Jason Farago


11 January 2013

Lumumba, Himmler, Me

The Summer Is Over, a new exhibition in New York by the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans (until 9 February), consists of seven paintings: three pairs of canvases depicting mundane details of life in Antwerp and, alone on a wall, a self-portrait that doesn’t look much like Tuymans. The artist gazes out from the painting unthreateningly, showing none of the severity he can display in person or in photographs. His cheeks are uncharacteristically fleshy, and his full head of white hair is painted so subtly that he looks almost bald. The ubiquitous cigarette isn’t in evidence either. Nearly a third of the painting – depicting the wall over his shoulder – is simply white. Me (2011) is his first self-portrait in nearly twenty years.


30 October 2012

In Chelsea

Hurricane Sandy brought to New York much more wind than rain, and the greatest damage has been near the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound, and the two rivers. We all knew which neighbourhoods faced the most immediate danger – Battery Park, Red Hook, Rockaway – but it wasn’t until late last night, safe at home, that I realised the hurricane spelled trouble for most of the city’s art galleries, clustered together in Chelsea a block from the Hudson. I went down this morning. The water has receded (mostly – 21st Street was impassible today), but there’s still no power, and the damage is total. Every celebrity architect you can name has retrofitted one of these spaces, but they weren’t made to withstand this kind of onslaught. They’re low-slung warehouses, mostly, with garage doors at their entrances. The hurricane warped many of the doors; I saw a team of dealers trying to pry open a metal gate with a crowbar.


28 March 2012

At the Center for Architecture

The former Saddam Hussein Gymnasium stands on the east side of the Tigris in Baghdad, next to Iraq’s national football stadium. It was built between 1973 and 1980 to designs made by Le Corbusier in the late 1950s. He also planned a giant stadium and other facilities in advance of a mooted Olympic bid, but only the gym was built. His designs for the Olympic project were on show at the V&A a few years ago, but City of Mirages: Baghdad 1952-82, at the Center for Architecture in New York until 5 May, puts the work in a larger context.


17 January 2012

Sancta Santorum

Rick Santorum loves America, lobbyists’ cheques, sweater vests and his seven children. An eighth, Gabriel, was stillborn at 20 weeks in 1996. When staff from the morgue arrived, the Santorums refused to give up the foetal corpse. That night they slept with it between them in the hospital bed, and the next day took it home so that their children could snuggle with it before a funeral. Since his surprise near-victory in Iowa, the candidate’s supporters have lashed out at journalists who’ve revisited this story, but it was Karen Santorum who publicised it first. ‘Your siblings could not have been more excited about you!’ she wrote in Letters to Gabriel (1998). She describes giving the corpse to their eldest daughter, then five years old, to hold. ‘This is my baby brother, Gabriel,’ she said. ‘He is an angel.’ The book has a foreword from Mother Teresa.


25 June 2011

Outside the Stonewall

Tomorrow is the New York gay pride march, but if you weren’t here last night you missed the party. Same-sex marriage has come to the Empire State, the sixth and by far the largest to endorse full equality in what, for better or worse, is now the only gay-rights issue on the agenda in America. The state legislature in Albany – so corrupt and incompetent that the New York Times, a few elections back, told readers to abandon every single member and 'vote for an opponent, any opponent' – tried to pass a similar bill in 2009, and the unexpectedly large defeat that year meant that nobody was celebrating this time until the gavel fell. Two years ago we got no Republican votes; yesterday there were four, and the city erupted. Christine Quinn, the speaker of the City Council and now (following Anthony Weiner's resignation) the probable next mayor of New York, cried during a press conference and announced that she and her girlfriend are planning their wedding. These days the best gay bars in town are in the East Village or Brooklyn, but last night there was only one party worth being at: the mash outside the Stonewall Inn in the West Village,


26 May 2011

Books of the Year

It's almost June. If you worry you have accomplished little in 2011 so far, do not read any of the following, more or less recently published: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible The Year of Living Like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy A Year of Blind Dates: A Single Girl's Search for 'The One' Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple


13 April 2011

At Gagosian 24th Street

Rudolf Stingel’s show at Gagosian in New York (until Saturday) opens with three large black-and-white self-portraits of the artist as a young man (he was born in northern Italy in 1956). The three untitled canvases are all the same size and based on the same photograph, down to the scratches in the background and small spots from moisture damage. They are not photorealist paintings, however. The daubed black backgrounds testify to the painter’s hand, and a few variations creep in: in the first painting the widow’s peak is a swooping curve, in the second it’s more of a sine wave, and in the third it’s rigid and angular. More important, the repetition suggests that the process of making them is the pictures’ real subject: conceptual paintings in photorealist drag.


12 November 2010

Tomorrow morning, at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in Midtown Manhattan (and online at www.txauction.com), the US Marshals are selling off the assets of Bernie and Ruth Madoff. There's a preview today (until 7 p.m.) at a warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; some items are for ‘visual inspection’ only, but the feds will let you try on the jewellery. Madoff seems to have liked gold Patek Philippe watches, though I preferred a Rolex with a moonphase and a perpetual calendar in less gaudy stainless steel (lot 182, est. $60-70,000). The clothes wouldn’t fit me, though there are handsome ties from Charvet, and if you wear a size 8½ shoe you should pounce on lot 331: 16 pairs of John Lobb loafers with a low estimate of $1500, the price of a single new pair. There are lots of shoes. I counted more than 200 men’s pairs, including dozens unworn, to say nothing of slippers, running shoes and boots.

The Madoffs also had a library that is being sold en bloc,