I am in NYC for a family event so taking the time to look around while here. Seems my timing is good – apart from the dreadful weather which is in mid 30s and at 95% humidity – as the summer season draws to a close and the start of the art year is this week! My NYC friends, who exist within the art world here in various ways, are very excited about this new beginning and discuss endlessly what shows they plan to attend openings for and what might be left until next week, what they will wear and who they are likely to see where. It’s all a tad confusing for one who derives from the bottom left-hand corner of the map and is used to a more leisurely pace of opening event (like two in a day is stretching it….).
While the big galleries and Museums like MOMA, The Frick, The New Whitney and The Met have stayed open – it’s tourist season after all – all the private galleries from big fish to tiny minnows have been closed for a six-week minimum period and this is the week they are back at work! Seems the hottest numbers are shown in the first week and everyone who is anyone plans to get to as many as possible. As I write, last minute touches are being made on those exhibitions and the glasses polished ready for the viewers and collectors who would not dream of leaving town at the time of this event. The excitement is palpable and discussions centre on little else. It’s all very curious.
Something called ARTCARDS arrives with lists of picks in the not-to-be-missed category
I have seen a few lists of the exhibitions, some are gallery stable while others are curated by independent curators for various private galleries. There are many dozens of galleries and seemingly hundreds of artists. One of the most regularly mentioned is Ron Nagle at Matthew Marks Gallery. Matthew Marks is a big player here in town – with a vast panoply of employees – almost as many as Gagosian where Edmund de Waal showed last year. I shall not miss this one but am reliant upon friends for some others as many or most names are unknown to me. But overall there seems to be a revisit of the ‘60s and ‘70s….
However, of the shows already on or just about to close include, Yoko Ono’s survey at MOMA where there was an audience that did not look like the usual art crowd at all but instead were more like those that gather at John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, making two fingered signs above the ‘Believe’ mosaic. They were happily phone-photographing her close-ups of personal anatomy from late ‘60s. I must include a fantastic one at PS1 which is MOMA’s outreach programme in Queens. Situated in a former high school PS1 was site of the Mike Kelly retrospective I saw a year or two ago and on which I blogged. That show took up the entire building which is interesting in itself as you get some idea of a high school in a blue collar part of NYC – four stories high, huge sliding doors and cavernous in feel, stones over asphalt outside and not a blade of grass – more suited to an art gallery than any NZ idea of a school. Anyway, this show is Cabaret Crusades by Wael Shawky. It’s a puppet show! The puppets are displayed in two long vitrines, maybe 50 or so in each. One holds glass puppets and the other ceramic. The puppets are superbly crafted, most about 30-35cm high, and look like a blend of animal and human while some are more one than the other. They are dressed in costumes representing Arab and Western wear from the 11th century and can have as many as 12-16 strings with which to animate movement instead of the pretty standard six (knees, hands and neck/ears).
The puppets are used in three films that show simultaneously in adjacent rooms and these narratives tell the tales of the Crusades from an Arab viewpoint. When I was at school I learned that the Crusades were noble enterprises that sought to convert the Arab nations to Christianity and repossess the Holy Land. The Arab version, probably far more accurate, was more about the French, the Germans and Britain’s Richard the Lionheart and their bands of Crusaders invading far further than Jerusalem so as to take possession of the resources of those countries at that time. The Phoenicians, the Egyptians and Iranians were the most learned, cultured and educated people on earth at the time, busy inventing and discovering sciences such as astronomy – with an abundance of worldly goods and treasures earned via trade because of the position of their countries between east and west. The Crusaders invaded cities like Aleppo, Cairo and Damascus, Baghdad and Basra that were sacked and looted (sound familiar?). Characters like Sal-addin, who I recall learning was a smart and cunning leader, revealed as a hero who negotiated cleverly….and suchlike. It’s revisionist of course, and something that for me has not been thought about for a long time but confirms that while wars may present and gain support by citing religion – they are really about economics. The films, are beautifully shot and somehow the puppets, with their expressive faces, tell the stories without rancour. It’s a great show that I hope might eventually get to NZ! Excuse my poor grasp of history, I’m working on what I recall from school and that is a wee while ago! Happy to have facts corrected!
Other shows have been the history of art in America/USA covered, a room and movement at a time in the new Whitney Museum – wonderful and an all-day affair to view, and two in particular at The Met – A show of haute couture with influences from Chinese culture: Saint Laurent, McCartney, Gautier et al…. sumptuous, opulent and spectacular with appropriate but very low lighting so photography, without flash was impossible – sorry. The other was my first visit to the Arab galleries and oh those lustres, the restraint in decoration, the elegance of some pieces – see the images! Must go again before we depart.
There will be a show by a designer with a playful take on the ‘curated’ decoration called deccuration that in part is a jab at that oh so ubiquitous word. Hallelujah!
Then De Pury’s, the London based auction house and art advisors, declares it is going to concentrate upon ‘going far beyond cutting edge paintings, sculpture and installation’ with a show called ‘FIRE!’ at the Venus over Manhattan gallery. It opens September 18 and is entirely on contemporary ceramics and glasswork. Simon de Pury claims there has been ‘an extraordinary renaissance in this area’ and cites Ai Weiwei, Sterling Ruby and Dan McCarthy and glass artist, Flavie Audie who graduated from RCA last year, as leaders in the area. There are, apparently, many more and “All will be sold in a nano-second!”. I shall try to be there.