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Fri, Dec 30, 2016
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Travails of an art advisor 3Q16

The unveiling of German artist Katharina Grosse’s lyrical Rockaway!, presented by MoMA PS1 at Fort Tilden, New York, was the first of the highlights of summer. Curated by MoMA PS1 Director Klaus Biesenbach, Grosse’s vibrantly-colored reimagining of the site’s decayed aquatics beach-pavilion will have a beautiful afterlife until the structure, unsound since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, is demolished at the end of 2016.

Shortly after this festive July beach party, Norah and Norman Stone hosted a festive gala in their Calistoga home where they had just finished installing a new collection in their famous “art cave.” All eyes were on Josephine Pryde’s The Hungry Messenger (2015), a model train snaking through the installation and drawing adults as well as children (even Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul took a ride). The Stones are known for their brilliant collections in Calistoga, near San Francisco, and in their Pacific Heights city home.

This was also the moment to check out San Francisco’s new SFMoMA, just reopened after a substantial addition by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta to the original Mario Botta building. This much-needed new space was made possible by the largest bequest ever. Don and Doris Fisher, founders of The Gap, donated their 1,100 works of modern and contemporary art in 2010, after which the museum raised the funds for the extension. Leaving Botta’s original entry and front intact, the seamlessly fluid extension houses the Fisher collection and its dazzling highlights, rich collections of work by Gerhard Richter and Ellsworth Kelly among others.

The just-opened building at the Berkeley Art Museum across the bay beckoned me next. Designed by Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which also designed The Broad contemporary art museum founded by Eli and Edythe Broad in downtown Los Angeles, this beautiful new building at BAMPFA replaces the fantastic Brutalist design of Mario J. Ciampi. Sadly, that 1970 structure could not be brought up to earthquake safety codes.

Late July I had to attend the board meeting of Manifesta 12 in Palermo which gave me the chance to visit Duomo di Monreale just outside the city with my friend Andrea Parlato. The 12th-century cathedral is the most glorious example of the island’s unique mix of Norman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture. Looming over everything is the gigantic Christ Pantocrator, draped in a blue robe, but a closer look reveals hundreds of scenes from the old testament rendered in intricate mosaic inlay. It’s definitely worth a trip if you’re in the city — and a good opportunity will be the 12th edition of Manifesta. The Fall 2018 event will be curated from an urban perspective by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli of OMA architects, with the office’s founder Rem Koolhaas, and three other co-curators. I will keep you posted as the time nears.

August flew by before I knew it and in September I was back in New York, admiring the work of Eddy Peake at Jeffrey Deitch’s newly-reclaimed space at 18 Wooster Street, Soho. In this new performance, Peake explores the rites and anxieties of contemporary sex- and club-life. Whether the piece addresses these questions successfully was unclear, but Peake definitely brought a great many opinions to the surface. What was certain that the artist rendered a visually flawless and seductive presentation.

At the MoMA retrospective It’s All True, my eyes were opened to the mind-blowingly beautiful work of Bruce Conner’s early years. Though I was familiar with his seminal film Crossroads (1976), in which he brought the detonation of a nuclear bomb at the Bikini archipelago to a virtual halt, his earlier work — intricate collages full of darkness, angst and rejection – was new to me and predates the work of Edward Kienholz work by a decade. Conner says: “My work is described as beautiful, horrible, hogwash, genius, maundering, precise, quaint, avant-garde, historical, hackneyed, masterful, trivial, intense, mystical, virtuosic, bewildering, absorbing, concise, absurd, amusing, innovative, nostalgic, contemporary, iconoclastic, sophisticated, trash, masterpieces, etc. It’s all true.” Conner’s films from that early period have an explosively radical critical view not found today. Our near future may call for similarly penetrating analyses; I hope young artists take Conner as a guiding light.
More later …