Damien Hirst’s triumphant comeback show in Venice is a timely reflection on fakery, belief, truth and absolutes.
Damien Hirst’s new show in Venice, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, is a complicated triumph. The labels for the works on display, dozens of objects, many enormous, depicting mythological beings — monsters, ancient royalty, maiden warriors, three-headed dogs, and suchlike — refer to them in a slightly puzzled or distant way as if only so much can be known. In other words, they’re like the labels in places at the British Museum, and the objects are ‘like’ (if that’s the word) the antiquities you’d expect to find there.
Ever since the global financial crisis of 2008 and the art market’s subsequent decline a year later, the middle market has come under increasing pressure. According to economist Clare McAndrew’s Art Market | 2017 report, the middle market—defined for dealers as works priced between $5,000 and $50,000—is the “most difficult segment” in which to operate. Along with thinning sales, galleries have been faced with rising rents and an art market in which commerce is increasingly concentrated during international art fairs rather than throughout the year in traditional gallery spaces. In response, some galleries are closing or changing their model for doing business.
Meanwhile, Anthony Reynolds, who closed his London space in 2015 but maintains all the activities of a primary gallery, exhibited at miart last year. Reynolds’ decision to shut was taken as “a way of encouraging a more flexible approach and a mutually beneficial economic model” according to a statement. In 2017 the gallery is organizing five exhibitions in four countries and taking part in five fairs.
The main reason art fairs are so coveted by dealers, Resch says, is because of the lure of new collectors. “The fundamental problem for galleries is there are not enough collectors, that’s why galleries open and close,” he said. According to his Global Art Gallery Report, 49% of galleries were founded after 2000 and a meager 7% have been open for more than 35 years.
“This might seem like a new problem, but it’s not. Galleries have always closed and new ones have always joined the ranks,” he said.
Art is magical. It is a fairytale. It can make you rich. It can make you poor. It can turn everything you thought you knew inside out and upside down.
It has made Damien Hirst rich, colossally so, and now it has done something else. It has redeemed him. For years he has appeared a figure of strangely wasted and ruined promise, whose commercialism snuffed out his artistic spark. Yet with his exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, which fills not only a Venetian palace but also the capacious halls of the ship-shaped Punta della Dogana at the mouth of the Grand Canal, the arrogant, exciting, hilarious, mind-boggling imagination that made him such a thrilling artist in the 1990s is audaciously and beautifully reborn.
The young artist who put a tiger shark in a glass tank never died, after all, and we who lost faith in him look like fools for failing to believe.
This fictional museum is not only impressive, but moving. Hirst shares his passion with us. He obviously loves art, loves the dark and inexplicable mystery of it. He communicates, too, a love of history – or perhaps, rather, a love of time. Art is changed by time as wrecks are changed by the sea. Today’s spoon is tomorrow’s wondrous relic.
Will Hirst one day be in the history books as a genius? It looks a hell of a lot more likely after this titanic return to form.
Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans is more familiar than most with London’s Tate Britain. He strolled its iconic galleries as a guard in the late seventies, while studying at Central St Martins. With a beautiful sense of symmetry, he has returned 40 years later, as a much celebrated artist.
Wyn Evans’ new masterwork, Forms in Space…by Light (in Time), fills and stretches the Duveen Galleries. Annually, Tate Britain invite an artist to develop a work in response to the grand neo-classical hall, that addresses the heritage of the space as a sculpture gallery.
Artists the world over were instantly captivated three years ago when UK-based Surrey NanoSystems announced the invention of Vantablack, the darkest material ever made. And things continue to get darker: The company has been advancing the technology, and released some astonishing photographs and footage of the pigment in action, which have to be seen to be believed.
A video released last year by Surrey’s scientists shows a “new development of the Vantablack process… a coating so black that our spectrometers can’t measure it!” When a laser pointer is aimed at the Vantablack-coated surface, it vanishes completely, as if no light were touching it at all.
Withth two kilometres’ worth of white neon tubing arranged in dazzling arrays of lines and curves high above the Duveen Galleries’ polished floors, Forms in Space… by Light (in Time), Cerith Wyn Evans’s installation for this year’s Tate Britain Commission (of which Sotheby’s is a sponsor) cannot be mistaken for another artist’s work. Born in 1958 in Llanelli, Wales, and now based in London, Wyn Evans has long grappled with light, whether it be a young filmmaker or as a mature artist beaming Morse coding of Welsh literature into the night sky at the 2003 Venice Biennale. He is also participating in this year’s edition of the Biennale, curated by Christine Macel, showing his film Pasolini Ostia Remix, 1998–2003. On an all-out quest for meaning and connection, Wyn Evans interrogates everything from art history and philosophy to musical scores and celestial bodies, translating his findings and visions into such forms as the muticoloured Murano glass chandelier Astrophotography…The Traditional Measure of Photographic Speed in Astronomy…’ by Siegfried Marx (1987), (2006), which flashes his personal literary canon in code. Days before the Tate Commission’s unveiling, Tony Guillan sat down with Wyn Evans to discuss his life, his work and the cosmos.
The Welsh artist unveils 2km of neon suspended in mid-air – and it’s an adventure playground for the eyes.
It all begins with a white neon O, hanging above our heads like the shape the lips make before an exclamation. Or a spyglass aimed at the chaos beyond. Suspended partway down the long Duveen Gallery at London’s Tate Britain, it reminds me most of an acrobat’s ring; the eye swings through it, leaping into a dense tangle of white light that smears the floors with brightness, and seems to fill the space beyond. Cerith Wyn Evans’s Forms in Space … By Light (in Time), the latest annual commission for the Duveen, is less to be looked at than moved through, a work to be paced, walked under, experienced as a journey or a piece of music. What begins as optical confusion unfolds as a sequence of complex manoeuvres, reversals, mirrorings and inversions. If the title sounds a bit dry – like some glum suprematist exercise – the work is anything but.
We have seen a lot of neon in art. Neon heads and neon words in Bruce Nauman; neon obscenities from Jason Rhoades; Ragnar Kjartansson’s Scandinavian Painand Martin Creed’s Mothers. Neon is just a drawing tool. The lights do not go on and off here, though the eye flickers, being sent through hoops and on zooming trajectories. At the rear of the Duveen, at roughly the same height as that first hanging circle, a plain neon rod thrusts towards the wall. An emphatic sudden stop, a gesture arrested, an invitation to reverse.
The Conceptual art movement is probably the most radical and the most controversial plane in modern and contemporary art. Some artists, experts and art historians even dismiss it as art. Conceptual art is based on the notion that the essence of art is an idea, or concept, and may exist distinct from and in the absence of an object as its representation. Many examples of conceptual art (well-known works or statements) question the notion of art itself. Some conceptual artists believe that art is created by the viewer, not by the artist or the artwork itself. Since ideas and concepts are the main feature of art, aesthetics and material concerns have a secondary role in conceptual art. Conceptual artists recognize that all art is essentially conceptual. In order to emphasize these terms, they reduce the material presence of the work to an absolute minimum – a tendency that some have referred to as the dematerialization of art – which is one of the main characteristics of conceptual art. As many conceptual art examples show, the conceptual art movement itself emerged as a reaction against the tenets of formalism. Formalism considers that the formal qualities of a work – such as line, shape and color – are self-sufficient for its appreciation, and all other considerations – such as representational, ethical or social aspects – are secondary or redundant.
Revisiting the irony of the original Dada movement, Neo-Dada was first popularized in the early 1960s. The label has been applied to a wide variety of artistic works, mostly including Junk art, use of found objects and the employment of banal activities and objects as instruments of social and aesthetic critique. The most popular names behind this vast spectrum of art are Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Jim Dine, John Chamberlain, Ray Johnson among many others who have ventured into this ambiguous form of expression. Recently, we’ve addressed the history and the awakening of Neo-Dada, where we’ve explored in-depth exactly how such a movement came to life, and what were the motifs behind it. Many art theorists and critics would say that Neo-Dada styles and ideas affected other artistic forms and movements such as Pop art, Junk art, Fluxus and Nouveu Réalisme, as well as several other contemporary art forms like assemblage, performance and installation. Here, we take a look at the 10 Neo-Dada art pieces that left a significant mark in the development of this movement, and many others.
The art movement known as Dada, or Dadaism, has undoubtedly shifted the course of artistic history on multiple fields. Uniting the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, the movement was officially created in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1916 at CabaretVoltaire, and it celebrates 100 years of existence this year. Nurturing many monumental artists and their artwork that started out as a correspondence to the outbreak of World War I, the movement itself supported chaos and irrationality in art, and Hans Richter went as far as to call it not art, but “anti-art.” It was also very unstable as a form, melding into surrealism, while some call it the beginning of postmodern art. Its artists had been on the verge of artistic expression, going towards other ideas and movements including surrealism, social realism and other forms of modernism, which is why some of the Dadaist artists are arguably placed under this category.
This was a question asked by Duchamp in his notes from 1913, and remains being the essential question while considering the Richard Mutt Case.
Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1917, the course of art history has been completely changed by a submission of a urinal signed “R. Mutt” for the exhibition of The Society of Independent Artists in New York – a work which we today know as TheDuchamp Fountain.
Even though the idea of the exhibition was that every work submitted should be exhibited, and even though Marcel Duchamp himself was a part of the committee, The Fountain remained to be the only work, out of 2,125 others, that wasn’t accepted for the exhibition.
Duchamp’s proxy, Beatrice Wood, published a defense of the work titled The Richard Mutt Case in the May edition of their Dada Journal, entitled The Blind Man.
Presuming that calls for censorship and destruction constitute a legitimate response to perceived injustice leads us down a very dark path.
The presence of blackness in a Whitney Biennial invariably stirs controversy — it’s deemed to be unfit or not enough, or too much. The current Whitney Biennial is no exception — the art press has been awash this past week with reports of a protest staged in front of a painting of a disfigured Emmett Till lying in his casket and a letter penned by an artist who called for the work to be removed and destroyed. The painter is Dana Schutz, a white American. The author of the letter is Hannah Black, a black-identified biracial artist who hails from England and resides in Berlin. The protestors are a youthful coalition of artists and scholars of color. The curators being called on the carpet are both Asian American. Debates about the painting and the letter rage on social media, to the exclusion of discussion of the many works by black artists in the show, most notably Henry Taylor’s rendering of Philando Castile dying in his car after being shot by police. This multicultural melodrama took a rather perverse turn on March 23, when an unknown party hacked Schutz’s email address and committed identity theft by submitting an apologia under her name to the Huffington Post and a number of other publications; it was printed and then retracted. Up to now, none of Schutz’s detractors have addressed whether they think it’s fine to punish the artist by putting words in her mouth.
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.