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Tracey Moffatt, Björk, 2005 (detail)

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New Art in Australia
June 28 - July 11, 2006

Floating in the South Pacific, Australia and its artists are out of reach for most art aficionados outside the continent. But with Aussies such as Tracey Moffatt and Ricky Swallow expanding awareness by emigrating abroad, and curators like Charlotte Day showing off talent internally, exposure and appreciation of Australian art is on the rise. Currently, the Biennale of Sydney, which runs through August, is luring international crowds down under to see fresh local talent, in addition to exciting new artwork from Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. We discuss the standout artists at the Biennale, and spotlight an innovative feminist from Oz, installation ingénue Sally Smart. Then, looking beyond the artscape of Australia, we review new exhibits by Los Carpinteros and Can Altay as they subvert the familiar with peculiar sculptures and ad hoc Turkish minibars.



  The Whitney celebrates its anniversary with Full House, Views of the Whitney's Collection at 75. Loosely organized around transformative moments in American art, Full House proposes an active conversation between the present and the past, offering new perspectives on the last 75 years while flashing forward to the museum's next chapter.





Lauder's $135 Million for Klimt
(Washington Post, June 20)
Cosmetics titan and Neue Galerie founder Ronald Lauder paid $135 million, the highest amount ever reported paid for a painting, for a 1907 Gustav Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. The painting was one of five Klimts awarded to Bloch-Bauer's niece, 90-year-old Maria Altmann, following a protracted restitution battle between the Austrian government and the family, who argued that the works had been stolen by Nazis in World War II. In 1998 Hubertus Czernin, a Viennese journalist looking into the dispute, was able to find the documents that broke open the case, leading to a US Supreme Court ruling that Altmann could sue the Austrian government in the US. Some have wondered whether the record sale will mean that the other four Klimts will be sold, while others have questioned whether Lauder's purchase was worth its hefty price.

Hirst the Artist and Businessman
(The Guardian, June 20)
A new profile of one-time Young British Artist Damien Hirst finds him at age 41 a significant landowner, art collector, employer of 65 people, and, according to ArtReview magazine, the most powerful person in the art world. Given that some of his most famous work involves segmented animals preserved in formaldehyde, it's not entirely surprising that Hirst thinks a great deal about death, and he struggles with coming up with new ways to present his work. The article states that Hirst is making the world's most expensive artwork — a platinum sculpture of a human skull, encrusted with 8,500 diamonds — as well as continuing to make photorealist paintings, even though his first exhibition of these works was critically drubbed in New York last spring.

P.S.1 Hosts "Iron Artist" Competition
(New York Times, June 12)
A crowd of 1,400 gathered at P.S.1 in Long Island City, Queens, to cheer on contestants in an art-world take on the popular Iron Chef cooking show. The first "Iron Artist" contest was a showdown between sculptors Jude Tallichet and Olav Westphalen, who were asked to create a work from blocks of foam on the theme of "love and its discontents." Westphalen's upside-down snowman won. The second match, themed "man's inhumanity to man," pitted art collaborators Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin, who exhibit together as Type A, against Julian LaVerdière and Vincent Mazeau. Type A's Sheetrock-destroying performance gave them the victory. Four critics composed on-the-spot theoretical essays for the event's catalogue, which was distributed immediately after the event.

Show Favors Plinth Over Sculpture
(Telegraph, June 15)
David Hensel, 61, submitted a sculpture of a laughing head for consideration in the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. When his piece was selected from among the 9,000 submitted works, he was delighted. But when he went to see his piece displayed in the exhibition, he was surprised to find that only the sculpture's plinth, constructed from a slate mortuary slab, was on view. The gaffe has sparked yet another debate regarding the merits of contemporary art. In a statement, the Royal Academy claimed that no error had been made, and that Hensel had submitted the plinth and sculpture as two separate pieces, saying, "The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted; it is currently on display. The head has been stored ready to be collected by the artist. It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended."





Sophie Calle places want ad for Venice curator more »

Architect Herzog speaks out on new MoMA project more »

Commissioner of ARCO '07 resigns more »

Novelist Lethem pens open letter to Gehry on Brooklyn development more »

Tijuana becomes an art hotspot more »

MoMA taps Columbia professor as new architecture curator more »

Sound artist Fontana amplifies Millennium Bridge more »

New York Times asks architects to design US/Mexico border fence more »

Istanbul emerges as cultural center more »

Calatrava's Dallas bridges spur questions about city spending more »

Hotelier buys 300 pieces of Chinese contemporary art in a year more »

LA hosts huge graffiti party more »

Art Basel draws big spenders for young artists more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.



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[ Biennale of Sydney ]


     

The Atlas Group / Marepe / Ruark Lewis / Ai Weiwei

This latest installment of Australia's largest contemporary art exhibition, which has been an important presence in the world of biennials since its inception in 1973, brings together 85 artists from 44 different countries. The title, Zones of Contact, resists close categorization, opting instead for broad interpretations that embrace the wide variety of artwork on display. The general theme is one of space, in all its embodiments — physical, temporal, political, visual, and communal — and the artists are encouraged to explore the tangible and ephemeral points at which connections are made.

Charles Merewether, the Biennale's artistic director and curator, has emphasized an expansive, global viewpoint in his selection of artists, choosing to include often-neglected art centers such as the Balkans, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. Well-established artists such as Mona Hatoum, Anri Sala, Fiona Tan, and Ai Weiwei bolster the works of younger artists just making their names in the ever-widening world of contemporary art.

Of course, the Biennale doesn't neglect Australian natives. The exhibition includes recognized artists such as Imants Tillers, whose multilayered canvases explore concepts of chaos, control, and creation. Aboriginal artist Djambala Marawili practices the traditional art of bark painting, with abstract designs inspired by the continent's natural landscape. Melbourne-based Tom Nicholson presents an ongoing work entitled After action for another library, which documents his organization of an effort to rebuild the war-ravaged libraries of East Timor.

As for the rest of the world, the selection is varied and impressive. India's Raqs Media Collective contributes The Impostor in the Waiting Room, an installation that questions the in-between moments of stasis in the hectic daily life of Delhi transients. British sculptor Antony Gormley makes a stunning visual impact with Asian Field, an expanse of 180,000 miniature clay figures handmade by south Chinese villagers. Raeda Saadeh, a female Palestinian artist, explores themes of gender, identity, and displacement through Voyage to Jerusalem, a live performance at the Sydney Opera House. Adrian Paci, a native of Albania, presents an elegant, sly commentary on the polished beauty and industrial noise of urban living with Noise of Light, an incredibly loud yet glitteringly beautiful crystal chandelier.

Meanwhile, Serbian artist Milica Tomic contributes what is arguably the most haunting work in the exhibition, Container, which is a large industrial shipping container riddled with bullet holes — a poetic representation of the wars in Afghanistan and Bosnia. (AK)

Read about the exhibition opening and tap into more contemporary art from Australia at the Art Life blog. The Biennale of Sydney continues through August 27.



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Lorna Simpson
Los Angeles

Museum of Contemporary Art
Now through July 10

  Lorna Simpson appropriates African-American cultural imagery to address racist stereotypes ingrained in popular culture. This mid-career survey includes a range of Simpson's photographic experimentations and video installations. A series of stark black-and-white portraits depicts African-Americans of all ages. Shot in a placeless studio setting, their subjects' faces withheld from view, the pictures pair with enigmatic missives providing invented contextual narratives. Corridor, a split-screen projection filmed in cinematic color, provocatively contrasts the solitary activities of a female servant in Colonial-era America with the idle domestic routine of a wealthy housewife, both played by artist Wangechi Mutu. The looped monotony of each woman's life suggests that restraints on freedom transcend time and fate. (CG)





Los Carpinteros: Inventing the World
Cincinnati

Contemporary Arts Center
Now through July 30

  Havana-based art collective Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters) fuse art and design to craft objects that respond to Cuban politics, regional military tensions, and globalization. They classify their sculptural projects into three spheres: architecturally inspired works representing the public sphere; objects for the home representing the private sphere; and work associated with water that flows between public and private. Los Carpinteros' extraordinary craftsmanship exhibits the sharpest conceptual wit in the domestic realm, alluding to surrealist dream symbols and Duchamp's employment of commonplace objects to express metaphorical meaning. The sculpture Estuche (Jewelry Case) is a 7-foot wooden hand-grenade, fitted with drawers; Panera (Breadbox) turns an ordinary breadbox into a small missile; and Sofa Caliente (Hot Sofa) is a dramatic powder-coated, couch-shaped cooking range. (AMM)





Cosima von Bonin: Relax, It's Only a Ghost
New York

Friederich Petzel Gallery
Now through July 15

  For her first solo exhibition anywhere in almost two years, German artist Cosima von Bonin invites us into her mind's graveyard, littered with odd constructed detritus and stitched assemblages. Sitting ominously in the main gallery, The Beyond is a torqued, black-lacquered wall supporting steps that lead to nowhere. Occult themes continue in three structural installations resembling watchtowers, entitled Night of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. Imposing and stark white, each structure overlooks a featureless, oversize stuffed dog that evokes an apparition from a long-dead cartoon show. Elsewhere, von Bonin's colorful patchwork tapestries overlaid with Rorschach inkblots and ambiguous, sewn texts taunt viewers who desire to see something that may not be there at all. (JC)





Can Altay: No Bar, Just Bottles
Bilbao

Sala Rekalde
Now through July 9

  Can Altay is fascinated with the clash between architectural and social spaces. For the past several years, Altay has produced a series of works and installations based on the minibar phenomenon, a situation where Turkish youths gather to freely drink in open spaces around buildings in Ankara. His multilayered installation at Sala Rekalde includes audiovisual documentation of the nighttime events; a reading room with theoretical books about transgression, architecture, and the production of space; photographs of the neighborhoods' attempts to reclaim the sites; and cheaply printed flyers with party pictures and quotes from participants, which visitors are encouraged to apply to the gallery walls. Altay's interactive environment brings the informal mood of the streets to the white box and breathes life back into it. (PL)





Daniele Buetti: Is My Soul Losing Control?
Brussels

AEROPLASTICS contemporary
Now through July 1

  Daniele Buetti's new solo exhibition departs from the media-conscious, fashion-oriented images of rangy models covered in scar tissue and scrawled words for which the artist is best known. The exhibition concentrates on the Comédie humaine, the freak show that is the human condition. Video screens, balanced haphazardly on secondhand furniture, display images such as a still swimming pool, a child struggling with a diving mask, or a man alone in a hut. Prints on buten paper feature delicate studies of anatomical details surrounded by phosphorescent trails of light, energy seeming to dissipate from the same listless subjects inhabiting the videos. Here Buetti achieves an uncommon delicate beauty through the pathos his characters express. (JCC)



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[ Sally Smart ]



Sally Smart

Sally Smart's work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in the Asia-Pacific region, in shows ranging from the Biennale Jogja in 2005 to 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth, which included rising artists from the former British Empire. Her touring solo shows have crisscrossed Australia in recent years as well. Smart's colorful wall assemblages of painted felt and other materials combine mixed-media collage, intellectual sampling, and historical references to create fractured, epic spectacles that are part fantasy, part social critique. Sharing sensibilities with international contemporaries such as Kara Walker, whose silhouettes confront the history of racism and the American South, and Swoon, whose graffiti-inspired, wheat-pasted pieces address urban mythologies, Smart is ready for broader recognition.

In her US solo debut this year at Postmasters Gallery in New York, The Exquisite Pirate, Smart resurrected the history of female pirates. The all-encompassing installation deposited viewers into a ghostly armada hovering on the gallery walls, accented by skull-and-crossbones details such as an electric blue pirate flag whipping from the main mast and a bleached skeleton strung up from a ship's prow. Mixing layers of multi-patterned, multi-textured fabric to evoke spatial depth and dynamism, her patchwork aesthetic borrows from the two-dimensional forms of Indonesian wayang shadow puppets. The Exquisite Pirate also refers back to Foucault's treatise on heterotopia, in which he describes boats as a place without a place. In Smart's work, female pirates embody a history without a history.

Smart has also presented art in public contexts. In 2001 her Family Tree House installation covered the four-story billboard facade of the Visible Art Foundation's Republic Tower in Melbourne, looming over passersby. The tree's structure gave form to a fairy-tale vision of domestic relationships, with each branch and stem containing its own vignette. A fiercely innovative voice in feminist and post-colonial art, Smart deftly handles weighty material with a light touch. (AM)

The Exquisite Pirate will be exhibited in a three-person show this fall at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Smart is currently transforming the installation into an animation in collaboration with independent film producers Blue Dahlia.



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[ Charlotte Day ]


     

Ricky Swallow / James Angus / David Noonan / Tom Nicholson

Paul Laster talks with Charlotte Day, curator of the Ricky Swallow exhibition in the Australian Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale and former director of the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, about contemporary art in Australia.
AK: The perception in America is that Australia is somewhat removed from the usual circuit of cultural exchange that flows through centers in Europe and Asia. Is that a misconception?

CD: When one looks at the representation in many biennials and in art fairs in particular, the "international art circuit" appears to be between North America, Britain, specific European countries, and a few Asian centers. Yet, this is a narrow perspective that is chiefly market orientated. The fact is that the voracious appetite for new art and greater appreciation of differing perspectives has already led curators to artists from further afield, for example to parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. It's probably a matter of time for the art market to catch up. While Indigenous Australian painting and sculpture has been widely exhibited and highly regarded for two decades or so, it has only been more recently that nonindigenous Australian artists have begun to benefit from international exposure.

The geographical isolation of Australia does mean fewer influential international curators, collectors, and gallerists visit and become familiar with the Australian art community and vice versa, so there is less organic exchange. I see this as gradually changing, as artists and galleries become more mobile, and communications become easier. In my experience, the best exchanges and the most solid and enduring relationships begin between individuals — between artists and curators, or artists and gallerists.

AK: What distinguishes art in Australia right now? Is there a great diversity of competing aesthetics, visions, and styles, or are there one or two dominating trends?

CD: It's difficult to generalize, but I suppose there is an identifiable shift to art that is more responsive to the political situation both in Australia and more broadly. For many artists, questioning ideologies and belief systems is a focus in their artwork. As elsewhere, there has been a return to painting and drawing as well as other art forms where the hand of the artist is more evident. There is also a strong interest in work that explores material transformation and translation, for example the work of Hany Armanious and the younger artist Nick Mangan.

AK: There seems to be a number of vital alternative spaces throughout the country. Is there a lot of government support for these centers? What role are they playing in the development of new art?


keep reading the interview »


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  Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia
Britta Schmitz, Victoria Lynn, Tessa Dwyer, Daniel Palmer, et al.
Hatje Cantz Publishers

An exhibition catalogue from the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, Face Up surveys 14 prominent artists from Australia. The featured work varies from the architecture-inspired sculptures of James Angus and Callum Morton to the confessional-style videos of David Rosetzky. Curator Britta Schmitz's lively selection includes Rosemary Laing's panoramic photographs of natural disasters in the outback; Robert MacPherson's rambling installations of signs, symbols, and poetic objects; Simryn Gill's photographs of the colorful interiors of Malaysian houses; Fiona Hall's sly sea creatures crafted from plumbing pipes and glass beads; Aboriginal artist Darren Siwes' ghostly photographs addressing absence and presence; and decorative porcelain busts by Ah Xian. Interviews with and essays about the artists as well as texts about the development of the Australian art scene, art films, and artist-run spaces make this an informative introduction to the art down under. (PL)



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Cover Art
Tracey Moffatt
Björk, 2005
Archival pigment ink on acid-free rag paper
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
All Rights Reserved

Editors
Paul Laster
Bryony Roberts
Andrew Maerkle
Greg Zinman
Nikki Columbus
Jocelyn K. Glei
Mark Mangan
Shana Nys Dambrot
Allison Kave
Marlyne Sahakian
Sarah Kessler
Laura Moser

Contributors
Naomi Beckwith
Justin Conner
Rachel Cook
Lisa Cooley
Jessica C. Crombie
Lucy Davies
Annette Ferrara
Francesca Gavin
Cole Godvin
Leigh Goldstein
Katherine Gunderson
Jessica Kraft
Catherine Krudy
Katie Kurtz
Melissa Lo
Christopher Y. Lew
Natasha Madov
Audrey M. Mast
Antonio Pasolini
Shiraz Randeria
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Claire Trancons
Hannah Vaughan
Michelle Weinberg


  Production
Anjuli Ayer
Morgan Croney
Jules Gaffney

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

Founders
Christopher Elam
Mark Barry

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