Your annual winter support keeps the Rail independent, relevant, and free
Nowadays ubiquitous, because galleries are so familiar, we perhaps do not sufficiently realize how distinctive they are.
Recently Jeffrey Deitch has been much in the news. He has just returned from L.A. where he held the directorship of MOCA for three years. Within this relatively short span of time, Deitch managed to transform radically the ways we approach museums, whether as insiders or outsiders, and, further even, he may have introduced a seismic change within the Art World proper.
Philippe de Montebello was appointed the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New Yorkin 1977 after having served at the same museum as chief curator under Thomas Hoving. When he retired in 2008 he was the longest-serving director in the institutions history, and also the longest-serving director of any major art museum.
Thelma Golden, Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, is a native New Yorker who grew up in Queens a precocious art lover. After graduating from Smith College with a BA in Art History and African-American Studies, in 1987 she became a curator at the Studio Museum.
When recently we interviewed Philippe de Montebello, it happened that Sir Norman was in town, and so he participated in that discussion. He had much to say which was of great interest and so we thought it natural to continue the discussion with an interview devoted entirely to him.
When one of us, Joachim Pissarro, was chief curator at the Kimbell Museum in the 1990s, he worked with Mikhael Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage. And so when it happened that the other one of us, David Carrier, was visiting Saint Petersburg in July, 2014, we wanted to interview Piotrovsky.
Alanna Heiss is hailed as a founder of what we know as the alternative space movement, and one of the most important centers for contemporary art in the country.
When we began this ongoing sequence of interviews with museum directors, we knew that we wanted to talk with Glenn Lowry. To be a director of any museum is a complex, highly conflicted job. To be director of MoMA involves special pressures, which seem unique to the flagship American museum dedicated to collecting and reflecting on modern and contemporary art.
“The beginning of the “Wall of Light” paintings came when I was sitting on a beach in Mexico in Zihuatanejo. I’d been visiting the ruins and I was in a moment of repose, so I made a little watercolor that was a memory portrait of my impression of what I’d been doing.”
Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Exhibitions at the New Museum was curator of the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia in 2013. When one of us saw that exhibition and then we both read the massive catalogue Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2013) we could scarcely believe our eyes.
On successive mornings in July, in sunny Dublin, I had the privilege of interviewing two museum directors. We talked about practical and conceptual issues—and we discussed the history of their institutions
I first met Carol Szymanski and reviewed one of her shows in 1992. At the time she was constructing musical instruments that were a cross between sculpture and readymades. When then I reviewed her exhibitions in 2002 and, again, in 2012, her art had gone through some dramatic changes. Her day in banking had become more demanding; now based in London, she used that situation to create a fascinating, almost daily bulletin, she calls the cockshut dummy.
When Joachim Pissarro and I began to organize our interviews with major museum directors—men or women who had decisively changed their institutions—from the very start we planned to talk with directors both in this country and internationally. Thus we interviewed not only Jeffrey Deitch, who had directed MOCA in LA; Philippe de Montebello of the Metropolitan; Alanna Heiss, and then Glenn Lowry, from MoMA; Massimiliano Gioni of the New Museum; and Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem; but also Sir Norman Rosenthal from the Royal Academy, London; and Mikhail Piotrovsky at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. In this, the eighth of our interviews, we talk with Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor who, after a distinguished early career as curator in the United States, organized exhibitions in Europe, where now he is director of the Haus der Kunst, Munich.
Sylvain Bellenger, who was born in Normandy, took French degrees in philosophy and in art history. He then moved to the United States, where he held curatorial posts at the Cleveland Museum of Art and at the Art Institute of Chicago before being appointed in 2014 Director at Capodimonte in Naples.
Our prime interest in this interview has been to inquire on the origins of the JPNF and how this museum came to be established in this location. As most of our readers will have not (yet) visited Dubai—indeed, thus far only one of us has made the journey—we wanted to get some essential background information about Dubai’s art scene.
Museums have to contend with increasing numbers of visitors, but how these expansions of the buildings and the collections are supported financially considerably varies from one country to another. Pierre Rosenberg speaks with the Rail about his tenure as director of the Louvre, from 1994 to 2001.
Richard Brettell studied art history at Yale University, becoming an authority on Impressionism. After a distinguished teaching career, he was appointed Searle Curator of European Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Both born in 1494, Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino were apprenticed to the High Renaissance master Andrea del Sarto, and yet their careers proceeded very differently.
Before MoMA was conceived, Albert Barnes (18721951) embarked upon an ambitious collecting program focused on Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Henri Matisse, and pre-Cubist Picasso.
In his essay for the massive exhibition catalogue, the photographer Geoffrey James remarks that, though he has yet to travel to the city, when there, I know I will not find Sudeks Prague. He is right.
In the mid- and late 1970s, a small group of young men and women in London and New York created a remarkably individual style of dress and music. The punks believed that by D.I.Y. (do it yourself), they could provoke revolutionary change.
True to the spirit and intentions of street art, this vast and indeed wild exhibition organized by the city administration of Frankfurt took place everywhere but within the clean confines of the museum itself. The city of Frankfurt became the canvas upon which works were executed by about a dozen Brazilian taggers, writers, and graffiti artists who represented a plethora of genres.
For West Wall, Dwan Main Gallery (1967), a now classic exhibition presented in 2008 at Peter Blum, Chelsea, William Anastasi photographed an empty gallery, silkscreened that image onto a slightly smaller canvas, and installed that work on the wall, making the wall . . . a kind of ready-made mural, thus changing every show in that space thereafter.
What often gives the art of an old master emotional depth is the attachment of surprising symbolic meanings to seemingly banal artifacts.
When an old master painter shows someone reading, its natural to wonder: what is that document? So, for example, when we view the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (1663 − 1664) we may speculate: is this a love letter, a note about practical business, or perhaps something even less exciting?
Driving along narrow country roads eighteen kilometers north of Aix-en-Provence one comes to Château la Coste, an art center designed by Tadao Ando in 2011.
“Where the literature of foreign nations and of past cultures is accessible only across the barrier of language,” Meyer Schapiro wrote, “the works of painting, sculpture, and architecture may be enjoyed directly through the eyes and the humanity of their makers experienced in the expressiveness of forms.”
The photographs in Sally Mann’s exhibition Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington are radically different. For a dozen years, towards the end of his life, Twombly worked half the year in Lexington, Virginia, the small town where, like Mann, he was born.
Mangold works in series, reworking a visual motif in varied colors and, sometimes, in paintings of various sizes until he has exhausted its potential.
This incredibly anxious time, Johnson says, feels simultaneously unsettling, urgent, and radical. And so he aims to respond in this art. Red is the color of anxiety.
What can pictures tell us about the great events of political history? Recent scholarship identified the complex relationship between Jacques-Louis Davids history paintings and the French Revolution. Was he truly a prophet?
There is one striking counter-example to the recent skeptical claims about the reach of art writing.
These are Color Field works, made quickly after painstaking preparation of the grounds, using spray paints. Describing them as Claudian Color Field paintings, Aden says that they allude to those rare moments as the sun ignites a new day or gently fades into the evening.
Seeing an artists studio is exciting: what admirer of Caravaggio wouldnt enjoy a glimpse of his workspace, as it is imaginatively reconstructed in Derek Jarmans 1986 film? By going behind the scenes, we learn about the private life of a creative person, in a way that deepens our knowledge of their art.
This selection of paintings Francis Bacon made in the last fifteen years of his life (1977 1992) shows how, by employing a seemingly narrow range of subjects, he created an impressive variety of pictures.
Normally, theres a visually obvious distinction between figurative and abstract paintings. John Constable shows English landscapes, while Jackson Pollocks large late-1940s abstractions depict nothing real.
Nasreen Mohamedi (1937 1990), born in what is now Pakistan, trained partly in London (1954 57) and Paris (1961 63), was a Muslim who traveled to Bahrain, Iran, and Turkey while she lived and worked in India.
The pleasures and perils of studio visits at provincial art schools are not unfamiliar to us critics. When you see what talented students have learned by imitating faculty artists from a previous generation, you recognize that these young people must move to an art center and radically innovate if they are to find an entry point into the contemporary art world.
Both parts of this exhibition of fifteen small paintings by Eilshemius and twenty-two by Thompson are very interesting. And both challenge our received ideas of modernism. But whats puzzling is the conjunction of these two figures.
For any art historian interested in Nicolas Poussin but not a devotee of the interpretative literature, visiting this exhibition, which marks the 305th year since the artists death in 1665, might be puzzling.
Fascinated with buildingswith their spaces, the light that plays around them, their human uses the paintings of this artist, which are works of great poetic beauty, carry an apparent objectivity. I quote from Gary Schwartzs account of the Dutch 17th-century painter Pieter Saenredam, which applies also word for word to Richard Estess pictures.
Half a lifetime ago, around 1980, I started doing art criticism under the spell of Joseph Masheck, who was then the editor of Artforum.
In his Lectures on Aesthetics, Hegel says that in art, the unfolding of truth and the revelations of world history are interlinked.
As has often been noted, the ability to make photographs as large as easel paintings allows them to compete visually with paintings. But of course that practical consideration merely identifies the necessary condition for the success of this novel artistic genre; it doesnt tell us how to interpret these works.
When painters migrate between previously distant visual cultures, novel artistic syntheses may seem possible. No country has a longer or more illustrious tradition of visual accomplishment than China. But until the 20th century, art in China mostly developed without directly responding to European painting. Zao Wou-Ki was one of the first Chinese painters to attempt a synthesis of these very different traditions.
This pioneering exhibition of 200 works includes sculptures, fabrics, and some manuscripts, supplemented with detailed maps, useful captions, a massive catalogue, and a video.
A blind man might write an interesting treatise on visual aesthetics: he could explain that painters depict still-life objects, historical events, landscapes and whatever else may be seen. He could tell us that some 20th-century artists created paintings with no depicted subject.
A decade ago, the art historian James Elkins published On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, a book that offered a highly suggestive observation. The United States is a very religious country, he noted, but very little contemporary art found in the mainstream galleries or museums presents religion in a positive way.
In 1973 Martin Cooper made the first public cell phone call from the street in mid-town Manhattan. New Era, a continuous ten minute, fifty-six second loop video by Doug Aitken responds to that event and the present consequences of this new technology.
Peter Saul (b. 1934) is a classic Pop artist who, with his current exhibition at the New Museum, is achieving the recognition he has long deserved.
For his first solo show in New York, Ryan Sawyer offered a challenging variation on now well-entrenched deconstructive themes. He stripped all of the copper from the drywall of the front room of the James Fuentes Gallery, and sold it in Brooklyn as scrap metal.
As the catalogue exhibition essay by Francesco Solinas says, she was a famously strong and combative woman whose unbridled ambition for success, wealth and higher social standing made her famous and successful during her lifetime. But reaching that goal took heroic struggle and for a long time, Baroque painting and art by women was marginalized.
What defines modernist painting, and distinguishes it from old master European art, is the elimination of obvious details. This suppression permits expressive directness and pursuit of immediacy, which makes the figurative works of Matisse and Picasso, like the abstractions of Mondrian and Pollock, distinctively modernist.
Almost inevitably, we initially describe and understand what is marvelous but unfamiliar in terms of what we know. And so the quilts of Tompkins have been compared with the paintings of Josef Albers, Paul Klee, and Piet Mondrian; and her improvisations related to those of jazz musicians.
Just as René Magrittes Surrealist paintings often rely upon unexpected juxtapositions of banal objects or scenes, a daylight sky and a nighttime street for example, so Banksy shocks by creating irrational correspondences.
Now and then we can learn much about the nature of painting thanks to the coexistence at one time of antithetical personalities, whose opposition reveals the changing limits of this medium. Titian (1490 1576) and Michelangelo (1475 1564), like Ingres (1780 1867) and Delacroix (1798 1863), are such artist “frenemies.” So too are Sean Scully (b. 1945) and Christopher Wool (b.1955).
Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei are closely tied to mass media. Both are celebrities who are famous beyond the narrow bounds of the art world, and both have enormous studios with small armies of assistants. They never really met, but Warhol visited Beijing and Ai lived in Manhattan from 1983 93, and so saw Warhol in passing. And so we learn from Eric Shiner’s interview published in the exhibition catalogue, when Ai came to New York, he read The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). “To me,” he said, “Warhol always remained the most interesting figure in American art.
For more than three decades now, a great deal of contemporary German painting has been shown in New York. The leading artists have had gallery and museum exhibitions, and all of them have been much celebrated. And yet, as this exhibition shows, how exotic Georg Baselitz’s visual aesthetic remains.
The show’s title comes from Sinclair Lewiss 1935 novel It Cant Happen Here, in which a populist fascist becomes Americas president. But the tone is entirely Sue Coes own. Throughout the show, she presents industrial pollution, racist politicians, sexist violence, and the slaughter of animals for food.
10 artists present the theme Make Our Differences Our Strengths using 14 billboards, with six more locations to go up on December 28. Seeing the exhibition requires a long afternoon of driving on suburban roads, with the aid of GPS.
“In view of the some four thousand publications on Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,” the author of a very recent book about him writes, “one might think that everything that could possibly be said about the artist has been saidbut not by authors currently reaching for their pens or switching on their laptops.”
Acquired on eBay consists of dense hangings of drawings, paintings, sculpture, and also some books, mostly small, by relatively marginal recent artists. On the second floor of a building on the Lower East Side, the Algus Gallery is about as far from gentrification as you can get in the Manhattan art world.
This exhibition, which includes nearly 90 works, is an ambitious revisionist exercise. Known by the infelicitous nickname Luca fa presto, Giordano did paint quickly, creating more than 5,000 frescoes and paintings. To be so productive he had, as you might expect, an army of assistants.
Elizabeth Murray (19402007) had an astonishing capacity to develop. Looking just at the works in Wild Life, her two person show with the sculptor Jessi Reaves (b. 1986) curated by Rebecca Matalon, the distance between Night Empire (1967-68) and C Painting (1980-81) is amazing.
The exhibitions We Do Not Dream Alone, the inaugural Asia Society Triennial, and Dreaming Together at the New-York Historical Society bring together works by over 40 artists selected from the collections of both institutions in a thoughtful and very welcome showcasing of the work of Asian and Asian-diasporic artists still underrepresented in mainstream Euro-American contexts. At this moment, when the movement of people and even artworks is difficult, the mere existence of this two-museum show is a major accomplishment.
Presented in nine galleries on the second floor of the new wing of the Kunstmuseum Basel, this large display encompasses 120 works, including paintings and works on paper by Rembrandt. It is a visually effective presentation of Hollands 17th-century colonialist cultural encounters. The Orient in this exhibition encompasses the territories on the Dutch trade routes, the Mediterranean sites controlled by the Ottoman Empire, as well as Persia, India, and the Far East.
This exhibition of Paul Cézannes images of his most frequently portrayed model, his wife, Hortense Fiquet (1850 1922), includes 24 of the 29 known paintings of her, three watercolors, fourteen drawings, and three sketchbooks.
In his late, short book St. Mark’s Rest (1877), John Ruskin says that nations compose their autobiographies in three ways: in “the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art.”
No curatorial task is more difficult than assembling an international survey exhibition. If in Pittsburgh, the task is further complicated by the history of the Carnegie Museum and its Internationals.
Eight of Ron Gorchovs classic paintings on shields, executed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are currently on view in the new uptown gallery of Cheim & Read. Two of them arch out vertically, while the others are horizontally oriented. None, needless to say, are either rectangular or flat.
Intimate Infinite is a revelatory commentary on the history of gallery spaces. In the three floors of the Lévy Gorvy gallery on Madison Avenue you see almost one hundred works, most of them small enough to fit into your carry-on luggage, by twenty-seven artists.
Where is the dividing line between painting and photography, two visual artistic media that are often said to be essentially opposed? The long history of very diverse answers to this question is fascinating and revealing.John Houck’s liminal art, which marks and erases the boundaries between painting and photography, offers a highly original extension of this lengthy history.
Border Crossings and its accompanying, richly illustrated catalogue highlight important issues for the reception of art across the ideological boundary between North and South Korea.
There is a lot to see in each individual work, and there are many large works in this crowded exhibition. You need to take your time here. But ultimately the display works very nicely for German because she is an artist who deals in the stimulating pleasures of visual overload.
In his radical political treatise, The Subjection of Women (1869), John Stuart Mill briefly takes up discussion of female visual artists. If, as he claims, women are as fully able as men, then why, he asks, have there been no highly distinguished women painters?
Joffe doesn’t repeat herselfshe doesn’t need to because she is consistently, magnificently inventive.
The most remarkable artwork in Richard Serra’s recent exhibition, which included dense paint stick drawings and sculpture, is Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure (2017).
What can an abstract painting represent? Rochelle Feinstein offers a plenitude of answers. Image of an Image is the most challenging retrospective that I have recently had the pleasure of viewing.
During the 1920s and 30s Arshile Gorky and his New York fellow painters slowly and with real difficulty worked their way through European modernism.
Just before the end of his life, Okwui Enwezor worked with Massimiliano Gioni to organize this exhibition, which now is installed on all three floors of the New Museum. It is presented with curatorial support from Naomi Beckwith, Glenn Ligon, and Mark Nash.
Liliane Tomaskos new paintings, all made in 2019 and 2020, are about liminal states. In the gallery announcement she says: maybe during those hours spent in this almost unconscious state, something is illuminated that cannot be seen in the brightness of the day. Her art aims to recover and represent these experiences.
This, the first museum retrospective devoted to the New York painter Harvey Quaytman (1937 – 2002), includes more than seventy works, many of them large.
In his luminous essay The School of Giorgione (1877) Walter Pater, asserting that painting must be before all things decorative, a thing for the eye, a space of colour on the wall, describes the art of Giorgione, as he imagines it.
The art world is in love with Matisse. In the decade 2000-10 alone, he was in 74 museum shows, many with catalogues.
Because most of us lack confidence in our ability to simply look at and feel art, in the same way that we can listen to and feel music, there exists a vast business of interpretation. (Michael Findlay, The Value of Art)
When staying at a luxurious Normandy beach hotel, Marcel, the narrator of In Search of Lost Time, and a pal write a friendly note to a famous painter, Elstir, who lives nearby. Elstir then invites Marcel for a studio visit, though Marcel would prefer to meet the girls he sees but doesnt yet know.
Early on Giorgio Morandi was a familiar, but marginal figure within Italian Futurism, who by the time of his death occupied only a modest place in modernist collecting culture. Thanks to important historical work by Janet Abramowicz in Giorgio Morandi: The Art of Silence (2005), we have a reliable account of Morandis life. To this growing corpus, we can now add the perspectives of other contemporary artists collected in Zwirner Bookss Giorgio Morandi: Late Paintings.
Everyone knows about rapid climate change. No one who even glances at the newspaper or looks at the news can be unaware of these concerns. How, then, can visual artists respond to this situation? Mark Cheetham argues that politically responsible contemporary art needs to explicitly take account of ecological issues.
The new edition includes just 20 pages of editorial material and a six-paragraph highly elusive introduction by Warburg himself. But most of the book is devoted to a reconstruction of his picture atlas: collected arrays of old master paintings, contemporary works, prints and also newspaper clippings and other materials from popular culture placed on large screens.
Tom was one of the first postwar artists to question the heritage, hubris, and clichéd bloat of Abstract Expressionism. His intelligence transformed art as a political act; the creation of exquisite canvases that would fit in humble homes and not necessarily be destined for corporations or institutions