Posts Tagged ‘art fairs’
This was published last year in Ben Davis’ Interventions column on Artinfo.com, but trying to pen a review of the latest Art Stage brought it to mind again.
The original can be read here.
Total Eclipse of the Art: The Rise of Art News and the Crisis of Art Criticism
By Ben Davis. Published: January 5, 2011.
As 2010 came to a close, Stephen Squibb over at Artlog put together a helpful crib sheet of the best moments of art criticism of the year. I admire this list (and not just because I’m on there, though that’s probably part of it). It’s a more heroic gesture to try to pick out what’s worth remembering than it is to issue crabby proclamations like “criticism is dead.”
Still, the way I think about the present moment is this: Art criticism is in eclipse. This is a carefully chosen metaphor. Let me explain.
If you had to name the major development in art discourse during the 2000s, it would undoubtedly be the ascent of “art news,” which has definitely replaced “art criticism” at the center of discussion. There’s been an enormous proliferation of writing about the art scene. Artforum.com’s “Scene and Herd” was founded in 2004. Artinfo.com, the publication I write for, was founded in 2005. And of course, there is the tremendous excitement generated by the art blogosphere, which draws its strength from attitude and outrage.
Heck, just yesterday Lindsay Pollock, a well-known art journalist, was named editor-in-chief of Art in America, long a redoubt of art criticism.
A simple logic governs this proliferation of “art news”: Readers care a lot more about reporting on the art world than they do about reviews of art. By whatever metric you use — Web traffic, reader feedback, or just percentage of the collective brain taken up — people are more inflamed by the latest institutional scandal or art-related celebrity sighting than they are by quaint, old-fashioned discussions of what, exactly, makes an artwork good.
So it sometimes seems that the art scene has swallowed the art itself. The galleries are more packed than ever at the same time that writing about art seems strangely directionless. As in a solar eclipse, the halo around art grows ever brighter and more distinct, even as the light source itself vanishes from view.
One explanation for this development is technological. The 2000s saw the Internet come to predominate over print, and, in a certain sense, the medium is the message. Information circulates faster on the Internet. The natural consequence of this is a different tempo of art writing. Worthwhile criticism — the kind that’s more than just “I liked it” or “this blows” — requires time to digest and space to breathe. The Web tilts art writing towards a different style and a different subject matter.
But though the medium may be the message, it doesn’t always get the last word. As I’ve argued before, the rise of serious art criticism — in the sense of the “theory-crit” that one associates with the old, exciting Artforum — had a specific material context: the turbo-charged expansion of the post-WWII university system, which produced a robust audience for highly abstract art theory.
“Theory-crit,” however, always had an internal flaw, summed up by Walter Robinson, my former editor at Artnet (another pioneer in online art news, incidentally) who likes to point out that if you read the average Artforum review you wouldn’t know that the objects in question ever existed in a real space, let alone were merchandise for sale.
The expanding market for “art news” coincided with the ballooning of the more commercial side of the art world in the ’00s: the explosion of art fairs (Art Basel Miami Beach debuted in 2002, Frieze in 2003), the rise of the “ego-seum,” the hunger of corporations to tap high-culture cachet (Takashi Murakami’s team-up with Louis Vuitton was in 2003), the triumph of art-as-investment, and the “emerging artist” wave that saw galleries harvest kids fresh out of school (Alex McQuilken’s “Fucked,” a video of the 19-year-old artist having sex made while she was at NYU, famously sold out at the 2002 Armory Show). But everything about “theory-crit” requires the reader to buy the idea that the academy is the most important tastemaking center. Thus, the commercial explosion created a space where all the stuff about the market and the social scene, institutional moves and their political ramifications, actually feels more relevant than the most “serious” criticism.
And so, in a kind of dialectical response to theories of aesthetics that don’t have that much to say about art’s context, you get reporting on art’s context that doesn’t have that much to say about aesthetics.
Just because you can’t see the sun in an eclipse, however, doesn’t mean it’s gone. The above reflections make me think that criticism’s loss of luster has less to do with some terminal death spiral for serious thought than it does with some weaknesses internal to the old theories people used to make art seem important.
I believe there’s a tremendous hunger for serious art criticism out there — it just has to be criticism that actually engages with the contemporary reality of art. After all, without an interesting perspective on what makes visual art distinctive, all you have left is the art world as a crappy arm of pop culture or a place for high-end gambling.
At the same time, the above thoughts also put a positive spin on the “art news” boom. Set against the de facto idealism of “theory-crit” (reducing art to pure theoretical machinations), the appeal of reporting on the art scene would seem to be partly that it yanks art back down to earth. “Art news” is a mug’s materialism. Which would mean that all the pulsating, magnetic shimmer of “art news” is really just displaced glow from the object itself, that is, a real investment in art as something relevant. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Prices (2011), William Powhida. Image courtesy of the artist’s personal site.
A belated look at Art Stage Singapore 2012 .. or ASS, as some are fond of referring to it.
There are no numbers here.
And there are no definitely no checklists inventorying who sold what to whom for how much. (Interest in art itself deflected by interest in their prices – just about so neat a fulfillment of Marx’s notion of the commodity fetish it’s nearly ridiculous.)
A disjointed juxtaposition seemed like the only comprehensible response to the bloated phenomenon that is the contemporary art fair.
Next to the entrance to this year’s Art Stage fair, where a posse of goons in dark suits stand like chthonic sentinels before a walkthrough metal detector soaring ceiling-wards, guests are greeted by an aureate version of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE statue (above). This one isn’t too large. Measuring some six by six feet, it’s love on a manageable, human scale. Unlike its more monumental counterparts – say, the colossal one just a block away from the MoMA in Manhattan – this piece crouches down to look the viewer in the face … or, more pertinently, to let the viewer look it in its (type)face.
Painted a gleaming gold, this particular incarnation of Indiana’s work was proudly displayed on a L-shaped platform, like the embrace of a cupped hand, with spotlights trained on it both from above and below, the illumination serving to bring out the incandescent shimmer of the hue. The sides were coloured a bold, garish red: besides chiming with the rich vermilion and crimson shades of the wall-to-wall carpeting beneath, the immediate evocation – for me anyways – was a pair of Louboutin stilettos.
Indiana’s LOVE design first emerged from the socio-political ferment of the 1960s as, of all things, a MoMA Christmas card. (It was also probably a response to certain nascent visual trends, like Pop Art and hard-edge painting). According to this Mental Floss article:
Robert Indiana never intended for his LOVE sculpture to become an emblem of 1960s counterculture, because it had nothing to do with free love or hippies. As with his other works, LOVE was all about personal symbolism
The word “love” was connected to his childhood experiences attending a Christian Science church, where the only decoration was the wall inscription, “God is Love.”
The colors were an homage to his father, who worked at a Phillips 66 gas station during the Depression. “When I was a kid, my mother used to drive my father to work in Indianapolis, and I would see, practically every day of my young life, a huge Phillips 66 sign,” he once wrote. “So it is the red and green of that sign against the blue Hoosier sky.”
The tilted O was common in medieval typography, and Indiana has variously described the leaning letter as representing either a cat’s eye or an erect phallus.
The LOVE icon as commentary on Christian Science – and, more broadly, the promises and blandishments of organized religion …
… here morphed into a gilded monument, glittering away under the spotlights.
A neat segue.
First, Stephen Colbert on what he dubbed “moneytheism”:
And it means that our collective cultural belief that the unfettered free market will take care of us is also not delusional. No. It is actually a religion. You see, psychiatrists often use use cultural acceptance to explain why it is not crazy to hold certain religious beliefs, say, a virgin gave brith to God’s son, or it’s an abomination to eat shrimp, or we protect ourselves from evil by wearing magic underwear. So, let’s just classify belief in the free market as religion. After all, they both have invisible hands, and move in mysterious ways. That way, no one can call us crazy and we can get all the benefits the government gives to churches. We no longer have to pay taxes on the money we make as long as we face Wall Street six times a day and say our prayer. “There is no god but Alan and more profits are his prophet.” Then on Judgment Day Ronald Reagan will return on a cloud of glory and take us up to money heaven.
(From the Nov 19, 2008, episode of The Colbert Report. Watch the relevant clip here.)
Now Martha Rosler on the money-driven world of the contemporary art fair:
Accusations of purely symbolic display, of hypocrisy, are easily evaded by turning to, finally, the third method of global discipline, the art fair, for fairs make no promises other than sales and parties; there is no shortage of appeals to pleasure. There has been a notable increase in the number and locations of art fairs in a short period, reflecting the art world’s rapid monetization; art investors, patrons, and clientele have shaken off the need for internal processes of quality control in favor of speeded-up multiplication of financial and prestige value. Some important fairs have set up satellite branches elsewhere. Other important fairs are satellites that outshine their original venues and have gone from the periphery of the art world’s vetting circuit to center stage. At art fairs, artworks are scrutinized for financial-portfolio suitability, while off-site fun (parties and dinners), fabulousness (conspicuous consumption), and non-art shopping are the selling points for the best-attended fairs—those in Miami, New York, and London (and of course the original, Basel). Dealers pay quite a lot to participate, however, and the success of the fair as a business venture depends on the dealers’ ability to make decent sales and thus to want to return in subsequent years.
(See Martha Rosler, “Take the Money and Run? Can Political and Socio-critical Art “Survive”?” in e-flux Journal 12 [01/2010].)
The always-already interpellated subject, according to Althusser:
To take a highly ‘concrete’ example, we all have friends who, when they knock on our door and we ask, through the door, the question ‘Who’s there?’, answer (since ‘it’s obvious’) ‘It’s me’. And we recognize that ‘it is him’, or ‘her’. We open the door, and ‘it’s true, it really was she who was there’. To take another example, when we recognize somebody of our (previous) acquaintance ((re)-connaissance) in the street, we show him that we have recognized him (and have recognized that he has recognized us) by saying to him ‘Hello, my friend’, and shaking his hand (a material ritual practice of ideological recognition in everyday life – in France, at least; elsewhere, there are other rituals) ……
As a first formulation I shall say: all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects, by the functioning of the category of the subject.
This is a proposition which entails that we distinguish for the moment between concrete individuals on the one hand and concrete subjects on the other, although at this level concrete subjects only exist insofar as they are supported by a concrete individual.
I shall then suggest that ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions’ in such a way that it ‘recruits’ subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or ‘transforms’ the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellationor hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: ‘Hey, you there!’
Assuming that the theoretical scene I have imagined takes place in the street, the hailed individual will turn round. By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject. Why? Because he has recognized that the hail was ‘really’ addressed to him, and that ‘it was really him who was hailed’ (and not someone else). Experience shows that the practical telecommunication of hailings is such that they hardly ever miss their man: verbal call or whistle, the one hailed always recognizes that it is really him who is being hailed. And yet it is a strange phenomenon, and one which cannot be explained solely by ‘guilt feelings’, despite the large numbers who ‘have something on their consciences’.
Naturally for the convenience and clarity of my little theoretical theatre I have had to present things in the form of a sequence, with a before and an after, and thus in the form of a temporal succession. There are individuals walking along. Somewhere (usually behind them) the hail rings out: ‘Hey, you there!’ One individual (nine times out often it is the right one) turns round, believing/suspecting/knowing that it is for him, i.e. recognizing that ‘it really is he’ who is meant by the hailing. But in reality these things happen without any succession. The existence of ideology and the hailing or interpellation of individuals as subjects are one and the same thing.
I might add: what thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems therefore to take place outside it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, ‘I am ideological’. It is necessary to be outside ideology, i.e. in scientific knowledge, to be able to say: I am in ideology (a quite exceptional case) or (the general case): I was in ideology. As is well known, the accusation of being in ideology only applies to others, never to oneself (unless one is really a Spinozist or a Marxist, which, in this matter, is to be exactly the same thing). Which amounts to saying that ideology has no outside (for itself), but at the same time that it is nothing but outside (for science and reality).
Above is Indo-Thai artist Navin Rawanchikul’s massive painting, part of his Navinland installation.
This, perhaps, represents the navel-gazing of the art world at its best.
The label describes it: “Navinland Needs You: We Are Asia! is a newly composed art created especially for Art Stage Singapore 2012. Almost 13-metres in length, the centrepiece acrylic canvas is a celebratory Who’s Who of many of the significant figures in Asian Art today.”
Indeed it is. Below is a listing – helpfully provided by Art Stage, next to the painting – of just who.
Wally-spotting was never so amusing.
In the meantime, here is a snippet from art critic Ben Davis’ 9.5 Theses on Art and Class:
2.0 Today, the ruling class, which is capitalist, dominates the sphere of the visual arts
2.1 It is part of the definition of a ruling class that it controls the material resources of society
2.2 The ruling ideologies, which serve to reproduce this material situation, also represent the interests of the ruling class
2.3 The dominant values given to art, therefore, will be ones that serve the interests of the current ruling class
2.4 Concretely, within the sphere of the contemporary visual arts, the agents whose interests determine the dominant values of art are: large corporations, including auction houses and corporate collectors; art investors, private collectors and patrons; trustees and administrators of large cultural institutions and universities
2.5 One role for art, therefore, is as a luxury good, whose superior craftsmanship or intellectual prestige indicates superior social status
2.6 Another role for art is to serve as financial instrument or tradable repository of value
2.7 Another role for art is as sign of “giving back” to the community, to whitewash ill-gotten gains
2.8 Another role for art is symbolic escape valve for radical impulses, to serve as a place to isolate and contain social energy that runs counter to the dominant ideology
2.9 A final role for art is the self-replication of ruling-class ideology about art itself—the dominant values given to art serve not only to enact ruling-class values directly, but also to subjugate, within the sphere of the arts, other possible values of art
And here is current darling of the New York art scene, William Powhida, famed for his take-no-prisoners approach to art world critique, and his Dear Art World, the text of which is transcribed below (courtesy of brainpickings.com):
Dear Art World,
I feel you sitting there trying to process the CRAZY shit going on. I’ve been there for months, and it’s driving me INSANE. Fuck it, it seems counterproductive to EVEN talk about this shit, because EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS WHY “SHIT is REALLY FUCKED UP,” or why I’m wrong.
BUT, I’ve come to some conclusions about shit. One is that we spend A LOT of time BLAMING each other for notunderstanding WHAT the problem actually is — TRANSPARENCY, Barack Obama, mandates LOBBYISTS, immigrants, RESPONSIBILITY, FREEDOM Truth, LIZARD PEOPLE, FLUORIDE in the water… TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE OF ANY OF IT.
I mean, everyone ALREADY has the Answer, it’s just that every ELSE just has ‘it’ all wrong. It’s really simple, apparently, to fix everything by applying some JESUS™, REGULATION®, or CONSTITUTION™ to it. If only we’d just free the Market, convict some bankers, spiritually channel the Founding Fathers, regulate derivatives, STOP eating GM corn syrup, spend more…time with your Family OR LEGALIZE DRUGS.
EXCEPT WE don’t do shit*, because this is AMERICA, Land of the Mr. Softee® and home of the BRAVES® where we are FREE to ARGUE about the CAUSES of social and ECONOMIC inequalities until the grass-fed cows come home. We argue in comment threads, on Facebook™, and twitter™. AND, when we aren’t arguing, We agree with our favorite ‘experts’ on FOX®, CNBC™, and CNN™ as we slide into RECESSION 2.0.
One of the OBVIOUS conclusions I’ve arrived at is that a very FEW people LIKE it that way. WHILE SHIT is bad for MOST of us — 9%+ unemployment, $14 TRILLION+ debt, and a perpetual War on Terror® — *THEY* hope we’ll all just pull a lever next fall ‘PROBLEM SOLVED’ and argue some more about the INTENTIONS of the CLIMATE, BECAUSE the 1% is doing fine.
The only FACTS worth stating are that 20% of the population controls 85% of the net worth and earned 49.9% of the income last year. IN the AMERICAN SPIRIT™ of BLAME and recrimination I’m going to point the finger at…deREGULATED CAPITALISM®! IT is in the very spirit of Capitalism to ACQUIRE MORE CAPITAL. To quote @O_SattyCripnAzz, fellow citizen and member of #Team #1mmy [?], “Money is money no matter how u get it.”
Unfortunately, the same 1% also supports the rest of us by BYING shit and funding almost everything else (museums, residencies, grants…) putting some of us in an awkward position (YOU TOO NATO and Pedro), BUT that doesn’t mean we should SHUT THE FUCK UP, take their MONEY, and say ‘Thank you!’ The Art World is NOT separate from SOCIETY and THIS is how SHIT gets all FUCKED UP — PLUTARCHY, motherfuckers.
So, in my useless capacity as a tool artist, I’ve made some pictures about this SHIT that are FREE to look at**, and they’re ALL DERIVATIVES.
[signed William Powhida]
** Bring a chair
Dear Art World (2011), William Powhida. Image from the artist’s site.
Korean artist Lee Yongbaek’s Broken Mirror Classic consists of a mirror in a gilt frame.
Serendipitously, the perfect moment of self-regarding complicity.
It really is.
Especially when it involves big names.
A piece by Addy Chia in today’s Life! section: apparently local/Malaysian gallery owner and power player in the art scene hereabouts, Valentine Willie, got into a bit of a spat with Elena Rudolf – wife of the redoubtable Lorenzo Rudolf, late of Art Basel, and who’s now helming Art Stage Singapore.
(Ms. Chia, by the way, for those of you who may not have kept up, is a bit of a straight talker. Her editorial on the K-pop phenomenon, which compared the legions of local fans to a herd of hypnotized cultists, resulted in death threats via Twitter. For a while back there, Addy was public enemy numero uno among a certain demographic. I’m sure she still is.)
She’s penned a couple of other pieces on the Art Stage event this year, but this one really had me all agog.
You know, the hyper-commercialization of contemporary art has its perks: entertainment value. Nothing like arty types behaving badly (rather than boozing and schmoozing and spending obscene amounts of money the rest of us plebs can’t afford on a single painting, which we all knew they did anyways).
ROW OVER TORN GUESTBOOK
By Adeline Chia. Published: 21 January 2012.
A spat has broken out in the visual arts community after prominent gallerist Valentine Willie posted an irate Facebook post about the behaviour of one of the organisers of Art Stage.
Art Stage is the premier contemporary art fair held in Singapore that concluded last Sunday.
Mr Willie, 57, who owns a string of art galleries under the Valentine Willie Fine Art name in South-east Asia, wrote for his status update on Facebook on Wednesday: ‘Today, i (sic) had the most unpleasant experience in my 18 years in the art world.’
He then referred to an incident at Sangkring Art Space in Yogyakarta involving Mrs Maria Elena Rudolf, the wife of Art Stage director Lorenzo Rudolf, who is in charge of VIP relations for the four-day fair.
Mr Willie wrote that she was leading a group of VIP art collectors from Art Stage on a tour of Sangkring Art Space, a five-year-old gallery owned by Balinese painter Putu Sutawijaya. The collectors had signed in the gallery’s guestbook and left their contact details.
He said that Mrs Rudolf tore the page of contact details out of the guestbook while she muttered: ‘I don’t want you people stealing this list.’
He wrote in the post: ‘How awful and insulting is that?’
In response, Art Stage released a statement yesterday saying that Mrs Rudolf had removed the page ‘out of necessity’ and to ‘protect the collectors’ privacy’. She said that Mr Willie was copying the contact information into his mobile phone.
The statement said that the trip to Indonesia, which started on Sunday, was exclusively limited to members of Art Stage Singapore Collectors Club and admission to the events on the itinerary was by invitation only.
It said that Mr Willie, whom it described as ‘the only leading gallery based in Singapore who declined to support Art Stage Singapore 2012 and to exhibit at the fair’, had from the start of the trip, tried repeatedly to ‘insinuate’ himself into the collectors’ group.
Mrs Rudolf, 54, said that the group was surprised to see Mr Willie at the gallery and when she found him copying the contact details in the guest book, she asked him to respect the group’s privacy. Later, she removed the page ‘out of necessity” and after informing the gallery.
Mr Willie denied that he had tried to find out about the group’s itinerary. He said that Sutawijaya had invited him to the gallery to help with the hanging of his works and to give the collectors a briefing.
He said he already knew some of the collectors before the trip and had their name cards. He took only one new card at Sangkring and another collector gave him her contact details.
As for copying from the guestbook, he said: ‘I don’t copy.’
Ms Jenni Vi, co-owner of Sangkring Art Gallery and Sutawijaya’s wife, told Life! over the telephone from Yogyakarta that the experience was a ‘nightmare’ and ‘that woman really insulted us’.
She added: ‘I should have said, ‘Get out of here!”
Mrs Vi, 39, said that Mrs Rudolf was ‘angry’ to find that Sangkring was an art gallery and not an artist studio, and was displeased to see Mr Willie at the gallery.
‘But Willie is my business partner. His office is here. How can I chase him away?’ Mrs Vi said. Mr Willie programmes the exhibitions at Sangkring and holds eight exhibitions a year at the space. He is also Sutawijaya’s dealer in Malaysia.
Ms Vi added that Mrs Rudolf told her not to ask the collectors to leave their contact details.
She said that when she showed the collectors her husband’s artworks, Mrs Rudolf accused her of ‘shaming my husband because I wanted to sell the paintings’. She said that Mrs Rudolf did tell her that she wanted to remove the page of contacts. ‘I had lost so much face. I said, ‘If you want to tear, just tear. Please go quickly.”
Mr Willie’s Facebook post about Mrs Rudolf’s behaviour has gone viral in the arts community. He told Life! on the telephone from Jakarta: ‘Pity I was too well brought up, I would have slapped her.’
Most art galleries Life! spoke to said they keep the details of their clientele confidential and do not share them with third parties. But they said that they have never come across anyone tearing a page out of a guestbook.
Art-2 Gallery owner Vera Ong, 54, who is vice-president of the Art Galleries Association in Singapore, said that galleries keep their client database confidential to respect the privacy of their collectors and to protect their own businesses.
Ms Ong, whose gallery is in Mica Building, did not take part in Art Stage.
Mr Gary Sng, 44, director of Collectors Contemporary, said client mailing lists are never shared. ‘We don’t ask galleries and galleries don’t ask us.’
Commenting on Mrs Rudolf’s actions, he said: ‘The collectors signed the book, so they have given permission to give their contacts away. And you can’t just tear up people’s property.’
Collectors Contemporary, a local gallery which deals in Western contemporary art, took part in Art Stage last year. It did not have a booth this year.
Other galleries have a more open-minded approach in sharing customers.
MAD Museum of Art & Design’s owner Jasmine Tay, 45, said she sometimes takes her customers to other dealers. ‘I act as a consultant and tell them what’s good. If you let other people earn, how much will you lose?’
She added that most dealers represent different artists anyway. ‘And if you are a professional dealer, people know your abilities and will come to you.’
Her gallery in Mandarin Gallery took part in Art Stage last year but not this year. She said Mrs Rudolf’s actions were ‘unprofessional’. ‘People left their names so they wanted the gallery to send them information. She had no right to damage the guestbook.’
Mr Richard Koh, 47, of Richard Koh Fine Art, said: ‘In South-east Asia and in Singapore especially, everybody knows everybody. I don’t know why people are so secretive over their clientele.’
He has two galleries in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and specialises in Southeast Asian art.
The Malaysian gallerist, who took part in both editions of Art Stage, said that he takes his international clients to other galleries. ‘An art collector collects art. Not just art from a certain gallery. You can’t build a collection from one gallery alone.’
Part three coming up soon. (That’s the interesting one.)
Watch this space.
There should be a review of sorts where this post is.
Unfortunately, the second edition of Art Stage Singapore is so huge – and good – that I’m probably going to have go back a couple more times just to see everything.
Previews were yesterday. As usual, it was a total booze-schmooze fest.
My general reaction after eight f*cking hours there:
That’s Chinese artist He Xiangyu’s The Death of Marat, a sculpture so life-like that when it was exhibited in the town of Bad Ems, Germany, the local cops received several calls reporting a death. According to an article in The Washington Post:
The sculpture is called “The Death of Marat” — an art-historical nod to the famous neoclassical painting of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, painted by Jacques-Louis David . It depicts Weiwei, who was detained by the Chinese government earlier this year, as lying face down on the gallery floor, deceased. [He] Xiangyu said that he used real human hair, plastic and fiberglass to create the extremely realistic statue. In cribbing the title from David, Xiangyu elevates Weiwei’s status to that of a tragic hero.
A special shoutout to local artist Michael Lee, who was showing his installation piece, Revision as Exercise (below), which premiered earlier in a two-man show at the National Museum. Mike, in a stroke of *utter genius*, put a couch right there in the space – which ensured that everyone was going to show up at some point or other. Bodily Relief as Relational Aesthetic: two thumbs up.
And Zhao Renhui has a booth there too:
It all starts today.
The biggest art fair hereabouts, Art Stage Singapore, is back for a second year – and bigger and better than ever (by all accounts). Sneak previews tomorrow (Jan 11th), and general admission the day after (12th).
There’s a whole bunch of other shows happening though. A whole bunch. An article in The Straits Times yesterday lists a couple – all of which open tonight – and For Art’s Sake, on the ball as usual, provides another lengthy rundown. The ST piece reproduced at the end of the post; Mayo Martin’s, abbreviated, below.
By: Mayo Martin. Published: Jan 9, 2012.
Milk And Honey
After his frequent forays into theatre, Brian Gothong Tan goes visual arts once more with this, his tenth multi-media installation combining film, sculpture and photography to explore the idea of utopias. Jan 12 to 22, 10am to 8pm, Goodman Arts Centre Gallery, Block B #01-08, 90 Goodman Road.
Art Is A Lie
The 14th annual show of artist tenants at Telok Kurau Studios. Until Feb 3, 11am to 6.30pm, The TKS Art Gallery, 91 Lorong J, Telok Kurau.
The Singapore Show: Future Proof
A survey show featuring 25 of the country’s emerging contemporary artists. Jan 14 to April 15, Singapore Art Museum, SAM at 8Q, The Substation, 222 Queen Street.
The Collectors Show: Chimera
A collection of some impressive works by private collectors, including those by Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Yasmin Sison, Donna Ong and Lee Yong Baek. Jan 14 to March 25, Singapore Art Museum
Ten Thousand Waves / Monumental Southeast Asia
The first is a photographic exhibition based on the nine-screen video installation featuring Maggie Cheung, Zhao Tao, Yang Fudong and poems by Wang Ping as commissioned by artist Isaac Julien. The second is a showcase of specially commissioned huge works by some of the region’s most important artists. Jan 11 to Feb 26, 11am to 7pm, Valentine Willie Fine Art Singapore, Artspace@Helutrans, 39 Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, #02-04. Until 3pm on Sundays. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Sovereign Asian Art Prize Singapore 2012
An exhibition of the 30 finalist works for this year’s edition as well as an additional 20 pieces by Singaporean artists. With a gala auction of the latter works on Jan 14. Jan 11 to 14, 10am to 8pm, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Level 1 Atrium, 10 Bayfront Avenue
The Malaysian artist Chan Kok Hooi’s first solo show in Singapore tackles the idea of “No Beauty” and the relationship between art and money. Jan 15 to Feb 12, 11am to 7pm, Art Seasons, Kaki Bukit Road 1, Eunos Technolink block 7, #02-12. From 1pm to 6pm on Sundays and closed on Mondays.
An new version of the recent National Museum of Singapore exhibition by Michael Lee and Bob Matthews. Jan 11 to 15, noon to 6pm, Give Art Space, 65 Spottiswoode Park Road
In House Adoption
The first solo show in Singapore by Indian artist Mithu Sen aims to transform the gallery space into a small enclosure with her new works on paper and canvas. Jan 11 to Feb 25, noon to 7pm, Galerie Steph, ARTSPACE@Helutrans, 39 Tanjong Pagar Distripark, #01-05. Closed on Mondays.
An exhibition by Chinese artist Sui Jianguo, which transforms the space into a darkened room with a steel box. Jan 15 to Feb 29, 11am to 7pm, MoCA Loewen, 27A Loewen Road
An extension of Vue Privee’s exhibit at Art Stage Singapore over at their own gallery, alongside commissioned works by Aiman and Burton Machen. Jan 13 to Feb 29, 12 to 8pm on Saturdays and Sundays, Vue Privée, 20 Cairnhill Road. By appointment on weekdays at 6339 6271.
East is West: Three Women Artists
An exhibition looking at three women artists — Mariana Vassileva (Bulgaria), Almagul Menlibaeva (Kazakhstan) and Nezaket Ekici (Turkey) – from outside of Western Europe who have taken up residence in Berlin. Jan 14 to Feb 15, 10am to 6pm, Earl Lu Gallery, LASALLE College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
The Family Tree Project
A visual documentation by Anderson & Low on photographer Edwin Low’s global family. Jan 12 to April 8, 10am to 7.30pm, NUS Museum, University Cultural Centre, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent, National University of Singapore. 10am to 6pm on Sundays. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Performance in Frames: Video Mobiles
An exhibition of performance art specifically made for film, featuring nine Singapore and Singapore-based performance artists. Jan 13 to 26, noon to 9pm, The Substation Gallery, 45 Armenian Street.
All The World’s A Stage
An exhibition of 12 latest works by Chinese artist Liu Yan drawing on the iconography of Peking opera. Jan 14 to Feb 18, Mulan Gallery, 36 Armenian Street #01-07
Glorious Legend Of Chinese Pi Xiu
A solo exhibit by Wang Xiao Qing focusing on a mythical winged animal in Chinese culture symbolizing wealth and power. Jan 12 to Feb 12 at Element Art Space, MICA Building #01-10/11/12, 140 Hill Street
Past and Present
A showcase featuring seven contemporary Tibetan artists in collaboration with the Tibetan Association of Fine Arts. Jan 13 to April 15, 11am to 7pm, The Luxe Art Museum, 6 Handy Road #02-01
Picasso & The School Of Paris
Pretty much a “mini blockbuster” in a small gallery with prints, drawings and sculptures by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Dali, Brassai, Capa, Cocteau, among others. Jan 12 to Feb 20 at Art Trove, 51 Waterloo St, #02-01. Call 6336 0915 to make an appointment.
Singapore Contemporary Young Artists present this multi-media exhibition exploring family issues featuring the works of nine young artists. Jan 13 to Jan 27 at SCYA Space, Goodman Arts Centre, Blk B #03-08, 90 Goodman Road.
Taksu’s annual exhibition of regional art is now on its eighth year and will feature 15 established and emerging artists. Jan 14 to Feb 4, 10am to 7pm, Taksu Singapore, 43 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-72 Workloft@Chip Bee. Closed on Mondays. From noon to 6pm on Sundays.
Dancing With Dad
An exhibition by Michael Tan revolving around his father’s fight with a neurodegenerative disease is the final show at Light Editions (owner/photographer Chris Yap will be taking a break). Until Jan 19, 10.30 am to 6pm, Light Editions Gallery, Tanjong Pagar Distripack, #02-02B, 39 Keppel Road. Call 6223 1102 for an appointment.
CATCH THESE ART SHOWS OPENING TOMORROW
By Deepika Shetty. Published: Jan 9, 2012.
There are just two days to the VIP preview and vernissage of the high-end contemporary art fair called Art Stage, which opens for general viewing on Thursday.
But there are plenty of other visual arts events to check out besides the fair.
Galleries, art schools and private museums are opening their first shows of the year tomorrow night. With multiple exhibition openings, Tuesday is looking like one of the busiest days in Singapore’s 2012 visual arts calendar.
Take your pick from these exhibitions.
What: Curated by Singapore-based Italian curator Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani, Cut Thru: A View On 21st Century Thai Art features work by nine emerging art practitioners from Thailand, including a work by Preeyachanok Ketsuwan, who experiments with photography, video and performance art to look at the role of women and gender play in Thai society.
Where: Institute of Contemporary Art, B1-06, Lasalle College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street
When: Tomorrow to Feb 7, 10 am to 6 pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays
RICHARD KOH FINE ART & ARNDT PRESENTS
What: Singapore’s Richard Koh Fine Art collaborates with Berlin’s ARNDT Contemporary Art to present works by six contemporary Western artists including Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn, who did an elaborate installation for the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last year. Using crystals as a motif, he explored everything from love to philosophy to politics and aesthetics. He is presenting seven drawings on paper and a layered collage on woodwork titled Ohne Titel (above).
Where: Richard Koh Fine Art, 71 Duxton Road, tel: 6221-1209
When: Tomorrow to Jan 31, 11.30 am to 7 pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), noon to 6 pm (Saturdays). Mondays by appointment only
THE NEW CATHEDRAL
What: Local artist Boo Sze Yang, former head of fine art at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, presents his 10th solo exhibition, The New Cathedral. Featuring over recent paintings from his House of God and The Mall series, it has paintings of cathedrals which are placed alongside paintings of malls, interpreting the mall as a sanctuary for modern men and women.
Marrying religious imagery with traditional oil painting techniques, he reflects on how the shopping mall is similar to the cathedral in today’s consumerist society.
Where: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Galleries 1 and 2, 80 Bencoolen Street
When: Tomorrow to Jan 18, 11 am to 7 pm.
MONUMENTAL SOUTH-EAST ASIA
What: See contemporary artworks of epic proportions by some of South-east Asia’s most important artists such as Indonesia’s Agus Suwage, Thailand’s Montien Boonma and Malaysia ‘s Ahmad Zakii Anwar.
Where: 02-04 Artspace@Helutrans, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road
When: Tomorrow to Feb 26, 11am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 11am to 3pm (Sundays). Closed on Mondays and public holidays
Info: Go to http://www.vwfa.net or call 8133-1760
LEHMANN MAUPIN GALLERY AT STPI
What: New York-based gallery Lehmann Maupin ties up with the Singapore Tyler Print Institute to present works by Korean contemporary artist Do Ho Suh and Americans Teresita Fernandez and Ashley Bickerton.
Where: Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 41 Robertson Quay
When: Tomorrow to Feb 11, 10 am to 6pm (Tuesday to Saturday). Viewing on Mondays by appointment only. Closed on Sundays and public holidays
Info: Go to http://www.stpi.com.sg or call 6336-3663
INKING A REUNION
What: The Private Museum opens officially tomorrow evening with a showcase of artworks by the late Singapore artists, Chua Ek Kay. In 2005, he had done four Chinese ink paintings depicting his alma mater, the former Catholic High School campus, now an arts Centre where The Private Museum is located. These will be among several works featured in the exhibition titled Old Campus Revisited: A Chua Ek Kay Collection Of The Catholic High School.
Where: The Private Museum, 51 Waterloo Street
When: Tomorrow to March 11, 10 am to 7pm (Mondays to Fridays), 11am to 5 pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays)
Info: Go to http://www.theprivatemuseum.org or call 6738-2872
MORIMURA YASUMASA: REQUIEM FOR THE XX CENTURY – SELF-PORTRAITS IN MOTION
What: The Japanese artist is known for his photographic reconstructions of historic events and great paintings such as those by Dutch painter Vermeer and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. He recreates the background and wears make-up before assuming the pose of the subjects. This show features new video works.
Where: Ikkan Art Gallery, 01-05 Artspace@Helutrans. Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road
When: Tomorrow to Feb 25, 11am to 7pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 1 to 5pm (Sundays and public holidays)
Info: Go to http://www.ikkan-art.com or call 9088-7056
Kedai Runcit No. 12 [Retail Store No. 12], Gallery 12, Malaysia. A stand made up to resemble an old-school candy and toy store – of the sort one would be hard-pressed to find in Singapore these days – featuring young Malaysian artists. Beyond nostalgia, a droll comment on the undeniably commercial and elitist nature of the international art fair ?
The inaugural edition of Art Stage Singapore was a mammoth affair. Occupying an entire basement level in the suitably massive Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre, the event touts itself as “Asia Pacific’s new top international modern and contemporary art fair … a meeting place, a show, a market place, an ‘instant’ museum, and much more.” At least that’s the vision set out by its director, the redoubtable Lorenzo Rudolf – or the man who used to helm the prestigious Art Basel. (Read an interview with him here.) I’d headed down a tad earlier to catch a panel discussion on contemporary Chinese art – involving artist Shen Shaomin*, critic Pi Li, and collector Ulli Sigg, among others – but even then it took me nearly four long hours just to give the place a cursory once-over. Leafing through the catalogue (which cost a surprisingly economical 10 SGD), I realized just how much I’d missed. In that vein, this post adopts a straightforward ‘greatest hits’ approach, listing my three favourite moments of the afternoon.
* Shen’s short slide show, presented as part of the discussion, featured numerous photos taken with scholar and art historian Wu Hung, as well as a selection of Wu’s comments on his (Shen’s) work. Wu is an accomplished academic and a gifted thinker, as well as being my former advisor – something not lost on the artist, who clearly had bromantic feelings going on <lol> ..
A disclaimer, though: some of my choices are going to seem pretty obvious, insofar as works like Ai Weiwei’s large-scale installation, Through, quite literally stood out from the run-of-the-mill offerings; and there were a couple of stops, like the Singapore platform, titled Remaking Art in the Everyday, or the contribution of Malaysian Gallery 12, Kedai Runcit No. 12 (above), that I wished I’d paid more time and attention to … but, alas, I had to rush off for a German dinner at Brotzeit with CH and his delightful friends, KR and IG, who happened to be visiting from Mumbai.
Plus, after a couple of hours I was getting pretty art-ed out already.
Anyways. Bearing that in mind, here we go.
1. Through (2007-8), Ai Weiwei
As mentioned, Ai’s installation was one of the highlights of the event, if only in terms of sheer size. Taking up a space of some 115 sq meters, it involves colossal wooden beams and traditional Chinese furniture (mostly tables) dating from the Qing era, or so the wall label informed us. The objects were all mutually supportive, with niches and holes cut into each to accommodate the other, in effect creating a geometric forest of wooden structures. The artist declares that “certain objects, certain materials, need a certain scale to achieve a clear identity and voice, and that is what large-scale events provide. Artists are not in a position to decide the conditions imposed upon them but they can make statements about those conditions.” Which is well and good, and pretty commensensical as artists’ pronouncements go; the label continues:
Employing materials and techniques embedded in Chinese culture, Ai’s elegant objects can overwhelm viewers who do not fully grasp the conceptual implications of his work; their imposing, meticulous physical presence and massive scale often require considerable teamwork and vast production spaces to realize, and are made possible thanks to the artist’s influence, wealth and sprawling social network.
As much as I appreciate the “imposing, meticulous physical presence” of the piece, in the same way I do Richard Serra‘s steel behemoths, and interesting as the meta-commentary on the role of the contemporary artist is, surely scale can’t be the final word in any act of exegesis here. The vintage of the wooden objects certainly deserve consideration, for one, but the most noteworthy facet of the work, at least for me, is how they fit together as a cohesive whole. The niches cut into the beams of course reference the traditional process of construction for Chinese furniture, where, instead of nails, joints are used to fit the different parts together. This seamless mode of joinage, however, is belied by the disruptive manner in which the vertical beams and the horizontal tables come together: large holes are cut into the tabletops to allow the pillars to pass through. If one is allowed to adduce social factors in attempting to read the work, then perhaps a statement on the supposed cohesion of Chinese society – founded on paternal Confucian strictures and the extended familial unit – and the intrusion into that sphere by the praxis of the modern Communist state, may not be altogether implausible.
Along those lines, could then the solitary pole (below), standing in the midst of the installation and dwarfed by its fellows, be emblematic of the individual, subjugated by overarching socio-political structures ? I’m finding it difficult otherwise to account for its presence …
2. Procession (2009), Paresh Maity
I l-o-v-e-d this piece. 50 metallic ants, put together from used motorcycle parts, including lit-up headlights as Cyclopean eyes, crawl across a bed of twigs. Cue B-grade horror flick featuring the invasion of giant bugs .. Below is a still from Them! (1954), an old black-and-white sci-fi film about the attack of oversized radioactive ants.
Procession also reminds me of other art-animals put together from found materials – Picasso’s Baboon and Young, for instance (below). Both Picasso’s and Maity’s pieces are witty, humorous likenesses, a point of intersection between the industrial and the zoological. Baboon, in its indexing of the goods of the factory line, the commodities of mass production – a jug, toy cars, an automobile spring – reifies the “typically Cubist paradox”* of interrogating the semiotic and material modes of visual representation with these signifiers of daily life, provoking metaphysical uncertainty. It re-directs the aims of both analytic and synthetic Cubism: it does not merely yoke together its various elements, but engages them rather in an active reconstruction of the once fractured subject. Analytic Cubism’s shattering of the human figure into its constitutive planes and dimensions witnessed in, for instance, Ma Jolie, and the figure-ground reversal of, say, Guitar (1912) – where positive and negative spaces are inverted so that the sound hole of the instrument is indicated by an empty can projecting outwards – is here explicitly denied by the re-assembling, or re-imagining, of disparate industrial fragments into a new organic whole. Like Baboon and Young, Maity’s ants, constructed from vehicular parts and re-imagined in their, or a, natural habitat (the bed of twigs), gesture at once at both the realms of nature and society; they are hybrids caught in the flux between two dialectical poles which yet firmly occupies its own semantic space between these variable ontologies.
* See Timothy Hilton, Picasso (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1975), p. 119.
Baboon and Young (1951), Pablo Picasso. Image courtesy of MoMA‘s website.
3. Crystal City (2009), Wu Chi-Tsung
Here’s the scoop on Wu’s piece from the catalogue:
Taiwanese artist Wu Chi-Tsung (吳季璁) presents 水晶城市, or Crystal City (2009). Through a series of installations using a projector, LED lighting and plastic, Wu reveals the invisible city in which modern society resides, made up of electronic equipment, programs, networks, media and information. The artist chose the word “crystal” because this information-dense city grows like one; each component element organically comes together, infinitely expanding and spreading according to a set internal rhythm and logic. it is a city that is transparent, light, and lacking in real physical volume, but it projects a very real experienced world of unparalleled reality. It is this space that the artists considers contemporary society’s spiritual home.
At its most essential, Crystal City is a cluster of transparent boxes assembled in a dark room – with a toy train, bearing a light, making its way back and forth, casting a series of constantly distending and dissolving shadows. Beyond the pure visual pleasure derived from watching the gossamer silhouettes shift and morph and flicker across the surface of the wall, the piece also calls to mind Plato’s allegory of the cave:
Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see … Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.
(Summary from a University of Washington page – read it in full here.)
Standing at the entrance to the little room, watching the exquisite dance of shadows from the harsh fluorescent glow outside, its not hard to imagine that Wu is deliberately making claims, contra Plato, for the impalpable realm of shadows as the highest form of “unparalleled reality” – a postmodern idea if ever I heard one.