NUDES AT MOMA! NUDES AT MOMA!
The Museum of Modern Art happily displays all kinds of things, but is it quite ready for the naked human body? MoMA’s newest blockbuster, "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present," Mar. 14-May 31, 2010, includes four naked people -- two facing each other within a doorway for Impoderabilia (1977/2010), a third lying beneath a skeleton for Nude with Skeleton (2002/2005/2010) and, most strikingly, a fourth suspended up on the wall, arms held out in a self-crucifying pose, for Luminosity (1997/2010). Needless to say, photos are prohibited.
MoMA had a bit of a problem with nudity and more in an incident last weekend at the "Brooklyn Is Burning" performance festival at P.S.1, where two performance artists -- Georgia Sagri and Ann Liv Young -- got into a verbal dispute that prompted Young to strip naked, masturbate, pee in a pan and then spill the urine, splattering members of the audience. Things got so heated, according to Paddy Johnson’s Art Fag City blog, that P.S.1 administrators cut the sound and the lights and ended the performance event, prompting accusations of censorship. The museum later said that it had acted to safeguard the audience from a potentially "volatile situation."
No surprise, then, that the museum is moving cautiously at its Manhattan headquarters. In its earlier stage the Abramovic show had even more nudes, including Abramovic herself, as she told critic David Ebony in an Art in America interview in April 2009. As it is, the Serbian endurance artist is performing a new work, titled The Artist Is Present, for the entire duration of the exhibition, which requires her to sit at a table in the museum atrium, under bright lights, locking eyes with all comers, one at a time. One of the first spectators to sit in the chair across from Abramovic was the German artist Ulay, who worked as her partner for many of her most famous performances. The encounter lasted a few minutes before Abramovic leaned forward, and held his hands. There were "tears and smiles," according to one observer.
The exhibition contains videos of Abramovic’s most compelling performances, which include, in addition to those already mentioned, the ferocious 22-minute-long hair-brushing exercise, Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful (1975) and Breathing In / Breathing Out, a film of an 11-minute-long performance from 1977 in which she and Ulay exchanged breaths until she passed out. Also on hand is a four-channel video from 2005, the notably vulgar Balkan Erotic Epic, which features peasant women lifting their skirts to flash their vulvas, as if to scare off evil spirits, and peasant men apparently fucking the earth in a primal fertility rite.
Though a member of what is arguably the second wave of 1970s Body Art performance (Valie Export staged her notorious Genital Panic crotchless-pants performance in 1969, while Chris Burden had himself shot in the arm in 1971), Abramovic has proven to be one of the sturdiest and best loved, with many of her works tapping a deep vein of almost religious spirituality. Her intensity is unmatched -- she is famous for demanding much from herself, her students and her audiences -- as is her popularity among museums and art collectors. One notably affecting work in the MoMA show, a large LCD vid of Abramovic, dressed in monastic designer gear and standing in an empty institutional kitchen, holding in her outstretched hands a pot brimming with milk, was also on offer at the Sean Kelly Gallery booth at the Armory Show 2010 for €80,000.
Abramovic is currently receiving much attention in the printed media, notably Judith Thurman’s exceptional profile in the Mar. 8, 2010, issue of the New Yorker, which is titled Walking through Walls: Marina Abramovic and the Art of Pain. The artist is also the subject of several new books. The exhibition catalogue, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present is joined by a separate paperback book from Phaidon titled simply Marina Abramovic -- both are $50 and both contain contributions from curators Klaus Biesenbach and Chrissie Iles, though they are different books. The art critic James Westcott has written When Marina Abramovic Dies (M.I.T.) (which was blurbed by Bjork, who calls the work an “invaluable document in the hard-to-document world of performance art”) and Thomas McEvilley has produced a collection of essays titled Art, Love, Friendship: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Together and Apart (McPherson). A documentary by Matthew Akers is also in the works.
MORE ART FAIRS FOR MARCH 2010
Well, now that the art fairs in New York are over, are you ready for some more art fairs? They seem to be in plentiful supply. A sampling:
* TEFAF Maastricht, Mar. 12-21, 2010, presents a record 263 exhibitors from 17 countries in the 23rd installment of the deluxe fair. The selection of some 30,000 items for sale includes "a bed that once belonged to Talleyrand, Marino Marini’s greatest picture, one of the last major paintings by Paul Gauguin, and a key early work by Damien Hirst." The fair famously combines Old Masters, decorative art works, contemporary art and now design objects.
* Art Dubai, Mar. 17-20, 2010, features over 70 galleries from 30 countries, including Aidan (Moscow), Frey Norris (San Francisco), Caprice Horn (Berlin), Chantal Crousel (Paris), Milani Heller (New York), Paradise Row (London) and Sfeir-Semler (Hamburg & Beirut). The fair also includes "The Poetry of Time," a show organized by Van Cleef & Arpels, devoted to watchmaking.
* AIPAD Photography Show New York, Mar. 18-21, 2010, at the Park Avenue Armory, presents more than 70 photo dealers in its 30th edition. The gala preview on Mar. 17 benefits the Museum of Modern Art; tickets start at $100. Admission to the fair is $25.
QUEBEC CITY BIENNIAL SET FOR MAY
The 5th Québec City Biennial, May 1-June 13, 2010, is curated by Sylvie Fortin, presents works by 35 artists, and is titled "Catastrophe? Quelle Catastrophe!" Fortin, the editor of Art Papers in Atlanta and former contemporary art curator at the Ottawa Art Gallery, posits an omnipresent possibility of catastrophe, quoting both Walter Benjamin (history is "one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage") and Slavoj Zizek ("the true catastrophe already is this life under the shadow of the permanent threat of catastrophe").
Participating artists include Luca Buvoli, Johan Grimonprez, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Gean Moreno, Ahmet Ogut, Ivan Navarro, Trevor Paglen and Superflex, among others; Canadian participants are Patrick Altman, Bill Burns, Cooke Sasseville, Doyon/Demers, Carole Epp, Brendan Fernandes, Amélie-Laurence Fortin, Milutin Gubash, Hadley + Maxwell, Gwen MacGregor, Lynne Marsh, Samuel Roy-Bois and Myriam Yates.
BOESKY OPENS UPTOWN SPACE
Marianne Boesky Gallery has opened its uptown space at 118 East 64th Street with two exhibitions, both running Mar. 9-May 15, 2010. The exhibitions are "Lucio Fontana, Paintings, 1956-1968" and "Robert Beck & Donald Moffett, Range, a Collaborative Work from 1997."