If You See Something, Say Something

Do you find yourself wanting to talk about Group Zero, but the only names you can pronounce are Fontana and Klein [and Westwater]? Do you ever call galleries you're about to walk into, just to hear them say the artist's name? [I just asked at the desk, it's von HILE.]

You may be suffering from Gigli Syndrome, a condition where you avoid saying an artist or designer's name because you're not sure of the pronunciation. Bennifer can't cure all possible outbreaks of Gigli Syndrome, any more than Nomi Malone could inoculate us against the dangers of unknowing mispronunciation, Versace Syndrome.

After typing [well, cut-n-pasting] 0100101110101101.org yesterday morning, I realized a universal cure to either condition is impossible. Americans will never switch to Van Gohchhhh, and Thaddeus Ropatch may never give you more than 10% off, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do all we can to treat and prevent.

ed_werd_rew_shay.jpg

So inspired by my friend Sam, who once helped me avert disaster at Lever House [it's A-B Rosen, not Abby], and as a tribute to the young artist who once printed up business cards reading, "Ed-werd Rew-shay", here is a quick roundup of high-risk artworld names and their correct pronunciations by curators, interviewers, and even the artists themselves:

  • 0100101110101101.org: zero-one-dot-org [thx their dealer @magdasawon, pronounced sah-vawn, btw]
  • Eija-Liisa Ahtila: AY-ya-lisa AHH-tilah [youtube]
  • Richard Anuszkiewicz: AN-ehs-KAY-vitch [mike wallace via youtube]
  • Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Arch-im-BOLD-oh [washpost]
  • Kutlug Ataman: KOOT-loo ATTA-mun [tate channel]
  • Huma Bhabha: HOO-mah BAH-bah [public art fund via youtube]
  • Alighiero e Boetti: Ali-GYAIR-oh BO-etty [he was just one guy, btw. Stuck the "e" in there himself. moma]
  • Carol Bove: Bo-VAY [I called Maccarone to confirm, because I've heard people calling her Bove (rhymes with clove) to her face, and introducing her as Bove, for literally YEARS. She is too polite and well-known to deserve this any longer.]
  • Eli Broad: rhymes with road [thx @manbartlett]
  • Marcel Broodthaers: ooh, a Britdown between BROAT-haus and BROOT-ers, with a bit of long O thrown in. I vote for the latter. [mk-g.org]
  • Vija Celmins: VEE-ya Sell-muns [youtube thx @lucretiab]
  • Chinati: Chih-NAUGHT-y, not Shih-Naughty or Kih-Naughty. [member since 1994, plus I just called and listened to their answering machine.]
  • Wayne Clough: rhymes with rough and censoring stuff. [nyt]
  • Dan Colen: CO-lin [via nyt]
  • Bice Curiger: short for Beatrice, [Just imagine Che Guevara taking an interpretive dance class: "Be a tree, Che." and then leave out the "a tree," cuz you guys are tight.] Koo-REE-gare, rhymes with Care Bear [via youtube]
  • Dada: Da-DAH [Marcel Duchamp and Richard Huelsenbeck, both founders of Dada, pronounced it Da-DAH at The Modern in 1961. clocktower.org]
  • Walter De Maria: de Ma-REE-uh [youtube w/English accent, thanks judy]
  • De Stijl: de STALE, maybe Dutch it up a bit with a little h: ShTALE [youtube]
  • Marlene Dumas: Mar-LANE du-MAH [moma]
  • Rineke Dijkstra: RIN-uh-kuh DIKE-stra [moma]
  • Ekow Eshun, ex-ICA, current (2014) Fourth Plinth guy: Echo Ession rhymes with session [lisson gallery youtube]
  • Omer Fast: Homer without the H, not Omar [via @magdasawon]
  • Os Gémeos: Ose like dose, ZHEH-meh-ose [coolhunting, alt. pron.: Barry McGee]
  • Joseph Grigely: Grig-lee [via hans ulrich (han-ZOOL-rick) at moma]
  • Cai Guo-Qiang: Cy, like Twombly, Gwoh, long O, Tsee-ahng, somewhere between a Ch and a Ts [moma]
  • Francesca von Habsburg-Lothringen: Hops-burg Lote-ring-en, though I've never heard the Lothringen used/said. [youtube]
  • Thomas Houseago: House-ago, like it was two words. [public art fund via youtube]
  • Pierre Huyghe: I say Hweeg to his face, but I almost hear Peter Eleey say Whee. [thx @analogc]
  • Dakis Joannou: DOCK-iss ZHO-new [numu youtu]
  • Emilia and Ilya Kabakov: KA-buh-Koff, Ka like Kat [youtube, bonus: Andre Putman: PUT like in Putin, man, rhymes with yawn]
  • On Kawara: Own, as in rent-to-. Kawara is his family name, so it's Kawara On (河原温) in Japanese. [dude, I speak Japanese. 25 years.]
  • Paul Klee: Clay [thx paddy]
  • Guillermo Kuitca: GYAIR-mo hard G, KWEET-kuh in Minneapolis and Buffalo, anyway. In London, they say KWIT-kah [youtube; publicbroadcasting.net]
  • Yayoi Kusama: Yah-yoy Koo-saw-mah. Again, Kusama is her family name, so Kusama Yayoi (草間彌生). [me]
  • Wifredo Lam: THERE IS NO L, PEOPLE, NO L!! LOOK CLOSELY. Anyway, it's pronounced like Wilfredo WITHOUT THE L. [Italian on vimeo, thanks @aljavieera]
  • Laocoön: Lay-UH-kuh-wahn, rhymes with go on. [britishmuseum.org]
  • Aristide Maillol: My-yole [moma]
  • Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: In-EE-go Mawn-glawn-o O-VA-yay [though the guy at SAIC also says peda-GO-gee, so...]
  • Julie Mehretu: MARE-Eh-too [metmuseum]
  • Modigliani: Mo-DEE-lee-Ah-nee [metmuseum via youtube]
  • Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: LAZ-low rhymes with Hasbro, Moley as in holy, Nazh, like gnaws, with a zh on the end [german youtube, but you get the idea. update: But the artist and his family also accept the Americanized "nadgie" new idiom]
  • Vik Muniz: Moo-NEES [5min]
  • Edvard Munch: Moonk [thx paddy]
  • Albert Oehlen: Uhrlen, classic umlaut O [moma]
  • Maja Oeri, of the Schaulager: Ury, like Early without the "L"; Show- like shower and lager like beer. moma]
  • Meret Oppenheim: Merit [moma]
  • Francis Picabia: Pih-CAW-bee-uh [moma]
  • Otto Piene: PEEN-uh [german youtube]
  • Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo: Ray-Ray-bo-DANG-go, a little like Bojangles [italian youtube]
  • Gerhard Richter: For Americans, it's like the scale. For the Teutonically inclined, go ahead and let'er rip, GAIR-haht REESH-tah [gerhard-richter.com]
  • Gerrit Rietveld: two R's, one T, people. REET like street, feld, like fell down the stairs. [dutch youtube, thanks craig]
  • Dieter Roth: Rote [german youtube]
  • Edward Ruscha: "(Ed-werd Rew-shay)" [walkerart.org and colette.fr thx @valeriemargolis]
  • Anri Sala: ON-ree SAHL-LAH [google video]
  • Yinka Shonibare: YEEN-kuh SHOW-nih-Bar-eh [tate channel]
  • Alec Soth: rhymes with both [youtube, thx @jenbee]
  • Sperone: Spare-ownee [just call, you'll see]
  • Thomas Struth: [SHTRoot, he has never corrected me, but that's how he says it at the Met]
  • Alina Szapocznikow: Ah-LEE-nuh Shah-POTCH-nick-off [UPDATE: this moma audio has it as POTS, but thanks to Rachel Wetzler, we learn that the 'cz' combo in Polish is pronounced "CH", like chalk. cf. a Polish curator's youtube video. To practice hearing the difference, please listen to this 4-hour symposium at MoMA. Thanks Rachel and thanks Andrew for the suggestion]
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza: Tissen BORN-uh-Meesa [youtube]
  • Rirkrit Tiravanija: Hans Ulrich says Tier-uh-vah-NEE-juh, and Rikrit says TEER-uh-van-EET. So maybe there's a reason people just say Rick-rit. hans ulrich at moma; studiobanana.tv]
  • Günther Uecker: GOON-ter OO-ker, like a clipped booker [german youtube]
  • Ulay: OO-Lie, as in, "Ooh, lie down naked with this skeleton on top of you for eight hours." [that's how Marina prounces it, anyway]
  • Joep van Lieshout: Yoop fawn LEASE-howt, [dutch tv, whoops, I've said van lees-hote to his face, too]
  • Danh Vo: Yahn, it's a "Vietnamese soft 'd'. [ex. Talking at Walker Art Ctr, via youtube]
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul: A like apple pih-CHAT like room pong WEIR like weird -uh-suh-THA like Thatcher cull like a herd [cannes 2010 press conf]
  • Susan Weil: Vay, "like Simone Weil" [Rauschenberg Fndn oral history, page 1]
  • Ai Weiwei (艾未未): Eye way way, family name is Ai [paleycenter.org]
  • Rachel Whiteread: reed, not red [moma]
  • Witte de With: VITT-uh de VIT [dutch youtube]
  • David Wojnarowicz "(pronounced voy-nah-ROH-vitch)" [PPOW, his dealer since 1988]
  • Lisa Yuskavage: Yuh-SKA-vedge, sounds like savage [youtube, thanks john]

Some build on each other; once you know Bas Jan Ader [Boss Yan Adder], you can do Jan Dibbetts, Jan Schoonhoven [Skoon-ho-ven], Christian Jankowski [Yan-KOFF-ski], and so on. If your favorites aren't on the list, please feel free to send them along.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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first published: May 18, 2010.

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