Earlier this week, Art Basel opened its first in-person edition of its marquee fair in its hometown Swiss city since the onset of the pandemic. The anxiety of attending the fair, including meeting the strict Covid safety protocols required to enter, soon gave way to palpable excitement within the Messeplatz, the convention center where Art Basel takes place. A parade of smart-suited VIPs of some of Europe’s top collectors lined up for the 11 a.m. entry before making their way into the fair. During the fair’s first day, the world’s top galleries reported strong sales across the board and at various price point, from the few thousand to over $5 million.
Below, a look at some of the best art at Art Basel, which runs through Sunday, September 26.
National Gallery of Art Acquires Iconic Faith Ringgold Flag Painting
Ahead of a Faith Ringgold retrospective due to open at the New Museum in February, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has acquired a painting from the artist’s famed “American People Series.” Titled The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), the painting was gifted to the museum by the Glenstone…
Ahead of a Faith Ringgold retrospective due to open at the New Museum in February, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has acquired a painting from the artist’s famed “American People Series.” Titled The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), the painting was gifted to the museum by the Glenstone Foundation, which was formed by ARTnews Top 200 Collectors Emily and Mitchell Rales. (Mitchell is the president of the National Gallery’s board.) It is the first painting by Ringgold to enter the museum’s collection.
In The Flag is Bleeding, a white woman is shown interlocking arms with two men, one of them white, the other Black. All of their forms are partially obscured by an American flag whose stripes ooze blood. The source of some of that blood appears to be the Black man’s chest, which has on it a wound that he covers with his hand, in a position that recalls the one taken while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. In the hand not held to the wound, the man holds a knife.
National Gallery curator Harry Cooper said in an interview that staff at the museum initially thought that Ringgold’s work may prove too expensive to acquire. But with director Kaywin Feldman’s encouragement, “We aimed high in really going after artists who were underrepresented in the collection,” he said.
When they reached out to Ringgold’s dealer they were presented with a selection of works that Ringgold had kept in her personal collection for years. Among them was The Flag is Bleeding. “We at the National Gallery are trying more and more to represent the paintings that have something important to say about the nation,” Cooper said.
Ringgold has previously made use of the American flag in works the deal head-on with racism in the U.S. “The flag is the only truly subversive and revolutionary abstraction one can paint,” she once said. Similar works to The Flag is Bleeding appeared in a recent Ringgold survey held by the Raleses’ Glenstone museum in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries in London. The painting is due to appear in Ringgold’s New Museum show.
Manuel Neri, Influential Bay Area Sculptor with a Focus on Figuration, Is Dead at 91
Manuel Neri, whose offbeat sculptures of figures missing limbs and heads count among the most significant works of the Bay Area Figuration Movement, died of natural causes on Monday at 91. San Francisco’s Hackett Mill gallery, which represents Neri, announced the news in an email blast earlier this week. “Neri’s highly evocative, lyrical work with…
Manuel Neri, whose offbeat sculptures of figures missing limbs and heads count among the most significant works of the Bay Area Figuration Movement, died of natural causes on Monday at 91. San Francisco’s Hackett Mill gallery, which represents Neri, announced the news in an email blast earlier this week.
“Neri’s highly evocative, lyrical work with the female form, chiefly in plaster, bronze, and marble, represents a vivid link between modernist sculpture and the fullness of the Western figural tradition,” the gallery said in its obituary.
When Neri began producing his strange painted sculptures during the postwar era, he was associated with a rising crop of Bay Area artists whose work tended toward figuration at a time when critics still preferred an Abstract Expressionist aesthetic. Along with painters such as Richard Diebenkorn and David Park, Neri is considered a part of a generation of artists that also includes Joan Brown (to whom Neri was briefly married) and Robert Qualters. Unlike some of his better-known colleagues, however, Neri gravitated toward sculpture, not painting.
By the mid-1950s, Neri had already become an integral member of an avant-garde San Francisco art scene. He served as a director of Six Gallery, which famously presented Beat poet Allen Ginsburg’s reading of Howl in 1955, and was a member of the Rat Bastard Protective Association, a group that also included artists Bruce Conner and Jay DeFeo. In a similar spirit to those artists, Neri produced works early on that made use of cheap materials, such as cardboard, wire, cloth, and newspaper. In using such banal matter for his work, Neri was among the many American artists at the time who were working to bring the everyday into the field of sculpture, imploding the boundary between art and life.
Manuel Neri, Male Head No. 2, ca. 1969/72–74.
Courtesy Hackett Mill and the Manuel Neri Trust
Later works would come to take on a more elegant, though no less mystifying, aesthetic. He would go on to create his human forms using plaster, bronze, and metal—materials that have been used by sculptors for ages, even though what Neri did with them could hardly be called traditional. Many of the figures Neri crafted feature barely defined faces or with see-through portions that expose the sculpture’s innards. These sculptures are neither portraits in the conventional sense nor effective figurative studies intended to display a knack for depicting human anatomy. Instead, they aspire to something more conceptual.
“I love the body language that people have, the way they move, the way they position themselves,” Neri said in a 2008 Smithsonian Archives of American Art oral history. “That says so much of the person for me, and this has almost nothing to do with the face. That’s my interest there. In fact, a lot of times, I’ll even leave the head off because I don’t want to deal with that.”
Born in 1930 in Sanger, California, to Mexican immigrants, Neri went on to attend the San Francisco City College, where he initially planned to study to become an electrical engineer. A course with sculptor Peter Voulkos was among the factors that pushed him toward becoming an artist, however. He began as a painter, and later translated the Abstract Expressionist–like techniques he used to his sculptures, which are sometimes slathered with various hues of paint. Starting in the late ’50s, Neri also began teaching art, first at the California School of Fine Arts, then at the University of California, Berkeley, and finally at the University of California, Davis, where he was a professor for 25 years.
In the 2008 oral history, Neri said he was a rare non-white artist among an almost entirely white cohort, and that he was made keenly aware of his status as a Latino. But, he asserted, “What is referred to as Latino art, I don’t connect with.”
Neri’s art has been considered hugely important to the Bay Area art scene, though it has not received quite as much recognition beyond that part of California. It wasn’t until 1981, for instance, that Neri had a solo show in New York. Reviewing that show at Cowles Gallery, New York Times critic Hilton Kramer praised the artist for synthesizing Abstract Expressionism and Bay Area Figuration, writing, “No one else has carried this complex heritage into sculpture with quite the energy or originality that Mr. Neri has brought to it.”
David Adjaye Designs Wild New York Skyscraper, Rare Hilma af Klints Surface, and More: Morning Links for October 22, 2021
To receive Morning Links in your inbox every weekday, sign up for our Breakfast with ARTnews newsletter. The Headlines FAIR PLAY. A lucky break for the 150 dealers participating in the 2021 edition of Art Cologne, which runs next month: They will get a 34 percent reduction in the cost of their booths, the Art Newspaper reports. The price cut comes as a result of funding…
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FAIR PLAY. A lucky break for the 150 dealers participating in the 2021 edition of Art Cologne, which runs next month: They will get a 34 percent reduction in the cost of their booths, the Art Newspaper reports. The price cut comes as a result of funding from a German government program aimed at ameliorating the financial hardship that various cultural entities have suffered as a result of the pandemic. Fair organizers decided to distribute the money they received, in full, to the exhibitors. In other fair business, FIAC is running in Paris, and ARTnews has picked the best booths. Gallerists at such events tend to talk politely and vaguely about the market, and so it was a surprise to see David Zwirner circulate a quote on opening day that Wall Street Journal journo Kelly Crow shared on Twitter: “I am a little disappointed, after the vibrancy of London”—where Frieze just ran—“with sales at FIAC. Paris is such a great city for a fair, but FIAC has tended to underperform for us compared with other major fairs.”
A FRIDAY ARTIST BLOTTER: In the Guardian, Ai Weiwei penned an essay remembering the public interest lawyer-turned-film producer Diane Weyermann, who died earlier this month. Her passing is “like a bridge of hope and imagination washed away in the storm,” Ai writes. Tino Sehgal is staging two of his wily performance works as part of a show at Tai Kwun in Hong Kong, per the South China Morning Post. Cassils got the profile treatment in the New York Times, in conjunction with the premiere of their first dance piece at the HOME arts center in Manchester, England. And Theaster Gates, who has a show on now at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, chatted with the Guardian about his multifarious practice. “I want to participate in all levels of culture-making, of society-building, of nation-building,” he said.
Architect Alan Lapidus, a designer of over-the-top casinos and hotels, like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has died at 85. [The New York Times]
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., purchased a 1967 work from Faith Ringgold’s classic “American People” series; it is the first painting by the artist to enter its collection. A Ringgold retrospective runs at Glenstone in Potomac, Maryland, through this Sunday. [Press Release/National Gallery of Art]
It’s a double David Zwirner day for “Breakfast”: The dealer is in the enviable position of having on his hands eight recently rediscovered watercolors by Hilma af Klint, whose work is almost entirely held by her namesake foundation. He is selling only to institutional buyers. The pieces go on view next month at his Upper East Side gallery. [Artnet News]
The Art Institute of Chicago’s plan to disband its volunteer docent program to pursue a new model aimed at community engagement has become a flashpoint in the culture wars. “Clearly we were not prepared for this to become a discussion of identity politics,” James Rondeau, the museum’s director, said. [The New York Times]
Architect David Adjaye has released his designs for a dramatic Manhattan skyscraper—Affirmation Tower, it’s called—that grows in size as it rises. If built, it would be the second-tallest building in the city, and the first building in the five boroughs from a team of Black architects, developers, lenders, and builders, according to the group. [Robb Report]
Scottish writer Ali Smith’s upcoming novel, Companion Piece (2022), sports a cover with a piece by David Hockney, continuing a string of Smith’s books that the artist’s work has adorned over the past decade. [Simon Prosser/Twitter]
A LOT OF BONES. At the Drouot auction house in Paris on Thursday, the largest triceratops skeleton ever discovered sold for €6.6 million, which is about $7.67 million (or just under half the most ever paid for a KAWS painting), the Associated Press reports. The 66-million-year-old dinosaur, known as Big John , was found in South Dakota seven years ago. “The overall quality of Big John really deserved this price,” one paleontology told the news agency. The winning bidder was an anonymous American who had a representative on hand to share that he is “absolutely thrilled with the idea of being able to bring a piece like this to his personal use.” [Associated Press]