Month: June 2009

Prague’s Version of the Biennale: Rough, Robust, and Real

Karlin Hall facade

Karlin Hall facade

In art, to each his own, and Prague is ringing in its own version (4th annual) of Venice’s storied Biennale through the end of July. Only Prague hasn’t done it up like Venice does (with, according to the NYT, flotillas of big shiny yachts and huge crowds elbowing to see art in labyrinthine Gothic palazzos). From what I’m reading about Prague’s version, it may be more honest as this stripped-down, bare-bones, low-budget endeavor (perhaps Venice’s started out this way; nah, not likely). Prague’s Biennale is housed in Karlin Hall, a massive and decayed former industrial space. Karlin’s enigmatic appeal prompted one viewer to write on his blog

It was such a refreshing and compelling staging that I wandered, virtually alone in the alleys almost the whole day. I loved that the works were only lit up by natural light, offering a precious and quite unique way to look at Art; no orange spots nailing a painting nor buzzing fluorescent lights disrupting the moment… [it] looks clearly held together by the fierce will of the artists, curators and gallerists who participated.

What does the look of the space matter? Prague is able to boast that at 230 artists, it’s showing the most artists of any biennale, proving that glitz and glamour is not what success requires (even though the woman in the pink wig looks suspiciously like Karlin sold out and in a “deer in headlights” moment roughed up some guerilla glitz and glamour).

Bravo, Prague!


Giacometti: More Than You Know

Giacometti - What You Know

Giacometti - What You Know

Everybody knows Giacometti’s emaciated figures — the ones  that should be grotesque, but are instead objects of our fascination, and despite ourselves, we find them strangely friendly. But these figures only comprised a small portion of his life’s work.

Just ending is an exhibition at the Peter Freeman gallery in NYC that celebrates his drawings — drawings that are “figures…built up out of a complex web of searching line, form and erasure—as if the artist were in an unending process of stopping and starting, of decision and indecision. Their sense of becoming and of dissolving simultaneously are what made Giacometti’s figures the poster children for Existentialism.”

But across his life’s work he focused not just on the human body, but on everyday things, like trees, flowers, apples rolling across a table. The guest curator, Meredith Harper, reinforces Giacometti’s range of styles across his career:

It is as if Giacometti, as evinced from this remarkable exhibition, were reinventing the act of drawing every time he put pen, pencil or crayon to paper.

I think the exhibition is a good example of an artist’s constant quest for metamorphosis and their constant effort to evolve — whether in brushstroke, texture, composition, or [insert endless range of possibilities]…

Giacometti - What You May Not Know

Giacometti - What You May Not Know

‘Alberto Giacometti: Drawings’

Art Fabulosity

Julie Evans

Julie Evans

Because of this blog I look at a lot — a lot — of art. And there are two artists that I’ve seen that I would pull out the piggy bank for. Julie Evans is one of them. I went to her blog and I struggled — struggled! — to find my favorite. This is not my favorite. Alas, I loved them all.  (I picked straws.)

This art is getting me — sooo — crazy that I’m — going —  like this — a lot. I guess it’s my subliminal way of saying SIT UP, TAKE NOTICE, I LOVE THIS.

WOW. I guess I can bare it all and say what I like on my walls – very organic, fluid, textural pieces. Dreamy is good. Sometimes delicate, sometimes severe (depends on my mood). Sometimes in your face. Political pieces (ok, now I’m moving to the other end of the spectrum). Centering again… indecipherable subject matter, somthing that vaguely resembles something else (keeps you thinking). Colors that work in harmony and don’t fight. A variation of shades of one color. Things that are unrecognizable (maybe I said that already).

OK, oops, I can’t help — can’t help — but post one more.


Julie Evans again

Julie Evans again

Fashionista in Budapesta

OK, photography, sculpture, works on paper, time to take a backseat. I’m all about the Budapest clothing designers today.

WAMP (WAsárnapi M?vész Piac) is the Hungarian designers association that follows the example of the London and New York markets. They hold a monthly forum for design and applied-art products, which creates a more intense relationship between artists and potential buyers through interaction. The theme of WAMP changes each year (see photo above — I can’t quite tell what that is — angels? angelic?).

“Soft Is The New Cool” was the slogan of the Hungarian design fair in May 2009 in New York Design Week. WAMP appeared in Hungarian Cultural Center New York . (By the way, the Hungarian Center website is really fantastical – they recently held an “Extremely Mustache Contest” where the winner won two round trip tickets to Budapest. “Stay tuned,” they say “for the adventures of Amit in Budapest… Coming soon!” You better believe I’ll tune in!) Maybe this is the winner, Amit:

Eastern European Art & Bee Glue?

I’m going to Budapest in a little over 2 weeks, so I wanted to scope out the art scene well before I got there. (I need to know what to buy, right?) So apparently  the artist’s “loft” area is in Pest, located in a Socialist-era industrial complex. The Art Factory has an exhibition space as well as a commercial gallery. It’s organized and run by an American, Dianne Brown, who is available for studio tours and provides opportunities to meet the artists. Jackpot! I’m in.

The artists work in all mediums and styles, but the common thread is an Eastern European emotional expressionism. Artists in residence are Zsolt Bodoni, Levente Herman, Dora Juhasz, Marta Kucsora, Mamikon Yengibarian, Ágnes Verebics, Krisztián Horváth, and Luca Korodi.

When I looked up the resident artists, I saw an organic/natural world focus, and in particular, a focus on storm/weather pattern photography. I am a little perplexed as to why most of them are producing works in the same vein (don’t galleries try to show a myriad of styles?), which brings up the point that colonizing groups of artists can sometimes lead to the production of very similar, even routinized work…

The artist that I was most keen on is Mamikon Yengibarian (Mamikon has participated in Venice’s Biennale). Here’s some of his work.

He uses lines and spheres to express human emotion as it is drawn out by a reaction to natural things, including feelings of vulnerability and loneliness, as well as humour and joy. He is known for his “striking” Tumbling Doll sculptures in the Four Seasons Hotel (I’ll definitely have to check these out).

In an interview, Mamikon says that the undercurrent of his works is “The organic world, the human being with his problems and pursuits.” In his work he uses propolis (bee glue), and refers to its use as “an undescribable feeling… and I admire the aroma.”

Side note on the bee glue! Although there’s no documentary evidence, propolis was believed to be used prior to 1400 in Italian paintings (the National Gallery in London noticed an unidentified substance in some of its paintings and hypothesized that it could be propolis). Propolis is a chemically complex, sticky, resinous hive product containing material collected by bees from buds and beeswax. It is used by bees as a sealant and to protect against microorganisms.

So not only is Mamikon visually patterning his works after the natural world but he is also using organic components to create them.

Pinault’s Emerging Artists



So who does Francois Pinault consider “emerging artists” such that he would include them in his collection now on view at Venice’s Biennale?  (For more on Pinault and the Biennale, see article below.) Apparently, he’s plucking artists that others (Saatchi, etc.) have already identified as gems and have given a shot at a big-time exhibition. So it sounds like he’s letting others (Saatchi) do his guesswork for him, just like how he may tap Mellon or UBS to help choose his business investments (Pinault holds the Gucci group and numerous other well-known establishments). If Pinault has similar success with picking winners in art as he has with his businesses, then roll the dice, I’m placing my bets with Pinault’s list.
So what are Pinault’s picks doing in terms of their art? What are their visions? Here’s two:
Matthew Day Jackson – in his Saatchi Gallery bio he says he’s “a sculptor who repurposes frontier symbols for political aims” — a unique concept and pretty fascinating on many levels, from the historical perspective to re-engineering “found” pieces. In Sepulchre, he took his punk t-shirts and stitched them into a mast. Is he saying that punk are the new pirates? I’m waiting for the eyepatch to come into fashion. 
Adel Abdessemed

Adel Abdessemed

Adel Abdessemed — Personally, I don’t know how he is still considered an “emerging” artist. His  CV is PHAT (10 pages!): solo and group shows all over the world, from Turin to Tenerife, and including the Pompidou and the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. His works are big: at David Zwirner’s gallery in Chelsea he installed “Telle mère tel fils (which translates as “Like Mother Like Son”), which was created out of the nose and tails sections of three commuter airliners; connected by a tunnel made of white felt, the piece twists and turns like a giant serpent.” And like Matthew Jackson, he uses a lot of “found” pieces. His work has evolved from his upbringing in Algeria, but rather than focusing his art on the political climate there, he reacts to politics on a global scale.

He takes an interesting perspective on his “organic” work versus pop art:




My work is organic, constantly evolving. All of my artworks spring from an intuition of an image in construction. Things change as the work comes to life and it’s the direct experience of this construction that produces the result—as opposed to Pop Art, where the object is already finished before the work of art is created.

OK, will look at more of Pinault’s pics in the next post.


Art and the Made Man: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

A struggling artist clamors for the eye of Pinault

A struggling artist clamors for the eye of Pinault

OK, call me amateur paparazzi, star-gazer, a girl tripping in her stillhettos, but I was rummaging around  looking for articles/glam shots on Venice’s Bienniale and stopped cold when I saw the above pic calling out Francois Pinault. The Francois Pinault Foundation has transformed Venice’s Punta della Dogana (customs building) into a contemporary art center, which opened in June 2009 for the Biennale. It contains (some of) Pinault’s permanent contemporary art collection.

I’ve done a few double-takes on this man in the past. On Forbes list of billionaires around the world, he’s 39th. He’s got Selma Hayek on his arm (they got married in Paris’s City Hall.  Classy.) He owns the Gucci Group (inc. Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta), Christie’s auction house, and Château Latour (!!!).

So man with the money, what have you done for me lately? Ahh, that’s right. Selling off classic works (Jaspar Johns’, etc.) to make room for emerging artists. (I intuit “emerging” artists to mean “struggling” artists, but that’s just my take? It’s like emerging writers…)

Anyway, bravo Pinault. Next to your Jeff Koons, Sigmar Polke, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami or Jake & Dinos Chapman you place pieces by emerging talents such as Matthew Day Jackson, Adel Abdessemed, Wilhelm Sasnal, Richard Hughes, Nate Lowman, Mark Bradford and Kai Althoff. (I’ll write more about these emerging artists in my next several posts.)

So how can we get more enterprising men (AND WOMEN!) like Pinault in the mix? Doesn’t everyone want to be married to Selma Hayek?

And now, the more I think about it, there IS a difference between emerging artists and struggling artists. Emerging artists are those who have “made it” but are new on the scene. Struggling artists just haven’t made it to the scene yet. OK, that’s fodder for the next post.