Can you teach an old dog new tricks? And can cutting edge technology do the teaching? Christie’s seems to think so. Their Art + Tech Summit: Exploring Blockchain, which took place on Tuesday in London, was representative of the old auction house’s enthusiasm for the promise of blockchain technology, which the summit’s organisers were keen to present as a potentially revolutionary solution to the global art industry’s traditional aversion to making its markets transparent, trustworthy and accountable…
My report on ‘Exploring Blockchain’ at Christie’s, for artreview.com read here
Institutionally, the group’s activity is indicative of how both academic and curatorial cultures have become entwined in this wider shift in the locus of political activism, with the art gallery becoming just another channel of dissemination for this broader political culture of independent and quasi-institutional activism.
My review of Forensic Architecture at the ICA, for ArtReview, here
In the wake of the controversy over Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket, my comment on an artist’s right to make images of other peoples’ suffering, for artreview.com
“What effect can paintings have on politics? It’s a recurring, never-really-resolved question, since as an artform, the history of painting is one in which the question of its power as an agent of social or political comment, comes up against its awkward cultural status – its ambiguous history of exclusivity, luxury and leisure. And while painters continue, more or less self-consciously, to want to assert the medium’s capacity for addressing the political realities of the world, when it comes to picturing human suffering, particularly suffering produced by political violence, their attempts to acknowledge political solidarity often appear to be tokenistic gestures.
That, at least, was the predicament of Dana Schutz’s oil painting Open Casket (2016), on show as part of the recently opened 2017 Whitney Biennial. Schutz is well known for her fragmented, psychedelically weird, often deeply neurotic take on figurative painting. Overt references to the world of history and politics don’t get much of a look-in. So by contrast Schutz’s Open Casket takes its reference from photographs of the disfigured body of Emmett Till, the black fourteen-year-old who, in 1955, was murdered for the alleged slight of flirting with a white woman in a shop in Mississippi. Till was abducted by the woman’s husband and an accomplice, beaten, shot and dumped in a river. Images of his horrifically mutilated and bloated face, on view in the open casket his mother had insisted on for his funeral, would become an icon of the nascent American civil rights movement. Schutz’s painting flattens and schematises the key elements from the various documentary images of Till’s in his casket – his black jacket, the white shirt buttoned up to the neck, and next to it a head made up of a gnarled and bruised contortion of facetted browns, blacks and streaked…”
If there’s one overarching sensibility running through this retrospective of David Hockney’s work spanning six decades, it’s not necessarily the artist’s much-touted commitment to the ways of best representing the visible world, or indeed the emphasis the Tate want to put – in the fiftieth anniversary year of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain – on the artist’s celebration of gay life and love. These two themes are there, but they contribute to something broader and more expansive – Hockney’s capacity for making paintings and drawings that exude a kind of casual, effortless charm, a charismatic poise that renders everything the painter does winning, welcoming, hospitable, convivial.Read More
Only a few days after they had been published to support the women’s march day, artist Paul Chan’s publishing house Badlands Unlimited found that their anti-Trump protest posters had been pulled from Facebook and Instagram. The four posters aren’t exactly polite: ‘GOD HATES TRUMP’ reads one, along with ‘FAGS HATE TRUMP’, ‘TRUMP HATES GOD’, and, not forgetting everyone’s most-loathed art collector, ‘GOD HATES IVANKA’.Read More
My column for the January-February 2016 issue of ArtReview, now online. Read it here (requires free registration to artreview.com)
‘The purpose of the public museum is to ensure the long-term availability and display of art.’ With his first sentence, Chris Dercon, soon-to-be-former director of Tate Modern, had already lost the argument. Back in June last year, Dercon gave a speech as part of a symposium made up of international art-museum big-cheeses, at the private Louis Vuitton Foundation, to consider such burning questions as ‘What are the challenges facing public and private museum collections today?’, ‘Who makes art history now?’…
My column for the summer issue of ArtReview, now online. Read it here
“What this seems to mean for contemporary artists is a peculiar approach to seeing humanity: either as just one more ‘thing’ among others – resulting in a fascination with other types of nonhuman entity out there – or as something already long dead and vanished, seen from some (virtual) future perspective in the form of its archaeological record. And you don’t have to look too far at the moment to see how artists and the artworld are lapping up this new zeitgeist…”
My review of ‘Phantom Limbs’ at Pilar Corrias, London, on Art Agenda. Read it here
“People who have lost arms or legs often report experiencing a “phantom limb”—the sense that the limb is still there, or that they can still move or feel it. It’s a good metaphor, too, for current post-internet art debates concerning the shifting relationship of real to virtual, digital to material.“Phantom Limbs,” Pilar Corrias’s smarter-than-most summer show, does a concise job of mapping the various poles of this cultural and theoretical inquiry…”
Recently, objects seem to have taken on a life of their own. This man thinks that another slice of cake will make him happy. That woman thinks that a better school will get her son good qualifications. This man has thousands of girlfriends stored on his hard drive. This girl thinks that a Hollister top will make people like her. Goods fly off the shelves. Exports boost Britain.
My column on the latest sculpture commissions for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth on ArtReview.com. Read it here
“The Fourth Plinth committee appear to imagine the public as a strange fusion of bored teenager and angry mob; restless, distracted, excited by bold shapes and colours and thoughtless political truisms about the state of the world.”