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Will Cotton


Kiki Seror


Inka Essenhigh


Kehinde Wiley


Alexis Karl


Ann Craven


John Newsom


John Currin and his wife Rachel Feinstein
Crisis in Contemporary?
by Charlie Finch


Artist Will Cotton flies to Paris this month to complete the first figurative work of his career. Mary Boone has moved up his first show in her downtown emporium from November to September, so Will struggles to master the naked human figure in his inimitable surreal style, quickly.

Artist Kiki Seror spends the summer lounging in the pool at collector Dakis Joannou's Athens palace. Two collectors call her on her cell phone: "We're selling everything, Kiki."

"Just don't sell my work, guys." Seror returns to Amsterdam and gets work tending bar.

Artist Inka Essenhigh is fabricating the most ambitious work of her career. Everything is go for her first big show in November at 303 gallery, after successes at Stux, Deitch and Boone. But is November, perhaps, a bridge too far?

Artist Kehinde Wiley is a hot recent Yale MFA who paints portraits of young black men. The board of the Studio Museum in Harlem is buying his work. So is Jeffrey Deitch. So is Norman Dubrow.

He tells Kravets/Wehby Gallery that if they can complete their 21st Street expansion by the end of October, he will grant them his first solo show.

Time, time, time.

Artist Alexis Karl, who paints full-length nude portraits of her female friends, works round the clock for her first solo show at a new Chelsea gallery, Red Dot, opening Sept. 18.

Furiously, she paints Karen Rabinowitz of Elle magazine, Jill Brienza of the Roger Smith Gallery and Artnet's own Sherry Wong, simultaneously.

But is her love, and her work, in vain?

Artist Iona Brown is yet another Yale alumna, scheduled for her first solo show at Caren Golden this September. She paints soulful portraits of black babes on paper. We just bought one.

Her video work is ersatz Luis Gispert -- not nearly as good. Will there be an audience?

We also bought a piece by yet another Yale MFA, Jackie Gendel, from her Long Island City studio. Jackie is currently painting a suite of 11 pieces for the big feminist show at White Columns this October.

If enough paint falls in the forest, and nobody is there to buy it, can anyone still make a living?

Already we're getting calls from artists whose Chelsea spaces have closed over the summer, looking for new representation.

The great Ellen Altfest called us from Skowhegan last month, wondering whether she should move her solo show at Bellwether from November to September.

By all means, yes.

Typical of the desperation in the air is the $100 block party-raffle at Bellwether on Aug. 25, including many of the artists named in this article. The whole purpose of a summer raffle is to benefit charity, yet there's no indication on the invitation where the raffle money will be going. Hmmm....

Ann Craven wants to paint our portrait for her solo show, opening Sept. 4 at Gasser + Grunert. Somehow, her former dealer disappeared.

Thinking of the high anxiety of our dear, cherished artist friends, we are reminded of that song from The Fantasticks:

Try to remember
the kind of September
when life was slow
and oh so mellow
This September: not so, not so.

John Newsom flies to Tel Aviv on Aug. 19. His gallery, Stux, wants him to whip up some prints for his November show, in an Israeli studio -- got to have something for the low-end buyers, you know.

Perhaps the ultimate economic bellwether for contemporary will be John Currin's solo show this fall at MoMA QNS.

His auction prices have been strong, but Currin's P.C. queasiness and Norman Rockwell drawing style could be the first ticket to oblivion, should collectors cease to buy.

And a whole wave of wannabees, just like their early '90s counterparts, could suffer accordingly.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).



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