Artists as Reality-TV Stars

Long before the American Idolization of every art form on the planet, the great humorist S. J. Perelman imagined a gnarly New York painter being asked by a vulgarian Hollywood movie producer: what exactly do you artists do in the studio when you get an idea? "I usually smite my forehead," the painter replies sarcastically, "and shout 'Eureka!'?"

The End of Political Art

There's a double-gallery exhibition still up in New York called The Visible Vagina. It's another one of those didactic anthology shows purporting to bring some issue that artists think regular folk have either thought about incorrectly, or have repressed entirely, out into the open and, in the patois of today's art world, "address," "confront," "deconstruct," "unpack," and "interrogate" the hell out of it. Naturally, one of the galleries hosted a panel discussion. The participants included one...

Museums Suffer the Art World's Biggest Fallout

When the art market collapsed along with everything else last year, the general public's first reaction was a resounding "Who cares?" After all, what skin was it off their noses if a Jeff Koons failed to sell at Sotheby's or some snooty London gallery shut its doors?Art museums, however, are another matter. People visit them by the tens of millions—often taking along the kids—and consider them markers of cultural cachet. When museums lay off staff, curtail hours, cancel shows, and start to...

Nauman's Own--Art

Some people say that Bruce Nauman is the most influential American artist since Andy Warhol, but when Nauman arrived at art school way back in 1964, he had almost no idea where he was headed. Fresh from being a math and science student back in Wisconsin, the tall, laconic young Nauman painted the most mundane of subjects: landscapes. "I thought art was just something I'd learn how to do, and then I would just do it," he says. He'd landed almost by chance at the University of California, Davis,...

Three Decades In Madrid

If Antonio Lopez-Garcia's "Lucio's Balcony" were not a great painting on its own, then the circumstances of its creation would clinch the matter. It took the 72-year-old Spanish realist 28 years to complete, from 1962 to 1990. That's partly due to his painting method: on site, same time of day, same season for each session. But it's also because he began the picture—which is now on view in a retrospective of his work at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts—as the setting for a portrait of friends,...

Still Life with Beach Towel

The gift shop at the new Museum of Contemporary Art in New York doesn't sell standard museum fare—no Monet neckties or Jackson Pollock jigsaw puzzles. Instead, the NCMA, which just opened its new building in November, carries much edgier stuff. There are $540 smocks from a pattern by Andrea Zittel, an artist known for living out in the desert in mobile survivalist cabins. You'll also find $30 canvas totes by pop-noir draftsman Richard Pettibon and $68 beach towels by fey portraitist Elizabeth...

A Modern Master's Modest Art

Sometimes I find it's best not to pay too much attention to the label. The one for "Railway Tracks," for instance, in the wonderful "Georges Seurat: Drawings" exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art, on view through Jan. 7, touts the "deep perspective of a winding road" and the "sensation of the earth in upheaval." While there is a bit of road at the bottom, and the drawing does depict a changing suburban area outside late-19th-century Paris, the beauty of Seurat's art lies elsewhere. In...

Is Photography Dead?

How is that even remotely possible? The medium certainly looks alive, well and, if anything, overpopulated. There are hordes of photographers out there, working with back-to-basics pinhole cameras and pixeled images measured in gigabytes, with street photography taken by cell phones and massive photo "shoots" whose crews, complexity and expense resemble those of movie sets. Step into almost any serious art gallery in Chelsea, Santa Monica or Mayfair and you're likely to be greeted with...

Unknown Modern Master: Gerald Murphy

A few months after moving to Paris in 1921, Gerald Murphy happened to walk by the gallery of the pioneer modern-art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who was holding a kind of clearance sale of cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Georges Braque. Murphy was the heir to the ritzy Mark Cross luggage company, and he and his wife, Sara, had come to France to escape the doldrums of life in the States under Prohibition and Warren Harding's "return to normalcy" after World War I. Young and...

Artist Slugs It Out With Museum

The early-20th-century American critic Sadakichi Hartmann famously said, "If you think vaudeville is dead, look at modern art." Hartmann wasn't a reactionary. He just thought, about 75 years ago, that the game of avant-garde leapfrog had gotten pretty predictable. Hartmann was right, but in the years since, the gambit of an artist proving his chops by shocking—or at least inconveniencing—the bourgeoisie has worked, careerwise, like a charm.Take the current imbroglio involving Christoph...

'The Dinner Party' Gets a Home

Lots of people think that Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party" is lousy art. Chicago (and a few hundred disciples/volunteers) made the restaurant-size work in the '70s as a kind of feminist encyclopedia. The tables are decorated with elaborate place settings for 39 women, from an archetypal "Primordial Goddess" to Susan B. Anthony, and each plate is decorated with a motif deemed particular to that honoree—or at least to a part of her anatomy. If you only dimly suspect that Georgia O'Keeffe's...

'Glitter and Doom': Art to Make You Wince

In the first world war, Germany suffered 5 million dead. When the war was over, the country was left with 2 million orphans, a million widows and a million invalids. In the waning days of 1918, it underwent a revolution in which the kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. Soon thereafter, the victorious Allies imposed a staggering reparations burden on Germany. Unemployment skyrocketed, and inflation reached such insane proportions that paper currency made better firewood than money. German...

An Old-School Radical

At 68, Brice Marden is still a trim, handsome man with knowing eyes. Which must be why--since abstract painters aren't usually celebrities--he's recently appeared in a Gap ad. Even while installing a show in black jeans, long-sleeved T shirt and stocking cap, there's an elegance to the man, and a boxer's looseness in the way he moves.But today he's nervous. This "show" is "Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings"--in the august Mu-seum of Modern Art, where it will be on view...

Mortality, Morbidity And More

For someone with all the trappings of a severely intimidating modern artist--long, insane-asylum-gray hair, all-black garb and hieroglyphic tattoos--Kiki Smith is awfully considerate with an interviewer. She talks slowly, enunciates precisely (her mother was an opera singer and actress) and takes a genuinely noncombative view of art. "To me," she says, "it's like a wind. It's not something that should be about one thing or another. Different things are always moving you, or telling you to pay...

A Car You Could Frame

While you've been shopping around for a fuel-efficient hybrid, a new Bugatti has hit the market. It's called the Veyron, and costs $1.3 million. Its 1,001-horsepower engine can make the car go 250mph and get you a piddling 3mpg doing it. At slower speeds, the Veyron still gulps gas at 7mpg in the city, 10 on the highway. If you want to cruise at a mere 60mph, this particular Bugatti can get you there from a standing start in a little over three seconds. But none of this wretched excess really...

East of the Louvre

During the Cold War, it was called "Eastern" Europe. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, "Central" has become the designation of choice. Tourism marketers prefer "The Other Europe" to set off such countries as Poland, Slovakia and Hungary from heavily Americanized Western Europe. Save for the fact that spoken English is more common on the streets of Warsaw, Bratislava and Budapest than in, say, Paris, they have a point. As for art, it's here in abundance--familiar faces and startling...

Blockbusters: Mass Appeal

While it's great to take the road less traveled, especially during the summer months, there are always a number of exhibits that are well worth their wait in line. Here are our top picks for the season's best and biggest draws: "Claude Monet: Fields in Spring " At the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, through Sept. 24. Monet? French fields in springtime? Forty paintings from 30 collections? What more could you possibly want? "Modigliani and His Models " At London's Royal Academy of Arts,...

Hot Properties

For the past few weeks, the smooth, ghostly and haunting face of Zhang Xiaogang's "Bloodline Series: Comrade No. 120" (1998) has been almost as ubiquitous in contemporary-art circles as, say, an Andy Warhol "Marilyn" or a Damien Hirst pickled shark. Gracing the cover of the catalog for Sotheby's recent New York auction of contemporary Asian art, the discreetly blemished portrait of a young party functionary in a Mao suit also found its way onto the pages of practically every periodical that so...

An Irishman Goes Back to His Roots

For more than 30 years Brian O'Doherty has lived just off New York's Central Park in a landmark building built about a century ago with sunlit two-story studios especially for artists. His wife is the renowned American art historian Barbara Novak, and he paints on an easel bequeathed to him by the pioneer American modernist Stuart Davis. So it's perhaps no surprise that when asked what his Irish roots have to do with his career as an artist, he answers, "Nothing, I hope." But O'Doherty was born...

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