The year is almost over, and Gallerist is reflecting on what has occurred, readying ourselves for the new year. Last week, we summarized some of 2011′s major events and hazarded guesses about the future. This week, we will be taking more detailed and—in some cases—more subjective views on the state of the art world in a series of slide shows.
Today, we look back on the year’s developments, through artworks and signs that featured text. A bevy of artists made art with words this year, and plenty more protestors—including some from the art world—filled signs with messages. One is almost tempted to declare it a trend. But, this being The Observer, we will just note that it was powerful, and leave it at that.
Click the slide show above to view 15 text pieces from 2011. All photos by Andrew Russeth.
15. Lower East Side Galleries Proliferated
Five years ago, there were almost no galleries in the neighborhood. Now there are scores of them, and more than a dozen—many of them admirably ambitious—opened this year, including Essex Street, Callicoon Fine Arts, Toomer Labzda, Showroom and Golden. Meanwhile, the New Museum expanded into a restaurant-supply store next door. How long will it take for gentrification to enter its next stage—prices rising to such a degree that they begin to force out dealers, as happened in the East Village in the 1980s?
Work by Deborah Kass and Pulp, Ink at 214 Bowery for "After Hours: Murals on the Bowery"
14. The Art World Protested for Ai Weiwei's Release... Sort Of
When Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei was detained by Chinese authorities earlier this year, leaders at a number of institutions—the Guggenheim, Tate Modern and the Museum of Modern Art, among them signed a petition, along with more than 100,000 people demanding his release. Meanwhile, with Mr. Ai still imprisoned, galleries flocked to the Art HK art fair, in Hong Kong, to sell their wares. With Alison Klayman's documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry set to be released at Sundance and a one-person show planned for Mary Boone, both in January, the artist will be making plenty of noise next year.
Installation view of "1,001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei in New York" protest organized by Creative Time, April 17, 2011
13. Glenn Ligon, Scott Rothkopf and the Whitney Triumphed
Debuting in his new role as curator at the Whitney, curator Scott Rothkopf staged a remarkable, nuanced retrospective of Glenn Ligon Our eyes are still hurting from the jarringly colored When Black Wasn't Beautiful works.
Glenn Ligon's Untitled (negro sunshine) (2011), at the Whitney Museum
12. Los Angeles Beat Its Chest
“It’s corny," critic Dave Hickey said, of the Getty's "Pacific Standard Time" initiative. "It’s the sort of thing that Denver would do. ... It’s ’50s boosterish, and I would argue largely unnecessary.” It was a great line, but Gallerist had to disagree. When we visited Los Angeles at the end of September, many of the shows on view as part of "PST" (which encouraged museums and galleries to mount exhibitions about California art from 1945 to 1980), were often astoundingly exciting. Though it is unlikely that New York will ever be the subject of a similar treatment (one can imagine the scoffs), our city's recent past certainly has plenty of unexplored areas.
Chris Burden's The Reason for the Neutron Bomb (1979) at at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles's "Under The Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981"
11. Relational Aesthetics Was All Across Town
Artists once grouped under that theory were busy in New York institutions this fall, with Maurizio Cattelan hanging at the Guggenheim, Carsten Höller bringing his gadgets to the New Museum and Rirkrit Tiravanija's original soup kitchen going on view at the Museum of Modern Art. Rirkrit Tiravanija's winter show at Gavin Brown's enterprise was the best of the bunch, though: just hearty soup, some cheap T-shirts and a big, abandoned gallery.
Rirkrit Tiravanija, "Fear Eats the Soul," at Gavin Brown's enterprise
10. Locked-Out Sotheby's Art Handlers Protested
The battle between Sotheby's and locked-out unionized art handlers has been raging for nearly five months with no end in sight. The auction house wants to decrease the length of the average workweek, which the union says will result in a 5 to 15 percent decrease in pay. Protestors have disrupted auctions, and the house closed some of its exhibition spaces, citing security concerns. Meanwhile, both Christie's and Sotheby's reported record results at the mid-year point.
"$otheby's": Teamsters Local 814 Sign at Sotheby's Protest
9. The Art World Was Occupied... Sort Of
For most of the time that protestors occupied Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street movement was not much more than a blip on the art world radar, though that began to change near the end of the year. After some peculiar acts, the Occupy Museums joined with Lou Reed for a protest at Lincoln Center and an Arts & Labor group formed, which reprinted Chris Kasper's essay on labor inside the art world. In October, a small group occupied Artists Space and was ejected after 28 hours. Since one of the artists involved in that event now event, Georgia Sagri, in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, we will no doubt be hearing more about that event soon.
A sign at Occupy Wall Street Arts & Labor Meeting on the High Line
8. Performa Hypertrophied
In its fourth edition, RoseLee Goldberg's performance art biennial—already too packed with events for any single person to attend all of them in its 2009 outing—grew even larger. As Roberta Smith noted in The New York Times, the event has climbed from 80 events in 16 days in 2005 to 130 in 21 days this year. Though the quality varied, the selection of offerings was impressive, and when they were good, they were often very good, as in Will Cotton's deliciously empty ballet, Guido van der Werve's deliriously absurd multi-hour run and Rainer Ganahl's modest cooking session and carved-food buffet. Gallerist's complete Performa coverage is available here.
Rainer Ganahl, Credit Crunch Meal, at Jack Hanley Gallery
7. Michael Krebber Had a Show
For his latest solo exhibition at Greene Naftali, the Cologne painter painted blog posts, including this one from the C-A-N-V-A-S blog, about Klara Liden, who shows with Reena Spaulings: "She's a master in the genres that Swedish artists have invented: Urban Exploration, Family Art and Flat Art. I read somewhere she is a 'passionate rebel' and 'fascinatingly androgynous.'"
Michael Krebber's "C-A-N-V-A-S, Uhutrust, Jerry Magoo and guardian.co.uk Painting" at Greene Naftali
6. Reena Spaulings Dominated
It was a very good year for the fictional-downtown-artist-dealer-but-real-gallery Reena Spaulings, run by John Kelsey and Emily Sundblad. Ms. Sundblad pulled a Hirst, selling a new painting at Phillips de Pury in May for $37,500, and earned sustained applause for two impressive vocal recitals she staged during her show at the West Village's Algus Greenspon. Then, in July, she joined her group Grand Openings in a brief, bizarre residency at the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Kelsey, whose book of collected writings, Rich Texts, was released late last year, was tapped for the 2012 Whitney Biennial, along with two other Spaulings artists, the most from any single gallery.
Grand Openings' event schedule at the Museum of Modern Art
5. Bjarne Melgaard Had the Best Gallery Show of the Year
At Maccarone, "After Shelley Duvall," the exhibition that the Norwegian maestro curated, felt like 20 or 30 different shows shoved together into one space. There were paintings by Martin Wong and pornography by Richard Kern, a window display that attracted the notice of police (William L. Coley sex paintings remade with black figures) and tables strewn with paint tubes and paper. The result was an overwhelming, riotous picture of collaboration, art and obsession. The artist e-mailed No Wave legend Lydia Lunch about working together and she acerbically declined his invitation: "a big fucking waste of time returning to / a city that has sucked since 1983." Instead, she asked him to print her note on a painting and he complied. Twice. Then, with one week left, Mr. Melgaard shoved another show into the space. The man is inexhaustible.
Work by Bjarne Melgaard and Lydia Lunch at Maccarone
4. Keith Haring Was Everywhere
In May, his work was at a spare, stunning show at Gladstone, which just began working with his estate. In June, it was at Emily Fisher Landau's Long Island City warehouse, as part of her gigantic show of work she is giving to the Whitney. And in November it popped up in MoMA's new hang of its galleries devoted to recent work from its permanent collection. Thank goodness. In a time of political upheaval and widespread fear, it is hard to think of a better model for existing as an artist than Haring.
Keith Haring, Untitled, 1985 at the Fisher Landau Center for Art
3. The Art World's Margins Felt Larger, Richer
Some of the year's best exhibitions were held far from Chelsea, and even far from the city. NADA alighted in Hudson, N.Y., in July, while Cleopatra's organized a sprawling sleepover on a farm a short drive away. Curator Bob Nickas organized a show in a house in the Hamptons. In Bushwick, where galleries are opening even more frequently than the LES, one-night and one-weekend shows popped up regularly. Even as big money reshaped the upper echelon of the art world, a ton of people were working awfully hard on the periphery.
A work by Andy Meerow at Evil Freaks II's booth at NADA Hudson
2. The Market Soared
November auctions in New York earned strong numbers across almost the board, and business at Art Basel Miami Beach was, by nearly all accounts, buoyant.
A work by Barbara Kruger at Mary Boone's Art Basel Miami Beach booth
1. The Future Was, as Ever, Uncertain
So far, all indicators suggest that 2012 is going to be one incredible year.
Josh Smith at Galerie Eva Presenhuber's Art Basel Miami Beach booth
Words printed on paintings, scrawled on signs and carved into vegetables