Back in the late '80s, when I wrote on new art for Elle magazine (don't ask), I told my readers two things. First, that I couldn't predict the future, I could only identify it when it arrived. This allowed me to play the sage without having to dish out too much nonsense. Secondly, I claimed that art-world insiders were so much in the vanguard that they were already living in the future. A good idea, it seemed to me. We were several years ahead, in fact, so that things that most people were looking forward to were the things that we had already forgotten!
Today, our crystal ball is the computer display screen, whether it be cathode ray or liquid crystal. A person who wants to gage the present and future of the international art world need look no further than Artnet.com's celebrated gallery district. This section of the site aggregates many of the world's best art galleries and much of the world's best new art. Go to the nav bar and click on "galleries." That gives you a list of some of the newer galleries on the site. A click on some of the category buttons to the left gives you longer lists of galleries, divided into "fine art" and "decorative arts and antiques." Here it is possible as well to access the database by exhibitions and by individual artists.
Look at the section devoted to new galleries. At the top of the list is Kaare Berntsen, Scandinavia's largest art and antiques dealer, which was founded in 1930 in Oslo and is now run by the son of the original owner. Online in the gallery's inventory catalogue are works by leading Scandanavian artists, including a 1923 painting of a dense oak forest by Edvard Munch, a work that is not so frequently seen but is nevertheless charged with the kind of psychological intensity we expect from the great Norwegian modernist. Berntsen, like many other galleries, maintains its own website (at www.kaare-berntsen.com) and also links to the central information clearinghouse that is Artnet.com.
The other new galleries on the list give a real sense of how international the internet, and the art business, has become. Reading down the list takes a viewer from Galerie Peter Borchardt in Hamburg, Germany, whose current show is "Modelle" by the Neo-Expressionist star Rainer Fetting, to Chapellier Fine Art, a gallery of American 19th- and 20th-century art that was originally founded in Belgium in 1916 and has been located in Chapel Hill, N.C., since 1994. (If you link to Borchardt's own site, at www.galerie-borchardt.de, you can take an extensive filmed tour of the works in the show via quicktime, a real novelty).
By looking under "Gallery Exhibitions" ordered by opening date, a visitor can sample shows like Harry Potter looking into his divination ball to "unfog the future." For instance, check out Swiss artist Karim Noureldin's site-specific wall installation at Lucas Schoormans in Chelsea, dubbed "unknown zone." Noureldin, who was born in 1967, has been on a tear recently, making mural-sized drawings on the Kunsthalle Basel exterior, at Gallery Mark Mueller in Zürich and at the Cologne Art Fair.
The Alexander Gallery on East 57th Street has a show of early figurative paintings by Neil Welliver, a group of large-scale works from the 1960s and '70s that provided a vigorous painterly counterpart to all the "dematerialization" going on during the same period. These works are now brought together for the first time in many years in a show that is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Frank Goodyear and Barry Schwabsky.
For lovers of Old Masters, there's the winter exhibition at Jack Kilgore & Co. at 154 East 71st Street in Manhattan, which is showing a selection of works, largely 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, from Jan. 14-Feb. 8, 2002. The paintings pictured online range a rare still life done in the early 1630s by the Franco-German painter Sebastian Stoskopff, which shows a Nautilus and Panther shell and a chipboard box, to an Allegory of Faith painted by the Dutchman Mathias Stomer.
To see exhibitions that are currently opening, a visitor to the site can click on "events" in the top nav bar for a day-by-day index. The selection is remarkably large. New York artist Lane Twitchell opened a show of his colorful, cut-paper mandalas at Artemis Greenberg Van Doren on Jan. 9. E.E. Smith opened a show of her evocative, "oil print" photographs at Kim Foster on Jan. 10. The provocative African-American artist Glen Ligon opens a show of works based of children's coloring book drawings at Anthony Meier Fine Arts in San Francisco on Jan. 11. And Jenny Saville opens a show of her photographic self-portraits, done in collaboration with fashion photographer and filmmaker Glen Luchford, at Gagosian in Los Angeles on Jan. 12.