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    The Cheapo Beer Brand Natural Light Says Its New Marketing Stunt Is the Most Expensive Artwork of All Time

    What’s the most ludicrous art-world marketing campaign of all time? Is it Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 banana, duct-taped to a wall at Art Basel Miami Beach? Is it the sale of Salvator Mundi, the portrait of Jesus supposedly by Leonardo da Vinci that sold for an absurd $450.3 million at Christie’s in late 2017?
    Or is it the one unveiled today at Grand Central Terminal in New York?
    That campaign, titled Da Vinci of Debt, is made up of a suspended mass of 2,600 authentic college diplomas provided by real college graduates across the US.
    Confused? The idea is that, with the cost of an average four-year college education at about $180,000, the cumulative value of the diploma display rings in at near $470 million, surpassing the cost of the record-shattering Salvator Mundi.
    Even more surprising is the force behind the show: Natural Light, the cheap and popular beer brand affectionately dubbed “Natty Light” by its fans—mainly college students drawn to its lower calorie count and, most importantly, its lower price point.

    Natty Light’s “art installation.” Courtesy of Natural Light.

    The brand is now in the fourth year of a 10-year, $10 million commitment to distribute $1 million annually to students and graduates “who are weighed down by the burden of debt,” said Daniel Blake, vice president of value brands at Anheuser-Busch, which owns Natural Light.
    Those interested in getting some of that money must tell their story for why they attended college by March 21. Forty winners will each receive $25,000.
    “College debt is one of the most important social issues in the country today,” Blake said in a phone interview with Artnet News. “More than 45 million Americans have college debt. The total debt amount is more than $1.7 trillion and is continuing to grow. We felt strongly about putting a stake in the ground and supporting those people who really need it.”
    So why call the project an artwork?
    “The art world is filled with absurd price tags that most people find impossible to justify,” Blake said. “That’s what made it the perfect medium for this campaign.”
    The diplomas are suspended in mid-air “as if a gale of wind had just scattered all 2,600 of them throughout the cavernous, 6,000-square-foot space,” according to a press release.

    Natty Light’s “art installation.” Courtesy of Natural Light. . Courtesy of Natural Light.

    The installation is meant to stress the enormous scale of student debt, and the chaos it creates for those saddled with it.
    Blake told Artnet News that the brand was surprised at the eager response they got from graduates who sent in their diplomas—especially considering the company never told them how the certificates would be used. (Students received $100 in exchange for “renting” their diplomas.)
    As part of the stunt, Natural Light said in a release that it is “calling on the deep pockets of the fine-art world” to considering bidding “on the historic artwork.”
    So is it for sale? And what about those students who temporarily leased their diplomas and are expecting them back?
    “If it means giving more people the opportunity to enjoy the college experience without the debt that follows, we’re all ears,” Blake said.
    “Natty is dedicated to doing everything we can to provide real solutions to college debt, and if there is a serious bidder, you know where to find us. If there is a bidder willing to pay $470 million for the piece, we’ll consult with every participant who loaned their diploma to us to see if they would be open to selling this piece.”
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    ‘Right Now, I’m Just Asking Questions’: Photographer Daniel Gordon on How to Stay Inspired After Decades in the Studio

    Like many artists, the Brooklyn-based photographer Daniel Gordon sometimes has trouble keeping things interesting. You’d think he would have a wealth of source material since his work involves a maximalist combination of collage, photography, and sculpture—but hey, he’s only human.
    In an exclusive interview aired as part of Art21’s “New York Close Up” series back in 2016, Gordon reminisced about how his approach had changed since his early days as an artist.
    “Back then, I was trying to figure out what my voice was,” he says. “I really was trying to mimic reality.” Now, however, mimesis “is something that I have become less and less interested in.”
    The artist, whose work looks like a cross between Matisse and Jonas Wood, builds two- and three-dimensional props from source material he finds on the internet. He photographs these tableaux—surreal still lifes populated by fish, colorful plants, and gaudy patterns—to make his lively images.
    At the beginning, Gordon notes, he was trying to hide the hand-crafted aspect of his work. Now, he welcomes those cracks in the facade of perfection. 

    Production still from the Art21 “New York Close Up” film, “Daniel Gordon Looks Back.” © Art21, Inc. 2016.

    Like the generation from which he hails, Gordon’s work straddles two worlds: one is rooted firmly in the analog, the other fully invested in digital technologies. He describes his focus as on the “in-between things” that question the boundaries between photography, painting, and sculpture.
    A new book published by Aperture—a work of art in itself—delightfully spans these mediums, featuring pop-ups of Gordon’s images. If a rut forces him to rethink his approach, he’s open to change—but “right now,” he says, “I’m just asking the questions.”

    Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series New York Close Up, below. The brand new 10th season of the show is available now at Art21.org. 
    [embedded content]
    This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org
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    9 Must-See US Museum Shows Opening in Early 2021, From KAWS’s Brooklyn Blowout to a Homecoming for Laura Owens

    With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, we hope health-related exhibition delays and cancellations are a thing of the past (though you never know).
    Below, take a look at our picks of US shows opening in the early part of 2021 you won’t want to miss.

    “David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History“High Museum of Art, AtlantaFebruary 6–May 9

    David Driskell, Homage to Romare (1975). Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment.

    Before his death at the age of 88 in April, David Driskell earned respect as a versatile artist and curator who helped raise the profile of African American artists and those of the African Diaspora. This first exhibition since his death is also the first to bring together his works on paper with his paintings.
    The High Museum of Art is located at 1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta

    “Goya’s Graphic Imagination”The Metropolitan Museum of ArtFebruary 12–May 2

    Francisco de Goya, Bullfight in a Divided Ring (1825). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    This broad, chronological exhibition of roughly 100 works delves into Goya’s graphic works and explores how he used drawings and prints to elaborate complex ideas, as well to document his responses to turbulent social and political events occurring around him. It is in these works that Goya’s political liberalism, disdain for superstition, and opposition to intellectual oppression shine through.
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York

    “KAWS: What Party”The Brooklyn MuseumFebruary 12–September 5

    KAWS, WHAT PARTY (2020). © KAWS. (Photo: Michael Biondo).

    The artist’s 25-year career has made an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene (and the market) and this year’s KAWS célèbre (had to) is surely his debut museum survey. Artnet News’s Gray Market scribe Tim Schneider even predicts KAWS’s works will outsell most every Old Master work by value in 2021.
    The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, New York

    “Hockney–Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature”Museum of Fine Arts, HoustonFebruary 21–June 20 More

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    Don’t Miss These 10 Museum Shows Opening in Europe in 2021, From a Hito Steyerl Retrospective to a Star Turn for Helen Frankenthaler

    After 2020’s crush of postponements and cancellations, we are hopeful that 2021 will be different.
    While a lot still remains to be confirmed, we have plucked out the most highly anticipated exhibitions to see in Europe in 2021.

    “Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty”Dulwich Picture Gallery, LondonMay 27–November 28
    Helen Frankenthaler, Madame Butterfly (2000). One-hundred-two color woodcut. ©2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphic Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY.

    This major print retrospective of Helen Frankenthaler includes 30 works on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, spanning from her first-ever woodcut, in 1973, to her final work, published in 2009. The show will examine the artist’s innovative approach to printmaking, defying the woodcut medium’s supposed limitations to create new dimensions of beauty.

    “Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Green Coconuts and Other Inadmissible Evidence“Vienna Secession, ViennaThrough February 7
    Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Once Removed (2019). Exhibition view Secession 2020, Photo: Iris Ranzinger.

    This exhibition of the Turner Prize-winning artist’s work investigates sound, speech, memory, and their role in the quest for truth. A key tenet of the artist’s practice is his analysis of acoustic clues and earwitness testimony, and the exhibition will include four works from two series that investigate this, as well as other forms of witnessing. Included will be Abu Hamdan’s audiovisual inquiry into the Syrian torture prison Saydnaya, After SFX (2018), as well as a new series of prints titled For the Otherwise Unaccounted, which is inspired by birthmarks.

    “Untitled: Art on the Conditions of Our Time“Kettle’s Yard, CambridgeFebruary 6–April 5
    Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Finding Fanon Part One,(2015), courtesy of Copperfield Gallery & Seventeen Gallery, London. Image: Claire Barrett.

    This group show will bring together 10 British artists who are part of the African diaspora whose work probes key cultural and political questions of our time. It will include new commissions and recent works by by Barby Asante, Phoebe Boswell, Kimathi Donkor, and others. Curator Paul Goodwin says the exhibition will center the works, instead of focusing on Blackness itself. “Questions of Blackness, race, and identity are shown to be entangled in the multitude of concerns—aesthetic, material, and political—that viewers can encounter without the curatorial voice obscuring the works,” he says.

    “Ad Minoliti“BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, GatesheadApril 1–March 13
    Ad Minoliti, Cubes (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

    This is the Argentinian artist’s biggest exhibition, and first institutional UK show, to date. The artist, whose work was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale, is known for making colorful paintings and installations that grapple with queer theory and feminism. The show is conceived as space of respite away from the constaints of gender binary, human-centered art and life, in what the artist calls an “alien lounge.” It will host bi-weekly workshops as part of Minoliti’s Feminist School of Painting, which will tackle traditional painting genres in an effort to reimagine historical narratives from feminist, intersectional, and queer perspectives.

    “A Fire in My Belly”Julia Stoschek Collection, BerlinFebruary 6–December 12
    Laure Prouvost They Parlaient Idéale (2019). Courtesy of the artist und carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.

    Curator Lisa Long is planning a major exhibition drawing on Stoschek’s collection, which includes challenging and cathartic pieces by artists including Barbara Hammer, Anne Imhof, Adrian Piper, and Arthur Jafa. The viewer will be positioned as a witness to acts of violence in a brave look at how it is represented, distributed, and circulated. Rarely seen pieces and several new works that were recently purchased will be on view. The show’s title, “A Fire in My Belly,” is an homage to the seminal work of the same name by American artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, which will also be on view.

    “Hito Steyerl”Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceFebruary 3–June 7
    How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic EducationalHito Steyerl (2013). Image courtesy of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin .

    The acclaimed German artist’s largest-ever show in France was pushed back from its original date last summer. The exhibition, which was first presented last fall at K21 in Düsseldorf, includes a best-of of Steyerl’s major works, including her break-out 2013 piece, How not to be seen, and Factory of the Sun from the 2015 Venice Biennale, as well a new production. Part of the show will incorporate the unique architecture of the Centre Pompidou as a point of departure.

    “Beuys: 2021”Various Venues in EuropeThroughout 2021
    Joseph Beuys Photo: Behr/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

    The conceptual artists is the subject of a major blockbuster program next year that will take place in 12 German cities, as well as in Warsaw, Poland, Vienna, Austria, and Manresa, Spain. We are particularly looking forward to the exhibition at K20 in Düsseldorf, called “Everyone Is an Artist: Cosmopolitan Exercises With Joseph Beuys,” which opens on March 27. The show will presents many contemporary artists in dialogue with Beuys, questioning or expanding on the practice of this most enigmatic artist. In October 2021, the Krefeld Museum will offer the first exhibition ever to juxtaposition Beuys with Marcel Duchamp.

    “Slavery”The Rijksmuseum, AmsterdamFebruary 12–May 30
    Unknown, Multiple leg cuffs for chaining enslaved people, with 6 loose shackles, ca. 1600-1800. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, schenking van de heer J.W. de Keijzer, Gouda.

    The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is planning a major show that looks at the history of slavery across the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. The show will look at the Dutch involvement in the slave trade, taking up 10 true stories of individuals who were either victims or profiteers of the trade. More than 100 objects and artworks will be on view from the Rijksmuseum collection and elsewhere. “This past has long been insufficiently examined,” museum director Taco Dibbits said.

    “Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective”Gropius Bau, BerlinMarch 19–August 1

    Yayoi Kusama, Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963). Courtesy: Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

    This major survey show will focus on the early development of Yayoi Kusama’s work, including the early paintings and sculptures that eventually led to her immersive environments, which will also be on view. The show is curated by the museum’s director, Stephanie Rosenthal, in collaboration with Kusama’s studio, and charts the Japanese artist’s often overlooked activities in Europe and Germany from the 1960s onward. The show will travel to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in late 2021.

    “Sonsbeek”Various Venues, ArnemApril 10–June 21
    Sonsbeek’s curatorial team. Courtesy sonsbeek. Photo: Julius Thissen

    Taking place about every four years, “Sonsbeek” brings international artists to the small town of Arnem in the Netherlands. This edition is helmed by the Berlin-based curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, who has turned the concept for the exhibition on its head: it will now open in 2021 and will unfold over the next four years. Topics including race, gender, and the state of the working class will be central to the show, which includes artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Laure Prouvost, Oscar Murillo, and Willem de Rooij, among others.
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    The Uffizi Will Show Rarely Seen Sketches From Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ to Commemorate the 700th Anniversary of the Poet’s Death

    This year is the 700th since Dante Alighieri died, in 1321, and over the next year, venues across his native Italy have special events planned in commemoration of the anniversary.
    For its part, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence didn’t waste any time honoring the medieval poet. On New Year’s Day, the museum launched a free virtual exhibition of rarely-seen drawings inspired by The Divine Comedy, Dante’s three-part, first-person odyssey through heaven, hell, and purgatory, long considered one of the most important literary works of all time.
    The 88 illustrations on view now on the museum’s website were completed between 1586 and 1588 by Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari during a stay in Spain. The show marks just the third time a selection of the sketches have been seen publicly, and the first time the collection has been presented in totality.
    Federico Zuccari, Inferno, Canti XXXII-XXXIV. Courtesy of the Uffizi Gallery.

    “The Uffizi Gallery is really proud to open the anniversary of the great poet’s death by making this extraordinary collection of graphic art available to all,” Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi, said in a statement. He described the drawings as “precious material not only for those who do research but also for those who are passionate about Dante’s work and are interested in following, as Alighieri says, ‘virtue and knowledge.’”
    Originally collated in a bound volume, each pencil-and-ink sketch appeared opposite the verse it illustrated. Zuccari’s works are accompanied online by their original captions in Italian. (English translations are forthcoming, the site explains.)
    An accomplished mannerist painter in his time, Zuccari is today best known for his frescoes on the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Following his death in 1609, the Divine Comedy drawings were owned by the Orsinis, a noble family for which the artist once worked, and then the Medicis. They were acquired by the Uffizi in 1738.
    Federico Zuccari, Inferno, Canti XXVI-XXVIII. Courtesy of the Uffizi Gallery.

    The 600th anniversary of Dante’s birth was the occasion the first time a selection of the illustrations were shown in Florence in 1865. More than a century later, in 1993, they were exhibited again in an exhibition in Abruzzo. Fragile with age, the drawings can only be removed from their light-free, thermoregulated holdings every five years, the museum explained. Until now, many of them “have only been seen by a few scholars,” Schmidt said.
    Events planned in memory of Dante will be mounted in more than 70 towns and villages throughout Italy this year. Italian President Sergio Mattarella inaugurated the year-long national celebration this past September with a concert in the city of Ravenna, where Dante is buried.
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    10 Critically Acclaimed Art Exhibitions We Wish We Saw in 2020 But Weren’t Able to Because… You Know

    Need we say more? And so, without further ado…

    “Steve McQueen”Tate, London
    Steve McQueen, Film Still of Charlotte (2004) © Steve McQueen. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery.

    It’s been thrilling to watch Steve McQueen break out of the art world to create stunning films like the Academy Award-winning 12 Years a Slave and the new quintet (quintet!) of feature films, Small Axe, that he’s created for Amazon Prime, which I’m working my way through now.
    But he got his start as, and remains, a visual artist. I’ve gotten to see a few of these works, like the brutal 7th Nov. (2001), in which the artist’s cousin, Marcus, tells the grim story of accidentally shooting and killing his own brother; End Credits (2012–ongoing), which scrolls through thousands of pages of redacted documents from the FBI file of African American actor and Civil Rights activist Paul Robeson; and Charlotte (2004), in which the artist’s finger, in extreme close-up, pokes at the eye of actress Charlotte Rampling in an exploration of sight and looking.
    It stings, though, to miss a show Time Out and the Guardian both gave five stars.  I’m stuck in New York, in this same damn studio apartment I’ve been in alone for nine months, so I didn’t get to see this retrospective of three decades.
    Oh well, back to Small Axe!
    —Brian Boucher

    “Frank Walter: A Retrospective”MMK Frankfurt
    Frank Walter, installation view at Museum MMK, Frankfurt am Main. Photo: Axel Schneider.

    I sadly missed a major retrospective on Frank Walter at MMK in Frankfurt am Main—an fascinating subject in any year, but a show that felt even more urgent during this summer of resurgent Black Lives Matter protests.
    The Antiguan and Barbudan artist is difficult to categorize—”there is no typical Frank Walter,” wrote the museum’s director, Susanne Pfeffer, in an accompanying show text. His varied work ranges from abstract pieces on cardboard to figurative paintings to sound recordings.
    His incredible life and oeuvre is charted through the show. Born a descendant of slaves and plantation owners, Walter went on to become Antigua’s first plantation manager of color in the sugar industry. He traveled to Europe to learn about agriculture in hopes of improving working conditions back home, while also seeking out his German ancestry, though he encountered racism almost everywhere he went. He returned to the Caribbean and exiled himself to a self-built studio until his death in 2009.
    Despite the enormity of his practice (he made over 5,000 paintings and wrote 50,000 pages of prose), Walter never had a major exhibition in his lifetime. His work at MMK was shown in dialogue with artists whose works touched on colonial and post-colonial subjects: There are Marcel Broodthaers’s enigmatic palm trees installed at the entrance; Kader Attia’s broken and restitched mirror; and Howardina Pindell’s accounts of racist violence throughout her youth in the 1980 film work Free, White and 21.
    –Kate Brown

    “Bisa Butler: Portraits”Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago
    Bisa Butler, The Safety Patrol (2018). Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, Cavigga Family Trust Fund.

    I first discovered Bisa Butler in 2018 at the Pulse art fair in Miami. I was invited to stop by the day before the show’s opening for a one-on-one tour with then-director Katelijne De Backer. When I asked her about the fair’s highlights, she led me straight to the booth of New York’s Claire Oliver Gallery, which had pre-sold four of Butler’s figurative quilted works to museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago.
    The works were stunning. Figurative compositions in boldly unconventional color combinations, made entirely of quilted fabrics, they were a powerful argument for the worth of a traditionally marginalized medium. Butler uses thousands of tiny pieces of vibrantly patterned African fabrics to create striking portraits based on historical photographs of Black men, women, and children, celebrating both African American quilting traditions and Black identity.
    It was the best thing I saw at any of Art Basel’s satellite fairs that year. Two years later, I was so excited to learn that a whole show of her work was coming to the Katonah Museum of Art that I highlighted it as an exhibition to watch in a story we published on March 9—the second-to-last day I went into the office, shortly before our worlds were turned upside down.
    The show’s opening was delayed until July, but by the time I felt safe enough to venture out, there were no tickets available in a time slot that worked for me. After closing in early October, it traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it is on view until April 19. So there’s still a glimmer of hope for me—but I’m not holding my breath.
    —Sarah Cascone

    “Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist“The Whitney Museum of American Art
    Agnes Pelton, The Ray Serene (1925). Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

    The strain of late-19th to early-20th-century spiritualist art that has recently captivated museum-goers hardly seemed imaginable before the Guggenheim’s surprise hit exhibition, “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future,” which last year became the museum’s most-visited show ever.
    But then, on the heels of that exhibition, came the Phoenix Art Museum’s critically acclaimed retrospective of the paintings of Agnes Pelton, another “rediscovered,” tacitly feminist pioneer of Modernist abstraction who worked with occult traditions.
    That show traveled to the Whitney Museum in New York, opening on the inopportune date of March 13, 2020, the day the White House declared a national emergency.
    Pelton, who was born in 1881 (just two decades after Klint), pursued her interests in theosophy, astrology, and yoga before retiring to the desert landscape in California, where she completed the paintings that made up the heart of the Whitney show. I have never gotten to see Pelton’s work in person, but many of her most salient themes—solitude, a return to nature, and the collision of cosmic forces—seem like they would have felt especially pertinent this year.
    —Rachel Corbett

    “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle“Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Jacob Lawrence, Massacre in Boston (1954). Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Compared to the earlier “Migration” series (1940–41), Jacob Lawrence’s “Struggle: From the History of the American People” series (1954–56) is much, much less well known. Strangely, this might be because its overall subject matter is more well-trodden territory, embracing the overall history of the United States rather than honing in on the specific drama of Black life. “I think the general public didn’t know what to do with it,” curator Lydia Gordon has said. “He’d gone beyond the boundary of how he was defined and understood, as a Black artist depicting Black history.”
    “Struggle” has a patriotic though unsettled tone, in some ways making it even more an essay in the contradictions of what W.E.B. DuBois called “double consciousness“, the sense of being torn between Black and American identities. So, on the one hand, Lawrence’s multifaceted, expressionistic retelling of the story of the United States put his stamp on familiar civics beats like the Founders at the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton’s duel, or Madison going to war with the British in 1812. But it also lingers pointedly on images like a fallen Crispus Attucks, the Black Native American worker who was the first to die in the Boston Massacre. One panel even enigmatically dramatizes a slave uprising that never happened.
    In this Hamilton: The Musical era, when liberal hunger to re-narrate the past through a more inclusive lens sit in sometimes uneasy tension with demands to look unsparingly at just how brutal and oppressive that past really was, I think there’s something illustrative about how unresolved Lawrence’s overview is, zigging and zagging through US history in this Cold War-era series, cutting a path as restless as his own lines. And aside from being interesting as a document, this series is also, of course, a chance to see Lawrence at work as a great painter—all the more reason I wish I’d had the chance to see it in person.
    —Ben Davis

    “Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020”Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Dionne Lee, True North (2019). Courtesy of the artist. © Dionne Lee.

    Agree with it or not, MoMA’s long-running “New Photography” series has earned a reputation as a bellwether for emergent trends in the medium, christening many an “artist to watch” in its 35 years. This year’s iteration, pushed online by the pandemic, arrived rather quietly in late September on MoMA’s online Magazine platform. You can still view it there, but it’s hard not to imagine the virtual show as a shell of what it would have been in any other year.
    It’s not just the detachment that comes with viewing art online, or the screen fatigue; it’s that “Companion Pieces,” as the show is called, concerns itself with the physicality of photographs and their context. Many of the artworks—from quant still lifes in wallet-sized frames to canvas colleges that run the length of a wall—demand to be viewed in person. 
    “Rather than thinking of them as discrete images or art objects,” the exhibition’s curator, Lucy Gallun, told me last month, “I was thinking about how images don’t live in isolation and how artists have recognized that. I felt like I was seeing many artists take up this idea of one image being dependent on another, or looking back to an older picture to say something new about today.”
    Gallun’s show is unlike any other in the “New Photography” canon, and it’s a shame it didn’t get the rollout it deserves. Still, much of the work transcends the limits of its presentation—particularly a pair of contemplative, dialogic series by Indian artist Sohrab Hura and the politically-inclined photomontages of Dionne Lee. It’s all well worth the (free) price of admission.
    —Taylor Dafoe

    “Artemisia”National Gallery, London
    Installation view, “Artemisia” at the National Gallery.

    There are shows that people say are once-in-a-lifetime that actually get revisited, in one form or another, 10 years later—and then there are shows that really, truly probably won’t come around again. I hope the National Gallery’s show of work by Artemisia Gentileschi is the former. The institution’s first-ever exhibition dedicated to a historical female artist brings together 29 luminous works by the Old Master, who rose to fame in the 17th century by painting women in ecstasy, exacting revenge, and making art.
    Until recently, Gentileschi was known largely for her dramatic life story; specifically, the trial of her art teacher for her rape (the court records are included in the show). But this show—at least as far as I can tell from the photos and catalogue—complicates that narrative. We can revel in her craft, her ability to render emotion, action, and light—and even grasp her true savvy. Embracing her notoriety from the trial, she seemed to brand herself as a painter of vengeful women.
    A show with that kind of complex, ambitious, talented protagonist is one I hope will be renewed in another season.
    –Julia Halperin

    “Gerhard Richter: Painting After All”Met Breuer, New York
    Installation view of ‘Gerhard Richter, Painting After All’ at The Met Breuer, 2020. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Chris Heins

    It was only about week or so into the citywide New York shutdown that I spoke with Sheena Wagstaff, the head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Modern art department and the organizer of “Gerhard Richter: Painting After All.” The 60-year survey of more than 100 works was his first major New York show in nearly 20 years, and one of the most highly anticipated of the spring 2020 season. It had just opened at the Met’s Breuer outpost, and now it was already shut, along with the rest of the city.
    “At least it’s up until July,” Wagstaff told me, which seemed a reason to be optimistic at the time. But in the background hung a lingering problem: because of the planned handover of the Breuer building to the Frick Collection, the Met had no option to extend the exhibition.
    A focal point of the Breuer show was the artist’s “Birkenau” series, painted in 2014, for which he took, as his source, smuggled photos by prisoners from inside the notorious Nazi concentration camp in Poland. The artist’s continued experimentation and reworking of the canvases eventually rendered the imagery unrecognizable, but the work is no less dark for it.
    To the extent that there is a silver lining here, as a kind of “coda,” the Birkenau paintings got their own miniature spotlight at the Met’s main building upon its reopening this summer. “I feel that we have recovered some trace of the exhibition and [it’s] relevant to this new audience that we have now, which is a totally local audience,” Wagstaff told Artnet News. “We don’t have tourists anymore.”
    —Eileen Kinsella

    “Judd”Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Donald Judd, Untitled (1991) Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 Judd Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: John Wronn.

    In the Park Slope Barnes & Noble, where I spent a lot of time as a teenager, the art book section was quite small. I think most of the books were about Monet, and I hated Monet and his stupid frivolity. But I did like Donald Judd, who I learned about one day after coming upon the art historian James Meyer’s book on Minimalism. His artworks were simple, clean, elegant, and bold. And they were built from ideas that were completely incomprehensible to me.
    I’ve written about Judd a lot since then (on his writings, his place in the Minimalist canon, etc., etc.), so I was enormously excited, several years ago, when MoMA announced a retrospective on the artist. The show was long delayed: first scheduled to take place in 2017, it took another three years to come together. And then—what good fortune!—it finally opened just days before New York went into a full shutdown.
    I could go see it now. The museum, as of this writing, is open to the public with safety measures in place. But my priorities have changed, and nothing seems more frivolous now than going to a museum in a pandemic.
    –Pac Pobric

    “Awol Erizku: Mystic Parallax”FLAG Art Foundation, New York
    Awol Erizku, Black Fire (Mouzone Brothas) (2020). Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Art.

    In a year defined by the twin forces of the pandemic and the struggle for racial justice, I thought a lot about how a society can’t evolve its policies without first evolving the language and imagery it uses to discuss the underlying issues.
    Awol Erizku’s “Mystic Parallax” dovetailed with this line of thinking by using a multiple-media tour de force to channel viewpoints on African and African diasporic culture that disrupt the Eurocentric terms that have dominated the discourse in the West for too long—and caused far too much tangible harm in the process.
    Leveraging formats ranging from short films and photo-based works, to sculptures and a soundtrack by Christian Scott, Erizku aimed to advance arguably the most important conversation of my generation in arresting fashion. Energized by influences as diverse as Islam and Trap music, the exhibition animated the fundamental truth of Africa as a vibrant collection of 54 distinct countries, each formed by its own dynamic history and intra-national diversity of peoples now spread around the globe. While it undoubtedly would have made an even stronger impression on me in the flesh, the virtual tour of the show still acts as a sensory treasure and a visceral motivator to bridge the sociocultural divides separating our broken present from a just future.
    —Tim Schneider
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    ‘It Felt Really Wild and Safe at the Same Time’: Watch Artist Ann Hamilton Swing Visitors Through the Air in a Participatory Installation

    In 2012, artist Ann Hamilton took over the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan with an exhibition titled “the event of a thread,” encompassing the entire drill hall for one month. The title of the show is a nod to Anni Albers, whose description of weaving—”a horizontal and vertical crossing of a thread, which is touch and contact at intersection”—Hamilton makes interactive.
    In an exclusive interview with Art21 as part of the Extended Play series, Hamilton describes her adaptation of Albers’s definition: “The cloth is raising and lowering with the swings. Everyone’s presence registers in some way in the materials of it. And that, in turn, makes its weaving.” 

    Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Ann Hamilton: the event of a thread.” © Art21, Inc. 2013.

    The swings, which were suspended in the drill hall against a backdrop of billowing white fabric, were invitations to activate the space, though Hamilton says at first she was worried no one would actually use them. Eventually, though, kids couldn’t resist. “There was a family in here yesterday for three hours,” she says, “so it’s become sort of like a park.”
    Watching the visitors interact with the space, Hamilton was surprised to find another intersection of the horizontal and vertical, when she realized that as some people stood beneath the fabric drapes, others laid flat on their backs, staring up at the pulleys and ropes. “There was a girl who said that she felt really, really wild and safe at the same time,” Hamilton shares with Art21. “When I heard that, it’s like, ‘Yes! That is great.’”
    Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below. The brand new 10th season of the show is available now at Art21.org. 
    [embedded content]
    This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.
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    ‘We’re Burdened by So Many Things’: Watch Artist Mary Mattingly Literally Drag Everything She Owns Around New York

    The holiday season is typically a time for loved ones to get together. But thanks to capitalism, even more than that, it’s a time to consume. Spend money, give gifts, recieve gifts, repeat.
    This holiday season, though, while things are at least a little bit different for nearly everyone, it’s worth turning to photographer Mary Mattingly, who makes a pretty good case against the consumer frenzy.
    In an exclusive interview with Art21 as part of the New York Close Up series from 2013, Mattingly takes viewers on an uphill climb (literally) as she carries out the Sisyphean task of dragging her belongings throughout New York.
    The act is part of a project Mattingly embarked on over the course of several months, during which she painstakingly documented every object in her possession, traced its origins to manufacturing plants and supply chains, and recorded her findings on a website she created, own-it.us.

    Production still from the Art21 “New York Close Up” film, “Mary Mattingly Owns Up.” © Art21, Inc. 2013.

    “I want to try to picture this future without mass production,” she tells Art21. “And it’s harder and harder to do all the time.”
    After taking stock of everything, Mattingly combined the objects into giant boulder-like masses secured with ropes and string, and dragged and pushed them around the city.
    “Seeing your objects one at a time doesn’t have the same impact as putting them all together,” Mattingly says. “We’re just burdened with so many things. I just wanted to do something with clarity about what literally weighs me down. It also ended up being incredibly hard to push!”
    Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series New York Close Up, below. The brand new 10th season of the show is available now at Art21.org. “Mary Mattingly: Pipelines and Permafrost” is on view at Robert Mann Gallery through December 31, 2020. 
    [embedded content]
    This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.
    Follow artnet News on Facebook:Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward. More