by Nobuo Sekine (pictured above) resonate with tension.
Two more monochromatic and somewhat ethereal shows also opened last Thursday: “More and Different Flags” at Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea (through July 27; 545 W. 25th St.; 212-463-8634; marlboroughgallery.com) and “Moving Spirits: François Morellet & Gerhard von Graevenitz” at Sperone Westwater (through July 27; 257 Bowery; 212-999-7337; speronewestwater.com).
The title of “More and Different Flags” is borrowed from a poem by Agnes Martin called “The Thinking Reed.” The show displays the work of 11 artists who “share a loose affinity with her approach” (Martin dealt in deeply subtle, densely deployed horizontal and vertical lines) but whose investment in lines and patterns is used to remarkably different ends. Look for Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe’s large-scale, floor-to-ceiling installation of rainbows of thread, and the smaller, layered infinitely subtle works of former diamond expert Yoshiaki Mochizuki.
In “Moving Spirits,” the hypnotic ’50s and ’60s Light-Kinetic works of friends Morellet and von Graevenitz are at once abstract and highly physical—to the point that they could almost be taken as images of the materials from which they are cut or made. The shows consist of individual mesmeric objects. But taken as a whole, pattern upon pattern begins to echo and the intended depth is lost. As the ending line of Martin’s poem says, “There are two endless directions. In and out.”
If campiness is the new elegance, the just-launched Martha Stewart CraftStudio app is out to spread the word. Debuted last week, the handiwork of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and production studio Happy is a workshop for cards and pictures that has the potential to reinvigorate the often dull e-mails sent to organize parties that are anything but. If summer is the time for laid-back, sunny indulgence with brightly colored cocktails, why send an invitation for an evening of croquet in Newport without stamping it with beautiful borders? Or send a postcard from Cappadocia without the added thrill of hi-resolution glitter? Best of all, CraftStudio gives us a chance to use our hands without getting hole-punched bits of paper in the carpet. $4.99, free for a limited time. Available for download at the App Store.
The first Documenta exhibition was installed in 1955 in the bombed-out Fridericianum Museum, in Kassel, Germany, during a nearby flower show. Architect Arnold Bode brought the work of major modern artists not seen in Germany since Hitler’s rise to power, including Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Pablo Picasso. Since then, Documenta has taken place every five years, 100 days at a time. The 13th edition opened June 9 and will take place in Kassel (with outposts in Kabul, Alexandria-Cairo and Banff) through September 16.
Dedicated to research and documentation, dOCUMENTA (13) harkens back to the exhibition’s original role of reprising the major cultural shifts that had taken place in the world during Germany’s retreat from it. Artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has said that art’s role is not to provide answers but to “give uncertainty and questions… art is a form of research.” To that end, one will find much archival work, like the partly fictive documentary Altrauds Cave by Javier Tellez (pictured above). Mappa, an incredibly articulate world map of flags, represents tapestry-maker Alighiero Boetti, who died in 1994 and enjoyed a recent international resurgence. And Lebanese painter Etel Adnan, 84, has her first show here.
Documenta is organized around a spirit of discovery tinged with imagination and seeks to be a creator of a new international connectivity, as well as a chronicler of the past. How it will balance these roles in an age of tabloid-ready sale prices and sagging biennials will be seen over the next hundred days. d13.documenta.de
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