Arts The Best Art Show. Ever. (Part IV)
posted by September 20 at 9:30 AMon
This photo actually doesn’t come close to illustrating the heated, crowded, radical weirdness of this floor. Here’s another image from the show’s PR that tries, but again, fails (also featuring the five curators, with collector Axel Vervoordt second from right).
(The best images I’ve seen online of the show are in a slide show that ran with Roberta Smith’s review—“Among the most strange and powerful exhibitions I have seen”—in the NYT.)
There are several hundred objects on display on this floor, and one James Turrell installation. Placards that act as legends for various corners of the room are splayed on tables and snatched up by visitors (when I was there, visitors were stalking each other for their placards).
The room is long horizontally laid out in front of you as you enter. To the left is a plaster cast of a classical male nude reclining (collection of Mariano Fortuny), and hanging next to it above a desk of drawers with ornate wood inlays, is a large, glowing-green Lucio Fontana slash painting.
Behind that is an installation including a cloud of neon-blue LED lights by a contemporary Japanese artist, a 1611 baroque painting of writhing bodies, and a 1675 ivory carving of Poseidon across from a 10th-century table with elephant skin as its top, the leg bones of a giraffe as its support, and the horns of an antelope as its feet.
That may sound sprawling, but on closer inspection, it’s thematically tight. Consider that nearby—the walls are covered in Fortuny’s Eastern-Western tapestries, by the way—a Marlene Dumas painting titled Supermodel
faces off with a photograph of the plastic surgery artist, Orlan, and between them hangs Louise Bourgeois’s classic bronze double penis-cum-winged creature, Janus in Leather Jacket, from 1968.
(See why Bourgeois’s fountain at OSP is so … slight?)
Also in this same fray is an antique anatomical cast of a woman’s body with a baby in the belly but an empty heart cavity, and behind it is a female torso locked into a chastity corset covered by a fig leaf. Not far off is a taxidermied python, and the charred existential-disaster paintings of Alberto Burri.
In a wunderkammern (or wonder cabinet), works of art (including Man Ray’s classic The Object to Be Destroyed) do not get pride of place. They’re nestled right in with shrunken heads, ancient phallus sculptures, Buddhas, chunks of rock, scientific devices, and oddities like this 19th-century creature:
Mariano Fortuny’s own paintings (seen behind the curators in the photo above) lead the way into a side room containing a perfectly installed wall piece called Red Shift (1995) by James Turrell. It’s a cut in the wall with a zone of seemingly infinite red light behind it, and visitors were slowly, as if being initiated into something slightly occult, thrusting their arms into the murky red area. I’ve never seen a Turrell work its magic so thoroughly. It’s not a void but a magnetic pole that draws all of the other room’s fullness into it while at the same time clearing the way for the ascetic rooms to come.