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Daniel Baumann on his appointment as Director of Kunsthalle Zurich

You helped found New Jerseyy, a project space in Basel that has been instrumental in the development of the emerging Swiss art scene. Do you see your appointment as director of the Kunsthalle Zurich as the logical evolution of your role in the local context? And how will your experience at New Jerseyy affect your directorship at the Kunsthalle?

New Jerseyy was first a team of four, then of six: Mathis Altmann, Tobias Madison, Emanuel Rossetti, Dan Solbach, Anina Trösch and me. This experience of working as a team comes with me. As a group, you are your first public, and you discuss ideas together to make them better. The second thing I take to Zurich is New Jerseyy’s ambition to build a scene locally by bringing people in from Basel, Zurich and all over. We had a similar ambition for the 2013 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, and both experiences made it clear that being locally relevant doesn’t mean being provincial. The third New Jerseyy experience might be called “irreverence,” not toward the art, but toward the languages, rituals and discourses the institutions are built on.

 

Your predecessor, Beatrix Ruf, ran the Kunsthalle for almost thirteen years, during which she organized a number of exhibitions that marked the zeitgeist in the art world. How do you see Ruf’s legacy relative to your vision for the institution?

Bernhard Bürgi, the Kunsthalle’s first director, and Beatrix Ruf brought this institution to fame and helped to make Zurich the renowned place it is. However, within the last ten or so years, the art world drastically changed. It used to be rather a small place. Today, it’s not even one world anymore: there is no art world, but art worlds served by hundreds of biennials and art fairs, thousands of galleries, collectors, curators, critics and the never-sleeping Internet. So what is the role of a Kunsthalle today? It remains a platform for artists, their thinking and their works. It is a place where our ideas of art are celebrated, questioned and expanded; it is an actor in a city, and it should take you, as often as possible, contre-pied.

 

Can you share some insight into your future program at the Kunsthalle?

Not yet. Or let me turn things around. Who is our public? Apparently it’s tiny compared to the attention and the glamour we get. Maybe 3%? So the future program of the Kunsthalle Zurich will go out there to also seduce some of the 97%.

by Michele D’Aurizio

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Item Idem Johannes Vogt / New York

Unease will creep in when one is openly confronted with guilty pleasures and private vices. Such is the case with French artist Cyril Duval’s sculptures, those installations and mantelpieces composed of neatly arranged, easily recognizable commercial products propped up by concrete cinder blocks and industrial shelving.

McDonald’s; Hostess Twinkies; Muscle Milk; Superman; Mickey Mouse; Quaker Oats; Kellogg’s cereal; Justin Bieber, his likeness unfortunately reappropriated for an off-brand “love doll” — they are all here, stacked tidily and presented without discernment, in “Voir Dire” at Johannes Vogt Gallery, Duval’s first exhibition in New York.

Sculptures such as Baby, baby, baby oooh Like baby, baby, baby, nooo (all works 2014) and Portrait of Mussolini as Prometheus nestle the brightly colored cardboard boxes of snacks and canned foods among fake flowers and fruit, while Halved (Moby-Dick), an inflated whale with a vacant smile, is beached nearby. The film JOSS, made with Chinese artist Cheng Ran, screens in an adjoining room, documenting joss paper objects — traditional funeral offerings in various Asian cultures — being consumed by fire.

This multivalent artist has already manipulated the readymade contextualization and precise designation that the name brand and logo can provide across various platforms and media: As one-third of the geographically fabled Shanzhai Biennial, the ongoing exhibition series and marketing machine of unclear motive that he presents with fellow artist Babak Radboy and stylist Avena Gallagher (and named not after the next art-world destination but rather the Chinese shanzhai, the practice of manufacturing and selling knockoff designer goods on the black market); as collaborator with the exclusive Parisian boutique Colette and Commes des Garçons and architect for avant-garde fashion designer Bernhard Willhelm’s boutique in Tokyo; in addition to numerous branding and communication projects for DIS magazine and New York’s Neuehouse, among others.

Given that the artist’s moniker, Item Idem, translates to “the same” from Latin, “Voir Dire” suggests that whether we are in the market for tokens of luxury and style or aspire to wholesome virtue through the purchasing of cornflakes and Aim toothpaste, the satisfaction we desire through consumption is flamed out quickly, and all item idem.

by Jennifer Piejko

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Liv Barrett on CHÂTEAU SHATTO opening / Los Angeles

Why did you decide to open a permanent gallery?

We opened Château Shatto to make exhibitions, and with a gallery you can make nearly as many exhibitions as you’ll ever want to.

Also significant was the overwhelming feeling of wanting to work with certain artists into the future, further into the future than what we could see. The idea of what these artists are making right now and the unknown possibilities of what an exhibition of theirs will look like five years from now were equally prompting. Nelson Harmon, the co-founder, and I live in Los Angeles so the location is inevitable, but it’s probably not a coincidence that the location lends the likelihood of Chris Kraus attending most of our exhibitions.

 

From Odilon Redon to Helen Johnson, the program doesn’t follow a specific generation. What is the core of your curatorial approach?

Redon was involved with Château Shatto without consent! He was, of course, not in a position to reject his inclusion in “Education Pig” (with Body by Body), and a wonderful caretaker of his work, Theodore Wohng, loaned us the lithographs. We proposed to Body by Body that they might absorb a selection of Redon lithographs into their exhibition; we’d speculated on the chemistry that might occur. They said yes immediately. The four artists we represent at present are naturally the focus of our program — Helen Johnson, Parker Ito, Cayetano Ferrer and Body by Body — and they have wildly distinct approaches to their work. Looking wider than this, the focus of the program is making exhibitions that are convincing, that feel full. The program of the gallery becomes its own text.

 

Can you give us a preview of upcoming shows?

In November, Marta Fontolan curates an exhibition called “To the End of the Line,” with works by Seth Pick, Rosa Aiello, Aids-3D, among others. Helen Johnson will open her first solo exhibition in January, and we open an exhibition with Parker Ito in January, off-site, called “A Lil’ Taste of Cheeto in the Night.”

by Patrick Steffen

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Djorje Ozbolt Taro Nasu / Tokyo

Traditional art from Asia and Africa served as a nutrient for the growth of traditional Western aesthetics into modernism. And such cultural catalysts are still at large, as exemplified by Djordje Ozbolt’s latest body of work.

This solo exhibition underscores the strenuous mind of the Belgrade-born, London-based artist: all the works on exhibit are from 2014, although the series to which they belong was started the previous year.

The Colourful Dozen, the central work, is a wall-hung array of twelve different, apparently traditional African masks copied in polyester resin and dyed in twelve different colors. Even without ethnographical reference, the exhibit is visually exhilarating, with the most striking feature being the solid, artificially vivid colors. A set of six paintings in acrylic flanks the masks. Titled Les visiteurs, the paintings depict mysterious figures with faces similar to the masks. United We Stand comprises five polyester-resin reproductions of African statues in equally vivid colors. A deliberate kitschiness that characterized Ozbolt’s previous paintings is maintained in the gaudy coloring of the masks and statues, and in their polyester surfaces that imitate the original wood texture. Meanwhile, the sculpture Precious is an obvious parody of La Machine d’Argent (1754), a table centerpiece by 18th-century French silversmith François-Thomas Germain. Ozbolt’s translation is done in chrome-plated jesmonite as opposed to original silver, and the original cauliflower on top of the work is satirically replaced with a bag of French fries.

The exhibition’s title, “Lost in Translation,” alludes to — besides the namesake film with a setting in Tokyo — the original roles and values that the masks and other artifacts had before being appropriated by modern artists. “Translation” may still be under way by the hands of artists like Ozbolt. But, in his works, enough is found for the viewer to enjoy a colorful and witty visual lingua franca, prior to any debates on cultures or art history.

by Satoru Nagoya

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PUBLIC ART AGENCY hosts Creative Time Summit / Stockholm

Sweden is a nation with few natural resources, which is why it has always understood the value of contemporary creativity and how to invest in and wield cultural capital.

With amazing public and private institutions and an art center in each city, Sweden is the dreamland of artists (until recently artists could receive a life-long financial grant from the state). One such institution, Public Art Agency Sweden, was officially born in 1937 during a time of economic growth for the country, and until recently the organization was responsible for building and displaying the state collection in governmental buildings throughout the country and in embassies abroad. The turning point was in 2012 when Magdalena Malm was appointed as the new director. Prior to that, Malm created her own organization called MAP (Mobile Art Production), which organized site-specific projects by contemporary artists in spaces not traditionally conceived for this purpose. Following the format of Creative Time in New York, MAP organized experimental projects with Swedish artists like Ylva Ogland and Jonas Dahlberg as well as international names like Fiona Tan and Phil Collins, and also programmed lectures and seminars. When Malm was appointed director of the Agency it was clear that she would turn the institution upside down in order to continue what she did with MAP. After projects with Simon Starling and Xavier Veilhan, her ambitious new project is to bring the Creative Time Summit to Stockholm on November 14 and 15. This would be in keeping with Creative Time’s recent efforts to capitalize on its brand through franchising — its project “Living as Form (The Nomadic Version)” was recently toured with the support of Independent Curators International. The focus of this year’s Summit — “gentrification and the role of the arts, both good and bad, in the making of the new city” — also seems to be a perfect fit for Public Art Agency Sweden. The partnership marks the first time that the event will be held outside New York City.

by Nicola Trezzi

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Xu Qu Taikang Space / Beijing

Sport is never merely a game; it is a mirror of class habitus, a pool of biopolitical imagery, and a site for marketing the symbolic values of the body in the consumerist world.

Xu Qu, a Chinese artist born in 1978 who graduated from Nanjing University of Art and Braunschweig University of Art, is a tennis fan, although he doesn’t play the sport. His installation Tennis Court, located on the terrace of Taikang Space in Beijing, replicates one sixth of a standard tennis court in life size. Surrounded by black chain-link fence, the iron panel painted in teal with white sidelines and baseline looks like a piece of any tennis court. Random holes are connected to industrial blower fans that launch neon-yellow tennis balls to random heights.

Tennis Court may suggest class hierarchy or disciplinary power as inscribed on human bodies. Indeed, Xu is no stranger to researching the representation of bodies. His previous solo exhibition, “A Hit,” used silhouettes of exercising or fighting figures derived from ancient Greek relics. But instead of focusing on corporeal mechanisms, Tennis Court reinvents the spatial trajectories between objects, based on his memories of game-watching. The artist choreographs a collective of possible spatial possibilities between the ball and the tennis court as a Bourdieu-like habitus without human presence. French theorist Michel Serres adopts a (soccer) ball as a quasi-object that is meaningless without human interaction, but at the same time it is not a puppet either. The metaphor can be applied to tennis; the player’s movement and skills are constructed by the materiality of the ball — like the earth revolving around the sun. As Serres says, “Playing is nothing else but making oneself the attribute of the ball as a substance.” In Xu Qu’s installation, humanity is rendered invisible, thus resonating with his lack of bodily experience with the sport; only the traces of quasi-objects from his visual experience of tennis remain. The work may seemingly steer away from the recent embrace of the concept of the anthropocene, but the absence of the player restates the human’s role in the world.

by Venus Lau

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