In May, Picasso’s 1955 painting “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” sold at Christie’s in New York to an as-yet-unidentified telephone bidder for $179.4 million, a high for any artwork at auction. Led by that sale, Christie’s became the first auction house to sell more than$1 billion worth of art in a week, with a double bill that included 20th-century masterworks on one night and a selection of big-name contemporary pieces the next. Many of them were secured by the company’s policy of courting owners of valuable artworks with hefty guarantees and no commission fees.
Water and rock have a complex relationship. That becomes clear immediately upon entering “Museum of Stones,” an exhibition at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City. Imagine a wave crashing on a jagged cliff, sending spray into the air in fleeting, elaborate formations. “You take a snapshot, and rock is the sculptor, and water is the material,” said Dakin Hart, senior curator at the museum. “But over the long term, of course, water wins.”
Ellsworth Kelly, one of America’s great 20th-century abstract artists, who in the years after World War II shaped a distinctive style of American painting by combining the solid shapes and brilliant colors of European abstraction with forms distilled from everyday life, died on Sunday at his home in Spencertown, N.Y. He was 92. His death was announced by Matthew Marks of the Matthew Marks Gallery in Manhattan.
British artist Martin Creed’s short-lived but much loved installation titledWork No. 2592 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise on New York’s Lower East Side is open until Saturday, and people cannot seem to get enough of the bright-red balloons that half-fill the space at 291 Grand Street.
This show coincided with prospects of a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, and mixed-signals politics played a role in the event itself. When it opened in June, the Cuban-born artist Tania Bruguera was under the equivalent of house arrest in Havana for trying to do a performance piece that invited people to speak freely at an open microphone in Revolution Square. During the Biennial itself, another Cuban-born artist, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, working with a group of her American students, quietly presented Cubans with a similar opportunity to express themselves by writing in notebooks on questions about current events, including whether art could contribute to cross-cultural conversations. The focused and passionate responses of the writers said yes. There was no government interference.
Christopher Rothko doesn’t look much like his father, the painter Mark Rothko, who took his own life when his son was 6. The father was rotund and jowly, with a high bald pate and a world-weary demeanor (at least inthe best-known portraits.) The son, now 52, is lean and reedy, with a head of just-graying hair and a ready smile.
Ai Weiwei has finally unveiled his hotly anticipated Letgo Room (2015), made with Lego blocks donated from all over the world, and it turns out the piece celebrates Australian political activists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
One of the most loyal visitors to the Frank Stella show at the Whitney Museum of American Art is Frank Stella. The 79-year-old painter estimates he stops by the galleries two or three times a week, occasionally chiming in to correct assumptions about his work, posing for pictures with fans or observing strangers from under the brim of his orange baseball cap.
At a 1961 exhibition in Rome, the public was so disturbed by the sensuous physicality of the paintings of Alberto Burri (1915-1995) that the Department of Public Health was called in to make sure it was safe. What disturbed viewers in the 1950s and 1960s was Burri’s rough assemblage on canvas of what must have seemed like trash—burlap sacks, paint that appeared to be cracking up and deteriorating in front of your eyes, melted plastic over slashed and torn canvas. It didn’t look like art at all. Emily Braun, curator of “Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting,” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum through Jan. 6, 2016, writes in the catalog that “From his early exhibitions Burri was labeled the artist of wounds” because of the “actual gashes and tears right in the fabric of the picture.”
Inside the rain-battered tents of last week’s Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, there were bears made from feathers, a painting made from shoes and shoelaces, and a stabbing incident involving an X-Acto knife that was not a performance piece. Among these and other, expected curiosities were two architectural prototypes: an aluminum and steel dining pavilion designed by Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher, which sprouted like a kind of Martian flower over a molded timber table and chairs, and a 350-square-foot white box sheathed in laminated plywood designed by Gluckman Tang as an art pavilion. (It would certainly make an appropriate container to house one’s art fair purchases once home.)