For the Best of 2013 In Print, see the December Issue of Artforum.

Kito Nedo

12.15.13

Katja Novitskova, Approximation V, 2013, digital print on aluminum, cutout display, 47 x 55 x 8".


“Speculations on Anonymous Materials” at Kunsthalle Fridericianum (September 29–January 26, 2013) Newly appointed curator Susanne Pfeffer has created an exhibition that gives a collective and pointed voice to some of the most influential young artists working today. This timely international group show presents some thirty makers (Yngve Holen, Josh Kline, Pamela Rosenkranz, Oliver Laric, and Aleksandra Domanović, among others) who produce artworks that are currently traded under the precarious label “post-Internet art.” Samsung flat screens, 3-D printing, Tumblrism, fragile USB-cable sculptures, jelly-Plexiglas and color-gradient aesthetics pervade the exhibition, creating a psychologically charged image of an increasingly digital world—but one via coherent aesthetic objects and not streams of ephemeral cyberspace. Pfeffer’s selection of artists is cohesive and percipient, proving the curator a master of exhibitions that skid the surface of our zeitgeist: If blunt retromania ran rampant throughout 2013—think the remounting of “When Attitudes Become Form” in Venice and the 2014 roster of Whitney Biennial artists—“Speculations” is both a smart and essential look forward.

“The Whole Earth. California and the Disappearance of the Outside” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (April 26–July 7, 2013) Curated by Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke, this expansive exhibition might be seen as an educational, almost didactic endeavor plumbing the roots of the seminal 1968 catalogue The Whole Earth, which is described by both curators as the analog predecessor of both Google and Steve Jobs. During its run, the exhibition hall surged with informational boards, tiny screens, and listening booths among works by a range of artists including Eleanor Antin, Raymond Pettibon, Andrea Bulloch, Pierre Manzoni, Adrian Piper, and the Otolith Group. In its entirety, the show felt like a living encyclopedia, one that invited visitors to wander through its pages. God knows Berlin is in need of such idea-driven exhibitions—ones that ruthlessly scavenge history to make sense of our today. The accompanying catalogue, published by Sternberg Press, is very fine indeed.

Gunter Reski at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen (March 3–May 26, 2013) This deftly curated exhibition showcased some of the most vital paintings I saw in 2013. Reski’s works bring together text and image in an almost postpsychedelic manner. His output lacks the well-oiled heaviness and bloated aesthetic that is at once relegating contemporary painting more and more to the circus of the market while causing the medium to be increasingly irrelevant to critical discourse. Reski’s modus operandi counters these trends by celebrating the ephemeral, the unstable, and the agitatorial. He leaves his works unframed, which makes them all the less precious and allows each to drift through the space as wall paintings and cutouts. Happily, 2014 will bring the long-overdue publication of the well-named catalogue The Happy Fainting of Painting, edited by Reski himself and Kunstverein Düsseldorf’s Hans-Jürgen Hafner—a highly anticipated gift of the New Year.

Kito Nedo lives in Berlin and is a regular contributor to frieze d/e, Leap, and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

View of “Rudolf Stingel,” 2013–14.


AFTER TWO DECADES of Silvio Berlusconi’s leadership, Italy is now witnessing a deep cultural shift and a number of questions: What is the role of critique today in the country’s cultural landscape? Is the nation still investigating the roles of preservation and tourism as core businesses and cultural strategies? Is Italy ready for contemporary production on a larger scale? Grappling with such inquiries, the best shows of 2013 faced a daunting task: to persuade the public to enjoy art that grasps at the complexity of contemporary languages, without neglecting the contexts that inform its viewing.

From this perspective, Rudolf Stingel’s solo show (April 7, 2013–January 6, 2014) has been a high point of this year. His monumental, site-specific installation (comprising a synthetic carpet that envelops the three floors of Fondazione Pinault in the Palazzo Grassi on the Canal Grande in Venice) appears alongside thirty paintings, including portraits, religious tableaux, and abstract works. Exploring themes such as authenticity, hierarchy, context, Stingel investigates relationships between an original and a reproduction; interior and exterior; photography, applied arts, and, above all, painting, which he leverages as a way to reactivate the city’s voluptuous heritage.

A similar energy infused the new direction that MADRE in Naples took with Thomas Bayrle’s solo exhibition (June 21–October 14, 2013). Including two hundred works in a variety of media, ranging from books and film to sculpture and even clothing, the show testified to the artist’s ongoing passion: comparing man and machine (see, for example the 16-mm film masterpiece Autobahn-Kopf, 1988–89, made with Stefan Seibert, which juxtaposes a head with train imagery). With a taste for social and political satire, Bayrle provided one of the most potent portrayals of the modern man in an age of mass production.

The performance series “A Theater Cycle” in Rome (March 27, April 23, and May 23, 2013) offered art in another narrative and institutional register. Created by the privately funded Nomas Foundation in collaboration with the Teatro Valle Occupato (Rome’s oldest theater, occupied since June 2011 by a group of theater workers after it was officially shut down due to cultural-funding cuts), the program featured works by artists—ranging from Ulla von Brandenburg and Tino Seghal to Marcella Vanzo and Linda Fregni Nagler—who collaborated with the theater’s staff to produce new pieces or edit old ones, further developing their work in relationship to the stage as exhibition space.

Paola Nicolin is an art historian and curator based in Milan.

Keil Borrman, Facilitation: Airing of the Banner Paintings, 2013. Performance view.


AMERICA, like its psychic capital, New York City, is intolerable and bright. And, being Americans and New Yorkers, we are envied and reviled by many the world over—deservedly so. Nonetheless, I am grateful to be immersed in this marriage of misery and light, which is so often at the core of a truly memorable and, indeed, genuinely American art, some of which I was lucky enough to experience this summer, Gotham’s cruelest, most luminous season.

Ken Price, “Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper 1962–2010” at the Drawing Center (June 19–August 18, 2013); Albright-Knox Art Gallery (September 27–January 19, 2014); Harwood Museum of Art (February 22–May 4, 2014) He was King of the Beach from June to late September, as we all know his modest retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which made fellow Californian James Turrell’s concurrent ostentation-fest at the Guggenheim look like Spencer’s Gifts on a Sharper Image budget) was spectacular. Price at the Drawing Center, however, was a revelation, as the pictures seemed to echo the even weirder interior lives of his enigmatic vessels and objects. The artist’s exquisitely crafted illustrations in gumball colors of nature, sex, anesthetized still lifes, and a bathtub suicide make a lot of the young art churned out today look exceptionally straitlaced and pitiful by comparison.

“The Civil War and American Art” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (May 27–September 2, 2013) Nearly eclipsed by all the art spectacles of the summer, this exhibition, beautifully realized by Eleanor Jones Harvey, a senior curator at the Smithsonian (where the show first opened), showed us how painters such as Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Moran, Conrad Wise Chapman, and Eastman Johnson configured a sort of hopeless sublime—a new kind of thinking and picture-making that could no longer rely on the glorious, auratic fakery of history painting imported from Europe to render the life and times of our disintegrating “New Eden.” How quickly the first photographs of bloodshed on a battlefield ruined the human spirit but summoned forth a modern way of seeing and feeling that we’ll never comfortably reckon with.

Keil Borrman at OSMOS (July 22–September 8, 2013) Painter, performer, and avant-garde master-chef Keil Borrman’s jewel of a solo show, his first in New York, opened at OSMOS in July, our month of fireworks, patriotism, and hillocks of charred and rubbed meats. Borrman’s handpainted propaganda banners and posters, emblazoned with Yes-We-Can!-style activist-empowerment statements such as DON’T STOP UNTIL WE GET THERE or YOUR AUTHORITY IS NO LONGER SANCTIONED BY US, appeared in lugubrious pastels, swirling in and about images of corporate logos, pictures of protests, and sundry abstract shapes. Borrman’s message in our post-Occupy landscape smacks of a deep ambivalence: We’ll keep trying, but it probably won’t work.

Alex Jovanovich is an artist and writer who lives in the Bronx. A selection of his work will be featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

Raymond Pettibon, Sir Drone (featuring Mike Kelley), 1989, color, sound, 55 minutes and 37 seconds.


THERE STILL REMAIN unexamined vestiges of American West Coast counterculture figure Raymond Pettibon, indicated in the exhibition “Human Wave: The Videotapes of Raymond Pettibon” (January 25–March 17, 2013) through a series of unedited, roughly shot VHS tapes that the artist made during 1989. Programmatically simple, this show at Space, London, consisted of two video viewing stations separated by primary-colored lighting schemes. The video subjects, ranging from the Weather Underground, Charles Manson, and the Symbionese Liberation Army to the 1980s southern California punk community, were rendered satirically with support from friends turned actors Kim Gordon, Mike Kelley, Thurston Moore, and Mike Watt. Reflecting the marginal atmosphere of the content, as well as the degrading, nearly obsolete VHS medium, the videos were obtained from Electronic Arts Intermix, circumventing traditional gallery distribution.

In “Bracket (London)” (October 14–December 14, 2013) and “Bracket (Paris)” (October 24–November 16, 2013) at both of Campoli Presti’s galleries, Liz Deschenes addressed the determining role of light in photography by invoking the work of nineteenth-century photographers William Henry Fox Talbot (English) and Louis Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (French) to produce ten new photograms. For the works exhibited in London, Deschenes used the same chemical process first explored by Fox Talbot and Daguerre applied to the surface of photographic paper. Layers of abstract images were formed by these material encounters, along with the subsequent imprint of the surrounding light sources, such as those in the artist’s studio. After the photograms were fixed, they were mounted onto aluminum plates cut into the shape of reversed parallelograms.

Cabinet Gallery recently established the parallel imprint Vauxhall & Company to release the first English translation of Pierre Klossowski’s last work, the récit L’Adolescent Immortel (The Immortal Adolescent) (1994). Alongside this publication, in an exhibition with the same title as the work (September 13–October 5, 2013), Cabinet presented seven large-scale colored-pencil works on paper that combine Catholic iconography with youthful sexual fantasies. Executed during the last years of the artist’s life, the grouping enveloped the one-room gallery in dioramic theater acts that coincided with the text. A second iteration incorporating additional pieces from the same body of the artist’s work will be on view by appointment at a second location, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi in Berlin (December 13, 2013–February 22, 2014). The combination of the Cabinet and Bortolozzi sites is fitting, as both work closely with a program of artists influenced by Klossowski’s legacy, such as Ed Atkins, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Mark Leckey, Danny McDonald, and the Bernadette Corporation, and both create a show layered in media and interpretation.

Mary Rinebold is a writer based in London and Paris.

Miguel Amado

12.06.13

Cildo Meireles, Abajur (Lampshade), 1997/2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Ahlam Shibli’s “Phantom Home” at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (January 25–April 28, 2013); Jeu de Paume (May 27–September 30, 2013); Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves (November 14, 2013–February 9, 2014) This year, Paris’s usually calm summer was stormed by controversy surrounding the Palestinian artist Ahlam Shibli’s exhibition, which surveys her photographic output from the past decade. The show includes the series “Eastern LGBT,” 2004–2006, which poetically portrays individuals exiled in cities such as London and Barcelona. Also on view is Shibli’s more recent series “Death,” 2011–12, which was criticized by French Jewish groups that claimed it makes an apology for terrorism. This work offers depictions of Palestinian men and women—including suicide bombers—who died or were imprisoned (“martyrs” for Shibli) in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Connections between memory and loss and the politics of representation are at the heart of “Death,” turning it into a reflection on a most universal subject.

Kader Attia’s “Repair. 5 Acts,” KW Institute for Contemporary Art (May 26–August 25, 2013) In this comprehensive presentation by Kader Attia, the French Algerian artist expanded his previous investigations of cultural appropriation and repair between the Western and non-Western worlds. He smartly approached this matter under the lens of debt—both moral and material—between European colonial powers and African countries. He put forward this compelling idea against topical European immigration policies, including those that intend to close Europe’s borders to populations of former African colonies—think of the October 3, 2013, Lampedusa Island shipwreck, for example.

Cildo Meireles at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (May 24–September 29, 2013); Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves (November 15, 2013–January 26, 2014); HangarBicocca (March 6, 2014–June 1, 2014) Experience—physical, sensorial, emotional, intellectual—is at the core of the Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles’s latest survey. Highlights include his immersive environments that engage the viewer in dreamlike atmospheres, as in Marulho, 1991–97, an oneiric sea made of seventeen thousand open books and a sound track of murmured voices and waves. However, Meireles is at his best in his politically charged interventions, as exemplified by the series “Inserção em circuitos ideológicos” (Insertion into Ideological Circuits), initiated in 1970–, which encapsulates his critique of capitalism. Elsewhere, Abajur (Lampshade), 1997/2010, is a large-scale circular panorama—activated by the labor of four men—that pictures a fifteenth-century Portuguese caravel sailing in the Atlantic Ocean, an allusion to the slave trade that emerged from European colonialism.

Miguel Amado is a curator and critic based in Barcelona and Lisbon.

Left: Bhupen Khakhar, Blind Babybhai (detail), 2001, watercolor on paper, 44 x 44”. Right: Bhupen Khakhar, Injured Head of Raju (detail), 2001, watercolor on paper, 44 x 44”.


WITH EACH PASSING YEAR, the calendar of the Indian art world has increasingly arranged itself around the New Delhi–based India Art Fair. This year, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s outstanding retrospective of the abstractionist Nasreen Mohamedi’s (1937–1990) unique oeuvre coincided with the fair’s run. “A View to Infinity” (January 31–December 8, 2013) came in the wake of her posthumous international acclaim and exhibitions featuring the artist’s delicate Minimalist drawings from the 1970s and ’80s, which have prompted comparisons to Agnes Martin and Kazimir Malevich, and tight urbanscapes shot during the same period. Curator Roobina Karode chose a wide array of Mohamedi’s remarkable drawings and photographs—at turns restrained, taut, hypnotic, and vertiginous—along with early figurative watercolors and semiabstract collages for an expansive medium-driven survey.

Amid much fanfare, South African superstar William Kentridge appeared as a speaker at the India Art Fair. His visit culminated in a spectacular solo show, “Poems I Used to Know” (February 6–March 20, 2013), at Mumbai’s Volte Gallery. Renowned international artists rarely offer such sumptuous presentations of their work in India, making this exhibition a highlight of 2013. Kentridge showcased his well-traveled video installation I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine, 2008, based on Nikolai Gogol’s absurdist short story “The Nose” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera of the same name. The eight-channel work envelops the viewer within the breadth of its complexity as its exuberant score enhances the vitality of Kentridge’s cleverly animated shapes and figures.

Heightened attention in the latter part of the year was given to Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road. To mark the gallery’s fifty-year existence, during which its founders Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy played a pivotal role in promoting modern and contemporary art in India, the couple’s daughter and current director Shireen Gandhy invited the renowned curator, critic, and theorist Geeta Kapur to present five exhibitions. Drawing from Chemould’s roster without being bound by it, Kapur has gathered some of the most prominent contemporary Indian artists for this exhibition series titled “Aesthetic Bind.” Each show has a different theme: The first, “Subject of Death” (September 3–October 3, 2013), took as its protagonist the path-breaking painter Bhupen Khakhar, who is best known for his Pop colors and homosexual characters. The second show, “Citizen Artist: Forms of Address” (October 14–November 15, 2013), featuring Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, and Rashid Rana, among others, examined control, protest, and dissent within the frame of the nation-state. Kapur’s exhibitions are bound to acquire greater significance in the years to come, owing to their timely and layered propositions about the figures and subjects that preoccupy a significant share of India’s leading artists. The series will continue into 2014, assuring a promising beginning for art in India next year, despite our not knowing what the forthcoming India Art Fair and its satellite events hold in store.

Zeenat Nagree is an art writer based in Mumbai and an editor at ART India.