Posts Tagged ‘personalities’
Image of the day: Carl Van Vechten’s 1935 portrait of Mai-mai Sze (above), the subject poised against a backdrop of concentric squares, the wavy, undulating shapes seeming to emanate in a dance of geometric distortion from her head …
Sze, or 施美美, as her Chinese name goes, was the daughter of one of Republican China’s most important political dynasties. She was born to Alfred S.K. Sze, who represented the fledgling republic at the League of Nations and the Court of St. James; he later became the country’s first ambassador to the U.S.A. (According to his Wiki entry, he was also the first Chinese student to graduate from Cornell.) Mai-mai’s maternal uncle was Tang Shaoyi, the first Prime Minister – albeit briefly – of post-Qing China.
Sze was a woman of many talents, it seems. Painter, writer, activist, sometime Broadway actress. However, to me, at least, the name is recognizable primarily for her translation of the famous Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual, or 芥子園畫傳 – still the version most commonly used today. Art lovers may also be interested in this little factoid: her grand-niece is American artist Sarah Sze, who has a solo show on right now at the Asia Society in New York, Infinite Line.
Ms. Mai-mai was a little-known pioneer in one other respect: long before the era of the equality movement and identity politics, she was a gay woman of colour. (Born in Peking, she was educated at Wellesley, and lived out her life in the U.S.) Her longtime companion was costume designer and 5-time Oscar recipient, Irene Sharaff, who was honoured for her work on cinematic classics such as The King and I, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and West Side Story. Late in life, the couple donated money towards the building of the Music and Meditation Pavilion of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge University, on the grounds of which they are buried today.
Daughter, niece, aunt, lover – and seldom the star of her own life. Yet it’s clear that Mai-mai Sze was an individual possessed of intellect and creativity, a fact which Van Vechten’s image of her alludes to in wittily elegant fashion.
The photograph is in the collection of Yale’s Beinecke Library.
Below is another striking portrait of Sze, this one by George Platt Lynes. Dressed in a slender, streamlined sliver of silken fabric from Fortuny, balanced between a blank expanse of wall and an abstract object, she resembles nothing so much as a Brancusi sculpture.
The Gillman Barracks opens in September.
For those who can’t wait, a detailed write-up in The Straits Times today.
The final price tag ? – ten million big ones. Gotta love Singapore.
ENGINEERED FOR THE ARTS
Will the planning of Gillman Barracks arts hub by the government stifle or help the arts in Singapore?
By Adeline Chia. Published February 16, 2012.
The vision for the Gillman Barracks is a brave and ambitious one: a cluster of top art galleries from around the world, housed in quaint historical buildings nestled in leafy surrounds.
The art on show is a mixture of the cutting edge and the established, including A-list artists such as Takeshi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and Annie Leibovitz.
It aims to draw visitors from the jetsetting art collector to the window- shopping man on the street. In other words: ‘an iconic international destination for contemporary art in Asia’, according to the official literature.
Gillman Barracks is the bold new step in Singapore’s continuous march to become a global arts city – by building an arts district akin to Beijing’s 798 Art District, South Korea’s Heyri Art Village or New York’s Chelsea.
The difference is that these art districts abroad have sprung up naturally while Gillman is a government-led project. Its development is planned by the Economic Development Board, Jurong Town Corporation and the National Arts Council at a cost of about $10 million.
In the past few years, Singapore has grown pretty serious about contemporary visual art.
Two international art fairs, the high-end Art Stage Singapore and the mid-priced Affordable Art Fair, have taken off. International galleries have also started moving in, such as Art Plural Gallery opened by Swiss art dealer Frederic De Senarclens.
In terms of arts infrastructure, things are buoyed by the development of the $80-million Singapore Freeport, a storage space for art, with international auction house Christie’s as the main tenant.
In 2015, there is another biggie: the much-anticipated opening of The National Art Gallery, a 60,000 sq m gallery that will be housed in the City Hall and the former Supreme Court buildings. The institution will focus on South-east Asian art and its renovations will cost an estimated $530 million.
With Gillman Barracks, scheduled to open with a bang in September with all the galleries ready for business, Singapore’s art race goes into turbo mode. But even before the cluster throws open its doors, sceptics are asking if it is possible to engineer an arts hub, Singapore-style, by using a committee to choose a winning combination of tenants.
Thirteen galleries form the first wave of tenants in the former colonial army barracks located off Alexandra Road.
They include Ota Fine Arts, representing Japanese superstar artist Yayoi ‘polka dot’ Kusama; Sundaram Tagore Gallery, carrying the works of Leibovitz and American abstract painter Frank Stella; and ShanghART Gallery, representing top Chinese painter Zeng Fanzhi.
The galleries are supposed to pay commercial rates and those approached by Life! said they have not been given discounts or other monetary incentives to set up shop here. In a call for applicants released by the Economic Development Board last year, rental rates were cited as between $31.50 and $35.50 a sq m a month.
Most arts observers welcome the list of galleries in Gillman. Mr Wang Zineng, 30, a South-east Asian specialist at Christie’s, calls it ‘an exciting mix that promotes inter-Asian interactions and conversations’.
But he is worried about the ‘long-term sustainability of the project’. ‘In any such project, there is seed money. After that money is spent, what happens? The commercial viability remains a question.’
A challenge is overcoming the ‘saturation of the art market in Asia’, including Hong Kong’s buzzing commercial art scene and the India Art Fair. ‘There are a lot of art fairs and auctions around. How do you sustain the interest of collectors?’ he adds.
Prominent Malaysian gallerist Valentine Willie, 57, is blunt in his assessment: ‘In a sense, Gillman has already failed.’
He owns four galleries in South-east Asia under the Valentine Willie Fine Art name.
‘Places such as Chelsea and 798 grew as a result of a need or a demand. Here, the Government is manufacturing the demand,’ he says.
He points to Hong Kong, where rents are exorbitant and yet the city attracts top-shelf international galleries such as London’s White Cube, whose roster includes well-known British contemporary artists Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, and Gagosian Gallery, a supergallery chain owned by influential American dealer Larry Gagosian.
Mr Willie says: ‘No government was there to give you some nice old buildings. Hong Kong is just where the action is. You can’t manufacture that. EDB of all agencies should understand basic economics: you can’t manufacture demand.’
He adds that the Economic Development Board should instead help existing arts clusters such as Artspace@Helutrans in Tanjong Pagar Distripark, a 70,000 sq ft warehouse space owned by Helutrans, an arts handling firm.
The Singapore branch of Mr Willie’s gallery is situated there, together with three other galleries: Galerie Steph, Ikkan Art International and ReDot Fine Art Gallery.
He says: ‘Instead of trying to harness the energy of an existing hub and helping it, they are trying to kill it. It’s unfair competition.’
Another Artspace@Helutrans tenant has a different view. Japanese art dealer and gallerist Ikkan Sanada, 61, who moved his long-standing New York base to Singapore, says: ‘I don’t believe in government intervention, especially in art.’
But he says that sometimes some initial help can ‘kick off arts activity’.
He opened his gallery in May last year and shows works by top names such as photographer Cindy Sherman, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and British ‘bad boy’ Damien Hirst.
He says: ‘I welcome the Gillman Barracks. It provides a diversity of galleries, which is good for the arts community.’
He says that the next two to three years will be crucial in testing the commercial viability of the cluster.
‘While the market can be influenced and improved by initial investment, you can’t control or force the public to start buying art. If the buyers don’t come and sales don’t materialise, then some galleries may have to leave. We have to wait and see.’
An EDB spokeman says that the Gillman Barracks was chosen as a venue because, according to industry feedback, ‘a successful arts cluster should have unique architectural and/or historical characteristics’.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority then proposed the Gillman site because of its 14 low-rise military-style buildings and lush green surroundings. The entire development will yield 9,000 sq m of space for lease, with a tenancy term of three years with an option to extend for another three years.
Dr Eugene Tan, 38, programme director of EDB’s Lifestyle Programme Office who is overseeing the Gillman Barracks’ development, says that it was necessary for the Government to step in to ‘address the failures of the open market’ to develop a successful arts cluster.
‘Many arts clusters which have been left to develop freely by private developers have succumbed to short-term pressures to lease spaces to the highest bidder,’ he says.
As a result, art businesses are priced out by high-end bars and restaurants.
‘This issue is particularly pressing in land-scarce Singapore. As many commercial tenants compete aggressively on price, there are limited options for emerging clusters of art businesses to grow organically over the long term.’
He adds that Gillman Barracks is not modelled after any particular arts cluster abroad.
The Gillman galleries certainly buy into his dream. Many of them say that they have chosen Singapore to be closer to their South-east Asian clients, and because Singapore is an emerging centre for the thriving art market in Asia.
Mr Ota Hidenori, 52, whose Tokyo- based Ota Fine Arts is opening its first 108 sq m outpost in Singapore, says: ‘Singapore is just starting out and I want to be one of the first players here.’
His gallery carries the work of artists such as Kusama and video artist Hiraki Sawa.
He says Singapore is a good base to tap into the booming art market in Asia, given its multi-cultural identity and the quality of its public museums and arts professionals.
New York-based gallerist Sundaram Tagore, who owns an eponymous chain of galleries in New York, Beverly Hills and Hong Kong, also believes in Singapore as an emerging arts hub. Its central location in Asia leaves it well-poised to tap into his collector base from Dubai to Australia. His gallery space in Gillman is about 4,500 sq ft.
The 52-year-old says that his gallery was not given any financial incentive, but the power of EDB ‘collectively marketing’ the Gillman Barracks as a serious arts cluster with a strong roster of galleries is attractive to him.
As for the place being master planned, he says: ‘Singapore doesn’t have the benefit of history, unlike the great centres of art such as New York, London, Berlin, Tokyo. When you are trying to create things speedily, you need a stimulus. Here it happens to be the Government. If you wait for organic development, you could be waiting forever.’
ShanghART’s Swiss director Lorenz Helbling, who is in his 50s, says that he decided to come into Singapore because it is an ‘emerging, interesting place’.
‘So many cultures come together here. As a market, I don’t know how bright it is. Who knows? But most of the time, we don’t do things for commercial interest. It’s difficult to know what collectors want. We just do our bit and hope that collectors follow.’
ShanghART is one of the most influential galleries in China devoted to contemporary art, and it was chosen as one of the top 75 galleries of the 20th century by Taschen, the German art and design publisher.
Singapore is its first gallery outside Shanghai and its repertoire features some of the biggest names in Chinese art such as Zeng, Chen Xiaoyun and Ding Yi. Its space in Gillman is just over 100 sq m.
Mr Helbling did not consider Hong Kong as an option because ‘there’s too much shopping’.
‘In Singapore, I feel that you can develop an artistic kind of feeling, it doesn’t feel too commercial.’
Most arts observers say that it is early days yet, but agree that this is a high-stakes game that requires careful management.
Curator and art consultant Lindy Poh, 41, acknowledges that government agencies face a ‘double bind’ when engineering arts clusters.
She says that art clusters such as Soho and 798 had a strong indie vibe (‘an X factor’) at certain points of their development, which ran counter to state intervention, which suggests bureaucracy and surveillance.
She says: ‘Our art market is very small and benefits from certain boosts, and government agencies have their own pressures to deliver on key performance indicators.
‘But if agencies are perceived as engineering the creative sector excessively, they are also seen as stripping it of its aura of independence.’
Dr Tan has a delicate task ahead, but he has grand plans for Gillman Barracks. He says: ‘Apart from making it an international destination and marketplace for contemporary art in Asia, I want it to be the place where you can see and experience the best and most innovative art of your times.’
Is this a beautiful dream or the prophecy for a brave, new chapter in Singapore’s arts development? Only time can tell. But Mr Jasdeep Sandhu, 45, owner of Gajah Gallery, says that government support gives the Gillman galleries ‘a bit of a tail wind’.
He adds: ‘It’s a business decision that these guys are making to come here. They are sharp business people who see its potential. It means they have confidence in Singapore as a spot for art.’
‘Places such as Chelsea and 798 grew as a result of a need or a demand. Here, the Government is manufacturing the demand. Instead of trying to harness the energy of an existing hub and helping it, they are trying to kill it’
Malaysian gallerist Valentine Willie
‘Singapore doesn’t have the benefit of history, unlike the great centres of art such as New York, Tokyo. When you are trying to create things speedily, you need a stimulus… If you wait for organic development, you could be waiting forever’
New York-based gallerist Sundaram Tagore
Galleries at Gillman
EQUATOR ART PROJECTS (Indonesia)
Gallery directors: Deddy Irianto and Tony Godfrey
Artists: Agus Suwage, Arahmaiani, Ay Tjoe Christine
FOST GALLERY (Singapore)
Gallery director: Stephanie Fong
Artists: Chun Kai Feng, Chun Kai Qun, Tang Ling Nah, Namiko Chan Takahashi
KAIKAI KIKI GALLERY (Japan)
Gallery director: Takashi Murakami
Artists: Takashi Murakami, Anri Sala, Aya Takano, Mr.
FUTURE PERFECT (Australia)
Gallery directors: David Teh and Jasper Knight
Artists: Adam Cullen, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Ho Tzu Nyen
MIZUMA GALLERY (Japan)
Gallery director: Mizuma Sueo
Artists: Makoto Aida, Konoike Tomoko, Ikeda Manabu
OTA FINE ARTS (Japan)
Gallery director: Ota Hidenori
Artists: Yayoi Kusama, Hiraki Sawa and Tomoko Kashiki
PEARL LAM GALLERIES (China)
Gallery director: Pearl Lam
Artists: Zhang Huan, Zhu Jinshi, Li Tianbing
SHANGHART GALLERY (China)
Gallery director: Lorenz Helbling
Artists: Zeng Fanzhi, Chen Xiaoyun, Ding Yi
SILVERLENS (The Philippines)
Gallery directors: Isa Lorenzo and Neli Go
Artists: Patricia Eustaquio, Frank Callaghan, Wawi Navarroza
SPACE COTTONSEED (Korea)
Gallery director: Janice Kim
Artists: Moon Kyungwon, Lee Seahyun, Choi Hochul
SUNDARAM TAGORE GALLERY (US)
Gallery director: Sundaram Tagore
Artists: Annie Leibovitz, Robert Polidori, Frank Stella
THE DRAWING ROOM (The Philippines)
Gallery director: Cesar Villalon Jr
Artists: Jose Legaspi, Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Kawayan De Guia
TOMIO KOYAMA GALLERY (Japan)
Gallery director: Tomio Koyama
Artists: Yoshitomo Nara, Franz Ackermann, Mika Ninagawa
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.
An interview with Eugene Tan – formerly of ICAS – in today’s Straits Times.
Local artist Ho Tzu Nyen is on record as saying: “In Singapore, where a habit of anti-intellectualism is unfortunately pervasive in the cultural sphere and judgment about art is often determined solely by the market, Eugene’s knowledge and integrity are extremely significant.”
By Adeline Chia. Published: 30 January 2012.
It is a blisteringly hot day at Gillman Barracks. The leafy area, which contains several old colonial-type buildings, is quiet and deserted but for several contractors.
Dr Eugene Tan is taking Life! on a short tour of the area, which he seems to know like the back of his hand.
We stop at Block 7 and inside, the temperature drops by a few degrees. The room has gigantic black beams running along the ceiling and windows that open up to a scene of tropical wilderness.
In about six months’ time, the space will be home to Kaikai Kiki, the art gallery owned by Japanese A-list artist Takashi Murakami of Louis Vuitton handbag fame.
In neighbouring buildings, other top international galleries will march proudly into this former British army barracks off Alexandra Road. They include Shanghai’s ShanghART Gallery, one of China’s most influential galleries carrying the work of top artist Zeng Fanzhi; Japan’s Ota Fine Arts, representing the work of Yayoi ‘polka dot’ Kusama; and New York’s Sundaram Tagore Gallery, which carries works by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz and abstract American painter Frank Stella.
Later in the year when these galleries open, the space will become a vibrant arts cluster, a place drawing collectors and interested browsers.
Well, that is the plan anyway. And the man executing this vision is none other than the soft-spoken, unassuming Dr Tan.
Although he operates under the radar, the 38-year-old is an influential player in Singapore’s art scene. His official position is programme director of the Lifestyle Programme Office at the Economic Development Board. His actual job? To spearhead the Gillman Barracks project.
That means he is helping to write the next chapter of Singapore’s cultural policy. The plans for Gillman, together with high-profile contemporary art fair Art Stage, are part of Singapore’s bid to be a centre for contemporary art in the region.
In his short career, Dr Tan, who has a PhD in art history and archaeology from the University of Manchester, has made an impact on the local contemporary art scene in several high-level jobs.
He was founding director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Lasalle College of the Arts, refreshing its dated programming to reflect cutting-edge trends; programme director for Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, where he set up the master’s programme for contemporary art; and exhibitions director for prominent Osage Gallery, which has branches in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.
He was also co-curator of the inaugural Singapore Biennale in 2006 and curator for the Singapore Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
He is one of the most well-liked people in the Singapore visual arts scene, both for his knowledge of contemporary art and his gentle, polite manner.
Singapore artist Ho Tzu Nyen, 35, who has known him for seven years, says the arts administrator is a ‘true soldier of contemporary art’. Dr Tan has included Ho’s works in several group shows and was the artist’s gallerist during his Osage stint.
Ho says: ‘In Singapore, where a habit of anti-intellectualism is unfortunately pervasive in the cultural sphere and judgment about art is often determined solely by the market, Eugene’s knowledge and integrity are extremely significant.’
He adds that because not everyone can understand contemporary art at first encounter, it is important to have ‘mediators who can ensure that these new ideas are diffused into the public sphere’.
‘Eugene has the perfect set of knowledge, skills and personality to fulfil this crucial task.’
Indeed, when Dr Tan curated Singapore conceptual artist Lim Tzay Chuen in 2005′s Venice Biennale, he handled all media queries on behalf of the artist.
Lim, known for his aggressively conceptual art, proposed to move the Merlion to Venice for the Singapore booth. The Singapore Tourism Board, which owned the 70-tonne half-lion, half-fish statue, declined to give permission. Lim’s exhibition ended up being a documentation of his failure to move the Singapore icon to the prestigious Italian art show.
It was a controversial and bold submission. The ‘Is this art?’ type of questions were lobbied around by the public and journalists, but Dr Tan took them in his stride.
He says: ‘Singapore is still very young in terms of its understanding and appreciation of contemporary art. I don’t think people here really understood why this was art, trying to move a big public monument all the way across to the other side of the world. In time, the work may be appreciated much more.’
Life! meets him for an interview at the Economic Development Board’s headquarters on the 28th floor of Raffles City Tower.
Dr Tan, in his black shirt, dark blue jeans and black sneakers, does not look like your typical bureaucrat. He admits that like many people working in art, he is ‘not a morning person’ and his mostly black wardrobe attests to that. ‘It’s out of convenience. I don’t have to decide what to wear. It simplifies things when everything’s the same colour.’
In master-planning Gillman Barracks, which is developed at a cost of less than $10 million, he adds that while many other art gallery clusters in the world develop organically, some degree of central planning in land-scarce Singapore is essential.
He says: ‘Every little bit of land in Singapore is accounted for. Where land is highly regulated, it’s very difficult for such a project to grow organically.’
There is some scepticism that the Gillman project would work – only one Singapore gallery, Fost, has taken up a space although many others have been approached. But he says things are slowly changing: ‘A lot of people don’t naturally see Singapore as an arts centre.’
An oft-cited observation that Singapore is losing its edge as an arts hub is that Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the two international auction houses, stopped holding auctions here in 2007 and in 2002 respectively, though both still have offices here.
Dr Tan says things are changing with the introduction of the Singapore Biennale and the high-end art fair Art Stage, as well as Singapore’s arts infrastructure in the development of the Singapore Freeport, a storage space for art, arts logistics firms and art insurance.
In fact, he drops a tantalising hint that he has had ‘some very productive meetings with big companies and organisations’ during Art Stage, which ended two weeks ago.
He adds that he met Mr Francois Curiel, president of Christie’s Asia, who was ‘impressed by the potential here’ – though he keeps mum about whether this means that Christie’s will start holding auctions in Singapore again.
Also, prominent Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye, who moved to China after the Belgian authorities ruled that his pig tattoo art projects were illegal, is considering setting up shop here.
There is a lot of speculation about the amount of the Economic Development Board’s investment in Art Stage, which has received mixed reactions this year. Dr Tan refuses to be drawn into revealing a figure, ‘but I can say that it’s not a lot’.
He says Art Stage is ‘totally Lorenzo’s project’, referring to the fair director and Swiss national Lorenzo Rudolf.
He is happier talking about how he began his love affair with art. His father worked in financial services – he last was a management consultant in a financial firm – and his mother was a nurse. They sent their children, Eugene, then 13, and his older sister, 14, to England to attend Concord College, a well-known boarding school.
In 1989, he enrolled at Queen Mary College in the University of London to pursue a degree in Economics and Politics, a safe choice because he was unsure of what he wanted to do in the future.
It was in the British capital that he encountered art in museums and galleries. He was hooked. He took art electives in university, read up on art history and even took painting lessons.
‘But I soon realised that I was better at writing and thinking about art than I was in making it,’ he says.
He also met his Taiwanese wife there in 1991. She was studying fashion design and a friend of his sister. They eventually got married in Singapore in 2003.
He and his wife Heather, formerly a specialist in modern Chinese art in Taipei’s Sotheby’s and now a housewife, have one daughter aged seven. He declined to reveal his wife’s age.
He did his master’s in post-war and contemporary art, and later, a PhD in art history and archaelogy at the University of Manchester.
His tastes lay firmly in conceptual art, in which an artist’s ideas take precedence over what was traditionally considered aesthetic, such as the ability to paint realistically or sculpt beautiful forms.
He juggled his studies with arts writing and curating, but decided at the end of 2003 to return to Singapore. ‘Life was getting hard in London. Things were really expensive there. It was very crowded, the weather was very bad and the food was very bad. I was ready to explore something new.’
He applied successfully for the job of director of Lasalle’s Earl Lu Gallery and returned to Singapore. One of the first things he did was to rename the gallery the Institute of Contemporary Arts to reflect its new programming slant.
In 2008, he hopped over to Sotheby’s Institute of Art when it opened its Singapore campus. He helped set up its contemporary art master’s programme, with Western and Asian canons in its syllabus.
He was there for about a year before he joined Osage as exhibitions director in 2009 and had to move to its headquarters in Hong Kong.
That was when his wife decided to move to Taipei with their daughter as she did not want to live in crowded Hong Kong, but Taipei was still close enough.
She and their daughter will both move back to Singapore later this year.
Tan lives with his retired parents in a condominium in Tanjong Rhu when his family is away and he flies to Taipei often to visit them.
He speaks fondly of his daughter, Nathalie, who is getting an artistic upbringing, following her father to art openings and dabbling in drawing.
He relates a funny story of how, in kindergarten, she had to say what she wanted to be when she grew up. She first said ‘princess’ but after some years, her answer has become ‘curator’.
In a sense, he hopes that the Gillman project – despite its glitz, the money thrown at it and its place in Singapore’s high-stakes bid to be an arts destination – will be an educational space which inspires the young to see that there is a future in the arts.
He says: ‘As a child, there was not much art for me to see. It’s not something my generation was easily exposed to.
‘That’s what I really want to change in Singapore, which I think will happen at Gillman. Not only is there a lot of art to see, it’s also something that could become an alternative for families to going to shopping malls on the weekends.
‘With young children becoming used to going to art galleries, hopefully, the next generation would consider the idea of being in the arts, whether as an artist or as an arts professional.’
What does the art connoisseur have in his collection? He says he has only about 40 to 50 pieces and buys when there is ‘something I really like and can afford’. He has the work of some British artists as well as Singaporean ones such as Jane Lee, Donna Ong and Robert Zhao.
His most recent purchase was at Art Stage, a drawing by noted German artist Carsten Nicolai, who is sort of an artist’s artist, exhibited in major shows and in important collections, but a name which is still under the mainstream radar.
It is clear that Dr Tan lives and breathes art. Even during his personal travels, he visits museums and galleries to the point where ‘I don’t know whether it’s work or pleasure’.
So, he has made a resolution to go on ‘real holidays’ with his family. He says: ‘We will go to places with very little art… maybe a deserted island.’
my life so far
‘That was my decision, because of the problems around Old School that we were facing. When Osage first opened there, it was told that it was a gallery cluster, similar to what we are doing in Gillman. But it turns out that Osage was the only gallery there, the rest were creative business offices. There was a lot of uncertainty about the lease, which meant that we could not plan and make improvement to the spaces’
On why he closed Osage Singapore when he was exhibitions director at the gallery
‘If you look at art districts such as Beijing’s 798 or Chelsea in New York, which have grown organically, the artists start moving in there, the galleries come, the restaurants, cafes and eventually the fashion designers come. The galleries all get priced out. So we want to safeguard and ringfence the space at Gillman for galleries’
On why there is a need for masterplanning an art district at Gillman Barracks instead of leaving it to develop naturally
‘I know there has been some speculation in The Straits Times, but no’
On whether he has been approached to be director of The National Art Gallery
‘We have very good artists in Singapore. I don’t think there have been enough galleries here that know how to develop them and promote them internationally. Which is why Ming Wong, one of our most well-known artists, is living in Berlin and not in Singapore’
On why the top galleries in Gillman will force local galleries to up their game
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.’
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:
So OH! Open House held its annual fundraiser earlier this evening, at a swanky shophouse residence on Emerald Hill.
Alas, I walked away empty-handed.
This is how it works: tickets were sold at 50 SGD a pop, for which one received three balloting slips. At the event itself, a number of artworks by local and foreign artists were put on the block – so to speak – and if one was interested, one dropped a slip into a little plastic bottle with a red cap (yes, the sort that Chinese New Year comestibles come in) for that particular piece. At the end of the evening, the big draw was made, and if your slip got picked, you walked home with the art.
As is typical though, the luck of the draw sailed right by me. And my slips. All of which, by the way, I used to ballot for a single work.
Was hedging my bets. Didn’t pan out. <insert frowny face>
The highlight of the evening, though, was the silent auction for Zhao Renhui’s print Changi, Singapore, from his As We Walk on Water series. A different edition of the piece is also in the running for the Sovereign Prize this year; the hammer price tonight ended up somewhere in the mid-3000s, well within estimates.
On an even more upbeat note, OH!’s site has been updated for their upcoming edition in February (click on the link above). Teaser: word on the grapevine is that one of the stops on the walkabout this year will be an actual temple – in fact, Singapore’s oldest temple dedicated to the worship of the Monkey King, the Qi Tian Gong, in Tiong Bahru. Artists Gilles Massot and Mark Wong are collaborating on a piece to be installed within the temple itself. Doesn’t it sound awesome ? – By golly, I’m excited.
Pictures below, including artworks up for the ballot.
“Kitchen Works was part of the site-specific Sounds Like Home series that I created for OH! Open House 2011: Marine Parade. It is a three-dimensional still-life composition with an aural dimension. The hidden multi-speakers breathe life into the still-life to spread some good vibrations, infusing the found objects with a playful vitality, and both mirroring and supplementing the bustle of activity in the environment around.”
“One moment in Tiong Bahru: Light, Life, Toast, Coffee and Cubism …
For OPEN HOUSE, Black is theorising and attempting to create new foods which combine art, local tradition, sustainability and local resources.
Entitled FOOD RECORDINGS, the piece is a humble homage to one of the most revolutionary and poetic art events to occur within the past 20 years: Conceptual food artist Ferran Adria’s with the 2007 Documenta.”
“This work presents a personal desire of belonging. Often, how we defined our sense of belonging is through the memories of a personal space/structure where we call home. I created a set of mini-furniture and housed it in a box; in a way that it secures and preserves memories within the space.”
“In the dark recesses of his mind they lay waiting for him to return. His secrets.”
“SPEAK MORE DIALECTS, SPEAK LESS MANDARIN is a recreation of a campaign poster launched in 1979 to promote the SPEAK MANDARIN CAMPAIGN. However the poster shuffles the word arrangement of the campaign slogan to provoke the viewer to examine issues related to the SPEAK MANDARIN CAMPAIGN.
This artwork is also a study for MOTHER TONGUE, the main artwork which I will be creating for the OH! Open House 2012. MOTHER TONGUE explores the use of the Chinese language and its relationship with the Chinese dialects in post-independence Singapore. The artwork also studies the Speak Mandarin campaign initiative and and its connection with the problems facing the bilingual policy implemented in Singapore in 1979.”
“My work explores the relationship between domestic objects, fragility, and the transitory moments and experience.I would like to preserve the temporality by taking the form of casts. In the OH! Open House event, by placing the cast object in a domestic place, it presents the continuance of the traces of the physical objects and lets the viewers draw their own meanings.”
“I think I have a fear for chaos. Arranging objects and placing them in systematic orders while creating my photographs have become an important part of my art making and practice. Questioning the relationship of human interventions and invasions on environments, I hope to engage through an archaeology of presence through the analysis of personal belongings and interiors.”
“My work explores the relationship between domestic objects, fragility, and the transitory moments and experience.I would like to preserve the temporality by taking the form of casts. In the OH! Open House event, by placing the cast object in a domestic place, it presents the continuance of the traces of the physical objects and lets the viewers draw their own meanings.”
“Stick House is a study for an installation work yet to be built. It is an edited and altered photoshop document of a photograph taken in Bintan, Indonesia. Representative of my long term interest in how architectural frameworks can shape the experience of our surroundings. Neutralizing the environment of the subject of this image allows us to see the constructed spatial object large without its place to focus on the austere utility of its construction and its essential orientation.
For my inclusion to Open House Tiong Bahru, the sculptural installation work will rely on specifically directed inclusions of images from the neighbourhoods [sic] long history as well as including its contemporary ambient sounds into the artwork.”
“This piece is a precursor to the OH! Open House exhibition as it will explore creating an interactive light projection mapping that is a narrative of negative space.”
“I am setting up a laboratory in the bathroom that is made from the leftovers found in labs. This includes recycled ideas, recycled images, and some salvaged material. Any energy also comes from recycled leftovers. this artwork is made using images recycled from a medical facility for ophthalmology, i.e. images for the eye. The image used for the artwork will be the same as the one for the “inverted microscope” in the bathroom’s sinks.”
“This piece was done in 2008, as part of the first documentation of Sophie Black called “See You In The Dark”. Sophie Black was borne of my love for the harmonious contradictions in people and things – the same way I appreciate black and white. She is my alter ego, an expression of my conflicting self. She is at once sinister and sweet, ever ready to blush and break into childlike giggles. Her long black hair expresses her wildest ideas, her extended eyelashes reveal desire, and her pale skin reflects her unpretentiousness.”
“The opportunity to create an installation in the Sun Wukong Temple at Tiong Bahru comes as a great follow up of the work done on the 9 Emperor Gods festival for the exhibition Transport Asian two years ago. In fact, my involvement with the 9 Emperor gods festival began right there in that Tiong Bahru temple. And the same day that this current project was confirmed, I received the confirmation for another 9 Emperor Gods show in Paris in October. Some people will call that ‘coincidence’. I much prefer the word ‘synchronicity’.
“The Land Archive houses the collective memory of our landscape. TLA manages an extensive archive of documents from private memoirs, historical maps and photographs to oral history interviews and audio-visual materials, some of which date back to the early 19th century.
In the 1960s, Singapore gorged the soil from its tiny hills and ridges and used it to reclaim land. The island is virtually flat today, forcing the government to buy sand from Malaysia and Indonesia to continue with its reclamation efforts. In the early stages of each land reclamation project, when the imported sand sits for some time, huge desert-like landscapes begin to dominate the eastern and western coasts of Singapore, mainly Tuas, Punggol, Marine Parade and Changi. When these deserts started appearing in the 1960s, they took the place of beaches that locals used to frequent. making do with what they had, Singaporeans flocked to these reclaimed spaces on the weekends to walk towards the new shoreline, in the hopes of reaching the beach they once knew.”
A fortuitous shot of a number of the artists. Mark Wong in mid-ground; next to him, partially hidden, is Race Krehel. Standing, in mid-motion, is Marc Gab Loh. The seated lady in light blue is Jying Tan.
Helen Frankenthaler at work, in 1969. Photographed by Ernst Haas; all images here from ernst-haas.com.
Seems like the Grim Reaper is determined to get the most mileage out of the last few days of the year.
Helen Frankenthaler, pioneer of so-called color field painting, passed away yesterday, on Dec 27th.
What I find absolutely fascinating are the series of images Life magazine photog Ernst Haas took of her at work in the studio in the late ’60s. There she is, straddling a wide expanse of canvas rolled out against the floor; unravelling a river of paint; impressing a series of splotches onto the blank canvas, her body crouched like a cat’s or an acrobat’s.
Remind anyone of anything ?
Yep – Hans Namuth’s famous pictures of Jackson Pollock in a similar vein, which gave rise later to Harold Rosenberg’s declaration of “action painting.” And indeed Namuth’s images cemented Pollock as the Ab-Ex artist par excellence in the popular imagination: the reinventor of post-war painting as a gestural, action-oriented, macho arena, a man who embodied talent, tragedy, and – ultimately – self-destruction at the height of fame.
(Chief victim though: Lee Krasner.)
Perhaps Ernie Haas had Namuth’s Pollock pictures in mind when he snapped these shots of Frankenthaler; they look like a conscious attempt to mythologize her creative processes and originary power, in like fashion. The NYT’s obit of her (reproduced below, or read it here), interestingly enough, seems to emphasize her privileged, moneyed existence, offering up her biographical circumstances – which includes her connections to influential men, such as ex-squeeze Clement Greenberg (?!) and one-time husband Robert Motherwell – as an explanation of sorts for her place in a resolutely masculine canon, almost apologist in tone, not unlike Haas’ conspicuously citational framing of her as a Pollock-ian wannabe (whatever the reality) …
HELEN FRANKENTHALER, ABSTRACT PAINTER WHO SHAPED A MOVEMENT, DIES AT 83
By Grace Glueck. Published: December 27, 2011.
Helen Frankenthaler, the lyrically abstract painter whose technique of staining pigment into raw canvas helped shape an influential art movement in the mid-20th century and who became one of the most admired artists of her generation, died on Tuesday at her home in Darien, Conn. She was 83.
Her longtime assistant, Maureen St. Onge, said Ms. Frankenthaler died after a long illness but gave no other details.
Known as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Ms. Frankenthaler was married during the movement’s heyday to the painter Robert Motherwell, a leading first-generation member of the group. But she departed from the first generation’s romantic search for the “sublime” to pursue her own path.
Refining a technique, developed by Jackson Pollock, of pouring pigment directly onto canvas laid on the floor, Ms. Frankenthaler, heavily influencing the colorists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, developed a method of painting best known as Color Field — although Clement Greenberg, the critic most identified with it, called it Post-Painterly Abstraction. Where Pollock had used enamel that rested on raw canvas like skin, Ms. Frankenthaler poured turpentine-thinned paint in watery washes onto the raw canvas so that it soaked into the fabric weave, becoming one with it.
Her staining method emphasized the flat surface over illusory depth, and it called attention to the very nature of paint on canvas, a concern of artists and critics at the time. It also brought a new, open airiness to the painted surface and was credited with releasing color from the gestural approach and romantic rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism.
Ms. Frankenthaler more or less stumbled on her stain technique, she said, first using it in creating “Mountains and Sea” (1952). Produced on her return to New York from a trip to Nova Scotia, the painting is a light-struck, diaphanous evocation of hills, rocks and water. Its delicate balance of drawing and painting, fresh washes of color (predominantly blues and pinks) and breakthrough technique have made it one of her best-known works.
“The landscapes were in my arms as I did it,” Ms. Frankenthaler told an interviewer. “I didn’t realize all that I was doing. I was trying to get at something — I didn’t know what until it was manifest.”
She later described the seemingly unfinished painting — which is on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington — as “looking to many people like a large paint rag, casually accidental and incomplete.”
Unlike many of her painter colleagues at the time, Ms. Frankenthaler, born in New York City on Dec. 12, 1928, came from a prosperous Manhattan family. She was one of three daughters of Alfred Frankenthaler, a New York State Supreme Court judge, and the former Martha Lowenstein, an immigrant from Germany. Helen, their youngest, was interested in art from early childhood, when she would dribble nail polish into a sink full of water to watch the color flow.
After graduation from the Dalton School, where she studied art with the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, she entered Bennington College in 1946. There the painter Paul Feeley, a thoroughgoing taskmaster, taught her “everything I know about Cubism,” she said. The intellectual atmosphere at Bennington was heady, with instructors like Kenneth Burke, Erich Fromm and Ralph Ellison setting the pace.
As a self-described “saddle-shoed girl a year out of Bennington,” Ms. Frankenthaler made her way into the burgeoning New York art world with a boost from Mr. Greenberg, whom she met in 1950 and with whom she had a five-year relationship. Through him she met crucial players like David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Franz Kline.
In 1951, with Mr. Greenberg’s prompting, she jointed the new Tibor de Nagy gallery, run by the ebullient aesthete John B. Myers, and had her first solo show there that year. She spent summers visiting museums in Europe, pursuing an interest in quattrocento and old master painting.
Her marriage to Mr. Motherwell in 1958 gave the couple an art-world aura. Like her, he came from a well-to-do family, and “the golden couple,” as they were known in the cash-poor and backbiting art world of the time, spent several leisurely months honeymooning in Spain and France.
In Manhattan, they removed themselves from the downtown scene and established themselves in a house on East 94th Street, where they developed a reputation for lavish entertaining. The British sculptor Anthony Caro recalled a dinner party they gave for him and his wife on their first trip to New York, in 1959. It was attended by some 100 guests, and he was seated between David Smith and the actress Hedy Lamarr.
“Helen loved to entertain,” said Ann Freedman, the former president of Knoedler & Company, Ms. Frankenthaler’s dealer until its recent closing. “She enjoyed feeding people and engaging in lively conversation. And she liked to dance. In fact, you could see it in her movements as she worked on her paintings.”
Ms. Frankenthaler’s passion for dancing was more than fulfilled in 1985 when, at a White House dinner to honor the Prince and Princess of Wales, she was partnered with a fast stepper who had been twirling the princess.
“I’d waited a lifetime for a dance like this,” she wrote in a 1997 Op-Ed article for The New York Times. “He was great!”
His name meant nothing to her until, on returning to her New York studio, she showed her assistant and a friend his card. “John Travolta,” it read.
Despite the early acknowledgment of Ms. Frankenthaler’s achievement by Mr. Greenberg and by her fellow artists, wider recognition took some time. Her first major museum show, a retrospective of her 1950s work with a catalog by the critic and poet Frank O’Hara, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, was at the Jewish Museum in 1960. But she became better known to the art-going public after a major retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969.
Although Ms. Frankenthaler rarely discussed the sources of her abstract imagery, it reflected her impressions of landscape, her meditations on personal experience and the pleasures of dealing with paint. Visually diverse, her paintings were never produced in “serial” themes like those of her Abstract Expressionist predecessors or her Color Field colleagues like Noland and Louis. She looked on each of her works as a separate exploration.
But “Mountains and Sea” did establish many of the traits that have informed her art from the beginning, the art historian E. A. Carmean Jr. suggested. In the catalog for his 1989-90 Frankenthaler retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, he cited the color washes, the dialogue between drawing and painting, the seemingly raw, unfinished look, and the “general theme of place” as characteristic of her work.
Besides her paintings, Ms. Frankenthaler is known for her inventive lithographs, etchings and screen prints she produced since 1961, but critics have suggested that her woodcuts have made the most original contribution to printmaking.
In making her first woodcut, “East and Beyond,” in 1973, Ms. Frankenthaler wanted to make the grainy, unforgiving wood block receptive to the vibrant color and organic, amorphous forms of her own painting. By dint of trial and error, with technical help from printmaking studios, she succeeded.
For “East and Beyond,” which depicts a radiant open space above a graceful mountainlike divide, she used a jigsaw to cut separate shapes, then printed the whole by a specially devised method to eliminate the white lines between them when put together. The result was a taut but fluid composition so refreshingly removed from traditional woodblock technique that it has had a deep influence on the medium ever since. “East and Beyond” became to contemporary printmaking in the 1970s what Ms. Frankenthaler’s paint staining in “Mountains and Sea” had been to the development of Color Field painting 20 years earlier.
In 1972, Ms. Frankenthaler made a less successful foray into sculpture, spending two weeks at Mr. Caro’s London studio. With no experience in the medium but aided by a skilled assistant, she welded together found steel parts in a way that evoked the work of David Smith.
Although she enjoyed the experience, she did not repeat it. Knoedler gave the work its first public showing in 2006.
Critics have not unanimously praised Ms. Frankenthaler’s art. Some have seen it as thin in substance, uncontrolled in method, too sweet in color and too “poetic.” But it has been far more apt to garner admirers like the critic Barbara Rose, who wrote in 1972 of Ms. Frankenthaler’s gift for “the freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind, but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.”
Ms. Frankenthaler and Mr. Motherwell were divorced in 1971. In 1994 she married Stephen M. DuBrul Jr., an investment banker who had headed the Export-Import Bank during the Ford administration. Besides her husband, her survivors include two stepdaughters, Jeannie Motherwell and Lise Motherwell, and six nieces and nephews. Her two sisters, Gloria Ross Bookman and Marjorie Iseman, died before her.
In 1999, she and Mr. DuBrul bought a house in Darien, on Long Island Sound. Water, sky and their shifting light are often reflected in her later imagery.
As the years passed, her paintings seemed to make more direct references to the visible world. But they sometimes harked back to the more spontaneous, exuberant and less referential work of her earlier career.
There is “no formula,” she said in an interview in The New York Times in 2003. “There are no rules. Let the picture lead you where it must go.”
She never aligned herself with the feminist movement in art that began to surface in the 1970s. “For me, being a ‘lady painter’ was never an issue,” she was quoted as saying in John Gruen’s book “The Party’s Over Now” (1972). “I don’t resent being a female painter. I don’t exploit it. I paint.”
Evil Empire is organizing a series of Good Fridays in its space – an invite-only sort of salon night.
Gracing the first ever affair last week was local musician Leslie Tan of the T’ang Quartet, as well as fellow cellist I Shyan Tang. (The event was primarily a fundraiser for the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home - which is in need of cash for essentials for their residents – so if you’re reading this, do feel free to click on the link above, and make a donation.) Tan and Tang played Mozart’s Sonata Opus Posthumous (K.292), a charming little piece for two cellos. While their instruments were scraping away in euphonious, intimate conversation with each other, the pair of slightly unsettling portraits on the wall behind them provided an impish – because incongruous – visual complement to the musical tête-à-tête ..
I enjoyed it. A big thank-you to Alan Oei for the invite, and Notabilia for the company.
No gratitude for SMRT, who for some reason or other saw fit to turn down the air-conditioning on their trains to bizarrely stifling levels that night, resulting in a shvitz-fest my entire journey. You guys SUCK. (But you knew that already.)