Over the last year it has become clear that nothing sends a shiver down the spine of museum colleagues as consistently as a new peice from British journalist Tiffany Jenkins. Here’s this week’s piece in the Guardian – on crowds in museums. And here an earlier and releated piece from the Financial Times more blunt in reccommending entry fees as a way to keep the decorum in and the hordes out. It’s all far from the ugliest of Jenkins’ work (but still snobbishly calls school tours of galleries ‘desperate’). For that, work your way back from this response by Andrew Paul Wood in Eyecontact and this by Kathy Bowrey.
A while back I posted a link to Len Lye’s 1937 film N. or NW. This week MUBI published a great piece from Cristina Álvarez López on the same work.
Dayanita Singh is interviewed here discussing her Pocket Museum publication, a miniature version of the Museum Bhavan exhibition published by Steidl.
Some listening for a change. Last month 95bFM broadcast an interview with Erika Balsom as part of their Artbank programme. Balsom is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London and was visiting New Zealand as part of the Govett-Brewster At Gallery’s International Film Curator in residence programme. Balsom covers her visit to New Zealand (and Australia) in this month’s Art Monthly magazine (unavailable online).
There’s a lot of talk around Alexander Calder lately, principally around he Whitney Museum’s exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility. This piece from Hyperallergic covers the performative aspect of Calder’s motor driven works in the Whitney show. The article includes several videos from the Whitney’s channel which lead me on the Calder Foundation’s own videos. Here’s Calder Foundation chairman and grandson of Calder, Alexander S. C. Rower, demonstrating motion in Calder’s work.
The other exciting news in the Calder world is Jed Perl’s new biography, an excerpt published here by the Smithsonian.
WYNDHAM LEWIS: A BATTERY SHELLED (1919)
The Imperial War Museum North’s Wyndham Lewis exhibition gets a review in the London Review of Books, reviewer Jon Day observing Lewis’ best work was his war paintings:
‘In fact, the pictures are still shocking: war gave Lewis a subject which was equal to his anger. He pays as much attention to the angle of a rack of shells as he does to the bodies of the men around them. Unlike some of his peers, he wasn’t interested in the dynamism of war – there are no explosions, his war paintings are strangely static. Nor did the war do much to strip him of the schoolboyish contrarianism of Blast. But it did give him a way of applying Vorticism to the real world, providing a context for what Read called ‘the geometry of fear’. Lewis’s work can still feel more modernist than any of his peers.’
This week I’ve been starting to work in earnest on a forthcoming exhibition concerning experimental cinema so it was timely to see the Village Voice wrapping up with a great interview with filmmaker and critic Jonas Mekas.
Still in film, the British Film Institute has launched a the BFI Filmography which boasts of being ‘a complete history of UK feature film, explorable and shareable’.
There’s been lots of noise in recent about the Barbican’s exhibition Basquiat: Boom For Real. The two reviews that caught my attention most were from Waldemar Januszczak (‘shallow, uneducated, disingenuous’) and Michael Glover (‘fame-frothy noise and visuals’). Edward Lucie-Smith is kinder to the exhibition. Laura Cumming says it’s charming. Looking at the gift shop offerings, you can choose from a range of Basquiat triptych skateboards (open edition) for a touch under 400 quid (wheels are extra). Surely the most bizarre exhibition gift shop merchandise ever devised!
Meanwhile (enjoying my Mondrian and De Stijl socks I bought recently from the Stedelijk) I read Nina Siegal’s account of a fake Mondrian and the fraught issues of expertise and authentication.
Staying with museums, Xavier Salomon recently followed in the footsteps of D. H. Lawrence, tracing the writer’s steps in his travel account Etruscan Places (1932).Recounting Lawrence’s perspectives on Etruscan art and civilisation Xavier recalls the following opinion on museums:
‘Museums anyhow are wrong. But if one must have museums, let them be small, and above all, let them be local. Splendid as the Etruscan museum is in Florence, how much happier one is in the museum in Tarquinia, where all the things are Tarquinian, and at least have some association with one another, and form some sort of organic whole’
And in the spirit of museums being wrong, this is why I avoid things like ‘ask a curator’ day and twitter back and forth with the public.
There is a couple of week’s reading to catch up on as I have been preoccupied with a several new Len Lye exhibitions, notably the new exhibition opening at Christchurch Art Gallery, Stopped Short by Wonder (on until 26 November). Curated by CAG’s Lara Strongman, the exhibition is the largest survey of Lye’s work held in Christchurch for several decades and includes requisite works like Universe and Fountain. However, it’s great to see CAG have selected a range of rarely seen paintings by Lye, particularly God of Light (1978), and a large number drawings previously unexhibited. There’s also Big Blade performing in a gallery setting for the first time. The Press previewed the exhibition here with some video of the sculpture in performance.
The exhibition in Christchurch is accompanied by Henry Matisse: Jazz, an exhibition of Matisse’s portfolio of prints issued in 1947. It’s a nice connection to Lye, sitting in the gallery adjacent to Lye’s proto-MTV experimental films with their jazz sountracks. Interesting then to read this piece this week from Edward Lucie-Smith on the Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy and its discord with multiculturalism. You can also read Jonathan Jone’s criticism of that same exhibition too.
Just finished this piece today from the New Yorker on Solomon Shereshevsky, a Russian afflicted with synaesthesia and a resulting ability to remember everything. Well not quite, as the article uncovers. But it lead me to reread this older New Yorker piece on Henry Gustave Molaison, the American who couldn’t remember anything. It also brought me back to this recent and fascinating piece on our sense of colour from from Maria Michela Sassi at Aeon, The Sea was Never Blue, exploring the ancient Greek understanding of colour.
Controversy this week in Australia over the awarding of the Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture to Justine Varga for a cameraless photograph produced by the action of the artist’s grandmother writing and spitting on to the negative. The Sydney Morning Herald lead the charge with a couple of pieces and plenty of quotes from disgruntled photographers – their main criticisms here. They raise the question of whether the work is a photograph, whether it’s a portrait, and finally if it was even authored by the artist. With those issues hanging over it, it’s a wonder why the bile hasn’t been more directed to the awards organisers for including the work rather than the typical sexist dismissal of the artist on social media and the hate mail (!) to judge and NGA curator Shaune Lakin. Check out photographer Jack Picone’s social media discussion on the matter to see responses from the dead heart of Australian photography – at best, it’s surprising how few professional photographers can define a photograph.
Hyperalleric reposted an article on Duchamp’s Optical Experiments, something I’m thinking over a bit this week as we install our next Len Lye exhibition at the Govett-Brewster, considering the famous 1961 exhibition of kinetic art Rörelse i konsten/Bewogen Beweging which included the likes of Lye and Jean Tinguely alongside Duchamp. More in this in the coming weeks.
Yorkshire’s Hepworth Wakefield wins Art Fund UK Museum of the Year prize. I have to agree. I’ve had the fortune to visit the Wakefield on each of my trips back home to the UK and enjoy the museum more each time. In fact, wishing I was in the UK right now to catch the Wakefield’s Howard Hodgkin exhibition.
Reviews of The Body Laid Bare, Auckland Art Gallery’s exhibition of nudes from the Tate Collection, continue to stress the lack of colour.
Looking forward to this new biography of the photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, or Nadar as we all know him.
After some Friday night hectoring about exhibition making from someone fired up by Susan Sontag – “in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art” – I saw this Bookforum piece on Sontag’s diaries. The usual stuff. But it reminded me of something I wanted to read again. It’s close to ten years since filmmaker Errol Morris tackled Sontag’s accusation that Roger Fenton faked one of his most well-known photographs in a fascinating investigation for the New York Times. You’ll need some time to work through it, coming in three substantial episodes: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. Morris runs the gamut of what you can do (and the time you can spend) in thinking over a photograph, or two in this case.
Canada celebrates 150 years since its founding this week, however with somepause for thought for its indigenous cultures. David Balzer at Canadian Art writes on Canada’s settler-colonial kitsch and Adam Gopnik at the The New Yorker contemplates the foundation of the United States by comparison.
The Walker Art Centre is at the centre of another quagmire, this time around the Jimmy Durham retrospective. Hyperalleric has a good summary while the comments at Jezebel are quite ride.
And working as I do with kinetic sculpture this piece was a pleasant find this week – on the museum activators of Alexander Calder’s work. Add to that Jean-Paul Satre’s 1947 essay on Calder’s work for ARTnews.