14 March 2010

Artists, academics, administrators, auctioneers, benefactors, bloggers, collectors, consumers, critics, curators, editors, educators, gallerists, historians, museum professionals, writers, and the public all play a role in interpreting the value and meaning of art (monetarily, metaphysically and professionally). Not unlike other industries, the art world has its own types of events which collectively shape the product, production and dissemination of art. Of all events (openings, exhibitions, symposia, biennials etc) the art fair seems the most overtly commercial, where galleries stand side by side competing for the art world’s attention and hopefully, investment. I visited two very different art fairs last week and learned a lot about the specific type of value I look to derive from art itself, but raised many more questions about art as commodity and the forums used to generate commerce.

The entrance to the Independent – "Please god make tomorrow better" Claire Fontaine

The Independent was packaged as a hybrid art fair organized by gallerists Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook in what use to be the Dia:Chelsea building on west 22nd. The approach and organization of the temporary exhibition was similar to a massive group show of galleries instead of a group show about artists. The show split the four floors between 40 galleries and was free and open to the public during the NY art fair weekend. I found it refreshing that the galleries and organizers where able to allow for a fair amount of presentation and coherence within the open and relatively un-programmed floor spaces. Each floor used some simple layout and temporary walls (and sometimes exhibit objects) to differentiate itself from the last. In the stairwell, a Dan Flavin light installation connected each floor together while making everyone look blue.

Dan Flavin Installation


The crowd at the opening was young and fashionable. If they weren’t young they must have been young at heart because I don’t remember seeing any misfits of the profile. The great thing about any young and burgeoning scene is the intense nature of it’s participants. Everyone I saw at the opening whom I knew and chatted with, eventually left me to GO CHECKOUT THE WORK.

Giant inflatable (and deflating) rat reciting the ABC's from Glengary GlenRoss

Gabby watching Ryan Trecartin at the Elizabeth Dee reinstallation of "P.opular (section ish)", 2009

Detail, Ryan Trecartin "P.opular (section ish)", 2009

"360 illusion II" by Jeppe Hein – two rotating mirrored planes turn the room top side down and back again

DMC12 aka the DeLorean - for Duncan Campbell's documentary film "Make It New John"

My least favorite room was a collaborative effort from the high-end design retail store Moss and independent art curators, Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner. The room was the only “exclusive” room in the show and was presented as an exhibit within an exhibit. It was titled “this that & then some” and paired design objects with art objects and presented them as a grouping. My initial distaste of the mini-exhibit did not stem from a dislike of the objects or their pairings, which were harmless and seemed about as related as anything else in the fair – it came from a deeper discomfort with the portrayal of design as equal to or symbiotic with art object. It was as if design was bullying into the art world through a hollow and arranged marriage with little meaning or respect for either partner. It really seemed to disservice both the art/design objects and the work that had to go into them, because the work individually was beautiful and good.

Stanze di Raffaello II, Rome by Thomas Struth and Illuminated Crucifix by Michal Fronek & Jan Nemecek

"Untitled" (cube) by Sol LeWitt and "The Other: square side table" by Ilse Crawford

My favorite work by far was a video by Jordan Wolfson that portrayed coke bottles filled with milk marching across the screen through an abandoned urban landscapes. There while a female voice reciting her inner thoughts aloud and occasionally taking vocal stage direction from a quieter male voice. The coke bottles changed in number but continually walk through the landscape making a gravely crunching noise as they go. Sometimes the orientation of the screen begins to rotate lazily as you tumble through the dark recesses of this woman’s mind. It was trippy, but gripping and real.

Still from "Con Leche" by Jordan Wolfson

I left the Independent and headed uptown in a rickshaw driven by JC, who was wearing a hot pink polka-dot suit and a tinsel cape. If you ever see him around you should go for a ride. He took me to the Armory Show on west 55th for a deal because he is super nice and said he said he was getting a little bored. On the way there we talked about art and a zombie video he was shooting in Bushwick. This only happens in New York.

Going for a ride on the nicest day — ever.


If you google “art fair” the Armory Show comes up third in the results list, not exactly scientific but enlightening none the less. The Armory Show is a massive event, located on the piers 92 and 94, drawing thousands of visitors at $30 a ticket. It is America’s “leading” art fair and pulls both international artists (or their galleries) and international visitors in waves and hordes. You can find unknown or lesser known artists in a little white cubicle right next to the biggest headline grabbing art stars. And maybe that is the problem. There is no way to navigate this fair in any meaningful way beyond the mode of shopping. You are in an art mall, the difference between this and a museum is that you can buy this work and you can take pictures and there are no security guards to stop you.

Welcome to the art mart.

Olafur Eliasson's photos of vehicles and crossings

Taking the opportunity to reflect. hahaha

british bad boys g&g

"Cinemap – eleven films on request" Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

Not to say it was all bad. One of the highlights for me was the Josephine Meckseper installation at Elizabeth Dee’s space at the Armory Show. It was an extremely surface oriented installation comprising of mirrored, shiny, pop, facist, and sexist (or sexy) items, and I immediately felt and appreciated the irony of the situation and it’s juxtaposition at the show.

Josephine Meckseper

Josephine Meckseper

During fair weekend the Armory is the main event and all the other events seem to be the side shows. The Armory is simply a massive “establishment”. It is a necessary and important event that brings some of the world’s best artists and galleries to the greater NY public – but I don’t think that is good enough. I bring a lot expectation to the table when considering the two shows, one is established, rich and ticketed, the other young, open, and free. The Armory Show has a slew of corporate sponsors, there was an Acura SUV next to the stairs, the only car at the Independent was a Delorean and I don’t think you could buy it (unverified). I imagine I am the wrong demographic for the Armory Show: I am not rich, I do not collect art, and the value I derive from art tends to be for creative, inspirational and sometimes professional reasons. The two shows couldn’t have felt more opposite and I wonder if it is time to replace the outmoded, unspecific art mall and create something in between the two fairs? Can a niche, curated art fair remain small and focused, but function well monetarily for the gallerists and subsequently the artists they represent? This raises some questions for me about how to be profitable in the art world, I imagine it is no small task or even one that can have accurate formulas or models for projection. I guess the simplest way to look at it is that first, the art is created. Everything else that follows is some form of commerce of that art’s secondary markets. So what can we try next?

"the handle comes up the hammer comes down" by doug aitken


More and Less +
Documents of Transient Art

A studio visit from graphic designers and proprietors of Specter Press — based in Seoul, Korea.

by Jonathan Lee

18 February 2010

Sulki & Min Choi stopped by to show us some of their work and talk about their recent activities. It was really great to meet graphic designers who are operating with such a strong conceptual approach to their work. They also shared a range of books and posters from their imprint Spector Press. Both are Yale MFA Grads and were researchers at JVE prior to establishing a permanent practice in Korea. They are really great people and great designers so check them out and order some books.

Min & Sulki

Many nice things to look at

Sasa 44: Annual Report 2006

Cover Sasa 44: Annual Report 2006

Perspecta 35, Excercise in Modern Construction part 3, Our Spot: New York

1/4: Oriëntatie

SKMoMA Highlights — a ghost publication that mirrors the form of a true MoMA Highlights catalog. Featuring the works of Korean contemporary artists, for the fictitious South Korea Museum of Modern Art.

SKMoMA Highlights — spreads mirroring each other

Catalog for Hyungkoo Lee’s solo exhibition at the Korean Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, 2007.

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

still from slideshow



thanks to sulki & min


Triple the love at Matthew Marks Gallery

by Melissa Gamwell

10 January 2010

Peter Fischli & David Weiss are basically my favorites from the realm of celebrity artists, and Matthew Marks currently has given them the attention of all three of his Chelsea galleries. This show is almost over! It ends on the 16th and I strongly recommend a visit.

The show is in three parts, the first (in the order that I visited them) is Clay and Rubber at 523 W24th. This show included 26 objects that span the past three decades of the duo’s rubber casting and hand-built clay works. I have seen some of these pieces at their Tate Modern retrospective, but the lot is an amazing spectrum of elemental beauty in objects. The clay pieces are primarily models of machined, recto-linear objects. Marks of the artists hands are proximally apparent, subtly highlighting the surface and distinguishing their over-sized forms from a real smooth-cast brick, sono-tube or chain-link. The rubber objects contrast as casts of natural or highly detailed forms, and the material is often hidden by the original detail of the pieces. Both of the materials engage the viewer and the object, negating the importance of purpose and true material, allowing the pure form of everyday objects to be considered. The gallery was also perfect, in that it didn’t overwhelm the objects with massive space, but was large enough to investigate the pieces with/out the context of the others.

Matthew Marks Gallery@ 523 West 24th

Wood Table, 2005, Black Rubber, 157 x 96 x 45cm

Raven, 1986, Black Rubber, 28 x 41 x 14cm

Chain, 2009, Reinforced clay, 14 x 107 x 14cm

Little Wall, 1987, Black Rubber, 77 x 34 x 41cm

Root, 2005, Black Rubber, 60 80 x 60cm

Stairs, 1987, Black Rubber, 36 x 87 x 53cm

Drawer, 1987, Black Rubber, 14 x 51 x 43cm

Down the street at 522 West 22nd is Sun, Moon and Stars, an exhibition of a book that F&W started as a project for an annual report. The book is pretty daunting to flip through, but here I spent quite a bit of time re-examining the flats which I thought were more successful than the original format in conveying the visual and topical similarities. Below is quoted from the MM press release:

Sun, Moon and Stars is an encyclopedic accumulation of 800 magazine advertisements culled form hundreds of international periodicals. Begun as a project commissioned by a Swiss corporation for its annual report, the finished project is displayed in thirty-eight wood and glass tables, totaling 330 feet in length. A dizzying reaction to late capitalism in various chromatic groupings, the ads are shown in a specific order that exploits the formal, thematic and color similarities between advertisements.”

Matthew Marks Gallery@ 522 West 22nd

Case Detail

Case Detail

Case Detail

Case Detail

Gallery Detail

Resting next door at 526 West 22nd, are the deflated avatars of Fischli & Weiss, titled Sleeping Puppets. Rat and Bear were first shown in the film The Least Resistance, 1981, and The Right Way, 1983 ( translated dialogue quoted below) Click on the links to watch the films.

“BEAR: Do you see the moon? Look at it carefully.

RAT: I need more stones. We have hardly begun.

BEAR: I’ve been watching it. It’s like me.

It comes and goes.

Always on the move…looks at everything.

It does what it pleases.

RAT: So you want to leave.

BEAR: What am I suppose to do? Are you staying here?

RAT: Now all it needs is a roof

BEAR: Good. I’ll come with you.

RAT: I’ll leave the stones here..

BEAR: …but I’m taking the dream with me

Into the unknown.”

Bye Bye! Matthew Marks Gallery @ 526 West 22nd

Peter Fischli & David Weiss

Matthew Marks Gallery

October 30, 2009- January 16, 2010

2 January 2010

I’m in New York briefly before returning to London, and it happens to be the one week where most galleries are closed due to the Christmas/New Years holiday! New Years eve led me to the MoMA, along with the rest of New York. Struggled through the Bauhaus & Tim Burton shows, and by habit checked out the design and architecture galleries which showcase a rotating selection of MoMA’s permanent collection. This never fails to impress. My favorite aspect of this gallery is the central showcase, which is a jewel box of product designs from the past century. Braun always has a substantial line-up of products here, more than not by Mr. Rams.  The “Less and More” show at the Design Museum in London creates such a cohesive time line of his work, and here is was nice to see single specimens alongside products from contemporaries. For the millionth time I realize how wonderfully timeless all of these products are, the work being present for precisely that reason. Most of the participants have lived by the staples of modernist principles, building a roster of manifestos which have yielded decades of iconic design.  To kick-off the New York posts here is some eye candy from the showcase at the MoMA along with some manifestos (take it or leave it!) to inspire the New Year.


Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design,                   Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Portable Transistor Radio & Phonograph (Model TP1) 1959,Design by Dieter Rams, manufactured by Braun AG, Frankfurt, Germany, Plastic Casing, Aluminium Frame, and leather strap

Rolf Harder, Alcan Foil Pamphlets for Aluminium Company of Canada, lithograph, c.1960-62

Case Detail

David Gammon, Turntable, Polished aluminium, brass, plywood and acrylic, manufactured by Transcriptors Ltd., New York, 1964

Enzo Mari, Timor Perpetual Calendar, plastic,manufactured by Danese S.r.i, Italy, c.1966/ Massimo Vignelli, Max-2 Stacking Cup,plastic, manufactured by Heller Designs Inc. c.1970/ Pio Manzu, Chronotime Clocks, ABS polymer casing and metal parts,manufactured by Italora, Milan, c.1968

Adolph Loos, excerpt, “Ornaments and Crime”, 1908
The change in ornament implies a premature devaluation of labor. The worker’s time, the utilized material is capital that has been wasted. I have made the statement: The form of an object should be bearable for as long as the object lasts physically. I would like to try to explain this: a suit will be changed more frequently than a valuable fur coat. A lady’s evening dress, intended for one night only, will be changed more rapidly than a writing desk. Woe betide the writing desk that has to be changed as frequently as an evening dress, just because the style has become unbearable. Then the money that was spent on the writing desk will have been wasted.

Massimo Vignelli, excerpt ,”The Vignelli Canon”, 2008

Whatever we do, if not understood, fails to communicate and is wasted effort. We design things which we think are semantically correct and syntactically consistent but if, at the point of fruition, no one understands the result, or the meaning of all that effort, the entire work is useless. Sometimes it may need some explanation but it is better when not necessary. Any artifact should stand by itself in all its clarity. Otherwise,something really important has been missed. The final look of anything is the by-product of the clarity (or lack of it) during its design phase. It is important to understand the starting point and all assumptions of any project to fully comprehend the final result and measure its efficiency. Clarity of intent will translate in to clarity of result and that is of paramount importance in Design. Confused, complicated designs reveal an equally confused and complicated mind. We love complexities but hate complications! Having said this, I must add that we like Design to be forceful. We do not like limpy design. We like Design to be intellectually elegant – that means elegance of the mind, not one of manners, elegance that is the opposite of vulgarity. We like Design to be beyond fashionable modes and temporary fads. We like Design to be as timeless as possible. We despise the culture of obsolescence. We feel the moral imperative of designing things that will last for a long time. It is with this set of values that we approach Design everyday, regardless of what it may be: two or three dimensional, large or small, rich or poor. Design is One!

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Blocks, painted wood, c.1940

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Promotional Cards, paper, c.1940

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Promotional Cards, paper, c.1940

Walter Gropius, “Bauhaus Manifesto”, 1919

The final goal of any plastic activity is the building! To decorate it was once the most noble task of the plastic arts; they belonged intimately to the component parts of the great art of architecture. Today, they delight in an autonomy that may, again, lead to a collaboration among all creative artists.

Architects, painters, and sculptors must relearn to known and understand the complex form of the construction as a whole and in its element: Then their works will be filled again with the architectonic spirit that they lost in the art of the drawing room.

The old art schools could not achieve this unity, and, anyway, how could they have done it–art being unteachable. They must turn again to workshops. The universe of model draftsmen and of those who work in the applied arts, a universe where one limits oneself to drawing and painting, must finally rediscover the universe of building. When the young man who feels the call for plastic creativity first learns a trade, as in the old days, then the unproductive artist will no longer be doomed to unfinished works, for he will have a trade, a capacity to excel in something.

Architects, sculptors, painters, all of us, we must return to manual work! For there is no “professional art.” There is no basic difference between the artist and the artisan. The artist is just an elevated version of the artisan. Thank heaven, during rare moments of light that are beyond his control, art flourishes unconsciously from the work of his hands, but the knowledge of the basics of his work is indispensable to any artist. It is the source of all creative production.

Let us therefore form a new union of artisans, free of the arrogance that led to a separation of classes and built a wall of arrogance between artisans and artists! Let’s have the will to do it, let’s conceive and achieve together the construction of a future that will unite everything: architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single formation, and that one day will rise toward heaven, the shining symbol of a new faith.

Diagram of the Bauhaus Curriculum

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “Working theses”, 1923.

We reject all aesthetic speculation, all doctrine,and all formalism. Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms. Living. Changing. New. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today can be given form. Only this architecture creates. Create form out of the nature of the task with the means of our time. This is our work. O F F I C E. B U I L D I N G. The office building is a house of work of organization of clarity of economy. Bright, wide workrooms, easy to oversee, undivided except as the organism of the undertaking is divided. The maximum effect with the minimum expenditure of means. The materials are concrete iron glass. Reinforced concrete buildings are by nature skeletal buildings. No noodles nor armoured turrets. A construction of girders that carry the weight, and walls that carry no weight. That is to say, buildings consisting of skin and bones.