Long before Damien Hirst could so much as hold a paintbrush—never mind direct a team of underlings in executing canvases carefully spattered with perfectly round, candy-colored orbs—the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama claimed “the spot” as her own. Her take is vastly different from what we’ve come to expect of Hirst’s sterile, minimalist tableaux. Kusama’s spots have appeared on abstract sculptures, room-size installations, tree trunks, lawns, robes and, in several 1960s-era performances, naked bodies. For Kusama, 82, spots represent a sort of interior landscape—the mind’s frenzied synapses, swirling and swelling as we take in the world around us. They also represent Kusama’s own history of psychosis, which, in 1977, pushed her to check into a Japanese wellness facility, where she still resides today. A wide swath of the artist’s 60-some years of creative output will go on view February 9 through June 5 at London’s Tate Modern, courtesy of Louis Vuitton (the luxe label has also enlisted Kusama’s spotty talents for a yet-to-be-released collaboration). Highlights include 13 of the artist’s trippy environments, showing off the many motifs and materials Kusama has used throughout her lengthy career. At Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG; 44-20/7887-8888; tate.org.uk.
The much-buzzed-about Christie’s New York auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s statement-making jewelry pulled in approximately $156.8 million when it hit the block in December. Next week, the Taylor blitz continues with several other priceless items that once belonged to cinema’s grand dame heading to auction. Christie’s Modern and Impressionist art sale in London, on February 7 and 8, will include 38 of Taylor’s prized artworks (some inherited from her father, Francis Taylor, who was a renowned dealer; others she purchased on her own). They include a wispy, circa-1895 oil portrait by Renoir, expected to pull in $335,000; a stark Degas self-portrait from 1857–58, estimated at $630,000; and a pair of stunning, highly characteristic landscape paintings by Pissarro and Van Gogh, which are expected to fetch about $1.6 million and $9 million, respectively. Several more modestly priced, Taylor-owned works by the likes of Georges Rouault, Kees Van Dongen, Augustus John and Maurice de Vlaminck will be offered as well, and all items will be on exhibit at the firm’s London headquarters from February 2 through the sale itself. Bidders, take your marks. Christie’s London, 8 King St., St. James’s, London SW1Y 6QT; 44-20/7839-9060; christies.com.
Annie Leibovitz is best known for her high-gloss celebrity portraits (let’s face it: Having one’s picture snapped by the famed shutterbug is as clear a sign that you’ve “made it” as a plaque on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame). But lately, Leibovitz has focused intently on some of her extracurricular activities, eschewing glammy commissions on occasion for a personal quest to photograph some of the most unusual destinations in the world. The results of her oddball expeditions are collected in Pilgrimage, a new book from Random House, and an exhibition of more than 70 large-format prints, on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through May 20. Taken between 2009 and 2011, the images are conceptual portraits, in a sense, illuminating the lives of influential artists and thinkers through the places and possessions they left behind. Leibovitz’s subjects include the gloves and top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the evening of his assassination (photographed in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois); Georgia O’Keeffe’s Santa Fe home and studio; Sigmund Freud’s couch; Elvis Presley’s TV; Virginia Woolf’s writing desk; Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia vegetable garden; Annie Oakley’s riding boots; Louis and Clark’s compass; and Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets NW, Washington, D.C.; 202-633-1000; americanart.si.edu.
David Hockney—the bespectacled English artist best known for his 1960s-era paintings of sky-blue swimming pools, friends, lovers and Beverly Hills housewives—took up a different subject matter altogether in 2005. He returned to his childhood town of Bridlington, perched seaside in northwest England, and found himself completely seduced by the lush greenery and expansive landscape he had known when he was younger. He set about depicting it, both in intimate watercolor sketches and in monumental, multi-panel paintings. The resulting works—some of which are realistic, others wild with shocks of psychedelic, van Gogh–esque color—are the basis of a new survey of Hockney’s landscapes at the Royal Academy of Art in London, titled “David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture.” It illustrates Hockney’s continued stylistic strides, the benefits of studying familiar sights with fresh eyes and, perhaps, that there really is no place like home. January 21 through April 9 at the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J OBD; 44-20/7300-5610; royalacademy.uk.org.
Qatar, the tiny, extraordinarily well-off Gulf nation, has been making headlines for its support of the Arab Spring (financially and otherwise). But in the art world, members of Qatar’s ambitious and culture-savvy royal family have been news-makers for years, snapping up seven-figure masterpieces at auction and funding a series of impressive new museums in its ever-bourgeoning capital, Doha.
The rollout of these cultural monuments has been steady, starting with the I.M. Pei–designed Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in 2008 and the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in 2010 (the country has also broken ground on an ambitious Jean Nouvel–designed national museum slated to open in 2013). The latest addition to Doha’s ever-growing portfolio opened to the public just last week. The MIA Park, a crescent-shaped promenade built up from the water that’s located adjacent to Pei’s stunning museum, is designed as a local destination, where arts-happy Qataris can gather for concerts, performances, picnics, zen-nature breaks and films.
Anchoring the structure is a massive new sculpture by Richard Serra, his tallest to date and his first installation in the Middle East. The towering piece is made from Serra’s signature cor-ten steel, which has a patina that changes over time. The piece is called 7 (a mystical number in the Islamic tradition that appears frequently in both Islamic practice and Islamic art). It comprises seven steel plates, each 80 feet tall, and tapers toward the top, forming a seven-sided skylight. As is the case with most of Serra’s work, what’s happening underneath the sculpture is just as critical as the piece itself. Serra worked with a team of structural engineers and marine biologists to create an advanced underwater counterweight to ensure that the work, which clocks in at 735 tons, will stand tall—and buoyant—for many generations to come. MIA Park, Doha, Qatar; mia.org.qa/english.
The idea is simple enough: monochromatic canvases dotted with orderly rows of perfectly round, glossy-painted spots. But like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Technicolor Marilyn prints, Damien Hirst’s spot paintings are so stark, so strange, so consistent and so instantly recognizable that they function as stand-ins for the artist himself: big, bold, graphic signatures that program our brains to think —chant with me now—“Hirst, Hirst, Hirst.” You’ve got to hand it to the guy. Warhol needed movie stars and a pantry cabinet to stir up this sort of effect on canvas. Hirst needs hardly anything at all.
On January 12, a sizable chunk of the artist’s spotted oeuvre will go on view at all 11 Gagosian Gallery outposts worldwide (three in New York, two in London and others in Beverly Hills, Hong Kong, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Rome). The show, which runs through February 18, marks the first time that mega-dealer Larry Gagosian has handed over his entire empire (50,000 square feet) to a single artist, never mind a single body of work. It’s hardly a selling exhibition, as the vast majority of the approximately 300 paintings included are on loan from various private collections and museums. And, like many of Gagosian’s large-scale, loan-heavy exhibitions, “The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011” could have very well had a place in any museum—if only there were one big enough to house it.
The market for Hirst’s work has been quiet lately (though certainly still active—two works cleared the $1 million mark at auction in November). And with a major, possibly career-affirming Tate Modern retrospective opening in April, the artist seems to be grappling with his legacy. The spot-painting exhibit is a run-up of sorts to the Tate show and, per the gallery, was Hirst’s idea. There is something admittedly poetic about reuniting these inherently related works from their homes all over the world. They become not only stand-ins for the artist but globalization itself—and, in that regard, are far more handsome than the logo of any other international brand.
You know what they say: It’s five o’clock somewhere… and this winter, happy hour is ongoing at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach—at least in theory. “Cocktail Culture,” an exhibition of some 150 examples of highball-friendly art, fashion, jewelry and design dating from the 1920s to the present, lends a bit of historical context to one of our favorite after-work activities. Covet vintage cocktail party attire by McQueen, Dior, Lanvin, YSL, Balenciaga, Valentino and Pierre Cardin and over-the-top jewelry, accessories, cosmetic cases and cocktail shakers by Tiffany & Co., Judith Leiber, Van Cleef & Arpels and Elsa Schiaparelli. Our favorite works on view are the drawings, paintings and photographs depicting the imbibers themselves—impossibly glam ladies snapped by legendary fashion photographer Lillian Bassman—and Larry Sulk’s Summer Cocktail Party with English Butler (1961), a watercolor, gouache and ink on paper in which a handsome white Afghan hound sneaks a sip from his Don Draper-esque owner as he stares off vacantly (drunkenly, perhaps) into the distance. Through March 11, 2012. The Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach; 561-832-5196; norton.org.
English artist Marc Quinn may be best known for his sculptural renderings of Kate Moss in which the waifish onetime supermodel is wearing a leotard, cast in precious metals and twisted into highly improbable, hurts-from-just-looking-at-’em yoga-esque positions (a bronze version sold for $1.2 million at Christie’s in May). But for Quinn, orchids—those fussy, delicate, sensual blossoms—have recently held a similar appeal. They started popping up in his work, so to speak, a few years back via kaleidoscopic photorealist paintings, paired with strawberries, chili peppers and other brightly colored blooms. Now, thanks to luxe London retailer Selfridges, Quinn has found a whole new medium for this body of work. T-shirts and silk scarves bedecked with Quinn’s flowery creations went on sale at Selfridges’ Oxford Street flagship, in London, this month, as did an exclusive selection of one-of-a-kind white gold jewelry and small, limited-edition bronze sculptures. Swing by before December 24 to see more of Quinn’s work installed in Selfridges’ windows. £130 for T-shirts, £180–£270 for scarves and £300 for limited edition prints. Jewelry starts at £7,000; sculptures at £1,500. 400 Oxford Street; selfridges.com.
The Art Basel Miami Beach blitz has begun and the art world’s dealers, tastemakers, patrons and cheerleaders have abandoned their full-time posts for balmier pastures down south. Galleries worldwide are strutting the best of what they’ve got (Louise Bourgeois and Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth; Willem de Kooning and Hiroshi Sugimoto at Pace; and Andy Warhol at L&M, just to name a few). But if walls are full or the art budget’s spent, consider shopping what’s sure to be one of the buzziest pop-ups at this weekend’s festivities.
Grey Area, co-founded earlier this year by designer and consultant Kyle deWoody and Artlog’s Manish Vora, will pop up, so to speak, through Sunday at Miami’s Bass Museum of Art. This is the third pop-up shop for the online retailer that explores the “grey area” between art and design, following successful outings in the Hamptons over the summer and at Art Platform–Los Angeles this fall.
The temporary boutique is well stocked with both functional and not-so-functional objects, furniture, jewelry and avant-garde wares, all designed by artists looking to expand the parameters of their work. Look for statement jewelry from Orly Genger, Abraxas Rex, Rob Wynne, Michele Lopez, Kate Cusack and Emily Miranda; gold-plated “brick” bookends by Christian Dietkus; dinnerware by Leah Piepgras and Rudolf Stingel; and, for those of you who packed light, limited-edition beach towels by Tracey Emin, Peter Doig and Ed Ruscha. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through December 4 at the Bass Museum of Art; 2100 Collins Avenue; shopgreyarea.com.
Their brightly colored plastic bands have been perennial fashion accessories since the 1980s. But some folks have been taking their Swatch collections more seriously than others. Now, one such patron is sending her comprehensive holdings (i.e., every single style produced by the Swiss watchmaker from 1983 to 2002) to the auction block. The Swatch Blum Collection of 4,363 watches will be sold together at Phillips de Pury & Company next week at a special sale and event in Hong Kong. It is expected to fetch between $3.5 million and $6.2 million. It also marks Phillips’ first outing in the region.
The sale—which will include exceedingly rare prototypes and limited edition designs from Keith Haring and Kiki Picasso—is generating serious buzz. “Everyone has a ‘Swatch moment’—one that they had, one that they desired,” says Finn Dombernowsky, a London-based managing director of Phillips de Pury & Company. “When they first came out, they renewed the watch industry. It was groundbreaking technology, but it also made good design available at a price anyone could reach.”
The Blum Collection won’t be the only coveted lot to hit the block that night. In collaboration with the company itself, Phillips is offering serious Swatch fanatics a rare opportunity to design a Swatch of their very own. It will be produced exclusively for the buyer in a limited edition of 100 and is expected to go for $20,000 to $25,000. Nov. 24, viewing 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., auction at 9 p.m.; the Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance St., Hong Kong; phillipsdepury.com.
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