The description, at best, was vague. Or, well, not “vague” — in fact, the program text for “Mortal Kombat” was littered with specific referents, from krumping to Romulus and Remus to Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and of course, a shout-out to the infamous early-90s arcade game from which it takes its name. The vagueness, then, lies in trying to imagine how exactly these elements might all come together in a single two-person performance piece. And so, at 11:45 pm on a Thursday, hoards of asymmetrically-coiffed onlookers flooded the Whitney basement to see what might transpire in the “mismatched physical confrontation” between poet/performer Ariana Reines and actor/writer Jim Fletcher, who conceived the piece together this past year during a residency at Toronto’s Gallery TPW.
In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column
Art and fashion are increasingly intertwined these days — they go together like John Baldessari and Rodarte, after all — but Crown Heights, Brooklyn-based German artist Kai Althoff put a distinctly different spin on highbrow couture during Frieze week. His debut exhibition with Michael Werner Gallery, on view through November 15, includes an array of mannequins; walls and floors covered with beige fabric; and a series of wool jumpers (with extravagantly flouncy sleeves and shoulders) that Althoff designed and fabricated. These leftfield fashion elements complement the artist’s eccentrically captivating paintings: beguiling, murky compositions that are occasionally tough to fully decipher in the low-lit room. The show’s press release, with delightful run-on sentences penned by the artist himself, is also a classic: “Having turned into a heavily opinionated and high-strung personality, which seems to brood with anger that unloads fast, Kai Althoff wishes to create an antidote to this state of mind, by work that aesthetically calms the soul and seeks to feed a notion of shelter in an elegant reflecting the utilization of art in the homes of people with good taste and intellectual brilliance in times long passed.”
Today the Vancouver Art Gallery announced the launch of its new Institute of Asian Art — an initiative that will add an endowed senior curator of Asian art, permanent exhibition space, and a host of programming dedicated to the region — with a special emphasis on art from China, India, Japan, and Korea. The museum has already announced two major exhibitions dedicated to China: “The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors” and “Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art.”
Over at Victoria Miro’s shockingly spacious Wharf Road space in London, Eric Fischl is showing his series of “Art Fair” paintings: Brushily figurative depictions of the bustle and hustle at the ever-omnipresent, big-tented commercial sales events. Evidently Fischl made these works by lurking around actual fairs with his digital camera, snapping away, and then combining the shots he’d taken into lurid alternate realities. So it seemed fitting that we likewise creeped on the sidelines as Fischl inspected his own likeness — mid-text-message — in one of these paintings.
At a private reception for Brooklyn-based Wangechi Mutu’s solo exhibition at Victoria Miro in London, gallery assistants were pushing small, chocolate figurines representing one of the artist’s signature mutant-mermaid characters. (The stunning mixed-media collage works on view depicted even less plausible, monstrous hybrids.) The deal was that one could take a choco-sculpture home if one agreed to photograph oneself chomping off a piece of the mermaid’s anatomy. We imagine certain savvy collectors are already stockpiling these saccharine mermaids in their fridge, ready to flip at Christie’s inevitable Contemporary Works in Chocolate evening sale. Meanwhile, Instagrammers can check out the attendees who partook by scanning the #mutumermaids hashtag.
So we’re not sure if you guys are aware, but women are doing things. Like, all the time. In all kinds of places, too — probably even in your very neighborhood. (Are you a woman reading this article right now? Case in point.) And still, we here in the Media tend to get very excited when women do these things that they do. Today, however, one Tumblr has soundly lapped us all in appreciating women and their various activities, and that Tumblr is called “Women Looking at Art.” Want to guess what’s in the pictures?
The Smithsonian’s Asian art museums — the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery — are set to have a new Chinese art curator come November. Jan Stuart, who previously worked at the Freer and Sackler Galleries from 1988 to 2006, is slated to move back to D.C. to take up the recently created role of Melvin R. Seiden curator of Chinese art. Currently working as Keeper of Asia at the British Museum (yes, that is her real title), Stein will oversee ceramics, textiles, furniture, lacquer and other decorative arts at the Smithsonian.
There’s nothing quite like biting the hand of the 1 percent that feeds you. As part of Frieze London’s Live programming roster, the collective Shanzhai Biennial has erected a bright red, faux-salesroom off to the side of the fair’s main entrance hallway. Inside, depressed-but-sexy-looking models mug for promotional posters hawking an exclusive, £32,000,000 London property; a video tour of the luxury digs achieves strange pathos thanks to its soundtrack (a version of Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2U.”) Wall text touts the amenities available, including “Staff Bedroom with EnSuite,” a “Panic Room,” and a “Leisure Room.” Critical stunts like this don’t always play too well at art fairs — case in point, Christian Jankowski’s yacht at Frieze back in 2011 — but Shanzhai Biennial nail the aesthetic of actual real estate pitchmen, and somehow manage to underscore the sad desperation underlying endless acquisition.
This morning, Volta NY announced that it would move to Pier 90 for next year’s fair. Located directly beside the Armory Show’s home at Piers 92 and 94, the new site has just been renovated and offers 75,000 square feet of space for 90 exhibitors. Known as the Armory’s sister fair, Volta will run March 5 to March 8.