BY Pablo Larios in News | 24 FEB 20

Dispatch from Europe: Berlinale Blues, Félix González-Torres Descends On Madrid

What to know in the EU’s arts and culture this week

BY Pablo Larios in News | 24 FEB 20

Good afternoon from Madrid. Welcome to our first dispatch from mainland Europe – your curated digest for art and culture in the EU. This edition: Berlinale blues; Félix González-Torres and Joan Jonas take on Madrid during ARCO. Plus: a Barcelona outpost for Russia’s Hermitage Museum scrapped; an artist-provocateur foils Emmanuel Macron’s pick for Paris mayor amid sexting scandal. Also: Ulrike Ottinger’s Berlinale premiere. New spaces for Perrotin and Gregor Staiger. And scroll down for the shows on my radar – from Martin Kippenberger in Milan to Thao Nguyen Phan in Brussels.

– Pablo Larios, EU senior editor

As Madrid’s ARCO fair heats up – a focus on Spain

Perfect Lovers – Last year I learned that there are – very improbably – now direct flights between my tiny hometown of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Madrid. That’s because Madrid has become Europe’s main gateway with an increasingly unstable Latin America. Spain’s population hit record levels last year, reversing a population decline – largely from emigration from the Americas (over 100, 000 displaced Venezuelans now live in Madrid alone).

What does this mean for art? Culturally, the ARCO fair – a small fair that’s on the turnaround, with a new director this year – has been smart to actively bridge the two continents, long bringing in Latin American artists, curator and collectors. Traditionally it ‘hosted’ a guest country (last year, Peru). Now it’s scrapped the scheme (it was Cuba’s turn) and it’s instead themed around Cuban artist Félix González-Torres, who died in 1996 of AIDS.

This week, expect to find the artist’s conceptual activism – including at Madrid’s excellent non-profit space CA2M – and González-Torres’s works installed outdoors in Madrid. (If that’s not your thing, Joan Jonas is performing on Wednesday at the Prado.)

Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land, 2019, performance documentation, Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Venice. Courtesy: the artist, Ikue Mori and Francesco Migliaccio; photograph: Moira Ricci © Joan Jonas 

Close, But No Cigar – With the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia, Madrid’s really one of the best museum cities around – yet newer ventures, such as the city’s municipal art space CentroCentro (which opened in 2016), haven’t quite hit their stride. Two weeks ago, the Cuban-born philanthropist Ella Fontanals-Cisneros – with one of the largest collections of Latin American art – announced with ‘disappointment’ that nine years of talks had broken down between her foundation and the Spanish government: she had planned to donate over 400 works and found a major new art space in a former tobacco factory in Madrid. Looks like the bulk of her collection will stay in Miami.

How German Is it? – Grand dame of the Spanish scene, the Seville-born gallerist Juana de Aizpuru, has long represented the likes of Wolfgang Tillmans and Austria’s Heimo Zobernig. Now German galleries seem to be sweeping Madrid: two years ago, the cerebral Berlin outfit KOW opened a Madrid satellite. Last year, Berlin’s carlier | gebauer followed suit. Its co-founder, Marie-Blanche Carlier, wrote me last week: ‘Madrid and Berlin share a quality of being late bloomers compared to the obviousness of New York or Paris. They combine a pleasant off-centeredness with the vividness of still being in a process of finding their own identity’, adding: ‘what also generated the move is the link between Madrid and Latin America.’ They’re opening a show of elegant conceptual sculptures by Iman Issa. And expect Candice Breitz at KOW Madrid, fresh from her show at Kunstmuseum Bonn opening last week.

Iman Issa, Self-Portrait (Self as Doria Shafik), 2020, 3-d prints, acrylic, epoxy, paint, metal poles, 60 × 30 × 28. Courtesy: the artist and carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid

Look out for our Critic’s Guide for more Madrid highlights

A Tale of Two (Three?) Cities – It’s really not a good run for museum partnerships in Spain. On 27 January, Barcelona rejected the long-planned Hermitage Barcelona, the outpost of the St. Petersburg museum, to be designed by Toyo Ito. Rivals beware: Madrid might have its eyes on the project.

Rendering of Hermitage Barcelona. Courtesy: Toyo Ito

Berlinale premieres of Ulrike Ottinger and Christian Petzold

The festival’s opening gala was in low spirits after the far-right terrorist attacks in Hanau. For its 70th edition, Berlinale has a new directorship, Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. On 29 January, it came out that the Berlinale’s founding director, Alfred Bauer, was a Nazi. They have scrapped his namesake prize.

On everyone’s mind this year is Christian Petzold’s Undine (2020), with Paula Beer, a mythological thriller set in today’s Berlin. But don’t expect to see the celebrated auteur lingering around Potsdamer Platz – he’s in France, being honoured tonight as an Officier des Arts et des Lettres, which is a big deal, well, in France.

Christian Petzold, Undine, 2020, film still. Courtesy: the artist © Christian Schulz/Schramm Film

Speaking of Paris, don’t miss the premiere of Paris Calligrames (2020) by the beloved, world-roving, counter-cultural filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger, who also took home a lifetime achievement award at the Berlinale.  ‘Her cinema is restless, Odyssean’, wrote my colleague Amy Sherlock in her recent profile of Ottinger for frieze. A parallel exhibition by Ottinger opened yesterday at Contemporary Fine Arts. In a grey city, her garish, roving celluloid is welcome.

Ulrike Ottinger, Paris Calligrammes, 2019, film still. Courtesy: the artist © Ulrike Ottinger

Arts news you need to know

On 11 February, Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of Polish Jews director Dariusz Stola stepped down amid a leadership fiasco. He is one of several museum directors who have run afoul of Poland’s far-right Law and Justice-led Cultural Ministry (he spoke against a controversial law). Masha Gessen called POLIN, which opened in 2013, ‘probably the most ambitious and successful new museum in Eastern or Central Europe in a decade.’ It will now be helmed by the museum’s Zygmunt Stepinski. (In an unrelated coincidence, on the next day, the Chief Curator of the POLIN’s permanent exhibition, NYU’s Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, won the 1-million-dollar Dan David Prize. Go figure.)

Griveaux Grieves –  The Russian ‘performance artist’ (read: provocateur) Pyotr Pavlensky (under asylum in France) set off political dynamite on 12 February when he circulated a compromising sex tape of politician Benjamin Griveaux, a candidate for Paris mayor, in a closely-watched race. Griveaux withdrew and Macron’s party, La République en Marche, scrambled to find a replacement. Pavlensky, who masterminded the leak, is in police custody. Paris municipal elections take place on 15 and 22 March.

France is finally waking up to #metoo. On 14 February, the entire board of the Césars – the ‘French Oscars’– resigned in protest of Roman Polanski, who picked up 12 nominations this year for his Dreyfus-era film, An Officer and A Spy (2019).

Almost Boycotted – London-based Zineb Sedira will represent France at the Venice Biennale in 2021. A kerfuffle emerged after the French culture minister was alerted to the video-maker’s alleged ties to Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). Sedira has vehemently denied any links. By the sounds of it, everyone needs to calm down.

Félix González-Torres, Untitled (It's Just a Matter of Time), 1992, installation view, various venues in Madrid during ARCO

Ins and Outs

Last Waltz: On 22 January, the much-admired German choreographer Sasha Waltz announced she was resigning as co-director of Berlin’s State Ballet. Artists such as Alexandra Bachzetsis got their start working with Waltz’s dance company.

Frankfurt’s Städelschule, appointed its new rector, Yasmil Raymond, who comes from MoMa. She’s the first female rector of the influential school, where artists such as Judith Hopf, Hassan Khan, Tobias Rehberger, Willem de Rooij and Haegue Yang teach and which spawned such talents as Danh Vo. Under Philippe Pirotte, the school generated a more sober image (saying goodbye to the hard-partying antics of once-professor Michael Krebber). Pirotte stays on as an instructor.

Fatima Hellberg (who leaves an excellent programme at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart) has just started her new job helming Bonner Kunstverein. Ingrid Haug Erstad, will head up Bergen Assembly, the Norwegian triennial. Kathrin Becker, previously at Berlin’s neuer berliner kunstverein (nbk), will take over at Berlin’s Kindl Center for Contemporary Art, which is one of the most engaging recent spaces in Berlin’s sleepy institutional scene.

Blain|Southern is closing; it had galleries in Berlin, London and New York.

Zurich’s Gregor Staiger opened a new space in Milan on 18 February. The gallery, which represents Nicolas Party (himself now added to Hauser and Wirth’s roster), opens a solo of Lucy Stein on 5 March.

Perrotin is adding another Paris space, in a ground-floor 1900 building. It is ‘not intended to host exhibitions’, said Emmanuel Perrotin, but will contain a ‘custom device that allows viewers to access models of artwork’. (Sounds like VR to me.)

In gallery moves, Friedrich Kunath now represented by König Gallery; Jac Leirner by Esther Schipper; Bjarne Melgaard by VI, VII.

RIP Elisabeth Wild, the Vienna-born artist who lived in Guatemala, who died on 12 February, just after turning 98. A show of her work alongside that of her daughter, Vivian Suter, opens at the Brücke Museum in Berlin this summer.

That’s it for this week’s digest, stay tuned in March for our next dispatch. Last but not least, on our radar right now: 

Sung Tieu at Haus der Kunst
Artist John Bock and actor Lars Eidinger at Berlin’s Schaubühne
Thao Nguyen Phan at WIELS
Robert Wilson’s ‘Messiah’ at the Salzburger Festspiele
Martin Kippenberger at Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, and now at Fondazione Prada
The paintings of Forrest Bess at Kassel’s Fridericianum
And … conceptual mayhem by Christopher Williams at Berlin’s C/O gallery

(With thanks to our contributing editor Max Andrews in Barcelona, and Sonja Borstner and Carina Bukuts in Berlin.)

Main Image: Ulrike Ottinger, Paris Calligramme, 2019, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Pablo Larios is an editor and writer. He lives in Berlin, Germany.