Monthly Archives: November 2017

Archives: The Most Notable Art

With 2017 coming to a close, many have to taken the opportunity to reflect on noteworthy exhibitions from the past year. But why not have a look back and see what past years had to offer as well? We’ve collected writings from the ARTnews archives about some of the best and most noteworthy art from 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. (In most cases, the editors didn’t name best shows, so we’ve picked the exhibitions at our own discretion.) Below, excerpts from our archives about some of the best art from years past, from the inaugural Society of Independent Artists exhibition to the first “Young British Artists” show at the Saatchi Collection in London. —Alex Greenberger

100 Years Ago

“Exhibitions on Now: America’s First Art Salon”
By James B. Townsend
April 14, 1917

The much heralded and long anticipated first annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in its planning and scope modeled upon the comparatively old and famous Salon des Artistes Independents (Salon of the Independents) of Paris is now on to May 6 on the first floor of the Grand Central Palace at Lexington Ave and 46-47 Sts.

It is difficult indeed to give any adequate idea of the huge display which contains some 2,500 pictures and a few sculptures—the pictures placed according to alphabetical order without any reference to harmony of tone or color or subject—and the sculptures as it were “thrown in”—but the exhibition—the “biggest thing of its kind,” “ever pulled off” in this country is necessarily one of quantity—not quality. It is an “olla podrida,” a “salmagundi,” a “bouillabaisse” or to ape “Billy Sunday” with whose coming show seems to accord—a “Church Fair Oyster Stew”—a “Plum Duff” pudding, in which one may find here and there an art oyster or raisin of merit. . . .

Cheek by jowl with the work of the Academicians and Associates hangs that of Matisse, Picabia, Picasso, Duchamp-Villon, Signac, and other advanced foreigners and such of their followers and fellows as Stella, Max Weber, Samuel Halpert, Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, John Marin, Alfred Maurer, Walter Pach, Morton L. Schamberg, John Sloan, Carlo Springhorn, Alfred Stieglitz, Clara Tice, Villon, Walkowitz, and the Zorachs—representative of the various movements and divisions of the “Modernists,” the “New Art,” the “Cubists,” “Futurists,” “Neo-Impressionists,” etc., etc. But while there is enough and to spare of these latter day manifestations there are few sensational productions, few freakish arrangements, no panels built up with wire and glass, no “Nudes Descending Staircases,” in short no array as that of the never-to-be-forgotten “Armory Show.”

Leonardo Copies Edition

Photographer Nan Goldin writes, in the pages of Artforum, that she became addicted to OxyContin after a surgery in Berlin several years ago, but is now clean. She has started a group called P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) that aims to pressure the Sackler family, and their company, Purdue Pharma, which has sold the drug, “to use their fortune to fund addiction treatment and education.” Goldin adds, “To get their ear we will target their philanthropy. They have washed their blood money through the halls of museums and universities around the world.” [Artforum]


In case you missed it in the rush to the holidays: the latest episode of Call Your Ball Friends, a video series in which “women artists shoot hoops and discuss art,” features Wendy White, who notes that “there’s a lack of images of women in painting, in art, and there’s also a lack of documentation of female athletes.” White talks about her art and tennis great Billie Jean King, and nets some balls. [Call Your Ball Friends/YouTube]

A clarification: last week we told you that the Hammer Museum is looking to audition dancers to perform a Tino Sehgal piece. That is a paying gig, not a volunteer one as previously stated. The auditions are Friday. [Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi‏/Twitter]

Public Art

A neon sculpture of a uterus, created by Zoe Buckman and commissioned by the Art Production Fund, will go on view outside the Standard in Hollywood, on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Sweetzer Avenue, next month. “I find Sunset Strip to be objectification overload, with all these advertising images and movie billboards of young women not only promoting the same standards of beauty but also images that can be quite sexually violent,” Buckman told the New York Times. [The New York Times]


Now that his two-year ban from managing outside capital is over, art collector and hedge-funder Steve Cohen is back in the game. Cohen, whose previous firm pleaded guilty to securities fraud and paid a $1.8 billion fine, is managing around $3 billion to $4 billion worth of client money with his new firm, Bloomberg reports, as well as his own fortune, which is estimated to be more than $10 billion. [Bloomberg]

The Art Newspaper reports that, ever since that Leonardo sold for $450.3 million at Christie’s in New York, three Russian brothers, Semjon, Eugen and Michael Posin, who make copies of Old Masters for paying customers have received a spike in requests for works by the artist. “An authentic copy of the Salvator Mundi in the original size, framed, on a wooden panel with cracks and patina, would cost around €10,000,” Eugen tells the paper. That’s only about $12,000. [The Art Newspaper]

Hands-on Art

Participatory art seemed to be everywhere in 2017, with artists asking viewers to become chess pieces, stick stickers on walls, and rip hunks of clay out of sculpture. Why the omnipresence of the form? Perhaps it is that, in this screen-filled world, artists and institutions are aiming to return to tactile, physical experiences to put us back in our bodies. A less generous read might be that they are engineering encounters that beg to be documented and shared on social media, filtering out onto all those screens. Whatever the reason, there was a lot to do in 2017. Below, a list of ten memorable moments from the year in participatory art.

1. Urs Fischer x Katy Perry, Bliss, at 39 Spring Street in New York
All who entered had a chance to take a chunk out of Katy Perry’s head as embodied by an Urs Fischer sculpture that, in its conception, recalls his Rodin replica, The Kiss, seen at Art Basel this past summer. The difference here? Once whittled away, the first layer of white oil-based modeling clay that covered Bliss revealed a rainbow of colors. It seemed that people were just as excited about defacing Perry’s face as they were ready to decorate the walls. Names, abstract shapes, animals, and no small amount of phallic imagery was flung upon any surface within reach. The most blissful part of Bliss, however, was not the giant clay sculpture of the pop star—it was the soft light that emanated from the ceiling, casting a serene glow on the artists who took up residence for just a few moments.

2. Yayoi Kusama, The Obliteration Room, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
You may have seen this polka-dotted room as a part of the artist’s 2015 Give Me Love show at David Zwirner in New York. Upon entry to the Hirshhorn iteration, guests were given a sheet of colorful circle-shaped stickers to affix to anything in the space, including themselves. “The Obliteration Room” was both the opportunity to fantasize about a whimsically chaotic apartment—a scattered interior designer’s dream—and a way to bring visitors into conversation with one another as they dotted surfaces together. Characteristic of many of Kusama’s polka-dotted pieces, the room demonstrated the power of dots as a connecting force where collective participation yielded a frenzied, multicolored abyss.

3. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (The Drop) at the Performa Biennial
Here is what happened when I attended Barbara Kruger’s Performa 17 piece Untitled (The Drop). First, I purchased a $5 ticket to wait in a line that led to a showroom with hoodies, hats, T-shirts, and skateboards. Each item had a Kruger statement styled in her recognizable red/white Futura Bold text. Several SoHo hypebeasts passed by the line and asked what everyone was waiting to buy. Some who lined up seemed to think that Barbara Kruger was Supreme. Countless participants exited the shop carrying skateboard decks. How many, one wondered, knew how to skate? Once I reached the front of the line, I was informed that I would have five minutes to shop. The grand finale: experiencing the joys of capitalism while buying a $45 beanie with the text “Want it Buy it Forget it.” The experience was too perfectly full-circle to complain. I like to imagine Kruger was in disguise across the street, smirking at the whole thing.

Museum Groups Slam La Salle University’s

La Salle University in Philadelphia sent out word on Tuesday that it plans to sell more than 40 works from its art museum, including pieces by Ingres, Thomas Eakins, Matisse, and Alex Katz. The sell-off through Christie’s—which is estimated to raise between $4.8 million and $7.3 million for use in educational programs, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which first reported the news—marks a break with professional guidelines that typically allow museums to deaccession work only to benefit its collection.

Not surprisingly, the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors today released a joint statement saying that they “are strongly opposed” to the plan by the school, which has faced financial hardship in recent years.

“College and university art museums have a long and rich history of collecting, curating, and educating in a financially and ethically responsible manner on par with the world’s most prestigious institutions,” the statement says. “A different governance structure does not exempt a university museum from acting ethically, nor permit them to ignore issues of public trust and use collections as disposable financial assets.”

The move comes as a messy legal battle continues in Massachusetts over whether the Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield, is allowed sell off 40 works, including two prime Norman Rockwell paintings, in the hopes of raising upwards of $50 million to bolster its finances, renovate its home, and refocus its mission. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which has voiced concerns about that initiative, has said that it will complete its investigation of the matter by the end of the month.

La Salle’s proposal recalls Brandeis University’s attempt in 2009 to sell off works from its Rose Art Museum in an effort to raise money for the school’s operations and endowment in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. That plan faced stiff opposition from the arts community and accompanying legal challenges, and was later scrapped.
Today’s statement from the AAM and the AAMD comes a day after the Association of Art Museum Curators voiced its opposition to the move, writing, “This decision goes against fundamental best practices of museums, the very standards that have built and shaped the country’s tradition of establishing and preserving art collections for the public trust.”

“We are in conversation with La Salle University about their plans,” the statement continues, “and we remain hopeful that the university leadership will reconsider their decision.”
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