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Matthew Collings reviewed the new Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. What Ive always liked about both Collings and the artist is the way they hone in on conceits and generally accepted nonsense. It gives them both a bit of grit ‘n gristle. Too bad the “notions of cool” sound like another Basquiat show which tries far to hard to be both in the know and safely institutional. It is hard to be both and it always makes those curators seem off balance… I call it oversteer. The good thing is Basquiat’s work can survive such posing… because it is precisely designed to be critical of such posur-posturing. We could use more of that but it is a difficult thing to achieve in a world of instant gratification.

Brian Libby has two articles on thePortland Building. The second discusses the issue of preservation. I tend to agree with him on this, the Portland building was never right and therefore always compromised… sort of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa started tipping right away. Better acknowledge the flaw by stabilizing it so it can last. Besides the materials are not as important as the visual impact here. At least they are going to save the Portland Building and make it a proper functioning structure. One thing they must do right is the revamped gallery space. There are many ways to improve it through the renovation. It is already an important venue but it could be so much more.

Artists defend Documenta and its curator. That’s all well and good but I’m a firm believer that curators should be defending both the artists and the institutions. True this value engineering of culture is a problem but somehow I do sense that bigger leads to diffusion and this Documenta 14 got away from its staff by design (we covered 13). Last year’s Portland Biennial was also a mess because it spread itself too thin… at a certain point these festivals need to be distillations not simply an invitation to get lost. That strategy has diminishing returns, especially with a world growing ever hostile to open ended thinking. Try to raise the stakes rather than obscure them…. and this financial inquisition is just another distraction that points to something amiss. Let’s be smarter than the cultural bean counters by knowing how many beans will be required to plant? They had to know the Athens section would be scrutinized relentlessly in financial terms… state of the EU and Greece’s debts and all.

Jasper Johns creates an artist retreat out of his home… generous but doesn’t he need that? Moves like this are important but worrysome.

There is never enough time to cover everything so Jerry Saltz does short reviews. Ive done that occasionally done that… due for another batch but I use it to look back as an overview (Jerry has a very complicated locale to cover).

Last but not least I’ll be one of the panelists at this years Clark Arts Summit in Vancouver. Look, I’ve never thought of the ‘couv as a cultural dead zone (the Archer does some of the areas best shows) and by looking to activate Fort Vancouver etc. they might just be able to avoid some of Portland’s mistakes (too much middling collaboration at the cost of vision, little support for small arts venues + a general phobia around ambition) at the institutional level. See you there.

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