Tops & Flops 2017
Picked by by Ella Plevin, Daniel Baumann, Dean Kissick
This art year had so much to offer that losing orientation wasn't very difficult. So why not, we thought, organize it in what was best, and what was worts. Here are some tops and flops:
Documenta 14, Athens, Kassel
A single picture hangs on my bedroom wall: a photograph, taken from the street, of Vivian Suter’s paintings hanging in one of the Glass Pavilions on Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse, which I found in a magazine. Adam Szymczyk’s Documenta was, I think, the work of a mad genius, and the most ambitious exhibition I’ve ever visited. It was overwhelming, sprawling and wildly over budget; the work was complicated, incredibly, provocatively obscure and seemed to touch on every subject under the sun. Going to Athens and Kassel was like having a very strange recurring dream.
I often find that, after many hours of looking at too many artworks, and drinking too many coffees, one reaches a point of exhaustion that can quickly tip over into euphoria: on the first day, around 10:30pm, looking at Nilima Sheikh’s paintings of Kashmir hanging in the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street, I felt what I can only describe as unclouded joy, and that was the moment when I really gave myself over to Documenta and all its weird leaps and bounds.
“Pavilion of Shamans”, Viva Arte Viva, 57th Venice Biennale
Christine Macel’s Pavilion of Shamans revolved around Ernesto Neto’s Um Sagrado Lugar (A Sacred Place): a large, knitted chrysalis descending from the ceiling to the gallery floor, which was covered in bark. Inside, visitors meditated or checked their phones. Outside, indigenous Huni Kuin Indians led conga lines around the Arsenale. Although Um Sagrado Lugar was inspired by traditional spaces used for ayahuasca ceremonies, its appropriation of shamanism was disappointingly tame and without any psychedelic epiphanies, visionary self-harming, or chanting-induced otherworldly trance states (even in the sanitary ayahuasca ceremonies of Beverly Hills, one would expect to see some projectile vomiting). Nor was any sort of transcendental artistic experience offered in its place.