Olivier Mosset was in town for the opening of his exhibition at Parapet/Real Humans, a project space run by Amy Granat in a storefront in the Fox Park neighborhood of Saint Louis. On view was a framed set of four lithographs of two thick black stripes on a square of white paper. The set, it turns out, was made for a Swiss Institute benefit in 2004. Granat said the work reminded her of September 11—I suppose any two vertical lines will do that. The artist compared them to an optometrist’s vision test. As someone who can’t see six inches past his nose without glasses or contacts (and who never skips his annual eye-doctor visit), that made more sense.
For artists, the solo exhibition reigns supreme. For curators, it’s the group show. From major events such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta, and Whitney Biennial to curator-driven institutions like the Wattis Institute in San Francisco, Witte de With in Rotterdam, and MoMA PS1 in New York, the authorial curator’s name has typically transcended the artworks on view (or so the story goes). While the art-publishing industry ceaselessly cranks out new books on curatorial issues—nearly always an edited, multiauthored tome—few critical studies have considered the theory and practice of showing the work of a single artist, which is perhaps the bread and butter of art museums worldwide.
Unlike many of his colleagues, the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928–2007) embraced the term Conceptual art. And at a time when artists were abandoning the white cube to make work in the real world, the traditional gallery was for him the best place to show his art. In fact, in a 1969 interview with Patricia Norvell he said: “The gallery situation is, I think, a very good situation in that it’s an optimum way of showing things.”
At the end of the first chapter of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, the New York–based art critic and editor Ben Davis writes that a “theory of class might provide the missing center of the debate about art.” Indeed, the use, value, and status of art—especially in relation to politics and economics—have been the subject of a constantly flailing conversation since the Occupy moment, since the Great Recession, since the Bush years, since the rise of the biennial, since the Culture Wars, since Reagan, since Conceptual art, since Duchamp—okay, you get the point. It’s exactly this kind of exasperating, roundabout conversation that Davis wants to displace, and his new book does exactly that with resounding success.
Jens Hoffman began his talk, “Biennials and Curatorial Ambivalence,” by declaring that there are too many talks in New York. I wholeheartedly agree: our abundance of lectures, panels, conferences, and summits has ridiculously saturated the city’s intellectual landscape, and the pedagogical turn in contemporary art and its related disciplines has twisted itself into a knot.
When in 2001 the curator Robert Storr mentioned to his friend, the German painter Gerhard Richter, that the Bonn Kunstmuseum was hosting an exhibition of work by the abstractionist Robert Ryman, they jumped into Richter’s Mercedes and sped at ninety-five miles per hour on the autobahn to see it. After arriving, Storr recalled, Richter was a leisurely but deliberate looker, as unhurried moving through the galleries as he had been fast on the road.
At his talk at the Guggenheim Museum last night, the artist Tino Sehgal did not say much that was all that different from the interview and article last year in Artforum, but he did clarify his position and give it more depth. The major point I got from his talk was that his art takes place on the macro level of institution and medium more than on the micro level of an individual work. He referred to this as his “set up” at one point and said that the subject of any particular piece was secondary to it.