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Thukral & Tagra, Condoms Are Sexy-1 (detail), 2006

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Basel Art Fairs
June 13-26, 2007

Art lovers flock to Europe this week for the rapid-fire openings of the Venice Biennale, Art Basel, documenta, and skulptur projekte münster, all vying to show the best of contemporary art. We focus on Art Basel first — with issues on the other events to follow — and survey the artists showcased in gallery booths and large-scale, experimental exhibitions. German photographer Thomas Demand speaks to us about his latest simulations of historical events, and we profile the intriguing Japanese artist Yoshitaka Azuma, who fills silhouettes of young girls with writhing animals and forests at LISTE. For our media pick, we review the recent monograph of Chinese painter Feng Zhengjie, who is exhibiting at VOLTAshow03, and we touch on exhibitions outside of Europe, looking at new work by Rivane Neuenschwander, Robin Rhode, and Zhou Jun.


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Mr. Polke Goes to Venice
(International Herald Tribune, May 29)
Calling his new work a "milestone," notoriously private painter Sigmar Polke opens up about his contribution to the 52nd Venice Biennale — a group of seven large-scale paintings, collectively titled The Axis of Time. Composed of layers of multicolored fabrics and violet lacquer and adorning the festival's Italian Pavilion, the paintings give off an eerie glow and change color in the light. Polke balances a meticulous knowledge of his materials with a heavy dollop of mysticism, saying of the luminousness, "Like celestial light, it gives the indication of new, supernatural things."

Johnson's Glass House Opens to Public
(Los Angeles Times, June 3)
On June 23, architect Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut opens to the public for the first time. Visitors are able to tour the transparent modernist masterpiece as well as the ten other structures stippling the 47-acre property. Designed in 1949, the house is where Johnson lived with David Whitney, his longtime partner. Some enthusiasts have to wait to see the estate site, however, as tours are already booked full through October.

Richard Serra's MoMA Moment
(International Herald Tribune, June 4)
Sculptor Richard Serra's enormous, twisting constructions of Cor-Ten steel have taken over the garden, second, and sixth floors of the Museum of Modern Art. Serra's Torqued Ellipses join earlier works of rubber and steel in the museum's ongoing retrospective of the artist's career. While not fully comprehensive, the show — which had a star-studded premiere and has received rapturous praise — does feature over two dozen works from the '60s to the present, including his 2006 Torqued Torus Inversion, two ovular steel enclosures whose forms are reminiscent of "swooning lovers."

Garrels Surveys LA's Art Scene
(LA Weekly,, May 23)
Gary Garrels, chief curator of the Hammer Museum, was recently interviewed by the LA Weekly regarding the state of the arts in the City of Angels. He also talked about his time at MoMA, said that LA's galleries are now on par with Berlin's, and remarked on the advantages of working at a "lean and flexible and effective" museum. Of the Hammer's current Eden's Edge exhibition, which features 15 contemporary area artists, Garrels said the show represents a "sense of open possibility of change" — a state that sums up "the LA Zeitgeist right now."

Tate shows Dalí and Disney collaboration more »

Behind the curtain in Jeff Koons' studio more »

Greek police shut down exhibition featuring racy installation more »

Spotlight on Anselm Kiefer's monumental new installation more »

Michigan State University receives $26-million gift for new museum more »

Louise Bourgeois on her art and life more »

Gallerist brings art to LA's bail-bond row more »

Peter Brant said to be selling Interview and Art in America more »

First private museum of postwar Russian art bows more »

At home with Charles Saatchi more »

Australia's top architect calls hotel project a "debacle" more »

Another look at abstractionist Mary Heilmann more »

Is the Chinese art market a scam? more »

Being Frank Gehry more »

Tate Modern hosts a sleepover more »

Art thefts linked to organized crime more »

Huge art prices mean museums are acquiring less more »

Kuitca reps Argentina at the Venice Biennale with epic works more »

LA's Museum of Contemporary Art gifted 33 pieces more »

Collector Heinz Berggruen dies at 93 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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[ Art Basel ]


Aneta Grzeszykowska / Linder / Jean-Luc Moulène / Thomas Struth

All eyes are on Europe this summer for the rare convergence of Art Basel, the Venice Biennale, documenta, and the skulptur projekte münster, a once-a-decade phenomenon gathering the best contemporary art on one continent. Anticipating crowds making the Grand Tour, this year’s Art Basel contains many artists appearing in the other festivals and heightens its extravagant exhibitions to compete with the curated events.

The heart of Art Basel, the Art Galleries section features almost 300 high-profile, international galleries and shows more than 2,000 artists. Lehmann Maupin from New York brings work by Tracey Emin — Britain's representative at the Venice Biennale — alongside new sculptures from Teresita Fernández and Do-ho Suh, and Tokyo's Tomio Koyama Gallery hosts solo exhibitions of young Japanese painters Keisuke Yamamoto, Daisuke Fukunaga, and Yoshino Masui. Challenging the status quo, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen from Brussels shows post-punk work from Justin Lieberman and jarringly colorful paintings by Lisa Sanditz. Elsewhere, Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery presents a group of zany cultural appropriators, including Hany Armanious, Tracey Moffatt, Callum Morton, and Michael Parekowhai. Complementing the gallery booths, this year's Art Premiere section prompts gallerists to mount shows comparing work by two artists. Among the 16 galleries chosen, Tracy Williams hangs Barbara Bloom's ghostly images alongside Zoe Leonard's American landscape photographs.

Flexing its curatorial muscle, Art Basel also hosts dozens of enormous installations, provocative public art projects, and intimate solo exhibitions for emerging artists. The Art Unlimited section houses 70 unusual large-scale works, including a chaotic mound of detritus from Christoph Büchel, anthropomorphic tree trunks from Ai Weiwei, an inviting swimming pool from Hélio Oiticica, and black, geometric sculptures from Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla. Throughout the city of Basel, public art projects such as Vedovamazzei's slanted house, Paul McCarthy's lewd Santa, and Tadashi Kawamata's delicate tree hut make surprising additions to urban spaces. The Art Statements section gives solo exhibitions to 26 promising talents, including the imaginative Amy O'Neill, designers Thukral & Tagra, role-player Aneta Grzeszykowska, and filmmaker Rosalind Nashashibi, who also exhibits in the Scotland Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

In an effort to present more art forms, Art Basel initiated two new programs this year: Artists Records and Art on Stage. Complementing the existing Art Film program, Artists Records exhibits sound recordings by Jack Goldstein, Rodney Graham, Jutta Koether, Christian Marclay, and Carsten Nicolai. Art on Stage, a collaboration with Theater Basel, provides artists with a professional stage and is inaugurated by Rirkrit Tiravanija's An Untitled Concert.

Completing the roundup of contemporary art, a cluster of fringe fairs represent the galleries and artists overlooked by Art Basel. LISTE teems with new galleries and young artists, while the new SCOPEBasel competes for market share with a different selection of emerging galleries. VOLTAshow exhibits more established galleries specializing in young talent, bâlelatina focuses on underrepresented Latin artists, and Design Miami/Basel brings limited-edition designer furniture to the throngs of collectors, curators, critics, and artists crowding the streets of Basel. (BR)

Art Basel is on view June 13 to 17, while LISTE and SCOPEBasel run from June 12 to 17, VOLTAshow from June 11 to16, bâlelatina from June 13 to 17, and Design Miami/Basel from June 12 to 16.

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Zhou Jun: Bird's Nest Project

Red Gate Gallery
Now through June 17

  Zhou Jun's large-scale, black, white, and red-tinged photographs translate the experiential depth of Beijing's unending construction into two-dimensional media. Focusing on historical monuments under renovation as well as the site of the "bird's nest" Olympic National Stadium — the planned centerpiece for the 2008 Olympics — Zhou digitally reworks his images, tinting the worksites' scaffolding and tarps a bright red against the grayscale background. In so doing, he encages historical monuments in alien structures, effecting cloaked forms that recall the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In Bird's Nest Project No. 1, a composite panorama of the massive stadium site, red oozes out of the construction like an uncontrollable lava flow. (HSB)

Rivane Neuenschwander
São Paulo

Fortes Vilaça
Now through June 23

  Rendering the quotidian extraordinary, Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander creates large-scale installations mimicking public imagery and texts. The colorful Atrás da porta (Behind the door) comprises a wall hung with silkscreened reproductions of bathroom graffiti glimpsed in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and New York. Ranging widely in size, these simple, linear compositions depicting marijuana leaves, skulls, and butterflies form surprisingly elegant demonstrations of the toilet-art genre. For Mapa-Múndi BR (postal), the artist photographed Brazilian signs displaying the names of foreign locales to make a set of 65 postcards for distribution in the gallery. Their dissemination by exhibition-goers quite literally enables Neuenschwander's "world map" to travel the globe. (SK)

Robin Rhode
New York

Perry Rubenstein Gallery
Now through June 23

  Known for vibrant performances incorporating crude charcoal drawings on streetscapes, South African artist Robin Rhode adds fresh dimensions to his unique practice with a sprawling solo show in all three of Perry Rubenstein's Chelsea galleries. Elongated beer-bottle sculptures, a soap bike, and an abstract wall drawing with charcoal blotches resembling inky jellyfish dominate the main gallery. Elsewhere, black-and-white photo-sequences track evolving sketches of a boxer, a juggler, a ping-pong player, and a hand spinning records. In a new video collaboration, a dancer gives life to a morphing wall drawing of tree branches in response to a cellist's score, and Rhode also shares his first 16mm film — an elusive look at lighting a candle. (SH)

Rhode's work is also on view in the three-person show Street Level at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina through July 29.

Bjarne Melgaard: The Glamour Chase

Galleri Faurschou
Now through June 16

  In The Glamour Chase, Bjarne Melgaard pares down his choice of media from film, furniture, and animation to focus on painting. The ten large-scale, expressionistic canvases on view — all untitled — rework past subjects: overgrown Chihuahuas, beefy men, elephants, and phalluses. However, Melgaard's use of tropical sunset hues makes these hulking alter egos, labeled by blocky black texts, goofy instead of threatening. This lighter attitude is also apparent in the way Melgaard casts himself not only as a painter but also as a novelist and filmmaker. The prominence of the artist's own name collapses previous characters — like the "Muscle Snuff Monster," drawn in 2004 after Melgaard began taking steroids — into a singular yet multifaceted identity. (ASA)

Salla Tykkä: Bestial Gazes

Bonniers Konsthall
Now through June 17

  In her riveting 12-minute 2006 film Zoo, Salla Tykkä explores visual power structures. A woman resembling Tippi Hedren from Hitchcock's noir classic The Birds silently roams the Helsinki Zoo; she aims at animals with the camera she carries, but never presses the shutter button. Her thwarted efforts to select a satisfying motif build the film's tension, accentuated by a suspenseful string soundtrack. Interspersed footage of a violent game of underwater rugby reflects the woman's agitation as she is unable to escape the animals' gazes. She finally gives up her attempt at voyeurism and abandons the camera on the shore of a pond, turning it into the sole spectator of her drowning. (ES)

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[ Yoshitaka Azuma ]

Yoshitaka Azuma

Kyoto-based Yoshitaka Azuma was already attracting the attention of savvy art watchers in Japan before he joined Tokyo's Hiromi Yoshii gallery, whose roster of artists shares a sensual, psychedelic aesthetic. Since then, Azuma's career has quietly taken off, propelled by his appearance in After the Reality, a 2006 group show at New York's Deitch Projects.

Azuma's paintings and drawings compress psychic landscapes and whimsical figuration to play with the human body, memory, and the border between reality and fantasy. Combining precise, obsessive illustration with acrylic washes, his work frequently depicts the outlines of young girls, both individually and in groups, in desultory poses. Symbols of conventional beauty disintegrate as the artist fills his characters' contours with a maelstrom of associative imagery.

In the recent work Play the innocent, waves of blonde hair cascade over a girl's shoulders, but one of her arms has transformed into an alligator's head, while her other hand clutches a miniature grizzly bear. Her torso is composed of a green-and-yellow picket-fence pattern, her calf contains a twisting black rose, and two blue hands locked in an occult gesture substitute for her face. In Azuma's other fantastical portraits, wild animals, tree branches, and psychedelic patterns fill the silhouettes of young bodies, with small, black shoes and schoolgirl braids bounding the writhing chaos.

Azuma's images are fragmentary and often unrecognizable, as if they were regurgitations of all the sound bytes, white noise, pop-up ads, and neon signs that pace daily modern life. Nevertheless, even the overstimulated art-fair crowds are sure to recognize his unique vision and deadpan humor. (AM)

Yoshitaka Azuma's work is on display at the Hiromi Yoshii booth at LISTE and at the Deitch Projects booth at Art Basel through June 17. He also has a solo show at Hiromi Yoshii in Tokyo in September.

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[ Thomas Demand ]


Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand has been honored with major mid-career retrospectives at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2005, London's Serpentine Gallery in 2006, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2007. With new two new projects on view at Venice's Fondazione Prada through July, Berlin-based Demand talks with Artkrush contributing editor H.G. Masters about his identity as a German artist, an artist's relationship to history, and how his practice is evolving in the wake of broad critical acclaim.
AK: Your work is on view in the group show Reality Bites: Making Avant-garde Art in Post-Wall Germany, which chronicles German art following the fall of the Berlin Wall. How did Germany's re-unification affect your artistic development?

TD: It was perhaps less important to my development than to my interest in narratives, and hopefully my sensitivity towards changes, frictions, and patterns of references in society — especially the one that I grew up in.

AK: Do you mean that re-unification permitted you and others to speak about a collective history — a more coherent narrative — for Germany and Europe?

TD: Those are big words, but let's put it this way: I had the feeling that the objectiveness of the previous generation and their fear of any narrative had become obsolete.

AK: Though you work from photographs often related to important historical events, the dramatic action has already occurred. In reconstructing these scenes, do you feel like a participant or a witness to history?

keep reading the interview »

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  Feng Zhengjie
Eleonora Battiston, Li Xianting, et al.

Internationally known for his large-scale portraits of women as stylized pop icons, Chinese painter Feng Zhengjie has been turning heads since he was a student at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. In 1995, he moved to Beijing, and explored a variety of painting styles before gaining recognition for a colorful series of kitschy wedding portraits. Feng's discovery of Shanghai advertising posters from the '30s influenced two later series; his Butterfly in Love paintings depict pairs of women, with one figure nude and the other in ornamental dress, while the glowing China portraits, which he continues to paint today, emphasize extravagant hairstyles, narrowed eyes, voluptuous lips, and showy accessories. Though his paintings are highly decorative, the essays and interviews in this beautifully illustrated monograph argue that Feng's work is a visual metaphor for the ideological conflicts, rampant consumerism, and sense of alienation troubling contemporary China. (PL)

Feng Zhengjie's work is on view at Marella Gallery's booth in the VOLTAshow in Basel and in a two-person show at Tilton Gallery in New York, both through June 16.

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Cover Art
Thukral & Tagra
Condoms Are Sexy-1, 2006
Acrylic, oil, and fabric appliqué on canvas
72 x 144 in./ 182.9 x 365.8 cm
Courtesy the artists and Bose Pacia Gallery, New York
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

News Editor
Greg Zinman

Reviews Editor
Andrew Maerkle

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Bryony Roberts

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Shana Nys Dambrot
Allison Kave
Sarah Kessler
Doug Levy
Mark Mangan
H.G. Masters
Marlyne Sahakian
Peter Stepek

Anna S. Altman
Henri Stéphan Benaim
Shayla Harris
Elna Svenle

Mailer Design
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