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The Good, The Bad and the Not So Ugly: Art in New York
From the Whitney Biennial to the Armory Show 2006

Courtney Love in Francesco Vezzoli's Trailer for
a Remake of Gore Vidal's Caligula, 2005

Just like in the movies: for two weeks this spring, New York resembled an art detective show. Thousands of visitors thronged to the Whitney Biennial, the Armory Show, and the many accompanying fairs. And everybody tried to find out what was going on – the new works, the new art discoveries. For db artmag, Cheryl Kaplan trailed curators, artists, bankers, and buyers and discovered a few exciting works – and a huge amount of glitter.

The scene in New York has been more like CSI, Crime Scene Investigated, as in the hit television series franchise. A two-week parade started February 28th at the Whitney Biennial and began cooling off by the close of the Armory Show on March 13th. As if that wasn't enough, add in the other fairs: the not-so-interesting Scope, Pulse, and the Architectural Digest shows. Everyone was on the prowl, jumping to conclusions. As usual, before the Whitney had even opened, New York’s favorite sport, bashing the Biennial, was in full swing. The word on the street wasn’t exactly favorable, but it never is.

Whitney curators Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne
©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2006. All rights reserved.

This year's Biennial was organized by Chrissie Iles, the Whitney's Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz curator, and Philippe Vergne, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Both are Europeans, but who's asking for passports? Their decision to cut the Biennial's exclusive ties to American art surprised few, but disturbed many. The art world has long been one extensive international fair, so it only makes sense that the curators' nearly two-year search would give them international carte blanche. The former mandate to cultivate American art played an historic role dating back 75 years. This year, also for the first time, the show came subtitled. The Whitney Biennial 2006: Day For Night is taken from Francois Truffaut's 1973 film, La Nuit Americaine — which used the cinematic technique of shooting night scenes artificially during the day with a special filter.

Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (After Sam),
©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2006. All rights reserved.

While the Biennial includes painting and identifiable sculpture (some of which involves peeking in, like Sturtevant's work – since the 1960s, she's re-created works by other artists), the show's special focus features a mix of glittery things and film shorts. As a former Biennial artist told me: "Glitter is always good." Rudolf Stingel's painting, Untitled (After Sam), 2005, occupies a space that's more like a set. Surrounded by Urs Fischer's sawed-off wall, 100% reminiscent of Gordon Matta Clark's cut houses, the painting overlooks a pair of roving candles that endlessly circle the gallery, leaving a Venn diagram of drips on the floor.

Rodney Graham, Torqued Chandelier Release,
installation view, 2005

The exhibition is riddled with film rooms and alcoves, some with real seats. The first time video was included in the Biennial was in 1975, and films were admitted in 1979. Some of the films are stunning, like the 35mm Torqued Chandelier Release, 2005, by the well-known conceptual artist Rodney Graham; it reiterates the Biennial's affinity for glitter – and it's a crowd pleaser.

Rodney Graham, Torqued Chandelier Release, detail, 2005
©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2006. All rights reserved.

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