Near and far at the art fairs

IMG_4733 Hiroto Kitigawa
Hiroto Kitigawa, full-size figure of a woman, at Tokyo Gallery + BTAP at Scope.

My best New York moment last weekend didn’t have much to do with the art fairs.

A street vendor, a purveyor of hummus, baklava, and more, whipped out his prayer rug, tenderly brushed it off with his hand, and bent toward Mecca to pray. I didn’t take a picture. It seemed rude.


Across the street from the vendor was the Dinersty Restaurant, selling Chinese food. A pun on Dynasty? The pun was lost in translation, but the intent to pun seemed like a wonderful thing, transcending any linguistic differences we might have.

I had just left the most pleasant and most international of the fairs–Volta–where tout le monde seemed to be francais. The food concession, run by two charming Frenchmen kept running short of supplies. But no one seemed to mind, us included. We ratcheted down our fierceness and took long breaks.

Volta was the fair in which each booth carried only one artist; much better. This was clearly the product of a different cultural mind set, and I’m ready to move abroad now, except with the plummeting dollar, it’s not an auspicious time for such a change.


The art at all the fairs had some international hits–from the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

But as usual, it was follow the money to Asia.

IMG_4565 Yasui Tomotaka


Yasui Tomotaka at Braverman was one of several Japanese sculptors exploring the figure. This full-fashion, almost futuristic beauty was full size perfection, made of lacquered paper. But her arms were nowhere to be seen.

And the figure at the top of the post by Hiroto Kitigawa, at Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, also seems to have some issues in using her arms to do something useful.

IMG_4781 Takaaki Izumi

Takaaki Isumi’s foam figures look classical from one side.

IMG_4778 Takaaki Izumi

But the other side is something else entirely.

IMG_4782 Takaaki Izumi

The body of work also includes bits of unexpected materials looking fragile and juicy and off-handed all at once–Tom Freedman-ish! At Taru Nasu Gallery, Tokyo, showing at Volta.

IMG_4652 Jaganath Panda

Jaganath Panda‘s tree bark is beautifully figured fabric cut and pasted on canvas. Gallery Nature Morte, in New Delhi, showing at the Armory.

IMG_4748 Luo Brothers

Chinese Contemporary had an array of Pop-influenced work. Here, the Luo Brothers are showing a sort of Bob’s Big Boy with the weapons of capitalism, at Scope.

IMG_4747 Luo Brothers

Here’s more Luo Brothers, celebrating Mao and Micky D’s gifts to the Chinese people.

IMG_4745 Huang Yan

Huang Yan places a porcelain landscape painting on the head of the great leader of the people’s army, equating person and place. I wish I knew what the inscription said. Also at Chinese Contemporary.

IMG_4742 Ma Jun

We saw a Ma Jun television last year brought in by a small dealer. Now he’s running with the big boys–Krampf Gallery. And he’s also got a boom box.

IMG_4736 Hiroyuki Maatsura

Japanese artist Hiroyuki Maatsura is using traditional ukiyo-e printing techniques for imagery that merges Manga and classic Japanese print iconography. Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, Scope.

IMG_4731 Sowichi Kaneda

This pair of sculptures is by Sowichi Kaneda, one with traditional sea imagery, one looking a lot like an airplane. At Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, Scope.

I had to put this next to this sculpture by the excellent Austrian artist Erwin Wurm:

IMG_4689 Erwin Wurm
Erwin Wurm, Mixconceivable (model), 2007, epoxy resin, carpaint, 69 x 57 x 115 cm. Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna.

Some more from Europe

IMG_4792 David Ersser

I know Roberta told you a little about British artist David Ersser, who talked to us about his idealized room. I had to show you what he looked look. His space, he said, reflects Ikea for-show rooms, but has scruffy, tangled cords and a pile of cigarette butts, things you’d never see in one of those chilly, perfect rooms.

IMG_4788 David Ersser

Here are the messy cords, carved from balsa wood. Seventeen Gallery, London.


And here are some real wires from a malfunctioning video–electronic art has its down side.

IMG_4763 Johannes Spehr
Johannes Spehr, one of a series of drawings that formed a mysterious narrative. At Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, at Volta.


IMG_4634 Keyung Jeon

Korean-American artist Kyung Jeon, mixes American kitsch with graphic influences from other cultures.

IMG_4715 Martin Wilner

Here’s Martin Wilner with his exquisite face-a-day month at the Pierogi booth. Wilner also shows at Gallery Joe in Philadelphia, and we both have written about his work.

IMG_4709 Ryan Mrozowski

I don’t know much about Ryan Mrozowski, but this reminds me of Franz Kafka’s surreal novel, Amerika. I love it. Also at Pierogi. Hey, he was born in Pennsylvania according to his online bio.

IMG_4681 Hank Willis Thomas

Hank Willis Thomas continues his wry observations about race relations and sports. This is even darker than usual. At Jack Shainman, a gallery that specializes in African and African-American art with a political edge.

It seemed to me that I saw more African-American work than in the past. Mickalene Thomas was all over the Armory, from Cerealart to Rhona Hoffman to Lehmann Maupin. (I think there was more of her this year than of Alex Katz a couple of years ago).

IMG_4658 Mickalene Thomas

Here Thomas takes on race relations on Barbara Walters TV show, The View, treating it as the out-of-control soap opera cat fight that it really was. All the Thomas photographs were at Lehmann Maupin.

IMG_4657 Mickalene Thomas

And here she’s quoting from African photographer Malick Sidibe.

IMG_4596 Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas. detail.Just a Whisper Away, 2008, acrylic, enamel, rhinestones on wood panel. At Rhona Hoffman Gallery.

I just can’t get enough of her, and clearly neither can the other galleries. Just a reminder that she hails from Camden, NJ.

IMG_4554 Marcus Kenney

Marcus Kenney borrows from iconic Americana to create his paintings and collages that visit issues of race and American values. At Marcia Wood Gallery, Pulse.

Still more Americana

IMG_4574 Sarah Anne Johnson

Sarah Anne Johnson captures the sense of community and idealism and a little bit of the ’60s in Group Portrait, 2004, from Tree Planting, sculpey, acrylic paint, fabric.
Julie Saul Gallery, showing at Pulse.


Speaking of American values, here’s Roberta getting a pitch on a $3,000 toaster. Does that look like $3,000 toast to you? She held firm and didn’t buy.

IMG_4540 Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer’s dictionary–all cut away–no additions to the original book. This piece was spectacular. at Kinz Tillou + Feigen, Pulse.

We never made it to Red Dot, the one place with a Philadelphia gallery. We saw Helen Meyrick from Projects Gallery, yesterday, and she seemed pretty happy about her sales there. She said people were snapping up the Ross Bonfanti concrete stuffed animals.