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June 23, 2014
By Scott Rothkopf | Art, Arts + Culture, Museums

Jeff Koons
Collection of the artist. ©Jeff Koons.

Scott Rothkopf, curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art's survey of the artist, opening June 27.

Jeff Koons and I began talking about putting on a show in 2010. The Whitney knew it was going to be moving downtown, and we were thinking about ways to celebrate its departure from the Breuer building. An unprecedented Jeff Koons retrospective felt like an exciting grand finale. It allowed for something we’ve never done before: give a single artist the building. People are often shocked that Jeff has never had a major museum show in New York. But once we started working on the exhibit, it was clear why that might be. The works are very fragile—and very expensive. We’re talking about large porcelain objects that could break, shiny metal surfaces that attract fingerprints. To do the show required a tremendous amount of logistical collaboration. People are aware of Jeff as the center of hype about the marketplace, about artists as celebrities, about industrial fabrication. But that has obscured the fact that he’s made some of the great works of art in the last half century. The scandal of his reception is central to the way that he’s pushed the limits for so many artists today. I hope the exhibition will allow people to marvel at the variety of subjects, materials and scales that his art comprises. “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” is on view through October 19; 945 Madison Ave., New York; whitney.org.

June 20, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Princess Gloria.jpg
Photocourtesy of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis

“It’s very important not to take oneself too seriously,” says Princess Gloria von Thurn Und Taxis just a few days after her art opening at the Chelsea Hotel Storefront Gallery.

Dubbed “Come on Darling, Don’t Be Mad,” the exhibit showcases her hand-drawn portraits of the famous faces that have come through the legendary Manhattan hotel. “It’s sort of making fun of myself,” she says of the show’s title. “If you are not really happy about your portrait, don’t worry—this is just the way I see you.”

Long a recreational drawer, Princess TNT of Germany (as she’s commonly known) received the commission for the series—her first ever—back in April. Since then, the autodidact has completed two or three faces a day in preparation. “I’m drawing a person while we speak,” she says during our chat by phone.

Rendered in pastels on 9-by-12-inch pieces of construction paper (“It reminds me of the way we used to draw as children,” she remarks), her depictions of icons like Jimi Hendrix (pictured above), Allen Ginsberg, Robert Mapplethorpe and Edie Sedgwick fall somewhere between the flatness of Alex Katz’s work and the exaggerated realism of a caricature. “My people look very friendly—they are not so mysterious, they are in your face,” she explains. “This is how I am, so I want my portraits to be that, too.”

She is known to patron the arts (works by Thomas Ruff, Anselm Kiefer and Paul McCarthy are all present in her homes), but this series marks her first foray into art as an artist—yet another path the punk-princess-cum-businesswoman-cum-devoted-Catholic has set upon since arriving on the scene in the 1980s in Germany as the young bride of Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis.

And while she hopes this is just the beginning of her commissioned pieces for public spaces, exactly where the portraits will end up once the show closes on July 25 is still up for debate. “Ideally I would like to see them in the hotel rooms, because that’s where they belong,” she says.

For now, however, she’s reveling in the triumph of her inaugural show—to which Jeffrey Deitch, Jeff Koons and Calvin Klein all showed up. “It was such a big success,” she says, “we’re thinking about a closing party, too!” Through June 25; 222 W. 23rd St.; e-mail hotelchelsea@nadinejohnson.com to make a viewing appointment; gloriasportrait.com.

June 13, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

ai weiwei monograph
Photo credit: © Ai Weiwei (TASCHEN, 2014)

Artist Ai Weiwei has been busy. Just over the past few weeks, his works have been on display at the Brooklyn Museum, the Pérez Art Museum Miami and at Art Basel Hong Kong, and will show up on the island of Alcatraz in the fall. Always moving toward the next project, it would seem China’s most famous contemporary artist has little time to look back.

This summer, however, Hans Werner Holzwarth and Taschen release one of the most comprehensive studies of his work yet: A signed, limited-edition monograph ($1,500) done in collaboration with the artist himself.

“Working on a comprehensive monograph of a living artist is like curating a mega-large retrospective exhibition,” says Holzwarth, who spent about two years with Ai putting the book together. “He has become a household name, and now you need to take a comprehensive look at his work to understand how he got there.”

That journey is charted over the book’s 724 pages, which are filled with essays from Uli Sigg, the former Swiss ambassador to China and the artist’s long-time friend; Roger M. Buergel, curator of 2007’s Documenta art event; and a variety of experts on Chinese culture and politics. Exclusive interviews with Ai and myriad previously unseen images—including photos he took in New York, installation shots taken in his workshop and pictures from his studio—round out the display. “With Ai Weiwei, more than with other artists, it is important how things are made,” Holzwarth adds. “We really wanted to glue all the bits and pieces together to show the complete picture.”

As an added touch, each of the 1,000 special-edition copies comes wrapped in a silk scarf based on a detail from Straight, his work that references the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, and every chapter begins with a full-page opener designed by Ai in traditional paper-cut style. “To make an important book like this,” says Holzwarth, “everything has to be specially created out of the artist’s work.”

At least that’s one thing Ai can check off the to-do list. taschen.com.

June 12, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art, Miami Art Basel

 Jamie Zigelbaum Design Miami Basel
Rendering by Carl Albrecht

Jamie Zigelbaum may tell you he's an art-and-design-world outsider, but that is likely to change, thanks to this year's Design Miami/ Basel (June 17–22; Messeplatz 1; 41-61/666-6464; basel2014.designmiami.com).

For its Design Commission, awarded biannually to early-career architects or designers, the fair invited the 36-year-old MIT Media Lab alum to create an immersive, site-specific installation in its 30,000-square-foot, Herzog & de Meuron–designed entrance hall—making it the first (and last) work visitors will see and the largest commission for the fair to date.

The piece, Triangular Series, is composed of 59 tetrahedral, crystalline-like white lights that hang from the room's ceiling, changing in intensity and hue in response to the movements of visitors below. Using complex technologies—including dynamic color-temperature LED lighting (which varies from warm to cool tones), advanced sensors and custom software—Zigelbaum explores the concept of entrainment, a phenomenon in which rhythms created by both living and non-living entities synchronize with one another.

Here, he discusses the work, the nexus of design and technology and the importance of fairs like Basel.

 

Q: What is it about entrainment that fascinates you?
A: Entrainment is a really interesting model for thinking about communication between very different types of things because it's the same phenomenon that will work with organic materials, like the flashing of fireflies, and with inorganic, non-lifelike things, like pendulums and metronomes. So it's this connective, invisible force, which is affecting various systems in very subtle ways, that gives rise to these complicated behaviors.

We've integrated these concepts into the physicality of this piece to create a dialogue between the people in the space and the installation. It is reacting to you and you are reacting to it in ways you don't understand. Those changes in lights are changing your own internal physiology—your heart rate, your breathing pattern. And then your motion in the space is feeding back into the system, changing the rhythm. The lights and the people are in this conversation—before they even know it.

Q: How would you describe the current relationship among art, design and technology?
A: Artists working and engaging with technology in a very authentic and direct way are able to help society process why we should use it. Design is about solving problems, art is asking questions—that's a clichéd answer, but it's fairly true. And technology is science applied. When you have artists working with these things, it allows us to ask why we want them in our lives.

Q: From a visitor's perspective—rather than that of an artist—what do you think is the value of fairs like Design Miami/ Basel?
A: You get to see one slice of the art world, which is the market-driven side. It's this thriving marketplace. A lot of artists are turned off by that, but there's new work being made, being sold—and its able to speak louder. It's a very lively, active environment.

Q: Is there anything you're particularly excited to see or do or experience at this year's Design Miami/ Basel?
A: This will be my third time in Basel and my seventh or eighth experience with Art Basel, including the Miami editions. I really look forward to wandering all the galleries—at Basel, the satellite fairs and museums. There's just so much art and design to see.

June 11, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

A Human Sculpture Gallery at Art Basel
Courtesy of RUHRTRIENNALE 2012-14; © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
All rights reserved. Pro Litteris, Zurich

“I’m not the type of curator who likes to put things in frames or on pedestals,” says Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and chief curator at large at the Museum of Modern Art.

The statement could apply to any number of projects he’s had a hand in (consider last year’s “A Lot of Sorrow” by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, in which the band The National played its song “Sorrow” continuously for six hours), but it serves as the perfect introduction to his latest work: “14 Rooms.” Created in collaboration with Hans-Ulrich Obrist—codirector of exhibitions and programs and director of international projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London—the exhibit opens June 14 for a run at this year’s Art Basel (June 19–22).

The work, first curated by the pair in 2011 for the Manchester International Festival as “11 Rooms,” invites 14 international artists to engage a room using actors as their primary “material.” Combining instruction art (explicit directions from artists to individuals on how to install their works) with performance art to create a series of immersive and intimate experiences, the exhibit showcases labor, performance, reinterpretation, dance or acting. The works in turn take on the proportions of a living sculpture gallery, with possibilities for spectator interaction and participation.

This year’s artists include Damien Hirst (whose piece is pictured above), Marina Abramovic, Tino Sehgal, Yoko Ono, Bruce Nauman and John Baldessari, who showcase pieces involving an endless chain of bartered goods, a group of dancers rotating in a chain and a person who floats mysteriously in midair.

“Normally exhibitions have a very limited lifespan—they come, they go, they are disbanded,” says Obrist. “Our exhibition, however, functions differently. It can continue to exist indefinitely in the form of instructions. Someone could easily revive ‘14 Rooms’ in a hundred years. It has only just begun.” June 14–22; Messeplatz 10; 41-58/200-2020; artbasel.com/en/Basel.

May 21, 2014
By Ingrid Skjong | Art

Josef Albers in Black and White
Josef Albers

When Josef Albers, one of the art world’s leading educators and theorists, was a child growing up in Germany, he loved going to the post office with his stepmother and hopping from square to square on the black-and-white marble tiles of its checkerboard floor.

“Black and white was in Josef’s bones,” says Nicholas Fox Weber, executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

While Albers moved on to devote much of his work to the study of pigmentation, literally writing the book on it (Interaction of Color [Yale]) in the early 1960s, he never lost that early delight with black and white—a predilection illustrated in the exhibit “Josef Albers: Black and White” at Waddington Custot Galleries in London, the first retrospective in the United Kingdom of the artist’s achromatic work.

“There were, throughout his life, occasions when he depended on the simplicity and candor and strength of black and white as relief and reassurance,” says Fox Weber. “There is nothing like that simple balancing act of monochrome; it was home to him.”

Fifty pieces make up the show, ranging from paintings to glass items to photographs to engravings. Albers was perhaps best known for his “Homage to the Square” series of paintings; eight black-and-white examples of it are displayed in the exhibit, along with other notable items like Steps, a glass construction, and a photo collage of painter Paul Klee from 1929. (Study for Graphic Tectonic, 1941–42, is pictured here.)

Albers died in 1976, leaving behind illustrious protégés (his students included the likes of Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg), a sizable body of work and a renown for pushing the boundaries of what a simple line could do.

“His enduring contribution,” says Fox Weber, “was an ability to take minimal means and use them to maximum effect.” Through June 4; 11 Cork St.; waddingtoncustot.com.

May 09, 2014
By Nell McShane Wulfhart | Art

Amtrak Mural Exhibit
Artist: Katrina Grosse; Photo by Steve Weinik for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

Those riding the rails between New York and Washington, D.C., will be cruising through a complete art installation starting May 17. The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, in cooperation with Amtrak, has commissioned Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse to install a series of seven large-scale murals on the blighted warehouses and walls of North Philadelphia.

Titled psychylustro, the public arts project consists of enormous, Christo-like works of intense color popping against the abandoned buildings located between the North Philadelphia and 30th Street stations. An audio guide (available at 215-525-1045), complete with a soundtrack, will let passengers listen to an interview with the artist as the murals fly by.

Grosse, who has a history of working with architecture and installations, doesn’t restrict her choice of canvas to the blank wall. The sites chosen for psychylustro are uneven and riddled with holes, and the entire project embraces planned obsolescence, allowed to decay as the landscape gradually takes back the space.

Monumental and spectacularly vibrant, the murals are meant to inspire viewers to think differently about the area they pass through. “The work arrives to not just alter the appearance of the train ride but also to perhaps alter viewers’ perceptions of the landscape around them,” says curator Elizabeth Thomas, “to consider the histories and futures of such spaces and the varied forces—natural, economic, social—that act on this specific space, but also, in reality, all urban spaces.” muralarts.org/katharinagrosse.

May 05, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Marie Lorenz
© Marie Lorenz

The massive art fair Frieze New York opens its tent doors on May 9 for its third edition on Randall’s Island in Manhattan (through May 12; 212-463-7488; friezenewyork.com). With 190 galleries participating from 28 countries, there is plenty to see. Here, five new items to add to the top of your list.

  • As part of this year’s Talks program, former Pussy Riot members Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova speak with David Remnick of The New Yorker about their involvement with the infamous feminist art collective and the recently launched Zona Prava, a nongovernmental organization advocating for prison reform. May 9, 4 P.M.; the auditorium.
  • Continuing the fair’s tradition of honoring artist-run spaces of the past, Frieze Projects pays special tribute to Al’s Grand Hotel—conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg’s fully functional seven-room project, first constructed in 1971 in Los Angeles. Reinterpreted in collaboration with Public Fiction (publicfiction.org), the installation original Jesus Room (featuring a giant wooden cross leaning against the bed) and Bridal Suite (decorated with cheap plastic flowers and a wedding cake) have been reconstructed inside the fair. While a lucky few can book reservations to stay overnight (May 8–12; rooms, from $350; 646-578-8471), all attendees are welcome to pay a visit during regular fair hours. P7, between D10 & D11.
  • Like the Armory Show earlier this year, Frieze is seeing an uptick in single-artist presentations. Don’t miss Sam Gilliam, at David Kordansky Gallery (C3); Carroll Dunham, at Gladstone Gallery (B6); and Viviane Sassen, at Stevenson (D24).
  • Since 2005, artist Marie Lorenz has been documenting New York’s waterfronts in her rowboat water taxi called the Tide and Current Taxi. As part of Frieze Projects, the artist invites fair-goers to explore the city’s archipelago in “Randall’s Island Tide Ferry,” both an alternative (and functional) transit service and the fair’s first river-based artwork. In keeping with this year’s theme of participation and social interaction, visitors can even row the artist’s makeshift boat (made of salvaged materials) themselves. P4, along the riverfront.
  • With so much to see and do, refueling is necessary. Along with returning eateries like Roberta’s and Marlow & Sons, the fair features three exciting additions: Danny Bowien’s Mission Cantina, the brand-new Furanku (a 50-seat omakase bar from Frankies Spuntino) and desserts from David Chang’s Milk Bar. Lucky ones can also catch their breath at the Neuehouse VIP Lounge, complete with custom-made cabanas and a private outdoor deck.
April 30, 2014
By Susan Michals | Art

Mark Ryden's Queen Bee
© Mark Ryden, Queen Bee, 2013, oil on panel with hand carved frame, 45 x 28 inches

Interview magazine once called him “the godfather of pop surrealism” and many have heralded him as the king of lowbrow. While those monikers may have turned artist Mark Ryden into an art-world sensation—his work is at once mesmerizing and disquieting; pieces of meat factor often into the vignettes—he remains a humble man, immersed in a magical swirl of odd characters and witty subtext.

On May 3, the new Kohn Gallery space in Los Angeles will debut “Mark Ryden, The Gay 90s: West”—a selection of artworks depicting his singular take on Victorian scenes from the 1890s. “I started working with this theme of the Gay Nineties with the desire to delve head on into the realm of nostalgia and kitsch, which are taboo subjects in the art world,” says Ryden.

Pieces on display are part of a continuation of his first “Gay 90s” show in 2010 at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York. “This second installment began with the same initial motivation as the first… but then the work evolved,” he explains. “I started by playing around with my threshold of nostalgic kitsch, but eventually became fixated on how nostalgia and sentimentality relate to memory and how our consciousness flows through a transitory ‘present moment’ between past and future.”

For Ryden, this was no small undertaking. And, fortunately for the artist, Kohn’s new location is more than double the size of its last—perfect for displaying his most sizable work yet: “The Parlor (Allegory of Magic, Quintessence and Divine Mystery),” a 96-by-120-inch painting captured in a wooden frame hand-carved in bas-relief. Through June 28; 1227 N. Highland Ave.; kohngallery.com.

April 09, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

A First-Ever Exhibit of Warhol’s “Jackies”
Andy Warhol, Nine Jackies. 1964, The Sonnabend Collection, on Long-Term Loan to Ca'Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice, Italy, Nina Sundell and Antonio Homem © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / ARS, New York, Source image on image no. 1 and 9; photograph Henri Dauman, 1963

There’s no shortage of recognizable works by Andy Warhol in this world, whether in exhibitions (the recent show at Florida’s Dalí Museum) or on branded consumer goods (Perrier’s limited-edition bottle). But for the first time ever, Blain|Di Donna gallery has dedicated an exhibition entirely to Warhol’s “Jackie” (opening April 10), marking the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination with more than 50 works that tell the story of that emotional week in 1963 vis-à-vis the evolving appearance of Jacqueline Kennedy.

The show highlights a curated selection of silkscreened canvases, each 20 inches by 16 inches and arranged into “Multiple Jackies” or into larger compositions of individual works displayed as triptychs, grids and friezes. All derived from eight magazine photographs, the pieces follow Jacqueline Kennedy, from her cheerful arrival in Dallas to the day of the funeral.

“The Jackie paintings are an extremely important body of work from the 1960s,” says gallerist Emmanuel Di Donna. On the one hand, he explains, they represent the first fine-art portraits to resemble newspaper images; on the other, they demonstrate Warhol’s fascination with contemporary media culture, celebrity, glamour and death.

“Those images of Jackie stem from a cataclysmic event in American history,” he explains, “which was for the first time experienced on a global scale through the media. Warhol was giving the word ‘icon’ its most modern meaning—an image, a painting of a holy being to be revered.” Through May 17; 981 Madison Ave., 2nd fl.; 212-259-0444; blaindidonna.com.

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