Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled (Head) (Detail)

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March 23, 2005

Welcome back for a fresh look at contemporary art from cultural capitals worldwide. In this issue, we celebrate a master of the Beat Generation and the movement's continuing influence on younger artists; quiz Basquiat co-curator Franklin Sirmans about the celebrated artist and his current show; and head to Miami for a peek at a rising star. Revel while we examine Pop whiz Sigmar Polke's new works on paper, Vik Muniz' favorite Mapplethorpe photos, Bodys Isek Kingelez' African utopia, Anya Gallaccio's nature in a palace, a Tokyo gallery's 10th anniversary, and artistic interventions in the parks and plazas of New York City.

  Hit the street with the new PlayStation® Portable. With eye-popping graphics, dazzling widescreen LCD, wireless connectivity and the ability to play games, music and movies when and where you want, the PSP™ gives you the freedom to enjoy entertainment on your terms.

Damien Hirst Enjoys Manhattan Limelight
(Artforum Diary, March 14)
YBA bad-boy Damien Hirst capped off a busy week in Manhattan by selling out his first New York solo show in four years. Hirst's new series of photo-realist paintings reached prices of $2 million. A 35-foot high bronze sculpture, The Virgin Mother, was also sold to the landmark Lever House, where it is installed.

MOCA Receives Largest Gift Ever
(The Art Newspaper, March 8)
Retired magnate E. Blake Byrne, co-founder of Argyle Television, has granted LA's Museum of Contemporary Art the largest gift ever in its history. Byrne's no-strings-attached bequest of 123 works includes such seminal contemporary artists as Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Yayoi Kusama. The multi-million dollar collection goes on exhibit in July.

ICA Selects Britain's First Black Director
(BBC (UK), March 10)
Journalist and broadcaster Ekow Eshun has been named artistic director of London's Institute of Contemporary Arts. Raised in Ghana and the UK, Eshun is the first black director of a major British art institution. Also a Tate board member and governor of the University of the Arts, London, he replaces former director Philip Dodd.

Picasso Paints Sotheby's Black
(The Telegraph (UK), March 18)
Pablo Picasso's 1905 masterpiece Garcon á la Pipe sold for an auction-record $104 million at Sotheby's last year, helping the company achieve $88 million in profits for 2004. Total sales for the year were $497 million. Sotheby's struggled through 2003 recording losses of $21 million but hopes are high for 2005.

Maverick curator Walter Hopps dies, age 72.
more »

Armory Show pulls in record $45 million.
more »

Greater New York opening draws 6,000 young art fans to PS 1. more »

Foster's banks on May art auction.
more »

LACMA announces expansion project designed by Renzo Piano. more »

Correspondent silenced by NPR in fallout over MoMA coverage. more »

Reporter casts light on Bacon lovers.
more »

Van Gogh masterpieces tour Japan for first time. more »

World's largest art buyer dismissed and arrested in Qatar. more »

Google doodler achieves cult status.
more »

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George Herms / George Herms / Jedediah Caesar / Lara Schnitger / Gedi Sibony

George Herms and the Beat Aesthetic

The heady anti-glam aesthetic of the Beats, at heart, is about making the best of what's right in front of you. Its deceptively straightforward strategy, with both words and things, is to coax the beauty and hidden meaning out of everyday objects by unexpected juxtaposition. And as the long-overdue retrospective of seminal LA Beat artist George Herms at the Santa Monica Museum of Art amply demonstrates, its voice remains vital in today's cultural discourse. His recently completed Thelonius Sphere Monk communicates fresh ideas on the fusion of music, poetry, and visual art with vigor and clarity. It is easy to see why the rugged authenticity of this approach might be appealing to a new generation of artists.

Two artists appearing in the phenomenal THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum come to mind. Lara Schnitger's monumental stretched Lycra constructions and the poured mixed media molds of Jedediah Caesar provide divergent but equally salient manifestations of these ideas. Each privileges non-art materials and the detritus of home and studio, but where Schnitger's work tackles the traditional delegation of labor along gender lines, Caesar's locates his vision outside fine art by formally mimicking the artifacts of sciences. Similarly, New York's Gedi Sibony, whose sculptures are on view in Greater New York at PS1, explores the role of craft and construction in materials with an ambiguous yet established relationship to fine art. Wood, plaster, and carpeting are organized into forms that deftly address issues of abstract painting, architecture, and the human impulse to exercise dominion over one's surroundings.

Schnitger, Caesar, Sibony, and others enthusiastically embrace the legacy of Herms and the Beat Generation's gleefully untidy making of objects that are both inherently one-of-a-kind yet avoid preciousness through respect for the hand-wrought artifact. (SND)

George Herms: Hot Set, curated by Walter Hopps, continues at the Santa Monica Museum of Art through May 14; THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles remains on view at the Hammer Museum through June 5; and Greater New York at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City runs through September 26.

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The 10th Anniversary Exhibition
Mizuma Art Gallery
Now through April 9

  Celebrating a decade of extraordinary achievements, Mizuma Art presents an eclectic array of work by over 30 artists. Makoto Aida, in his iconoclastic Girls Don't Cry series, paints full-body portraits of manga heroines on nude models and then photographs them for the final work, and Muneteru Ujino's amazing strap-on sound machine is part motorcycle, part madcap musical instrument. Newcomer Akino Kondoh contributes darkly charming, quasi-surreal acrylic and graphite canvases while the equally fresh Emi Ikematsu offers hilarious, role-reversing collages that transpose snapshots of sleepy-faced salary men from the subways onto the bodies of housewives and prostitutes. (TE)

Bodys Isek Kingelez
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Now through May 1

  Bodys Isek Kingelez's model cities are an extreme expression of civic pride. While his hometown, Kinshasa, was ravaged by dictators and civil war, Kingelez began collecting discarded bits of plastic and cardboard off the streets, transforming them into his own version of the city: a model African utopia meant to inspire virtue in Kinshasa's citizens. His cities attempt to rectify the past with a joyous vision for the future. A building honoring his favorite beer sits next to the National Congress, blood red to mark the recent military coup, while both structures are festooned with arabesques and brightly colored ornamentation. Fusing personal and national history with visionary architecture, Kingelez creates a playfully polemic version of SimCity. (LC)

Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper
Galerie Schmela
Now through April 2

  Continuing his ambiguous, mixed-media style of art making, Sigmar Polke appears both nostalgic and ahead of his upstart contemporaries. Paint and printed imagery converge with Polke's usual figurative-cum-abstract flair and the combination does not back down from confrontation. The stillness of screened Benday dots rests uneasily on the tumultuously painted grounds. His quivering, frenetic yet seemingly controlled brushwork awakens already-troubled pictures of protestors and prostitutes that he's culled from newspapers, pamphlets, and pulp fictions. These large works on paper, mostly untitled, bear no lack of history; rather they teem, thick with politics, craft, and an eerie, insatiable humanity. (ML)

Anya Gallaccio: The Look of Things
Palazzo delle Papesse
Now through May 1

  In The Look of Things, Anya Gallaccio explores the coexistence of nature and artifice, bringing the outdoors inside. Her installations inhabit the striking architecture of the Palazzo delle Papesse, juxtaposing site-specific works such as Days that cannot bring you near — cubes of Siennese earth in a Minimalist-style grid — with older pieces like 9 Potatoes: of the terrible doubt of appearances, whose rotting form reflects her interest in the inevitable entropic decline of natural matter. Inverting the process, My, My, Hey, Hey arrests a young tree's life in bronze, sustaining a peak moment of existence. Gallaccio's art reveals and encapsulates the inescapable pattern of life as it grows, thrives, decays, and returns to the dust from whence it came. (AK)

Robert Mapplethorpe, curated by Vik Muniz. Galeria Fortes Vilaça
Sao Paolo
Now through April 9

  Following curatorial selections of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs by Cindy Sherman, Catherine Opie, and David Hockney in New York, Los Angeles, and London, NY-based Brazilian artist Vik Muniz assembles an exhilarating mix of Mapplethorpe's masterworks for an exhibition here. Reflecting his own poetic sensibility, Muniz picks portraits of a topless Sonia Braga, William Burroughs brandishing a rifle, a mirror-gazing Lisa Lyon that's totally surreal, and a pale, wig-topped Andy Warhol. The curator honors the art of photography with the inclusion of legendary collectors/dealers Sam Wagstaff and Harry Lunn, and exposes Mapplethorpe's kinder-gentler side with appealing flowers, a kitten, and a coral sea. (PL)
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Daniel Arsham

Daniel Arsham

In Miami, two bodies exerting extreme force on the cultural and economic scene are art and real estate, and the work and career of Daniel Arsham cross-references the two neatly. His architectural models rehabilitate mundane or otherwise abject urban structures, such as multi-level parking lots, by converting them to poetic icons. Splicing renderings of gleaming buildings with dramatic isolated landscapes such as icebergs, rocky cliffs and caves, Arsham hooks us with his cinematic leanings. Art directing his gouache-on-mylar drawings, he goes for mood: big-screen, swashbuckling scenes with dystopic, apocalyptic, and Gothic overtones are the result.

Arsham first gained attention in Miami by showing works collectively with a band of young bohemians at the The House, where in fact they all lived until it was demolished to make way for a high-rise development. With support from Miami's Design District guru Craig Robins, the artists opened Placemaker, an attractive venue for eclectic exhibitions by local and national talents. Dividing his time between Miami and New York, his work is currently on view in Greater New York at PS 1, and has been included in exhibitions at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris and The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. (MW)

Michelle Weinberg is an artist and writer living in Miami, where she regularly reviews art for Miami New Times.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat / Lizzie Himmel / Jean-Michel Basquiat / Nikki S. Lee

Franklin Sirmans

Paul Laster talks to Franklin Sirmans, co-curator of Basquiat at the Brooklyn Museum, about the show and his other current projects.
AK: When did you first discover the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat?
FS: I had heard about him, but what really turned me on was a 1985 article about contemporary art in the New York Times Magazine, with that famous photograph of him on the cover. I was in 10th grade and it blew me away. The way he was sitting there with bare feet, looking like royalty. He had this prideful sneer. I loved it! The article didn't lose me — it piqued my interest in what was going on downtown from the suburbs.

AK: What was your first curatorial involvement with his work?
FS: I did my college honors thesis on Basquiat. Shortly after graduating in 1991, Thelma Golden introduced me to her colleague Richard Marshall, who was organizing the Basquiat retrospective at the Whitney Museum. He brought me on to assist and I ended up producing an extensive chronology for the catalogue.

AK: What makes Basquiat's work so compelling today?
FS: I think we recognize the genius of what he accomplished in such a short period of time. He's one of the few artists elevated by myth as much as by the work. It's an important moment now for people who know that myth to actually get to know the work. His indictments on society are just as vital today.

AK: Was it difficult to obtain the quality of works that you have in the show?
FS: Tough question. The Basquiat market is a strange phenomenon. Much of the work is in private collections and a few potential lenders had outlandish requests. In the end, I think we got what we needed to tell the story we wanted to tell. The show highlights particular themes and periods, which were not as much of a concern with the Whitney in 1992. Time has allowed us to make a new assessment.

AK: What are you working on now?
FS: Things Fall Apart just opened at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. It features some great young artists, including William Cordova, Rashid Johnson, and Jacqueline Salloum. Make it Now: New Sculpture in New York opens at the Sculpture Center in May. Mary Ceruti and Anthony Huberman are my co-curators and we've made a ton of studio visits to find the best work. Plenty of names you'll know and lots of surprises. I love the idea of simultaneously organizing such diverse shows because each exhibit fulfills a different desire as a curator.

Franklin Sirmans is an independent curator, writer, editor and lecturer based in New York City. A former US editor of Flash Art and Editor-in-Chief of Art AsiaPacific magazines, Sirmans has written for several journals and newspapers on art and culture, including The New York Times, Newsweek International, Essence Magazine, Grand Street, Art in America, ArtNews and Time Out New York. Sirmans is the 2005 Maryland Art Place Critic-in-Residence and an instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

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Plop: Recent Projects of the Public Art Fund
By Jeffrey Kastner, Anne Wehr, Tom Eccles
Merrell Publishers

Plop is a derogatory term for unattractive artworks dropped in city parks and plazas, but in the hands of the Public Art Fund, creative intervention is pure bliss. Though PAF has been active in New York since 1977, this book covers 49 projects realized under the helm of its dynamic director, Tom Eccles, from 1995-2003. Jeff Koon's Puppy of flowering plants and Louise Bourgeois's massive spiders at Rockefeller Center were spectacles seen by thousands. In Central Park, Andrea Zittel's fake rock formations and Roxy Paine's stainless steel tree confounded onlookers; while Christine Hill's Tourguide? downtown and Francis Alÿs' Modern Procession across the Queensboro Bridge enchanted the followers. PAF makes NYC a better place to be. (PL)

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Cover image
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Head), 1981 (detail)
The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Paul Laster
Shana Nys Dambrot
Andrew Maerkle
Mark Mangan
Shiraz Randeria

Chris Elam
Mark Barry

Lisa Cooley
Tim Evans
Allison Kave
Jessica Kraft
Jane Lerner
Christopher Y. Lew
Melissa Lo
Michelle Weinberg

Anjuli Ayer
Sameer Shah

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

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