George Lindemann Journal - "Confectionary Overload" @wsj by Peter Plagens

George Lindemann Journal - "Confectionary Overload" @wsj by Peter Plagens

'Play-Doh' (2014) Jeff Koons/Photo by Ron Amstutz

New York

You can give the Whitney Museum's Jeff Koons retrospective due diligence in about 35 minutes. Without pausing for the wall texts and explanatory labels (which read like advertising copy), that amounts to 10 minutes per floor plus a little orientation time in the basement café level to look at posters for Mr. Koons's early exhibitions, where his shtick of trumping Andy Warhol with slickness and production values first caught the public's attention.

Jeff Koons:

A Retrospective

Whitney Museum

Of American Art

Through Oct. 19

The beginning and end of the show contain the good stuff. The vitrined vacuum cleaners, such as "New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; Doubledecker" (1987), lighted à la Frankenstein from beneath, exude a harsh morbidity. "Play-Doh," a technical and aesthetic masterpiece of conjoined, painted aluminum parts 10 feet tall and weighing more than five tons, mimics a random pile of the kids' playstuff, and took from 1994 until this year to realize. It's a better Claes Oldenburg than many Oldenburgs.

Otherwise, the exhibition has, as Dave Hickey once said about Las Vegas, lots to see but nothing to look at. It consists of approximately 150 objects, ranging from (early period) framed Nike basketball posters and dime-store inflatable flowers; to (middle period) enlarged porcelain replicas of Bavarian-American kitsch statuary such as Buster Keaton astride a tiny pony; (turning point and nadir) X-rated "Made in Heaven" paintings of the artist having sex with an Italian pornstar, whom he subsequently married; and (comeback and late period) very expensively produced and defiantly shiny sculpture such as a giant candy-box heart and a thyroidal, hideously blue metallic enlargement of a kitsch copy of a Renaissance Venus. You go through the show feeling like you're eating cotton candy on the boardwalk. You leave the show feeling you've eaten entirely too much cotton candy on the boardwalk.

The real subject of the exhibition, however, is not Mr. Koons's bright, empty, perhaps ironic and ultimately numbing art, but his persona. Or rather, the mystery of it. Make no mistake: Mr. Koons is and has always been a very nervy fellow, willing to risk his bank account (considerable now, but empty after the "Made in Heaven" fiasco and an awful custody battle over the son from that marriage) and what one critic calls his "fan base" (a peculiarly appropriate term regarding a serious modern artist) with every deadpan-titled series, from "Celebration" to "Banality" to "Easyfun."

Mr. Koons is nervy and cool enough, in fact, to have in effect played, for 25 years or so, a kind of character common to early television situation comedies. The loud, madcap Lucille Ball played somebody known as "Lucy Ricardo," the loud, madcap wife of a Latino nightclub headliner, "Ricky Ricardo" (played by her real-life husband Desi Arnaz). Closer to Mr. Koons's modus operandi, Bob Cummings played a bon vivant commercial photographer named "Bob Collins," who viewers assumed was pretty close in personality to Mr. Cummings himself. The few times I interviewed Mr. Koons, and every time I've heard him speak in public or in a video—in that voice that seems to emanate from HAL 9000 giving a Chamber of Commerce presentation—I could easily believe that he's really an actor named, say, Jeff Cook, playing in a sitcom about an artist named "Jeff Koons" who truly believes that a saccharine but military-industrial-grade Pop Art redux is the path to a contemporary Renaissance, not to mention the healing of our national psyche.

Mr. Koons is also nervy enough to occasionally subvert his bland Mister-Rogers-goes-to-the-Biennale manner. He nibbles—if not actually bites—the hand that's feeding him this great big exhibition, with an overlay component in a couple of his "Hunk Elvis" series paintings that a label tells us is a "marker drawing of a sailboat." It's also clearly a cartoon of female genitals similar to those of his ex-wife and sex partner in one particular "Made in Heaven" picture. And if the outsize, nauseatingly cute sculpture "Cat on a Clothesline" (2001) isn't a mocking crucifix, then none of those statues in any of the world's Catholic churches are sincere ones. There's no reason for the daisies on either side of the piece other than to extend the horizontal clothesline so that it and the sock in which the kitten resides form a cross. And the clothespins are an obvious metaphor for nails.

While Mr. Koons's "Bob Collins" equivalent isn't afraid to put the museological parallel to a TV network at risk of a little embarrassment, the Whitney does a fair job of embarrassing itself in the show's wall texts. The museum credits Mr. Koons's every stylistic move with the profundity of a Richard Rorty philosophical tome. The text concerning Mr. Koons's mid-'80s small, stainless-steel sculpture series simply called "Statuary" (which includes a big-headed small figure of Bob Hope) says: "By transforming his lowbrow readymades into highbrow art and making his historical sources more contemporary, Koons achieved a kind of democratic leveling of culture. Taken together, the 'Statuary' works evoke a panoply of emotions and styles—melancholy or joy, realism or caricature—and demonstrate Koons's keen manipulation of ingrained ideas about art and taste."

You want to respond that nobody, but nobody, has yet democratically leveled culture, that we'll be the judge of what Mr. Koons's work evokes, thank you very much, and that "manipulating" an audience's allegedly ingrained ideas about taste is patronizing in the extreme.

The big question, of course, regards Mr. Koons's intentions in creating the garishly greeting-card and tourist-shop oeuvre that's been his stock in trade for more than two decades. If he means his art sincerely—no giggling into his shirt collar—then most of the works in this retrospective are, gigantism notwithstanding, as vapid, treacly and dumbed down as any of those Kate Middleton commemorative cups and saucers advertised in the supplements of middle-market American Sunday newspapers. A few art-world people I know think Mr. Koons is sincere. They think that even if he was snideness personified in his 1980s work, after "Made in Heaven" he saw the populist light and simply wants to make art that, as the artist himself has said, "is a support system for people to feel good about themselves."

I disagree. A mature artist does not acquire arrested development in taste unless somebody pours too much Everclear into his vernissage Sancerre, or an international art dealer clubs him over the head with a two-by-four and he wakes up experiencing a blissful epiphany about the sublime beauty of tchotchkes. No; once an artist is a wiseguy doing a love-hate sleight-of-hand with the artifacts of cheap popular culture, and follows that up with pulling the legs of art-world insiders by pretending to really like such artifacts, he's always going to be a wiseguy. The Jeff Koons who speaks in never ending bromides like "Wherever you come to with art, it's perfect" appears to me to be as much a created character—a work of performance art, you might say—as "Bob Collins" was.

Mr. Plagens is an artist and writer in New York.

"A Man, a Van, a Plan" @nytimes by Bob Morris

Moishe Mana and Eugene Lemay have turned a former factory and warehouse into an arts campus in Jersey City. Credit Emily Andrews for The New York Times                    


JERSEY CITY — A year after its opening, the Mana Contemporary arts complex, on 35 acres here, remains largely unknown to the artgoing public. So does the man for whom it’s named.

“So Moishe’s the man with a van and a plan?” asked Lisa Dennison, the chairwoman of Sotheby’s North and South America, who was impressed by the ambition of the space on a recent visit.

The Mana is for Moishe Mana. He owns Moishe’s Moving and Storage, a nationwide company, and when he suggested to Eugene Lemay, his trusted right hand of 30 years, that he wanted to get into the art storage business, Mr. Lemay insisted that art couldn’t be handled like furniture. But when he looked into it, he noticed that collectors were keeping millions of dollars’ worth of art in dungeonlike storage spaces. Why not build an entire arts complex where work would be stored so collectors could visit it and show it off?

Mr. Mana has since spent tens of millions of dollars building his conglomeration of profit and nonprofit spaces in a former factory and warehouse area near Journal Square. The complex occupies almost a million square feet — more than five Walmarts — and growing. It includes studios, galleries, a rehearsal space, a Middle Eastern art center and a museum of Richard Meier’s architectural models. Marina Abramovic will lead a performance piece using crowds there in October, and Jeffrey Deitch will organize an exhibition with the choreographer and dancer Karole Armitage in December.


Eugene Lemay, left, and Moishe Mana. Credit Emily Andrews for The New York Times

But because Mr. Lemay is the chief executive of Mana Contemporary, he is the one who is photographed and quoted at the organization’s many public events, not Mr. Mana, who is impish with a sunny spirit that may be a little unchecked for the art world.

“But I did study some art history in college in Tel Aviv,” he likes to tell people. “And I’m learning more and more about it every day. I just have to do more listening.”

And so, when Mr. Lemay speaks, Mr. Mana is all ears. Mr. Lemay is an artist. He became one in the early 1990s, about a decade after he started working for Mr. Mana, and his big, brooding canvases now show around the world. Mr. Mana is as proud as he is surprised that his associate is a creative success.

“I remember moving artists in the early days,” he was telling Mr. Lemay as he drove a black Mercedes sedan from Manhattan into the Holland Tunnel toward Jersey City for a recent art opening. “And when they said they couldn’t afford my rate, I told them if they couldn’t make a living from their art, then they should find real jobs and keep art as a hobby.”

Mr. Lemay, a pale man with a serious countenance, winced then laughed.

“Gene, you did exactly what I said,” Mr. Mana continued as he sat in tunnel traffic with the sanguine air of a man who has driven in far more stressful circumstances. “You couldn’t afford being an artist when you came to work for me, but you worked hard and now you can.”

Although Moishe’s Moving doesn’t air its financials, the company, the umbrella for a double octopus of 15 businesses — including real estate development; media; and wine, fashion and document storage — has an estimable net worth. Mana Contemporary has the added draw of both a foundry (it recently manufactured a Richard Serra model) and a high-end silk-screening operation, and Mr. Mana now has a similar venture in Chicago. In Miami, where Mr. Mana invested in a group of buildings covering five blocks, Mana will host an art fair to coincide with Art Basel in December.


“Gene is a person who takes on a lot,” Mr. Mana said. “And he never complains.”

Their company’s rough-and-tumble birth story involves, according to Mr. Mana, incidents like having a gun held to his head by the suspicious neighbor of a client and sleeping in a warehouse with a guard dog to keep it from being burned down by competitors.

“When John Gotti called, I told him to come and shoot me now,” said Mr. Mana, who at 56 still has smooth olive skin and a youthful stride. He arrived from Israel as a law school dropout. “For years,” he said, “it was only about survival.”

In Mr. Lemay, who shared an Israeli background, he found someone akin to a brother to help move furniture and then build a far-reaching empire.

“Our whole life we are one with each other,” Mr. Mana said.

For him, an art mecca is a lure for drawing inhabitants from across state lines to residences that he plans to develop into what he calls “TriBeCa West.” “New Jersey still has a stigma, but that is going to change,” he said.


The Mana Contemporary arts complex has been open for about a year and covers nearly a million square feet in Jersey City. Credit Emily Andrews for The New York Times

Their storage clients already include two of Manhattan’s most important art museums, the collection of the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation, and others. The complex typically shows several exhibitions at once, free to the public. Shows of Judy Chicago and Resnick are among those currently on display.

“If you build it, they will come,” Mr. Mana said as he pulled into his art center.

A chic crowd of 80 had gathered for an exposition of artists organized by Ray Smith, a resident artist, at Mana’s new Glass Gallery, one of the largest exhibition spaces in the country with 50,000 square feet of open space (nearly the size of a football field), with its interior designed by Mr. Meier. Guests for a private dinner at a mirrored banquet table roamed around looking at works for sale by artists including Julian Schnabel, Ai Weiwei and Alex Katz.

Most did not know the man behind the Mana was Moishe.

“That’s just beautiful,” said Yvonne Force Villareal, of the Art Production Fund.

And now, Ms. Dennison of Sotheby’s said, “all he has to do is figure out the Holland Tunnel traffic.” (The Journal Square PATH station is a 10-minute walk.)

Just before a speech by Ms. Abramovic about her fall 72-hour performance with 10,000 participants (moved in and out of six-hour sessions), and an announcement about Mr. Deitch’s exhibition from the archive of the in-residence Armitage Gone! Dance company, Mr. Mana stared at Mr. Lemay’s looming black canvas. It was about Mr. Lemay’s time in the Israeli Army. Under the canvas, a pile of rubble added to the feeling of devastation.

“It’s so dark and sad,” Mr. Mana said.

“I lost a lot of friends when I was in the military,” Mr. Lemay replied.

A silence passed between them. Then a smile lifted Mr. Mana’s face.

“I bet your next work will have flowers growing from all this darkness,” he said.

“Actually, I’m already doing that,” Mr. Lemay said.

Mr. Mana put his arm around Mr. Lemay and sighed

“See? We always think alike,” he said. “We are one.”

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "A Palace of Wonders" @ nytimes by Frank Rose

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "A Palace of Wonders" @ nytimes by Frank Rose

VARESE, Italy — The Lombardy region of northern Italy is known for its many “villas of delight” — the “ville di delizia” that aristocratic Milanese families built in the 17th and 18th centuries as summer escapes and settings for lavish entertainments. Varese, in the foothills of the Alps, was a magnet for these estates, several of which are clustered on the parklike hill of Biumo Superiore. At its crest sits the Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza, the most storied, thanks to its longtime owner, Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, the Milanese businessman whose adventurous tastes and ardent appetites made him one of the most important art collectors of the last century.

“It’s not bad,” admitted his daughter, Maria Giuseppina Panza di Biumo, a smile escaping her lips as our eyes swept across eight acres of topiary and fountains.

In 1996, more than a decade before his death at 87, Count Panza, as he was widely known in the art world, donated the estate and 167 of the 2,500 artworks he’d amassed to the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, Italy’s national trust, which opened it four years later as a museum. Normally on view are sculptures by Martin Puryear and Meg Webster, monochromatic paintings by such artists as Phil Sims and David Simpson, and site-specific works by Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin and James Turrell that Panza commissioned in the ’70s. But through Nov. 2, the villa is also hosting a small but powerful exhibition of works by Mr. Irwin and Mr. Turrell, pioneers of Southern California’s Light and Space movement, artists whose concern with the limits of perception appealed to Panza both aesthetically and intellectually.


Maria Giuseppina Panza di Biumo works as a curator at the Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza in Varese, Italy. Credit Claudio Bader for The New York Times

Called “Aisthesis: The Origin of Sensations,” the show takes its cue from the ancient Greek word for “feeling.” Esthesia, the ability to perceive, is the opposite of anesthesia, and this is what the exhibition is about: not admiring inanimate objects, but sensing afresh the world around us. Mr. Irwin and Mr. Turrell create a dialogue between illusion and reality that appealed to Panza — a somewhat stiff and cerebral figure — in ways that he himself may only gradually have appreciated.

Organized by Anna Bernardini, director of the Villa e Collezione Panza, and Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the exhibition comprises 19 works created from 1963 to 2013. Among them are two environments the artists returned to the villa to create last year: Mr. Irwin’s “Varese Scrim 2013,” translucent and serene, and Mr. Turrell’s “Sight Unseen,” an unsettlingly immersive installation that provokes a sense of wonder tinged with intimations of danger.

Occupying a former lemon house built in the early 19th century, “Varese Scrim 2013” consists of a mazelike series of white nylon panels that capture sunlight streaming in through tall, south-facing windows. It’s almost the inverse of the “Varese Scrim” he created for the villa 40 years earlier. That work, directly upstairs, transformed a windowless room by dividing it lengthwise with a white nylon panel that is all but indistinguishable from the walls. What appears to be a solid surface is in fact a screen that masks a void, creating a ghost room that exists in parallel with the room you can enter.


This understated questioning of the physical, so characteristic of his work, is present throughout the show. Two other works Mr. Irwin created in 1973, “Varese Window Room” and “Varese Portal Room,” use simple architectural elements to make subtle interventions in empty white rooms, adjusting our perception in a way that makes the real seem hyper-real. A tall acrylic column on the main floor of the villa refracts the sunlight streaming in, scattering rainbows across the room even as the column itself all but disappears.


Giuseppe Panza di Biumo in 2008. Credit Alessandro Zambianchi/Simply

The Turrells in the show are more assertive, sometimes to the point of aggression. “Shanta (Blue),” a 1967 piece never exhibited outside the artist’s studio, looks to be a glowing, three-dimensional blue box suspended in a corner of a darkened room; in fact, it’s completely immaterial, a projection of blue light. “Skyspace I,” one of the three works Mr. Turrell created for the villa in 1974, is a small room so saturated with natural and fluorescent light as to be blindingly white.

The first of more than 70 “skyspaces” Mr. Turrell has created, it prefigured “Aten Reign,” the otherworldly installation that occupied the rotunda of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York during last summer’s Turrell retrospective. But where the Guggenheim installation was vast and awe inspiring, “Skyspace I” is intimate and assaultive. It’s also modest compared to Mr. Turrell’s new installation at the villa, “Sight Unseen.” One of his “ganzfeld” (“total field”) pieces, this is an immersive and wildly disorienting environment designed to produce confusion and astonishment in equal measure.

Visitors experience the work in small groups for 10 minutes at a time. After signing a release (lawsuits have been filed over injuries sustained in other ganzfelds) and donning plastic bootees, you are ushered up a set of steps to what looks like an extremely large artwork on the wall. The guide steps through it, inviting you to do the same. Entering a large and seemingly boundless space suffused in white, you feel as if you have floated into a cloud — or you would feel that way if the floor weren’t sloping downward reminding you that gravity has not gone on holiday.

“Stop!” the guide says once you’re 25 or 30 feet in. “No farther.”


James Turrell’s new immersive installation “Sight Unseen,” which produces the feeling of floating inside a cloud. Credit Florian Holzherr

There seems to be an edge ahead, barely visible but suggesting a sharp drop. Then the light begins to shift, from an all-encompassing white to intense reds and blues. Now you feel as if you were deep within a Rothko, bathed in nonspecific spirituality. It would be nice to have a wall to lean against, but you can’t make one out. It’s important to remain upright, you tell yourself. You still have five or six minutes to go.

Giuseppe Panza di Biumo was the dutiful son of a Milanese wine merchant and real estate investor who had been granted a title by King Victor Emmanuel III. Young Giuseppe earned a law degree after World War II and went into the family business. But his first love was the villa, which his father had acquired in a run-down state in 1935. He fell in love with America on his initial visit to New York in 1954, and a few years after that, he discovered his greatest passion: art. Here in Varese, at the estate he once described as “a great, green space suspended between heaven and earth,” his three passions converged.

Panza — “He was never a count,” his daughter said, laughing, “but people liked to call him that” — focused his attention on American artists of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. He bought early and in depth, moving on to newer artists once the market caught up with his tastes. He installed many of the best pieces in the villa, to the befuddlement of friends and neighbors.

The white stucco mansion with its decorative plasterwork and 18th-century frescoes was not an obvious home for such work. Panza reveled not only in the juxtaposition but in all the space he had to fill.


The Panza exhibition includes Robert Irwin’s “Varese Portal Room” (1973). Credit A. Zambianchi/Simply

“He started collecting because he had this house,” said Ms. Panza, who is a curator there, along with her son and three other family members. “He wanted big things, because he had big spaces.”

Panza first encountered Mr. Irwin’s work in the late ’60s. He was fascinated by Mr. Irwin’s concern with perception and reality: how we think we perceive reality when what we perceive is in fact what we think reality to be. No sooner had he begun to grapple with this conundrum than he discovered Mr. Irwin was not alone in this pursuit. “Irwin told him, ‘You have to go to L.A.,’ ” Ms. Panza said. “There’s a group of artists who are working with light. It’s very important.”

Chief among them was Mr. Turrell. Under the auspices of an early Los Angeles County Museum of Art program, Mr. Irwin and Mr. Turrell had worked with a psychologist on sensory-deprivation environments, a forerunner of Mr. Turrell’s ganzfelds. Before long the two artists found themselves in Varese, transforming rooms above the stable into the site-specific environments you find there today.

As for Panza, he succeeded in transforming the hilltop estate once again into a villa of delight, though one this time conforming to his own definition.


Robert Irwin’s untitled acrylic column (2011) that refracts sunlight. Credit Philipp Scholz Rittemann; Robert Irwin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“My father was not very emotional,” Ms. Panza said as we walked back toward the first-floor family quarters, now open to the public as well. “He was more thoughtful.”

But the villa “was a place of recovery for him,” she explained. “It gave him breath and hope.”

Not always, however. In 1999, having concluded a series of deals that sent the bulk of his collection to the Guggenheim and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, he was overseeing a full restoration of the villa as both museums were preparing major Panza exhibitions. For an obsessive and a perfectionist, it was all a bit much. Perception may not be reality, but it’s the closest thing we know, and reality had to be just right. The stress led to a heart attack, and as he was recovering, he became overwhelmed with the realization of how much it all meant to him: the purchases, the intellectual discussions with artists, the art itself.

One day, he turned to his daughter, she recalled, and with surprise in his voice said, “I didn’t think emotions could influence so much our heart.”

“And I said, ‘Daddy....’ ”

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "In Santa Fe, An Art Space Reinvents the Biennial" @nytimes by Dawn Chan

George Lindemann Journal by George Lindemann "In Santa Fe, An Art Space Reinvents the Biennial" @nytimes by Dawn Chan

On view at Unsettled Landscapes the latest edition of SITE Santa Fes contemporary art biennial isPatrick Nagatanis Bida Hi  Opposite Views Northeast-Navaho Tract Homes and Uranium Tailings Southwest Shiprock New Mexico 1990  1993
On view at “Unsettled Landscapes,” the latest edition of SITE Santa Fe’s contemporary art biennial, is Patrick Nagatani’s “Bida Hi’ / Opposite Views; Northeast-Navaho Tract Homes and Uranium Tailings, Southwest Shiprock, New Mexico,” 1990 & 1993.Credit

Beginning tonight, the adobe walls of the art space SITE Santa Fe will house a re-creation of an illegal 19th-century New Mexico gambling den, complete with dealers staging rounds of the Spanish card game known as monte. Inspired by the casinos that cropped up during the 1830s New Mexican gold rush, it’s part of a multipronged piece by the artist Pablo Helguera, one of 45 artists in “Unsettled Landscapes,” the latest edition of SITE Santa Fe’s contemporary art biennial, opening this Sunday.

The biennial has built a cult following since its founding in 1995, thanks to its captivating Southwestern backdrop and brainy programming. (Previous curators included Dave Hickey, who soon after received a MacArthur “genius” grant.) After canceling the biennial two years ago, chief curator Irene Hofmann has rebooted it, with the goal of avoiding the cookie-cutter biennial approach that’s been “duplicated by the hundreds,” as Hofmann puts it. (These days, Dhaka, Singapore and even Bushwick, Brooklyn all have biennials.)

Liz Cohens Rio Grande 2012
Liz Cohen’s “Rio Grande,” 2012.Credit Courtesy of Salon 94, New York

In fact, SITE Santa Fe was an early pioneer of what’s become standard biennial practice: “hiring a star curator and bringing in the international art world,” in Hofmann’s words. The team hopes that its new endeavor, SITELines, can rejuvenate exhibition practices. Teams will replace solo curators and artists will get more time to make work. (Helguera spent the past two years developing his piece.)

SITELines will focus on the Americas. While organizing the show, Hofmann traveled everywhere from to Buenos Aires to Cuba. Another curator, Candice Hopkins, visited an artist in the Arctic Circle, in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. “She gets the prize for the most remote studio visit,” Hofmann says with a laugh. She explains that her decision to emphasize the Americas is interconnected with her life in Santa Fe. The a-ha moment came while driving on Highway 25, when she realized that a stretch of that route was also the Pan-American Highway — “a road which, in our romantic imaginings,” she says, “connects Alaska to Argentina.”

“Unsettled Landscapes” runs July 20 through Jan. 11, 2015 at SITE Santa Fe,

Mickalene Thomas: ‘Tête de Femme’

“Carla,” from 2014, by Mickalene Thomas. Credit 2014 Mickalene Thomas Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and Lehmann Maupin , New York and Hong Kong

With their asymmetrical eyes, sequin-adorned cheekbones and swipes of bright lipstick, the subjects of Mickalene Thomas’s new collage-paintings could be Picasso’s “Demoiselles” glammed up for a night at Studio 54.

Although these works make use of screen printing and seem destined to reproduce ad infinitum online (one smaller, square-shaped piece practically screams, “Instagram me!”), the artist has said that they are based on collages of Color-aid paper and other materials.

Armed with that knowledge, you might see this body of work as a back-to-basics moment for Ms. Thomas — one that follows a momentous two years of museum shows and experiments with feature-length film and installation. The emotional heaviness of those recent projects, tributes to the artist’s mother (who died this past year after a long illness), seems to have lifted; playful Cubist compositions, by way of the shrieking palettes of late Warhol, signal a preoccupation with surfaces and formal problems.

But Ms. Thomas has rarely met a formal problem she couldn’t solve, and so these works feel a little too effortless. Her glamazons address fierceness and femininity in generic terms; you hope that she will return, at some point, to the individuality and emotional intelligence of portraiture

George Lindemann Journal by Goerge Lindemann - "Aspen Art Museum Readies New Building" @wsj Kelly Crow


A rendering of the new home of the Aspen Art Museum Aspen Art Museum and Shigeru Ban Architects

The Aspen Art Museum is getting ready to attempt the art-world equivalent of a double black diamond.

After three decades of shoehorning contemporary-art exhibits into a former power plant on the outskirts of this wealthy Rocky Mountain enclave, the museum plans to triple its footprint. It will relocate in August to a new home designed by Pritzker prize winner Shigeru Ban in the center of town—a move that illustrates the growing clout and ambition of Aspen's stewards.

Mr. Ban, who is known for using unconventional materials like paper and cardboard tubes, has created a three-story building that resembles an enormous wooden crate. The 33,000-square-foot facility, which opens Aug. 9, has walls of wood veneer planks woven into latticework. The grid covers a glass wall, giving passersby a glimpse inside.

The building has a rooftop sculpture garden with a panoramic view of Ajax Mountain, said director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson.


'Black Lightning,' a pyrotechnic work by Cai Guo-Qiang Cai Guo-Qiang/Aspen Art Museum

The $72 million project caps a near-decade-long campaign by Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson to elevate the Aspen Art Museum from a local showcase for traveling exhibits of crafts and Western memorabilia to a can't-miss stop on the contemporary-art circuit. To pull it off, the museum had to rally Aspen's coterie of seasonal residents who also happen to rank among the world's top art buyers. They include former Gucci Group Chief Executive Domenico De Sole and John Phelan, co-founder of investment firm MSD Capital, LP. The board is now stocked with contemporary-art powerhouses, who share Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson's vision of an institution with the curatorial sweep of New York's Museum of Modern Art, a number of trustees said. (The project's tab includes a $27 million endowment.)

Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson developed her art-world contacts through her career as a curator. Before Aspen, she worked at the University of California's Berkeley Art Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York.

Dallas collector Gayle Stoffel, who has been coming to Aspen for 25 years with her husband, Paul, to ski, said she used to skip the museum altogether. That changed eight years ago, when Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson arrived and shifted the focus to living artists and unusual collaborations. Ms. Stoffel now is co-chairman of the museum's national council.

The museum also retooled its programs to play up the flexibility it gets from styling itself as a kunsthalle, a German term for a noncollecting museum. That distinguishes Aspen, which focuses on commissioning works by artists, from museums that concentrate on building a collection.


The museum will be exhibiting ceramics by Rosemarie Trockel, the creator of 'Avalanche.' Rosemarie Trockel/Sprüth Magers Berlin, London/Mareike Tocha, Köln (photo)

Although kunsthalles are common in Europe, there are only about a half-dozen in the U.S., according to the American Alliance of Museums. It means that the Aspen Art Museum can direct much of its budget to putting on exhibits instead of storing or conserving a permanent collection. Right now, roughly 70% of the art Aspen exhibits is new, commissioned directly from artists by the museum. Artists often are invited to create on site or nearby; in many cases, the commissioned works return to the artist after a show.

On Aug. 2, firework artist Cai Guo-Qiang plans to unveil "Black Lightning," a lightning-bolt-shape firework he will set off from the top of Ajax Mountain. Jim Hodges, who creates delicate, metal spiderweb sculptures, will cover a portion of the museum's exterior in 6-foot-high mirrored letters that repeat the phrase "with liberty and justice for all" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The words are fitting, Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson said, because the museum's new location is near Independence Pass, a historic route for settlers heading West.

Inside, there will be a show of 50 works by Yves Klein and David Hammons, iconoclastic artists known for burning and mangling their canvases.

Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson said "showing the unexpected" was the only way to attract more attention, especially in the museum's original, out-of-the-way location. Ultimately, she said she hopes to double the current 40,000 annual visitors.

That is a tall order for a town with a year-round population of 6,600. Brad Smith, managing partner of a nearby restaurant called the Red Onion, said some locals joke that the new museum's woven slats make it resemble a prison more than a crate. But most residents are cautiously optimistic about the building, he said. "Some people feel like it's a monster because it's so big," Mr. Smith added. "But I've got young children, so I'll go."

Corrections & Amplifications

The Aspen Art Museum director is Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified her on second reference as Ms. Jacobson and not Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson. Also, the new museum is near Independence Pass, not atop it, as the story initially said.

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George Lindemann Journal - "Detroit Museum Raises Nearly $27 Million to Help Stave Off Sale" @wsj by Matt Dolan

George Lindemann Journal - "Detroit Museum Raises Nearly $27 Million to Help Stave Off Sale" @wsj by Matt Dolan

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks at a news conference at the Detroit Institute of Arts Wednesday regarding donations to the Detroit Institute for Arts Getty Images

Some of Detroit's largest corporations pledged nearly $27 million Wednesday in a campaign to save the Detroit Institute of Arts from sale during the city's municipal bankruptcy case.

The group pledged a total of $26.8 million toward the DIA's commitment to raise $100 million as part of a grand bargain designed by federal mediators to help the city emerge from bankruptcy quickly, partially make up shortfalls in municipal pensions and keep what is considered one of the top art museums in the U.S. intact.

Pledging $10 million toward the effort, Roger S. Penske, chairman of the transportation-services company Penske Corp., said in a statement Wednesday that the donations set "the tone for the work yet to be done. I am optimistic about the future of the city and its citizens."

Last month, top U.S. auto makers with headquarters in the Detroit area separately promised to donate $26 million to the effort.

People watch a news conference Wednesday at the Detroit Institute of Arts concerning additional financial pledges by corporations. Getty Images

The museum said the new pledges announced Wednesday bring the DIA to almost 80% of its $100 million fundraising goal. It is part of a broader effort to raise the equivalent of more than $800 million to transfer the collection out of the city's hands and into a nonprofit while using the proceeds to help city pension holders.

The city's municipal bankruptcy case filed a year ago brought an unwelcome spotlight to the city-owned art museum over a possible fire sale. Some of Detroit's creditors said they hoped to convince the city to sell or lease part of the 66,000-piece collection to improve payouts to those owed billions of dollars by Detroit.

Released last week, a city-commissioned report on Detroit's fine-art collection pegged its entire value at $2.8 billion to $4.6 billion. But the report raised doubts about the value of auctioning off Detroit-owned artwork and concluded that liquidating the DIA collection immediately to pay creditors likely would only generate between $850 million and $1.8 billion. Any sale would also likely be complicated by possible litigation by museum officials and donors as well as other market pressures, the report found.

The city filed for Chapter 9 protection in July 2013 with an estimated $18 billion in long-term obligations, making the case the largest such filing. A trial scheduled for next month by a federal bankruptcy judge is likely to determine whether the city's debt-cutting plan, including the effort to save the DIA, is viable.

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"Christie's Sells $4.5 Billion of Artwork" @wsj by Kelly Crow

Christie's saw new record high sales, helped by selling over 50 artworks at more than $10 million a piece, totaling in over $4.5 billion sales for the first half of the year. WSJ's art reporter Kelly Crow joins Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Getty

The art market is still crackling. Christie's International PLC said Tuesday it sold $4.5 billion of fine and decorative art during the first half of the year, up 22% from the same period a year ago—and representing a record high for the privately held company based in London. Christie's total included $3.6 billion in auction sales and $828 million in privately brokered art sales. Its private sales were up 16% compared with the first half of 2013.

Rival Sotheby's said it auctioned $3.3 billion in art during the first half, up 29.4% from the year before. The New York-based auctioneer will release consolidated totals next month.

In a realm that thrives on hawking masterpieces, Christie's offered up 52 artworks that sold for more than $10 million apiece—a bumper crop that included an $84.2 million Barnett Newman striped abstract, "Black Fire I," and an $80.8 million Francis Bacon triple portrait of the artist's bartender friend, "Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards."

Jeff Koons's work, 'Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Train,' 1986, sold for $33.8 million. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2014

Christie's Chief Executive Steven Murphy said the company owed much of the spring season's success to an influx of new, curious buyers: 24% of Christie's bidders during the first half were first-timers, he said. Many of these newcomers were wealthy, younger collectors from Asia looking to expand their collections of everything from wine to watches to Andy Warhol. As a result, the auction house plans to launch additional sales at its new salesroom in Shanghai near the Bund after it opens in October. Christie's will also offer another sale in its latest salesroom in Mumbai in 2016.

In terms of categories, Christie's sold $1.3 billion in postwar and contemporary art, up 30% from the first half of 2013, and $939 million in Impressionist and modern art, up 49%. Sales of jewelry, watches and wine also totaled $455.5 million, up 20% from the first six months of last year.

In a twist, Christie's sales of Asian art dropped 15% to $369.6 million for the period, a sign that collectors of Asian art might be growing wary of rocketing price levels for scroll paintings and jade figurines. Dealers said buyers might also be saving money to splurge on other, Western collecting categories like contemporary art.

Collectors from the U.S. outspent all rivals this spring, taking home $1.8 billion worth of art from Christie's, up 31% from the first half of 2013. The company said it plans to capitalize on the U.S. momentum by reconfiguring some space in Rockefeller Plaza in New York to add additional private viewing rooms for discreet shoppers. European collectors bought $1.5 billion in art, up 22% from a year ago. But Christie's said it is still betting big on Asia's purchasing power, noting that buyers from China accounted for 24% of the house's total sales for the first half, a 46% uptick in spending from last spring.

When it comes to contemporary art, the playing field is evening out in compelling ways, Mr. Murphy added. During the first half, buyers from the art market's biggest regions—the U.S., Europe and Asia—each took home roughly a third of the contemporary works on offer at Christie's major sales. That broad sweep of interest and competition is the main driver pushing up record prices for newer art, he added.

"We have to send out the invitations and hold the dinner," he said, "but the good thing is that people everywhere are hungry for art."

The art market tends to quiet down in late July and August but will get tested anew at sales throughout the fall in London, Hong Kong and New York.

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"On Kawara, Artist Who Found Elegance in Every Day, Dies at 81" By ROBERTA SMITHJULY

On Kawara, a Conceptual artist who devoted his career to recording the passage of time as factually and self-effacingly as art would allow, died in late June in New York City, where he had worked for 50 years. He was 81.

The David Zwirner Gallery, his representative, announced the death on its website. Mr. Kawara’s family declined to provide the date of death or the names of survivors, in keeping with his lifelong penchant for privacy.

Working in painting, drawing and performance, Mr. Kawara kept himself in the background and almost never gave interviews. The rare published photographs of him showed him from the back. Toward the end of his life, he stopped attending his own openings.

He belonged to a broadly international generation of Conceptual artists that began to emerge in the mid-1960s, stripping art of personal emotion, reducing it to nearly pure information or idea and greatly playing down the art object. Along with Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Hanne Darboven and others, Mr. Kawara gave special prominence to language.

One of three large gray date paintings made in July 1969, during the Apollo 11 space mission. Credit Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

He was best known for his “Today,” or date painting, series: monochromatic canvases, often small, whose only images are the dates on which they were made, rendered in meticulous white letters that look almost printed against fields of red, blue, black or gray. The series began in New York on Jan. 4, 1966 — before the term Conceptual Art existed — when Mr. Kawara painted that date on an 8-by-10-inch blue surface. It continued throughout his life.

The “Today” series, part of the Duchampian tradition of making art directly from dumb reality, treated each date as a ready-made. The works seemed straightforward — even obvious — and maddeningly repetitive, suggesting the Zen passivity of John Cage’s acceptance of noise as music. But they were also diaristic and meditative and could resonate with existential, psychological and scientific implications about the time-space continuum.

The date painting canvases were on thick stretchers that gave them a tombstone-like solidity. They usually memorialized days that had passed routinely for most people, and it was always a little jarring to see them plucked from oblivion. You realized that any date was special for someone, somewhere; you experienced space as full of time, and in the painting’s silence, you sensed the noisy tumult of history.

The date paintings were always site-specific, using the language and grammar of the country in which Mr. Kawara painted them (more than 130 locales). He used eight different sizes, up to around five by seven feet, but otherwise the method of production rarely varied.

The dates were painted in liquitex on four layers of acrylic paint rubbed smooth. Any painting not finished by midnight was destroyed. If finished, it would eventually be placed in a custom-made cardboard box that was often lined with parts of that day’s local newspaper. Sometimes exhibited with their paintings, the clippings measured time’s more specific tumult.

Sometimes the dates were significant, like the three large gray ones made in July 1969, during the Apollo 11 space mission, the first to land on the moon.


On Kawara was born in Japan in December 1932 and raised in an intellectual atmosphere infused with Shinto, Buddhist and Christian teachings. He was a promising student, he said, until the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 left him traumatized and full of doubt about “everything.”

After finishing high school in 1951, he moved to Tokyo and embarked on a course of self-education, reading omnivorously in European philosophy and in political and psychoanalytic theory. He also began making and exhibiting art and, with remarkable quickness, became a rising art star in Tokyo, an experience he disliked. He was known for figurative work of a decidedly dour postwar cast that culminated in a series of drawings of truncated bodies and body parts floating in tilted, tile-lined bathrooms.

In 1959 Mr. Kawara traveled to Mexico City, where his father was the director of an engineering company. He stayed three years, painting, attending art school and exploring the country — the beginning a life of incessant traveling. In 1962 he went to New York, where he spent eight months absorbing new art, especially Pop, and then went on to Paris, later visiting Spain.

He returned to New York in 1964, by which time his work was abstract and included drawings involving grids and random words. Dubious of art’s ability to communicate, he made paintings that reduced specific phrases to indecipherable geometric shapes of color interrupted by intermittent spacing and punctuation. He destroyed these works, but they convinced him that he could not do without legible words, ones that were both literal and resonant. A 1965 triptych titled “Titled,” with the words “1965,” “One thing” and “Viet-Nam” painted in white on red, inspired the date paintings.

More lighthearted, personal works recorded time as a process of moving through space, and life. Between the late 1960s and 1979, Mr. Kawara sent telegrams as regularly as possible to a rotating selection of friends and colleagues that announced, “I am still alive.”

During the same period, his “I Got Up” series consisted of mailed postcards rubber-stamped with the time he had risen and the address where he was staying on a given day. For “I Met,” he typed lists of all the people he encountered in the course of a day. In the mid-1990s he typed lists of one million years — one reaching back in time, the other forward — that were read aloud in performances in New York, Paris, London and elsewhere. This work was published in a limited-edition two-volume set that ran to 2,012 tissue-thin pages per book.

Mr. Kawara had his first solo show of time-related works at the Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris in 1971 and his first New York show at the Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery (now Sperone Westwater) in SoHo in 1976. A large retrospective titled “On Kawara: Silence” will open at the Guggenheim in 2015.

Keeping the viewer focused on time’s incremental, day-by-day omnipresence was one reason for Mr. Kawara’s deliberately low profile and his habit of listing his age in exhibition catalogs in terms of the number of days he had been alive as of the show’s opening date. In the catalog to a show at the David Zwirner Gallery, an otherwise blank page titled “Biography of On Kawara” put the count at 26,192 days on Sept. 9, 2004. Last week the gallery calculated he had reached 29,771.

Correction: July 17, 2014

An earlier version of this obituary misstated part of the name of the Paris gallery where Mr. Kawara had his first solo show of time-related works. It is Galerie Yvon Lambert, not Galerie Yves Lambert.

George Lindemann Journal - "The New Museum Surveys Art From the Arab World" @nytimes by JOHNNY MAGDALENO

George Lindemann Journal - "The New Museum Surveys Art From the Arab World" @nytimes by JOHNNY MAGDALENO

A moment from Khaled Jarrars 2012 film Infiltrators on view at Here and Elsewhere the New Museums new survey of contemporary artists from the Arab world

A moment from Khaled Jarrar’s 2012 film “Infiltrators,” on view at “Here and Elsewhere,” the New Museum’s new survey of contemporary artists from the Arab world.Credit Courtesy of Khaled Jarrar

The Western media’s obsession with Middle Eastern conflict has made it easy for American audiences to mistake war and crisis as components of Arab identity. But if there’s anything that the New Museum’s newest exhibition, “Here and Elsewhere,” works to dispel, it’s the fallacy that any single portrayal can summarize the many cultural landscapes around and within the Arabian peninsula.

A Closer Look at “Here and Elsewhere”

T’s Senior Photography & Video Editor Jamie Bradley Sims shares the photographs of Hashem el Madani, an artist featured in this group exhibition. More…

The exhibition, which opens Wednesday and runs until Sept. 28, documents the work of 45 contemporary artists of Arab origin, marking the first-ever museumwide group show of Arab artists in New York City. The show’s curators were careful to avoid making any blanket statements about art from the Arab world. “We’re looking at a very diverse group of artists who share a fascination with the question of truth through images,” says Massimiliano Gioni, the New Museum’s associate director and the exhibition’s co-curator. “This question is also a question of what constitutes an identity, and how an identity like Arab is constructed through images.”

Gioni began culturing the idea for “Here and Elsewhere” when he noticed that artists from the Arab world were primarily featured by biennials, which are rich in diversity but lack the space to thoroughly showcase specific cultures. In bringing the idea to life, providing multiple Arab artists a museum backdrop was one main goal; coordinating it in the center of the art world’s capital city was another. “This is part of a natural series of exhibitions we like to feature in the New Museum — ones that not only look at art from a specific geographical place, but art that isn’t being made or shown in New York,” says Gioni.

At left Ali Jabris Red Sea from the Nasser series ca 197783 At right Hassan Sharifs Suspended Objects 2011
At left: Ali Jabri’s “Red Sea,” from the “Nasser” series, ca. 1977–83. At right: Hassan Sharif’s “Suspended Objects,” 2011.Credit From left: courtesy Diala al Jabiri; courtesy of Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai

For some of the featured artists, documenting the trials faced by Arab people in the wake of war or other tragedies is a key method for probing concepts of identity. Bouchra Khalili’s films, for example, circle the lives of Arab immigrants as they leave their lineages in pursuit of new beginnings in Europe and abroad. Fouad Elkoury’s photography captures Lebanese families and country clubs before and after the start of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. And while other artists’ works take even more divisive approaches toward cataloging the Arab experience, like Rokni Haerizadeh’s paintings of animal-human hybrids protesting Islam in the streets of contemporary France, each of the 45 artists are ultimately united by a shared fascination with what it means to be alive and human in the modern era, regardless of ethnic labels. That’s why, says Gioni, American visitors have just as much to gain from the exhibition as do visitors from Arab countries. “If we go to an exhibition to see ourselves reflected in another people, and in another culture, the museum process becomes much more interesting,” he said. “I think that is ultimately what makes art beautiful. To not just function as a picture, but as a portal.”

“Here and Elsewhere” is on view July 16 to Sept. 28 at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York,