Posts filed under ‘Art Fair’

Art Forum Berlin 2010 launches satellite version of itself

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With less 110 galleries in comparison to last year, this year’s edition of Art Forum Berlin, taking place from October 7-10, witnessed some noticeable changes in format. This 15th edition presented the gallery section and the young section under the same roof, making the whole event smaller and more manageable for the viewer. But the greatest novelty consisted in young galleries being able to invite other galleries to participate, which they consider “young, surprising and important”. Art Forum Berlin’s strategy not only meant that galleries took greater responsibility in the overall program of the fair but also promised some room for experimentation.
In what felt like an innovative and experimental model in sync with the flair of the city, Art Forum Berlin aimed to brand itself more clearly and attract collectors who might otherwise have divided their attention between Frieze and Paris Photo, taking place the following weeks.

Echoing the dilemma of the city itself, which in the last years has shifted towards a progressive professionalization of its structures and players, the fair seemed to propose a back-to-the roots kind of attitude as an answer to the on-going debate. This delegation of responsibility, introduced by the paring up of younger galleries, proved highly arguable. Long-established galleries with a solid program saw their booth presentation weakened by being placed next to younger galleries with presentations which though interesting left plenty of room for discussion. This was even harder felt since some international galleries from past editions were now absent.

Challenging yet not radical enough, even if more video could be seen in comparison to last year’s edition, the overall tone of the fair was very cautious. Hardly any painting, not to mention any memorable painting, could be found. Valèrie Favre (Jocelyn Wolf – Paris, Galerie Barbara Thumm Berlin) was an exception to this. As well as classical positions such as Georg Baselitz and Sigmar Polke (Galerie Bo Bjerggaard / Copenhagen) and Imi Knoebel (Fahnemann Berlin). Also remarkable, were Jürgen Klauke as well as Katharina Sieverding‘ photos (Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf, Berlin/Frankfurt am Main).

Worth mentioning for their valuable presentations in the Fokus Section were Galerie Eva Winkeler (Frankfurt/ Köln) with paintings by Oliver Voss and Rashawn Griffin, Klemm’s (Berlin) with artists Falk Haberkorn and Gwenneth Boelens, Kai Middendorff (Frankfurt / M.) with a film installation by Neïl Beloufa and Galerie Jette Rudolf (Berlin) with drawings by Constantin Luser and sulptures by Johannes Vogl.

At the end of the day, undecided between positioning itself as a serious player in the Basel – Armory – Frieze league or as an alternative to it, Art Forum Berlin faces a serious identity problem. An alternative positioning would definitely go hand in hand with the city’s low-budget underground spirits, but runs the risk – if not radical enough in its choices – of jeopardizing the fair. By turning it into a satellite of itself, Art Forum Berlin ended up with little power to draw collectors, especially considering that the Berlin Biennale takes place just a few months before.

October 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

Art Basel 2009

Here follows my list of favourites in this year’s edition of ART / Basel:

1. Il Tempo del Postino, a group show curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno, originally comissioned by The Manchester International Festival. Conceived as a time-based and not a space-based exhibition, the show brings a series of installations by different artists to a seated audience, in this case in the Theater Basel.
I specially liked some pieces such as Tino Sehgal‘s “untitled” in which the stage curtains were manipulated to create a compelling coreography. In Anri Salas’ “Flutterbyes” a series of interpreters where positioned in different locations amidst the audience singing Madame Butterflyes’ aria “Un Bel di Vedremo”. This unforeseen closeness with the opera singers resulted in one of the most touching and dramatic moments of the evening.
Also breath taking was Tacita Deans’ film piece “Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cages’ composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007″. It is truly “an elegiac portrait of an aging artist and his deceased partner, articulating the melancholia of passing time” (Lauren Hinkson).
Not less powerfull was Doug Aitkens’ “The handle comes up the hammer goes down” performance piece, in which several cattle mid-western auctioners perform live and at amazing speed a bidding on the audience.
Dominique Gonzalez Foersters’ piece “Sol is going home” provided the most beautifull end to this event as the musicians slowly left one by one until the very last one of them was left alone still playing.

2. Anne-Mie Kerckhoven, “Schatten uit het westen”, 1993 and Mark Manders’ figure installation at Zeno X Gallery /BE

Alicja Kwade, Different Condition_State of Aggregation_2, 2009, Galerie  Johann König
3. Alicja Kwade, Different Condition (State of Aggregation) 2,2009 at Johann König Galerie /DE (image above)

4. Stefan Hirsig, collage / mixed media on plywood and John Bocks’ installation at Galerie Stefan Hirsig /DE

5. Mathew Hale, “Die Münze (DM)” installation at Wentrup Gallery /DE

And my list of favourites at VOLTA / Basel:

chris gillis_DagmarDePooterGallery_BE
1. Chris Gillis, “Inside, Into the frame”, Dagmar De Pooter Gallery/BE (image above)

2. Nadin Maria Rüfenachts’ photographic work, Galerie Kleindienst /DE

3. Herbert Weber, “Der Himmel ist immer oben”, 2006 and the “Normale Fakten” serie, 2008, artrepco galerie /CH

4. Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, The Four Horsemen, 2009, Hi-definition video, Ceri Hand Gallery /UK

5. Dean Baldwin, Minibar Project and Sandy Plotnikoff postcards, Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects / CA

My list of favourites at SCOPE /Basel:

1. Krell 2 go, krellwear.com
Fast chic: you could choose a fabric and with the help of Karelle Levy (founder of Krellwear) customize your own piece on site.

And finally my choices at LISTE /Basel:

1. Lisa Oppenheim, Harris Lieberman Gallery /USA

2. Emilie Pitoiset, “Liebe ist kälter als der Tod”, 2009, Galerie Lucile Corty /FR

Jimmy Robert, untitled, 2009
3. Jimmy Robert, Galerie Diana Stigter /NL (image above)

June 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

Art Basel 2009

“Surprise success: Art Basel dispels credit crunch blues”. “Art Basel’s 40th edition continued to defy the worldwide financial slump”. These were some of the optimistic head titles and reports on Art Basel which could be read on the Art Newspaper throughout the last week.
New Hollywood-star collectors and galleries reacting to the economical crisis by bringing out their best pieces were some of the reasons given for the successful amount of major transactions done during the first days of the fair.

On the one hand, I have heard from some collectors that they bought more than they were expecting to and where even surprised to find such good quality. On the other hand, I hear galleries saying that despite selling something they definitely sold less than last year, which I guess only proves that the real business is being done very few players and that maybe one shouldn’t believe everything one reads in the newpapers…

June 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm 1 comment

Rundgang SPINNEREI Set.2007

This September´s edition of the Rundgang at the SPINNEREI was spiced up by three new openings, namely, Fred Gallery´s new exhibiting space, Kavi Gupta Gallery from Chicago as the new gallery-in-residence and, Laden für Nichts, whose concept implies constantly moving around and now has the Spinnerei for its latest location.

Angelina Gualdoni´s paintings at Dogenhaus exploring space and fusion, were very appealing in its dimensions, colors, spatial depictions and how acrylic gave the impression of watercolor sometimes.
I specially enjoyed Grit Hachmeister´s exhibition “Du alter Sack, was nun” where spontaneous drawings, rehearsed snapshots and collage with experimental and poor materials were to be found. Grit Hachmeister´s work uses the body as subject to address desire, violence and pornography as the most direct way to deal with how we use and exploit each other and ourselves in the most urgent and ruthless way. Furthermore, ASPN showed one of Hachmeister´s sculptures and in my view one of the best works at the Rundgang.

Another high point was Lutz-Rainer Müller & Jan Freuchen`s “Object Perdu” at Pierogi. Following “Object Trouvé” (2006). This 1:1 wooden replica of the Eagle (the lunar module that landed on the moon in 1969) with a wooden piano attached to its body, was originally chopped into small pieces by the artists and then thrown into a swamp. “Object Perdu” is born out of the recovery of the former broken sculpture from the swamp, in an attempt to re-create and re-built the initial project. Its constructed but sober look is specially attractive.

Also at Pierogi, William Lamson “SUBLUNAR“, a series of photographic and video works as well as an installation on the theme of human inability to fly without technical external help, caught my attention. Though small in its dimensions, “Jump” is a brilliant video animation were the naive wish to fly with no technical means goes hand to hand with its technique resulting in a dreamy atmosphere.

Melanie Manchot´s Film “Shave” in exhibition at Fred Gallery, shows – in a cold and distanced way despite the intimacy of the scene – a man having his head, breast and arms completely shaved by a barber and the small unavoidable wounds that open and bleed during the process.

Finally I would stress, Joachim Blank´s hybrid works, as not only they can be thought of as wall sculptures but also challenge both material and pictorial elements thus crossing borders. “He mixes digital production processes like laser cuts and Photoshop filters with industrially manufactured materials like acrylic glass, industrial wood, lacquer and adhesive (…) By using specific construction materials, he consciously cites the context of these materials and endows them with pictorial motifs”. (Filipprosbach press release)
Blank´s works are a knot where all aesthetic tensions under discussion nowadays converge and are mirrored. In particular, the use of industrial materials, in this way quoting the 70s But his works also join in a Formalist research and self-reflexive tendency that has shaped and been present throughout all XX century art.

Kavi Gupta´s ground floor installation by Danielle Gustafson-Sundell, depicting colorful humorous sentences on the walls, such as: “You are on my “to-do” list!” introduced the humorous tone that was sort of missing to the whole event.

October 16, 2007 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

Dokumenta KASSEL 2007

To Dora and Volker

For 100 days Dokumenta 12, spread across several venues in Kassel, namely the Museum Fridericianum, the Aue-Pavillon, the documenta-Halle, the Neue Galerie, the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe and Gloria Kino. According to its curators (Roger M. Bürgel and Ruth Noack), each of these buildings were meant to symbolize a specific century, a notion of the public and a concept of viewing art. And this was closely linked to this year´s program for the event. Reflecting on the concepts of modern, existence and education, Dokumenta 12 took on the challenge of answering the problem it choose to investigate: Is modernity our antiquity? What is bare life? And, what is to be done?

Having visited Kassel three weekends ago, I would say the major problem with Dokumenta 12 is exactly how the concept of “juxtaposition” was put into practice. It is a promising concept that allows art work confrontation, opening new readings and engaging a perspective that – we all expected – would answer the problem on the table.
But, throughout Dokumenta 12, such juxtaposition was mostly based on formal choices, sometimes to a point of complete obviousness, often remaining on a pure illustrative and pedagogical level. Works of the same artist were to be found in different points of the Dokumenta, in most situations without a real meaningful aim except for its formal resemblance to other works done prior or in another geographic context. And this was specially problematic at Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, were the interaction between Dokumenta´s works and the Museum´s permanent collection was very narrow.
It is not enough to insert two video installations within the museum collection, hang Kerry James Marshall´s “Lost Boys” (1993) depicting Afro-American people next to Karel van Mander´s “Hydaspes and Persina before the Painting of Andromeda” (1640) where colored people are to be seen, to proclaim this as pushing real dialogue between works of different time periods and engaging the public with it. Charlotte Posenenske´s wonderful works for example, were shoved into a corner and totally misplaced. Nor was she lucky at the Museum Fridericianum, where “Vierkantrohre Serie DW” (1967) – placed in the same room with Trisha Brown´s installation piece and performance “Floor of the Forest“ -, went completely unnoticed.
Charlotte Posenenske, Vierkantrohre Serie DW, 1967

What seems specially true is the incorporation of new artistic territories, speeches, voices – though not really new problems – into the exhibition space. Many artists from Arabe and African countries were present. Amar Kanwar´s remarkable video installation “The Lightning Testemonies” (2007) for instance, tried to answer how can sound, image and photography document in a creative way a true and sad event.

For me, the real theme of Dokumenta 12 was “conflict” – be it political, racial, economical, religious, social, you name it. Every thinkable form of conflict was present, even the conflict with one´s self. Imogen Stidworthy´s installation “I Hate” (2007), depicting the photographer Edward Woodman (who lost his power of speech in consequence of an accident) trying to pronounce correctly “eight” and not “hate”, highlighted just that. But so did many other works, showing the different forms conflict can assume nowadays. Imogen Stidworthy, I Hate, 2007

Churchill Madikida, Virus I - V, 2005, Video installation

Churchill Madikida´s video Installation “Virus” (2005) for instance, focuses on personal and social conflict and disease, whereas Kerry James Marshall´s paintings approach social and racial issues. Dias & Riedweg´s film “Veracidad Máxima” (2003) and Ines Doujak´s “Siegesgärten” (2007) handle sexuality, economical conditions under globalisation and gender, in a very different and interesting way.

Dias & Riedweg, Veracidad Máxima, 2003Ines Doujak, Siegesgärten, 2007

Meanwhile Bill Kouélany´s massiv papiermaché wall, a metaphor for all the walls of shame, with news cut out from international newspapers addressed the conflictive relation between politics and the media.
On its turn,in “The Exploitation of the Dead” Mladen Stilinovic collects war memorabilia together with a photo of Kasimir Malevich on his deadbed. And Guy Tillim´s photographs of democratic Congo document the first free presidential and parliamentary elections in forty years in that country.
Guy Tillim, Congo Democratic, Photography, 2006

Parallel to this manifold exploration of conflict and also battling but, in the field of aesthetics, self-reflexive art works were to be found. Gonzalo Díaz´s pieces “Al calor del pensamiento I” (1999) and the ironical “Eclipsis” (2007) mirrored just that. In this last, the viewer had to queue to view the installation only to read in the end: “To come to the heart of Germany, only to read the word “art” under ones own shadow”. Brilliant.

Gonzalo D�az, Eclipsis, 2007

Accounting for minimalism tendencies, John McCracken ´s “Orchid” (1991) and Poul Gernes´ “Stripe series paintings” were specially worth noticing. And Lili Dujourie´s structuralist collage “Roman” (1978) was a great discovery for me. Dealing with fragmentation, disruption and meaning this work is extremely poetical and sensual.

John McCracken, Orchid, 1991

Lili Dujourie, Roman, 1976

Poul Gernes, Stripe series paintings, 1965
Finally, Trisha Brown´s “Floor of the Forest” (1970), an installation and performance carrying the same name, stood up for interdisciplinary work. “Movers” (and not dancers) make their way through an undulating sea of wafting fabric exploring gravity, tension and its contrary.

In the end, I would dare to say, that the best works present at the Dokumenta, with few exceptions, were films or installation using film. The major example being, James Coleman´s “Retake with Evidence” (2007), performed by Harvey Keitel, and for me the best work in Kassel.
James Coleman, Retake with Evidence, 2007

The Dokumenta did state and testify to a point of excess the ongoing forms of conflict but, failed to answer if there can “be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead”, thus, not really answering nor taking a stand to the question itself raised.

Trisha Brown, Floor of the Forest, 1970, Installation and performance_16

October 6, 2007 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

ART FORUM BERLIN 2006: the ultimate critique!

  • ART FORUM BERLIM 2006

    With galleries and artists from all four corners of the world, this year’s edition of Berlin Art Fair didn’t live up to its promised multiculturalism. The motto turned out to be “a whole lot of the same”. 80 % of the fair was installation, immediately followed by photography and drawing, and few painting. In the end, despite all geographical variety, Art Forum Berlin failed to present neither big galleries nor variety.
    Though everybody is working with mixed-media, experimenting with different materials, even painting on car glass, still not that many alternatives are presented. The unconventionality of materials doesn’t compensate for the lack of real challenging works of art.
    Few artists stood out positively, and among these, Gregor Hildebrant represented by Jan Wentrup (Berlin) was an exception. Hildebrandt stripes recorded cassette tape using it as raw material for his pieces, using both old and new tape, they always “bear” a sound of his choice. A work on display showed splashing water; it was produced with recorded tape with the single “If only tonight we could”, from The Cure. This process involves a lot of patience, it is built using layers of tape, thus engaging different codes simultaneously (the visual and the audible).

    Gregor Hildebrandt, If only Tonight we could, 2006

    Gabriela Albergaria, a Portuguese artist living and working in Berlin, represented by Vera Cortês Art Agency (Lisbon), explored a post-colonialist theme in synchrony with the contemporary art theory trend. Her interesting drawing-based installation, showed several views of the Berliner botanical garden signalling in a different colour foreign species from China, Japan and Northern-America, most of which introduced in the XIX century. This work is talking about the way we incorporate that which is foreigner and how that changes over time.

    Berlin Art Forum was useful to prove that genre is, against all odds, still pretty much alive in today’s artistic production. A sort of reinvention of the old genres, especially landscape and portrait, is taking place. Parallel to this, installation, photography and drawing are the dominant media.
    Represented by Barbara Thumm Gallery (Berlin), Sabine Hornig is producing installations based on her research about typical school architecture.
    John Pilson on his hand, maybe surveying, in black and white photography, a whole new landscape which could be named as “office landscape” (Büro Landschaft). Like Hornig, Pilson is documenting architecture but not in a strictly formalistic point of view but, actually adding traces of personal narratives.
    Many artists seem to be dealing with space and time, memory and “archive”, past and present issues. Be it for what purpose and in what way, in the end it is about documenting the world of objects and spaces around us. This attitude probably derives from a strong hunger for the “real”. And such an interest on reality can be explored on a more individual or public level, depending on the artist.
    Awmi Leppäla´s research for instance, deals with her own experience as a woman and given cultural role. In “Seedings”, a series from 2004, the artist talks about a hidden poetic world, that of feminine intimacy and her own, with its stillness, superstitions and religious symbols.
    Dionisio Gonzalez has different concerns. His research about an “aesthetic of horror”, has lead him to create hybrid digital architectures, mixing modern and post-modern architecture references, with brazilian favelas, anonymous urban peripheries or arab cities. The final result is both intriguing and highly aesthetic.
    Where do such documenting impulses come from?
    The wish to document comes from the awareness that something is at risk, coming to an end or in danger of being lost.
    In our society of information, the issue of the “real” is a more and more pertinent and pressing question. This attitude to document the real feeds on anguish, the anguish of the disappearance of the real world, not only gradually melted into a virtual one but also, at the edge of an ecological catastrophe. The computer is a media like no other. It is taking in, all that surrounds us, up to the paradox that if you are not inside the computer or connected to one, you do not exist.
    These might be some of the reasons why artists are obsessed with all objects and landscapes. They are methodically mapping or documenting the world that surrounds us, in all aspects, from beauty, to banality, ugliness, filthiness, etc.
    Besides documenting a world of already existing objects, there are artists creating a “brave new world”, designing and foreseeing a place where all dreams and fictions might take place and be acted out.
    Patricia Piccinni’s “The world according to” (Robert Miller Gallery, NY) is a speculation of how a genetic mutated world would function. She envisions the relationship between humans and artificial created beings as a playfull one. This strange world is literally tossed at our face, and we cannot decide immediately if we are before a threat or not.

    Patricia Picini, The World According to, 2006, Robert Miller Gallery

    The stretching of given cultural roles, the acting out and building new identities is at the core of Scott Treleaven’s work (represented by Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago). He describes his art as “Homofaggothicpunk Art”. “Wishthree & Crowds” is a small mixed media work aiming to build a new iconography, for this, recruiting references from classical antiquity, romanticism, pre-Raphaelites, contemporary art and science-fiction. It becomes necessary to see beyond the specificity of all the posts (colonialism, queer, feminist, etc), where there is a larger picture being threaded, that of militancy. A battle field is taking place. It aims to reform mentalities, more in accordance to a world in which God is dead, and all machines are made to function and connect.
    But, meanwhile the future is being irrevocably built, there are still good works of art to move, comfort and excite us.
    Marc Bijl work “A Search into the Nature of Society” (Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam) is a temple of capitalist polyurethane brands, political neon statements, whose easy criticism leaves tradition untouched. More cleaver is Thilo Schultze’s (Galerie Jan Winckelmann, Berlin) formalist work, ironically stating: “Formalism is the typical manifestation of artistic decadence in the epoch of imperialism”. Though admitting that it is very difficult to change the nature of things, it actually does something about it: it is breaking the illusion by exposing it efficiently. Also intelligent as political work, trying to win our conscience and make us engage is Costa Vece’s “Brot- Kopfe”.
    In Steinar Jacobsen’s aluminium paintings (Galerie K, Oslo), the artist restores our confidence. “Look back in puzzlement” returns our faith in the power of true and simple painting.
    The amazing thing is that this reconciliation with painting is done nowadays by vampirising, copying, miming, attitudes from other mediums, such as photography or film. The most challenging painting being produced is actually feeding on the technical possibilities opened by those technological mediums. Painting is exploiting procedures such as still, amplification, reduction, zooming, blurring, faded, sequence, distortion, negative/ positive, originally basic mechanical procedures. Steinar Jacobsen´s paintings for instance, are displayed as a sequence of stills, they are also worked as if they were a negative and show perspectives that own much to photography.
    Berlin Art Fair teaches us that artists are still traumatized with avant-garde, clinging on to its procedures and trying to measure up to it. Everybody is experimenting for experimenting´s sake. As a consequence to this, most works are mixed media and feel rather desperate and phoney.
    But the truth is that, Genre remains alive. Landscape and portrait are being reinvented by the hour, and installation, photography and drawing have interestingly become the dominant media.
    There is a lust for the “Real”, expressed trough a documenting attitude that cannot be anything else than the result of a pressure; a pressure of everyday life, of fast living, of the art market hype, of a “society of information”, of the eminence of an ecological catastrophe, or the uncertainty of one’s identity.
    But, in the middle of all this noise, there are still good works of art. Either addressing our desires, trying to gain our critical consciences, giving us aesthetic pleasure, selling us a vision of the world or, imagining and shaping the future, art will go on being produced. I guess Danto was right…Thank God!

  • December 30, 2006 at 6:33 pm 2 comments


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