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Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask
28 February 2017

Articles in This Issue




Shutting Shop

On Andrea Rosen

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Blue Placebo) (1991). Candies individually wrapped in blue cellophane, endless supply. Installation view: Gods and Goods: Spiritualità e Confusione di Massa [Gods and Goods: Spirituality and Mass Confusion]. Villa Manin, Centro d'Arte Contemporanea, Passariano, Codroipo, Italy. 20 Apr. - 28 Sept. 2008. Cur. Francesco Bonami and Sarah Cosulich Canarutto. Catalogue © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

BY Allan Schwartzman
co-founder of AAP & chairman of Sotheby's Global Fine Arts

Published
In Allan's Intro

New York – The lack of ability to fulfill one’s capacity—to be inspired, inspiring and original—is hardly the case with Andrea Rosen. The recent announcement that she would be closing her gallery saddens and troubles me deeply.

Every once in a while, someone comes along who has a finger on the pulse of a new sensibility in art. Andrea got the 1990s as right as did Leo Castelli the 1960s; Paula Cooper the 1970s; and Metro Pictures the 1980s. Her exhibitions of work by her core stable of artists—led by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, John Currin, Sean Landers, Wolfgang Tillmans and Andrea Zittel—defined a new era in art. I learned about this generation through her.  

As times have changed, Andrea has adapted, rethought and repositioned. In recent years she has mounted significant exhibitions of work by artists of earlier decades who had been overlooked.

Now, though, she is shutting shop. I have no doubt that Andrea will continue to share her infectious faith in the art she holds dear, and to be a meaningful contributor to this tribe of people who believe in art. But, her decision to close speaks to a wider issue in our industry. 

For several years, many of us could not help but be concerned about how much the middle of the market has been challenged. While the growth of interest in art and in its value (in all senses of the word) is truly sensational—it is a fulfillment of belief in the creative power of art—the market has become so damn efficient that it is suffocating a crucial sector of the gallery system as we have known it, the part that has nurtured and financed whole generations of artists who were never big moneymakers. The international art market that developed around New York’s unparalleled community of artists has now eclipsed it. 

In recent years we have witnessed numerous young and fledgling galleries close their doors (this happens with every generation). But Andrea’s gallery—one of the most significant of our times—was a mature and fully staffed operation. Her decision to close is courageous, yet concerning. It is a signifier that a calling that was rarely driven by ambitions to be big business (but that could rise to it) is becoming consolidated and industrialized, like so many businessesfrom banking to music. In the process, much of the life, eccentricity and nobility involved in the commitment to embracing risks by collectors, dealers and—I am afraid—even artists are being sucked out of our industry.  

This is a major turning point that will expand success among a reduced population of major dealers. With that, will come great loss—of texture, community and creativity. Through the course of this editorial project—via articles, podcasts and other projects—we will dive into the issue of how to harness the strength of the market whilst maintaining a commitment to supporting the new as being of central importance in art. 




Part of the Furniture?

Richard Artschwager’s Work Is Seriously Undervalued

Richard Artschwager. Photography by Ann Artschwager. Courtesy of Gagosian

BY Meredith Kirk
director of collections development at AAP

Published
In Analysis

Critically appreciated yet commercially undervalued, “people have never known what to do with Richard Artschwager”, says Gary Garrels,  senior curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA. “He never really fitted in to Minimalism, and he never really fitted in to Pop. Artschwager was a figure in the cracks, working between the lines.”

Artschwager was born in Washington DC in 1923 to a Prussian father and Ukrainian-Jewish mother but didn’t start making art until he was 37, by which point he’d already led an extraordinary life. A mathematics and chemistry major at Cornell University in the early 1940s, Artschwager interrupted his studies to join the army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge before being recruited as an intelligence officer in Vienna. In 1947 he returned to New York with his new wife, Elfriede Wejmelka, completed his degree, then had a string of diverse jobs: baby photographer, bank clerk and furniture designer. Always drawn toward the fine arts, Artschwager began his artistic practice in earnest in 1960 after he was commissioned by the Catholic Church to design and make portable altars for use on ships.

Despite the late start, Artschwager experienced almost instant success. Leo Castelli’s gallery director Ivan Karp swiftly became one of the artist’s most loyal supporters, bringing him into the legendary dealer’s stable. Artschwager was initially cast as a Pop artist, and was included in a group show at the gallery in 1964 with artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol.

 

Primary Structures Exhibition Installation April-June 1966. Photo credit: The Jewish Museum, New York/Art Resource, N.Y. © annetruitt.org/Bridgeman Images © 2017 Richard Artschwager/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The following year Castelli staged a solo exhibition of Artschwager’s Formica sculptures. Then, in 1966, the artist was included in the legendary exhibition “Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors” organized by Kynaston McShine at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Artschwager might seem like a quirky inclusion in Primary Structures—an exhibition credited with establishing Minimalism as a movement. Both works by Artschwager included in the show, Table with Pink Tablecloth (1964) and Rocker (1964) were representational in that they looked like the objects they depicted: a table and a rocking chair. Artschwager doesn’t fit into classic Minimalism as we now think of it—conceptual, non-representational work that conforms to a strict set of codes exemplified by artists such as Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt.

Yet the show was more polyglot than we perhaps remember it, including work by other artists whose practice now seems to stand apart from Minimalism, such as Judy Chicago and Robert Morris. “Richard’s whole thing was creating work that was a hybrid of everything,” says Bob Monk, director of Gagosian Gallery Madison Avenue. “The guy was an absolute polymath.”

Richard Artschwager, Table with Pink Tablecloth ( 1964). Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, I.L., USA/Bridgeman Images © 2017 Richard Artschwager/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artschwager’s sculptures, such as Table with Pink Tablecloth are Pop in their graphic immediacy but have the structural simplicity of Minimalism. His paintings, often based on photographs found in newspapers, similarly defy strict categorization. Hand-painted in grisaille tones on rough-textured Celotex panels (normally used in buildings for fireproofing and acoustic baffling) and often presented in frames constructed by the artist, these paintings playfully confront and challenge traditionally held distinctions between painting and sculpture. As the artist himself put it: “Sculpture is for the touch, painting is for the eye. I wanted to make a sculpture for the eye and a painting for the touch.”

Artschwager has long received critical attention. Major examples of his work reside in important international museum collections including those of SFMOMA; the Art Institute of Chicago; MoMA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Tate; the Pompidou Center; and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, to name a few.

“His gallery shows have always been successful, ever since the Castelli days,” Monk says. “When you see a European collection that has major works by Rauschenberg, Warhol, Johns, and Lichtenstein, you’re almost guaranteed to see an Artschwager too. He never fell out of favor throughout his entire artistic career —which is rare.”

Young artists worship at the altar of Artschwager

Artists also adore Artschwager. Collectors of his work include Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and Albert Oehlen. Today, “young artists worship at the altar of Artschwager”, says Monk. Jennifer Gross, curator of the artist’s 2012-13 retrospective at the Whitney Museum agrees: “It’s remarkable how his work resonates in studios today. It’s crit season at art schools and Richard’s name keeps coming up,” she says. “He was prophetic in a way about how photography as a medium was going to influence how we experience the world. The questions he asked have become the most important questions for art making today, and his work remains of the moment because of that.”

Nonetheless, Garrels adds: “It wasn’t like Artschwager was waiting on the sidelines for career recognition. But he was never a star or a household name. The work was a little too complicated to lend itself to that.” This ambiguity is one reason why Artschwager’s market remains undervalued. Only three works have broken the $1m barrier at auction. The record, $1.27m for a 1974 Celotex painting, Interior with Sideboard 1, at Christie’s in 2007, is not representative of the average performance of his works at auction. Over the past ten years 61 works by Artschwager have been sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s for an average of $193,899.

Richard Artschwager, Interior with sideboard I, (1974) Acrylic on celotex 49 5/8 x 59 7/8 inches / 126 x 152.1 cm (unframed) © 2017 Richard Artschwager / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photography by Rob McKeever, courtesy of Gagosian.

Major works simply haven’t been offered at auction, which explains some of the discrepancy. “With very few exceptions, none of the works at auction would cause you to jump up and say ‘this is so exciting,’” Monk says. Many of the best examples of Artschwager’s work are already in private collections or museums. The kind of work that might galvanize the market simply hasn’t come to auction.

Additionally, there is no catalogue raisonné for Artschwager, who died in 2013. Prospective buyers don’t therefore know how to place works within the scope of the artist’s output and how common or rare specific works might be.

Moreover, supply is limited. There isn’t a hidden trove of Celotex paintings from the 1960s and 1970s—which are considered the most desirable examples of his work—waiting to be discovered. The artist’s estate is very limited, comprising of a small number of later works of relatively low value. It is difficult to envision an opportunity for major market movement given the problems with supply.

SFMOMA will dedicate a large gallery to Artschwager with works from the museum’s collection and the Fisher Collection

Artschwager might yet become a household name. Later this year, SFMOMA will stage a joint installation of Artschwager works from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection with examples from the museum’s permanent collection. A large gallery will be dedicated entirely to Artschwager, showcasing paintings and sculptures from 1962 to the 1990s. “When we bring together works from the museum with those from the Fisher collection there’s always an incredible synergy, and that’s definitely the case with Artschwager,” says Garrels. “He deserves much wider, broader recognition. When you see a group of works together, the universe of Richard Artschwager comes alive. They speak to each other. I think our visitors will find it a great and fresh surprise.” 

This exhibition aims to reintroduce the art world to Artschwager’s work. Whether the increased institutional focus on his work will draw out great examples of his art which are currently in private collections remains to be seen. If so, the market might yet make a leap and prices might more accurately reflect the importance of the artist.  

 




Rogues and Revolutions

The Best New Art Books

Leo Castelli, photo credit: Evelyn Hofer/Getty Images

BY Christian House
freelance arts and books writer for the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph

Published
In Books

Daddy of all dealers

Art dealing in mid-20th-century Manhattan drew all sorts, from an heiress such as Betty Parsons to a former ballroom dancer like Sidney Janis. In Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers (Profile Books), Sotheby’s senior director of Impressionist & Modern Art in London, Philip Hook, shines a light on a Hungarian-Italian Jew, Leo Castelli, who was born in Trieste in 1907. Castelli was a modern man who tried his luck in Milan and Paris, dabbling in law and banking and opening his first gallery with René Drouin in 1939, before the outbreak of the Second World War shut down his options in Europe.

Fleeing in the early 1940s, he found safe haven in America but was initially wary of his new home and the limits of its cultural arena. In fact, Castelli was to tap into the American hunger for the new, in art as in industry, during the post-war boom. He was a manager in his father-in-law’s clothing factory for a time, while dealing in art on the side and becoming friends with the leading Abstract Expressionists. He worked with Janis at the latter’s gallery but finally took the plunge himself, opening a gallery on the Upper East Side in 1957 the age of 50. 

Hook’s portrait of Castelli is vivid. Slight and elegant, with clothes as sharp as his cheekbones, he cut a dash in the burgeoning market for avant-garde works. Castelli liked to describe himself as a gallerist rather than a dealer: the implication being that commercial gain was a bonus to the joy—and kudos—of shaping taste. “The function of an art dealer,” he said, “should be to find new artists, to make them known to the public, before museums can do it… we are the real vanguard.”

That he was. In the 1960s and 1970s, Castelli gave a platform to artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel, among many others. “You feel things, feel vibrations, gauge reactions,” he said of his talent for spotting tomorrow’s superstars.

Hook is perceptive on Castelli’s wisdom in trading in contemporary works. “Sometimes dealing with living artists is easier than dealing with dead ones,” observes Hook, “particularly if a difficult widow is part of the negotiations.”

 

The co-op crew

Angelo Ippolito, Poster for Painters Sculptors on 10th Street, Tanager Gallery, New York, December 1956– January 1957. Collection of Lois Dodd, New York

At a different end of the spectrum was the gallery opened in a New York former barbershop in 1952 by four painters Angelo Ippolito, Lois Dodd, Charles Cajori, Fred Mitchell—and the sculptor William King.

The many accomplishments of Tanager Gallery are detailed in Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965 (Prestel). Melissa Rachleff’s handsome volume, with an introduction by Lynn Gumpert, creates a fascinating patchwork-history out of essays, historical photography, works of art and interviews.

The Tanager was wonderfully irreverent: named after the tropical finch whose feathers matched the orange of the gallery’s plate-glass window, its assistants were “sitters” not salesmen. Their collective creative spirit was the precursor to self-publishing and crowd- sourcing enterprises.

The gallery moved from the barbershop on 4th Street after a year to premises on 10th, where it remained until 1962. A scene swiftly developed. Other artist-run galleries, attracted by the low rents, appeared and Willem de Kooning and Milton Resnick occupied studios nearby. The street developed into a hothouse of experimental work, with Minimalism, installations and performance art appearing in the galleries that opened after the Tanager. 

“I didn’t do a master’s degree in college,” recalled Dodd, the last surviving Tanager founder. “I did a master’s degree on 10th Street.” The team battled the prevailing winds—promoting figurative and collage work as well as abstraction—and in the late-1950s they tried to broaden the definition of the New York School.

For the artist-dealers of 10th Street, history came full circle. “Artists who, in the early 1950s couldn’t break into the art market, invented a new gallery model, that of the co-op,” Gumpert writes. “Soon after, other artists, rejecting the market altogether, experiment with new art forms in unexpected and blatantly non-commercial venues.” And, yet, this kindled the market. “Artists, as always, are ahead of the game,” she claims, “even though some of them reject it as it embraces them.” 

 

Hard-boiled Hopper

Cover of In Sunlight or in Shadow, courtesy of Pegasus Books

If a plot begins to plod, Raymond Chandler once said, have a guy with a gun enter the room. Things get interesting. The opposite can be said for Edward Hopper, whose paintings create a quiet noir in which absence is the trigger point. The silent interiors and solitary figures—waiting, worrying, watching—imply threat with little action. Such foreboding reverberates through In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper (Pegasus Books), an anthology of 17 short stories by authors including Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and Lee Child, each based on a particular painting (reproduced on the title pages). 

The writing is spare, with the stories providing short, sharp shots of intrigue perpetrated by grifters, spies and private eyes. Many of the writings retain Hopper’s title; some are contemporaneous with the work of art; a few feature the picture in the narrative.

King turns Hopper’s Room in New York (1932), a calm image of a husband reading a paper while his wife tinkles away at a piano, into a fiction of gruesome gothic horror. In a spin on Nighthawks (1942), Michael Connelly creates a detective who is rumbled while on a stakeout near where the titular masterpiece hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. Gail Levin, author of Hopper’s 1995 catalogue raisonné, has even drawn on her own history for The Preacher Collects, a fictional account of her real-life claim that a Baptist minister stole a priceless cache of the artist’s works. The author herself pops up to question the reverend.  

The collection is edited by pulp crime writer Lawrence Block, who also contributes a tale of deception in a diner (a take on Hopper’s Automat, 1927). Block understands Hopper’s eye. “No less so than any Abstract Expressionist, his concern was with shape and color and light,” he explains in his foreword. Stories were suggested, never told. Through fiction, Hopper’s hushed compositions begin to make some noise and his motifs—offices, hotels, rooftops—are investigated. They don’t, however, explain Hopper’s fondness for redheads.

But that, perhaps, is another story.

 

Novel inspirations

Art, like drink and romance, has preoccupied novelists for a long time. And in The Pen and the Brush: How Passion for Art Shaped Nineteenth-Century French Novels (Other Press) Anka Muhlstein looks at a period when the art and literary worlds mixed their ink to great effect.

Balzac, Proust, Maupassant, Hugo, Zola and many more drew on the techniques and themes of painters for their own craft and subject matter. Muhlstein points out that this was a particularly French obsession during the 19th century; it wasn’t until Henry James and Virginia Woolf that the American and British literati began to look to the visual arts for stimulation.

The French Revolution, Muhlstein writes, changed the nation’s fundamental relationship with art. Museums became a restorative tonic for the masses, much like the restaurants on the boulevards. An understanding of art was natural for a young writer. They even joined in: many “spent time as pupils in artist’s studios and painters reciprocally mingled in the literary groups”.

For Proust, pictures were madeleines for the eyes. The nature of art reverberated throughout À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. And in creating his fictional artist Elstir—based on Monet—he utilized a paintbrush as a descriptive device “Proust never describes a character’s appearance in its entirety,” Muhlstein remarks. “He might evoke it with only one detail, one gesture, or a silhouette, until a painting comes along to complete the image.”

A detail of the Endpapers to The Pen and the Brush, courtesy of Other Press

Balzac considered himself a “literary painter” (although Delacroix thought he overworked the detail in his prose). Indeed, in the early part of the century, Balzac’s imagination was lit up the paintings in the Louvre. He would conjure up lives for the figures in the frames and mysteries for the houses they inhabit. 

A generation later, at boarding school in Aix-en- Provence, two teenage boys struck up a friendship that fused their interests. Young Émile Zola won a drawing prize while his pal Paul Cézanne embraced poetry. “I have not only supported the Impressionists,” announced Zola in later life, “I have translated them into literature.” This expertly researched volume ably illustrates the fruitfulness of such shared visions.







Handmade Histories

Rivane Neuenschwander, (a) casos eroticos [Erotic Cases] 2 (2014) © Rivane Neuenschwander. Courtesy of Rivane Neuenschwander and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

BY Louisa Buck
contemporary art correspondent

Published
In Must See

Rivane Neuenschwander, (a) casos eroticos (Erotic Cases) 2 (2014)

Often the quietest voices are those that make their presence most lastingly felt. The vivid clusters of bubbling, biomorphic shapes which feature in this pair of works by Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander are not much bigger than the palm of my hand. The works, in which overlapping, colored forms are crisply enclosed by a looping graphic line, are reminiscent of doodles that meander across a notepad during tedious telephone calls.

Riffing on the chance methods of Marcel Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages (1913-14) as well as John Cage’s randomly dropped pieces of paint-covered string, Neuenschwander created her nine-strong series of (A) casos eroticos (of which these are two) by dropping lengths of string onto linen napkins. She then embroidered the outline of the resulting shapes, and filled them in with densely stitched colour.

So, on the one hand she’s inserting herself into the conceptual canon of art history. On the other, she’s mischievously mixing things up with an almost trompe l’oeil use of a traditionally female medium with her cheerful, decorative palette, apparently sourced from children’s coloring books.

Rivane Neuenschwander, (a) casos eroticos [Erotic Cases] 2 (2014) © Rivane Neuenschwander. Courtesy of Rivane Neuenschwander and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Neuenschwander charges these little works with a delicious tension between their appearance and their physical actuality. What could be more at odds with the laws of chance and the spontaneous spooling of line than the dense, painstaking stitches of needlecraft? What is more antithetical to the systematic color theories of High Modernism than the jolly shades of the nursery? Yet, through her combination of seemingly contradictory components, these works tug at our instincts as well as our intellect and, in so doing, subtly steal the show (Entangled: Threads and Making’ at Turner Contemporary Margate)

 

The Resurrection of Christ, English School (around 1450)

 

English School, The Resurrection of Christ (mid 15th century) © Ferens Art Gallery

This delicate piece of Medieval carving depicts the classic account of the Resurrection as told in St Matthew’s Gospel, but is also shot through with distinctly un-Biblical detail. In the densely packed scene, Christ steps gingerly out of his open tomb as two armored soldiers gesture in astonishment. Their two companions are less alert: one leans slackly on his staff, back turned from the action, while his slumbering counterpart is so oblivious that Christ is able to use him as a makeshift step, extending a skinny leg on to the slumped body as he wends his way back to the land of the living. The piece, which would originally have been brightly painted and highlighted with gold leaf, now bears few traces of color.

The work, on show in the newly refurbished Ferens Gallery, is a stark reminder of the cultural cost of Henry VIII’s English Reformation. Until the monarch’s marital matters triggered his seismic break with Rome in 1532-34, England had been a Christian world leader—and its promotion of the glory of the Catholic Church had led to an abundance of specialist creative skills. Along with Opus Anglicanum embroidery and needlecraft examples included the finely carved Nottingham alabasters, small panels produced in workshops across the Midlands and northern England—of which this sculpture is an especially fine example.   

Easy to work, but too soft for outdoor use, alabaster was the perfect material for intricate carvings. Conveniently transportable, the Nottingham alabasters were in demand in churches and private chapels across Europe. Before entering the Ferens collection—it is now on show in Hull’s newly refurbished Ferens gallery— the panel spent the last century or so incorporated into a 19th-century altarpiece in a Normandy château.   

Now installed in the company of paintings by Giotto, Duccio, Lorenzetti and Cimabue, this compelling sculpture more than holds its own. I also like the fact that it has been returned to its roots: pre-Reformation, much of the alabaster for these carvings would have been shipped through Hull’s medieval port. 

 

Lubaina Himid, the viola da gamba player in Naming the Money (2004)

Lubaina Himid, Naming the Money (2004). Installation view, Navigation Charts, Spike Island (2017). Courtesy of the artist, Hollybush Gardens and National Museums Liverpool: International Slavery Museum. Photo credit: Stuart Whipps

Lubaina Himid first came to prominence in the early 1980s as the organizer of exhibitions of work by under-represented peers. A self-described “filler-in of gaps”, she has made significant contributions as a curator, archivist and writer focusing on the experience of the black diaspora in Britain. Yet her own art has been overlooked. This seems set to change with two solo shows, one at Modern Art Oxford and this one at Spike Island.

For the latter, she has created a spectacular installation called Naming the Money of 100 life-size cut-out figures representing Africans brought to Europe as servants. One figure stands out from the throng: a man dressed brightly in a green shirt and blue bandana who is playing the cello-like instrument, the viola da gamba. He is part of a trio of musicians but seems distinct from them because, except for one painted eye, his face has been created from a collaged composite of photographed features which lends him a particular intensity. His eyes meet yours with a solemn and self-contained expression.

Each of the painted plywood figures—musicians, dog-trainers, potters, cobblers, map-makers and gardeners—is identified by a balance sheet stuck on their back. These texts are poignant, giving the original names and occupations of the characters, along with their new identities that have been imposed on them by their European owners.

Part of the work is an evocative soundtrack, interspersed with snatches of Cuban, Irish, Jewish and African music. We learn that the free name of our musician is Kwesi, but that now “they call me Henry” and that he “used to play loudly with my brothers. Now I play for kings. But I have the sound of the sea.” In these few lines, a world of loss and longing, cruelty and injustice is evoked. In our current divisive times, Himid’s humane but also hard-hitting work about forgotten and misplaced people seems especially relevant.

 

 




Unpeopling Portraiture

Jonathan Berger, Untitled (Century Tree) (detail) (2017). Photo courtesy of the Artist and JTT, New York

BY Nicola Lees
director and curator, 80WSE Gallery

Published
In Must See

Jonathan Berger, Untitled (Century Tree) (2017)

The art of Jonathan Berger  rigorously picks apart the ways in which an exhibition site can be repurposed, allowing for an expansion of our understanding of what art can be and how it can be made. Berger, who has been singled out by artist Carol Bove as a “future great, has spent much of the past decade making archival-based exhibitions, each of which functioned as an experimental biography of a historical figure, notably Stuart Sherman: Nothing Up My Sleeve at Participant Inc in 2009 and Devotion: Excavating Bob Mizer at 80WSE Gallery in 2013. These projects approached exhibition-making as a form of portraiture, with Berger’s position as creator fragmented into different roles: artist, curator, journalist, producer and documentarian.

I first worked with the artist in 2014 on his project for Frieze London, An Overture to Andy Kaufman. He reassembled fragments from the personal life and career of the American entertainer Andy Kaufman (1949-84), creating an archive of ephemera and restaging a forgotten overture from Kaufman’s 1979 variety show at Carnegie Hall. This was just one part of a six-year investigative portrait of Kaufman, using abstract configurations of primary information in the form of artefacts and testimony to create an accurate, though inconclusive, portrayal of him.

Then, last year, after an eightyear hiatus, Berger returned to the construction of objects. Four of these will be on view at the Independent art fair in New York from 2-5 March at a booth shared by JTT and Adams and Ollman galleries. A central plinth will display these elaborately crafted, small-scale objects identified by the artist as being made from ‘elementary’ materials such as tin, chalk and putty.

One work, Untitled (Century Tree) (2017), depicts a flowering agave—which has roughly the same lifespan as a person, but dies after its first and only blooming. Made from a piece of salvaged tin, the silver surface of which appears both mirrored and corroded, Berger’s sculpture is installed on an imperfectly gridded plinth constructed from hundreds of small chalk blocks. These four autonomous works constitute Berger’s set-like, nearly monochromatic presentation.

 

 

Charles Burchfield, Untitled (Sunflower Patterns IV) (around 1915)

Chris Burchfield, Untitled (Sunflower Patterns IV) (c. 1915). Courtesy of Adams and Ollman, Portland

The galleries will also be showing nine nature studies by the American 20th-century painter Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) who worked almost exclusively in watercolor, focusing on his immediate landscape: his garden, snow turning to slush, the sounds of insects and bells and vibrating telephone lines. Burchfield was recently celebrated by the artist Robert Gober—he included Burchfield’s work in a mini-show within his own retrospective at MoMA in 2014. (Gober also curated an exhibition of Burchfield’s paintings at the Hammer museum in LA, titled Heat Waves in a Swamp, in 2009)

 

 

Ellen Lesperance, Wounded Amazon (Ghost Ship) (2017)

Ellen Lesperance, Wounded Amazon (Ghost Ship) (2017). Courtesy of Adams and Ollman, Portland

Berger and Burchfield will also be in dialogue with new large-scale paintings on paper by the American artist Ellen Lesperance, which function as memorials to women involved in confrontational acts of civil disobedience. The artist is known for her paintings inspired by the hand-knitted sweaters often worn by women involved in protests, sit-ins, demonstrations and civil disobedience.

Her meticulous painting of such sweaters upon a hand-drawn grid can serve as actual patterns for the recreation of these garments—in this way capturing the potential of past events to inspire future actions. By transforming source material into something interactive, the works speak to participation and protest as being not radical, but essential and personal.

 




Lost and Gone Forever

Patricia and son Guillermo Cisneros in Hélio Oiticica's Grand Nucleus (1960-66). Photograph taken at the Projecto Helio Oitica, Rio de Janerio, 1994. Photo credit: Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

BY Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
collector and co-founder, Fundación Cisneros

Published
In Passions

In the early 1990s, when I was really beginning to build the Brazilian part of our Modern collection, I visited the Hélio Oiticica estate with my friend and advisor, Paulo Herkenhoff. At that time, it was an apartment where his friends had kept a lot of his work. It’s more organized today.

Luciano Figueiredo, an artist who was a good friend ofOiticica, was the unofficial executor of the estate. I remember going into the apartment and it being a treasure trove: the early works were all there, the Parangolés—the wearable sculptures. That’s where I discovered and understood who Oiticica really was as an artist. He still wasn’t that widely known in those days. But after that visit, I really committed to collecting his work.

I saw a work called Grand Nucleus (1960-66). It was a series of suspended color plates that created a kind of labyrinth that you walked through. Oiticica made it at the point when his paintings were becoming spatial reliefs, when his art was moving away from the wall and color truly began to embody form. It was a very important moment in his development.

I fell desperately in love with the work. It reminded me of the kind of environmental object that I’d seen by kinetic artists in Venezuela—it felt like a Brazilian counterpart to that, this color free-floating in space.

It was such an exciting moment, discovering this great artist’s production. I went with my family to see the work again. But, I didn’t acquire the piece. These were the years during which the collection began to take on the scale it now has and it was still a little intimidating to think about how I would store or show these kinds of works.

Over the years, the piece got more expensive, even though nobody had bought it. I used to talk about Grand Nucleus, and how I wished I had bought it because I knew it would make so much sense within the collection.

Then, there was a fire in Oiticica’s estate around five years ago and the piece was destroyed. It has gone forever. It has been a huge regret. I could have saved it.

Interview by Charlotte Burns




To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

BY Danielle Stadler
floater at Sotheby's

Published
In Galleries



Art Agency, Partners is a bespoke art advisory firm founded in 2014, and built upon decades of combined experience, to provide counsel to many of the world's leading art collectors and institutions on collection assessment and development, estate planning, and innovative approaches to museum giving and growth.