Artreview is all for being popular. It has the popular touch. It can shake hands and kiss babies. Or kiss hands and shake babies. Whatever. Artreview’s readers say ‘Jump!’, Artreview replies enthusiastically ‘How high?’ And it doesn’t even do a risk assessment. Of course, popularity in art is a more complicated thing than showing how high you can jump. Which is why Artreview’s mission has always been to make the unpopular popular, and at the same time question whether or not whatever art that is popular should be less popular. Artreview knows that art isn’t always good just because lots of people like it, nor is it bad because only a few do, and it’s Artreview’s job to show you, its reader, what might be worth paying attention to, even if everyone else in this ‘artworld’ tells you otherwise.
As it happens, those di erent, diverging takes are what bump into each other all through this particular issue of Artreview. Choreographer Trajal Harrell’s work, profiled by Evan Mott, has always been about who dance is for, and who writes its history, particularly when you’re starting out in a city like New York, home to the tradition of experimental dance shaped by the storied Judson Church Dance Theater. Harrell’s criss-crossing of the city’s ballroom vogue culture with the unexpected strictures of experimental dance, and then with other ‘outside’ dance cultures, speaks to how any ‘art scene’, however progressive, can quickly become exclusive and self-repeating, needing ‘outsiders’ to shake it up.
Sarah Jilani asks who the objects being held in European museums are actually for: Western museums argue that they’re keeping items from other cultures for their own good which, as Jilani suggests, is just another way of saying they still think they’re better than everyone else. But as Oliver Basciano discovers, no artwork is safe when you have a mob running riot, as recently happened in Brazil following the defeat of its right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro. As Bolsonaro supporters trashed the Oscar Niemeyer-designed government buildings of Brasília, they damaged a sculpture by Brazilian modernist Frans Krajcberg, an artist whose journey, as Basciano discovers, went from fleeing Nazi Europe to fighting the deforestation of the Amazon jungle.
Art museums – when they’re not tearing themselves up over whether to send their collections back to the places those objects came from – are also finding that, when it comes to famous artists, the art often refuses to stay in the museum anyway. In her column, Marv Recinto looks at the explosion in art merchandising, as she traces how Jean-michel Basquiat’s street art-inspired canvases have made their way from the art gallery back into pop culture, ending up on everything from mobile phone cases to poop-proof rugs. And as Paris’s Musée Picasso relaunches, in a bid to be more appealing to younger audiences, J. J. Charlesworth argues that while museums stress out about making old art accessible, younger audiences are getting their art- and Insta-fixes by flocking to the new wave of ‘immersive’ digital art experiences.
Immersed in demonic smells and coated in lard, Rachel M. Tang enters the intoxicated installations of Candice Lin to share some meaningful glances with cats, plague bacteria and sex demons. What she finds is a troubled and surprising web that connects us all, one that suggests that maybe all this isn’t just for our own pleasure, and art isn’t exclusively for humans. If we’re thinking about popularity, why not consider the most populous cohabitants of our planet? Maybe the bacteria have di erent ideas about who art is for. Artreview
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