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The Worst: 10 Terrible Art World Moments of 2014

The Worst: 10 Terrible Art World Moments of 2014

The Worst: 10 Terrible Art World Moments of 2014


Putting aside any petty concerns for bridges burned, here’s an incomplete list of the most despicable moments in 2014’s art world, from candy factories to soggy concerts. Enjoy!

Oscar Murillo at David Zwirner Gallery
A show so gloriously stupid, pointless, and offensive that it will hopefully be taught as a negative example in the future, this exhibition featured a candy factory built inside the gallery and staffed with actual workers, many of them this market wunderkind’s childhood friends from Colombia. Hideous sculptural totems composed of tennis balls and melted chocolate were later spotted floating around various art fairs, objects in search of their idiots.

Sarah Thornton’s “33 Artists in 3 Acts”
I’ve never met the author, and I (sort of) hate to rag on a fellow journalist, but at this point I think Thornton’s reputation should be able to withstand a bit of dissenting criticism. This supposed insider survey of the art world is not only bad, it’s depressing. People involved in the industry will yawn or scratch their heads; anyone on the outside will have plenty of reasons to remain disinterested. And although she traveled far and wide to compile these half-baked profiles, Thornton’s grasp of nuance verges on the tone-deaf. (“For some, Bed-Stuy is a black ghetto where white people rarely tread,” she writes, describing Wangechi Mutu’s neighborhood, and my own.) My cats hated this even more than I did. Roger White’s “The Contemporaries,” due out in March, promises to cover similar ground a bit more adroitly.

Julian Schnabel at Dallas Contemporary
Unsubstantiated rumor has it that during a press walk-through the artist said that if he’d made the Richard Phillips paintings hanging in a concurrent exhibition, he’d kill himself. That’s a lot of bluster for a grown man who wears fancy pajamas most days, and makes work that looks like the male ego itself has explosively combusted across large, dirty tarps.

Marina Abramovic, various
There she was, mugging with our old pals Klaus, Gaga, Franco, and Courtney. Tucking people into bed at Art Basel — not for commercial profit, but for her legacy! Doing “nothing” in London!; urging visitors to wander around blind in New York!; shilling for Adidas!; proceeding apace with Hudson, New York’s Marina Abramovic Institute, for which well-wishing strangers donated $661,452 via last year’s Kickstarter campaign! It’s almost not fair to let the artist be present on a Worst Of list, since by now she’s become an inadvertent avatar for everything ludicrous, excessive, and self-indulgent about this industry.

Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth, London
What a bummer. McCarthy’s epic installation at Park Avenue Armory was fucked-up brilliant — I still remember the gleefully disturbed look on my younger brother’s face as we gawked at one of the cartoonishly violent domestic tableaux. But there’s fucked-up brilliant and then there’s trying too hard, which is what this scatologically obsessed, painting-focused show felt like. The only bright light is imagining some rich banker hanging one of these enormous fecal monstrosities over his couch, perhaps next to a trio of works by Bjarne Melgaard... but then again, that just sounds like set design for “American Psycho 2.”

Hellish clickbait headlines, whether or not they involve art fairs
Sure, a lot of the world was busy yammering about the recently announced decision not to indict the cop who put Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold, but on December 8, Gawker was asking the really important question: “Did Leo DiCaprio Fuck 20 Girls In One Night At Art Basel?” Note the tried-and-true headline-writing tricks: A specific number is used! It’s posed as a question! This is such a jewel of the form that we imagine Artnet must have been very upset they didn’t get there first. (Oh, we kid, we kid. We love you guys.)

Performa’s gluttonous gala
Held at Weylin B. Seymour’s — a converted bank that somehow symbolizes everything awful about gentrified, posher-than-Manhattan Williamsburg — this fete’s centerpiece was a “food performance” by Jennifer Rubell. I only caught bits and pieces of the actual thing, but it involved a kind of trough in the center of the grand ballroom in which guests had been invited to break their dirty plates. Predictably, this left an enormous amount of foul-smelling garbage in the middle of the room. I think rubber chickens were also involved, but my memory might be playing tricks on me. Later, guests were given the opportunity to smash the actual tables they’d been eating at, revealing some surprise deserts hidden inside. I know galas by definition are about massaging the egos of the culturally supportive 1 percent, but something about this messy hedonism just seemed flat-out gross, especially with everyone abiding by the specified “Renaissance” dress code. Silver lining: Charlotte Gainsbourg was there! Last seen in Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac,” a very long and very good movie released in 2014!

Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”
But you know what wasn’t a good movie? This cosmic turd, which, though it dropped well beyond the boundaries of the art world, had clear artistic pretensions. Its inexplicable 73 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests sad things about our collective intelligence. The story is pretty simple — SPOILER ALERT, our hero Matthew McC bends time and space in order to embed ultra-complicated quantum physics information in a simple wristwatch using, like, Morse code! Unless you are a very, very stoned 18-year-old philosophy undergrad, there is simply no reason this film should elicit anything more than rage. The only way this ham-handed script could ever be redeemed is if Tim & Eric were to create a shot-for-shot remake and screen it at every Gagosian location, simultaneously.

Douglas Gordon at Park Avenue Armory
Water, boredom, classical music, soft lights = a recipe for mediocrity. And $15 to see a player piano reprise the performance itself seems borderline criminal. I hate to keep taking digs at this piece but I feel like I have something of a civic duty to spare you all from its clutches. If you’d like to suffer vicariously, here is a real-time recap of the proceedings.

“One Way: Peter Marino” at the Bass Museum in Miami
The gold standard of awfulness for 2014! Conceived as a conceptual shrine to the titular architect — as well known for his leather daddy outfits (though he’s married to a woman) as he is for his buildings — the Jérôme Sans-curated exhibition is a monument to both excess and homogeneity. Ascending a walkway to enter the show, you’re confronted by a number of works hung atop a sculptural wall installation by Gregor Hildebrandt. Paintings by Anselm Reyle, Dan Colen, Pierre Soulages, Theaster Gates, and others are clustered together, a celebration of black pigment and gestural abstraction. The centerpiece of this area is a sculpture by Jean-Michel Othoniel, an artist whose work I can never disassociate from its resemblance to oversized, decorative anal beads. Such unfortunate resonances are even stronger in this show, which buzzes with a mood of lame transgression and clunky bondage.

The main exhibition space is as cluttered and corny as a Hot Topic store, from the vitrine of surgical tools by Damien Hirst to the entire wall of photographs of Marino himself. There’s a doorknocker in the shape of Marino’s head (Wim Delvoye) and a portrait by Francesco Clemente in which the goateed architect resembles a big-eyed S&M mermaid. Works pulled from Marino’s collection show a taste that is nothing if not cohesive in its blandness, from Warhol to Farhad Moshiri and Hirst. Everything is aggressive and blustery, with so much tough-guy swagger that it’s basically just sad. There are paintings of knives and sculptures in which knives are stabbed into the wall of the gallery itself; gas masks; studded leather jackets in various forms. So. Many. Skulls.

A side room focuses on non-Marino-centric photography, and seems designed to showcase the ways in which images can be poorly hung on a single surface. Large-scale prints by Vik Muniz, Thomas Struth, and Paolo Pivi — one of the very few women artists in this cock-swinging show — are squished together, resulting in a wall whose singular, painful informational density causes your eyeballs to simply roll over and die. Moving on, you enter a room dedicated to Marino’s architectural projects, from residential commissions in Florida or Lebanon to commercial work for Armani, Chanel, and Dior.

A room dedicated to works by Robert Mapplethorpe and Marino-designed furniture fares a bit better, or at least has something approaching a quiet, edgy elegance. “One Way” ends with a large installation reprising an opera that Marino staged in his apartment. From there, if you stop in the men’s room on your way out, you’re accosted by a large photograph of the man, shot from behind while pissing in a urinal. It’s a taunt, a cheeky reminder that there is literally no escaping Marino, even when you are standing here with your dick in your hand. (Having already colonized every inch of this corner of the Bass, I don’t see why they didn’t push it further: Tiny soaps carved in his likeness, perhaps, or a machine dispensing black-leather joke condoms.) I’ve never met Peter Marino, but “One Way” certainly doesn’t make me want to. This exhibition is so clueless and solipsistic that it could only work as parody; but that does earn it top honors on our Worst Of list.


Lázaro Saavedra
Karl Marx (from the Cuban Icon Series)


Ester Partegàs
Invaders CG06
enamel and spray paint on Plexiglas

Carlos Nadal
Interior (Descanso)
oil on canvas

René Peña
Untitled, from the series Untitled Album
Digital print

Fernado Toledo H
Musa II

Jesús Rafael Soto
Le Tour Jaune
Serigrafia sobre arches

Alberto Lenz
Painted Steel

Carolina Busquets
Montaña Violeta II / Violet Mountain II
Técnica Mixta sobre Tela