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    ‘They’re Just Really, Really Absurd’: Watch Sculptor Jes Fan Make Art With Testosterone and Melanin to Challenge Our Assumptions About Identity

    Jes Fan’s media of choice might make other people squirm. Instead of paint or clay, Fan makes art with E. coli, semen, melanin, testosterone, blood, and urine.
    After developing some of these culturally loaded materials in a lab with the help of scientists, Fan transforms them into sculptures with glossy finishes and near-erotic shapes. The result walks the line between beauty, absurdity, and the grotesque. And for Fan, that’s the point.
    “A lot what I’m trying to do with what we consider as gendered materials, or racialized materials, they’re just really, really absurd,” the artist said in a 2020 interview for Art21’s “New York Close Up” series. “I was thinking a lot about how race, especially in the U.S., is seen as infectious. Think about China and coronavirus. Think about SARS and being in Hong Kong. And think about Jim Crow era, not sharing bodies of water. That idea of it being infected.”
    Production still from the Art21 “New York Close Up” film, “Jes Fan: Infectious Beauty.” © Art21, Inc. 2020.
    By injecting decaying biological matter into smooth, bulbous forms, Fan hopes to challenge viewers to examine closely held assumptions about what our culture values and what it rejects. “That eroticness seduces you,” Fan says. “It’s beauty in the gloss, and the possibility to see your own reflection in it. At the same time, you’re actually staring at something that repulses you, that actually is considered infectious or unclean.”
    The artist, who was born in Canada, raised in Hong Kong, and now lives in Brooklyn, tackles these same themes in a video included in the New Museum Triennial, “Soft Water Hard Stone,” on view at the New York museum through January 23, 2022. Xenophoria (2018–20) chronicles Fan’s pursuit of eumelanin pigment, the molecule responsible for skin color.
    As Fan dissects squid, harvests fungi, and locates moles in the film, the artist underscores the absurdity of the fetishization of a molecule that has caused centuries of racial discrimination, showing how it exists within all of us.
    Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s New York Close Up series, below. “Soft Water Hard Stone” is on view at the New Museum in New York through January 23, 2022. 
    [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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    ‘Love, Friendship, and Unashamed Social Climbing’: A New Show Reveals the Story Behind Fabergé’s Opulent Egg-Making Atelier

    Easter is coming early this year, thanks to an exhibition that just opened at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), dedicated to the Russian goldsmith Carl Fabergé and his iconic eggs. After an extensive tour, the show is touching down in London, where the largest collection of the Imperial Easter Eggs will be on display, many for the first time in the U.K. The show also has a a section dedicated to the little-known branch of Fabergé’s firm that was located in London, and catered to a sophisticated and elite swathe of Edwardian society.
    “The story of Carl Fabergé, the legendary Russian Imperial goldsmith, is one of supreme luxury and unsurpassed craftsmanship,” exhibition curators Kieran McCarthy and Hanne Faurby said in a statement. Through the opulent creations he created, the curators added, the show “explores timeless stories of love, friendship and unashamed social climbing.”
    Fabergé’s premises at 173 New Bond Street in 1911. Image Courtesy ofThe Fersman Mineralogical Museum, Moscow and Wartski, London
    With more than 200 objects on display, the show focuses on the man behind the jewelry brand, its almost synonymous association with Russian elegance and the Imperial family, and the Anglo-Russian bond forged in part by Fabergé works. The Romanovs, Russia’s ruling family, were important patrons of Fabergé, and helped cement his role in high society as the official goldsmith to the Imperial court. His custom-made gifts, made from crystal, gold, rose-cut diamonds, often incorporated miniature portraits of family members and were exchanged between relatives.
    The second part of the exhibition explores how Fabergé succeeded his father at the family firm and helped catapult it to new heights, by fostering an atmosphere of creativity and unparalleled craftsmanship. Ultimately, the firm that had once catered to the likes of Russia’s Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as England’s King Edward VII, King George V, Queen Mary, and Queen Victoria, was forced to pivot to aiding the war effort when Russia entered World War I in 1914, when it began to supply munitions instead of miniature treasures.
    Although it ceased production, the legacy of Fabergé has endured, and will surely continue to fascinate visitors as they discover the history behind the design house.
    Below, see highlights from the exhibition, on view through May 2, 2022. 
    Romanov Tercentenary Egg, Fabergé. Chief Workmaster Henrik Wigström (1913) Photo: © The Moscow Kremlin Museums.
    The Moscow Kremlin Egg, Fabergé (1906). Photo: © The Moscow Kremlin Museums. Courtesy of the V&A.
    The Alexander Palace Egg, Fabergé. Chief Workmaster Henrik Wigström (1908). Photo: © The Moscow Kremlin Museums. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Hen Egg (1884-85). Courtesy of the V&A.
    Mosaic Egg (1913-14). Courtesy of the V&A.
    Basket of Flowers Egg (1901). Courtesy of the V&A.
    Colonnade Egg (1909-10). Courtesy of the V&A.
    Red Cross with Triptych Egg, (1914-15). Courtesy of the V&A.
    The Diamond Trellis Egg (1891–92). Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
    Installation view, “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” at the V&A. Courtesy of the V&A.
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    To Combat a Rising Tide of Islamophobia in France, the Government Has Organized 18 Islamic Art Exhibitions Nationwide

    Turning to the unifying power of art, the French government is rolling out a cluster of simultaneous exhibitions about Islamic art and culture as part of a wider effort to combat a rise in Islamophobic sentiment within the country. The exhibitions, which opened in 18 French cities this week and will run for four months, aim to showcase the diversity of Islamic culture.
    Titled “Islamic Arts: A Past for a Present,” the government initiative is being organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, and led by the head of the Louvre’s Islamic art department, Yannick Lintz.  Some 210 works borrowed from national and regional museums are on view, including 60 masterpieces loaned from the Louvre.
    “Curating Islamic art today means also dealing with Islamism, and Islamophobia,” Lintz told Artnet News. “It’s not just a French problem, but it’s a reality for every curator and director of Islamic art now in museums.” 
    Lintz added that after the September 11 attacks in New York, the recent terrorist attacks in France, and the war unfolding in Syria, the word Islam often conjures up associations with violence and terrorism. “I think that it’s important, as curators specialized in Islamic civilization and Islamic art, to give another message about what is the historical reality of Islam, through 13 centuries of art, civilization, and intellectual life.” More

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    A Tech Company Plans to Bring a ‘Definitive Immersive Experience’ of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to London and Washington, D.C.

    An immersive experience about the legacy of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is opening in London and Washington, D.C. in Spring 2022. Titled “Mexican Geniuses: A Frida & Diego Immersive Experience,” the exhibition aims to present the “definitive immersive experience of the two most iconic personalities of Mexican art.”
    Created by tech firm Brain Hunter co., “Mexican Geniuses” will present digital projections of some 300 images by and of the famous artist couple around the exhibition spaces, which are yet to be revealed.
    “This unique and mesmerizing digital exhibition transmits all the beauty, emotion and transcendence of Frida and Diego’s works, which continue to make an impact even today,” a statement on the booking website claims. “Discover what lies behind the minds of the two revolutionary Mexican painters as you walk through their art: see their world, their life, their dreams, and everything that influenced them, surrounding you in a flurry of sound and color.”
    Full details and the locations of the exhibitions in both London and D.C. are yet to be disclosed but organizers have revealed that the experience will last between 60 and 75 minutes. Tickets for Spring costing from $19.00 in DC and £24.90 in London are available to purchase on their website.

    In addition to experiencing Kahlo and Rivera’s art, the organizers say that visitors will also have the option to step into the streets of Mexico City that inspired them. Through a VR headset visitors will be able to walk the streets of this world-famous city with input from experts, academics and guides. Access for this will be inclusive of VIP tickets or can be purchased separately from standard access.
    “Mexican Geniuses” is not to be confused with “Frida,” another immersive experience that was organized by the multimedia events company Cocolab in Mexico City in July, which included seven-meter-high projections of her self-portraits as well as imagery of her letters and other interactive elements.
    The experience is the latest in a line of multimedia experiences of famous artists’ work, which have proven extremely popular among the public. “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” has found particular success and it, as well as other similar experiences are currently running in several cities around the world including London and Los Angeles. While some art aficionados have been critical of their intellectual depth as well as hefty price tags, if done well, they present an interesting opportunity to engage new audiences with art history. Artnet News reached out to confirm whether “Mexican Geniuses” had the Kahlo family’s stamp of approval but did not immediately hear back.
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    In Pictures: Artist Kenzo Digital’s New, Multilevel Installation Atop a New York City Skyscraper Has to Be Seen to Be Believed

    Brooklyn artist Kenzo Digital has transformed the heart of Midtown Manhattan into infinite artwork in the sky in Air, his new, permanent art installation at Summit One Vanderbilt, the Snøhetta-designed top three floors of the 93-story skyscraper that opened next to Grand Central Station last September.
    A reflective chamber of light and glass in which nearly every surface becomes another vantage on New York City, Air has to be seen to be believed, an observation deck that doubles as an immersive work of art. Altogether, there are 25,000 square feet of mirrors.
    “Even if I wanted to describe what you’re about to walk into in words, language is a bit limiting,” Kenzo warned Artnet News at ground level, before our visit began.
    The experience begins in the darkened hallway approaching the elevators, which are completely mirrored, with a dramatic light and sound show (titled “Launch”) marking the ascent to the 91st floor.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    From there, visitors walk down a curving white hallway bathed in shifting colored light and into the mirrored abyss, the city streets and skyline suspended in front, above, and beneath you, into infinity, reflected over and over again. (Guests are advised to wear pants or opaque tights, but complimentary black shorts are available on request.)
    “You have Central Park, where New Yorkers can escape the city, and I think of this almost as a Central Park in the sky—it’s a surrealist nature experience that can only happen in New York,” Kenzo said. “I think of it as a modern monument that represents the future of the city.”
    The view is stunning, especially as you’re staring down at the Chrysler Building, or watching the lights of the Empire State Building flicker on as twilight settles over Manhattan. Pro tip: lie down on the floor and stare up into the endless ceiling, contemplating existence.
    Kenzo Digital, Air “Affinity” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    “Living in New York, you’re so cut off from nature. In the shadows of the buildings, you never see the sun. Here, you get reacquainted with the nature that you live amongst,” Kenzo added. “I’ve seen storm systems blow in from New Jersey. You’ll watch this dark cloud of thunder approaching from the west, and you look down at the streets of Manhattan, and everyone is oblivious to what’s about to happen. As the storm begins to hit, you start to see the city as a real organism, reacting to the weather. You see fewer people outside, you see umbrellas, traffic moves differently in relation to the wet streets.”
    As such, Air is a work in constant flux, changing in response to the light and weather. A soundtrack from sound designer Joseph Fraioli, who has worked with director Christopher Nolan on such films as Tenet, is carefully synced to the time of day, adding to the effect.
    Air will also evolve over time, both in response to the city’s never-ending development, and by the artist’s design—Kenzo has five years’ worth of versions of the shifting light show that begins each day at sundown, the twinkling lights cascading through the never-ending layers of the mirrored chamber.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    “It has a life of its own,” Kenzo said. “I wanted to create a space that has a deeply emotional relationship with human beings over time.”
    The 41-year-old artist, who also serves as the creative director of the estate of Nam June Paik (his great-uncle), spent three and a half years on the project, which opened last month. Most of the on-site work took place during lockdown, when the bustling Midtown neighborhood was eerily empty.
    “I spent most of 2020 in a gas mask in abandoned New York. It was like living in a sci-fi movie,” Kenzo said.
    Yayoi Kusama’s Clouds on view in Kenzo Digital’s Air at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo by Sarah Cascone.
    Air‘s spaces are divided into “chapters,” and the main space “Transcendence,” constitutes the first and third. It spans two floors, with a balcony overlooking the mirrored space where you enter.
    Chapter two, “Affinity,” is a smaller mirrored space filled with round silver Mylar balloons that swirl around the room in constant motion, recalling Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds. Chapter four, “Unity,” is a massive, 47-foot-wide video screen that transports viewers into the clouds. (Kenzo is known for his digital art, such as the video background he created for Beyoncé’s Billboard Awards performance in 2011.)
    “This screen is the newest Samsung micro LED technology—this wasn’t possible a year ago,” Kenzo said. “It’s a constantly generative cloudscape that integrates the faces of visitors.”
    Kenzo Digital, Air, at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo by Sarah Cascone.
    There’s also an art gallery, in which Kenzo is curating presentations of the work of other artists. His first selection is Yayoi Kusama’s Clouds (2019), roughly 100 mirror-finished, stainless-steel blobs that spill across the floor, continuing the reflective theme. (It was acquired by the building from David Zwirner Gallery.)
    In addition, guests will want to step out onto the ledge of Levitation, a glass box that projects over over the building, so you can stare down at the street below. (It’s not part of the art, but it’s pretty cool.)
    Tickets start at $39 for adults, with $10 surcharge for sunset visits. For an extra $20, you can also experience Ascent, a glass elevator perched on the building’s exterior up even higher, suspending you over 1,200 feet in the air. (New York City residents get a $5 discount on admission.)
    See more photos below.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Affinity,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Affinity,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Affinity,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Kenzo Digital, Air, “Transcendence,” at Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of the artist and Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of Summit One Vanderbilt.
    Summit One Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of Summit One Vanderbilt.

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    In Pictures: See the Sharp, City-Spanning Art From the Long-Awaited Return of the Prospect New Orleans Triennial

    The title of Prospect.5 New Orleans, this year’s long-awaited return of the city-spanning triennial art event, is “Yesterday We Said Tomorrow.” That’s a riff on a song title from local jazz star Christian Scott—but the suggestion of both promise and delay has proven prophetic, unfortunately so.
    Curated by Naima J. Keith and Diana Nawi, Prospect.5 has been pushed back multiple times, first by the global pandemic (it was originally set for 2020) and then by the catastrophe of Hurricane Ida earlier this year. Nevertheless, the curators and the team behind the triennial have pressed on, settling on a phased opening that has now delivered most of the show to the city.
    Some of “Yesterday We Said Tomorrow” still remains in the realm of promises, including, according to the program, planned projects by E.J. Hill and Tiona Nekkia McClodden, both set to open in coming days, and a sculpture by art star Simone Leigh, which won’t go up until early January.
    But the show’s key hubs, which include the Contemporary Art Center and the Newcomb Art Museum, are fully alive with artworks. Prospect has always made an effort to implant art in venues throughout New Orleans, and this edition is no exception. Even in its incomplete state, there are enough one-off artist projects and smaller shows to make it difficult to take everything in all in one go.
    Even if it I can’t provide the full picture just yet, here’s a sampling of images to give a sense of some of what Keith and Nawi’s vision looks like.

    Contemporary Art Center (CAC)
    The Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Curator Diana Nawi explains Mark Bradford, Crates of Mallus (2020–21) at the Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Jamal Cyrus. Photo by Ben Davis.
    ektor garcia, ppportales mariposas (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Hương Ngô. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Hương Ngô. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Detail of Eric-Paul Riege, + (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Beaded curtain by Cosmo Whyte. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Cosmo Whyte. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Film by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Carlos Villa, First Coat (1977). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Laura Aguilar and Felipe Baeza. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Felipe Baeza, You have to save eery piece of flesh and give it a name and bury it near the roots of a tree so that the world won’t fall apart around you (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Keni Anwar, Untitled (i am…) (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Kiki Smith and Karon Davis. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Karon Davis, Mary (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Kiki Smith, Skymap (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Sky Hopinka, The Island Weights (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Dave McKenzie, 831-195-G Hope (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.

    Ogden Museum of Southern Art
    Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Don’t You See That I Am Burning (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of “Yesterday We Said Tomorrow” at the Ogden Museum. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Beverly Buchanan, White Shacks (1987). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Willie Birch, View Inside Studio with Self Portrait (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Tau Lewis, God Is King (2021) and Tree of God (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Two paintings by Jennifer Packer. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Three works by Welmon Sharlhorne. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Katrina Andry, Nouveau Noir. Testing Their Comfort Discovering Our Worth (2020) and None More Possessed With Feminine Beauty Than Snow(ish) White (2020). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Display from “Called to Spirit: Women and Healing Arts in New Orleans,” curated by Rachel Breunlin and Bruce Sunpie Barnes as part of Prospect New Orleans. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Display from “Called to Spirit: Women and Healing Arts in New Orleans,” curated by Rachel Breunlin and Bruce Sunpie Barnes as part of Prospect New Orleans. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Project by Glenn Ligon. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Project by Glenn Ligon. Photo by Ben Davis.

    Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University
    Barbara Chase-Riboud, Mao’s Organ (2007). Photo by Ben Davis.
    A guest looks at Mimi Lauter, Untitled (2018). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Mimi Lauter. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Two works from Barbara Chase-Riboud’s “Malcolm X” series. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Barbara Chase-Riboud, Mandela Monument, Capetown (1996). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Elliott Hundley, The Balcony (2020–21). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Detail of Elliott Hundley, The Balcony (2020–21). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works from Elliott Hundley’s “Antennae” series. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Works by Naudline Pierre and Ron Bechet. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Naudline Pierre, Don’t You Let Me Down, Don’t You Let Me Go (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Amistad Research Center
    Visitors view Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Future Forms (2021), an archive related to Nkombo, a Black literary magazine published between 1968 and 1974. Photo by Ben Davis.
    The final issue of Nkombo. Photo by Ben Davis.

    UNO Gallery
    Battleground Beacon by Nari Ward. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation by Candice Lin. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation by Jamilah Sabur. Photo by Ben Davis.

    3162 Dauphine Street
    Outside 3162 Dauphine Street. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Installation view of Sharon Hayes at 3162 Dauphine Street. Photo by Ben Davis.

    Happyland Theater
    Rodney McMillian at the Happyland Theater. Photo by Ben Davis.

    New Orleans African American Art Museum (NOAAM)
    Outside the New Orleans African American Museum. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Paul Stephen Benjamin, Sanctuary (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Spirit (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
    Dineo Seshee Bopape, Master Harmonizer (lle aya, moya, la ndokh) (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.

    Capdevielle Place Street
    Anastasia Pelias, It was my pleasure (2021). Photo by Ben Davis.
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    5 Institutions to Visit During Shanghai Art Week, Where Museum Shows of Western Contemporary Art Reflect Regional Demand

    Shanghai Art Week returns this year with yet another edition focused a domestic audience rather than those coming from abroad due to stringent Covid-19 travel restrictions. But this does not mean that the art on show is primarily domestic.
    While foreigners may still have trouble with setting foot in China, (some) art does not. Between the works on offer at gallery booths at the two art fairs opening this week—West Bund Art & Design and Art021—and the auction houses’ sale previews, art aficionados stuck in the country will be treated to a veritable buffet of art from abroad. Western artists, who have been selling well at auctions in Asia, are also the stars of some of the biggest institutional shows in Shanghai this month. Read on for the highlights.

    Yuz Museum, Shanghai
    Herman Bas, “Choose Your Own Adventure”October 28, 2021–January 9, 2022
    Shara Hughes, “The Bridge”November 6, 2021–January 9, 2022
    Hernan Bas, The Young Man & the Sea (2020). Private collection, Korea. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.
    The Shanghai museum founded by Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur and collector Budi Tek has given the stage to two Americans who are making their solo debuts in mainland China. “Choose Your Own Adventure” is a survey of the career of Miami-born artist Herman Bas over the past two decades, featuring more than 20 paintings and early video installations. Among the highlights are his detailed and alluring figurative paintings. “The Bridge,” meanwhile, is a solo presentation by the Brooklyn-based painter Shara Hughes, with examples of her most recent enigmatic landscapes created during the pandemic featuring in the museum’s Yuz Project Space.

    Long Museum West Bund
    George Condo, “The Picture Gallery”September 26–November 28, 2021
    Pat SteirOctober 23, 2021–January 3, 2022
    Pat Steir, Rainbow Waterfall (2021). © Pat Steir. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.
    Two more solo exhibitions of Western artists can be found at the West Bund branch of Long Museum, founded by mega-collector couple Liu Yiqian and his wife, Wang Wei. Billed as the largest solo exhibition of George Condo to date, “The Picture Gallery,” curated by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni, is a sizable retrospective of the American artist. The exhibition showcases nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings that reflect Condo’s trajectory from the late 1970s to present. Since the artist introduced in Hong Kong in a selling exhibition at Sotheby’s in 2018, where he was presented side by side with works by Pablo Picasso, Condo has been a cause célèbre in the Asia market.
    The eponymous solo presentation of the American artist Pat Steir, on the other hand, is marketed as the artist’s “love letter to China.” The show is the first in the country to take a deep dive into the artist’s ink-inspired practice over the past four decades and foregrounds her iconic “Waterfall” series paintings, from those that she began creating in the late 1980s to the new, large-scale painting Rainbow Waterfall (2021).
    Longlati Foundation
    Derrick Adams, Amoako Boafo, and Vaughn Spann, “Behind This Wall”
    Tala Madani, “It Was as if the Shadows Were Lit Up”November 9, 2021–February 28, 2022

    Cofounded by Singapore investor David Su and Chinese artist Chen Zihao, the Hong Kong-registered Longlati Foundation has chosen a the triumverate of Derrick Adams, Amoako Boafo, and Vaughn Spann—whose works have been popular at auctions in Asia in recent years—to inaugurate its new Shanghai space, which pledges to support young artists. The portraits featured in this group show, drawn from the foundation’s collection, seek to explore and redefine the idea of Blackness. Concurrently, the foundation is presenting the “Corner Projections” painting series by Tehran-born, Los Angeles-based Tala Madani.
    Prada Rong Zhai
    Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, “A Moon Wrapped in Brown Paper”November 11, 2021–January 9, 2022
    Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Dark Side of the Moon (2017). Courtesy of the artists and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
    A historic, circa-1918 residence restored with precision by Prada is the jewel-box setting for a show by the Swedish artist duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg. Staged with the support of Fondazione Prada and curated by Yang Beichen, the exhibition features a range of sculptures and videos made between 2000 and 2019 that take visitors on a journey through an imaginative universe conjured by dark fairy tales. The monstrous characters may seem like they have traveled from a different realm, but, says Yang, the stories have profound connections with the complexity of our contemporary world.
    Shanghai Fosun Foundation 
    Alex Israel, “Freeway”November 10, 2021–February 15, 2022
    A self-portait by Alex Israel in the collection of Derek and Chrsten Wilson. Photo by Eileen Kinsella
    The American artist Alex Israel’s first museum-scale exhibition in China has taken two full years to realize and delivers a vast body of work in a range of media, from paintings and moving images to sculptures, installations, and interviews. Highlights include his “Self-Portrait” and “Sky Backdrop” series. “I hope to invite the Chinese audience into my head,” the artist said in a video about the exhibition. “I hope the exhibition makes you ask questions, makes you feel, think and reflect on our culture.” Following the presentation in Shanghai, the exhibition will travel to Chengdu, where the Fosun Foundation will open a new space next spring.
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    Artist Arthur Jafa Takes an Abstract Turn in His First New Film Since His Golden Lion-Winning Project for the Venice Biennale

    This weekend, a beloved New York art institution came back for one night in a big way. Up on 127th Street, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise reopened its doors for the first time since shuttering in summer 2020 to present the American debut of artist Arthur Jafa’s new film, AGHDRA (2021).
    Though the first floor offered its own excitements—Rirkrit Tiravanija cooked masses of paella for the crowd, followed by a party complete with several dance-offs between artists—the fourth floor of the space was where the magic really happened.
    At this stage in Jafa’s career, any new work is something of an event. This film is his first in three years and follows Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death (2016), which made him a sensation, and The White Album (2018), which won the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. It arrived in New York with little fanfare—and no advance press attention—via an Instagram post on Jafa’s page.
    AGHRDA (2021) significantly slows down the artist’s typical rapid-fire collaged imagery set to a maximal score, instead calling on viewers to lose themselves in one droning horizon. Unlike his previous work, its imagery is entirely computer-generated, not found.
    Jafa’s visual language may have shifted toward the abstract in this piece, but it’s also part of the same conversation he’s been having for years. This time around, he interrogates Afrofuturism as the very matter that creates Earth breaks down, while calling back to the transatlantic slave trade.
    A portion of the new film, then still in progress, was previewed at a MoMA PS1 event in January 2020, and the full version debuted at Jafa’s retrospective at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art this past spring. It is on view in New York until December 5.
    Arthur Jafa, AGHDRA (2021). Photo: Annie Armstrong.
    For a lengthy 85 minutes, AGHDRA will keep you staring directly at the sun. Computer-generated waves emulate the ocean turned black, the texture of which has alchemized into a material that looks like coal or cooled lava. The sun moves through both day and night in a toxic haze.
    The longer you watch, the more you feel your breath constrict. Eventually, the waves periodically rise to block out the sun—not quite providing relief from it, but rather instilling a feeling of dread. Earlier this year, Jafa foreshadowed AGHDRA‘s darker tone to the New York Times, saying, “I’m an undertaker. I don’t do the uplift thing.”
    The film is a notable evolution for Jafa, who has expressed discomfort with the way Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death, a found-media video collage about Black life, was so enthusiastically embraced by white audiences. (“People were getting this eight-minute epiphany,” he explained. “Even when people said, ‘Oh I cried,’ the very cynical part of my brain suspected some kind of arrested empathy with regard to the experience of Black folk.”)
    After the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a coalition of 15 museums looped the film on their websites for an entire weekend, its searing jump-cut clips of Black triumph and injustice flashing across screens in the homes of people around the world.
    Jafa’s follow up, the White Album, brought his raw Internet-surfing style to whiteness, juxtaposing clueless YouTube pundits, a sinister paramilitary type, and even his former dealer Gavin Brown.
    With AGHDRA, Jafa continues to resist easy consumption and easy answers. After 85 minutes of staring into Jafa’s sun, perhaps surface-level fans of his work will walk away with a new understanding of what he has to say. But it’s clear they are no longer, and may have never been, the artist’s primary audience.

    “Arthur Jafa: AGHDRA” is on view at 439 W 127th Street, New York, through December 5.
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