200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 3, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum explores art and Black Power in the November edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Antoine Drye, Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe, and the Brooklyn Dance Festival; an Art & Dialogue discussion with curators Valerie Cassel Oliver and Catherine Morris; a hands-on workshop in which participants can create miniature paintings inspired by jazz and the work of Alma Thomas, William T. Williams, and others; a curator tour of “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” with Ashley James; original poetry and music by Jaime Lee Lewis, Jennifer Falu, Joekenneth Museau, Asante Amin, Frank Malloy, and Terry Lovette in addition to excerpts from the 1968 collection Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing; pop-up poetry with Sean DesVignes, Joel Dias-Porter, and Omotara James of Cave Canem; an “Archives as Raw History” tour with archivist Molly Seegers; and the community talk “Black Art Futures Fund.” In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” “Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart,” “One: Do Ho Suh,” “Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu,” “Rob Wynne: FLOAT,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.
For many years I’ve marveled at Tony Oursler’s unique and fantastical installations, living narratives in which people’s faces and bodies are projected onto sculptural works, either life-size versions of their bodies, miniature tableaux, or more abstract objects. The New York City native, who grew up on the banks of the Hudson River in Nyack, has now expanded his repertoire with “Tear of the Cloud,” a large-scale multimedia work on and around the landmarked 69th Street Transfer Bridge (Gantry), formerly a dock for car floats for the New York Central Railroad. (Previously, Oursler’s “The Influence Machine” took over Madison Square Park in 2000, in which he created a kind of giant séance; both that and “Tear of the Cloud” are Public Art Fund projects.) From seven to ten o’clock every night but Monday through Halloween, Oursler beams images onto the front and sides of the dock, on the base of the elevated West Side Highway, on a weeping willow tree, and onto the surface of the water itself. The visuals are supplemented by audio tracks of music, stories, and dialogue about the history of the area, dating from Lenape times and the Oneida community to the tech-heavy present and future.
Oursler incorporates a vast range of people, places, and things into the work, focusing on modes of communication, historical figures, and seminal eureka moments, including Samuel F. B. Morse painting his daughter for “Susan Walker Morse (The Muse),” hollow-face illusions, artificial intelligence bots, Haverstraw bricks used in city construction, IBM’s Deep Blue, the color guard, the Great West Point Chain, Thomas Edison’s Black Maria movie studio, the Headless Horseman, the Jacquard loom, molecular recorders, the telegraph, PCBs, Morse code, Indian Point, the Manhattan Project, Jimi Hendrix, Timothy Leary, LSD, Woodstock, Franz Mesmer, a viking-like Millerite, punch cards, actress and feminist Pearl White from The Perils of Pauline, the talking drum, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the official seal of the City of New York, and Mary Rogers being fished out of the water after being murdered in Sibyl’s Cave in New Jersey, which inspired Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.” Among the more than two dozen performers making appearances are costume and prop designer Enver Chakartash, assistant editor Jack Colton, Grandmaster Flash, Spencer Davis, Constance Dejong, Jim Fletcher, Holly Stanton, Jason Scott Henderson, animator Sakshi Jain, Kate Valk, and soundtrack composers MV Carbon, Corey Riddell, Idrissa Kone, and Oursler himself in addition to the Manhattan Project Chorus and the New Red Order collective.
One of the finest and most influential experimental artists of the last four decades, Oursler is not about to make it simple for viewers to figure out exactly what is happening. As you walk all around the area — make sure to go down the pier and to look and listen in all directions — you’ll take in abstract audio and visuals that might not form a complete narrative but are instead like the many tributaries that ultimately feed into the enormous Hudson River. Fortunately, the official website features a well-annotated glossary as well as a map identifying all of the figures and scenes. Oursler refers to the installation as a “visual palimpsest, depicting the layering of information associated with unforeseen legacies of the waterway [inspired by] the mnemonic effect of the river and the many intertwined tropes associated with the Hudson Valley region.” Oursler named the work after Lake Tear of the Clouds in Essex County, which is the highest source of the Hudson; the title of the work (the first word of which can be read as either teer or tayr) also evokes digital storage, acid rain, climate change, and even the “Keep America Beautiful” commercial in which an actor portraying a Native American sheds a lone tear after seeing how we shamelessly pollute the Earth. However, as Oursler makes clear in a long, projected, hard-to-read text, he is acknowledging what has been done to the environment but going far beyond merely apologizing. There are only two more nights to catch this fab installation; be sure to allow at least an hour in order to properly absorb its many facets.
On October 4, a framed painting titled “Girl with Balloon” by British street artist and provocateur Banksy began shredding itself upon being sold for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction, shocking and delighting the art world. Was Banksy, whose very name evokes cold, hard cash, making a sly comment on the art market, on auctions, on the intrinsic value of a work of art? In the immediate aftermath, there was general confusion about just what the buyer had purchased and whether she had to keep it at all. In many ways that stunt exemplifies what Nathaniel Kahn’s highly artistic documentary, The Price of Everything, is all about. Kahn, who was nominated for Oscars for his 2003 film, My Architect: A Son’s Journey, which explored the legacy of his father, Louis Kahn, and his 2006 short, Two Hands, about pianist Leon Fleisher, this time trains his camera on the volatile global art market. “Art and money have always gone hand in hand,” superstar auctioneer Simon de Pury says. “It’s very important for good art to be expensive. You only protect things that are valuable. If something has no financial value, people don’t care. They will not give it the necessary protection. The only way to make sure that cultural artifacts survive is for them to have a commercial value.”
Traveling to art fairs, galleries, museums, and studios, Kahn gets a wide range of opinions on the subject, from such art-world denizens as Amy Cappellazzo of Sotheby’s, who savors the chase and the deal and has her own definition of “money shot”; collectors Inga Rubenstein, Holly Peterson, and, primarily, husband-and-wife Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, with Edlis getting a lot of screen time showing off his vast collection and discussing various pieces and artists in detail (“There are a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” Edlis says. “The art world is capricious.”); curators Paul Schimmel and Connie Butler; art historians Alexander Nemerov, who talks about the “pricelessness” of Old Master paintings at the Frick, and Barbara Rose, who compares art on the auction block to pieces of meat; gallerists Mary Boone, Jeffrey Deitch, and Gavin Brown (who sees art and money as Siamese twins); and ever-philosophical and acerbic New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, who laments the prospect of great works of art being sold to private collectors, perhaps never again to be seen by the public.
Kahn also speaks with numerous artists who give their own views on what constitutes value, including Jeff Koons, who is in his busy studio, where his large team is creating his Gazing Ball series, intricate copies of classic canvases, each adorned with a reflective blue ball; octogenarian Larry Poons, who is working on dazzling paintings at his home in the woods of Upstate New York; Gerhard Richter at the opening of his exquisite 2016 painting and drawing show at Marian Goodman Gallery, explaining, “Money is dirty”; Njideka Akunyili Crosby, the rising Nigerian-born, LA-based artist who works in photo-collage and reaching new levels of success; critical and popular favorite George Condo, who exuberantly puts the finishing touches on a painting; and photorealist painter Marilyn Minter, known for her glittery pieces.
Kahn is building up to the hotly anticipated Sotheby’s auction “The Triumph of Painting: The Steven & Ann Ames Collection,” where each of the above artists has a work for sale, although they will not be profiting from it since they don’t own the pieces. There’s terrific archival footage of the 1973 Scull auction, which changed the art world forever, where Robert Rauschenberg approaches Robert Scull after a work of his just sold for an exorbitant price and Scull embraces the artist, claiming that it was good for both of them, even though Scull is the one who pockets the cash. Kahn is ever-present in the documentary, never seen but often heard asking questions, trying to get to the bottom of the beguiling relationship between art and money in the twenty-first century, concluding with a beautiful Michael Snow–like shot that in many ways sums it all up. An HBO Documentary Films presentation, The Price of Everything opens at the Quad on October 19, with Q&As and introductions featuring Kahn, producers Jennifer Stockman, Debi Wisch, and Carla Solomon, and editor Sabine Krayenbühl taking place at select screenings through October 25. Let’s leave it to Poons to have the last word: “There are no rules about what is going to be good and what is gonna be bad. Art doesn’t give a shit. It never has.”
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts and other NYU locations
566 La Guardia Pl. between Third & Fourth Sts.
October 17-28, free with advance RSVP
This past May, Karl Marx would have turned two hundred years old. The NYU Skirball Center is celebrating his bicentennial with twelve days of special free programming honoring the man who wrote, “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” Audiences can also determine if they want to contribute to the performances based on supply and demand and their own consciousness; the events are all free with advance RSVP but donations are welcome. The “Karl Marx Festival: On Your Marx” begins October 17 at 7:30 with London-based Bulgarian performance artist Ivo Dimchev’s one-hour show, P Project, in which people from the audience will get paid by agreeing to do spur-of-the-moment things involving words that begin with the letter “P.” For example, Dimchev will present them with tasks that might involve such words as Piano, Pray, Pussy, Poetry, Poppers, etc. On October 18 at 6:00, NYU professors Erin Gray, Arun Kundnani, Michael Ralph, and Nikhil Singh will discuss “Racial Capitalism” at the Tamiment Library. On October 19 at 9:30, DJs AndrewAndrew will spin Marxist discs along with readings by special guests from Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.
On October 19 and 20 at 7:30, Brooklyn-based Uruguayan dancer and choreographer luciana achugar will present the world premiere of Brujx, which explores ideas of labor. On October 22 at 6:30, Slavoj Žižek will deliver the Skirball Talks lecture “The Fate of the Commons: A Trotskyite View.” On October 23 at 5:30, NYU professors Lisa Daily, Dean Saranillio, and Jerome Whitington will discuss “Futurity & Consumption” at the Department of Social & Cultural Analysis. On October 24 at 4:00, author Sarah Rose will talk about her 2017 book, No Right to Be Idle at the eighth floor commons at 239 Greene St. On October 25 at 5:30, luciana achugar, Julie Tolentino, and Amin Husain will join for the conversation “Labor, Aesthetics, Identity” at the Department of Performance Studies. On October 26 at 7:30, Malik Gaines, Miguel Gutierrez, Latasha N. Nevada Diggs, Ryan McNamara, Seung-Min Lee, and Alison Kizu-Blair will stage “Courtesy the Artists: Popular Revolt,” a live-sourced multimedia work directed by Alexandro Segade and Amy Ruhl. The festival concludes October 28 at 5:00 with Ethan Philbrick’s Choral Marx, a singing adaptation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s Manifesto for the Communist Party, performed by Benjamin Bath, Gelsey Bell, Sarah Chihaya, Hai-ting Chinn, Tomás Cruz, Amirtha Kidambi, Brian McQueen, Gizelxanath Rodriguez, and Ryan Tracy.
For a year, Dale Chihuly’s “Rose Crystal Tower” has stood tall on the median by the southeast corner of Union Square Park, but it’s set to come down October 5. Presented by NYC Parks, the Union Square Partnership, and the Marlborough Gallery, the thirty-one-foot-high sculpture, made of Polyvitro crystals and steel, is part of the fiftieth anniversary of the Art in the Parks program. The seventy-seven-year-old, internationally renowned, Tacoma-born Chihuly has been working with glass since the late 1960s; oddly, he was blinded in his left eye by glass in a car accident in 1976. “New York City’s energy, architecture, and rich creative history is formidable and it continues to offer infinite inspiration for artists,” Chihuly, whose “CHIHULY” exhibition was on view last year at the New York Botanical Garden, said in a statement.
You don’t have to be a clothing aficionado or a Catholic to be awed by the Met’s spectacular exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” There’s a good reason why it has become the institution’s third most popular show ever (after the 1963 presentation of the Mona Lisa and the 1978 blockbuster “Treasures of Tutankhamun”), welcoming more than a million visitors: It’s a sensational display, superbly organized by Andrew Bolton. Continuing through October 8, “Heavenly Bodies” is spread across the Met Fifth Ave., in the medieval galleries, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, the Robert Lehman Wing, and the Anna Wintour Costume Center, as well as the Met Cloisters, totaling more than sixty thousand square feet. Mannequins dressed in jaw-dropping outfits line hallways, gather on pedestals, appear in surprising places, and interact with installations, revealing the influence Catholicism and art have had on fashion, and vice versa.
“Some practicing Catholics might perceive certain fashions shown as indelicate or even offensive, either for their retrograde and reactionary associations (by the liberal left) or for their sacrilegious and blasphemous implications (by the conservative right),” Bolton writes in his catalog introduction. “Similarly, there might be concerns on the part of Catholics and non-Catholics alike that fashion is an unfitting and unseemly medium by which to convey ideas or reflect imagery related to the sacred and the divine. Dress, however, is central to any discussion about religion: it affirms religious allegiances and, by extension, asserts religious differences.”
At the Met Fifth Ave., a row of colorful dresses refers to the ecclesiastical fashion show from Federico Fellini’s Roma. Hierarchical clothing and habits appear in front of medieval tapestries. Thierry Mugler’s tenth-anniversary collection, “The Winter of the Angels,” consists of celestial figures, while Jeanne Lanvin’s dresses are inspired by Fra Angelico paintings. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s “ex-Voto” evening ensemble is paired with Byzantine copper panels depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. An evening dress by Gianni Versace has a bold cross running down the entire front, inspired by a Byzantine processional cross he saw at the Met. A haunting choir row in robes by Cristóbal Balenciaga stands high above. John Galliano’s evening ensemble for the House of Dior looks like it could be worn by Jeremy Irons as the pope in The Borgias. In the Costume Institute, actual papal finery is on display, real items worn by religious leaders, shown in vitrines but not on mannequins.
At the Cloisters, there are several tableaux in which a figure is placed in such a way as to create a narrative, most effectively with a woman seen primarily from the back in a wedding dress by Balenciaga as she waits alone in the Fuentidueña Chapel while “Ave Maria” plays on a loop, along with another wedding dress, by Marc Bohan for the House of Dior, worn by a woman in the Langon Chapel. The Garden of Eden is re-created in the Glass Gallery with garments by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, Raf Simons for Christian Dior, and Jun Takahashi that include direct references to such famous works as Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Thom Brown incorporates the Met’s famous Unicorn Tapestries into a wedding dress in that room. Chiuri and Piccioli’s daring red dress in the Merode Room is based on the virgin in “The Annunciation Triptych” (and is echoed in a small stained-glass image of Jesus behind it), on view nearby. Galliano’s stunning black gown for Dior in the Gothic Chapel mimics the crypts and armor surrounding it. Gaultier’s “Guadalupe” boasts a knife plunged through a dripping heart. Classical music echoes in each hall and gallery.
Another star of the show is Shay Ashual, who created the remarkable wigs and hairstyles on the mannequins, artworks in their own right that bring an unusual and engaging aspect to the wide-ranging couture. In his catalog essay, “A Vision of Beauty: Fashioning Heaven on Earth,” C. Griffith Mann writes, “Beauty and its role in visualizing the holy was a fundamental preoccupation of medieval thinkers, artists, and patrons.” As “Heavenly Bodies” so lovingly and intelligently demonstrates, the same is still true today, so make your pilgrimage before it’s too late.