Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev's Istanbul biennial, "SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms," opened with speeches and song as the art world gathered eagerly to hear what the famed curator had to say, and how this hotly anticipated biennial would come together. This is Christov-Barkagiev's first major exhibition as curator (or as she prefers to be called, draftsperson) since the rapturously received Documenta 13 in 2012. The salt water theme is multilayered in its meaning, drawing on salt water as a metaphor that ranges from the sea and the Bosphorus of Istanbul to the flow of peoples across the world, the waves of history and trauma in the world, and in the history of the ancient city of Istanbul. Salt water both heals and corrodes, Christov-Bakargiev told the press, explaining rather superfluously that water flows, creates knots and eddies, passage and barriers. “The one reason I am not in politics but in art is because I feel that art has a possibility of shaping the souls of people, and transforming the opinions of opinion leaders who are also then in a trickle-down effect shaping what will be the policies of government," emphasized Christov-Bakargiev in her opening speech. "I am skeptical and I am a skeptic," she added, quoting from the Bible. Theaster Gates (who can really sing!) and Adrian Villar Rojas opened the event with musical performances. Gates sang Walk With Me, a cappella, and Rojas performed an acoustic version of Erasure's A Little Respect, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist and drummer. As soon as the applause echoed across the Italian School and Embassy, where the press conference took place, everyone present, including Hans Ulrich Obrist and Nicholas Serota, scattered into the nearby twisting streets of Istanbul to see what the biennial had in store. First up was Un/fit for Feeling (2015), by British artist and poet Heather Phillipson, whose work was a letter to the human heart comprised of sculpture, film, and installation. The core of the piece was what it meant to be “heartfelt," as the heart as an organ cannot feel. We drown in a sea of love, in a sea of red. There is also an Armenian theme to the biennial, marking a century since the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turkish government of the time. Among sites open to visitors is the building of Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who founded bilingual paper Agos, and was assassinated in 2007. Also, the Museum of Innocence author and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk is hosting two paintings by Abstract Expressionist artist Arshile Gorky, who survived the massacre in 1915. Theaster Gates' work, also to be found in the narrow streets that surround the Italian Embassy, comprises different elements, all linking back to the city. “I built a workspace that allows me to learn and care for these fragments of Turkish history that in some ways, when I was asked to be a part of the biennial of Istanbul, I really struggled to imagine my connection to," Gates told artnet News. “But the more I considered its history and the more I started to mine the objects that I had, the more I realized that there were all these connections that were not on the surface," he explained. “So, I started to mine my collections and found a Turk who had started Atlantic Records." Gates realized that he had over 200 soul and jazz records from the legendary label started by Ahmet Ertegun. The work also shows slides of Mohammedan sculpture and an intricate 17th-century Iznik bowl. Gates will make and re-make versions of the ceramic. “The bowl is really the heartbeat of the space," Gates explains." Over the next few weeks I will ponder this bowl as a way of pondering Turkey, and that maybe through the recreation of this bowl I might learn something." At Istanbul Modern, Liam Gillick's formula used to create a pulse, or flow, is unmissable on the waterside of the museum, visible to all who look at the city from the other side of the Bosphorus. Then off to an amazing performance surrounding works exploring Aboriginal maps and the notion of reading of their artworks as messages—messages which in some cases saw the restoration of land rights in Australia. The theme of migration, currently a humanitarian and political crisis reaching devastating effects in the region, is on people's minds, in the artworks, and in the media. One of the most striking works of the biennial is the installation work by Egyptian painter Anna Boghiguian at the Galata Greek Primary School. The site was chosen, in keeping with the theme, as it is no longer a school due to longstanding conflicts between Greece and Turkey, so that there are no Greeks left to attend it. The main hall of this impressive space is filled with painted Egyptian sails which hang from the ceiling. This work explores the nature, history, and science of salt, from the scientific formulas and maps of the world that decorate the draped sails to the piles of salt from Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Turkey. As the heat intensified, we crossed the city to Kucuk, Mustufa Pasa Hammam, and Wael Shawky. Shawky's work, displayed on a huge screen bathed in blue light, is installed in a 14th-century hammam, one of the oldest buildings in Istanbul. The work is the final installment of his film trilogy, the Cabaret Crusades, entitled Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala (2015). “I'm totally interested in societies in transition," Shawky told artnet News. "And in the idea, or the dream of development, so I'm always running after this topic, really." “The history of the crusades is like a dream for Pope Urban II, who launched the crusades in 1095, a religious dream. I've worked on this series since 2010 and I finished this year with the third film, which I am showing here." The work is the longest and the most complex of the trilogy. It tells the story of the crusades from 1146 to 1204 and starts with a flashback to the battle of Karbala (in present-day Iraq) which caused the split creating Sunni and Shia Muslims. “[The film] ends with the fourth crusades that is mainly political rather than religious." The nature of this work could not speak more to the theme of the biennial, spanning history, perception, cultures and exploring division, and is one of the most successful works on view. The second day we took to the islands in the Bosphorus. Christov-Bakargiev's vision and salt water theme take in everything from the Black Sea to the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea surrounding Istanbul. The island of Büyükada has an otherworldly quality to it. Stepping off the sea bus, one enters into a world of horse-drawn carriages and French colonial style mansions. It is behind these whitewashed shutters and floral hedges that the rest of the biennial works are installed. Well, not all of them. As we disembarked from one boat we embarked on another, which held two very different installation works. Pinar Yoldas's conceptual work, on the deck of the boat, used the seawater to explore themes of pollution and nature. Usually working with biological processes reapplied on a small scale, Yoldas was persuaded by Chrtistov-Bakargiev to upscale her vision, and created a sculptural system of clear tubes draped over a metal frame. The size of the boat is comparable to that of a blue whale, 30 to 40 meters in length; the clear blue water that is pumped through flows at the same rate as a whale's heartbeat. Inside the boat is the submerged universe of Markus Lutyens, combining his techniques of histories and hypnosis. Next up was a new work by Ed Atkins, Hisser (2015), which was packed with expectant artists, critics, and curators all sweltering in the intense heat. Viewers enter into a Hitchcock-esque abandoned house full of empty rooms and abandoned furniture. Upstairs, Hisser plays on a huge screen. The work is inspired by the true story of a man whose bedroom fell into a sinkhole and was never found. “I'm sorry I didn't know," the digitally recreated man says and sings as he lies in bed and then walks, bruised, across an empty screen. Another work that was packed with eager beavers was Rojas'. You would be hard pushed to feel nothing walking through the wrecked shell of Trotsky's house. Exiled from Russia, he lived on the island for four years at the end of the 1930s. On a steep and rocky route from the road to the sea, the rotten and rusted shell of the house gives way to the blue waters and the huge sculptures Rojas installed, emerging from the sea like relics of a bygone age. The city of Istanbul has a magical charge due to its history and its location. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has captured both this and the mood of the time. "SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms," the 14th Istanbul biennial, runs from September 4 to November 1, 2015. By Amah-Rose Abrams
Art Basel announced the gallery list for its 2015 edition in Miami Beach, comprising 267 leading international galleries drawn from 32 countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. 29 galleries are completely new to the Miami Beach show. The fair, whose Lead Partner is UBS, takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 3 – December 6, 2015, bringing together gallerists, artists, collectors, curators, museum directors and critics from across the globe. As the premier show of the Americas, Art Basel's Miami Beach show presents established and emerging galleries from the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay alongside many of the most important galleries from Europe, Asia and Africa. In total, half of the participating galleries have exhibition spaces in the Americas. First-time participants from North and South America include Arredondo / Arozarena, Castelli Gallery, Cristin Tierney Gallery, Essex Street, François Ghebaly Gallery, George Adams Gallery, Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, SIM Galeria, Thomas Duncan Gallery and Universal Limited Art Editions. The galleries from Europe showing in Miami Beach for the first time are: Beck & Eggeling, Galerie Gregor Staiger, hunt kastner, KOW, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Marcelle Alix, Mathew Gallery, Galerie Max Mayer, Mazzoleni, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, Galeria Plan B, Project Native Informant, Vedovi Gallery, Vistamare and Robilant + Voena. From the Asia-Pacific region, Beijing Art Now Gallery, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP and White Space Beijing will join the show for the first time. Galleries, the main sector of the show, features 191 galleries presenting the highest quality of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography, video and editioned works. In addition to a strong list of returning exhibitors, Vedovi Gallery and Mazzoleni will exhibit for the first time at Art Basel in Miami Beach, while Galerie Barbara Thumm and ProjecteSD return to the Galleries sector after a brief hiatus. Having previously shown in Nova, Positions or Survey, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Kerlin Gallery and Mendes Wood DM have graduated into the Galleries sector, where, for the first time, they will present a wider range of their gallery programs. With 12 global leaders in the field of prints and limited-editioned works, the Edition sector is a perennial highlight. This year’s show features Alan Cristea Gallery, Carolina Nitsch, Crown Point Press, Gemini G.E.L. LLC, Pace Prints, Paragon, Paul Stolper Gallery, Polígrafa Obra Gràfica S.L., Sabine Knust, STPI, Two Palms and Universal Limited Art Editions. Following its well-received debut last year, Survey returns with 14 exhibitions of historically informed works. Presentations include work by Charles Burchfield (DC Moore Gallery), Peter Campus (Cristin Tierney Gallery), Gianni Colombo (Robilant + Voena), Roy DeCarava (Jenkins Johnson Gallery), Rosalyn Drexler (Garth Greenan Gallery), Dorothy Iannone (Peres Projects), Wang Jinsong (Beijing Art Now Gallery), Heinz Mack (Beck & Eggeling), Roberto Burle Marx (Bergamin & Gomide), Shinjiro Okamoto (Tokyo Gallery + BTAP), Miguel Ángel Rojas (espaivisor), Peter Saul (George Adams Gallery), Keith Sonnier (Castelli Gallery) and Ettore Spalletti (Vistamare). Further details on the individual projects will be announced in th e coming months. The 16 curated solo booths of Positions provide a focus on emerging artists. The sector features a study on Mexican symbolism by Fritzia Irizar at Arredondo / Arozarena; an installation by Dan Bayles at François Ghebaly Gallery, which will evolve during the show in response to other works on display; work by Vittorio Brodmann at Galerie Gregor Staiger; and new paintings and mixed-media work by Jaromír Novotný at hunt kastner. Daniel Keller will explore ecological and technological developments at the stand of Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler; Marcelle Alix will show a veiled installation of 'Opaque' by Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz; while Villa Design Group’s work at Mathew Gallery will question languages of design, violence, and subjectivity through an installation of 10 doorways that draw upon architectural details from the murder scene of Gianni Versace. As part of Positions, Galerie Max Mayer will present 'Polyrhythm Technoir', a three-part film by Henning Fehr and Philipp Rühr that allegorizes the present state of electronic music. The sector will further include an installation by Jiieh G Hur at One and J. Gallery; a new series of works inspired by nation-state branding campaigns by the artist collective GCC at Project Native Informant; a performance by Thomas Wachholz at RaebervonStenglin; and work by Andrei Koschmieder at Real Fine Art, examining the processes and systems by which the illicit is made useful and productive as it is integrated into the formal capitalist economy. SIM Galeria will present 'Le carnaval des animaux' by Romy Pocztaruk; explorations of the body by B. Ingrid Olson will be on view at Simone Subal Gallery; and Thomas Duncan Gallery will show mixed-media work by Sean Paul. At White Space Beijing, He Xiangyu will exhibit a series of ink on paper drawings. Nova, which provides a platform for younger galleries to present new work by up to three artists, will feature 34 exhibitors. Freedman Fitzpatrick will present the set of a play in a collaboration between Tobias Madison and Matthew Lutz-Kinoy. On display at Take Ninagawa will be a group show featuring Elias Hansen, Shinro Ohtake and Aki Sasamoto. Luciano Figueiredo, Sandra Gamarra, Mauro Piva will convert Galeria Leme's booth into a fictitious museum that challenges the artist’s position within the artworld. Continuing Nova’s reputation as a site of discovery, Anita Schwartz Galeria de Arte will show Gustavo Speridião and Nuno Ramos; Essex Street will present works by Park McArthur and Cameron Rowland; Galeria Plan B will feature Ciprian Mureşan and Navid Nuur; and Hannah Hoffman Gallery will debut new paintings by Matt Sheridan Smith. KOW's presentation for Nova will feature Eugenio Dittborn, Heinrich Dunst and Michael E. Smith; while Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art will show a new film by Keren Cytter. Pilar Corrias will return to the sector with an exploration of the mediation of images through technology by Rachel Rose, Ian Cheng and Ken Okiishi. Related themes will be considered by Antoine Catala and Gregory Edwards at 47 Canal; Nicolás Bacal, Tomás Espina and Jorge Pedro Núñez at Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporáneo; and Henry Chapman, Helen Marten and Tris Vonna-Michell at T293. History and symbology will also be a looked at, including works by Mandla Reuter and Armando Andrade Tudela at Francesca Minini; Felipe Arturo, Tania Candiani and Wilson Díaz at Instituto de visión; Nicholas Mangan at Labor; Carlos Motta, Rossella Biscotti and Teresa Margolles at mor charpentier; Sharon Hayes and Jimmy Robert at Tanya Leighton; and Asunción Molinos Gordo at Travesía Cuatro. Compelling juxtapositions in the sector will include Austé and Emily Sundblad at Algus Greenspon; Nathan Mabry and Bernard Piffaretti at Cherry and Martin; Ian Wallace, Susanne M. Winterling and Julian Hoeber at Jessica Silverman Gallery; Néstor Sanmiguel Diest and B. Wurtz at Maisterravalbuena; Jorge Méndez Blake and Leon Vranken at Meessen De Clercq; Sam Anderson, Phoebe Collings-James and Noel McKenna at mother’s tankstation; Lucas Blalock, Andra Ursuta and Kaari Upson at Ramiken Crucible; Elena Damiani and Marlena Kudlicka at Revolver Galería; and Nelson Leirner, Marilá Dardot and Chiara Banfi at Silvia Cintra + Box 4 . Through their divergent practices David Alesworth, Sudarshan Shetty and Avinash Veeraraghavan turn to craft as both a subject and conceptual framework at GALLERYSKE, while Stefan Brüggemann and Alejandro Cesarco consider a common interest in the formative aspect of language at Parra & Romero. Solo booths in Nova provide additional highlights, including Matt Hoyt at Bureau; Charlie Billingham with Supportico Lopez; Egan Frantz at Michael Jon Gallery; and Adrian Paci at Kalfayan Galleries. In addition to showing premier artworks ranging from Modern masters to the latest contemporary pieces across five gallery sectors, many exhibitors will present works in Art Basel's project-based sectors: Kabinett, Public and Film. Over the coming months, further details about these sectors as well as about the Conversations and Salon program of panels and talks will be released. South Florida’s leading museums again time their strongest exhibitions of the year to coincide with Art Basel. Visitors from across the world will also have the opportunity to view the city’s internationally renowned private collections. This includes much-anticipated exhibitions at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse and the Rubell Family Collection. In December the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) will present 'Nari Ward: Sun Splashed', 'No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting', 'Firelei Báez: Bloodlines', and project galleries by Sheela Gowda, Jeff Wall, Nicolas Lobo and Bik Van der Pol. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami) will present 'Shannon Ebner – A Public Character' and 'Alex Bag – The Van ( Redux)' while NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale will show 'Pablo Picasso: Painted Ceramics and Works on Paper, 1931-71', 'William J. Glackens: A Modernist in the Making', 'The Indestructible Lee Miller', and 'Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television'. Other highlights include 'Margin of Error' and 'Philodendron: From Pan-Latin Exotic to American Modern' at the Wolfsonian-FIU; 'The Summer of ’68: Photographing the Black Panthers', 'Vincent van Gogh’s The Poplars at Saint-Rémy', 'Edgar Degas’ Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon’ at the Norton Museum of Art; and 'Carlos Salas: Latin America and the Global Imagination' at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). As the Bass Museum of Art is undergoing renovation, it has instigated bassX – a series of artists' projects, exhibitions, events and education programs &ndash ; in the Miami Beach Library, directly across from the museum. In December bassX will present a new performance by Sylvie Fleury.
"Even taking into account 22 satellite fairs and countless off-site projects, pop-ups, performances and parties, Art Basel Miami Beach remains the nucleus of Miami Art Week. Though it’s often described as the gaudy foil to the prestigious annual Swiss art fair, the atmosphere at this year’s Miami iteration is decidedly more conservative, perhaps due to the fair’s efforts to invest in the quality of its pre-existing programs rather than establish new ones. Annual programs like Art Basel Miami Beach’s Conversations and Salon series and its Edition sector have become anticipated attractions instead of gimmicks. While much of the fair is heavily geared towards mid- and late career talent, Art Basel Miami Beach also gives a platform to new voices with its Nova and Positions sectors, both of which highlight young gallerists and artists. The programming for these sectors, located on the periphery of the fair, is more adventuresome — and in some cases more challenging — than elsewhere. Newcomer Mathew Gallery’s booth for Positions features “Meat Locker,” an illuminated installation by the artist collective Villa Design Group. Inspired by the murder scene of Gianni Versace, “Meat Locker” depicts the gruesome legacies of history’s most infamous homosexual serial killers across a maze of steel security doors, exploring the relational aesthetics of violence and design. Also notable is video-based work by the Gulf Arab artist collective GCC at Project Native Informant’s Positions booth, which is focused on the visual vocabulary of nation-state branding. Video and digital projects are few and far between in the main fair, but works like Bill Viola’s “Becoming Light” at James Cohan and Ori Gersht’s blossoming three-screen installation at CRG Gallery are certainly worth a pause. For the fair’s in-house film program, Art Basel film curator David Gryn selected over 50 films to fit this year’s theme, “Our Hidden Futures.” Projected on the 7,000-foot exterior of Miami’s New World Center, the work of artists like Rineke Dijkstra, Sue de Beer and Tracey Emin becomes larger than life. Within the walls of the fair, visitors are also encouraged to take a closer look at new media in the quiet Film Library, where 80 selected works will play on repeat for any fairgoer patient enough to sit down and tune into one of the six monitors that have been provided. Although flashier solo shows dominate the specialized sectors, the main aisles feel decidedly more tame this year. Veteran exhibitors like Mary Boone Gallery, 303 Gallery and Lisson promoted new work by their more established artists. Fresh works by contemporary favorites like Doug Aitken, Sylvie Fleury and Brian Calvin are a safe bet but one that pays off — these outshine recognizable older pieces at the fair. Now in its 14th year, Art Basel Miami Beach’s popularity has become a double-edged sword for those seeking an insider’s experience. This time around, there’s an uncharacteristic scarcity of immersive installations and Instagram bait to be found amongst the headlining exhibitors — perhaps a self-conscious step by exhibitors to reprioritize the market over pure spectacle." By Kat Herriman
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