We all encounter art we don’t like, that upsets and infuriates us. This doesn’t deserve to be exhibited, our brains yell; it should not be allowed to exist. Still, does such aversion mean that an artwork must be removed from view — or, worse, destroyed?
This question has been at the heart of the controversy that has split the art world since the Whitney Biennial opened nearly two weeks ago. The turmoil, which has been excruciating for many people in different ways, centers on “Open Casket,” a painting in the exhibition by Dana Schutz. The work is based partly on photographs of the horrifically mutilated face of Emmett Till lying in his coffin in 1955, about 10 days after that African-American 14-year-old was brutally killed by two white men in Mississippi for supposedly flirting with a white store clerk. The artist, Ms. Schutz, is white, and her use of the images has struck many in the art world as an inappropriate appropriation that, they argue, should be removed.
Once a key part of a generation of artists who transformed east London, the sculptor talks to Eva Wiseman about doll’s houses, her fellow YBAs, and why she left Shoreditch.
It’s 24 years since Whiteread, then 30, cast the last remaining property in a demolished terrace in Bow, east London, in liquid concrete, sparking debates about the upheaval of the East End, the politics of “regeneration”, and the point of contemporary art. On the day in 1993 that Whiteread became the first woman to win the Turner Prize, the decision was made to demolish the house.
Her reticence sets her apart from other artists of her generation, with their broadcasting careers and lives that face outwards. “Art was never seen as a career when I was studying. Damien [Hirst] had a lot to do with changing the way people thought about it, with his ability to spin anything. People like Grayson Perry, who I shared a studio with back when he was still struggling, great show-offs who want to be in the media all the time… It’s not for me. Damien is a bit quieter now, but you see the residue of him. Tracey [Emin] too, these are people who have done a lot to be out in the world spinning a tale, making art an attractive proposition.”
Works by Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and Brazilian poet Augusto de Campos have joined the Getty’s collection and will go on view in an exhibition opening next week.
Tug, fug, chug, glug — such are the rhyming words used by the writer and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay in “Poem with 3 Stripes,” one of his earliest collage booklets and a playful example of concrete poetry. The book, published around 1963, speaks to Finlay’s interest in tooting tugboats, which in turn reflects his fascination with the sounds of words regardless of their meaning. That emphasis on sound, coupled with the effect of how letters appear as printed graphics, were primary concerns of the makers of concrete poetry, which emerged in the 1950s as an international movement out of South America and Europe.
Finlay’s book is one of a series of concrete poems acquired by the Getty Research Institute (GRI) earlier this month, by the Scottish artist as well as Brazilian poet Augusto de Campos. As the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary collections, Nancy Perloff, told Hyperallergic, “Concrete poems are material objects constructed of component parts that can include letters, words, phonemes, syllables, and typefaces. By rejecting traditional syntax and utilizing graphic space for both structure and meaning, concrete poets made the sound and shape of words their explicit field of investigation. Concrete poetry made language visible.”
Before his death this month, Howard Hodgkin was preparing the first ever exhibition devoted to his portraits. Paul Levy recalls the man who cared much more about his family and friends than being part of any movement.
Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends, an exhibition of the painter’s portraits, opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 23 March. There’s a sorrowful irony about the title, as Hodgkin, one of the artistic giants of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, died, aged 84, on 9 March. Probably as erudite as any artist in history, he was a genuine intellectual in the European and American traditions, a connoisseur with an unsurpassed eye, perfect visual recall, and an incessantly obsessed collector. The longing “for acclaim” and “taste for public honours” noted by his friend Bruce Chatwin were merely the measure of his ambition.
Hodgkin never belonged to any movement or school, and his paintings – almost aggressively – defied categorisation. As he wrote: “I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations.” Another friend, Susan Sontag, remarked that, as the emotions depicted were “the artist’s … in this sense, all the pictures are autobiographical”. Their “subjects” are friends, husbands and wives, lovers – in their rooms or gardens – as well as places he had visited and, wrote Sontag, “lovemaking and dining and looking at art and shopping and gazing out over water”. As you might expect from this, Hodgkin had a remarkable memory, and also had a gift for love and friendship.
During his long, illustrious career, Robert Morris has constructed sculptures that startle, question, challenge and flout expectations. Since the early 1960s, he has made, in a range of materials, spare, geometric forms; Dada-like objects; ephemeral works; land art; environments with sound systems that play scripted narratives; proto-selfies; dramatic pastel pictures with elaborate sculpted frames; performance art; and, not too long ago, a glass “Labyrinth” on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo., that has become a popular gathering place. This body of work reflects Mr. Morris’s abilities as a consummate craftsman who possesses a fine-tuned intellect with a philosophical bent, the prowess of an agile athlete and the talent to draw like an old master.
Through around 60 historical and contemporary objects, Lunar Attraction at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem considers the enduring artistic curiosity for the mysteries of the moon.
SALEM, Mass. — As demonstrated by the metal cosmic forms on the 3,600-year-old Nebra Sky Disk, unearthed in Germany in 1999, humans have been visually reacting to the moon for an incredible length of time. The cultural responses to Earth’s only natural satellite have ranged from the Japanese folkloric figure of a rabbit in the moon making mochi, to contemporary work like the “Moonwalk Machine” designed by Sputniko! to walk on the lunar surface and leave an imprint of a high-heel, referencing the fact that no woman has yet to set foot on the moon. Both, and more, make an appearance among the almost 60 objects in the Lunar Attractionexhibitionat the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Kerry James Marshall taught himself to draw and made his first paintings in Harlem YMCA. As a major retrospective opens in LA, he talks about taking on the Old Masters.
The day before the crowds get in to his critically praised retrospective, Kerry James Marshall is walking around the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, taking in 30 years of his work. Wearing a casual green T-shirt and slacks and with his visitor badge still attached, he looks more like a tourist who has wandered into the wrong exhibition than one of America’s most revered contemporary artists. Although his work is known for its challenging nature, you get the impression he’s content with his lot. “I see myself as having fulfilled a lot of my ambition,” says Marshall. “All the things I dreamed of achieving, I’ve achieved for the most part.”
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Marshall moved with his family to Los Angeles and grew up in Watts and South Central during the 1960s. He enrolled in drawing lessons, cribbed from art shows on TV and copied the work of various people including Charles White, who would become his teacher at the Otis Art Institute in LA. He moved to New York in the 80s after being awarded an artist-in-residence fellowship at the Studio Museum in Harlem. It was there, while staying in the same YMCA that Malcolm X checked into decades earlier, that Marshall began painting his large-scale figurative works.
Turner Prize winner Sir Howard Hodgkin, considered among Britain’s finest contemporary artists, saw his paintings as distilled memories and created abstract evocations of emotion with potent, compelling use of colour.
Sir Howard Hodgkin, who has died aged 84, was something of a rebel, though anyone meeting him for the first time would not readily have guessed so. His voice, always fairly plummy, made him sound the very epitome of respectability, though he was by no means a ready talker on the subject that concerned him most: painting. Painting was his life-long passion, of course – he knew that he wanted to be a painter and nothing but a painter from the age of five, immediately after he had drawn a picture of a woman with a red face and bushy hair – but he always found it difficult to talk about that which consumed him until his dying day. In fact, he could be maddeningly obtuse, high-handed, and even downright patronising when questioned about his own work. Or just puzzlingly, vexingly silent, looking down.
In 1884, Georges Seurat strategically placed dots atop a canvas, leading people to believe they were looking at an image of park-goers lounging along the Seine River in France. The technique was known as pointillism, and it seemed new at the time. But 38,000 years ago, people living inside caves in southwest France were doing something similar, according to findings published last month in Quaternary International.
“Their skills speak of a very high ability to observe in detail what surrounded them and reproduce it with great economy of means,” said Vhils, a Portuguese street artist who is known for his own chiseling of dots and lines into walls, and was not involved in the study.
Allen Ginsberg. A train accident. Intergenerational trauma.
Aspects of all of these elements will converge in Geoffrey Farmer’s upcoming project at the Venice Biennale’s Canada Pavilion, according to details recently released to the media.
A major impetus for the project comes from two photographs forwarded to the artist by his sister in April 2016. Farmer states the impact, and consequent trajectory, of these photos as follows:
The story of my project for Venice begins with these unpublished press photographs from 1955. They depict a collision between a train and a lumber truck halted by a railway crossing sign. There are planks scattered across the foreground and in one of the images, an unidentified boy poses with a half-eaten apple looking stiffly towards the horizon.
Learn why the colour signifies home, earth and motherhood for this remarkable sculptor.
While some colours may trigger a wide variety of responses in viewers, red – the colour of human injury – is perhaps the one pigment that almost all of us respond to in the same way. And nowhere is that response more forceful than in the art of Anish Kapoor.
“Kapoor’s reds are intense,” writes Stella Paul in our new book Chromaphilia: The Story of Colour in Art. “For Kapoor, ‘Red is the colour of the earth, it’s not a colour of deep space; it’s obviously the colour of blood and body. I have a feeling that the darkness it reveals is a much deeper and darker darkness than that of blue or black.’ When asked about the colour of his childhood homeland in India, Kapoor commented, ‘I’m sure it’s red’.”
Sotheby’s says ‘unprecedented interest’ with buyers tuning in to postwar masters’ attempts to use work to confront history.
For years, contemporary art sales at the world’s leading auction houses were dominated by the works of American and British artists. When it came to eye-watering amounts of money, paintings by anglophone figures including Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Francis Bacon were typically the headline-makers.
But in what has been described as a “sensational development”, Sotheby’s – the highest value auction house for contemporary art sales in London– has said German postwar masters are now defining the scene. More than a quarter of the 64 lots at Sotheby’s next big sale of contemporary art in March will be masterpieces by the likes of Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer – all of which are due to go on public display from 23 February.
“There is an unprecedented interest being shown in German contemporary art,” said a Sotheby’s spokesman. “To have such a representation from one country is remarkable given today’s globalised art world.”
Julian Schnabel has occupied many roles through the years: the default figurehead of the star-studded 1980s art world; the fall guy for that era’s particular brand of monied hedonism; an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker; for some, the greatest painter of his time — and others, the most overrated. He’s experienced ups and downs with critical and public reception: The critic Raphael Rubinstein has praised the “messy grandeur and devotional passion” of his paintings; Morley Safer, in a “60 Minutes” segment from 2008, dismissed Schnabel as the “poster-boy for the Me Generation.” And now, after several years of neglect from American galleries and museums, Schnabel is having a bit of a renaissance, with a recent retrospective at the Aspen Art Museum, a solo show opening this week in New York at Pace Gallery and a new film project about Vincent Van Gogh in the works. At 65, Schnabel has effectively transcended the sea of commentary that has surrounded him for the last four decades. He’s not going anywhere, like it or not.
An exhibition at the Frick Collection unites for the first time three of J.M.W. Turner’s 1820s port paintings, created in an age of newly open borders in Europe.
As Ian Wardropper, director of the Frick Collection in Manhattan, remarked at the preview for the new exhibition Turner’s Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages through Time, J.M.W. Turner created his 1820s seascapes at a moment of shifting borders. Travel restrictions due to a fear of invasion had meant that the English Channel could not be crossed between 1797 and 1815, but with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the barriers were lifted. “In celebration of this freedom of travel, he started making these sketches and traveling around the continent,” Wardropper said.
While it’s always a pleasure to take a long look at a Turner painting (if you’re a fan of 19th-century luminosity, that is), any exhibition is necessarily viewed from its current moment. The opening and closing of international borders and the impact of those decisions on art are especially relevant right now, in the wake of Trump’s travel ban in the US and Brexit in the UK. Turner’s monumental port painting of Cologne features a dog and disused fishing net whose solitude is about to be disrupted by a docking boat of well-coiffed tourists. And even as he exhibited this sunset-lit arrival in 1826, many of the old buildings and walls it depicted were being demolished to make way for development.
Discover the enduring legacy of the readymade in works by Manzoni, Koons, Hirst, Emin …
Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain hardly needs an introduction. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the work was originally submitted for display at the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York City. Famously rejected by the committee, Duchamp instead exhibited the work at Alfred Stieglitz‘s studio to much fanfare.
Though the original has since been lost, 17 replicas were produced in the 1960s. Fountain is widely regarded as a seminal work in 20th century art for giving birth to the “readymade,” and has influenced countless artists since.
Here, we take a look at some of the most prominent artworks that have taken their inspiration from the concept of the readymade over the course of the last century.
Royal Academy, London
Dance marathons, dustbowl farms, brawling sailors, impoverished cotton-pickers … Adrian Searle takes a journey through 1930s America in a gripping show.
The sedan careers up the hill on a country road, slewing as a truck comes over the rise. We have a death’s-eye view, watching it happen. Everything slows down – a car pootling toward the sedan from behind, the oncoming truck going so fast its wheels have left the road. A storm is moving in, the fence-posts and telegraph poles, like ominous crosses on the hill, rearing.
You don’t expect such graphic, cartoon action from Grant Wood, painter of ruralist, idealised farmsteads and small-minded Daughters of the American Revolution. The last time anything exciting happened was when Wood painted Paul Revere galloping through town and hollering, waking everyone up.
Curated by Judith A Barter of the Art Institute of Chicago, and drawn from many US collections, America After the Fall looks at American painting from the Wall Street crash and the great depression to the second world war. In no more than 50 paintings this fascinating show charts the turbulence of American society, its inequalities and divisions, its fears, fantasies and insecurities, during a period of both national and international upheaval. Sound familiar?
Even after digesting this considerable amount of ostensibly transitory disclosure, Duchamp remains an unadulterated, irreverent enigma.
While his readymades are a triumph of pure indifference over taste, admirers of Marcel Duchamp continue to be far from indifferent to this cryptic artist. By offering more than homage, Elena Filipovic’s The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp, a fascinating and unique new archival-based book on Duchampian ephemera, surpasses the mere addition of hagiographic detail. Illuminating Duchamp’s often accomplished (if subtle) exploits, the book also offers a glimpse into the tension between art as theoretical inquiry and art as institution (what philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer called the culture industry) by unveiling an eclectic and brilliant range of Duchamp’s innocuous, fragile, and fleeting projects. This is achieved through a richly illustrated and meticulously researched consideration of the fugitive art actions performed by the audacious person named Marcel: his window displays, art dealing, designing of surrealist shows and catalogues, promotional activities, administrative functions, and ambivalent curatorial personae, for example. Yet happily, even after digesting this considerable amount of ostensibly transitory disclosure, Duchamp remains an unadulterated, irreverent enigma — only a much deeper one.
When you sell your home the paperwork details the sale, including your name, and the title search lists the names of the people who owned the property before you. But when someone sells an artwork at auction — even something worth $100 million, much more than your house — the identity is typically concealed.
Oh, the paperwork might identify the work as coming from “a European collection.” But the buyer usually has no clue with whom he or she is really dealing. Sometimes, surprisingly, even the auction house may not know who the seller is.
Secrecy has long been central to the art world. Anonymity protects privacy, adds mystique and cuts the taint of crass commerce from such transactions. But some experts are now saying this sort of discretion — one founded in a simpler time, when only a few wealthy collectors took part in the art market — is not only quaint but also reckless when art is traded like a commodity and increasingly suspected in money laundering.
Beckmann’s “Self-Portrait with Cigarette” belonged to the Metropolitan Museum until 1971, when its deaccession set off a series of disputes that reshaped museum practices.
The moment Adolf Hitler’s voice burst over the airwaves one summer night in 1937 declaring steadfast opposition to so-called “degenerate art,” 53-year-old painter Max Beckmann knew his time in his native Germany had come to an end. Finding life under such circumstances increasingly untenable, Beckmann, with his wife Quappi at his side, fled the country that had imbued him with a love of painting, brought him as a volunteer hospital steward to the front lines of World War I, and nurtured his career as an artist — until the ascendency of Hitler’s Nazi regime snuffed out any hope he had of continuing to work in the doomed republic.
Self-imposed exile took the Beckmanns from Germany to Amsterdam, then to St. Louis in 1947, before they finally settled in New York. Here Beckmann, still haunted by his experiences in the war, angry at the post-war excesses thrown in his face daily in Weimar-era Berlin, and withdrawn into his painting practice perhaps more than ever, took on a professorship at the now-defunct Brooklyn Museum Art School.
Yet, showing a living and breathing artist who’s making art in response to current events has turned those white walls into a stage that feels unquestionably more relevant.
And if there’s one artist who has been making work about urgent matters, it is definitely Tillmans. His “EU Campaign” posters became the defining pro-Remain, anti-Brexit artwork, ahead of the UK referendum last year. Articulating what many people had in mind but were struggling to find words to express, those posters became emblems, freely distributed and printed, stuck to windows and wielded in demonstrations.