The Week in Art Criticism: Dog Days of Summer Edition

Urs Fischer's hulking sculpture on Park Avenue is "undeniably sweet," New York Times critic Ken Johnson writes, "and there is something sad about it too." (ccho / Flickr)

Even in the middle of August, there is no rest for the contemporary art critic. There are goth-inflected summer shows to see, parties in Aspen to attend and–as The New York Observer noted this week–a bounty of public sculptures to evaluate. Below, highlights from the week in criticism.

5. Goth in Chelsea
New York Times critic Holland Cotter files the best opening line of the week, in his review of Andrew Edlin Gallery’s current “Take-Out” show: “All those teenage vampires on the loose on television are having their way with new art, or at least the art in a summer group show that rides a goth groove,” Mr. Cotter writes. Handling curatorial duties here is artist Scott Hug, who, the critic says, “has shown himself in the past to have a good eye, and he does so again here.” Sculptor Lucky DeBellevue receives special notice as a “master of overlooked and underloved material,” who “assumes honorary goth status here.”

4. TONY Slams Cory Arcangel
In Time Out New York, blogger Paddy Johnson pummels the Whitney’s Cory Arcangel show. Writes Ms. Johnson, “There are so many ways this show lets its audience down, it’s hard to know where to start.” But she finds a way, noting the lack of early work, lackluster new pieces and uninformative wall labels. “[L]azy thinking permeates the show,” Ms. Johnson writes, “and you have to wonder why curator Christiane Paul didn’t try to protect the artist from at least one or two really bad ideas.” One star.

3. ‘Horns of Plenty’
Artforum‘s Catherine Taft delivers some glamor and decadence over at Scene & Herd, visiting Aspen during the weekend of the Aspen Art Museum’s annual artCRUSH gala. At the house of collectors Amy and John Phelan guests were greeted with “warm embraces and flutes of champagne”—and “a fleet of white-dressed models wore Sotheby’s diamonds,” she reports. Big money was raised for the museum’s new Shigeru Ban-design building, with a 32-print work by Roni Horn hammering for $420,000 at the museum’s benefit auction. That figure easily beats Ms. Horn’s official all-time auction record of $254,500, which was made in 2009 at Sotheby’s. Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina notes that the fast-rising Theaster Gates was another winner up in the Colorado mountains, as one of his sculptures made $39,000. “He’s on the list of every contemporary collector right now,” collector Dennis Scholl tells Ms. Kazakina.

2. Ken Johnson Hits the Streets
Times critic Ken Johnson strolls the streets of New York and writes about the city’s public sculpture shows this week. Mr. Johnson is not impressed by the Public Art Fund’s ambitious Sol LeWitt exhibition in City Hall Park. “It is hard to imagine many casual park visitors being captivated by the conceptual systems that gave rise to such rarefied abstractions,” he writes of the white-cube-filled show. The critic compares Urs Fischer’s 23-foot-tall yellow Untitled (Lamp/Bear), placed in front of the Seagram building by Christie’s, to “the kitschy, Pop-realist sculptures of J. Seward Johnson” (whose Marilyn Monroe sculpture in Chicago has generated controversy recently) and suggests that the work may be “a portrait of the inner child [Mr. Fischer] neglected while pursuing his high-flying career. His Rosebud.”

1. ‘The Trickle-Down Delusion’
“Wealth doesn’t trickle down,” ARTINFO’s Ben Davis writes in his Interventions column. “[I]t congeals.” Using a recent research paper on the art market, Mr. Davis picks apart the logic that what is good for the ultra wealthy is also good for the art world. There are sharp inequalities in the art world, the critic notes, with just a handful of galleries dominating the playing field, and as the market becomes more “event-driven”–read: art fair-centered—it may be increasingly difficult for smaller galleries to keep pace. The Week in Art Criticism: Dog Days of Summer Edition