10 works of art that escaped the algorithm this year

The coronavirus pandemic is a health crisis with so many cultural consequences: above all, the absorption of all facets of our life deep...


The coronavirus pandemic is a health crisis with so many cultural consequences: above all, the absorption of all facets of our life deeper into networks and phone screens. Even more than last year, I’ve been drawn to art, music, and movies that somehow escape the workings of likes and shares – and make room for human creativity in a world too governed by algorithmic logic.

The Apple of my eye. The Museum of Modern Art’s meticulous and almost overwhelming summer exhibit distilled the father figure of Modernism to its essence, revealing the day-to-day, piecemeal scrutiny required to make a fruit as heavy as the Holy Family. These pears with a heavy bottom, these lumpy bathers. These little touches of green and blue in his views of Mont-Sainte-Victoire. These Provencal rock formations – air and watercolor rocks, Cézanne as a geologist! What these hundreds of sheets have confirmed, just in time, is that your art will never change another person’s life if it just shows what you think. You need the distinction, the seriousness, which can only come from the form. (Read our review of “Cézanne Dessin.”)

I would call the most exciting 42-year-old Japanese director in years if he wasn’t so… calm. “Drive my car“Hamaguchi’s flawlessly precise story, of a widowed actor sublimating his grief through his driver and Chekhov, has virtues which we fear have not been seen in the cinema: long shots, a guillotine editing, an unhurried faith in the importance of the images. Like Jacques Rivette and Mike Leigh before him, Hamaguchi pits his low-key camera work against theater conventions – in this case, a multilingual “Uncle Vanya” production that builds itself up to a silent and heart-wrenching finale, when Sonya of the troupe sighs. “We are going to rest!” in Korean Sign Language. Add to that “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,Hamaguchi’s three-part love and intuition fugue has also been released this year, and you have the emergence of a stunning talent that finds romance in rigor. (Read our “Drive my car” review.)

Two decades ago his creation of the world was confused with American Wagnerism; but Matthew Barney is more collaborative and relaxed than you might think, and he does the best job of his career in the lighter register first seen in his 2019 film “Redoubt.”

For the show “Catasterism in three movements”, Last September at the Schaulager in Switzerland, he gave more than half of the evening to the Basel Sinfonietta, which performed the churned music of Jonathan Bepler alongside a Bernini sculpture of copper, brass and scorched pine . Three women brought the rest of “Catasterism” to life: contact improvisation pioneer KJ Holmes, screaming hoop dancer Sandra Lamouche and athlete Jill Bettonvil as sniper Diana who pumped a dense Barney sculpture like flesh full of lead. (Read our review of Matthew Barney’s “The Redoubt”.)

Alone in Rome this spring, Capitoline Museums almost empty, I saw the first public exhibition in half a century of the largest collection of ancient art in private hands. Travel restrictions made an accidental sleeper of the Greek and Roman sculptures of the Torlonia family: dozens of portrait busts, a shaggy goat lying like a god of love, a broken Hercules recomposed from a hundred shards. Rome was my first trip abroad since the pandemic, and I would go through a dozen PCR tests to see this truly legendary collection before it vanishes again on January 9. (Read our report on the marbles of Torlonia.)

Astral but never spatial, architectural but also limitless, this album composition in nine movements deserved each of rave reviews which rained when it was released in March. As Pharoah Sanders’ moderate tenor saxophone (and occasional vocalizations) weave around the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra and the synths and celesta of Sam Shepherd – aka Floating Points, a British electronic musician of nearly five decades. Sanders’ younger brother – “Promises” comes to feel like a regulatory self-ecosystem, an ever denser web of music and movement. These guys knew what they were doing when they chose a painting by Julie Mehretu, whose retrospective this year at the Whitney Museum of American Art had the same accumulated grandeur. (Read our review of “Promises”.)

The secret to good decorating: just buy the best stuff and do nothing! The Frick’s complete relocation to the vacant Whitney building re-filtered the Vermeers and Velázquezes we thought we knew and isolated the “St. Francis in the Desert” in a sublime brutalist cell lit by one of Marcel Breuer’s trapezoidal windows. What Frick Madison has proven, more subtly, is that we can give context to art in hundreds of digital formats; The biggest challenge for museums is to save the time and space to really look. (Read our story on the making of Frick Madison.)

I also feel useless / Like a tree in a city park / Standing like a symbol of what / We have destroyed…. As forests burned in British Columbia and diplomats procrastinated in Glasgow, Toronto singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, who stars as Weather Station, released an album wholeheartedly and heartfelt with atmospheric anxiety , in which the guitars mingle with greenhouse gases and the loss is measured in metric tons. She knows we don’t need artists to tell us the climate has changed; we need them to tell us how we got it. (Read our interview with the singer.)

Paris experienced this year a quartet of great cultural openings. The Bourse de Commerce, renovated by Tadao Ando for François Pinault’s contemporary art collection, drew the most Instagram shares, but these are two renovated historic sites – the Carnavalet Museum, the museum of the history of Paris, and the Hôtel de la Marine, the naval headquarters of astonishing size – which best combined the old and the new. The sweetest surprise in town is the old Samaritaine department store, reopened after 16 years, its Art Nouveau expanses renewed with the undulating glass of the Japanese firm Sanaa. (Read our story on the restoration of the Hôtel de la Marine.)

Closer to home, the New York Public Library has reappeared from an all-too-long pandemic shutdown with a new home: the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, formerly the decrepit Mid-Manhattan Library, redesigned and relaunched by the Dutch firm Mecanoo with Beyer Blinder Belle. Its clean white expanses are teeming with computers (there’s even a Bloomberg terminal for aspiring teenage traders), but the heart remains its outstanding 400,000-person book collection, open to free browsing. A few years ago, the NYPL planned to sell this place and exile the books from its main research arm in New Jersey. The Niarchos – as well as those of Toshiko Mori Brooklyn Public Library renovation – is a claim that cities need readers and readers need print. (Read our new library review.)

The thinnest, funniest performance art of the year took place at Arthur Ashe Stadium, when the gangly young Russian slammed his last serve, won the US Open title – and threw his whole body on the field, mimicking a PlayStation movement as it basks like a dead fish. As arrogant as it is ridiculous, Medvedev’s flop stuck with me all this fall as a Gen-Z master class on how to stay human in a world of memes. If you have to dive into the algorithm, do it with complete disregard. (Read our profile of the “octopus” Daniil Medvedev.)

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Newsrust - US Top News: 10 works of art that escaped the algorithm this year
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