Best New York Art Exhibitions Reviewed

Beatrix-Blaise Jacot takes a trip to Uptown 57th street, and gives the lowdown on what’s hot right now…

A recent visit to New York and things are, as ever, very exciting. Creation is everywhere – from the high fashion of mid-town Manhattan to the painfully hip everyday life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn – and New York knows no bounds for ideas. One walks the streets and thinks: ‘ideas happen here,’ and what’s more: ‘ideas become something here’. It’s a refreshing feeling when compared to London’s dormant ambition.

Feeling like you need a huge hit of Art? Head to Chelsea, Uptown 57th street: but beware one can overdose, as there’s more to entertain the eye visually than there are assistants to Damien Hirst (and that’s saying something!). I went to 31 galleries overall in half a day; it was intense. To review them all – well you’d be here all day and I may fall asleep, hands on keyboard. So here’s the best:


Eric fischl‘s work @ Mary Boone Gallery illuminates relationships at their most blunt. Looking at his group portraits we feel a startling directness, like we’re part of that staged family-gathering-‘say cheese!’ moment. The way he manipulates light conveys more about the mood of the situation than the people’s expressions themselves; it’s a very real insight into what a smile can hide.

He includes more aggressive work, too. He is a master of taking scenes of real scandal and making them beautiful and ‘cool’. Incredible show.


Moving on now to Mind the Gap @ Kent Fine Art – a thoughtful and ingenious exhibition. The exhibition’s title was taken from Lise Patt’s commentaries on Sebald: ‘mind the gap between words, between and in images and text, and most importantly, mind the gaps in (not only between) signs’ i.e. Look at the spaces between seeing and not seeing – where you’ll catch a glimpse of ‘the phantom traces created by the sluggish eye’.

Two works in particular encompass this brilliantly. The first is by Dennis Adams, typically known as a fantastic photographer, but who here branches out within this exhibition with the incredible work ‘lullaby’ – an Eric Clapton vinyl supposedly found in the prison cell of the infamous 1970s terrorist Andreas Baader, and the record player itself, suposedly the instrument for smuggling the gun, that lead to his suicide. The second is a work by Joseph Beuys called Flitz-TV; originally created in the 1970s this work is an entertaining and insightful performance piece that tackles ideas of communication, through a boxing gloves, a sausage and a felt pad (obviously a must see!).

Mind The Gap

However if you feel like you need a laugh, and you like your art packed full of humour (don’t we all after reading essays by Krauss or Greenburg), then head to Fredericks and Freiser for a delightfully twisted and comic view on people’s dirtiest thoughts, or more specifically, the dirty thoughts of Steve Gianakos – oo laa laa!

Sex, drugs and violence he combines in animalistic, twisted and ironic scenes. There’s no holding back, Gianakos is fearless and demanding. Innocence collides with erotica in these black and white, chopped up, cartoon like paintings. A great exhibition for a giggle and cringe: depending on what your fantasies are…



Next to the Robert Miller Gallery, where, as with of any large selection, one cannot help but have favourite works, and leave the weaklings by the wayside. For me, I found the photography the most powerful, with the eerie work of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz coming out on top – of close-up black and white images depicting characters from 1913, with that deadpan look of ‘there wasn’t enough potatoes given for ration today’ on gelatin silver print. To have the whole collection together was like going up into one’s attic and discovering a family of ghosts; haunting but exhilarating.


Equally haunting are Bill Henson’s photographs; girls half naked in pitch black, sweaty with the idea of sex, and depressingly evocative of who they’ve just had it with.



Finally, my favourite of them all: Happenings New York, 1958-1963 @ The Pace Gallery.
This overwhelming exhibition combines more than thirty of the biggest contributors of the ‘Happenings’ movement – a movement that changed the definition of art through performance. More than 300 photographs documenting the performances by 5 different artists are now on view for the public. And boy(!), do they make you wanna be there, as we zoom into the energy of Claes Oldenburg’s eclectic, cool and sex-ridden scripts through Robert McElroy’s exploring lens; bunk beds with couples laid strewn upon them, crowds stuffed into little corridors peering over people’s heads to see the action that goes on further down, actors wandering in and out of rooms and doorways. It was edgy, it was new, and the best people put it on, and the best people watched it. This exhibition relives it in the finest way. And its not just photography, with this exhibition showing unseen footage, paintings and sculpture all inspired from the ‘Happenings’.  A must see!

Words/Photos:  Beatrix-Blaise Jacot de Boinod  © 2011 ArtLyst


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