Jennifer Higgie is co-editor of frieze and based in London, UK.
Bruno Munari stood in front of Concave-convex, 1948, wire mesh installation. A retrospective of Munari’s work, ‘‘My Futurist Past’, is on show at the Estorick Collection, London, until December 23)
In terms of exhibitions, 2012 was an embarrassment of riches; a year in which the idea of what constitutes ‘political’ has thankfully expanded to accommodate subtlety, idiosyncrasy and cultural specificity. Where to begin? In no particular order highlights for me included dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel – a show I was steeling myself to battle with, and ended up wishing I had longer to explore; the 13th São Paulo biennale, ‘The Imminence of Poetics’, which was, despite its cumbersome title, one of the best biennales I’ve ever visited and chock-full of extraordinary work – much of which I wasn’t familiar with. Also in Brazil, I paid my first visit to the jaw-dropping sculpture park, gardens and pavilions that is Inhotim (in the central Brazilian state of Minas Gerais). In New York, I had to be dragged away from ‘The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde’ at the Met, and a great show by one of my favourite painters: ‘Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940’ at the Jewish Museum. I also enjoyed ‘Ecstatic Alphabets’ – an exploration of the material qualities of language – at MoMA and the eclectic mix of the raw and the cooked at the Whitney Biennial; ‘Radical Localism’, curated by Chris Kraus and Mexicali Rose at Artists Space; and the Benefit Exhibition at the ever-splendid White Columns. Finally, two highlights were Anselm Franke’s utterly absorbing ‘Animism’ (a happy counterpoint to the debacle of the Berlin Biennale) at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, and the inaugural Qalandiya International, a celebration of Palestinian culture that took place across towns and villages in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In London – and quite apart from the good shows at commercial spaces, of which there are too many to mention here – Tate continues its brilliant run of great exhibitions (Damien Hirst proving the exception to the rule). The most exciting development of the year was the opening of the Tate Tanks – a terrific15-week programme of installation, performance and events in an amazing space. Also at Tate Modern, ‘William Klein + Daido Moriyama’ (which runs until 20 January) and Munch were beautiful shows. I’ve long been fascinated by the wonders and weirdness of Victorian art, and thus loved ‘Pre-Raphaelites: The Victorian Avant-Garde’ at Tate Britain. At Studio Voltaire I was reminded, once again, what a great artist Nicole Eisenmann is – her new sculptures are both magnificently nuts and weirdly moving; at the ever-wonderful Estorick Collection, I was thrilled to see a show devoted to one of my heroes, the Italian modernist artist and children’s book writer and illustrator, Bruno Munari. At the Chisenhale Gallery, director (and frieze contributing editor) Polly Staple continues to programme shows that are as timely as they are fresh (Christina Mackie and James Richards in particular) – the latest, by wunderkind Helen Marten, was no exception: it was fantastically inventive (and fun). The Hayward Gallery’s quiet show of contemporary Chinese art was refreshing in its lack of spin; I also loved their pairing of Jeremy Deller and David Shrigley and their month-long ‘Wide Open School’ was inspired. The inaugural LUX/ICA Biennial of Moving Images heralded a promising future, and at Raven Row, ‘The Stuff That Matters: Textiles collected by Seth Siegelaub for the CSROT’ was an unabashedly beautiful show at London’s most beautiful space. I also enjoyed the plethora of interesting things happening at Auto Italia South East, V22 (in particular, ‘Young London’), INIVA, Camden Arts Centre, Henry Moore Institute, South London Gallery, David Roberts Art Foundation, Peckham Artist Moving Image, and the Showroom. And finally, at the Whitechapel Gallery: ‘Aspen Magazine: 1965-1971’ (which runs until 3 March) – what’s not to love?
Around the UK, galleries such as Baltic, firstsite, Focal Point, IKON, Nottingham Contemporary, MIMA, MK Gallery, Tate St Ives and Liverpool continue to programme great shows. The year was marred by the death of Modern Art Oxford’s director, Michael Stanley; he will long be mourned.
I am writing this in Australia, where I’ve come for my annual visit. Overlooking Sydney Harbour, the new wing of the MCA (under the dynamic leadership of Liz Ann Macgregor) is dazzling; ‘Primavera’, their annual exhibition of work by Australian artists under 35, highlighted the plethora of energy and imagination in the Antipodes. The new John Kaldor Collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales – the result of Kaldor’s generous gifting of his great collection of 200 works by artists including Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Jeff Koons, Sol LeWitt, Robert Rauschenberg and Ugo Rondinone – is a great addition to the city.
Sylvia Sleigh, Paul Rosano Reclining, 1973, 137 × 198 cm, oil on canvas
So, reasons to be cheerful in 2013? Massimiliano Gioni’s Venice Biennale is an exciting prospect as is Yuko Hasegawa’s Sharjah Biennale. I can’t wait to see ‘Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction’ at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet – she’s long been one of my favourite artists. In London – quite apart from the slew of young, energetic spaces and artist collectives in London that I hope to get to know better – Tate Modern will be hosting three shows, all of which will be a treat: retrospectives of Roy Lichtenstein (co-organised by The Art Institute of Chicago); Richard Hamilton (which is travelling to Madrid’s Reina Sofia, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art); and a solo show of Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair – and I’ll also be travelling to Tate Liverpool to see the Sylvia Sleigh show. Anything to do with Rosemarie Trockel is fine by me: thus, I’m really looking forward to ‘Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos’, at the Serpentine, an exhibition that ‘juxtaposes the artist’s works with a range of objects and artworks created by others with which she feels an affinity’. I have come around to the work of Jordan Wolfson, so am curious to see what he’ll come up with for the Chisenhale Gallery. I’m also looking forward to the show of Pacific bark painting at Birmingham’s IKON gallery. In Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria has had a shake-up with a new director, Tony Ellwood, who returned to the city after five years running the Queensland Art Gallery; he has appointed Max Delany – who did a great job running Monash University Museum of Art – as Senior Curator, Contemporary Art; to my mind, a hugely clever decision, and I look forward to seeing what he’ll come up with. The Director of the ever-interesting Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Juliana Engberg, has been appointed Artistic Director of the 2014 Sydney Biennale – I know it’s a long way off, but her show is definitely something to anticipate. In the US, Daniel Bauman (and his team’s) Carnegie International is an exciting prospect. I’ll also be travelling to Istanbul for Fulya Erdemci’s biennial.
OK; I know that there is a lot more I could mention and much I have missed, but I must stop somewhere. Suffice to say, I always look forward to travelling, and I’ll be doing a lot of it in the coming year. One of the best things about this job is anticipating experiencing great work by artists I’ve yet to discover – and without a doubt 2013 won’t be an exception. I can’t wait.
Max Andrews is co-director of the curatorial office Latitudes in Barcelona, Spain.
SAD EIS, 2012, resin and paint, each 147 × 60 × 60 cm, installation view at Meessen De Clercq, Brussels
Some 2012 highlights (short form, vaguely chronological version):
• Retrospective by *Xavier Le Roy *at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies / Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona
• Jeremy Deller, Joy in People at the Hayward Gallery, London
• Tarek Atoui’s Revisiting Tarab, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah
• ‘The Medium of Media’ the 6th Global Art Forum at Art Dubai, Dubai
• Mireia Sallarès’s Se escapó desnuda. Un proyecto sobre la verdad, Espai 13 of the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
• Manifesta 9, Genk (Manuel Durán, Praneet Soi, Duncan Campbell, Antonio Vega Macotela…)
• Sarah Ortmeyer,* SAD EIS*, Meessen De Clercq, Brussels
• ZOO, or the letter Z, just after Zionism, NAiM/Bureau Europa, Maastricht
• dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (Korbinian Aigner, Michael Rakowitz, Mariana Castillo Deball, Adriana Lara, Rossella Biscotti, Jérmome Bel, Haegue Yang, Walid Raad, Anna Maria Maiolino, Lara Favaretto…)
• Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, 18 pictures and 18 stories / Performance in Resistance, Bulegoa z/b with If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona
• Utopia is possible. ICSID. Eivissa, 1971, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona
• Rirkrit Tiravanija and Arto Lindsay, Untitled 2012, (All those years at No. 17E London Terrace), kurimanzutto, Mexico City
• Terence Gower, Ottagono, LABOR, Mexico City
• Sarah Lucas, Situation / Sadie Coles, London
• The Individual and the Organisation: Artist Placement Group 1966-79, Raven Row, London
• Alexandre Singh, The Humans, Witte de With, Rotterdam
• Ends of the Earth — Land Art to 1974, Haus der Kunst, Munich
• Jordi Mitjà, Monumento. Ladrones de alambre, Espai 13 of the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
• Asier Mendizabal, ProjectSD, Barcelona
Reasons to be cheerful for 2013:
- Moderation(s), the year-long programme between Spring, Hong Kong, and Witte de With, Rotterdam (Latitudes will be in residency at Spring in January 2013).
- the 55th Venice Biennale (June 1 – November 24) (Lara Almarcegui for Spain, Mark Manders for the Netherlands, Mathais Polenda for Austria, Akram Zaatari for Lebanon, Jeremy Deller for the UK…)
Jonathan Watkins is director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK.
Memento Mori, unknown artist, late 18th-century, courtesy of The Richard Harris Collection
Picks of 2012 and Reasons to be Cheerful
John Murphy, Voyages to Italy, at the A.G. Leventis Gallery, Institute of Archaeology, University College London (20 January – 30 February)
One of the most intellectually elegant shows of 2012. A combination of photos, books, film stills and volcanic ash, formally it melded with the permanent collection of the Leventis Gallery – mostly very old objects in old fashioned vitrines – but jarred with any comforting notion of scientific order. The pervasive presence of the Marquis de Sade especially put paid to that.
The Voice and The Lens, Ikon, Birmingham (8 – 11 November)
Not one normally to indulge in self-promotion, I can’t pass up this opportunity to mention ‘The Voice and The Lens’, a four day programme of music, with lots of vocals, and film at Ikon in November. It was the brain-child of Sam Belinfante, one of the most promising young artists now in the UK and highlights were Scott Wilson’s performance of Alvin Lucier’s I am Sitting in a Room, Mikhail Karikis’s Empty Words, Loré Lixenberg’s The End of Civilisation As We Know It, Adam De La Cour and Bruce McLean in Live Adult Chat, Al Madina’s Childrens Choir (heartbreaking) and Elaine Mitchener performing Christian Marclay’s Manga Scroll. The whole thing was wonderful – rich, rich, rich in content – both entertaining and clearly the product of fine intelligence.
Not a great success structurally, the Kwangju Biennial was full of gems. Amongst them was the work of Angolan artist Nastio Mosquito. His videos could not be smarter or funnier. Knowingly politically incorrect with respect to post-colonialist clichés (e.g. Nastio answers Gabi) he muses with charisma on the iniquities of the globalised modern world.
Qalandiya International (1 -14 November)
On the Palestinian West Bank, in various venues in and around Jerusalem and Ramallah, QI was good and brave, asserting that art, any kind of art, is politics. The Palestinian cause is compelling in the light of Israeli brutality – as I write 3,000 more dwellings have been granted planning permission in the continuing outrage that is illegal settlement – but this was not an exercise in emotional button pushing. There was a discernible rigour and some great work, including an installation by Tashweesh at Al Mamal, Jerusalem, and flyposting on the streets of Ramallah by Australian artist Tom Nicholson.
Death: A Self Portrait, Wellcome Collection (until 4 February 2013)
Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Wellcome Collection continues its ingenious programme, mixing art and artefacts to great effect. The most recent exhibition there, Death: A Self Portrait, drawn from the Richard Harris Collection, is an exemplary case in point. Renaissance paintings find themselves in the company of sentimental postcards and children’s toys, Mexican papier-maché sculptures, celebrating the Day of the Dead, sit alongside actual human remains. More philosophical than morbid, informed by a sense of humour not just black, the overall result was a fascinating meditation on a subject that ultimately overwhelms us all.
‘On Being Not Dead’
In this vein, my recent reading has included Bill Hayes’ article in the _New York Times _(22 November), ‘On Being Not Dead’. It is just a few hundred words, downloadable, and quite beautiful. In other words, a reason to be cheerful.
Douglas Fogle is an independent curator based in Los Angeles, USA, and a contributing editor of frieze.
Thomas Schütte, Frauen, installation view at Castello di Rivoli,Italy
Highlights of 2012
1. Thomas Schütte, ‘Frauen’ at Castello di Rivoli, Turin. The Manica Lunga, the 146-meter long former painting gallery of the Savoys in the 17th century, has never looked so impressive. This was a statement about both the possibilities and fragility of sculptural practice. Filled with 18 of Schütte’s frauen along with 100 watercolors and ceramic maquettes, this was perhaps the best show I saw this year until I saw…
2. Marisa Merz, ‘disegnare, disegnare, redisegnare, il pensiero imagine che cammina’ at Fondazione Merz, Turin. I saw both of these exhibitions on the same day and was blown away. Marisa Merz, now well into her 80s, continues to work every day producing work that is both delicate and muscular. This non-retrospective survey showed that sometimes the freshest and most forward-looking artist in the room might happen to be in her 80s.
3. Béla Tarr, Turin Horse. While the beat goes on for Marisa Merz the same cannot be said for the 57 year old Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr. The director’s self-proclaimed “last film” actually was released in 2011 but only made it to America this year. Loosely based on a possibly apocryphal story of the onset of Nietzsche’s madness inspired by his witnessing of the beating of a horse in Turin, Tarr’s nearly dialogue-less film is a meditation on the end of the world, the end of images, and the impossibility of communication. A bit of a downer but the apocalypse has never looked so beautiful.
4. First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar and their live show at the Henry Fonda Theater, Los Angeles. If the sun has set forever in the oeuvre of Béla Tarr it has risen again in Stockholm in the form of the otherworldly alt-folk sister duo First Aid Kit. Ethereal yet powerful, this album reeks of heartbreaking optimism. It was only outdone by their soaring, enthusiastic, and compellingly authentic live act that made me want to go join something, anything. They are only 19 and 22 respectively so we have much to look forward from them.
5. Shozo Shimamoto’s painting Gutai 02 (1950) in Paul Schimmel’s exhibition ‘Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962’. If First Aid Kit transports us to another brighter world with their angelic voices and infectious anthems, I found myself on another island altogether when I entered ‘Destroy the Picture’, curator Paul Schimmel’s last project for MoCA, Los Angeles, before his departure. The first work in this show dedicated to anti-painting was an oh so delicate mixed media work on paper by the Gutai artist Shozo Shimamoto. Measuring no more than 20 by 14 inches, this work is composed of a swirl of abstract material in its center that is surrounded by a watery field of blue. It said it all. It offered an island to get lost on, a contemplative abyss to fall into, and an understated commentary on the incredible power of abstraction by an artist living in a time just five years removed from the bombing of Hiroshima.
Ko Nakajima, Paper (formerly Paper 2), 1969, installation view at Blum and Poe Gallery, Los Angeles
6. ‘Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha’ at Blum and Poe Gallery, Los Angeles. We have to give credit to some galleries in the past few years for generating museum quality shows. This exhibition offered the first comprehensive North American presentation of the work of this post-Gutai generation of Japanese artists who explored the relationship between the natural and the industrial.
7. Ellsworth Kelley’s façade of Matthew Marks Gallery Los Angeles. Floating above the neighborhood like Stanley Kubrick’s monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey, Ellsworth Kelley’s black rectilinear façade for Matthew Mark’s new 3,000 square foot Hollywood outpost is a living thing, chameleon-like in its ability to visually morph with the changing light as the day passes by. It’s unusual that an artist’s work merges with architecture in such a seamless way. Like Kubrick’s monolith, it seems to almost unconsciously emit a signal to the viewers around it, drawing them towards the building but without allowing the proximity that would let it be tagged.
8. Yorgos Lanthimos, Alps, (2012) and the emergence of the New Greek Cinema. Can we call it that? Do two directors make a movement? Well, if Lanthimos’s Alps is considered alongside Dogtooth (2009), his devastating study in familial dysfunction, and we then throw in Athina Rachel Tsangari’s charmingly weird coming of age study Attenberg (2010), it becomes clear that something is afoot cinematically in Athens. These films are strange, fascinating, and incredibly human investigations into the inability of people to connect and the consequences of those failures. Produced for very little money amidst the worst economic crisis in modern Greek history, these two directors point to a bright future for their generation of Greek cinema’s entry onto the global stage.
9. Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory. This novel was published in French in 2010 but did not appear in English until this year. How much fun is this book when a novelist writes a story about a successful contemporary artist who is implicated in the murder of…wait for it…the novelist himself? So many novels and films don’t quite get the true nature of the art world (although I’m still laughing at the hilariously apt depiction of “bad” performance art in Jonathan Parker’s 2009 film (Untitled)). Houellebecq’s book is a great read for anyone involved in the art world as a civilian or a capo.
10. ‘Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective’, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. When I hear that a star architect has designed an important exhibition for a major museum I often cast a suspicious eye, but Frank Ghery’s installation design of the Ken Price sculpture retrospective was completely Ghery-esque while also being incredibly sensitive to the delicate nature of his long time friend’s ceramic explorations. This show gives Price his full due within the context of the contemporary art world. We sadly lost Price this year after a long illness which brings to mind the loss of myriad other important art world figures this past year including the likes of Raoul De Keyser, David Weiss, Mike Kelly, Michael Asher, Franz West, Chris Marker, Amos Vogel and many others. It’s a shame that the art world doesn’t have the equivalent of the Oscar’s in memoriam section as many of these figures changed the world that we all live in.
11. Michael Haneke’s Amour. While we are on the topic of the end of life I would have to recommend an 11th addition to my top ten (a bonus track if you will) in the guise of perhaps Michael Haneke’s most poignant and sensitive exploration of the human condition to date. For anyone who has lost a parent (or even if you haven’t) this is a heartbreakingly told, masterfully acted, and also shocking (it is Haneke after all) exploration of personal dignity and the end of life.
Reasons to be cheerful for 2013
Wow, I ended on a bit of a downer. But do not fear, all is not lost. The world goes on as does the art. Here are a few things to look forward to in 2013:
Abraham Cruzvillegas: The Autoconstrucción Suites at Walker Art Center (March); Mark Manders in the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (June); the 56th Carnegie International (October); the second installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December).
Dena Beard is assistant curator at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Fred Londier, 29 Arrests, Headquarters of the 11th Naval District, May 4, 1972, San Diego, shown as part of ‘State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970’, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
The Bay Area’s 2012 – some highlights:
At the beginning of the year, the ephemeral State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970 resonated within the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s seismically-unsound, Brutalist concrete structure (where I have the precarious pleasure of working). The exhibition, organized by Constance Lewallen and Karen Moss, surveyed California conceptualism in the wake of the 60’s. Walking through galleries punctuated by vitrines, photographs tacked to the wall with push-pins, and flickering CRT monitors with degraded video documentation, the exhibition featured works that could happen anywhere–in the basement of Tom Marioni’s Museum of Conceptual Art, in Al Ruppersberg’s Grand Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, at a freeway intersection sit-in by Asco, or at the intersection of 17th, Castro, and Market Streets in San Francisco where Mel Henderson, Joe Hawley, Alfred Young, and many others stopped city traffic by hailing 100 yellow cabs at once. ‘State of Mind’ encapsulates an irreverence born of the impossibility of commercial success and a sense of experimentation that resists stagnation. Viewing the exhibition in our present moment, it was hard to avoid the word ‘prescient.’ Suddenly it was impossible to talk about the Futurefarmers’ back-to-the-land projects without referring to Bonnie Sherk’s Portable Parks (1970), the Yes Men’s culture jamming without thinking about Sam’s Café (a collective run out of a former greasy spoon near UC Berkeley), or citizen journalism without a nod to Fred Londier’s photographs of antiwar protestors taken from the vantage of the arresting officer, 29 Arrests, Headquarters of the 11th Naval District, May 4, 1972, San Diego. ‘State of Mind’ resurrected long forgotten artists and it did so with humor and serious risk-taking.
Fueled by cocktails, the weekly conversations hosted by the new San Francisco outpost of the Kadist Foundation have consistently packed in a feisty audience looking for something better than free Tecate. Discussions often get heated enough to steam the windows or bring in a few odd passers-by, and despite rumors of fisticuffs, hot-topic conversations with Jens Hoffmann and Lawrence Rinder about the disputed role of the curator, Claire Bishop about the affect/efficacy in social practice and screenings of Ausländer raus! , Schlingensief’s Container proved more incisive than divisive. Director Joseph del Pesco has hosted international magazines like Fillip from Vancouver, Nero from Italy, May from France, and Taxi from Mexico in an effort to cross-germinate with Bay Area writers, artists, curators, and subjects. The Kadist is a collecting foundation, but exhibitions at the small San Francisco storefront are often refreshingly dynamic, including Ben Kinmont’s ‘An Exhibition in your Mouth’, a six-course dinner of recipes created by Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Gordon Matta-Clark, Salvador Dali, and others, accompanied by a hand-printed menu. Zoe Butt of Sàn Art recently curated an exhibition by Vietnamese artists censored in their home country, preceded by an evening screening of Southeast Asian artists’ videos organized by David Teh.
The Bay Area finally got its own branch of the Public School in the Fall of this year, but it had many precedents, most notably in the autodidactic strategies of Rick and Megan Prelinger, whose Prelinger Library and Archive are wunderkammers of infinite digression. Luca Antonucci and Carissa Potter of Colpa Press recently opened Edicola, a sidewalk kiosk on Market Street re-purposed as a newsstand selling artist books, prints, and periodicals. The dissembling minds behind Will Brown on 24th Street consistently revive oddball cultural gems, most notably the Manitoba Museum of Finds Art, a trove of “unsanctioned art” collected by Alberta Mayo, assistant to SFMOMA Director Henry Hopkins from 1974-1979. Twenty minutes from the city at the national refuge cum artist residency, Headland Center for the Arts, the OPENrestaurant collective served warm bowls of ambrosial ramen with stories of food radiation testing gathered during a recent trip to Japan.
Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror, (for Channel 4)