Monthly Archives: October, 2017

“Meet Liz Diller, the rebel architect behind MoMA, the High Line and now a home for Simon Rattle,” By Oliver Wainwright

Like a Chanel handbag on wheels … how the $500m Shed will look. Photograph: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group

“Meet Liz Diller, the rebel architect behind MoMA, the High Line and now a home for Simon Rattle”

‘Her practice beat Foster, Gehry and Piano to clinch London’s new £250m Centre for Music. She talks about fuelling gentrification – and why arts buildings have to be more than corporate baubles’

By Oliver Wainwright

‘We’ve never stopped being rebellious,” says Liz Diller, founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York architects who have just been selected to design London’s new concert hall, the £250m Centre for Music. “But now we are operating in a stealthier way. Rather than trying to kick the establishment walls down, we’re walking in through the front door.”

To reach the hallowed entrance of London’s cultural establishment, they skipped past fellow competitors Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and a host of other ageing purveyors of big‑budget arts buildings – an unadventurous shortlist, on which the Americans clearly stood out as the most interesting thinkers of the bunch. This will be their first project in the UK, and the stakes are high for the self-styled provocateurs.

The High Line … eight million visitors a year. Photograph: Randy Duchaine/Alamy

Most famous for their transformation of a redundant Manhattan railway line into the High Line park, which now attracts eight million visitors a year, DS+R are almost accidental architects. They have recently completed a string of major arts buildings, from the faceted coral rock of the Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles, to the silvery cyclopean slug of the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive, but for the first two decades of their practice they barely built anything at all.

“I never thought I was going to be an architect in the conventional sense,” says Diller, 63, who met her then tutor Ricardo Scofidio, now 82, while studying at the Cooper Union in New York in the 1970s. They started working together on self-initiated installation projects – part of a New York scene that was fizzing with the likes of Trisha Brown and Vito Acconci, Steve Reich and Gordon Matta-Clark – and their sense of mischief soon caught the eyes of curators. They were invited to make something for the project space at the Museum of Modern Art, and took the opportunity to critique the power of the institution, fitting out the room with surveillance cameras and screens to monitor visitors’ behaviour.

Coral-like facade … the Broad art museum in Los Angeles. Photograph: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group

Twenty-five years later, having been elevated from rebels to royalty in the interim, they unveiled a $450m masterplan to transform the very same museum, only to be met with furious opposition. Their expansion project was accused by artists and museum-goers of representing the “death knell” of MoMA, seen as the greedy institution selling out to commercial interests and trampling one of its neighbours, the beloved American Folk Art Museum, in the process.

“I think it was a kind of lightning rod for so many anxieties about the power of MoMA,” Diller said in a 2015 interview. “The expansionist mentality. The previous renovations that people may not have been happy with.” The venom seems to have subsided for now: the first phase of the renovation project opened earlier this year to general approval, their surgical interventions seen to be fixing some of the practical flaws of the rambling warren.

DS+R’s shift from fringe radicals to powerful players in New York’s cultural scene hasn’t been an easy one. The High Line has also been subjected to a backlash in recent years, mainly due to its phenomenal success. While the project began as a bottom-up activist initiative, it has been identified as the culprit for the super-gentrification of the surrounding Meatpacking District, spawning a cluster of luxury real-estate towers along its green fringes. It has become the template for countless mayors around the world looking to drive up land values in their cities with a little green garnish.

“The High Line is pushing people out,” says Diller, frankly, speaking from her office nearby. “And it will soon drive us out of the area too.” She is rueful about the consequences, but says she wouldn’t have done anything differently. “There’s no way that anyone could have predicted how successful it was going to be. You don’t want to do unsuccessful projects, but success breeds speculation and development. It’s a weird cycle. You can only jump in there and try and do the best thing at that moment in time.”

As for their concert hall credentials, the architects have proved themselves in the performing arts arena and won plaudits from New York’s concert-going class for their decade-long work on the Lincoln Center. “We strongly felt that it had to be turned inside-out to make good on the ‘publicness’ of its public spaces, to attract new audiences,” says Diller. “Today’s cultural institutions have to do much more than house art or music. They have to play a social and educational role in the community and engage everyone with or without a ticket to a performance.”

It is a theme they are exploring to extremes in their latest project, The Shed, a $500m centre for the performing arts, designed in collaboration with Rockwell Group and currently under construction at the northern end of the High Line. Looking something like a transparent Chanel handbag on wheels, it will house a vast transformable performance space, with a big open piazza able to be covered by the extension of the movable outer shell, clad with an inflatable skin of quilted pneumatic cushions.

Site and sound … Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York.

“Both The Shed and London’s Centre for Music are 21st-century institutions that force the question, ‘What are artists going to be doing in the next 15 years, 30 years, and beyond?’” says Diller. “The answer is simply, ‘We do not know.’ Our response for The Shed was to make an architecture of infrastructure with enough variable space, loading capacity and electrical power to support any use.”

The main challenge will be to make sure it doesn’t feel like a corporate events hall, given that the space will be regularly rented out for fashion shows, product launches and other commercial bonanzas, to help subsidise the artistic programme. Some have scoffed that it is merely a cultural bauble to decorate Hudson Yards, the biggest private real estate development in US history, and it is unfortunate that the Shed will now be plugged in to the base of a 70-storey tower of luxury apartments, also designed by DS+R.

“It’s our deal with the devil,” says Diller. “It allows us to get an extra 10 storeys of back-of-house space. We never imagined in a million years that we would be doing a commercial tower. But we like to do everything once.”

The architects land in London on equally rocky ground. Many have questioned the need for the project, which is to be shoehorned on to a tricky roundabout site in the City, currently occupied by the Museum of London. The entire argument for the building, which will be home to the London Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Sir Simon Rattle, rests on the claim that the acoustics of the Barbican and Royal Festival Hall are not good enough, as Rattle has bewailed.

To justify its existence, DS+R’s auditorium will have to sound pitch-perfect to even the most supersonic ears. When UK arts funding is so unbalanced – with a 2014 report finding that Arts Council spending amounted to £68.99 per head of population in London and £4.58 in the rest of England – critics have questioned if this is something the capital really needs. The government withdrew funding last year, so a private fundraising plan is now under way, for which DS+R’s design will have to serve as the crucial bait. Whatever the outcome, with Diller at the helm, it is likely to confound all expectations of what a concert hall might be.

‘We like to do everything once’ … Diller. Photograph: Unagno & Agriodimas LLC./Ugano Agriodimas

By Oliver Wainwright, Reprint from The Guardian, 20 October 2017, © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited.

“As Fires Burn in Northern California, Arts Institutions Close Doors,” By Robin Scher


“As Fires Burn in Northern California, Arts Institutions Close Doors

As fires rage throughout parts of northern California, Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, describing the situation as one of the worst firestorms in the state’s history. At present at least 11 people have died, with over 100,000 acres of land scorched by the fires. Evacuations began Sunday night and continued through Monday. Meanwhile, some institutions housing prominent art collections have closed their doors for safety reasons.

The Hess Collection, housed in the Napa Valley, announced on its website that it has closed to the public for safety reasons. The museum houses Donald Hess’s private collection, which includes pieces by Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, and Robert Motherwell.

Napa’s di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, which has three galleries containing prominent Bay Area artists such as Bruce Conner, Lynn Hershman Leeson, David Ireland, and Richard Shaw, said on its Twitter account on Tuesday, “Fire fighters are on site & galleries are ok.”

Update, Wednesday, October 11, 11 a.m.: A spokesperson for di Rosa told ARTnews that the center is is “currently without power, including access to phones and email, and thus is closed until further notice. At this time, staff access to the site has been minimal due to road closures and the hazardous conditions in the area. We know that the fire touched the north end of the property, but did not reach the main campus, including all galleries and offices.”

As of Tuesday, another Napa landmark, Stonescape, Norman and Norah Stone’s art-filled property, has so far been unaffected by the disaster, according to a representative for the collection, which contains work by Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Joseph Beuys, and a site-specific James Turrell. Due to it being a private space, it has not had to contend with public closures.

In nearby Sonoma, an official with Oliver Ranch confirmed over the phone that its collection remains safe at present.

By Robin Scher, Reprint from ARTnews magazine / ARTnews, 10 October 2017, © 2017, Art Media ARTNEWS, llc.

” ‘Every Painting Is Abstract’: Adrian Ghenie on His Recent Work and Evolving Sense of Self,” By Andy Batagglia

Adrian Ghenie, Rest During the Flight Into Egypt, 2016, oil on canvas. ©ADRIAN GHENIE/COURTESY PACE GALLERY

” ‘Every Painting Is Abstract’:
Adrian Ghenie on His Recent Work and Evolving Sense of Self”

The large and small works in Adrian Ghenie’s “Recent Paintings” show at Pace Gallery in New York—comprising recent paintings, as might be surmised, but also preparatory collages—range from figurative to abstract and back again. The finer points of such distinctions, however, are beside the greater overall point for an artist who retains a lot of faith in painting as an enterprise.

“Every painting is abstract,” Ghenie said in the midst of an exhibition that counts as his first in New York in nearly four years. “I don’t believe in figurative. As soon as it starts to imitate, to depict something, then a painting is dead. This is the moment when you kill painting.”

Compositions can be figurative, he said, but the power of painting—when it has any power at all—is less in the cause than in the effect. And that effect is abstract regardless of the elements that went into creating a picture or considering it after the fact. “People imagine that abstraction is some kind of gesture,” Ghenie said of those who approach abstraction as a rhetorical stance. “But when you try to paint a tree, you realize, ‘I cannot paint all the leaves, I cannot paint all the textures.’ So you have to invent a movement of the brush that would suggest, in your mind, a tree. That is, essentially, abstract.”

Subject matter, though, can be as concrete as could be imaginable. To the points of reference he has privileged as personal touchstones throughout his career thus far—Tintoretto and the Venetian school, the early Flemish Renaissance, Vincent van Gogh—the 39-year-old artist has added more recent allusions. Rest During the Flight into Egypt (2016), full of slashing, sloshing colors (magentas, blues, and reds) and drama that is inescapable at a scale of nearly 10 by 8 feet, draws on the recent refugee crisis roiling Europe. So does Crossing the Sea of Reeds (2016), the same size but darker and more ominous, with gulls and fish spying a water-borne figure bobbing in a lifejacket.

“Painting has always reacted to big, epic stories, whether battles or biblical stories,” Ghenie said. “Art history is already full of this kind of depiction”—of struggle, toil, persecuted people moving en masse. “Everything you see on TV, if you remove the clothes, it’s the same as a Renaissance scene—a man followed by his wife holding a child with a landscape in the background. The only thing that’s missing is a donkey.”

The refugee crisis has struck close to home for the artist, who has lived for years in Berlin after having grown up in Romania. But it is another abstraction of a kind for a painter who remains—in Ghenie’s mind, at least—fated to abstraction no matter the subject at hand. “The subject of migration was used by artists in the Renaissance and the Baroque era as an excuse to paint landscapes,” he said. “The church would never pay for just a landscape, so the landscape had to be a background for a biblical scene in front. Artists were not going to fight with the church, so they found this perfect subject. They shot two rabbits with the same bullet.” (This last point, he averred, is a Romanian way of otherwise talking about birds and stones.)

Adrian Ghenie, Crossing the Sea of Reeds, 2016, oil on canvas.

The present sense of upheaval in the world, however, is more than just mere aesthetic pretense for an artist whose roots grow back to Romania. “I’m not trying to make my biography like I grew up in a communist dictatorship—I was just a kid, I didn’t have any trauma,” he said. “But what happened in Romania after ’89”—the fall of the Berlin Wall—“was very interesting. When you realize a whole country can be manipulated and made to believe one thing about itself, and then the regime falls and you find out that no, it was the other way around . . . I saw how it is possible to manipulate a whole country. What is the truth? What is trauma? Do we just think we’re humiliated, or are we really humiliated? In the end, wars and tragedies are all the same.”

His art is not political in a direct sense, he said—at least no more or less political than any other artist’s. “Can you be apolitical today? Could you be apolitical after the French Revolution? Was Rothko apolitical and Rauschenberg political? Was Goya a political painter? This is a fake concept.”

Another subject surrounding Ghenie right now is the ascendance of his work on the market, with paintings of his commanding prices that not all agree are rational—including the artist himself. Nickelodeon, a work from 2008, fetched £7.1 million ($9 million) at auction at Christie’s in London last October, and Flight into Egypt(2008) went for $3.9 million in November in New York.

“You can’t ignore it—how can you ignore that?” he said. “Asking an artist, ‘How does the market’s hysterical behavior affect you?’ is like asking a crazy person, ‘How crazy do you think you are?’ Maybe it has affected me, but I would say, to the mirror in the morning, it hasn’t.”

Adrian Ghenie, Self-Portrait, 2016, oil on canvas.

He continued, “In the beginning it was flattering, but then it got to be a bit weird. It’s like if somebody tells you there is a porn movie about you on the internet and you cannot do anything about it. How would you react? They say, ‘Oh, no, you look good in it—you’re hot.’ But it’s still a porn movie, and you realize, Okay, I have to live with that. My friends and everybody can see it, but it’s not bad. It’s not embarrassing. It’s something vulgar, but it’s not in my control.”

Living in Berlin provides a buffer, he said. “One of the things I love about Berlin is it’s not a city that is obsessed with celebrity. Because there is no money there really, it’s a city that has accepted anonymity. We don’t have a social pyramid like London or New York. In Berlin, I don’t think anything of it.”

Nonetheless, it is a matter that is inescapable. “One thing I can say for sure is that the media and the market created a second persona, a person created and fed by the media and the market,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s me, but this person exists.”

Questioning of that sort would seem to pertain to a series of self-portraits in the Pace Gallery show (on view through February 18), which features smaller frontal headshot paintings that present the artist in what appear to be varying stages of evocation and erasure. “I want a deconstruction of the portrait,” Ghenie said. “In the 20th century, the people who did it really radically were Picasso and Bacon. They took elements of the face and rearranged it. There is no nose, there is no mouth, there is no eye—no sense of anatomy.”

“The portrait,” he continued, “was a landscape, basically.”

Adrian Ghenie.

By Andy Battaglia, Reprint from ARTnews magazine / ARTnews, 17 February 2017, © 2017, Art Media ARTNEWS, llc.

“Review: Your invitation to dreamland awaits at Ad Minoliti’s exhibition at Cherry and Martin gallery,” By David Pagel

“G.S.F.C. #4,” an acrylic on printed canvas, is among Ad Minoliti’s artwork at Cherry and Martin gallery. Ad Minoliti and Cherry and Martin

“Review: Your invitation to dreamland awaits at Ad Minoliti’s exhibition at Cherry and Martin gallery”

By David Pagel

Step into Ad Minoliti’s exhibition at the gallery Cherry and Martin in Culver City, and you feel like you’re drifting through a stranger’s daydream — something better than getting lost in your own reveries. The Buenos Aires-based artist’s whip-smart installation plays host so graciously that its whimsies seem to be yours, but not yours alone.

Everything that unfolds in “Geometrical Sci-Fi Cyborg 2.0” (also called “G.S.F.C. 2.0”) results from discrete elements intermingling.

Ad Minoliti’s installation, Geometrical Sci-Fi Cyborg 2.0, includes this acrylic on printed canvas, “G.S.F.C. #3.” (Ad Minoliti and Cherry and Martin)

The fun starts with the paintings. Minoliti uses stencils to spray-paint canvases. She then photographs her airy compositions, digitally prints the images on other canvases, stretches those canvases and applies more paint. If Wassily Kandinsky came back to life as a middle-school girl wickedly skilled at designing wallpaper, the compositions, palette and touch would resemble Minoliti’s.

The mischievousness continues in the photographs, each of which transforms a Julius Shulman picture of a classic Midcentury house into a jocular collage that pays homage to its source by reanimating its original insouciance.

Ad Minoliti’s works are hung alongside cartoons painted on the walls, including disembodied legs and wandering eyeballs. Ad Minoliti and Cherry and Martin

A realistic chicken perches atop a cartoon ball with an animal-like face in Ad Minoliti’s installation. Ad Minoliti and Cherry and Martin

The mix-it-up promiscuity hits a high note with the goofy cartoon murals Minoliti has painted on the gallery walls. Their stark shapes, depicting disembodied legs, wandering eyeballs, a hungry triangle and a happy circle, keep seriousness at arm’s length — without diminishing Minoliti’s ambitions, which are big.

A realistic chicken, perched on an oversized egg (a la Dr. Seuss) is the cherry on top of Minoliti’s playful romp through styles and scales, painting and printing, abstraction and architecture, analog and digital.

And that’s not all. The consummate host, Minoliti has made room in her exhibition for a monitor that plays “Mood Rings, Crystals and Opal Colored Stones,” a lyrical video by Zadie Xa, as well as a pair of gorgeous silk cushions — and matching feather-stuffed bolsters — by Yaoska Davila. On each comfy seat reclines a small painting by Minoliti, its abstract eye seemingly riveted to Xa’s dreamy video.

Minoliti riffs off artists she admires and invites others into the party.

Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A. Through Nov. 4; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 559-0100,

Ad Minoliti has painted goofy cartoon murals on the gallery walls. Ad Minoliti and Cherry and Martin

“Ad Minolta: G.S.F.C. 2.0 (Geometrical Sci-Fi Cyborg)”
Through November 4, 2017
Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles

By David Pagel, Reprint from the Los Angeles Times, 30 September 2017, © 2017 Los Angeles Times