Required Reading

This week, Peggy Guggenheim’s life in Venice, curating Black Radical Women in Brooklyn, talking to art dealers in Santa Fe, the horrible Damien Hirst show, the legacy of Confederate monuments, and more.

The US Department of Interior announced on Twitter that this was its most popular image of the week. It’s a sunset in Zion National Park in Utah, taken by Shay Blechynden. (via @interior)

Venice promised Peggy a more civilised welcome and, after much house-hunting, she found a vacant palazzo on the eastern stretch of the Grand Canal. It was a curiously proportioned building, very wide but only one storey high. The Venier family, who had commissioned it in the mid-18th century, had imagined it rising to a monumental five storeys, but ran out of money (and male heirs). Locals derisively nicknamed it the Unfinished Palazzo, but for Peggy, who was living alone with her dogs and her art, it was the perfect size.

She remained there for the remaining 30 years of her life and, during the summer, opened it up to the public. It was an eccentrically informal arrangement, with Peggy’s collection mixed into the muddle of her domestic life. Guests staying at the palazzo would find eager art tourists wandering into their bedrooms and (given the lack of toilet facilities) catch them peeing discreetly in the garden. But over time, the Venier palazzo became one of Venice’s major attractions, and a spur to the city’s development as an international showcase for contemporary art.

Jessica Lynne: This exhibition has been a few years in the making. Could you talk about the impetus of the project and why it was vital for the show to exist within the museum’s series A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum?

Catherine Morris: Several years ago, we started thinking about how the projects we were focusing on pushed against historical orthodoxies, and about second wave feminism, which is the foundation of the Sackler Center. What are the stories that aren’t told? It came down to an exercise of revising revisionism. Revisionist history is one of the most important contributions feminist theorizing has made to the history of art, but it was time to turn that method on itself. We Wanted a Revolution captures that spirit.

Rujeko Hockley: Exactly. A lot of We Wanted a Revolution came out of my work in graduate school and the work I had done about women of color and black feminism outside of the art world. There is an institutional history here vis-à-vis the museum’s community gallery, a space that existed from 1968 to ’86 which was a problematic space in some ways. And a lot of the work in the show is part of the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, including a Black Arts Movement collection of work acquired by the museum in 2012. We are building on institutional history and bringing out stories that we ourselves didn’t necessarily know that well.

Damien Hirst’s doubleheader in Venice is undoubtedly one of the worst exhibitions of contemporary art staged in the past decade. It is devoid of ideas, aesthetically bland, and ultimately snooze-inducing—which, one has to concede, is a kind of achievement for a show with work that has taken ten years and untold millions of dollars to create.

This should have been a triumph. Hirst loves a grand occasion, and the prospect of taking over collector François Pinault’s palatial spaces in the Most Serene Republic, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana, would seem like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to let it rip. I was looking forward to an extravagant bit of Hirst nihilism, betting that the artist could at least deliver something so truly bad that it would be delightfully good. Instead, Hirst choked. It is bad show, and a depressing one.

Related: gofccyourself.com

It will come as little surprise that the greatest number of these sites are in the states of the Confederacy, and to a lesser extent in border states. Nor is this a case of the Deep South being somehow behind the times, as opposed to their more forward-thinking neighbors. In fact, the upper South is dotted with rebel symbols. The greatest collection is in Virginia, with 223. That makes some sense, since Richmond served as the Confederate capital for most of the war; the commonwealth hosted more battles than any other; and the Confederacy’s two most famous generals, Lee and Jackson, were both Virginians. Texas, with 178, comes next, followed by Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi.
But a surprising number of sites are not in the South. A handful of symbols bear Confederate dedications in Northern States, including New York, which furnished more soldiers to the Union war effort and saw more of them die than any other state, and California, where schools in San Diego and Long Beach are named for Robert E. Lee. (Illinois, the land of Lincoln, has none.)

“They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong,” said Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been fighting the project for years. “It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”

On social media, the top descriptors to complete the phrase “My husband is …” are “the best,” “my best friend,” “amazing,” “the greatest” and “so cute.” On Google, one of the top five ways to complete that phrase is also “amazing.” So that checks out. The other four: “a jerk,” “annoying,” “gay” and “mean.”

While spending five years staring at a computer screen learning about some of human beings’ strangest and darkest thoughts may not strike most people as a good time, I have found the honest data surprisingly comforting. I have consistently felt less alone in my insecurities, anxieties, struggles and desires.

Once you’ve looked at enough aggregate search data, it’s hard to take the curated selves we see on social media too seriously. Or, as I like to sum up what Google data has taught me: We’re all a mess.

  • Well, this is insightful (and scary):

  • Something about this image is satisfying … I wonder what it is:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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