Saskia Noor van Imhoff is an Amsterdam-based artist whose photographs and sculptures explore systems of perception. She often takes apart familiar objects and recontextualizes them, always building on her own previous works. Her show of new pieces at Grimm gallery in New York, titled â€œ#+40.00,â€ incorporates colored plexiglass, neon tubing, plaster molds, and aluminum casts, as well as parts of a museum climate control system. These last components are from the humidifier van Imhoff utilized for â€œ#+23.00,â€ her 2016 exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which mined the institutionâ€™s collection and architecture. Fittingly, we met to discuss her first New York solo (on view through December 13)â€”set in a basement gallery filled with a thick layer of saltâ€”during New Yorkâ€™s inaugural snowfall of the season. Below, the artist discusses her use of materials and how her exhibition has shifted over the course of its run.
A purple LED light floods the staircase leading visitors down to the show. Itâ€™s the kind of light often used to grow plants indoors. In this basement exhibition, concepts like day and night begin to fade away. The staircase is usually a functional space, but I wanted it to become part of the artwork: I titled this piece #+40.01.
View of Saskia Noor van Imhoffâ€™s exhibition â€œ#+40.00,â€ 2019, at GRIMM.
Photo Adam Reich.
After spending time under the purple light, youâ€™re left with a green afterimage when you enter the gallery. The longer you stand in front of the purple light, the more intense the experience becomes. It lasts quite a long time, but slowly, the look of green light starts fading away.
The plexiglass I used to make some of the sculpturesâ€”#+40.06 and #+40.02â€”is similar in aqua-greenish color to the afterimage. Thereâ€™s no green light in here, even though it might seem like it. What you see is either the afterimage, or reflections from the plexiglass. I like to play with the truth of an image and the reliability of our perception: itâ€™s fascinating how just this purple light can manipulate our entire understanding of what we are looking at.
I often use materials that have seemingly contradictory meanings or functions. For instance, I bought large bags of salt, and then dumped them on the floor, smoothing the salt with my hands and a rake: it felt like playing in a sandbox. Salt destroys some materials but is used to conserve others. Iâ€™m always looking for these kinds of contradictions in my work as a way to ask: what is the truth?
#+40.02 incorporates parts of a museum climate control system used to regulate temperature and humidity. Usually, you donâ€™t see this infrastructure. The salt under your feet feels more stiff and firm in the areas closer to the water source; itâ€™s looser and softer elsewhere.
I show plaster molds of objects in #+40.04 and #+40.07. But for #+40.06, I first made molds of different thingsâ€”a branch, for exampleâ€”then poured in molten aluminum. The metal, which is very hot, burns away the object inside the mold. The process leaves behind different textures in the plaster, depending on the object that was burned. For #+40.06, I cast the corner of a picture frame in aluminum, which is displayed on a plexiglass version of a Donald Judd bench that here is used like a low shelf. Like the salt, this casting process involves simultaneous preservation and destruction: it yields, for instance, a very solid and stable facsimile of the frame, but the original is burned away.
View of Saskia Noor van Imhoffâ€™s exhibition â€œ#+40.00,â€ 2019, at GRIMM.
Photo Adam Reich.
I worked with a neon fabrication company to produce the neon sculptures draped over the plexiglass, set in the molds, or sitting on the salt floor. Usually, neon works are flat on the wall, but these occupy a three-dimensional space. The glass shapes were quite difficult for the factory to blow because the structures rely on various supports, which are difficult to use while the glass is molten. The tubes are very fragile. But Iâ€™m interested in questioning what, exactly, a material is supposed to do. I left the cords visibleâ€”I didnâ€™t want to hide their functionâ€”and draped them in a loose way to mimic the neon forms. During the run of the show, the cordsâ€™ positions have shifted and theyâ€™ve become partially buried in the salt.
I love that the salt moves and the afterimage changes over time, and the work becomes something new during the exhibition. My work is always iterative, meaning that I use elements from older installations in new works and recontextualize them. For instance, the neon pieces trace the edges of found plaster molds: the molds came first, and the neon tubes respond to them, sometimes tracing their contours. Thatâ€™s why my titles are always numbers.
â€”As told to Emily Watlington
Objet: Candles Inspired by Classical Sculptures
Scrolling through the Instagram postings of American influencers whose brands rely on a certain adjacency to European culture, I’ve noticed that the standard fare of empty Diptyque glasses, Matisse cutouts, and starburst mirrors is now being complemented by sculptural candles. In the past few years, we’ve seen pastel-hued candles shaped like geometric solids, candles speckled…
Scrolling through the Instagram postings of American influencers whose brands rely on a certain adjacency to European culture, I’ve noticed that the standard fare of empty Diptyque glasses, Matisse cutouts, and starburst mirrors is now being complemented by sculptural candles. In the past few years, we’ve seen pastel-hued candles shaped like geometric solids, candles speckled with bright colors looking like they’re straight out of Splatoon, and candles in the form of cereal bowls, pastries, and sneakers. But what this new wave of creators are displaying on their shelves and coffee tables are miniature versions in wax of famous Classical statues.
The most viral brand in this regard is New York–based Anaïs Candle, which was founded around a year ago. One of the owners, Kat, who declined to give her full name because she doesn’t want to take the focus away from the products, has had a lifelong fascination with the Venus de Milo. Soon after the launch of the Venus candle, which appeared in highly aestheticized Instagram photos, either in rows of four or solo in elaborate tableaux where it was flanked by champagne flutes, flower arrangements (roses and peonies, mainly), high-end beauty products, or latte art, there was, Kat says, a demand for a male equivalent. Anaïs Candle opted for the head of Michelangelo’s David. “There were already a lot of candles depicting the male body,” she says. On the site, the head is known simply as “Man.”
While Anaïs maintains a neutral color palette, with candles available in off-white, stone gray, calcite blue, and black, other independent candle makers are melding Classical art with a Gen-Z color palette. Forget Millennial Pink and its buddy Marigold Yellow; what about a bust of Artemis in ultramarine blue, or a David in lime green or bubblegum pink? Néos Candle Studio, based in Costa Mesa, California, gave their versions of Venus and David, as well as a candle inspired by the Diana of Versailles, just such a contemporary spin. Says Néos founder Sonia Marcinek, “A David or Artemis candle in a neon color creates the exact eclectic aesthetic I had in mind when I envisioned my candles.”
There is a whole pantheon of deities, heroes, and comely mortals to draw from, though, and Cody Bennett, founder of the Australian company The Busted Gentleman, is doing so. “So many brands have done versions of David and Venus,” he says. “I wanted to show that there are other Greek gods just as beautiful.” His candles depict gods of the arts, including Apollo and Orpheus.
The Busted Gentleman
All of these candles have two to six hours’ worth of burning time, but customers often won’t light them. Yet, the candlemakers maintain, that’s part of the experience. “We would say that when our candles burn, it’s actually even more aesthetic,” says Kat.
Auction Sales Rebound to Pre-Pandemic Levels with Boost from Asia: Report
According to a report published by London-based art market analytics firm Pi-eX, auction sales are once again at pre-pandemic levels after a tumultuous year of financial strain. Despite an abrupt shutdown that forced the industry to adapt overnight, data from the second quarter of this year suggests the auction market is back in full force.…
According to a report published by London-based art market analytics firm Pi-eX, auction sales are once again at pre-pandemic levels after a tumultuous year of financial strain.
Despite an abrupt shutdown that forced the industry to adapt overnight, data from the second quarter of this year suggests the auction market is back in full force. According to the report, the top three public auction houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips—saw a 405 percent year-over-year increase in sales during the second quarter of 2021 between the months of April and June.
Whereas the houses brought in $900 million during the second quarter of 2020, during the second quarter of this year, they brought in $4.6 billion, slightly exceeding numbers from the same period in 2019. In the second quarter of 2020, these houses weathered the worst year-over-year drop-off since the 2008 financial crisis.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg Markets, Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti said that auction houses struggled in 2020 because “there was very strong demand, but the supply was more challenging.” In other words, art collectors were more reluctant to sell their works during the embattled financial period. Buyers, on the other hand, were likely to go after opportunities to collect during the economic lag.
Now, things have changed. A boost from Asia-based clients fueled the market’s return to its pre-pandemic level. They increased auction sale results in China, boosting them to $1.2 billion this year—a sum that’s up 69 percent from the $734 million generated in the second quarter of 2019.
By comparison, the U.S. failed to bounce back to its 2019 level during 2021’s second quarter, however, with saw a 16 percent drop in sales from the same period in 2019.
In a report on the first half of 2021, Christie’s said Asian buyers accounted for a historic high of 39 percent all bids across fine art and luxury categories, spending $1.04 billion in total. Phillips likewise found success in the region, seeing the highest increase in sales between the second quarters of 2019 and 2021. The 34 percent uptick can be attributed to the London-based house’s collaboration with Chinese auction house Poly for its modern and contemporary art evening sales. This spring, Phillips and Poly made $122 million across four consecutive white-glove sales over the course of a week.
Meanwhile, across sales in all regions, Sotheby’s saw a 16 percent increase in the second quarter of 2021 over the second quarter of 2019. Christie’s, which led by market share in 2019, however, saw its Q2 2021 sales dip by 9 percent.
The second quarter of this year also saw the return of another crucial auction format: the single-owner collection sale, which brings major holdings amassed by the world’s wealthy elite to the open market, often after decades of secrecy. The estate of French advertising tycoon Francis Gross sold his Surrealist works at Christie’s, for example, and luxury footwear mogul Stuart Weitzman parted ways with rare stamps at Sotheby’s. According to the Pi-eX report, these auctions helped boost the houses’ sales by a significant margin, signaling a return of confidence among the art world’s high-profile sellers. The sales generated $489 million in Q2 2021, about five times the amount made in the second quarter of 2020.
A new focus on non-traditional collectible categories, such as crypto art, attracted millennial buyers this year and played a role in the market’s rebound. NFT sales are now a $2.4 billion global market according to a recent Dapp Industry report. Following the $69 million sale of a Beeple work in March, NFTs dominated the first quarter of 2021. The pace of NFT buying slowed between April and June this year, accounting for just $50 million, or around 1 percent of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips’s total sales.
Venice Avoids UNESCO’s ‘In Danger’ Designation After Cruise Ship Ban
After banning large cruise ships from traveling through its lagoon, Venice has avoided being designed an “in danger” UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO made the announcement on Thursday, a week after the Italian cabinet declared the city’s waterways a national monument. The historic move aimed to preserve the embattled ecosystem from damage by the ships,…
After banning large cruise ships from traveling through its lagoon, Venice has avoided being designed an “in danger” UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO made the announcement on Thursday, a week after the Italian cabinet declared the city’s waterways a national monument. The historic move aimed to preserve the embattled ecosystem from damage by the ships, which had begun to return to Venice following a break necessitated by the pandemic.
The World Heritage Committee, the governing body of the heritage sites, has given the Italian government until next December to further detail its efforts to preserve Venice’s ecosystem and heritage. Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, said in a statement that “attention on Venice must remain high” and emphasized the city’s need to find a “sustainable development path.”
Environmentalists have been campaigning for a decade to ban oversized tourist vessels from the lagoon, citing the large waves caused by ships. These waves destabilize the underwater ecosystem and could harm the city’s already fragile foundation. In recent weeks, protestors have staged demonstrations, flying flags reading “No big boats.”
In 2019, UNESCO warned the Italian city about the problems associated with cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon. Those cruise ships, which brought millions to Venice each year prior to the pandemic, will now be banned from entering the Basin of San Marco, the Canal of San Marco, and the Giudecca Canal as of August 1.
Non-governmental watch groups claim that the ban does not address the many issues the city faces, such as over-tourism and the management of natural resources. The groups also say that the temporary decision to moor cruise ships in the industrial port of Marghera still puts the lagoon at risk.
“The persistent issues afflicting the precarious state of conservation of Venice and its lagoon has long been associated with a complex and ineffective governance framework,” Stephan Doempke, chairman of World Heritage Watch, told the UNESCO committee. “It lacks a long-term vision and a strategy involving the local community.”