The Year in Arts: Roberta Smith
The most heartening news was that museums are scaling back and even canceling expansions, signaling perhaps a new era of trustee responsibility. On the commercial side, some galleries closed, and others mutated into nomadic operations; but an unsurprising renewal of grass-roots vitality began, especially on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The art gallery continued to be the most adaptable means of getting art in front of viewers — as proven by small innovative spaces like Art Since the Summer of ’69 and Number 35 — allowing it to be shared and thought about, and allowing artists to support themselves. Even the 800-pound gorillas help make life on the margins possible: without a Larry Gagosian, there are probably fewer anti-establishment collectives like the Bruce High Quality Foundation. By the time Art Basel Miami Beach rolled around in early December, dealers were reporting a rise in sales, increased interest in younger artists and lengthening attention spans. (A suggested New Year’s resolution for collectors: Don’t travel in packs; seek out what others are not buying.)
Performa 09, a k a the Visual Art Performance Biennial, outdid its two previous incarnations, unleashing three weeks of more events than any person could possibly attend. The most memorable included the resurrection, at Town Hall, of the Futurist Intonarumori, or Noise Intoners; 16 of these eccentric hurdy-gurdy instruments first created in 1913 still sounded musically radical after all these years. Another standout was the riveting star turn by the artist-actor William Kentridge in his new piece, “I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine.”
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