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An Extremely Intelligent Lava Lamp: Refik Anadol’s A.I. Art Extravaganza at MoMA Is Fun, Just Don’t Think About It Too Hard


Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” is being touted as Artificial Intelligence’s triumphant arrival in the museum-art canon. So I went to see the splashy installation currently in the Museum of Modern Art’s ground-floor annex with a mission, to get a glimpse of what MoMA-approved A.I. art promises, or threatens, for the future.

Born in Istanbul and currently based in Los Angeles, with a studio of more than a dozen people, Anadol was known for many years more for interactive public-art commissions than for work in museums and galleries. He boasts collaborations and support from the likes of Microsoft, NVDIA, and Google. In the recent past, his stock has dramatically soared—which makes sense given the fact that his work engages with three trends that have lately shaken up the art conversation: immersive installation, NFTs, and generative A.I. “Unsupervised” combines a bit of each.

Here is what you see at MoMA: A towering, high-res screen where abstract images morph hypnotically and ceaselessly. Sequences run a few minutes each, toggling between different styles of animation.

The most crowd-pleasing of these simulates a seething, gravity-defying cloud of colorful fluid, the palette based on colors derived from the works in MoMA’s collection. New colors are constantly swirling into the image and taking over, the whole thing surging in and out restlessly, like a psychedelic, drugged-out ocean wave. The high-res screen renders the simulated rainbow gloop convincingly thick and dimensional.

Refik Anadol: Unsupervised

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ben Davis.

While this mode is the most visually memorable, it is also the one that has the least clear connection to the ostensible Big Idea of the show. “Anadol trained a sophisticated machine-learning model to interpret the publicly available data of MoMA’s collection,” the show’s description explains. “As the model ‘walks’ through its conception of this vast range of works, it reimagines the history of modern art and dreams about what might have been—and what might be to come.”

This premise is more directly enacted in the other two types of animation, which are also harder to describe. One evolves endlessly through blobby, evocative shapes and miasmic, half-formed patterns. Sometimes an image or a part of an image briefly suggests a face or a landscape but quickly moves on, becoming something else, ceaselessly churning. It looks like this:

A third type of animation does much the same, but with jittery networks of lines connecting different key points as the art-inspired shapes define themselves. I’m not totally sure what these vectors suggest, but they give the image texture and atmosphere. It looks like this:

Art History, Without the History

You can tell, in these latter two types of animation, that “Unsupervised” is manifesting art-like images specifically inspired by some constellation of works in MoMA’s collection. Despite a screen that appears as punctuation between sequences displaying dense graphics related to what you have seen, the exact operation is not really clarified.

The ever-new, synthetic images of Anadol’s “Unsupervised” are blobby and chaotic, and look exactly like what art made via Generative Adversarial Networks most often looked like before the breakthroughs of DALL-E and its A.I. ilk captured the imagination of the public last year: Woozy, semi-random, art-like visual outputs, with wispy, unresolved edges. They look a little bit like preliminary sketches for art you might have seen in the original data-set (or in the galleries)—if you squint.

"Refik Anadol: Unsupervised"

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Ben Davis.

The effect is pleasant. What it is not is anything like what MoMA says it is: an experience that “reimagines the history of modern art and dreams about what might have been.”

MoMA has spent recent decades trying to move beyond the formalist ideas of art that it inherited from its founding director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. with his famous graph of Modernism as a bunch of styles mechanically branching off of one another. Generally, contemporary art historians would insist on rooting meaning in culture and context. Abstraction means one thing when its Gee’s Bend Quilts, another when it is Abstract Expressionism, still another when it’s Tibetan sand painting, and still another when you put a bunch of images into an A.I. blender and remix them.

It’s striking to see MoMA tacitly let a new high-tech formalism through the door, one even flatter and less historical than Barr’s—as if the curators were so excited by the wonders of A.I. that they didn’t notice. What the endorsement of “Unsupervised” as an alternative-art-history simulator insinuates, for its audience, is that art history is just a bunch of random visual tics to be permuted, rather than an archive of symbol-making practices with social meanings.

 

Dreaming… Reimagined?

Describing his works that use A.I. to make generative art out of huge datasets like “Unsupervised,” Anadol speaks of them as machine “dreams” or machine “hallucinations.” But the terminology, once more, mystifies what is going on.

"Refik Anadol: Unsupervised"

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Ben Davis.

As Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, citing Coleridge, in dreams (I guess I have to specify here, in human dreams) emotional causality is reversed: “Images take the shape of the effects we believe they cause. We are not terrified because some sphinx is threatening us but rather dream of a sphinx in order to explain the terror we are feeling.”

But there is no emotional text to Anadol’s endless animation at MoMA. At most, the installation conveys a generalized awe at the machine’s superhuman capacity of visual analysis. (The fact that the soundtrack is a kind of shapeless, droning synthesizer score that is almost a cliché in “futuristic” video work doesn’t help.)

I sat through two hours of “Unsupervised.” I can’t think of a single image in it that evoked any feeling in me besides curiosity about what it might be referencing. As one might expect, they are just semi-random acts of syntheses and recombination of properties, expressing nothing about anything in particular except for the machine’s ability to do what it is doing.

Mis-recognizing Dystopia

I would contend that scraping away the ill-considered metaphors (e.g. reimagined art histories, dreaming) helps to better see what’s really happening in front of your eyes.

This would be nitpicking, though, if it weren’t for the fact that what these poetic readings of the technology are doing is selling us on a certain style of thinking about A.I. as a creative proposition, at a time when A.I. text-generation and A.I. image-generation are being deployed so fast that society is racing against the clock to catch up with the implications—as if “move fast and break things” hadn’t been discredited as a motto.

It is because Anadol has created such a purely decorative, cheerleader-ish style of A.I. art—so different than the critical lens that artists such as Hito Steyerl and Trevor Paglen have brought to the subject in recent years, with great impact—that he received so much support along the way from the tech giants. Indeed, his positivity is probably an unstated condition of that support.

Refik Anadol: Unsupervised

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Ben Davis.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed a pervasive and perverse rhetorical sleight of hand in the art-tech conversation. Call it the willful misreading of dystopia. You hear technologists reference artworks that are meant as sci-fi cautionary tales but, weirdly, purely as positive design inspiration, divorced from their prophetic moral or ethical substance. The recently trendy idea of the “metaverse,” which comes from Neal Stephenson’s grim take on virtual reality in Snow Crash, is an obvious example.

Anadol is a notable dystopian mis-reader. When he refers to his works as “machine dreams” and “collective hallucinations,” he often says his inspiration is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In a TED Talk, he describes having his imagination fired by the moment in that movie when the android Rachael realizes that her memories are not real, but implants. “Since that moment,” Anadol says, “one of my inspirations has been this question: What can a machine do with someone else’s memories?”

Blade Runner is a melancholy work about the uprooted sense of self and collapsing sense of reality in a future where humanity and machine are no longer distinguishable. None of this seems to register with Anadol, just the idea that machine-generated memories are cool.

"Refik Anadol: Unsupervised"

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ben Davis.

Anadol’s first work that used A.I. to generate infinite new outputs based on a massive dataset was Archive Dreaming, executed in spectacular installation form in 2017, as an application of the experiments he had been engaged with at Google’s Artists and Machine Intelligence Program. It looked at 1,700,000 documents and generated ever-new images based on them.

In that same TED Talk, Anadol claims that Archive Dreaming was inspired by Borges’s famous short story The Library of Babel, which envisions a universe that is one never-ending library, whose books contain every possible combination of characters. But The Library of Babel was an intellectual horror story, a parable about the nihilism that results when all meaning collapses into nothing. When the inhabitants of Borges’s library finally realize the implications of the world they live in, they commit mass suicide!

The point is, these cultural references are mined in the most superficial way—very much as MoMA’s archive is sucked up in Unsupervised and stripped of real substance outside of pure visual inspiration. And so, you can read this style of art as emblematic of a moment in which tech aesthetic of perpetually novel gadgetry is dominant while the humanities, with their unprofitable baggage of historical and moral concerns, are being allowed to wither.

"Refik Anadol: Unsupervised"

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Ben Davis.

And Then There Are the NFTs

Don’t get me wrong. “Unsupervised” is amusing enough on its own, if you look past the cloud of mystification. It’s a bit like an extremely intelligent lava lamp.

But if it seems a little vacant, there is reason to suspect that MoMA is incentivized not to ask too much of it.

With his background, Anadol was well-positioned to become one of the biggest stars of the NFT art scene during the crypto boom of 2021. In fact, his “Unsupervised—Machine Hallucinations—MoMA Dreams” line of NFTs based on MoMA’s collection is being sold on Feral File, the NFT marketplace from the well-respected art-technologist Casey Reas (one of Anadol’s former teachers at UCLA). “Ten years ago, when we asked, Can we mint machine memories and dreams in the blockchain of one of the world’s most inspiring archives? I wouldn’t have imagined that was possible,” Anadol enthuses in MoMA Magazine. “I mean it was a very Philip K. Dick idea, but I feel like we are, right now, truly doing it.” (Finally, a way for MoMA to play a part in bringing the cheerful world of Total Recall closer to reality!)

MoMA itself gets a percentage of the sales of the digital artworks—17 percent of primary sales and 5 percent of secondary. Surely showing “Unsupervised” prominently at MoMA has to be considered as a great ad for the associated line of NFTs that sends profits back to the museum (you can see the spike of trade in them that coincides with the show opening on OpenSea). The curators have been promoting the show with conversations featuring both Anadol and Reas, where they talk as much about NFTs as about the installation.

It may be that the exact same thing that makes this genre of work commercially appealing for people buying NFTs—its untroubled techno-philia—is what makes it feel flat to me as an artistic statement. The suspicion that MoMA is incentivized to fast-track this kind of art is going to linger.

Sadly, the melting of commercial and non-commercial borders strikes me as more prophetic of “what might be to come” in art than any of the images summoned up by the machine in the gallery.

“Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” is on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, through March 5, 2023.

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Don’t Know How to Start Investing in Art? Fintech Startup Arttrade Has a Solution


Art collecting has a very distinct cachet, one that is exclusive, monied, and largely opaque. Blue-chip art and artists (those with a proven sales record and a reliable history of increased valuation) regularly make headlines with record-setting sales, leaving many to believe the market is accessible only to those with incredible amounts of capital and insider know-how. In recent decades, art as a form of investment has become mainstream, as a greater understanding of its appreciation of value is more closely studied and understood. In fact, “Big Four” accounting firm Deloitte estimates that by 2026 over $2.7 trillion will be invested in collectible assets, largely comprised of art objects.

Although fine art is appreciated and collected for its cultural and aesthetic value, it is also a formidable financial asset—one that has gained tremendous traction over the past decade, with upwards of 85% of wealth managers as of 2022 recommending art as a means for portfolio diversification. Art collecting, however, is commonly thought of as a pastime exclusive to the ultra-wealthy. We’ve all seen staggering hammer prices for artworks at major auction houses, or learned of astonishing six- or seven-figure sales at fairs, with the cost leading many (frankly, most) into believing they simply cannot afford or understand how to invest in art.

 

Founders of Arttrade, left to right, Svenja, David, and Julian.

Founders of Arttrade, left to right, Svenja Heyer, David Riemer, and Julian Kutzim.

Contemporary financial technology, more commonly known by its portmanteau “fintech,” has come a long way in providing accessibility and transparency to the process of investing in art. Fintech company Arttrade was founded by Svenja Heyer, David Riemer, and Julian Kutzim with the aim of providing a means of diversifying one’s portfolio through art—specifically blue-chip art—without having to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Arttrade maintains an extensive and knowledgeable network of gallerists and art dealers, as well as an independent art advisory board, to aid in identifying some of the most promising blue-chip artworks. Then, using data-driven analysis, including information culled from Midnight Publishing Group—the most trusted auction database in the world—the artist’s or artwork’s value appreciation is forecasted to determine which pieces meet Arttrade’s discerningly high standards. Each asset acquired by Arttrade is then fractionalized via digital security tokens that can be purchased by investors, allowing them to partake in the artwork’s accrual in value. The barrier for entry, unlike traditional art collecting routes, is incredibly low, with investments starting at only €250.

 

Gerhard Richter, 3.5.88 (1988). Courtesy of Arttrade.

Gerhard Richter, 3.5.88 (1988). Courtesy of Arttrade.

The ability to own fractions of artworks through tokenization, and soon trade and sell the said tokens, removes many of the hurdles commonly associated with entering the traditional art investment sphere. The accessible threshold of participation through Arttrade opens the door for a wider, more diverse body of investors to engage with the art market—who can do so with the confidence of having state-of-the-art technology and the backing of artworld insiders and experts’ know-how at their disposal.

Learn more about Arttrade’s assets here.

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Don’t Miss These 6 Lots Heading to Auction at New York’s Showplace, From an Art Deco Polar Bear Clock to a Charming Raoul Dufy Seascape


For over two decades, New York’s Showplace has served as a unique shopping destination offering a wealth of fine art, design objects, jewelry, and luxury fashion, as well as a mix of vintage ephemera to in-the-know collectors. Along with selling exhibitions, Showplace also hosts a bevy of auctions each year, and this fall it is presenting Important Fine Art & Design (October 10), a 145-lot auction that brings together fine art by Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso, premier design objects by Knoll and Carlo Scarpa, and much more.

The auction featured works from some esteemed New York collections too, drawing from the Fifth Avenue residence of the MacArthur Family; the Park Avenue estate of American film producer Martin Bregman; and the Fifth Avenue residence of Jill and Ken Iscol. 

While collectors can certainly bid online, those in New York are welcome to preview lots at Showplace’s newly renovated galleries on 25th Street, where the auction will take place live. Below, check out 6 lots you won’t want to miss.

 

Raoul Dufy
Saint-Adresse (circa 1950)
Estimate: $60,000–80,000

Raoul Dufy, L'entrée du port à Sainte-Adresse (circa 1950). Courtesy of Showplace.

Raoul Dufy, L’entrée du port à Sainte-Adresse (circa 1950). Courtesy of Showplace.

Raoul Dufy’s vibrant seaside oil painting L’entrée du port à Sainte-Adresse (circa 1950) stands as one of the fine art highlights of the sale. The work encapsulates the best of Dufy, with an aerial view of an energetic French waterfront filled with pedestrians, marked by his signature passages of bright blue. The work also has an impressive provenance, coming from the collection of Wally Findlay Galleries.

 

Jean Dubuffet
Three Palm Trees (1948)
Estimate: $40,000—60,000

Jean Dubuffet, Three Palm Trees (1948). Signed and dated upper left: "J. Dubuffet '48." Courtesy of Showplace.

Jean Dubuffet, Three Palm Trees (1948). Signed and dated upper left: “J. Dubuffet ’48.” Courtesy of Showplace.

This 1948 watercolor on paper work shows an abstracted trio of palm trees, brimming with character. It predates Dubuffet’s move toward the “art brut” style for which he is best know but nevertheless showcases his movement towards intense gesturalism. The work bears a Cordier & Ekstrom, Inc. (New York) gallery label on verso.

 

Rare Gem-Set Gold Clock, Vacheron Constantin
Estimate: $40,000–60,000

Art Deco revival gem set gold clock, the 18K gold case with diamonds, ebellished gold hands nestled in the upright paws of a reclining bear with ruby eyes outlined in gold.

Art Deco revival gem-set gold clock, the 18K gold case with diamonds, embellished gold hands nestled in the upright paws of a reclining bear with ruby eyes outlined in gold.

The title for most adorable lot likely belongs to this Art Deco revival gem-set gold clock featuring a reclining polar bear with ruby eyes. The bear balances the clock’s face upon its paws like a ball, while itself being perched atop a stepped onyx base, outlined in 18-carat gold trim and raised on 18-carat gold feet.

 

Diego Giacometti
Table Berceau
Estimate: $150,000–250,000

Diego Giacomett, Table berceau (designed circa 1965). Stamped signature "Diego." Courtesy of Showplace.

Diego Giacometti, Table berceau (designed circa 1965). Stamped signature “Diego.” Courtesy of Showplace.

This low, patinated bronze table is rare in Diego Giacometti’s oeuvre. The table was acquired directly from the artist by Gallerie Gianna-Sistu in Paris during the late 1970s and was subsequently imported by Hirschl-Adler, New York, for dealer Jeffrey Hoffeld in 1987. The work now arrives at auction from a private Park Avenue collection, where it has resided since 1993.

Moise Kisling
Anemones Dans Un Vase
Estimate: $30,000–50,000

Moïse Kisling, Anémones dans un vase. Courtesy of Showplace.

Moïse Kisling, Anémones dans un vase. Courtesy of Showplace.


Polish-born French painter Moïse Kisling moved to Paris at the age of nineteen and would spend the majority of his life there (aside from a few years in the U.S. during World War II). A friend and contemporary of Amedeo Modigliani, Kisling became well-known from his slightly stylized portraits of women. This charming painting, Anémones dans un vase, comes from the collection of the Wally Findlay Galleries.

 

Joan Miro
La Metamorphose
Estimate: $15,000–25,000

Joan Miro, La Métamorphose (1978). Courtesy of Showplace.

Joan Miro, La Métamorphose (1978). Courtesy of Showplace.

Joan Miro’s colorful 1978 etching and aquatint on paper titled La Métamorphose is perhaps the highlight of the print works offered in the sale, with swirling, lyrical shapes in Miro’s bold color palette of red, black, and white, plus pops of green, yellow, and blue. The print is number 17 from an edition of 50.

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Don’t Miss These 5 Landmark Works of Canadian Postwar Art Hitting the Auction Block This Month


Candian art history has a unique heritage shaped by thousands of years of artistic creation, early on by the First Nations Peoples, through the development of the Group of Seven—the landscape painters in the 1920s and ‘30s who pioneered a distinctly Canadian Modernism—and later through the embrace of international art movements in the 1960s.

Founded in 2017, Montreal auction house BYDealers wants to share this artistic heritage with a global audience. Having established unique partnerships with significant art dealers throughout the country, BYDealers has centered itself within a singular nexus of expertise—bringing with it a number of sought-after artworks by Canada’s most famous artists.

Many of those works are now being offered in BYDealers’s “Historical and Post-War Canadian Art Online Auction” (May 8–30). The sale’s 68 lots span from the nation’s early Modern art movements up to creations of the recent past—with a particular emphasis on works from the 1960s and ’70s.

Below, we picked out five that you won’t want to miss.

 

Paul-Émile Borduas
Modulation Aux Points Noirs (1955)
Estimate: $400,000–600,000

Paul-Émile Borduas, Modulation Aux Points Noirs (1955). Courtesy of BYDealers.

Paul-Émile Borduas, Modulation Aux Points Noirs (1955). Courtesy of BYDealers.

In September 1955, Québecois artist Paul-Émile Borduas set out from New York for Paris with his daughter Janine. This transatlantic journey inspired the artist’s “simplifying leap,” an idea that would permeate his abstract painting throughout 1956, one of the most prized periods of his career. Modulation Aux Points Noirs (1955) comes from the very first paintings the artist made after arriving in Paris. Here, thick spatula smacks of white impasto are smeared in places to reveal hints of color, while dashes of black—which is emblematic of the series—energetically intersperse the cool-toned surface. 

 

Jean Paul Lemieux
Nu Sur Fond Bleu (1963)
Estimate: $325,200–425,000

Jean Paul Lemieux, Nu Sur Fond Bleu (1963). Courtesy of BYDealers.

Jean Paul Lemieux, Nu Sur Fond Bleu (1963). Courtesy of BYDealers.

Jean Paul Lemieux is regarded as one of the most important Canadian artists of the 20th century, known for his almost folkloric figures set against the backdrop of Canada’s vast landscapes. Nu Sur Fond Bleu (1963) possesses a quiet majesty characteristic of the artist’s best works: the profile figure of a young woman dissolves against a serene blue background with the ethereal impermanence of a dream.

 

Jean Paul Riopelle
Sans Titre / Untitled (1958)
Estimate: $175,000–225,000

Jean Paul Riopelle, Untitled (1958). Courtesy of BYDealers.

Jean Paul Riopelle, Untitled (1958). Courtesy of BYDealers.

Jean Paul Riopelle had an impassioned and almost sculptural approach to paintings—filled with ravines and peaks of paint—that capture the rigor and decisiveness of his technique. This untitled work from 1958 is a prime example. Marked by rigorous smears of colors, Untitled (1958) captures the creative turn Riopelle took in the second half of the 1950s as his mosaic works of 1953 and 1954 gave way to a fierce gesturality.

 

Claude Tousignant
Double 30 (Azo-Cobalt) (1975)
Estimate: $12,000–15,000

Claude Tousignant, Double 30 (Azo-Cobalt) (1975). Courtesy of BYDealers.

Claude Tousignant, Double 30 (Azo-Cobalt) (1975). Courtesy of BYDealers.

With Double 30 (Azo-cobalt) (1975), Montreal artist Claude Tousignant created one of the defining motifs of his career: the circular diptych. This seminal work belongs to a series of tondos and shaped canvases that first earned Tousignant international acclaim. Here, four concentric circles form a reverberating optical illusion, in which, as Tousignant put it, “the confrontation of these pairs of colors—which by their juxtaposition produced, so to speak, a third color.”

Jean Albert Mcewen
Midi, Temps Jaune (1960)
Estimate: $80,000–100,000

Jean Albert Mcewen, Midi, Temps Jaune (1960). Courtesy of BYDealers Auction House.

Jean Albert McEwen, Midi, Temps Jaune (1960). Courtesy of BYDealers Auction House.

Here, oranges, saffrons, and lemon yellows are layered in gauzy, semi-transparent layers that hint at the drowsy summer light and fragrant blossoms of June, while hints of purple emerge here and there. This painting captures the best of McEwen’s colorist approach to the canvas and marks a special year in the artist’s career. The sister painting to Midi, Temps Jaune—Les Amours Jaunes (1960)—was the opening work in McEwen’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts retrospective in 1988. 

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Don’t Miss These 10 Museum Shows Opening in Europe in 2021, From a Hito Steyerl Retrospective to a Star Turn for Helen Frankenthaler


After 2020’s crush of postponements and cancellations, we are hopeful that 2021 will be different.

While a lot still remains to be confirmed, we have plucked out the most highly anticipated exhibitions to see in Europe in 2021.

 

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
May 27–November 28

Helen Frankenthaler, Madame Butterfly (2000). One-hundred-two color woodcut. ©2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphic Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY

Helen Frankenthaler, Madame Butterfly (2000). One-hundred-two color woodcut. ©2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphic Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY.

This major print retrospective of Helen Frankenthaler includes 30 works on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, spanning from her first-ever woodcut, in 1973, to her final work, published in 2009. The show will examine the artist’s innovative approach to printmaking, defying the woodcut medium’s supposed limitations to create new dimensions of beauty.

 

Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Green Coconuts and Other Inadmissible Evidence
Vienna Secession, Vienna
Through February 7

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, <i>Once Removed</i> (2019). Exhibition view Secession 2020, Photo: Iris Ranzinger.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Once Removed (2019). Exhibition view Secession 2020, Photo: Iris Ranzinger.

This exhibition of the Turner Prize-winning artist’s work investigates sound, speech, memory, and their role in the quest for truth. A key tenet of the artist’s practice is his analysis of acoustic clues and earwitness testimony, and the exhibition will include four works from two series that investigate this, as well as other forms of witnessing. Included will be Abu Hamdan’s audiovisual inquiry into the Syrian torture prison Saydnaya, After SFX (2018), as well as a new series of prints titled For the Otherwise Unaccounted, which is inspired by birthmarks.

 

Untitled: Art on the Conditions of Our Time
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
February 6–April 5

Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, <i>Finding Fanon Part One,</i>(2015), courtesy of Copperfield Gallery & Seventeen Gallery, London. Image: Claire Barrett.

Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Finding Fanon Part One,(2015), courtesy of Copperfield Gallery & Seventeen Gallery, London. Image: Claire Barrett.

This group show will bring together 10 British artists who are part of the African diaspora whose work probes key cultural and political questions of our time. It will include new commissions and recent works by by Barby Asante, Phoebe Boswell, Kimathi Donkor, and others. Curator Paul Goodwin says the exhibition will center the works, instead of focusing on Blackness itself. “Questions of Blackness, race, and identity are shown to be entangled in the multitude of concerns—aesthetic, material, and political—that viewers can encounter without the curatorial voice obscuring the works,” he says.

 

Ad Minoliti
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
April 1–March 13

Ad Minoliti, <i>Cubes</i>(2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Ad Minoliti, Cubes (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

This is the Argentinian artist’s biggest exhibition, and first institutional UK show, to date. The artist, whose work was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale, is known for making colorful paintings and installations that grapple with queer theory and feminism. The show is conceived as space of respite away from the constaints of gender binary, human-centered art and life, in what the artist calls an “alien lounge.” It will host bi-weekly workshops as part of Minoliti’s Feminist School of Painting, which will tackle traditional painting genres in an effort to reimagine historical narratives from feminist, intersectional, and queer perspectives.

 

A Fire in My Belly
Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin
February 6–December 12

Laure Prouvost <i>They Parlaient Idéale</i> (2019). Courtesy of the artist und carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.

Laure Prouvost They Parlaient Idéale (2019). Courtesy of the artist und carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.

Curator Lisa Long is planning a major exhibition drawing on Stoschek’s collection, which includes challenging and cathartic pieces by artists including Barbara Hammer, Anne Imhof, Adrian Piper, and Arthur Jafa. The viewer will be positioned as a witness to acts of violence in a brave look at how it is represented, distributed, and circulated. Rarely seen pieces and several new works that were recently purchased will be on view. The show’s title, “A Fire in My Belly,” is an homage to the seminal work of the same name by American artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, which will also be on view.

 

 

Hito Steyerl
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
February 3–June 7

How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic EducationalHito Steyerl (2013). Image courtesy of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin .

The acclaimed German artist’s largest-ever show in France was pushed back from its original date last summer. The exhibition, which was first presented last fall at K21 in Düsseldorf, includes a best-of of Steyerl’s major works, including her break-out 2013 piece, How not to be seen, and Factory of the Sun from the 2015 Venice Biennale, as well a new production. Part of the show will incorporate the unique architecture of the Centre Pompidou as a point of departure.

 

Beuys: 2021
Various Venues in Europe
Throughout 2021

Joseph Beuys Photo: Behr/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

Joseph Beuys Photo: Behr/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

The conceptual artists is the subject of a major blockbuster program next year that will take place in 12 German cities, as well as in Warsaw, Poland, Vienna, Austria, and Manresa, Spain. We are particularly looking forward to the exhibition at K20 in Düsseldorf, called “Everyone Is an Artist: Cosmopolitan Exercises With Joseph Beuys,” which opens on March 27. The show will presents many contemporary artists in dialogue with Beuys, questioning or expanding on the practice of this most enigmatic artist. In October 2021, the Krefeld Museum will offer the first exhibition ever to juxtaposition Beuys with Marcel Duchamp.

 

Slavery
The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
February 12–May 30

Unknown, Multiple leg cuffs for chaining enslaved people, with 6 loose shackles, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda.

Unknown, Multiple leg cuffs for chaining enslaved people, with 6 loose shackles, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is planning a major show that looks at the history of slavery across the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. The show will look at the Dutch involvement in the slave trade, taking up 10 true stories of individuals who were either victims or profiteers of the trade. More than 100 objects and artworks will be on view from the Rijksmuseum collection and elsewhere. “This past has long been insufficiently examined,” museum director Taco Dibbits said.

 

Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective
Gropius Bau, Berlin
March 19–August 1

Yayoi Kusama, <I>Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show</i> (1963). Courtesy: Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Yayoi Kusama, Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963). Courtesy: Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

This major survey show will focus on the early development of Yayoi Kusama’s work, including the early paintings and sculptures that eventually led to her immersive environments, which will also be on view. The show is curated by the museum’s director, Stephanie Rosenthal, in collaboration with Kusama’s studio, and charts the Japanese artist’s often overlooked activities in Europe and Germany from the 1960s onward. The show will travel to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in late 2021.

 

Sonsbeek
Various Venues, Arnem
April 10–June 21

sonsbeek curatorial team. Courtesy sonsbeek.

Sonsbeek’s curatorial team. Courtesy sonsbeek.

Taking place about every four years, “Sonsbeek” brings international artists to the small town of Arnem in the Netherlands. This edition is helmed by the Berlin-based curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, who has turned the concept for the exhibition on its head: it will now open in 2021 and will unfold over the next four years. Topics including race, gender, and the state of the working class will be central to the show, which includes artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Laure Prouvost, Oscar Murillo, and Willem de Rooij, among others.

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