I have never been able to understand* why the Whitney hates the Whitney so much that they moved out, but they do, and they did. And now, as Katya Kazakina reports at artnet , there’s talk of selling it when the Met’s lease runs out in 2023.
Of course, there was talk of selling the building in 2008, too, when the plan to build in the Meatpacking District was a thing. Those rumors were floated and batted down immediately, but also repeatedly, in the Times. Now, with the Met a mess and not exercising the purchase option Kazakina reports was in their original 8-year lease, and the Frick just subletting while its own building is renovated, the question is no longer, “Is it for sale?” but “How much could they get, and who would buy it?” [Or as Kazakina actually put it, “Now, the multi-million-dollar question is: If the building is sold, can it be developed?”]
Kazakina’s list of hypothetical buyers includes a random country, Sotheby’s new owner Patrick Drahi, a future Larry Gagosian foundation, or a condo tower developer** who’d want to turn Marcel Breuer’s museum into “a really ritzy gym.” Which is all well and good–or spiraling levels of cringe, depending, obv–but which also misses the most obvious solution: turn Breuer’s Whitney into a house.
I made a quick trip to see Cady Noland’s exhibition at Galerie Buchholz on Saturday, but let’s talk about this brick facade across the street?
I’d feel worse about never in my life noticing the extraordinary brickwork if it had been discussed by literally anyone else outside of the 126-page building inventory for the creation of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District, published in 1977.
Seeing this Todd Eberle photo of Jeff Koons coming up for auction at Stair Galleries next week, I was reminded of huge blog post deep dive I’d worked on after the Whitney show and then bailed on, about the timeline for the Celebration series.
But if you look around enough, you can find that someone else has already laid a lot of the stuff out, even if they haven’t necessarily connected all the dots.
The Duchamp necklace is 61 inches long, which strikes me as pretty damn long for a necklace, a double loop all the way down into your cleavage. So those 77 beads are big, almost like blocks. This is a statement AND a necklace.
This necklace is accompanied by a small (3×7 inch) signed print, dated 2002, a color image of the necklace itself arranged on a flatbed scanner. It feels like a certificate of authenticity to me. Another image, 10×14 inches, and laminated (!), is a filtered and rasterized depiction of another beaded statement necklace, not included in the sale, which reads, “I’ll sell when you catch up to my prices.”
Not gonna lie, until I started typing this, I wanted this necklace, or to make it, or to make the other one. But I thought they were tiny, like baby bracelet-size. And then I was also, respectively, like, “Well, good for Duchamp!” and “Sorry you don’t have any collectors!” So unless or until I give a talk at CAA and need some ironic bling, I’m going to just sit this one out.
While working on the Scipio Moorhead Facsimile Object a couple of months ago, I started trying to figure out the challenge of a Kerry James Marshall Facsimile Object, too. Marshall’s portrait of Moorhead fills the gap in the historical record–there is no known depiction of or signature work by the painter considered to be the first Black artist in America. Meanwhile, the deep, multihued blacks of Marshall’s signature figurative style counter the uniform whiteness of American/European history painting, while also exposing how under-optimized the prevailing systems of image reproduction and circulation are for accurately depicting Black skin. Reproductions of Marshall’s paintings regularly fail in this specific way to mirror the experience of seeing them in person. So they are an excellent challenge for the Facsimile Object construct.
The calculation for making a Facsimile Object of a Kerry James Marshall work is pretty elegant in one respect, though. The epic scale immediately excludes most of his paintings. And the breakthrough work that marked a turning point in his practice–and that anchored his Met Breuer-filling retrospective a couple of years ago–is a headshot, a perfectly sized egg tempera on a sheet of sketchbook paper.
It took several attempts to find a good reproduction of A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) that would reproduce on aluminum. This multistep filtration process, going from work to image to jpg to print, really gets a workout here, or at least, the apparatus gets seen operating in ways that might otherwise go unnoticed. Sometimes the work’s saturation is pumped up to bring out the red of the figure’s gums, for example, or the brightness is increased to emphasize the painting’s striated facture. Sometimes it’s printed in duotone, flattened into a pair of floating white eyes and an exaggerated grin. It extends the reach of Marshall’s own practice, “forcing the issue of perception by rendering an image that is just at the edge of perception.”
That Marshall knew his carefully calibrated painting was still at risk of being reduced to an undifferentiated black field, a shadow, is perhaps indicated by the title itself. That this was interesting to him is perhaps indicated by his subsequent decades-long practice of depicting Blackness in a world that is still catching up with him.
There are classic pictures of young art dealer Lucien Terras modeling stockades at Cady Noland’s 1994 exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery. Gibbet, above, is named after the lamppost-like cages used to starve people to death in public. It has an American flag draped over it, with carefully placed holes to allow the stockade to function as it was designed. Your Fucking Face is named after your fucking face, I guess, and is identical except for the flag.
What I’d never realized until I saw both photos side by side on @_installator_‘s instagram, was that they were of the same object. Or one played the other on film. Bruce Hainley’s Artforum review of the Frankfurt show is very clear that these two works are installed next to each other.
Like in the photo above, which accompanied Bob Nickas’ Spike Art review. Except the checklist for the show did not include Your Fucking Face, and the stockade listed after Gibbet was called Beltway Terror. The Brants own “both,” so I guess we could ask if there is one stockade or two–or two stockades or three.
Oh here is a photo of the 1994 show in Bob Nickas’ installation photo roundup in Bomb Magazine, with Your Fucking Face and Gibbet side by side, but on a plinth. And it looks like the transparency was flipped, or the flag was. When even her collaborators get confounded, I can see why the artist issues disclaimers about reproductions of her work.
I have absolutely loved MVRDV’s Marble Arch Mound from the minute I saw it in Dan Barker’s epic tweet thread of visiting it on opening day in July. It hits every rendering vs. reality, experience economy, placemaking spectacle fail button, without costing me a farthing and without having to be my problem in any way. It is an upfront and honest disaster. And unlike some embarrassing and pointless destination stairchitecture closer to home, at least the Mound hasn’t killed anyone. Yet.
A mountain of criticism has been thrown up on the Mound since, but Barker’s take still feels the clearest. He identifies the obvious things, like the cruft of fencing, garbage cans, and signage that delineate paid-access public space; and the nakedness of a new garden draped–it must be made clear–over a scaffold, and looking like a Minecraft skin–to me, a good thing!–but inevitably doomed by comparison to the lush renderings. He points to the complete absence of the promised interior program of a cafe and light installation: was it unfinished, abandoned, or still waiting for an intern to be blamed for not pulling it together?
And he’s the first to point out what’s probably the Mound’s most significant failing: it’s too short to provide a view of anything except the buildings and construction sites surrounding it. Like so many failures in the UK these days, this one feels entirely predictable and avoidable. And yet here it is.
Setting aside the obvious differences in site and program, MVRDV’s two temporary scaffold stair projects, can help see where we are, and where we came from since the Summer of 2016. The Stair to Kriterion was built to the rooftop of a building in front of Rotterdam’s central station. It evoked the city’s commemoration of post-war reconstruction and nostalgia for the long-closed movie theater at the top of the stairs. There was a cafe and an exhibit, but because it had an actual view, it was free, and packed. Though MVRDV principal Winy Maas suggested it should be permanent, it came and went as planned, in two months.
Marble Arch Mound sounds so dissatisfying it will be lucky to make it to January. At least when the leaves fall on the surrounding trees in a few months, they’ll stop blocking the view of the park. Instead of the Dutch throngs, access to the Marble Arch Mound is capped at 1,000 people/day, 25 at a time. This is the trickle of a crowd that was not only supposed to revitalize the shipping street next door, but to buy enough tickets to generate profits for Mound.
All of which was also clear on paper. The Marble Arch Mound is the transparent architectural embodiment of the cultural, corporate, and governmental institutions that brought it into being, of the strategic assumptions, values, and decision-making processes they used, and of the vision, constraints, and compromises they imposed.
Just as the Vessel embodies Bloomberg-era New York real estate oligarchs’ compulsion for trophy spectacle, whereby an Eiffel Tower to yourself that turns out to be an ill-conceived suicide machine, the Marble Arch Mound captures this privatized, austerity-riddled, authoritarian, kakistocratic, pandemic moment in London with a truly terrible clarity. This Potemkin Village Green of a public building induces amazement and awe, at least from afar. If only it could outlive the political calamity that built it.
There was something beautiful and haunting and unexpected about the depiction of the destruction of Sodom from a medieval manuscript that got tweeted across my timeline the other day. Medievalist Dr. Erik Wade’s thread highlighted the blissed out, same-sex residents comforting each other, even as the city burned around them. I was also taken by the delicate line drawings, more refined than marginalia, but clearly less than fully filled in. I hesitate to say it is unfinished, though. The tangle of figures look so similar to each other, for a minute I wondered if the illuminator was tracing them.
It’s from a late 11th-century manuscript known as The Old English Hexateuch, the earliest known English translation of six books of the Old Testament (basically, the Torah plus Joshua). Cotton MS Claudius B.iv, a name derived from one of the founding collections of the British Library, includes almost 400 illuminations in various states of detail. They depict the stories of the Bible set in the contemporary Anglo-Saxon milieu the manuscript’s lay audiences would recognize immediately.
I did not plan on making a Facsimile Object of Dürer’s verso painting of the Destruction of Sodom, but the brushy allure of the flames raining down on the cities proved irresistible. Now again, I find that the delicate lines depicting the victims, and especially the sketchy flicks of flame everywhere, made me want to hold the manuscript in my hand. As this was impossible, I made another Facsimile Object. Now I have an unlikely diptych, from centuries and countries apart, of an unlikely and terrible scene.
Not gonna lie, they hit a little differently now, when wildfires are raging across three continents, than in May, when I made the first one. So far Facsimile Objects have engaged with the present only temporally, by marking a (lost) moment in time: a missed auction preview, a pandemic-closed museum, the sale of a painting, a surprise Summer show. But with some religionists repeating the medieval model of blaming a conflagration on the existence of gay people, this pair of Facsimile Objects connects on a content level as well.
I’m as surprised as anyone that it was only when I finished posting about the orphaned appendices in the Felix Gonzalez-Torres catalogue raisonée that I figured out what to do with them.
I do still think that the Foundation should republish the information about the dozens of works Gonzalez-Torres made, and showed, and sent out into the world, which were later declared to be non-works.
By laying out the eight pages of the CR’s two appendices, Untitled (Additional Material) appropriates the strategy of the iconic stack, “Untitled” (Death by Gun), which reproduces entire pages from a special issue of Time magazine showing the people killed in the US by guns during one week.
The dimensions, meanwhile are a nod to one of two pieces that ended up classified as Non-Works: a 1990 collaboration with Donald Moffett called, “Untitled” (I Spoke With Your God). The stack of printed text by Moffett on red paper (“I SPOKE WITH YOUR GOD/ HE COMMANDED ME TO CUT OUT YOUR MOUTH”) appeared just once, in a two-person show at the University of British Columbia Arts Center in Vancouver. [The print size, 29×23 inches, is one Gonzalez-Torres used in other stacks, too, including “Untitled” (Veterans Day Sale), 1989, the image of which was used above for a rendering of the piece. I did not print 20 inches worth of giant bootleg posters today.]
As it turns out, this Non-Work does have a Foundation webpage, complete with installation shots. It does not appear to be linked from anywhere, and the URL now ends in “-hidden.” I am in awe all over again.
[THERE’S AN UPDATE: READ ON, THINGS ARE BETTER THAN I WOUND MYSELF UP TO THINKING.]
The earliest work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection is also the smallest. It is untitled, an instant black & white photo of the sea through a Cuban fence. It’s about 2.75 inches square. It is signed and dated 1985, and has a fragment of a magazine collaged on the back that reads, “THE BO–/ ANYMORE.” By the time it was acquired at the end of 1996, the year of the artist’s death, the Met had already acquired two similar sets of photos by Gonzalez-Torres: photogravures of sand, and cloudscapes. Similar, but different: this one is not an artwork. “Although made, signed, and dated by the photographer,” the catalogue entry reads, “Gonzalez-Torres thought of works such as this [photo] as lying outside his core oeuvre.”
Published in 1997, just in time to record the Met’s acquisition, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Catalogue Raisonée has three categories: Works, Additional Material, and Registered Non-Works. The photo above is in the second category. When the CR was released, Gonzalez-Torres was the most important artist in the world to me, and I wanted more of his works, not fewer. I was upset for these somehow downgraded works, and for the sleights they faced in the discourse, the gallery, the market. I couldn’t accept that the same artist who’d shown me that the most remarkable things could be art–a pile of candy, a stack of paper, a jigsaw puzzle, a pair of clocks–also said they couldn’t be.
My incredulity over Felix’s work fueled a years-long contest with the declarative process, what artists called objects, what they kept, what they destroyed. It helped me keep an eye out for these marginalized–and invisible, since there weren’t even any pictures–works. But even as I developed more nuanced appreciations of [other] artists’ agency, these non-art designations still gnawed at me. Until the other night, when I started writing this. It’s been almost 25 years: what’s going on?
On April 3, 1974, a photograph of kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst posing with a machine gun, a beret, and the seven-headed snake logo of the Symbionese Liberation Army was delivered, along with a cassette tape of the fourth recorded message from Hearst, to KSAN Jive 95, a counterculture radio station in San Francisco. The recording said Hearst now called herself Tania, a name taken from a comrade of Che Guevara, and she reiterated the SLA’s revolutionary demands for her release.
Wire services reproduced the photo, which appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world the next day, Thursday, April 4th. On Kawara clipped his copy of it out of the Washington Post. By the weekend, and presumably before Hearst was identified as one of the armed SLA members who robbed a bank on April 15th, WE LOVE YOU TANIA flyers appeared on the campus of UC Berkeley, from whence she’d been kidnapped.
These may now be considered the first Tania Facsimile Objects.
In 1989, presumably in relation to her large-scale, silkscreen on aluminum sculpture Tanya as Bandit, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, artist Cady Noland created a work on paper titled Tanya. The cropped photocopy, a generation or more removed from the Tanya as Bandit source image, was put up for sale at Christie’s in London during Frieze Week 2014. In anticipation, the sale was pre-commemorated on this website by an edition, Untitled (Tanya).
In addition to an impulsive celebration through commerce of an exceptional object’s appearance at auction, in Untitled (Tanya) can be found some of the impulses of the Facsimile Object project. The edition indicates the possibility of realizing a perfect [sic] copy of Noland’s work, but only by cutting away the elements of designation and authentication–title, number, date, stamp, signature–thereby destroying the edition itself. An authentic but nearly worthless work is displaced by an equally worthless but iconic copy of another work. Their fate is in the collectors’ hands.
Tania Facsimile Object (N1), 2021, drops into this visual lineage, paying homage to the original, ad hoc WE LOVE YOU TANIA flyers of 1974, as well as Noland’s later appropriation. At 7.5×6 inches, Tania Facsimile Object (N1) shares the dimensions and cropped composition of Tanya (1989), while utterly transforming the object’s material characteristics. The high-gloss, dye sublimation print on aluminum is an exploration of how far the Facsimile Object format can diverge from referent works, how big a gap can be created, while still maintaining that facsimilated, auratic glow. Or maybe it’s just the light reflecting from the window.
Each Tania Facsimile Object is accompanied by a full-size, certificate of authenticity, handmade, signed and numbered on Arches. It will include, of course, a disclaimer to affirm to everyone that Ms. Noland was neither involved in nor consulted on the realization of this Facsimile Object, which will be available until September 11th, 2021. [update: Though Noland’s show was extended without announcement until September 18th, availability of this Facsimile Object ended September 13th. Thank you for your engagement.]
My great-grandmother Vera Hilton collected rocks. She lived near Topaz Mountain in central Utah, a site that gave the WWII Japanese-American detention camp its name, and would pick up rocks she found interesting. She had a rock tumbler. In the 1970s, when she was in her 80s, Vera went to Europe, to see one of her children then stationed in Germany with the US military, and she picked up rocks from places she visited.
When my grandmother, Vera’s oldest daughter, died last year, I took this collection, a 50+ year-old shirt cardboard with rocks taped to it from her house. It was in a plastic bag, but stored flat. I had no idea what to do with it, except to keep it.
For a year, I’ve had it undisturbed, waiting, as I tried to figure out how to stabilize and restore it. I took it out yesterday for the first time. Some rocks need re-placing. Some need placing. Some may have no place. There’s all the tape, of course, and the stains from it, which call for attention. I’ve researched conservation and cellophane tape, but now that I’ve sat with it, I’m not comfortable with just ditching or replacing the tape. Vera taped these rocks to a piece of cardboard and wrote captions for them. When that tape gave out, she put more tape on. Including a double-sided tape strip on the card underneath it, the rock from Dachau appears to have been taped three times.
Which, there is a rock from Dachau. What is going on with these rocks? There’s a row that looks like they went through the tumbler; a few geologically oriented samples, including three epidotes from various locales and a pencil eraser-size ruby crystal from the Filers, who ran a Mineral of the Month Club for science teachers out of Yucaipa, California. Then there are the rocks from Europe: Stockholm, Paris, Rome (Colosseum), Rothenburg, Nuremburg, and Dachau.
Based on tape residue and size, I think I re-placed the loose rocks correctly on this grid, but maybe not? There are some rocks that don’t seem to correspond to anything; do they go somewhere? Is there a hint of what they are that might hint at where they’re from, and where they go? Does this tell you, a geologist or mineral collector, or a student of souvenir practices, anything? HMU!
I’ve come to not expect deep meaning to result from saving or restoring this assemblage, but I’m nonetheless intrigued by what it is, and how it came together. I met my great-grandmother several times as a child. Having this thing she made, that she worked on for several years, apparently, and that my grandmother kept intact for decades, is an interesting experience precisely because it is so unprecious. We have quilts she stitched by hand which embody a similar amount of her time and attention, and yet this is the antithesis of an heirloom. For the moment, at least, I’m going to keep it around.
David Rimanelli posted this beautiful Manet to instagram today, Bouquet of Violets, an 1872 painting that if I’m reading the note in the painting itself, first belonged to Berthe Morisot. Of course, my first reaction to these sorts of things now is, “Manet Facsimile Object?”
And the answer is, alas, no.
The size is perfect–22 x 27 cm–and it’s both very desirable and inaccessible. But without a lot of digging, the only image that shows the full canvas is a stock photo. And so the dimensions of the widely circulating–and cropped–Wikipedia image are slightly off. Also the color is different enough to take a quick whip-up off the table.
But the main dealbreaker for me is the sheer numbers of commercialized print options for this public domain image. Even if none is a Facsimile Object, there are tons of objects which are facsimiles. Like art, Facsimile Objects aren’t supposed to be functional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do something IRL. In a case like this, the facsimilating is being done, and at scale. I’m going to need to think this through.
A few months back, in the midst of the Manet Facsimile Object and NFT frenzy, Eric Doeringer suggested I submit a work for a project being organized by Micheál O’Connell for the ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative. I am psyched and grateful to have my work included.
As an irreverent critique of the whole authentication boom, O’Connell conceived ABCOA as a collection of artworks that are their own certificates of authenticity. The resulting portfolio comprises 60 certified works of art, which is quite a deal for EUR30.
I have also been slow in posting about it only because I have not been able to figure out where my brief accompanying text went. So I’ve finally given up and am explaining the piece here.
As the text of De Maria’s certificate itself states, the engraved stainless steel High Energy Bar is not only made “operative and authentic” by the presence of this CoA; the combination of Bar and Certificate constitute another work, the High Energy Unit. My work, High Energy Certificate, completes the gesture De Maria started, by declaring a standalone certificate a work of art.
While this obviously affects all the extant certificates of de Maria’s High Energy Units, the CoA facsimiles printed for ABCOA also constitute a distinct but still authentic subgroup of this work. It’s possible that they have a brief explanatory text on the verso. Or maybe they don’t? They’re operative and authentic either way.