I did my best to sit in front of the artist with the appropriate seriousness.
But when she lifted up her eyes, Marina didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic.
I felt like a forgotten lump of clay on a sculpture stand, half dry, and not very enticing, so that after a little consideration the artist finally decides not to use it.
I felt like another mile in the endless journey of a truck driver.
I thought of Marina’s performance as a living illustration of the philosophical concept of how Art looks back at us.
Was Marina hypnotizing me ? I became incredibly relaxed and felt a tremendous urge to sleep.
Images of the full MOMA collections were flying by in my head, along with highlights from the Prado and never-shown pieces from the Louvre reserve.
I watched black and white 16mm footage of early seventies performances, when girls in the audience wore printed miniskirt, and men with wide ties on fitted white shirts, spectacles and long beards, similar to those of today, but with outstanding genuineness.
I was woken up by a nightmarish vision of Marina’s « Dragon Heads », a series of pieces where she had big snakes all around her face.
How long had I slept ? Many of the visitors were in awe.
Walking out, I passed in front of a group of people who seemed offended. In doubt, I apologized for possibly snoring.
It was not without anxiety that I went to « The Artist Is Present », Marina Abramovic’s exhibit at MOMA.
I had always feared that performance art would require a lot of patience, or specialized knowledge, like the kind needed to understand some japanese dances. And I’ve got this big book on Feminist Art with photographs of performances I’m glad to never have endured.
What to expect from a woman who, since the Seventies, has constantly exposed herself to danger, disgust or boredom, played with sex and Death? This morning, a friend remarked that Art is always about Death, but it’s one thing to do a gloomy painting, and another to cut yourself with knives, hold snakes, and scrub skeletons.
On a happy Spring Saturday afternoon, I finally joined a peaceful crowd of tourists and Art lovers at the museum.
On first entering the Marron Atrium, I saw Marina in her red gown. It was stunning.
She was sitting alone, her face in her hands, with the facing chair unoccupied. Standing on the perimeter of the rectangular area, visitors were silently looking, in awe, as if witnessing the last moments of a saint or a beloved outer space queen.
I personally felt sorry for Marina, that nobody would dare sit in the empty chair. Summoning my courage, I considered walking up to the table so that, at the very least, the artist wouldn’t be present for nothing.
But before I could commit, a short plump woman slipped in, moving with less noise than if she had been walking in her socks, and was already in the chair.
She was sitting stiffly, her feet firmly on the ground, her hands flat on her knees, with an expression of calm submission and awareness, as if attending an examination, or a yoga class for the first time.
Marina still had her face in her hands. Was she asleep ? Or in profound pain ? Or intolerably bored with the museum institution, or the idea of « Art » itself ? I sensed she might suddenly stand up, kick her chair, slap the participant’s face, and leave, never to return.
Instead, she slowly lifted up her head, and started to gaze at the woman.
Walking to the other side of the perimeter, I realized that what I had originally taken for a more condensed group of viewers was, in fact, a line. It’s not because Performance Art is imbued with the spirit of Seventies happenings, that there was no order here. Or maybe it was adapted to today’s standards of order. More likely, it was part of the ceremony and constraints within which the visitor was invited to take part. I asked for confirmation from a tall brunette in a very Salinger pale green dress, who was writing in a notebook.
Helen was an Art student in Maryland, and she had indeed been in line for 2 and a half hours.
– Are you afraid? I asked.
– Afraid ?… No. Well, I guess, yes, a little bit.
– I think it’s very brave!
Because who knows what’s going to happen, once one is left alone with his inner self under imaginary scrutiny?
In the distance, opposite to the person facing Marina, was photographer Marco Anelli. He sat behind a telephoto lens, similar to those used to capture wildlife, or celebrities sunbathing on a private island.
He has been documenting the performance since it began, and clocks the same hours as Marina. All his close-ups of participants are on the exhibit website, and it’s the most astonishing body of work.
A strange collection of faces, some illuminated, some in tears, some lost in the void, and a few trying to aggressively dominate. There’s even a priest (one wonders if he is mentally exorcizing the artist), a bewildered child, and a woman wearing a veil, so only her eyes can be seen (was she trying to say something?).
I pointed out to Helen that the people seated in front of Marina always mimicked her position. Although there was no rule clearly stated, it seemed not to have crossed anyone’s mind to slouch on the minimalist wooden chair.
While this made the art student slightly smile, I left her to her upcoming experience with the artist, and went to speak with Marco.
I was curious to know if he was taking pictures randomly or instead, choosing the moment. He said he usually waited at least 10 minutes. Then, he explained, people’s faces changed, something was unleashed and revealed.
In the meantime, the line has reduced. Soon it was my turn. I walked to the chair, and my heart beating, I sat down.
Somewhat less torturous Charles Burchfield graphite drawings are on view at the nearby D’Amelio Terras Gallery.
Hunting rubber boots, worn in various colors, brought a cheerful note to the dark mood of the day.
Melting snow left a handful of Art Lovers stranded on slouchy snow banks with little chance of rescue from gallery assistants.
Ironic wiring in a Banks Violette installation at Gladstone – a sculpture which somehow formally echoed my hat. Being in a mundane state of mind, I wondered how one could vacuum between the wires without messing up the piece.
« Band of Bikers » at Zieher Smith presents a hundred fading 1970s snapshots of gay bikers found by the gallery owner in his building basement, among the discarded belongings of a recently deceased tenant.
I wonder where Hell’s Angel cap went.
Damien Hirst is one of those rare artists who once in a while produces an artwork that gains more instant awe than that of a new Ferrari parked on the street.
And he is one of the few artists today who challenge Money and Power with means that speak at equal level to the most wealthy and powerful.
A master of Vanitas, he always find entertaining ways to remind the viewer of Death, or that diamonds, no matter how many or big, are nothing.
“Judgement Day,” a thirty-foot long gold cabinet filled with 30,000 manufactured diamonds, is an ironic slap in the face of the shallow, while a consolation for the broke.
Ancient Greek philosophers — and more recently, psychedelic gurus — used the same rhetoric to one-up kings and rich merchants, but somehow with less efficiency than an entire shark, or a bull’s head, submerged in formaldehyde solution.
The exhibition is called “End of an Era.” I don’t know if it refers to some political or financial analyses about the end of our era, or if it states that a particular body of Damien’s own work, had come to an end.
Although the opening was on a Saturday, the uptown gallery (limos waiting outside) was buzzing with famous artists and important people.
The only way to know if somebody was less well-known was to see if he was taking pictures of others. Come to think of it, a lot of people were actually taking pictures of each other, like at an entrance of a Fashion show.
Damien was surrounded by people asking for autographs and handing to him various books or objects to be signed. A skateboarder even had a Damien dots new skateboard signed. I couldn’t see if he drew a big skull on it, as he did for some others of his fans.
A simple post-it signed by Damien
It turned out that the only discreet viewer was the real rock star, Mick is in a dark crewneck sweater worn under a navy suit. Why does he looks so cool ? Of course, he has seen it all, even Jean-Luc Godard filming the Rolling Stones recording “Sympathy to the Devil.” But while “One+One” could have been the coolest documentary, JLD got carried away by vanity, French intellectualism, or some girlfriend’s advice, and added all these revolutionary theories sequences that required so much coffee for the viewer.
Unlike Damien’s works.
A few months ago I was taken to a little party at Tom Sachs‘studio by my friend Glenn.
We were greeted by Tom, wearing desert fatigue and his signature grey t-shirt. If you didn’t know it was him, his name was handwriten on a piece of tape stuck on his chest: Tom. He then wrote our names on tape –Unknown for me- and stuck them on our jackets. Everybody had his name written on tape, like a convention.
If you’d never been to Tom’s studio, it’s 30% hardware store, 60% Art gallery, and the remaining 10%, a miscelleneous mix of accounting, archives and research. The hardware space also includes a small kitchen with a lot of funny signs on the fridge, cornflakes, bananas on a plate, etc..,which could make it all an installation piece that could be sold at Gagosian, except that it’s a real kitchen, meaning a working one. At least, it looks like one. Everything else in this room was also funny, and almost endless fun to look at: Tom’s tools, Tom’s chainsaws, Tom’s cameras, and Tom’s classic Hello Kitty sculptures on a shelf.
I had went there many years before, also taken by Glenn when, I remember, only the hardware space existed. It was for the launch party for Tom’s Chanel guillotine. People were drinking and talking, not paying that much attention to the life-size guillotine with the famous fashion house logo. Then Tom brought a pork roast he had cooked, and placed it where you were supposed to put your head when you were given a death sentence. Tom pulled on a rope to release the knife and it came down with a brief and sinister whistle that not only cut the roast, but the metal tray on which it was presented. I remember juice splashing on people around it, particularly on a romantic, pale, and dark haired young woman, dressed in 1930’s vintage who looked like she could be a poet, or at least someone with a tormenting interest in the Art world.
Shortly after this semi-private event, Tom’s work became more and more famous, while Chanel celebrity remained more or less the same.
At this recent party, we found out that the studio has a basement, where unused parts and remains of installations are stacked along the walls. Tom had also installed a make-shift bowling lane, and a few guest were playing.
It made the same thundering noise when the ball rolled and hit the pins, just like a real bowling.
I gave it a try, and when throwing the wooden ball, I realized it was metaphor for artistic success: bowling over the Art world !
Although I never play bowling, I knocked over all the pins on my first attempt.
– Is bowling big in France ? asked me Andy.
Andy playing bowling
Will with his bakery apron and “Candy Clouds” painting.
Will Cotton is a painter, and when he is not making his voluptuous and airy paintings he bakes delicious sweets and cakes, which transformed the viewer in an eater–able at least to satisfy his desire to be locked in the Ice Cream Cavern, bite into a candy cloud (or the irresistible tender parts of a pale model), by bringing home a real meringue or a pink macaron.
For this purpose, he has set a pop-up bakery in the back of Partners and Spade.
Rose and all the aids were wearing funny diadems
I know many tedious installation artists who, if they’d indulge themselves in doing something else, would rather built a mock-up hardware store in a museum space and sell nails and bolts. The more theorical ones would install a video recording studio, where viewers would be encouraged to tell shameful stories.
The more socially and polically concerned artists would forced visitors to sip a full bowl of a soup made with heterogeneous ingredients ten thousand viewers from various communities would have been invited to bring.
An emanciated, successful young artist from east London, with feverish eyes, dark long hair, and an animal skin dress would lead a taxidermy workshop, with birds and mice found in an abandoned barn covered with graffiti.
And think of the Art some full-time patissiers would do… Gloomy neo-expressionism? Post-Koons? Naïve-Peyton? One thing is sure, the most hazardous attempts would be if they tried to imitate Will…
(Will Bakery is up on 2 more Sundays, November 15th and 22nd)
It was at the Take Home a Nude benefit auction that I came accross Greg Lauren’s work: an oil-on-paper, 3-dimensional jacket with tie and shirt that stand alone in the middle of the Sotheby’s exhibition room.
Greg is outstandingly handsome for an artist – as an actor, he would never been cast to play one- but what intrigued me most was the jacket he was wearing. Something that looked like a ragged blanket with a stream cut, and scraps of paper and various material sewn onto the fabric like a collage piece.
I went to visit him a few days later at his gallery space at the corner of Wooster and Grand. A place that I immediately identified from a distance a month ago as an upcoming Yohji store, with half opened crates, and mostly black silhouettes.
It’s also where Greg had set up his studio, surrounded by a forest of mannequins bearing his works.
The various style paper jackets and coats evoked the remains of an abandonned house, where clothes left hanging have been dried in the shape of the wearers who have long ago vanished. Upon closer inspection, some pieces have a darker, battered and stepped-over texture, with faded comics colors slightly appearing from underneath, as if they had been unearthed from a junkyard.
In a general way our clothes determine us, and will survive long after: no matter if it’s a dude’s long gone plaid shirt from Uniqlo or a guitar hero’s leather fringed jacket.
Only a very few of us has the power to influence their own clothes.
Greg also does real jackets that can be worn. But they are more like art pieces that can be worn. There is a “Paris jacket” with sewn-on torn euro bills. Or the “Mistake jacket” with the Mistake explanation hand-written inside on a piece of paper. I’m not obsessed by practical details, but I brought this up to Greg: How do you clean them? You can’t. You don’t bring an art piece to the cleaner, or wash it yourself. You keep it as it is.
I like the idea of never cleaning the fabric, so it gets even more personalized by stains and time. Like a hipster.
I took these snapshots at an opening a month ago at Gavin Brown enterprise .
“Europaïsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft” (please double check the gallery web site for the exact spelling) featured 3 European artists, among them, Ida Ekblad, an artist from Oslo.
Ida is pretty, and speaks with a slightly hoarse voice which reminds you that none only she’s a poet but also a sculptor, working with metal parts she gathered from junkyards. For me the sculptures evoke, in their colors, early Chamberlains from when the cars were painted in pale blues, off-whites, beiges and yellows (which looks great with rust).
Ida was wearing big headphones around her neck, so there was no pressure to engage her in conversation. If you said something uninteresting or dull she could just listen to her music.
Other works by Ida can also be seen at The Journal Gallery, in Brooklyn.
Fashion note: the denim jacket worn by this viewer works perfectly with the wool.
I love surfing.
If you paddle a little further than the other surfers, beyond the breaking line, not only will it keep you away from the harsh competition, but it also leave you plenty of time to read, think, or simply do nothing.
And at the end of the day, when everybody’s gone, you just catch a wave back to the shore.
It’s upon my return to civilization that, looking at the Purple Diary, I realized all that happened when I was surfing.
While Terry was busy shooting a Pirelli calendar, Olivier was kissing more girls in a night than most people in their entire life. And he was also taking hundreds of new photographs of the sexy Natacha Ramsay in unexpected locations.
And this is how I learned about the death of Dash Snow, the fantastic artist with a fantastic name.
Before I read Glenn’s beautiful eulogy, I only knew of Dash from pictures in a 2008 issue of Purple.
Even the hipsters I questioned at the time were uncertain when it came to describing Dash’s work. Some said he was doing Polaroids. Others that he was handsome : « You have no idea with the beard, but he is incredibly handsome ! »
But even if you haven’t seen his collages or anything else, you could tell he was a true artist by these photographs, just like when you see a picture of Marcel Duchamp playing chess, Jackson Pollock putting own his paint-dripped shoes, or Picasso proudly standing in his briefs.
The effect is the same of Dash choosing an LP, drinking a beer in bed, or wearing a dress.
For this is how one knows he is confronting a real artist : when you feel a little square or slightly overcautious !
By the way, on my last day of surfing, I flooded my ipod while listening to « Perfection as a Hipster », by God Help The Girl.
The Venice Biennale is to the Art World what Milan is to the Fashion crowd. The romantic types should stay away, the company of heavy-weight collectors, ego-maniac artists and cynical critics is not for the faint-hearted. Not to mention the harsh competition between secondary market hipsters of all kind. I toughened myself weeks ago with special combat training and meditation. The programme includes mental visualisation of forcing entry to exclusive events, and surviving skills like grabbing cocktail food in hostile environment, and of course sleeping at the occasional crash-pad.
First, I wanted to drop by the French Pavilion to see what the great Claude Lévêque, author of the well known hilarious neon writing « je suis une merde » had planned for the national representation. But I decided to wait a few more days before visiting the more ascetic Bruce Nauman at the US Pavilion.
I was trying to concentrate on the Liam Gillick’s installation at the German space when I got disturbed by a woman talking loudly on the phone about what she was going to wear that night to François’s.
It irks me I had no invitation for the most sought after event : the opening of the Punta Della Dogana, the place François Pinault had founded to house parts of his immense collection and exhibit it to the public.
I didn’t get discouraged by the fact that more than a thousand influential people and Art lovers had received invitations but me, and once in my best attire, I tried to hail a water taxi.
Unfortunately, all the decent boats had been reserved for the invited guests.
I finally ran into a protesting artist, who in the manner of the artist Swoon had assembled various trash pieces into a floating barge. After negotiating a 150 € “suggested donation”, he accepted to take me on board. Although the crossing to the Giudecca normally takes a few minutes, we got caught in traffic on the Grand Canal, my shoes flooded and my pants washed by waves from the celebrities’ speed boats rushing by.
We choose to dock behind the buffet, a place that seemed most discreet. Alarmed by the giant black flag floating above our embarkation, or perhaps in fear of a sea-food risotto shortage, a guest fiercely ejected me back to the sea. I recognized Marc, and begged for hospitality. Although I had been refused entrance by a young arrogant P.R. assistant at her last show in Paris, Stella personally helped me up the pier, and handed me a welcoming glass of prosecco.
– So, how’s Tadao’s work ? I asked, Does it look good ?
But my new friends had disappeared, trapped in a crowd of admirers.
Spotting our host alone, I rushed to him, thinking it was good timing to greet him before the party takes off.
– ” Thank you for collecting so much Art,” I told him. “And this Punta is a really cool…”
– “Would you mind stepping back ?” a staff member interrupted me, “there are photographers at work behind you.”
There was a line to enter the Dogana. But once in, only the lonely were looking at the Art. I spent a long time studying « Fucking hell », the monumental Jack and Dinos Chapman masterpiece. An older man, dressed like a priest, was one of the rare visitors, like me, to show more interest in the works displayed than in watching tycoons and super-models.
– “Are you wearing Alexander McQueen ?” I asked.
– “No, it’s vintage Comme,” he replied dryly.
It turned out he was a real cardinal. His position, he admitted, made him a frequent invite to this kind of event.
– I suppose the Art world considers me a potential client, he said.
– Why do you think contemporary Art is usually based on jokes ? I asked.
– Well, life’s a joke, buddy, the serious bit comes after.
And he slapped my back. I was quite shaken, and went wandering in the next rooms.
There were rumors of a dinner hosted by Angela Missoni, in honor of (the less ascetic than I thought) Bruce Nauman, on a yacht. Following the crowd, I befriended a drunk oligarch who wanted to talk about his own collection.
– “I got them all,” he bragged, “the guy who does the handbags ! the nurse painter ! all of them !”
He was on the list, and we got on board together. The yacht was packed with the most beautiful girls, all shoeless so as not to harm the precious wood deck, which gives them a particular unusual dreamy coolness, but I intended to have at least one serious Art conversation and headed first to the celebrated artist.