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#33 Don’t Stop Believing, with Artist Glenn Kaino


Artist Glenn Kaino: Photo credit: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

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#33 Don't Stop Believing, with Artist Glenn Kaino

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

“When people ask me how to describe the work or describe myself, I always just start by saying artist,” says Glenn Kaino. “Everything stems from the art practice.”

The visionary American conceptual artist’s work has led him to become an off-Broadway producer, a performer, a magician, a social activist and the technological innovator who helped legalize the music download platform Napster. 

A “horrible” trip to an art fair in 2008 caused Kaino to close his studio for a year, unhappy with “how much influence an overall, overriding economic system” was having on art making. He decided instead to “go hang out with a bunch of magicians and see what happens—because they know something about believing”. 

Magic is “why we do what we do, as artists”, says Kaino, who went on to co-produce the off-Broadway magic show “In and Of Itself”—which is smashing box office records. Both magic and art are about belief for Kaino, who says: “Belief has always been at the core of the practice; it’s really belief about the power of art.”

One of his long-term collaborations is with the Olympian Tommie Smith, who famously accepted the gold medal for the 200m race in 1968 with his fist held aloft, in solidarity with the fight for human rights. “We, as beneficiaries of his sacrifice, can create systems that pay homage to—and also pay—him,” Kaino says. “The art I know actually has tangible change, in that it makes people think in different ways or makes people engage in different ideas.”

During today’s podcast, which was recorded in Los Angeles with Matthew Thompson (vice president of AAP in Los Angeles) and our host Charlotte Burns, Kaino talks about subjects as diverse as Jurassic Park; diversity in tech; partnering with actor and activist Jesse Williams; his interest in “connecting ecosystems that don’t normally have a chance to meet”; upcoming projects—and much more. 

Tune in today.

For the full transcript, click here

“I like to say when I was taught about Conceptual art, I believed it. I wasn’t part of the generation that had to be convinced that concepts could be art” —Glenn Kaino

“The art I know actually has tangible change, it that makes people think in different ways or makes people engage in different ideas” —Glenn Kaino

“They exist as these moments when you’re at a blackjack table and the dealer is throwing you a card and—in the air—that card is both every card you want and every card that you don’t want” —Glenn Kaino


Glenn Kaino


Glenn Kaino is a Los Angeles based Conceptual artist whose creates across a range of media, from public sculpture to drawing, painting, video and performance. His work, which is included in major museum collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum, has been featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial (Desktop Operations, a monumentally-scaled sandcastle inspired by desktop Zen garden kits) and the 2013 Cairo Biennale (In Every Grain, a sculptural environment for the US Pavilion).

His performance work The Burning Boards (2007) was originally performed at the Whitney Altria in 2007 and involved a chess game between 32 artists, writers, curators and chess masters with wax pieces that melted during the game, testing traditional logic and rules. Kaino also spent a decade immersed in the field of magic and produced the magic show “In & Of Itself” at the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City. It became one of highest-grossing shows in the theater’s history.

Kaino also created the artist-run gallery, Deep River, in LA in 1997 and was a founding board member of the independent, non-profit LA art space, LAXART.

Matthew Thompson

VP, director of advisory at AAP

Matthew Thompson is a director of advisory. From 2011 until 2017 he was the director of collection development at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, focusing on strategic collection building initiatives and major acquisition projects like John Lautner’s Sheats/Goldstein Residence and the Yuz Museum partnership. Previously, he helped build the program at the Aspen Art Museum where for six years he curated exhibitions, public projects, and programs, and oversaw the museum’s publications. 

Thompson received his B.A. in Visual Arts from Columbia University and his M.A. in Critical and Curatorial Studies from the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Charlotte Burns

executive editor of In Other Words

Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.

The live record

Behind the Scenes with Glenn Kaino

6 Images

For More on Glenn Kaino

Shaking Up the Tech Game” by Chris Lee in Complex (2016)
Glenn Kaino” by Paige K Bradley in Artforum (2014)
Glenn Kaino: Leviathan” by Christian Viveros-Fauné in Art Review (2014)
Kitbashing the Universe: An Artist’s Conceptual Remixes” by Daniel Kunitz in Modern Painters (2011)
Modern Painters:

Where to look

Significant Works by Glenn Kaino

6 Images