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    In Pictures: See Inside the Albertina’s Legacy-Defining Basquiat Retrospective

    No artist in the history of New York City quite exemplifies the grit and determination of the 1980s quite like Jean-Michel Basquiat. 
    In a first for Austrian audiences, Basquiat’s legacy is being given a major retrospective at the Albertina Museum in Vienna. The show includes iconic pieces such as La Hara (1981), a skeletal portrait of a police officer that sold at auction for $35 million in 2017,  and Self-Portrait (1983).
    The exhibition is being billed as a legacy-defining one for the artist. More than  50 major works have been lent from public and private collections, including Basquiat’s estate (the artist’s sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, even attended the opening), the Nicola Erni Collection, and art dealer Thaddaeus Ropac.
    Born in Brooklyn in 1960, to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat started developing his artistic style as a teenager, first conceiving the graffiti moniker SAMO in the 1970s with a high school friend, Al Diaz. 
    Basquiat’s later work, which many critics defined as “neo-expressionism,” was deeply influenced by these early experiences creating street art, and by the rap and punk music scenes he was a part of. In 1979, together with filmmaker Michael Holman, for example, Basquiat formed an experimental band called Gray. 
    The Albertina’s show unpacks the artist’s roots and follows his meteoric rise in the art world, from being the youngest ever participant at Documenta in 1982, to his relationship with other cultural superstars like Madonna and Warhol, through to his untimely death of a drug overdose in 1988, age 27.
    “Basquiat: The Retrospective” is on view through January 8, 2023, at the Albertina in Vienna. See more images from the exhibition here. 
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Visitors attend the “Basquiat: The Retrospective” exhibition preview at Albertina on September 8, 2022 in Vienna. Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Getty Images.
    Untitled (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photo: Studio Tromp; © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, licensed by Artesar, New York.
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    Filipino Artist Pio Abad Turns Ferdinand Marcos and Ronald Reagan’s Cozy Correspondence Into Art at the Carnegie International

    A foreign dictator pleads his case with the U.S. President and fashionable First Lady. Rudy Giuliani weighs in. So does Senator Orrin Hatch. These are not from the top secret documents kept in Mar-a-Lago by former president Donald Trump, but the correspondence of another celebrity-turned-president, Ronald Reagan, drawn from his official archives. And for the Filipino artist Pio Abad, they are a record of how powerful people manipulate public opinion to maintain their status.
    The Reagan letters all involve the late Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, who fled the Philippines in the wake of the People Power Revolution in 1986, and found refuge in Hawaii. The texts have been carved onto a series of Carrara marble tablets by Abad under the title “Thoughtful Gifts,” as part of his contribution to the Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh, opening on Saturday, September 24.
    “You can see that this wasn’t just a professional relationship,” Abad said of the communications between the two political power couples. “It was a personal one. And I think they genuinely liked each other.”
    “Dear Mr. President, I have no other recourse but to write you this letter,” Ferdinand Marcos entreated with Ronald Reagan on October 20, 1988, in a last-ditch effort to avoid racketeering charges brought by Rudy Giuliani, then-U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. The ousted dictator wanted the president to personally intervene in the case and allow the Marcoses to prove that the billions in cash, real estate, art, and gems they amassed during their decades in power—some of which they smuggled with them out of the Philippines—were not acquired using stolen funds.
    “Imelda sends her prayers to you and Nancy,” Marcos ended his missive. “I remain your obedient servant.”
    Pio Abad, Thoughtful Gifts (October 20, 1988) (2020).
    In his reply, penned that same day, Reagan told Marcos that “the facts and circumstances in this case left me no choice except to defer to the Attorney General. I regret very much that this has become necessary but under our system you will have every opportunity to refute these charges.” He ended they note with an assurance that “Nancy joins me in extending to you and Imelda our best wishes.”
    A day later, the Marcoses were indicted on RICO charges in New York, and although Ferdinand died just a few months later, Imelda would stand trial in 1990—and be acquitted.
    In another letter, presented by Abad as a triptych, Giuliani outlined the evidence against the Marcos family in a dispatch to the Attorney General’s office, following a search of their daughter’s home in California. Giuliani wrote that the assets federal agents seized from the property—including more than 100 works of art and antique furniture—provided “further evidence that the Marcoses have continued to commit crimes and to conceal the fruits of their racketeering enterprise since they arrived in the United States.”
    Although Imelda Marcos was acquitted of racketeering, the trove of art that authorities in the U.S. and the Philippines seized was sold at auction in New York in 1991. But hundreds of works acquired by the family using their ill-gotten gains remain unaccounted for, including a Picasso that was spotted on the wall of Imelda’s home during a visit from her son, Ferdinand Jr., after he won the Philippines presidential election earlier this year.
    “These letters become portals to the past,” Abad said of the historical documents. “They are also like a palimpsest of how these characters were viewed then and how they are now.” Ferdinand Jr.’s rise to power, for example, largely came through a whitewashing of his parents’ actions during their reign. “The way that political personalities are recycled and reinterpreted throughout history, and the fact that we’re seeing this happen within a single generation, is frightening,” Abad said.
    In a further twist of fate, the Carnegie exhibition opens almost 50 years to the day that Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines.
    Pio Abad, installation view of Distant Possessions (2022) in the 58th Carnegie International. Photo: Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.
    Abad’s other work in the exhibition draws on the Carnegie Museum of Art’s own history, specifically its founding patron, Andrew Carnegie. In addition to being a philanthropist and art collector, the steel magnate was—first and foremost—an industrialist.
    “Obviously Andrew Carnegie was one of the proponents of public philanthropy instead of paying your taxes,” Abad said. Carnegie was also a vocal opponent to a proposal being floated by the U.S. government at the time to annex the Philippines, even offering to buy its independence for $20 million.
    In an essay published in 1898, Carnegie put forward his arguments for why Filipinos should be left to govern themselves. In a telling passage, Carnegie described the Philippines as a nation of “about seven and a half millions of people, composed of races bitterly hostile to one another, alien races, ignorant of our language and institutions. Americans cannot be grown there.”
    Abad has taken that last sentence and enlarged it into a wall-sized mural, painted to mimic the neoclassical letters carved on the museum’s façade. The piece is meant to show that the ideological structures that underpin these cultural infrastructures “maybe haven’t really changed,” the artist said.
    That does not mean change is impossible, however. “I think we are at a point where a lot of Americans are questioning the myths that they were brought up with,” Abad said. “Beliefs of exceptionalism are being picked apart—rightfully so.”
    What Abad wants visitors to come away with from his project is to see that “as much as it’s a geopolitical study, it’s also an obsession informed by personal history. So it’s also universal.”
    “It’s a transnational tragedy that touches all our lives, which is ultimately tied to capital or greed or impunity, and the need to transform political fact to personal myth,” Abad said. “Regardless of how distorted it becomes.”
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    Ukrainian Photographer Boris Mikhailov Fears His Home and Archives May Have Been Bombed in Kharkiv

    The Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov is extremely worried that his apartment in Kharkiv, where some of his archives are stored, may have been bombed during the Russia-Ukraine war.
    “They have no idea what state their place is in and what’s happened to their work and materials there, and are very worried,” Simon Baker, director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris, told Artnet News, referring to Mikhailov, 84, and his wife, Vita. The couple have been living between Berlin and Kharkiv for the past couple of decades. They used to travel frequently to Ukraine but have not been back there since 2019, in part due to the pandemic. 
    Mikhailov, who was born in Kharkiv in 1938, was in Berlin preparing for his exhibition “Ukrainian Diary” at the MEP when he heard the news. “They realized that the area in Kharkiv where their apartment is had been bombed and might have been damaged but they don’t know,” Baker said.
    From the series “Luriki” (Colored Soviet Portrait), (1971-85). © Boris Mikhaïlov. Collection Pinault. Courtesy Guido Costa Projects, Orlando Photo.
    Several members of Mikhailov’s family have sought refuge in Berlin since the Russian invasion began in February. “Vita’s daughter and granddaughter managed to escape and drove to Berlin with their cat, and Boris’s son is also in Berlin,” Baker added.
    Mikhailov was unavailable for comment. However, he told Le Monde in an interview earlier this month that “[t]he tears of Ukraine are with us. Understand that what is happening is very serious, it invades life and crushes everything.”
    The pioneering and dissident self-taught photographer was an engineer when he was first given a camera in order to document the state-owned factory where he worked. (He was fired from the job after he was found developing nude photographs of his wife.) Under the rule of the USSR, he took subversive photography ​in ​Kharkiv—the landscape and backdrop of much of his ​work—which railed against propaganda. In 1971, he was one of eight photographers who established the Vremya group in Kharkiv, a non-conformist collective that is considered the backbone of the Kharkiv School of Photography. 
    From the series “Case History” (1997-98). © Boris Mikhaïlov, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy Galerie Suzanne Tarasiève, Paris.
    On view in ‘Ukrainian Diary’, running until January 15, 2023, are some 800 photographs and projections of images, from conceptual to documentary to performance-based work, made from the 1960s onwards, chronicling life during the USSR and after its collapse. 
    Among the highlights is the series “Yesterday’s Sandwich,” from the late 1960s through the late ‘70s. It grew out of Mikhailov’s observation that a third image appeared when two slides of colored film serendipitously stuck together. Another standout series is “Case History” (1997-98), which depicts people who became homeless following the dissolution of the USSR. 
    Also on display is “The Theater of War, Second Act, Time Out,” showing people in Kyiv protesting the Ukrainian government’s decision not to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, and Mikhailov’s latest series, “Temptation of Death” (2017-19), comprising elegiac diptychs that juxtapose earlier images of an unfinished Soviet-era crematorium with new ones.
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    Here’s a Look Inside New York’s New Immersive Gustav Klimt Attraction

    This week marks the debut of a glittering new attraction for New York City: the Hall des Lumières.
    Located in the stately, landmarked Beaux-Arts headquarters of the former Emigrant Savings Bank near City Hall, it arrives courtesy of Culturespaces, one of the major forces that propelled “Immersive Van Gogh” to international sensation status last year via its L’Atelier des Lumières in Paris. The latter’s immersive Van Gogh lightshow featured as a date spot in the Netflix hit Emily in Paris.
    To recreate that date-night magic, Culturespaces is betting big on Viennese painter Gustav Klimt. Now, New Yorkers don’t have to trek across the sea to the Belvedere museum in Vienna to see dorm-room poster favorite The Kiss. Instead, they can see it animated and projected at immense scale across the palatial insides of the Hall des Lumières for a show titled “Immersive Klimt: Gold in Motion,” alongside other famed Klimt works like the Beethoven Frieze and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (languid animations of works by fellow Viennese Succesionist Egon Schiele also make a cameo in the show).
    If that’s not enough immersive entertainment for you, “Gold in Motion” runs on a loop with two other shows: one is an animated show dedicated to the rich patters of artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928–2000), carrying on the Viennese theme; the other is “Five Movements: Contemporary Creation,” a 10-minute experience featuring digitally augmented dance performances in five different styles from the technology studio Nohlab.
    Be sure also to head down to the basement of the bank, where a new-media gallery has been nested within the Emmigrant Savings Banks’s giant safe. A mirrored chamber within which plays a piece made exclusively for Culturespaces by François Vautier, an ominous, spacey digital animation.
    To give a sense of what to expect at the Hall des Lumières, check out the photos below.
    The Hall des Lumières, located in the former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Immersive Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion’ at the new Hall des Lumières in New York. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Friedensreich Hundertwasser: In the Wake of the Vienna Secession’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Friedensreich Hundertwasser: In the Wake of the Vienna Secession’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Friedensreich Hundertwasser: In the Wake of the Vienna Secession’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Friedensreich Hundertwasser: In the Wake of the Vienna Secession’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of ‘Friedensreich Hundertwasser: In the Wake of the Vienna Secession’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    ‘5 Movements: Contemporary Creation’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    ‘5 Movements: Contemporary Creation’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    ‘5 Movements: Contemporary Creation’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    ‘5 Movements: Contemporary Creation’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    ‘5 Movements: Contemporary Creation’ at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    The entrance to the underground gallery at the Hall des Lumières, in the old bank vault. Photo by Ben Davis.
    François Vautier’s Recoding Entropia at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
    The giftshop at the Hall des Lumières. Photo by Ben Davis.
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    In Pictures: A Texas Exhibition Shines a Light on Paintings of Women, by Women

    Through September 25, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presents 46 international female-identifying artists who focus on female subject matter in their works. The exhibition, titled “Women Painting Women,” brings together 60 portraits spanning the late 1960s to the present, recognizing “female perspectives that have been underrepresented in the history of postwar figuration,” according to the museum.
    “Women Painting Women” approaches these aims over four thematic sections. “The Body” considers the full spectrum of figuration, “from unidealized to fantasized nudes,” the museum states in a press release. Works by stars like Mickalene Thomas and Alice Neel appear here.
    “Nature Personified” explores appearances of mythological archetypes, like priestesses and goddesses—and their metaphysical powers—through the work of forces of nature like Tracy Emin.
    Faith Ringgold and Amy Sherald have work in the section “Color As Portrait,” which “accounts for the exaggerated or dramatic use of color and form to convey content about female identity, including race, gender, and archetypes.”
    In “Selfhood,” Elizabeth Peyton, Marlene Dumas, and more examine how psychology manifests in the physical form.
    The show centers around painting—a medium traditionally associated with the privileged male artists who have dominated the art historical canon until recently. “The pivotal narrative in ‘Women Painting Women’ is how these artists use the conventional portrait of a woman as a catalyst to tell another story outside of male interpretations of the female body,” chief curator Andrea Karnes said in a statement. “They conceive new ways to activate and elaborate on the portrayal of women.”
    “Replete with complexities, realness, abjection, beauty, complications, everydayness, pain, and pleasure, the portraits in this exhibition connect to all kinds of women,” Karnes adds, “and they make way for women artists to share the stage with their male counterparts in defining the female figure.”
    See works from the exhibition below.
    Arpita Singh, My Mother (1993), oil on canvas, from the collection of Sharad and Mahinder Tak. Photo: © Arpita Singh, courtesy Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Talwar Gallery.
    Hayv Kahraman, The Tower (2019), oil on linen. Photo: © Hayv Kahraman, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

    Hope Gangloff, Queen Jane Approximately (2011), acrylic on canvas. Collection of Alturas Foundation, San Antonio, Texas. Photo: © Hope Gangloff, Courtesy of the Artist and Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC.
    Emma Amos, Three Figures (1967), oil on canvas. The John and Susan Horseman Collection. Photo: © Emma Amos, Courtesy Ryan Lee Gallery, New York.
    Somaya Critchlow, Untitled (Pink Hair) (2019), oil on linen. Isabella Wolfson Townsley Collection, London. Photo: © Somaya Critchlow, image courtesy the artist and Maximillian William, London.
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    Diane Arbus’s 1972 MoMA Show Ignited a Firestorm. Now, David Zwirner Gallery Has Restaged It, Shot for Shot

    A 1972 retrospective of Diane Arbus’s work, mounted at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) just one year after she took her own life, divided viewers the way few exhibitions ever have. 
    New York Times critic Hilton Kramer called it “an artistic and a human triumph,” praising the late photographer’s ability to “inhabit the mind and body and the milieu of certain people society has judged to be abnormal or unusual.” On this same topic Susan Sontag took issue, writing—somewhat infamously—that the artist’s “work shows people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive, but it does not arouse any compassionate feelings.”
    “Arbus’s photographs,” Sontag went on, “suggest a naïveté which is both coy and sinister, for it is based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that what the viewer is asked to look at is really other.”
    A word-of-mouth sensation both revered and reviled, the show drew out-the-door, around-the-block lines, quickly becoming the museum’s most-attended solo exhibition to date. “People went through that exhibition as though they were in line for communion,” John Szarkowski, MoMA’s legendary director of photography who curated the retrospective, once recalled. 
    It’s no stretch to say that the show changed the way photography, a once-marginalized art form, was perceived by the institutional art world. And now, a full 50 years later, it’s going on view again. 
    Diane Arbus, Four people at a gallery opening, N.Y.C. (1968). © The Estate of Diane Arbus.
    Opening today at David Zwirner in New York is “Cataclysm,” a recreation of the 1972 show, down to the last picture.
    Organized by Zwirner and Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, who jointly represent the Arbus estate, the show brings together 113 of the artist’s photographs across two floors and seven gallery spaces. It’s a museum-quality presentation, with all the prints secured via loan or consignment; some of them actually hung on MoMA’s walls in 1972. (No new estate-approved prints of Arbus’s pictures have been made since 2003.)
    The name, “Cataclysm,” refers to the unexpected impact of the retrospective. “The pictures had a cataclysmic effect,” said dealer Jeffrey Fraenkel, who has worked with the Arbus estate since founding his eponymous gallery in 1979. “When people walked into MoMA and saw these photographs—BAM! No one had seen anything like them before,” 
    “[Arbus] went further than anyone had and took chances and was so courageous,” Fraenkel explained. “’Fearless’ is the word. That was part of the electricity people were touched by.”
    Diane Arbus, Tattooed man at a carnival, MD. (1970). © The Estate of Diane Arbus.
    Arbus’s photographs, now among the most recognizable in art history, won’t have the same effect this time around. And for cynics, restaging a historic exhibition will surely feel, at first blush, contrived—a gimmick akin to, say, bringing Star Wars back into theaters for the umpteenth time. 
    The business appeal is easy enough to see: for collectors, it’s the rare opportunity to collect Arbus’s greatest hits; for the galleries, the profit such an opportunity affords. Prices range from $10,000 to $175,000 for posthumous prints, and $40,000 to “close to a million” for prints made by Arbus herself, according to David Lieber, a partner at Zwirner. 
    But there’s non-monetary value in putting on this particular show again, too.
    Today, photography is cemented in the firmament of the contemporary art world, just as Arbus is cemented in its canon. Far more precarious, though, are the questions raised by her work—the same questions that stoked a furor five decades ago: Society otherized Arbus’s subjects, but did she? Can photographs empower, or do they only objectify? What does it mean to look?
    Diane Arbus, A very young baby, N.Y.C. [Anderson Hays Cooper] (1968). © The Estate of Diane Arbus.What’s captured in Arbus’s pictures is not a “decisive moment” but a conditional set of relationships—a kind of social contract to which we as onlookers are made party. “When you look at an Arbus image, you’re always aware of this triangulation between the subject, the photographer, and the viewer,” noted Leiber.
    Indeed, to engage with Arbus’s pictures is to engage with what it means to take a photograph of another human. And that, Fraenkel said, is an exercise just as vital in 2022 as it was in 1972.
    “These are pictures I know very well. But when I walked into the gallery yesterday and turned left and saw a picture…I felt as if I was seeing it for the first time,” Fraenkel recalled upon visiting “Cataclysm.” “It sent lightning through my system.”
    “There is nothing about the pictures that feels old. They feel thoroughly alive and speaking to us in this moment.”
    Diane Arbus, Woman in a rose hat, N.Y.C. (1966). © The Estate of Diane Arbus.
    ​​”Cataclysm: The 1972 Diane Arbus Retrospective Revisited” is on view now through October 22 at David Zwirner in New York.
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    How Big a Deal Is Michael Heizer’s ‘City’ When It Comes to Art History? We Asked Curators, Collectors, Dealers, and Scholars to Weigh In

    It’s not hyperbole to say that Michael Heizer’s City is a work of art unlike any other. 
    Five ​​decades in the making, the Land Art pioneer’s magnum opus stretches out like an abandoned alien complex in the desolate Nevada desert, a crop circle without the crops—which some Google Earth users are sure to mistake it for, given that Area-51 is just one valley over. 
    Groomed gravel paths give way to towering concrete shapes and massive mounds of earth. So primal and powerful are Heizer’s forms that they recall ancient structures—temples, pyramids, henges—more than they do modern industrial ones. The whole thing runs a mile and a half long and half a mile wide, making it among the largest artworks in the world—though few actually know where it is. Even fewer have seen it in person.  
    “There’s no one else in the modern era that has taken on a project of this magnitude and then stuck with it,” said Emily Wei Rales, director of the Glenstone museum and a longtime supporter of Heizer.
    Rales recently joined the board of the Triple Aught Foundation, a nonprofit formed 25 years ago to oversee City. “I would say the length of time and the amount of labor and resources that he’s poured into this—it’s on a scale of something people would do in medieval times.”
    With City’s singularity comes a challenge: How do we begin to understand the achievement of this artwork? The years of anticipation, the artist’s unconstrained ambition, and the scale of its footprint make it big in every sense of the word—but is it also a big deal? In terms of art history, how will it be remembered?
    Michael Heizer, City (1970 –2022). © Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Eric Piasecki.
    For the first time, we have a chance to answer that question. After 52 years of work, City is finally open to the public. 
    And yet, in typical Heizer fashion, it remains almost as difficult to see. Just one group of six people is allowed to see the artwork per day. Reservations are required, and mostly spoken for (viewings are booked through the rest of this year). 
    Those who have scored a viewing will be directed first to the tiny town of Alamo, Nevada—about 90 miles north of Las Vegas—and to the office of the Triple Aught Foundation. From there, a staff member will drive guests three hours—the last of which takes place entirely on bumpy dirt roads—to Heizer’s masterpiece. 
    Those who have seen City don’t seem to regret the arduousness of the journey to get there. “There is no other sculpture, no other architecture, no other kind of art experience I’ve had that is like it,” said Kara Vander Weg, a director at Gagosian and a Triple Aught board member since 2018. 
    Vander Weg knows City better than almost anyone, having spent five months at Heizer’s nearby ranch during the pandemic. She’s walked along the artwork, run around it, driven through it. “You don’t see the City project until you’re in the City project,” she said. “That’s one of the genius ways in which Michael has designed it.”
    Comparisons have been made to other Land Art masterpieces, Vander Weg pointed out—works of art that, because of their size and destination status, have garnered a kind of metonymic relationship to their creators: Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973-76), James Turrell’s Roden Crater. 
    “Each of [those] is a great artwork in and of its own, but this is different,” she said. 
    Michael Heizer, 2015. Photo: Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post via Getty Images.
    Heizer began City way back in 1970, and has been chipping away at it—often literally—ever since. A mythology grew around the project and its creator, this dogmatic cowboy who, decades ago, decamped to the remote Great Basin to devote himself to his life’s work. Though he continued to make other forms of art, his presence in the art world all but evaporated, save for the occasional interview, for which he would offer anachronistic—and sometimes slightly offensive—statements that made him sound like a man who never left the 20th century.
    “A decaffeinated, used-up, once-was quick-draw cowboy, a sissy boy who eats at Balthazar for lunch,” is how Heizer described himself in a 2016 New Yorker profile, lamenting the loss of his younger self’s id. “Chemical castration—doesn’t happen all at once,” he said. “It’s slow. You just wake up one day and you’re dickless.”
    In a way, Heizer is living in another time. “Just imagine somebody who is just essentially working without any deep relationship to peers,” said Julian Myers-Szupinska a Land Art scholar who has written about Heizer on several occasions. “If he’s bouncing off of anything, it’s weird bunkers and architectural forms of that region, or it’s the archeological record of massive indigenous community-constructed architectures.” 
    “Where you fit that into the contemporary I don’t know,” Myers-Szupinska continued. “I don’t think it does fit into the contemporary. And I don’t think he aims for it to. The scale on which this project is aimed is the long term. He wants it to be there in 500 years.”
    “My good friend Richard Serra is building out of military-grade steel,” Heizer said in that same New Yorker piece. “That stuff will all get melted down. Why do I think that? Incans, Olmecs, Aztecs—their finest works of art were all pillaged, razed, broken apart, and their gold was melted down.”
    “When they come out here to fuck my City sculpture up, they’ll realize it takes more energy to wreck it than it’s worth.”
    Michael Heizer, City (1970 –2022). © Michael Heizer. Courtesy of the Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Eric Piasecki.
    In 2022, erecting an artwork with the intention of it lasting hundreds of years feels almost comically ambitious. When Heizer began City, on the other hand, a sense of wonder and mythos remained in the American West—a vestigial glimmer of “manifest destiny.” Today, the once-sprawling landscape lives under permanent threat—of fracking, strip mining, or other forms of fossil fuel extraction; of corporate development or environmental calamity. What once felt abundant now feels precarious.
    City itself has been embroiled in a political fight for years. A railroad for transporting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain once threatened to disrupt the land surrounding Heizer’s artwork before longtime Nevada Senator Harry Reid urged then President Obama to declare the region a National Monument in 2015. (Two years later, President Trump considered undoing Obama’s executive order, which would have re-opened the land for development.)
    Similarly, the size of City is sure to induce eye rolls from those who interpret Heizer’s project as an ego-driven exercise in artistic man-spreading. Couple that with the fact that City cost $40 million to build and it’s tempting to wonder whether it merited such vast resources.
    But Myers-Szupinska warns against that line of thinking. The scholar points to the “scrawl of Las Vegas and the effort of the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, the militarization of the [land], and all that generates the modernized American West. The scale of the earthwork that is Nevada is mind-boggling.”
    “The relative scale of what Heizer’s doing, it’s just puny by comparison,” Myers-Szupinska went on. “There are all kinds of massive things that get constructed that cost more than this. So why is an aesthetic purpose any less valid?”
    “Measurements are one way our culture tries to talk about artworks—the time, the size, the remoteness, the distance from a place,” added Vander Weg. “Those are measurements, but they are not the summary of this artwork.”
    “Complex One,” City. © Michael Heizer/ Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Mary Converse.
    William L. Fox, the founding director of the Center for Art and Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, compared the experience of City to a kind of meditation. “When you are down inside it, it’s not that you can’t see the mountains. It’s just the mountains mentally disappear,” he said. “Everything arises around you and you’re powerfully enfolded.”
    Fox wrote about Heizer in two books published in the early 2000s: Mapping the Empty, about artists and Nevada, and The Void, The Grid, and The Sign, about the Great Basin. Fox was close with Heizer then, spending time at his ranch and seeing City take shape. But the two men fell out shortly thereafter, partly because the artist despised what Fox had written about his creations.   
    In 2019, Fox published a career-spanning—and occasionally critical—book about Heizer, who he has called a “highly problematic character.”
    But when asked about his thoughts on City, Fox had no trouble putting his complicated relationship with the artist aside. “When Heizer’s at his very best, you experience reverence and awe,” Fox said. “That’s what he wants you to experience inside [City] and you do.”
    “People are just dying to see it. And it’s going to wow them,” he said. “It’s not compromised in any way.”
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    ‘I Want to Make Pictures That Mean Something’: David LaChapelle on Turning Away From Celebrity Portraits to Create More Enigmatic Images

    Earlier this week, David LaChapelle was giving a preview tour of his new exhibition to a small press cadre. He passed a wall of iconic big-budget glamour images that hung in chic cobalt-painted frames. The vamping models in heavy makeup were out-of-step with today’s post-2020 fashion landscape—and apparently with the photographer himself.
    “Those are just fashion images they don’t mean anything,” he said, dismissively waving his hand, and without pausing lead the group to the next room.
    Eminem: About to Blow (1999, New York), a detail from LaChapelle’s Vox Populi wheatpaste poster installation. Photo: ©David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    LaChapelle is best known as a celebrity photographer nonpareil. His shoots are high-concept (and high-budget) with lurid colors that pop like Skittles. The retrospective “Make Believe,” which opens today at Fotografiska New York, is a reminder that there is much more to LaChapelle than his Hollywood forays, and that he is in fact, a lot more interesting when he veers away from the glitz.
    Yes, there are cameos by Madonna, Lizzo, and Tupac in the show. But the exhibition utilizes the minimum of his vast celebrity fodder in the more than 150 works spread across Fotografiska’s five floors. It is the artist’s first solo New York museum outing and his largest-ever exhibition, and showcases work from 1984–2022.
    Good News for Modern Man II (1984, New York). Photo: © David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    The show makes the argument that there is a vast difference between a “best of” and a “greatest hits.” “Make Believe” is more of the former and illustrates how far LaChapelle has come, but also in many ways, how he’s remained unchanged.
    The show is only a few blocks from 303 Gallery, where LaChapelle had his first shows in 1984. “Angels, Saints, and Martyrs” depicted his East Village cohort posing in dramatic religious tableaux. At the heart of these works was a profound daily meditation of mortality.
    “My friends were dying of AIDS so fast, I thought I was dying, too,” Lachapelle said. One of those early black and white works is on display, a triptych warmly printed with a saturated Man Ray metallic sheen. A female nude reaches for divine light. “She’s wearing a wig because everyone had short spiky hair,” LaChapelle said.
    Behold (2015, Hawaii). Photo: © David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    As the press tour continued, we came across a recent image of a Christ-like figure in the woods. LaChapelle explained that the model is a dancer who is currently going through hardships, and then described how he makes the halo effect by using revolving LED lights and slow exposure.
    A devout Catholic, LaChapelle frequently references Christ and during the tour he was dressed like a hip prophet, in nerdy black spectacles, orange Nike dunks and a shirt, hand-painted by his friend, the artist Stefan Meier, that was adorned with images of flaming doves, flowers, and hands with eyes. The words “Rain Stars Ultra Super Universe” were printed across the back.
    LaChapelle revealed that he is again staging Bible-inspired scenes from his home base in Hawaii. He decamped there in 2006, escaping his gilded cage of celebrity success and excess in New York—and started cranking out a lot of work that critiques his former milieu.
    Aristocracy: Private Pirates (2014, Los Angeles). Photo: © David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    A standout in the show are the still-life images from 2011’s “Earth Laughs in Flowers” series. Heady and romantic, LaChapelle was clearly inspired by Dutch masters and the photos look like oil paintings. But beauty camouflages decay. If you look closely, the sickeningly sumptuous blooms are beginning to wilt. Some are surrounded by cellophane, discarded cell phones, abandoned drugstore teddy bears, and other detritus.
    “Vanitas traditionally are about the brevity of life,” LaChapelle said. “This one is kind of like our world today. Shopping online or for sex on apps—it’s like people shopping for body parts.”
    Also of note is 2006’s darkly clever “Recollections in America” series, in which he sourced random vintage snapshots from eBay, inserted other characters and altered the final images.  Another eye-catching series from 2014 featured private planes haphazardly flung about and floating in surreal, gradient airspace.
    Earth Laughs in Flowers: Wilting Gossip (2008–11, Los Angeles). Photo: © David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    And although many of the photographer’s usual celebrity subjects are absent, transgender nightlife icon and forever LaChapelle muse Amanda Lepore looms large. In one image, she snorts a line of diamonds through a cocaine straw (the artist mentioned that this was a statement on materialism). Elsewhere she poses as a garish fever dream of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn and Liz.
    A shot of her breast-feeding in a hooded faux sable coat is perhaps the most poignant. “Everything in this photo is fake,” LaChapelle said. “The fur, the baby, everything. But Amanda’s tears are real.”
    Towards the end of the tour, LaChapelle got emotional as we reached an image of Travis Scott’s Astroworld album art, and the ensuing concert tragedy last November, when 10 people died being crushed in the crowd.
    “They had taken my gold heads and painted them into skulls without permission, without asking,” LaChapelle said of the festival’s decorations, which he helped design. “The love of money is the root of all evil… all of that greed. That’s what killed those kids. And [then] they had to walk through a skull and see all this dark imagery. If imagery doesn’t matter, then why bother doing it at all? If art doesn’t have impact then why bother with it at all?”
    After the preview, we briefly sat down with the artist at the gallery’s Veronika restaurant to discuss the show and his work over the years.
    Fly On My Sweet Angel Fly on to the Sky (1988, Farmington, Connecticut). Photo: © David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    The celebrity aspect of the show was pretty low-key. When people think of you, they often think of images like Eminem holding a stick of dynamite.
    That’s why its on the wall of the restaurant! It was a part of my life for a long time. I had that book called Lost and Found. There was a bit of getting lost after finding out that I didn’t have HIV around 1994. It coincided with suddenly getting contracts with Conde Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, and Details.
    I threw myself into that world, became a workaholic, and got lost. I really felt it was time to stop. And when I was young, I prayed for a cabin in the woods inside my little squat on 3rd Street. I’ve got that now.
    It’s funny that your “wandering in the desert” period consisted of fortune and fame. You chose to leave fashion behind. 
    I was questioning this idea of happiness coming with the next purchase. I knew it wasn’t true, yet I was working in a world where that was the promise. That was a paradox.
    Listen to Her (1986, New York). Photo: © David LaChapelle, courtesy of Fotografiska New York.
    So much about your work is showing different versions and definitions of beauty. I was surprised that at the root of so much of your work was a rumination of death.
    I don’t fear death, but I have been aware of it for a long time. I feared it a lot when I was a kid. My first boyfriend died of AIDS when I was 21. I didn’t go to a doctor for 15 years. Then, I had experiences that really lead me to believe that there is life after death.
    I know that there’s something more than the material plane. I’m not afraid of death anymore. I want to live—as best I can and do the best pictures I can, because art does mean something. Images do mean something. And this was what I knew I was gonna do since I was a little kid. I was gonna be an artist.
    I didn’t know I was gonna be a photographer, but I knew I was gonna be an artist. That’s been a calling, and I want to make pictures that mean something, not just look good.
    “Make Believe” is now on view at Fotografiska New York, 281 Park Avenue South. Admission is $20-$30. Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m.

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