Sunday, 24 April 2016

The new MET BREUER, New York

Suddenly NYC has a new, large, very important art gallery on Madison Avenue. 

It contains paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Durer, El Greco, Rembrandt; works by Leonardo & Michaelangelo, never mind Klimt, Manet, Degas, Monet & Co. 

It also has a floor of contemporary art - Picasso, Cezanne, Mondrian, Eva Hesse, plus a major solo show by an Indian minimalist who died in 1990. 
Where is it ???  Here's a clue !!
The Met Breuer above/ below Robert Smithson.
The new MET BREUER, pronounced "Broyer" is in the old Whitney building at Manhattan's Madison Ave & 75th St, now transformed into a branch of the Met! 
Amazing! So what's it like ??????    - a kind of contemporary annex?    But this is not a small offshoot - but a major new undertaking. 
This iconic building designed by Marcel Breuer - left empty a year ago when the Whitney moved to its new home, has been smarted up a bit with fresh paint but basically is exactly the same: same spaces, same configuration  but now containing great old masters along with contemporary art. And lots of Picassos ... 
It's all a sensible idea carried thro with speed and efficiency. When the Whitney moved downtown that left the ionic Breuer building -which had served the Whitney well since 1963 - available. Too good to miss, only 8 blocks away, the Met moved swiftly. 

As with all museums, the Met lacks space - especially for new art. The Met has long focused on treasures pre WW2. Its modern & contemporary holdings are known to be weak. But a global surge of interest in contemporary art has changed things. In a newly created position of Chairman of the Department of Modern & Contemporary Art, Sheena Wagstaff, formerly of Tate Modern, has revolutionised the Met's approach. 

She has also facilitated significant loans - a room full of Turners from the TateTitian’s landmark Flaying of Marsyas, on rare loan from the Czech Republic, etc.   

The opening show is UNFINISHED: THOUGHTS LEFT VISIBLE, 190 works, mostly paintings, with parts sketchy, totally bare, sections omitted, merely drafts...  It's a strange exhibition, especially for a museum debut. 

So - When is a work of art finished??   When it's signed? When an artist puts it aside? ? 

El Greco 

This show covers every possible permutation including works left unfinished intentionally, 
unintentionally, when the artist dies, 
Mengs 1775. 
when the patron stops paying,
when a commission fails, or the sitter dies, or when war intervenes... 

Freud Self Portrait. 
Giacometti never regarded any of his works as finished, including this portrait of his wife & muse, Annette from 1961.
Klimt's model here, committed suicide while he was working on this portrait in 1918.
But regarding "lack of finish" - as one 19th century critic put it, - "One cannot say that the Impressionists invented it, but they extoll it, exalt it, they elevate it to a system." (Degas  portrait above.)

One floor up, Fl 4, there's an array of major Picassos, like the famous Harlequin, 1923, in which most of the body is sketched with hatching lines, plus work by African American Kerry James  Marshall, (one of the few living artist,) a 1992 animated film “Zeno’s Arrow, & a parade of 20th century stars: Mondrian, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns, Ryman, Brice Marden, Nauman, Eva Hesse. This 2nd half works much less well, stretching its theme too far, even to Gonzalez-Torres's pile of sweets. Visitors take one - so the work is continually "unfinished"!!

Then there is the Indian exhibition - for next time.
As u can see the MET BREUER is an exciting, complex place. And 1 ticket covers both the old Met & the new. 2 for the price of one. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016


GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL - KELVIN HALL, Glasgow Print STUDIO, Modern Institute,  New Glasgow Society .... etc plus Public art in MANHATTAN 
Playtime at the Modern Institute 
GI, as it's known, now covers every available space in the city. Glasgow's cheap rents - in relation to London at least! - encourage an array of shop fronts, damp corners, flats etc as venues, but a new place is the famous, now derelict KELVIN HALL built in 1927 right opposite Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
Kelvin Hall, soon to be transformed via 14 million quid into a .... well no-one is quite sure what! A cultural hub? Maybe. For Glasgow Museums; Sport, National Library of Scotland & GU??

Now even the sadly decaying walls and - no lifts folks- lots of dirty stairs - are open for art. 

This is GI's 7th season. It's better than in 2014 - which I was extremely disappointed by. GI 2014 did nothing to help Glasgow's reputation. 
This year's theme is "making, production & craft," with some links to the "legacy of industry." This has encouraged rather too much involvement with yarn/wool/fabric etc. 
Claire Barclay.

Here 2 women employ materials - fabric, leather, cotton fabric - to address ideas culled from previous long ago festivals. 
HELEN JOHNSON, an Australian, takes Glasgow's 1901 International Exhibition as her inspiration to create 6 huge canvas hangings for the Foyer which involve both figuration & abstraction, colonial nation-building, Greek myths, Renaissance masterpieces .. "history as cynicism"-  all explained in pretentious text.

However her SURFACES & patterned textures are great. If u ignore the pathetic scribbled notes on the back & focus on the front of "Colonial Reef" or "Rape of Europa, Australian Version"  u will be intrigued & rewarded.

KELVIN HALL  is GREAT space for these 2 artists who work big.  I was impressed by Helen but again disappointed by Claire Barclay, who seems to have run out of her former  energy & ideas.
Upstairs - and I mean up lots of stairs - BARCLAY addresses the 1951 Exhibition (a satellite of the famous Festival of Britain) & its coal & steel prominence. I went to the Festival of Britain, taken by my parents who were high with hope for the future after a terrible war spent in Sheffield among the bombing. I remember it all vividly. I am sure the Glasgow event was a similar excitement. 

Barclay's installation mixes leather, rubber, engine grease, soot & coal tar with small machined metals in her efforts "to explore how meanings are encapsulated within materials." The problem is nothing comes thro. The installation is also too small for this imposing space.   

There I also met the colourful (tho dressed in black) ice cream artists Schwabe & Pascual who are purveying ice cream made from invasive plants like green elder,  sorrel, nettles, Japanese knotweed, Garlic mustard,  etc. They have 5 outlets so far, 2 in Byres Rd.  All a riff in invasion & how crazy fear mongering produces panic headlines - "At War with Aliens" and "Hidden Theat."  If this happens when it's only vegetation, - think what would - will - happen if it's people!
It's part of COOKING SECTIONS curated by VERBureau, 5 friends including Olga Stebleua from Moscow via Sothebys London art course. Titled 'Pokey Hat" it's based at The New Glasgow Society, along with a video, sound piece & book. The space is very empty & all pretty boring. - spart from the ice-cream!
Nicolas PARTY  has made a superb job of installing his small intense mezzotints.        
see Giles's excellent review. 

John Calcutt  & Sam Ainsley 

Downstairs Rachel Duckhouse & Bronwen Sleigh. 
In October 2014 these 2 printmakers went to Quebec City for an exchange exhibition between Glasgow Print Studio and Engramme
While there they  travelled through Labrador to Newfoundland funded by the Bet Low Trust. "WE hardly knew each other, but now we are close friends. The trip also helped our work enormously. We have learnt from each other!" 


This Canadian landscape informs their work. I have long been a fan & am delighted to see such rigorous printmaking. top Duckhouse, bottom Sleigh. 

Also on show at GPS work by Andreas Behn-Eschenburg 
Meanwhile back in NEW YORK CITY at the Rockefeller Centre ...
This new extravaganza from the Public Art Fund, is located right on 5th Avenue opposite Saks & St Patricks. Unveiled today, it's no match for St Patricks Cathedral. Even sightseers/tourists/regulars were focused on the newly cleaned cathedral rather than -
ELMGREEN & DRAGSET's  full scale UPRIGHT GARDEN SWIMMING POOL SCULPTURE complete with diving board & ladder.  Titled "Van Gogh's ear" it aims for a playful Surreal Duchampian effect. Not sure it succeeds. 
Next time - CORNELIA PARKER - public art installation on the roof of the MET & TRAMWAY and more GI in Glasgow .....

to  be continued