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Aspen Art Museum Gets Us Thinking

Aspen Art Museum Gets Us Thinking
Courtesy of Kerry Tribe and 1301PE, Los Angeles

The Aspen Art Museum is currently hosting “Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands,” a group show of videos, drawings, installations and other works on view through February 2.

The show—whose title comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous explanation of a MacGuffin (an element in a film or story that keeps the plot moving despite its own lack of inherent importance)—explores the complexity, uncertainty and incoherence of storytelling in contemporary art. “All the works deal with narratives or narrative structures of various kinds, but in such a way that the narrative itself is not really the point,” says curator Jacob Proctor. “It becomes a kind of device that allows other things to unfold formally, conceptually and philosophically.”

In addition to showcasing historical pieces by Mac Adams, Victor Burgin and John Smith, the exhibition presents brand-new works by artists Matthew Brannon, Gerard Byrne and Katarina Burin, as well as the North American premières of important recent projects by Saskia Olde Wolbers and Alejandro Cesarco.

Blurring the line between fiction and reality, the show urges spectators to ponder larger questions about how they know what they think they know, Proctor explains. “All the works in the exhibition ask us to look—and then to look again,” he says, “and to consciously ask ourselves about what and how we see.” 590 N. Mill St.; 970-925-8050; aspenartmuseum.org.

Christie's First Art Sale in India

Christie’s First Art Sale in India
Courtesy of Christie’s

Christie’s will host an inaugural art sale in India on December 19, becoming the only international auction house to do so in the country.

Christie's has a nearly 250-year history of promoting South Asian art—James Christie offered “four fine India pictures painted on glass” at auction in 1766—and the sale, held at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace (Apollo Bunder; 91-22/6665-3366; tajhotels.com.), presents a curated survey of South Asian modern and cutting-edge contemporary artworks by the greatest artists of the last hundred years.

Highlights include works acquired from the estate of Mumbai-based gallerists and tastemakers Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, who have supported emerging artists since the 1940s and are among the most central players in developing India’s modern art scene. Featured works include important paintings by abstract specialists Vasudeo S. Gaitonde and Ram Kumar and Indian modernist M.F. Husain.

Also of note are pieces by six of the nine artists whose compositions are defined as “National Art Treasures,” including canvases by Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gil and relatives Rabindranath, Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore. The works, which are exceptionally important to Indian national culture, are non-exportable and must remain in the country when sold.

“We wanted to trace a complete overview of the development of Indian art in the past 100 years,” says Sonal Singh, Christie’s specialist and head of sale, of the 83-lot collection, which is expected to fetch between roughly $6 million and $8.5 million. “We hope to give Indian art another international push.” christies.com.

Meet the New Queens Museum

Meet the New Queens Museum
Courtesy of Scott Rudd

With the re-opening of the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park last month, a different interpretation of an art institution began to emerge in New York’s largest borough.

After seven years of construction and a $69 million renovation to the museum’s original New York City Building (first constructed for the 1939 World’s Fair), the space has doubled in size and scope, thanks to a 50,000-foot expansion by Grimshaw Architects.

Evoking the idea of a town square or a public forum—“true places where public discourse exists,” says David Strauss, director of the museum’s external affairs and capital projects—the renovated building is a medley of glass, steel, LED lights and open spaces.

It’s an ethos that is integral to its mission to be a community institution, with programming that goes far beyond the banner of art, and one that’s committed to reflecting its location in the most ethnically diverse county in the country.

“We take both ‘Queens’ and ‘Museum’ seriously, seeking to activate conversations that span the art world and real world,” Strauss says. “What we are doing as an institution is setting a new paradigm for what a 21st-century art museum can be in an urban setting.”

That includes a wide range of exhibitions—the first solo show of Bread and Puppet Theatre founder Peter Schumann and “The People’s United Nations” (an exploration of diplomacy and conflict resolution) by artist Pedro Reyes kicked things off—as well as programming offered by a team of art therapists, educators and community organizers.

“We do see ourselves as an alternative space,” Strauss says. “The role of the traditional art museum is played to perfection by our sister institutions, which allows us to forge our own path. We learn from their example in certain practices, and hopefully along the way they can learn from us as well.” Flushing Meadows Corona Park; queensmuseum.orgcom.

Upcoming Exhibitions
• “Do you want the cosmetic version or do you want the real deal? Los Angeles Poverty Department (1986-2013)”:
The first museum survey of the LAPD, a performance group founded by artist, director and activist John Malpede. Opens February 2, 2014.
• “Andy Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men and the 1964 World’s Fair”: Marks the 50th anniversary of the first showing of the mural 13 Most Wanted Men, which was first displayed 200 yards from the new museum’s location. Opens April 20, 2014.

Highlight Reel: Art Basel Miami Beach

Highlight Reel: Art Basel Miami Beach
Chuck Close

Nothing transforms a city quite like Art Basel, and the upcoming Miami South Beach edition is no exception. Hundreds of events, local restaurant and hotel openings and a slew of surrounding art fairs will pop up this week (December 2–8; artbasel.com). From VIP affairs to the show’s newest sector, here’s a handful of happenings to keep on your radar.

• Don’t miss a new sector of the fair devoted to editioned works, prints and multiples. “We are formalizing something we had already been offering,” says Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. “Editions are a great entry point to collecting because they allow people to collect work by artists at lower prices. And there is a highly specialized collecting scene for multiples.” Thirteen galleries will participate, including Pace Prints (New York) and Niels Borch Jensen (Berlin), with works by Cindy Sherman, Chuck Close (pictured above) and more. 300 W. 41st St., Ste. 214; artbasel.com.

• Fusion MIA Fair will launch its inaugural display of African and Latin artists on December 3 with an invitation-only First Look fête, with music by the Miami Symphony Orchestra. A series of events will follow through December 7, including an awards ceremony and a lecture series. 22nd St. and NW Second Ave.; fusionmia.com.

• As Maserati celebrates the debut of its new Ghibli, it will also host an opening-night VIP toast at the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s new facility (December 5, 7–10 p.m.; 1103 Biscayne Blvd.; pamm.org) and will sponsor a VIP lounge at Art Miami (3101 NE First Ave.; art-miami.com) with events like a symposium on collecting art by women and a brunch for museum professionals and curators.

• On December 4, Berluti CEO Antoine Arnault will unveil the newest collaboration between the men’s fashion house and furniture designer Maarten Baas. The four pieces Baas created for the label include a valet, two mirrors and a chaise longue. The items will be on display at Berluti’s Miami boutique for the duration of Art Basel. 161 NE 40th St.; 305-573-4170; berluti.com.

• A parade of other fairs joins Art Basel, including Scope (December 3–8; scope-art.com), Red Dot (December 3–8; reddotfair.com), PULSE (December 5–8; pulse-art.com) and Design Miami (December 4–8; designmiami.com). Look out for the retrospective of famed fashion photographer Marco Glaviano showing new limited-edition, large-scale versions of his black-and-white images of supermodel Cindy Crawford, now printed on canvas and sprinkled with diamond dust. “I believe that after so many years, these are the most iconic pictures of the supermodel era,” Glaviano says. The opening reception will be held at the dedicated CC Lounge during the Art Miami / Context VIP preview (December 3), and the retrospective will remain on view there for the duration of the fair. 3101 NE First Ave.; art-miami.com.

Award-Winning Art in Shanghai

Award-Winning Art in Shanghai
HUGO BOSS

The inaugural Hugo Boss Asia Art award, a collaboration between the brand and the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, has high hopes for the future of Asian art. Currently displaying an exhibit of works by the honor’s seven finalists—all based in China, Taiwan or Hong Kong—the museum is backing talent that will no doubt make significant marks in the years to come.

The winner, Kwan Sheung Chi of Hong Kong, collected a stipend of about $50,000 for his stimulating oeuvre of video and installation art. Doing it with Mrs. Kwan…Making Pepper Spray, one of the works on view, is a five-minute video of a woman demonstrating for an audience how to make pepper spray using common kitchen supplies, spoofing cooking shows. The judges chose him for his ability to probe the realities of society via everyday people, “not just wallowing in simple criticism or praise, and not without humor or a sense of poetry either.”

Other finalists include Birdhead, a photography duo whose photos of their hometown (Shanghai) have appeared at MoMA New York; Li Wei, whose I'm Calm is pictured above; and Li Liao a performance artist who for one piece displayed a uniform from a job he took at a factory making parts for iPads, his contract and the iPad he bought with his earnings—a wry commentary on materialism and the ever-widening gap between workers and consumers.

The prize will be awarded every other year from here on out. Through December 8; 20 Huqiu Rd., Huangpu District; 86-21/3310-9985; rockbundartmusuem.org.

The Ultimate Guide to Picasso

The Ultimate Guide to Picasso
Courtesy of FITZ & CO

A limited re-release of the Zervos Picasso Catalogue—1,500 sets ($20,000 each) of 33 volumes brimming with more than 16,000 paintings and drawings—is bringing back the iconic compendium’s former glory. Distributed by Sotheby’s beginning December 15 (pre-orders [$15,000] are being accepted now), the compilation is a collector’s item and resource for all generations of Picasso devotees.

Christian Zervos, founder of Cahiers d’Art, a preeminent visual-arts publisher and gallery located in Paris, forged a lifelong friendship with Pablo Picasso. That camaraderie paved the way for Zervos, which many consider to be the definitive archive of the artist’s work.

Cahiers d’Art, founded in 1926, was a trailblazer in its day, solidifying relationships with the brightest stars of the 20th-century art world and producing some of the most highly regarded (and visually stunning) art publications. The outfit shut down in 1960. Swedish collector Staffan Ahrenberg took control of Cahiers and its holdings in 2011.

The earliest volumes of the catalog date back to 1932 and full sets are rare, making this incarnation of Zervos particularly special. Published in an English version for the first time, and featuring corrections made to the original text with the help of the Picasso Administration, it is as vast and absorbing as the friendship that ultimately created it. Available at Cahiers d’Art, 14 Rue du Dragon, Paris; 33-01/45-48-76-73; zervos.sothebys.com.

On the List at Frieze Art Fair 2013

Frieze Art Fair
Photo by Linda Nylind

Many who attended the V.I.P preview of Frieze Contemporary and Frieze Masters—the two sibling art fairs held earlier last month (October 17–20) in London’s Regent’s Park (friezelondon.com; friezemasters.com)—whispered concerns that they had missed a secret pre-preview. After all, where were the celebrities? In years past, the event, organized the afternoon before the buzzy opening evening party, was a prime place to spot Kate Moss, Stephanie Seymour, Sienna Miller, Claudia Schiffer, Brad Pitt and similarly art-savvy stars.

This year, however, was all about art stars and their work. Dasha Zhukova and Suzy Menkes were among the insiders to bridge fashion and art, but the biggest name making the rounds was Jeff Koons. The American pop master was spotted among his massive sculptures at the Gagosian Gallery booth, and was one of countless attendees to have his photo taken next to his mirror-polished steel sculptures of a lobster, a kitten and a foil-wrapped chocolate heart. The pieces were rumored to have sold for $30 million.

The inventory at both fairs was worth nearly $2 billion. Frieze Masters covered centuries of art with 130 galleries represented and an emphasis on the secondary market, while the 11th edition of Frieze Contemporary presented the world’s best avant-garde pieces from 152 galleries. Each tent had its own personality; together they formed the top event on the international art calendar. Crowd-pleasers included Eduardo T. Basualdo’s hanging boulder (TEORIA [Theory, 2013]) in the booth of Berlin-based PSM, and Jennifer Rubell’s giant-sized womb in Portrait of the Artist, 2013.

So where were all the celebrities? Many feted Frieze off-site at a gala hosted by fashion designer Sarah Burton at Christ Church Spitalfields. Florence Welch, Kate Moss and Edie Campbell gathered with their art-world counterparts like Tracey Emin, John Currin and Frieze’s founders, Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp.

A New Performing Arts Venue in Beverly Hills

A New Performing Arts Venue in Beverly Hills
Courtesy of Annenberg Center for the Arts

It can take years to get a project off the ground in Hollywood. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-746-4000; thewallis.org) in Beverly Hills—after a series of stops and starts and 17 years in the making—proves just that, opening on October 17 with its own Hollywood unveiling. (Special guests include Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.)

The spectacular building encompasses the original Beverly Hills post office and a new 500-seat theater—all done by architect Zoltan Pali, who was brought in on the build in 2006 and talks here about what the project has meant to him.

Q: What about this was so challenging and time consuming?
A:
Projects like these often take what appears to be some time because of a combination of things. I started working on the project in early 2006, and I must say that even though that seems like a bit of time, it really is not that unusual for cultural projects of this scale. Design was two years, construction was about the same and the entitlement process was about 18 months. There were some gaps in between all that for fundraising and other approvals.

Q: The history of its location is notable.
A:
Pre-2006, it was imagined that the 1936 post office would be transformed into a 500-seat theater while adding a new wing for the studio theater, educational classrooms and administration components. It was my opinion that a better scenario would be to reverse that thinking and actually build a brand-new state-of-the-art theater south of the post office and utilize the post office itself for the [rest]. The 120-seat studio theater fit nicely into the original 1936 mail-sorting room, the classrooms fit nicely into the original loading dock and the administration fit nicely on the second floor, where the postal workers had offices and breakout areas. The old and the new are connected below ground and the basement is utilized for back-of-the-house facilities.

Q: What is your favorite area of the new space?
A:
As the architect, it is difficult to answer—it is like asking what part of your child is your favorite part. However, gun to my head, the space along the pedestrian walkway between the old building and the new building is quite compelling to me. It feels very urban. You get the understanding of both buildings and read each one’s individuality and how they relate to each other.

Kara Walker Shows in London

Kara Walker Shows in London
Still from Fall from Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale, 2011

An American art star will be the talk of the British gallery scene when London’s Camden Arts Centre stages the United Kingdom’s first solo exhibition of works by Kara Walker. Opening October 11, the show will introduce the artist’s gripping style and dark explorations of power to an entirely new audience.

Featuring the exquisitely rendered Victorian cut-paper silhouette tableaux that Walker is known for, the exhibit will unite familiar elements and bold new pieces around a theme of white supremacy. In addition to the silhouettes, one of which has been created specifically for Camden, the show will include a series of graphite-drawn book covers representing untold African-American stories and a video installation of her searing shadow play, Fall Frum Grace—Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale.

It is likely that the exhibit, which coincides with England’s Black History Month, will garner controversy; Walker’s previous work has been incredibly divisive even within the African American community. Show curator Sophie Williamson welcomes the conversation. “In the art world we too often show work that is preaching to the converted,” she explains. “Walker’s work doesn’t do this. It poses a lot of quite contentious arguments, even within a liberal, art-world context.”

The artist’s powerfully unflinching method exposes the underbelly of American history, but Williamson has no concern that it will be lost on British viewers. “Her experience is through the eyes of an American black woman, but racial stereotyping and the tensions this creates is something that is experienced by people all across the UK,” she says. “Otherness is different in different locations, but the way that her work approaches it will resonate with audiences wherever you go.” Through January 5; Arkwright Rd.; 44-20/7472-5500; camdenartscentre.org.

New African Art in Boston

New African Art in Boston
Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts Boston

A very special slice of Africa’s artistic heritage has landed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Robert Owen Lehman Collection—the single greatest private holding of works of art from the Benin Kingdom, which was located in present-day Nigeria, dating from the late-15th to the 19th centuries—opened on September 24 as a new permanent gallery.

Joining the MFA’s collection of African art, which began in the 1990s, the 36 works in bronze and ivory include 15 relief plaques depicting rulers, dignitaries and narrative scenes; a variety of bronzes (copper alloy pieces produced and made in a lost wax-casting technique); and two late-15th-­century ivory salt cellars from what is currently Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The Benin Kingdom ruled from the 12th to the 19th centuries, when British forces overtook it and removed thousands of pieces from the kingdom’s palace. “Rare” doesn’t begin to describe the museum’s acquisition. “Visitors will have an intimate look at some of the most exquisitely crafted works created by artists in Africa south of the Sahara desert,” says Christraud Geary, the MFA’s Teel senior curator of African and Oceanic art. “Many of the objects haven’t been on view in decades—and never in Boston.” 465 Huntington Ave.; 617-267-9300; mfa.org.

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