Arena /

Isabella Bortolozzi / Berlin

Most success stories begin with a formative event that becomes an integral part of the mythology surrounding them. For Isabella Bortolozzi, it was an encounter as a young child with a painting belonging to her father’s collection. From that beginning, her fascination and obsession grew until she finally decided to surrender and open a gallery in 2004.

Before moving to Berlin, you had a previous career as a translator. How did the gallery come about?

You are right! I didn’t study fine arts, and I worked for many years as a translator. My father was a collector of mainly paintings from the 17th and 18th century. After he passed away when I was in my twenties, I tried to document and archive his collection: this was my first encounter with art, as before I had just been observing him from afar. Retracing his collecting paths and all the stories related to the works he acquired over a lifetime (he was born in 1914) had a strong impact on me. The anecdote you refer to is accurate: I grew up in a hotel, and my father locked away a painting, which was supposed to be a Delacroix, because of its strong subject (it was an erotic/pornographic painting). I was supposed to see it only after my becoming of age (which of course didn’t happen).

When I moved the gallery to Schoenberg, the opening show was titled “Neolitic Porns.” My friend Henrik Olesen, who knew the story, encouraged me to show it, as it didn’t matter if it’s not a real Delacroix. We showed it with Paul Thek’s painting Neolithic Porn (1979–80). This gave us the idea for the title, which became plural: a mix between an orgy and a very sentimental show, which was basically a porn show.

Why did you decide to open a gallery in Berlin, and how has it changed over the last ten years?

It’s always hard to define what are the motivations for living in any given place. Regarding Berlin specifically, it wasn’t calculated — nothing I do is calculated in that sense — but it was a combination of curiosity and rootlessness, which I consider two very important drives. What attracted dealers I have no idea! The change that has taken place over the last ten years is a facsimile of change in the global art market. Let’s not be romantic: Berlin is a city like any other, but a little less driven, unfortunately.

Your first show in Berlin was by the Slovak artist Július Koller. The glass door to your newly opened gallery featured a big, hand-painted question mark. How do you think this exhibition set the tone for the ones that came afterward?

When I met Koller in Bratislava and invited him to do a show with me in Berlin, I asked him to just put a question mark in the gallery, to write it on the floor or where he wanted because the question mark had been his symbol. I liked the idea of opening the gallery with a question mark. My program is consciously selfish: it’s driven by my desires. And my desire is to question, and to question my desires, or the suspicion of taste.

You seem to stay in constant dialogue with a younger generation of artists such as Ed Atkins and Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff. How do you decide to take on a young artist?

This sense of wanting to allow the flow of the now to invade and even to risk its diversionary seduction, to allow this seduction, and to enter into it, as opposed to defending or promoting illusionary values — this is what defines the contemporary, for better or worse. That’s the place I want to be, the place I work from.

Your gallery is part of a generation of dealers who opened shop in the 00s and both enjoyed the years of the boom as much as you suffered the financial crisis of 2008. Has it been a rollercoaster?

When I opened my gallery, like anyone else starting out, it was never a question of boom or bust, but more of “must or dust.” I didn’t care about, nor was I interested in the ups and downs other people’s stock. I was more interested in the local, the popular front of friends and fellow thinkers, nothing more. The rise and fall of certain values, the inflation and deflation of the market, from hot to cold, from in to out, this moves according to laws in which I have no interest, and over which no artist can have control, despite certain illusions to the contrary.

How do you see your role as a dealer?

The role of a dealer is to remain open at all times to the unknown, and to create the conditions in which others can share this opportunity. That is to say, I clear a space for the emergence of something new. Nothing else matters.

by Marta Fontolan

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In Residence /

Heaven, Fortune and the West / The Desire behind the Dream

Neville Wakefield has written fascinating texts on Californian artists such as Ed Ruscha and David Benjamin Sherry. He is also preparing a project that will, hopefully, take place in Death Valley. Therefore, his interest in the American West and the California Dream is very real.

But for Wakefield, the concepts of the Dream and the West are very different things. As he puts it: “The West embodies this idea of frontier that has embraced American culture from cowboys to spacemen. It is something different from the California Dream, which seems to be based on a certain kind of relationship to lifestyle as much as it is to landscape, light and space, and the ideals of freedom they embody.”

Hence, the West and the Dream are two distinct ideas, two different cultures. Have these ideas evolved dramatically? It appears that what we’re seeing in California now is not necessarily being built upon the same foundation. Furthermore, a lot has been written about the way the Dream has been broken. “My interest is less in the California Dream and more in the American West,” adds Wakefield, “and the way that landscape and particularly unbounded space has come to embody certain ideas of freedom.”

Nonetheless, there are commonalities between the Dream and the West. The biggest commonality is the idea of spatial expansion. “It is about laying claim to new possibilities,” Neville says. “The West is clearly an idea as much as it is a place in America. It’s a state of mind.” But is it a state of mind fed by special geographic features and cultural myths?

Philippe Vergne is a French man who, in a way, has responded to the call of the West by agreeing to become director of MOCA Los Angeles. Vergne insists on the fact that there are different ways to approach the California Dream: the dream that Mike Kelley had when he came to California to go to school, to find space to make, think and dream. Or the dream that Virginia Dwan pursued when she empowered artists like Yves Klein and helped Michael Heizer explore the desert. Although Double Negative is in the Nevada desert, it nonetheless could not have happened without the fascination of the West. There is also the horizontal dream that is embodied in Ed Ruscha’s work. The dream of endless urban space that Ed Ruscha has been documenting and transcending in his work since the 1960s. “There is not only one dream, but there is a fabric of dreams. They are extremely tangled together,” Philippe tells us. Were these artists just looking for room, or did the appeal of the desert play a role as well?

In his book City of Quartz, Mike Davis mentions the “Museum Archipelago.” Were the museums like islands in a metaphorical desert? If institutions are really rooted in reality, museums are places of artifacts and artifice. “The California Dream is a brand that is very good for tourism,” adds the new MOCA Director.

Interestingly, the former Dia director used to work at the Walker Art Center — a museum in the middle of a frozen plain in Minnesota, another type of desert. The Walker and the Pasadena Art Center together organized the first retrospective of Marcel Duchamp. “When you live in the desert, California, or in a plain in Minnesota, and you bring Marcel Duchamp… it’s not a dream, it’s a desire. The desire to change something in your city or the context you live in.” Thus the desert could be a metaphorical desert; and the dream could be to create a system of irrigation, “a metaphorical irrigation that would bring the world to your place.”

A desire that transcends geography, sparkles on the sand dunes and gives birth to a constellation of dreams. As Neville puts it: “The [California] Dream is a mirage that has come out of the American West. I don’t think the Dream would be the Dream without the West. What gives birth to this dreamscape and what one sees butted up against each other — particularly in California — is basically a very simple opposition between abstraction and configuration, a dialogue that has been going on throughout the history of art. This has been made manifest within the physicality of California.”

by Alexandre Stipanovich

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Flash Art NY Desk /

Hudinilson Jr., Hudinilson Jr. / Flash Art NY Desk

The art of Hudinilson Urbano Junior (São Paulo, 1957 – 2013) emerged in the late 1970s, when Brazilian cultural production was stifled by the military dictatorship, and the avant-garde Concretist project of blending art and life had been appropriated by the bohemia.

In a context in which the very few extant museums and galleries were presided over by the establishment, and the only interventions in public space had to assume the posture of a guerrilla action (Hudinilson Jr was originally part of the collective 3NÓS3 who, among their many performances, bagged monuments around the city), the artist turned to the intimate domain of his own body: by using a Xerox machine he accessed, reproduced and learned about every single detail of his anatomy. “Already from the beginning, the topic of my work was the body,” says Hudinilson Jr in one of his last interviews. “If a person is alone with a Xerox machine, what is the first thing this person will do? […] I first Xeroxed the hand, then the face — but then also all the rest. […] I would close the door, undress and continue my explorations.”

The exhibition at the Flash Art NY Desk brought together a constellation of works, mostly from the 1980s, which all insist on Hudinilson Jr’s obsession with the male body. Collages, photographs, found objects and sculptures, along with the trademark Xeroxes, allow for a scrutiny of the traits of virility, from clichéd representations of gay pornography to abstractions that result from the feverish process of enlarging, reframing and collaging together pictures of the artist’s own body. The narcissistic afflatus, which Hudinilson Jr always intuitively recognized as the thrust of his practice, can also be recognized as an empirical exploration of his queer identity — an impending onanism that exhausts the political gesture by imitating a sexual encounter that can only be nonproductive: hence, the artist’s posição amorosa, his “sex position,” fosters little more than the “exercise” of reproducing the self.

Organized by Michele D’Aurizio.

The exhibition is generously supported by Galeria Jaqueline Martins, São Paulo.

Flash Art NY Desk / Film Center
630 9th Ave (Btw 44th and 45th St.)
Suite 403
New York, NY 10036
T : (646) 682-7268
Thu – Sat, noon – 6 pm

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Review /

Melgaard + Munch Munch Museum / Oslo

What happens when a painting comes to define a nation? You cover it up. Such is the case with The Scream (1910) by Edvard Munch at the Munch Museum.

Curated by Lars Toft-Eriksen, “Melgaard + Munch” brings together the work of the late painter and what could be his contemporary. Upon first glance, it is easy to compare the works of Bjarne Melgaard and Edvard Munch, but according to Toft-Eriksen’s curatorial concept, their similarities diverge before reuniting. Thematically, and maybe more emotionally than anything else, the two share a darkness. It brews like the bubbling of a caldron, just below the surface. Melgaard uses text, paint and textiles to elicit a dynamic that Munch evoked using a muted, melancholic palette. Melgaard’s texts — often painted on top of another image or drawing — usher the viewer on a particular journey, whereas Munch’s work never ventured beyond the painted form.

Intention isn’t lost on those who do not read the words. Time and societal changes may insist upon this element, but during the era of Munch, his strange and unknown forms were enough to shock. Melgaard uses a more abject strategy, tapping into literal and metaphorical territories — such as snuff films and BDSM — where Munch never ventured. Separated by two generations, obsession is where the two artists collide. Bjarne Melgaard dives head first into obsession, whether it be drugs, sex or death. Munch breached similar territory, though more topically. Bodies assimilate and, as per the artist’s choosing, identity is erased, made less important than the thrust of passion and compulsion. Both artists share a neurotic preoccupation with sex and its resulting emotional turmoil. Munch viewed these relations with a creepy, almost compulsive distance, while Melgaard proceeds with a visceral desperation. At the Munch Museum, in what could be considered one large collage, the two basically tear out their mutually aching hearts — one buried deep in the earth, the other still beating — and display the bloody masses for all present to absorb, reject or admire.

by Katy Diamond Hamer

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News /

Adam Lindemann on Venus Over Los Angeles

Venus Over Manhattan was founded in New York in 2012 and is now expanding to Los Angeles. Adam Lindemann provides an update on the venture.

On the East Coast, you are known for a singular curatorial practice that fosters collaboration between artists, dealers and collectors. Will you continue this approach in LA?

Venus has worked hard to establish itself as an interesting alternative to the more traditional gallery format, and we’ve put on curated shows that have gained traction for Jack Goldstein, Raymond Pettibon, as well as the innovative “Calder Shadows” show. Our current exhibition is all from a private collection of great Peter Saul paintings from the ’60s and ’70s, works that haven’t been seen in fifty years. I’m very excited about it. In LA the plan is to do a strictly primary program. I love to be involved with artists and do original shows. Plus, the two spaces allow us to have more variety in our program.

You’ve already announced shows with Dan Colen, Dan McCarthy, Elaine Cameron-Weir, Marianne Vitale and Gelatin for this year. Will you focus more on primary works and young artists?

Yes. For now we are only showing all new work, mainly from younger artists who want to take advantage of LA’s characteristic light and space. There are a lot of NY and European artists who will be excited by our space, so the program should be great.

Was downtown LA the obvious place to open a new space or did you consider other areas as well?

We looked everywhere, at all our options, and none made sense for Venus except for downtown, which is the perfect place. We simply have two big old warehouses, the type they do film shoots in. They are beautiful and amazing, better than almost anything you could have in NY. DTLA is a bit of a destination, but so is everything in LA. There’s good energy there too — I think the timing is just right.

by Patrick Steffen

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Arena /

Anton Belov on the Garage Museum / Moscow

Designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA, the new Garage Museum of Contemporary Art will open in June 2015. Flash Art spoke with museum director Anton Belov about the role of the Garage in contemporary Russia’s cultural landscape.

How do you become an influential contemporary art center in a city like Moscow?

In general, there is much work to do in developing museums specialized in contemporary art in Moscow. In my opinion, this is the reason why the Garage Museum plays such a unique and important role. We inspire people and invite them to engage with the museum: to take part in our exhibitions, education programs, publishing program and other activities. We focus a great deal of energy on developing our team. I believe that our staff and guides can inspire visitors. The Garage Museum is a very young institution with a lot of young people working here, so we really can bring new energy and fresh ideas to the Moscow art world.

I am interested in how the Garage Museum is perceived in Moscow. Do people see contemporary art as a challenge?

There are many people whom I meet regularly at the Garage Museum, not only because they are coming to see our shows, but because they are taking our educational courses, coming to our library, visiting our café and having a nice lunch. Our number of visitors is growing every week. And, most importantly, people are really enjoying the art.

Since the very opening, the museum has been an “island of tolerance” in Moscow. We are happy that the museum helps popularize ideas of freedom and new ways of thinking about and exploring Moscow. The city is changing — new parks and new public spaces have begun to appear. I think it is really inspiring, and, in my opinion, even other museums — like the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Multimedia Art Museum — are now also starting to change their approach in working with people and presenting their exhibitions and education programs.

As you probably know, in 2013 Germano Celant curated for Fondazione Prada a show inspired by Harald Szeemann’s “When Attitudes Become Form.” Would you ever consider this approach — revisiting a previously conceived exhibition?

It is really important to us at the Garage Museum to reinvestigate and reconnect to the histories of Russian contemporary art because there is really very little known. We have started a number of initiatives, like the three-year research project into the century-long history of performance in Russia, which recently resulted in the first major exhibition and book. At the same time, we have developed various exhibitions and books looking back at the 1990s, which was a crucial time of changing all the systems in the country. We made a big project in collaboration with the Ekaterina Foundation, called “Reconstruction,” that was an exhibition in two parts looking at Moscow artistic life in the 1990s, when so-called unofficial art surfaced. Now we are working on a book called Exhibit Russia, which is looking back at twenty exhibitions that happened in Russia or abroad between 1986 and 1996, which were the first to put Russian contemporary art in an international context.

Are you going to invite guest curators from abroad as well?

We have a strong history of working with guest curators, like Klaus Biesenbach and Roselee Goldberg, when Garage first opened. In the last couple of years we have also worked with international advisors such as Hans Ulrich Obrist. But it has also been important to develop our core team, so we started working with Kate Fowle as our chief curator, who has been developing the curatorial team. They now initiate the program, including education, publishing, conferences, research and, of course, exhibitions. They also determine the collaborations with guest curators. Right now we are working on an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois with the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

At the same time we are working with numerous curators and artists in our Field Research program, which is a think tank and production house with emphasis on primary research. Generated by the interests of artists, curators and writers working around the world, the program gives new perspective on overlooked or little-known events, philosophies, places or people relating to Russian culture. So, for example, we’re working with curators Koyo Kouoh and Rasha Salti on researching African and Arab filmmakers who were trained in Moscow during the 1960s to the 1990s.

What can we expect from the museum’s grand opening?

That there will be much celebrating in June! There will be a big program of events and activities for families, the art community in Moscow and our international guests. We’ll open with five exhibitions that will feature Russian and international artists, including a major project by Rirkrit Tiravanija, installations by Yayoi Kusama, a new, monumental site-specific work by Erik Bulatov, as well as displays from our archive and Field Research program.

From the outside, it seems like the political situation in the country could influence the culture. How is the Garage Museum dealing with current politics? Do you have any restrictions in terms of artistic choice?

I think that for Russia this moment is a very good one to build cultural bridges working with artists and curators who are interested in different points of view. We are a privately funded, publicly minded institution, which is quite unique in Russia and enables us to develop an independent perspective on what a cultural institution can be. Our exhibitions always explore the social, political and cultural context of Moscow and Russia in some way. The current show, “Grammar of Freedom / Five Lessons: Works from the Arteast 2000+ Collection,” for example, looks back at a range of art practices that share a common struggle for artistic and individual liberties during the socialist regimes of the former Yugoslavia and USSR, as well as other Eastern and Central European countries.

Importantly though, we do not present art as a political statement. Instead we provide a context for a range of practices and give our visitors the possibility to have their own opinion. Every visitor can choose his own position and opinion about exhibition. If we are talking about a current political situation, of course it doesn’t support our international connections, and sometimes it is hard to procure loans for our exhibitions. But I want to mark that we really feel support from international institutions. We are very proud that the most important museums in the world are working with Garage and are interested in collaboration.

by Gea Politi

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