The coronavirus pandemic is a health crisis with many cultural implications: above all, the absorption of all aspects of our lives deeper into networks and phone screens. Even more than last year, I was attracted by art, music and films, which, in one way or another, shy away from the work of likes and reposts and take a place for human creativity in a world too governed by algorithmic logic.
‘Drawing by Cezanne’
The apple of my eye. The painstaking, almost overwhelming summer exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art brought the image of the father of modernism to its essence, revealing the daily, step-by-step verification necessary for the fruit to become as weighty as the Holy Family. These heavy-bottomed pears, these clumsy bathers. These are the short green and blue strokes on his views of Mont Saint Victoire. These Provencal rock formations are rocks of air and watercolors, Cezanne as a geologist! These hundreds of sheets confirmed just in time that your art will never change another person’s life if it just shows what you think. You need a feature, a seriousness that can only come from form. (Read our review of “Drawing by Cezanne”.)
I would call the 42-year-old Japanese filmmaker the most exciting in years if he wasn’t so … calm. Riding a Car, Khamaguchi’s unfailingly accurate account of a widowed actor who sublimated his grief through his chauffeur and Chekhov, has virtues that cinema lacks: long shots, sharp guillotine editing, leisurely belief in the importance of images. Like Jacques Rivette and Mike Lee before him, Hamaguchi contrasts his unobtrusive cinematography with the conventions of the theater — in this case, the multilingual production of Uncle Vanya, which turns into a silent, heartbreaking finale when the troupe’s Sonya sighs, “We must.” Relax! “in Korean Sign Language. Add to that” Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, “Hamaguchi’s three-part fugue of love and intuition, also released this year, and you see a startling talent emerge that finds romance in rigor. (Read our Review “Drive My Car”.)
Barney & Friends
Two decades ago, his creation of the world was mistaken for American Wagnerism; but Matthew Barney is more cooperative and more relaxed than you think, and he does the best job of his career in a lighter register first seen in his 2019 film Redoubt.
In Catastrophe in Three Movements in September this year in Schaulager, Switzerland, he lost more than half of the evening to the Basel Symphonietta, which played the churning music of Jonathan Bepler, along with a sculpture of copper, brass and burnt pine in the style of Bernini. Three women brought the remnants of Catasterism to life: contact improvisation pioneer C.J. Holmes, Cree hoop dancer Sandra Lamusch, and sportswoman Jill Bettonville as Mark Diana pumping Barney’s flesh-dense sculpture full of lead. (Read our review Redoubt by Matthew Barney.)
‘The Marbles of Torlonia’
This spring in Rome, in the nearly empty Capitoline Museum, I saw the first public exhibition in half a century of the greatest collection of antique art in private hands. Travel restrictions have made the Torlonia family’s Greek and Roman sculptures casual asleep: dozens of portrait busts, a hairy goat lying like a god of love, a shattered Hercules made up of hundreds of shards. Rome was my first trip abroad since the pandemic, and I went through a dozen PCR tests to see this legendary collection before it disappears again on January 9th. (Read our report at Torlonia marble.)
Astral but never cosmic, architectural but limitless at the same time, this nine-piece album-long composition has earned all the rave reviews that have poured since its release in March. As Pharaoh Sanders’ muted tenor saxophone (and occasional vocalizations) intertwines with the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra, synthesizers and the chelesta of Sam Shepard, aka Floating Points, a British electronic musician who is almost five decades younger than Sanders, Promises begins to feel yourself. -regulated ecosystem, increasingly dense network of music and traffic. These guys knew what they were doing when they chose Julie Mehretu’s painting for the album cover, whose retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art this year had the same cumulative grandeur. (Read our an overview of the Promises.)
The secret to good jewelry: Buy only the best and don’t do anything! The clever reinstallation of Frick in the vacated Whitney building re-filtered the Vermeer and Velasquez we thought we knew and isolated “St. Francis in the Desert “in a magnificent brutalist chamber illuminated by one of Marcel Breuer’s trapezoidal windows. Freak Madison proved more subtly that we can convey the context of art in hundreds of digital formats; The bigger challenge for museums is to set aside time and space to really see. (Read our story at the creation of Freak Madison.)
Meteorological station “Ignorance”
I feel useless / Like a tree in a city park / Standing as a symbol that / We are blown apart…. While forests burned in British Columbia and diplomats faltered in Glasgow, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, who plays the Weather Station, unveiled an unconditional, open-ended atmospheric alarm album, in which guitars are mixed with greenhouse gases and losses are measured in metric units. tons. She knows we don’t need artists to tell us that the climate has changed; we need them to tell us how we are doing. (Read our interview with the singer.)
This year, Paris hosted a quartet of major cultural discoveries. The stock exchange, renovated by Tadao Ando for François Pinault’s contemporary art collection, attracted the most Instagram posts, but it was two historic sites restored – the Carnavale Museum, the Museum of the History of Paris, and the Hôtel de la Marin. the stunningly majestic naval headquarters is the best combination of old and new. The city’s sweetest surprise is the old Samaritaine department store, reopened 16 years later, its Art Nouveau expanses updated with wave-like glass from the Japanese firm Sanaa. (Read our story at restoration of the Hôtel de la Marine.)
The books are back!
Closer to Home, New York’s Public Library has been revived after being closed for too long by the pandemic with a lovely new home: the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, a former dilapidated Mid-Manhattan Library reimagined and revived by Dutch firm Mecanoo with Beyer Blinder Belle. Its pure white expanse is full of computers (there is even a Bloomberg terminal for aspiring teen traders), but its core collection of 400,000 circulating books open for free viewing remains at the core. Several years ago, the NYPL planned to sell the site and expel the books from its main research unit in New Jersey. The book of Niarchos, as well as the renovation of the Brooklyn Public Library by Toshiko Mori, is evidence that cities need readers and readers need prints. (Read our new library overview.)
Mockery of Daniil Medvedev
The funniest and most beautiful performance of the year took place at Arthur Ashe Stadium, when the lanky young Russian made his last serve, won the US Open title – and threw his entire body on the court, mimicking the movement of the PlayStation when he was lying like a dead man. a fish. As arrogant as it is ridiculous, Medvedev’s failure stuck in my mind this fall as a Gen-Z masterclass on how to stay human in the world of memes. If you need to dive into an algorithm, then do it with complete disdain. (Read our profile “Octopus” Daniil Medvedev.)