I suspect that my opinion of Damien Hirst is fairly common: i like his work/i don't like his work. I find the guy likeable and then i don't. I did however, enjoy visiting the two exhibitions that presented a small selection of his private collection Murderme. I saw a part of it 6 years ago at the Serpentine Gallery in London. The show was called In the Darkest Hour There May Be Light. A skeleton dressed like an Inuit was lying on an ice cube and Sarah Lucas had her Chicken Knickers on. The collection is having another outing right now but in Turin, at the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. The title of the show this time is Freedom Not Genius. The artists shown are roughly the same (the artworks aren't): Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol; Richard Prince and his nurses; many of Hirst's YBA friends; a couple of Banksy. But also artefacts i don't remember having seen in London: taxidermied exotic animals, 17th-century vanitas paintings, vintage photographs and old skulls.
There were a few works i didn't care about (mostly the ones by Jeff Koons), a couple that surprised me (and that includes one by Jeff Koons) and many more i found rather uplifting. The Murderme collection is pure entertainment. Death is made dramatic and sometimes even cheerful. The artists have names most people have heard about. I found the exhibition curious and fascinating, it's that contemporary art world I find seductive but also utterly alien to me.
One of the rooms was dedicated to various memento mori with skulls from past centuries, a Picasso's Nature morte au crane et au pot, skulls adorned with a variety of materials, a Murakami (obviously my favourite), the skeletons of Tweety And Sylvester, etc.
Collishaw's The Garden of Unearthly Delights was probably the most photographed (or rather videoed) work in the show. The zoetrope was illuminated by stroboscopic lighting, giving the illusion that the figures were animated and that little children were gleefully throwing rocks at butterflies, crushing snails and bashing fish.
Freedom Not Genius remains open at the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli in Turin until 10 March 2013.
Maurizio Anzeri makes his portraits by sewing directly into found vintage photographs.
I'm quite convinced that in contemporary art, "The Poles Do It Better." Demonstration:
Pop is a waxwork of Turk as Sid Vicious in white jacket and black trousers, pointing a gun with the same gesture as Elvis Presley in the famous Andy Warhol's painting.
Rachel Foullon's barn objects from the Clusters installation look like props from a Western movie. They look worn and faded but they are also impeccably clean and their fold, creases and position seem to be the result of a careful study.
Teresa Margolles asked people she met in the streets of Juarez what they thought about the city. The answers were incised on keys hand-made by a local artisan who works on the streets.
Random views (i visited the fair on press day, hence the empty space):
An art fair is not the best place to discover works related to science, technology or politics. And when there are indeed such works on offer, they are not easy to spot. Galleries exhibiting at art fairs don't usually accompany the artwork with a text explaining what the piece is about. In fact, several galleries don't even write down the name of the artists they exhibit. You have to go and ask them. Which i do when i'm desperate but most of the time, i just want to keep on walking from gallery to gallery (there were 172 of them this year at Artissima) and see the rest of the show before my head explodes.
I did however, spot a few gems at the latest edition of Artissima.
The paintings of Taisia Korotkova immediately got my attention. There is something odd and slightly off-putting in the way she portrays childbirth. In the Reproduction series, Korotkova combines her impressions of her recent stay in the hospital with imagery of recent technology for artificial insemination. the intimate subject of child perception is tripped bared from any privacy by depicting the process as purely scientific, hightech and machine based. The anti-utopist Korotkova stresses that she recreates the already observed with sharper edges, while her style is reminiscent of optimistic illustrations of the 1960s with the cold pastel tones.
Korotkova paints her modern icons in the technique of traditional icon painting in tempera with a dip of humanized social realist painting.
The Castello di Rivoli was showing a black and white photo by Simon Starling. As its ultra long title suggests, the work is inspired by Christopher Williams's seven photographs of the Grande Dixence, the Swiss dam where Godard shot Opération Béton (Operation Cement). I'm mostly copy-pasting the description provided at the fair (the Castello di Rivoli is a museum, hence the magnanimous addition of information): Starling re-photographed Williams's shots and exhibited them with a title that describes how Switzerland profits from the resale of energy. Actually, the work is based on a stratagem that Switzerland carries out, buying electrical energy at night from nearby countries, at a low cost, then using that energy to pump water into the dam's holding reservoirs, generating hydroelectric energy, which is then resold by day at a higher price to those same neighbouring nations. Taking his cue from this small escamotage, or evasion, the artist carried out an analogous action that, through his appropriation of Williams's photos, causes his work to take on an already substantial value, which he then increases by printing these same images using a platinum rather than silver salt process - the former being a much more costly process than the one originally used. In this way Starling adds the material value of the means employed to the 'artistic' valie of the acquired photographs, infusing Williams's work with new meanings and adding another stage in the object's evocative path.
In the 1780s mineralogist August Nordenskiöld was employed by the Swedish king Gustav III to discover the legendary alchemical substance Philosopher's Stone and turn base metal into gold. The gold was intended to finance Sweden's military and economic expansion, but Nordenskiöld had a different agenda, he aimed to produce so much gold that its value would be lost and the "tyranny of money" abolished. One of the few remaining artifacts from Nordenskiöld's laboratory is a coal burning alchemy furnace.
In the project The Nordenskiöld Model, Goldin+Senneby (a duo of artists as elusive as an offshore company and who have been exploring the abstract nature of money for several years) explore the relation between contemporary finance and Nordenskiöld's utopian ideals and alchemical experiments.
Kamen Stoyanov's Tomato Product takes forms and ideas from the physical to the virtual and back. The work started with a very literal take on the Facebook game, Farmville, in which players receive a small piece of land to grow virtual crops and raises livestock. The artist used the garden of a historically significant building in West Hollywood (a city associated with an 'unreal' lifestyle) to grow tomatoes. Each plant pot measures 12x12 inch, the size of land ones get starting to play Farmville. Stoyanov also prepared tomato soup, canned it, added a label and put it on display, as a reference to Andy Warhol.
And a happy new year to you, dear readers!
Almost two months ago, i wrote a couple of measly posts (Arnold Odermatt, policeman photographer and Artissima - Valerio Carrubba) about the 19th edition of Artissima, the contemporary art fair that takes place in Turin each year in November. I've finally decided to catch up with my reports from the fair.
While reading articles in the local press, i learnt that Artisima broke all its records of affluence this year. That doesn't surprise me. A few years ago, Turin decided to squeeze all its major cultural events into the same November week. So the art fair was accompanied by various openings in the city and by an 'off' fair, nothing unusual here. But that same week also saw the commissions It's Not The End Of The World displayed in various museums for a few days, a digital art festival, a festival of electronic music, a photo fair, an exhibition dedicated to 'emerging art'', etc. A fantastic strategy to attract tourists. A lame idea for art-loving people who live in this city.
As a brief intro (which will actually be the third 'brief intro'), here's a quick copy/paste of the photographic works that i found most interesting at Artissima. Some of them are purely photographic works. But because i didn't see as many stunning photos as usual this year, i'm adding images that document performances and interventions. Starting with...
The 11 metre long, pink neon sign was first erected on the roof of an abandoned barn in a region of Norway made famous by Edvard Munch. Kjartansson lived there for a week, looking dejected and playing the guitar for days, many of which not a single human visitor came.
Naufus Ramírez Figueroa was one of the 3 winners of the Premio Illy for young artists.
Karen Knorr's series of large-scale photos star wildlife animals inhabiting the elegant salons of famous cultural institutions and castles.
Edgar Leciejewski: a name to add to the already long list of artists working with blow-ups of "Google Street View".
Per-Oskar Leu's "The English: Are they human?" site-specific installation showed two Italian Mille Miglia parka. Their integrated goggles and 'built for speed' appearance has made these jackets a sought-after garment among football fans with inclinations towards fighting and luxury apparel. Since the early 1980's groups of British 'risk supporters' have embraced a dress code of upmarket, mainly French and Italian sportswear brands, a look which has in turn been adapted by fans in Europe following an increase in 'The English Disease' of football hooliganism. Simultaneously, Leu conjures up imagery from other cross-cultural phenomena equally fixated upon the cult of youthful aggression; namely the Italian Futurist movement and its English offshoot the Vorticist group, founded in 1909 and 1913 respectively.
In 1999, Nedko Solakov wrote fourteen short messages and narratives on the wings of six of Luxair's Boeing 737's. Each of them was visible only from the window seats.
In case you were wondering what the fair looked like:
One last reason why i love Artissima:
Probably my favourite photo at Artissima art fair in Turin last week:
I wrote briefly about Arnold Odermatt in the past but i'm glad that the Springer Berlin gallery chose to highlight his work for Back to the Future, the fair's (utterly brilliant) section dedicated to artists active in the '60s and '70s.
Odermatt never studied photography. He was a traffic policeman in Switzerland and part of his job consisted in taking photographs of road accidents and of other members of the police at work. From 1948 till 1990, when he retired, he would make one set for the insurance or police reports and a second one for himself.
His photos of accidents are sometimes compared to the ones taken by Weegee, Mell Kilpatrick or Enrique Metenides who chronicled accidents, scenes of violence, suicides for newspapers or pulp magazines.
Odermatt obviously had a very different job but the settings for the car crashes and other accidents he documented makes his work even more distinctive. More scenic, with a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere. In the policeman's photos, the horror seems to be under the spell of the elegant landscape.
Yesterday, i had a quick tour of Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair. I came back with hundreds of photos of the usual dubious quality and i still need to 1. go back to the fair with a camera which batteries aren't dying 2. sort out the pictorial mess that is my flickr feed.
But right now, the first impressions are (in no particular order): Polish contemporary art continues to impress me. The official bag of the fair is bright, pink and cheerful. The groupings of fire extinguishers are as feisty as ever. Galleries from Sicily are showing powerful works. Speaking of which...
Monica De Cardenas is a gallery based in Milan but one of the artists in their booth is from Siracusa: Valerio Carrubba. I remember being horrified by the (far too anatomical for my taste) paintings that appeared on most blogs i was following a few years ago.
However, I can't get enough of those hairy people (big fan of Demis that i am!) The portraits start as found images, Carrubba then paints over them and constantly reworks the image.