artnet news

Why It’s Worth Savoring Leonor Fini’s Enchanted Surrealism at Kasmin + Other Things to See and Read


Well, one month of 2023 already gone. I started the year with a New Year’s Resolution to write a bit more about art outside of the automatically must-cover big shows or controversies. That’s hard—every pressure of media life pushes towards becoming a brain in a vat plugged directly into trending topics.

But I do want to try! Despite the general bad vibes of our moment, people go on doing and saying interesting things and trying to figure it all out. We’ll see how the year goes. In the meantime, here are a few things I saw and liked, or read and felt worth recommending, in the last weeks.

 

Things to See

Work by Leonor Fini at Kasmin

Work by Leonor Fini at Kasmin. Photo by Ben Davis.

Leonor Fini at Kasmin

Leonor Fini (1907-1996) is a Surrealist great, and also one of those figures who has been greatly under-appreciated. I mean, just a few years ago, it took New York’s Museum of Sex to give her a first big American retrospective. More recently, the Argentinian-Italian artist’s star has been ascendant, with her declaration that she wanted to be seen as a “witch rather than as priestess” making her perfect for the feminist-Surrealist vibe of the recent Venice Biennale. Kasmin’s mini-survey has Fini’s numinous, libidinal paintings accompanied by her theatrical self-made outfits, freaky masquerade ball masks, and even a pair of clip-on gold devil horns. The show contains magic, maybe in metaphorical and non-metaphorical ways.

 

Installation view of Alfatih, "Day in the Life," at Swiss Institute

Installation view of Alfatih, “Day in the Life,” at Swiss Institute. Photo by Ben Davis.

Alfatih at Swiss Institute

The Switzerland-based new media artist’s slick, strangely engaging black-and-white digital animation in the basement of the S.I. centers on the doings of a seemingly super-intelligent cartoon baby, looping endlessly through different permeations of daily domestic rituals (cooking, taking a bath) within the confines of some kind of stylish domestic purgatory. If someone told me that I would be moved by something best described as—I dunno—“Yoshitomo Nara meets Spielberg’s A.I.” or “Limbo meets Boss Baby,” I wouldn’t believe them. But that’s why you don’t judge an art show based on pithy little riffs like that. A vignette where the enigmatic child plinks at the piano as rain pours and lightening strobes all around continues to circle in my brain long after I have left the cartoon creature to carry on with its own devices.

 

Installation view of Carrie Schneider, "I Don't Know Her," at Chart

Installation view of Carrie Schneider, “I Don’t Know Her,” at Chart. Photo by Ben Davis.

Carrie Schneider at Chart

A 16-mm film installation concentrating on a looping image of the Mariah Carey “I don’t know her” meme (the singer pretending not to who Jennifer Lopez is, often used to cast shade), multiply abstracted and reprocessed. It’s an old-fashioned film film showing a phone showing a meme made from a TV show clip of a pop star talking about another pop star. Of course there’s a Pavlovian ’90s nostalgia element to just seeing Carey’s stone-cold quip reframed as art, but I Don’t Know Her (as the work is called) wrings an unexpected bit of beauty from freezing this circulation of media into a shimmering suspension, the image abstracted and pockmarked as it acquires personal associations like a worn-down lucky penny. Fun and brainy and weirdly hypnotic.

 

Things to Read

Why Is Everything So Ugly?” by the Editors, in n+1

From the Winter issue of n+1, the scene-setting lead editorial on “the New Ugliness” made the rounds last month because it names something worth naming: the generally crappy, greige-colored sameness of the urban creative world now, presented via an entertainingly and convincingly cranky ramble across the full landscape of consumption, from architecture to advertising. “One paradox of the new ugliness is that it flattens the distinction between the rich, the very rich, the superrich, and the merely fortunate by ripping them all off in turn.”

TikTok’s Enshitification” by Cory Doctorow, in Pluralistic

A nice complement to the n+1 rant, and maybe its internet-specific corollary of the “New Ugliness.” The trigger for Doctorow’s screed is a consideration of the implications of recent revelations about how TikTok “boosts” key creators with the end of luring them into their platform with a fake sense of its potential. But really this is a famed web thinker’s master theory of why the internet feels so bad now, backed up by a pretty convincing, historically informed political economy of platform capitalism’s tendencies towards making its own services worse over time, i.e. “enshitification.” (While you are at it, Christopher Byrd’s conversation with Doctorow for the New Yorker last month is also well worth checking out.)

Finding Awe Amid Everyday Splendor” by Henry Wismayer, in Noema

As an argument, this one is a bit scientistic for my tastes, but I like its summary of the history and present research on the aesthetic concept of “awe.” The key argument here is that, in calling us to visceral awareness of our own smallness, awe is actually our brains signaling that we need each other. It is thus an emotion that “binds social groups in common purpose” (from which it follows that a society so jaded that it can’t make time for real moments of awe is also one that has lost one of its resources of holding itself together).

 

Things Also Worth Mentioning…

Outside Dunkunshalle for the book launch of Filip Kostic's Personal Computers

Outside Dunkunshalle for the book launch of Filip Kostic’s Personal Computers. Photo by Ben Davis.

Rachel Rossin’s Dunkunsthalle in FiDi

The scrappy art space in a repurposed Dunkin Donuts is worth keeping an eye on. It was a great site last week for the launch of L.A.-based Filip Kostic’s Personal Computers, a very amusing, long-in-the-making compendium of found photos showing the surreal lengths some hobbyists go to kit-out their PCs (gotta love the guy who built his CPU tower into a taxidermied beaver). Watching random passersby seeing Kostic fans packing the space, then peering slowly up at the “Dunkunsthalle” name in signature Dunkin lettering, and trying to figure out what was going on, was a bonus.

Josh On relaunches TheyRule.net

The project, debuted in 2001, is a net art classic and a very early and important example of what Albert-László Barabási recently termed “dataism.” Via crisp, no-nonsense web animation, it compiles a catalogue of the names on the boards of the major companies in the U.S. and shows how they interlock. The new version of TheyRule has updated data for our even more corporate-dominated present, with an autoplay feature endlessly walking you from one end of the network to the next via branching graphics. The site is searchable by name or company, so it can serve as a research tool—but it’s also very much an artwork, something like an x-ray image of the economy so that you just see the unsettlingly alien bone structure underneath.

The artist modestly calls TheyRule a “one-liner,” but it’s a one-liner that hits, maybe even more than when it first launched.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Spotlight: Ugo Rondinone’s Witty Takeover of a Swiss Museum Sees Him Curate Himself Into Art History


Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist or exhibition you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

What You Need to Know: On view from January 26 to June 19, 2023, the Museum of Art and History (MAH) in Geneva is presenting their its annual Open Invitation exhibition. For this edition, Ugo Rondinone was invited to take over the MAH building and its collection to produce the immersive exhibition experience “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up.” Situated within the iconic architecture designed by Marc Camoletti (1858–1940), and heavily referencing two famed Swiss artists from the collection, Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) and Félix Vallotton (1865–1925), the endeavor posits a dialogue between the historic and the contemporary, thanks to Rondinone’s interventions. The proverbial bookends of the exhibition are two works by Rondinone, the sun (2017) and the moon (2022)—circular sculptures measuring more than 16 feet in height, the former in gold and the latter in silver—which can be used as starting or ending points for visitors as they wind their way through the galleries.

About the Artist: Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964) studied at the Hochschule für Angewandte Künste in Vienna before relocating to New York in 1998, where he currently lives and works. Rondinone represented Switzerland at the 2007 Venice Biennale alongside Urs Fischer and has become widely recognized for his monumental public commissions; his two most famous being Human Nature (2013), which was installed at New York’s Rockefeller Center and received millions of visitors, and Seven Magic Mountains (2016), an installation of boulder totems in the Nevada desert. Working across sculpture, painting, video, sound, and photography, the artist’s varied practice engages with equally diverse themes and motifs that reference the zeitgeist through, for example, contemporary parlances or the iconography of advertising. Rondinone also has a parallel curatorial practice, granting him a complex understanding of the myriad ways his work and projects interface with the public.

Why We Like It: Rondinone’s takeover of the MAH highlights both the artist’s unique artistic and curatorial vision as well as the institution’s premier historical collection and magnificent architecture. Involving nearly a dozen gallery rooms, Rondinone invites visitors to explore the unique juxtapositions between his work and that of the historical art and architecture of the room. In one gallery, Rondinone takes a collection of Hodler paintings of Swiss warriors and installs them on pedestals, transforming them into sculptures to circumnavigate. Elsewhere, another gallery is populated with 11 glass horses in varying shades of blue containing water from different oceans, a response to the series of paintings by Hodler depicting Lake Geneva and Lake Thun that are hung on the wall—inviting a reflection on the natural versus artificial, “the bounded and the boundless.” Together, each room within “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” presents a new facet of Rondinone’s dialectical exploration of his own artistic practice against the backdrop of a major European institution.

See inside the exhibition below.

Installation view of "when the sun goes down and the moon comes up" (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun goes down and the moon comes up" (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun goes down and the moon comes up" (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun goes down and the moon comes up" (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun goes down and the moon comes up" (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

when the sun goes down and the moon comes up” is on view through June 18, 2023.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

A New Photography Exhibition at MFA Boston Is Taking Viewers Through the ‘Multiple Realities of War’ in Ukraine


For far too often in the last 11 months has the sky above Ukraine been scarred by gunfire, shells, and explosions. A new exhibition of Ukrainian war photography at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston takes that same sky as a metaphor—and turns it into a kind of call to action. 

Who Holds Up the Sky?”, as the show is called, was organized by a trio of curators from the Wartime Art Archive at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) NGO in Kyiv, and brought to the U.S. through a collaboration with the MFA. It collects the work of Ukrainian artists who have documented the war since Russia’s invasion in February of last year. 

“Overcoming the darkness of death, shelling, genocide, and blackouts, photography captures the multiple realities of war,” the exhibition’s three MOCA NGO curators—Halyna Hleba, Olga Balashova, and Tetiana Lysun—wrote in the introductory wall text. The show, they explained, was conceived as a tribute to “everyone who is holding up the sky over Ukraine.”

Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

On view are shots of missiles being launched from Russia, taken by photographer Vadym Belikov from the window of his own high-rise building, as well as a picture of the destruction that similar missiles have wrought on Ukrainian farmland, captured by war correspondent Efrem Lukatsky. 

Those two artists’ works are punctuated by several photos from Yana Kononova’s X-Scapes series, which document the physical destruction in Kyiv’s northern regions—twisted sheet metal, cratered housing structures—but are each cropped to the point of abstraction. Gone are direct indications of war, leaving the emotional devastation of the wreckage heightened.

Pillars in the MFA’s gallery are lined with illustrations from Inga Levi’s ongoing Double Exposure series, which began just days after Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Each entry in the collection depicts two realities: one of everyday life in Ukraine, one of war.  

Efrem Lukatsky, Bird’s eye view of a crater left by a Russian rocket that hit a farm field 10km from the front line. Despite
shelling, local farmers continue harvesting
(2022). Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Rounding out the show is a video about the “Behind Blue Eyes” project, a charitable effort that provides Ukrainian kids with disposable cameras. They’re asked to carry around their cameras for a week, photographing their daily routines. The goal, according to the view’s label, is to project a “coherent and complex footprint of the war” from the perspective of those whose lives will forever be shaped by it.

The name of the project comes from the song of the same name by The Who. The curators suggest that the blue of the title is also meant to allude to the sky—a reminder, perhaps, that we’re all united by the firmament above us, even if it looks different.

See more images from “Who Holds Up the Sky?” below.

Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Kostiantyn Polishchuk, Ukrainian soldiers (2022). © Polishchuk Kostiantyn. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Yana Kononova, X‑Scapes #63‑17 (2022). Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Who Holds Up the Sky?” is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston through May 21, 2023.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

In Pictures: A Henry Taylor Retrospective at MOCA Spotlights the Artist’s Individual Yet Universal Portraiture


In just about every article, interview, or press release written about Henry Taylor, he is described as “an artist’s artist.” No matter what that term actually means, it’s undoubtedly a compliment, but it cuts out the non-artist’s ability to appreciate and respect the man’s great talent.

If anything, Taylor is an artist of the people. He paints, sculpts, and draws them furiously, as evidenced by the extraordinary breadth of work on view in the career retrospective “Henry Taylor: B Side” on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the artist’s hometown of Los Angeles.

As a chronicler of people from every cross-section of humanity, Taylor’s subjects range from family members, to fellow artists, to the patients at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital where he worked decades ago. In all of his works, there is something both universal and achingly individual, with many of his paintings serving as character studies spliced with social commentary.

In the exhibition catalogue, curator Bennett Simpson writes of Taylor: “He is also, or maybe foremost, a champion and caretaker of Black experience, suffusing his work with recognition and social commentary alike. In this role, his paintings communicate a deep sense of responsibility—to memory and community, to excellence and contingency.”

See pictures from the exhibition below.

“Henry Taylor: B Side” is on view at MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, through April 30, 2023. 

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Screaming Head (1999). mage and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Screaming Head (1999). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2022). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2022). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Too Sweet (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, Too Sweet (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2021). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Ken Adlard.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2021). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Ken Adlard.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Andrea Bowers (2010). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Robert Bean.

Henry Taylor, Andrea Bowers (2010). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Robert Bean.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, I Was King, When I Met The Queen – Syllable X’s Rhythm Equals Mumbo Jumbo (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, I Was King, When I Met The Queen – Syllable X’s Rhythm Equals Mumbo Jumbo (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, "Watch your back" (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, “Watch your back” (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (1991). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (1991). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Gettin it Done (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Henry Taylor, Gettin it Done (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Henry Taylor, Cora (cornbread) (2008). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Henry Taylor, Cora (cornbread) (2008). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

A Keen-Eyed Shopper Paid $700 for a Chandelier in an Antique Store. It Turned Out to Be an Alberto Giacometti Worth Up to $3 Million


A rare chandelier by Alberto Giacometti could fetch up to $3 million at an upcoming Christie’s London sale—a big mark up from the £250 ($700) the owner paid for it back in the 1960s.

The buyer, British painter John Craxton, was pretty sure what he was getting when he spotted the work in a store window on London’s Marylebone Road. He recognized the lighting fixture as the one commissioned by his late friend Peter Watson, an art collector.

“Peter Watson came into his fortune when he was quite young, after his father died, so he had the freedom to explore what he was very passionate about, which was art and literature,” Michelle McMullan, a senior specialist in Impressionist and Modern art at Christie’s London, told Midnight Publishing Group News.

Watson, who was a cofounder and financial backer of the literary magazine Horizon, likely commissioned the chandelier for the publication’s office on London’s Bedford Square during one of his trips to mainland Europe, either in 1946 or ’47.

Alberto Giacometti, <em>Chandelier for Peter Watson</em>. Photo courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2023.

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023.

“Watson’s real passion at that time was Surrealism, and you can kind of see it in the sculpture, which combines what Giacometti is doing in the ’40s and the naturalistic elements of his decorative arts with the ball hanging from the bottom,” McMullan said. “That is a real Surrealist element, which is what makes it quite unique.”

The artist may have even been referencing one of his own early Surrealist works in the design, which recalls his 1931 piece Boule Suspendue.

Giacometti is less known for his more utilitarian design objects, but they were nonetheless a major part of his practice.

Alberto Giacometti, <em>Chandelier for Peter Watson</em>. Photo courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2023.

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023.

“Objects interest me hardly any less than sculpture, and there is a point at which the two touch,” the artist wrote in a 1948 letter to dealer Pierre Matisse.

“Alongside his more famous sculptural work, Giacometti did make decorative design pieces, the most famous of which were collaborations with the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank,” McMullan said. “The chandeliers don’t come up at auction very often. They are usually unique editions.”

The top price one has ever fetched was £7.6 million ($10.4 million) in 2018—but that piece featured one of Giacometti’s signature stick figures, increasing its desirability.

The artist’s most-expensive work ever to sell at auction went for $141.3 million at Christie’s in May 2015, according to the Midnight Publishing Group Price Database. The record-setting piece, titled L’Homme au doigt (Pointing Man), is also the highest-priced sculpture ever to hit the block.

Alberto Giacometti, <em>Chandelier for Peter Watson</em>. Photo courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2023.

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023.

Chandelier for Peter Watson is not expected to match those lofty heights, but Christie’s predicts it will hammer for £1.5 million to £2.5 million ($1.9 million to $3 million) at the “20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale” on February 28.

The piece only hung in the Horizon offices for about a year, at which point the publication folded and it was put into storage. Watson died just a few years later, in 1956. The chandelier likely passed to Horizon cofounder Cyril Connolly, but exactly how it wound up in an antique shop remains a mystery.

For roughly half a century, the buyer Craxton hung the piece in the music room in his home in London’s Hampstead neighborhood. Some years after his death in 2009, his estate finally decided to get the piece authenticated.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook: