The Kirlian

Art Basel: The Kirlian


FIAC – the art fair frenzy continues – in French

Last week saw the opening night of the FIAC, one of the oldest art fairs in existence; the “grande dame” of art fairs. This French lady struggled for many years to keep pace with the brave new world of Frieze and Art Basel Miami, and would have perhaps all but died in terms of presenting new, ground breaking artists, were it not for the dynamic director, Miss Jennifer Flay. Flay, a former gallerist herself, managed with new ideas, often to the alarm of the French gallery association, to bring FIAC back to contemporaneity and up-to-date flair.
The fact that it was moved from the terrible fair and convention center of Port de Versailles to the glorious, glamourous, glittering grand ballroom of culture, Grand Palais, has also helped to make this a very elegant and pleasant affair.
Elegance is as important in the art world as it ever was. And we are in the right town for that. At the FIAC you are to be seen by not only thousands of other people who also want to be perceived as knowledgable enough and cultural enough not to be taken for just “noveau riche”, but you are also tripping around in concerto with thousands and thousands of art works that take up a lot of the attention.

And the art is of course why they are here, the well dressed, high heeled and wealthy; the black-dressed, low heeled, and intellectually articulate; as well as the colorfully dressed, no heeled, “artistes” from another era, who were for one reason or another were passed by.

My former colleagues from my time in New York as an gallery owner, from Chelsea, NY, Los Angeles London, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere, are now the center stage players of the fairs “prime positions” (which means pretty much right at the entrance of the fair).

The young artists these galleries were struggling so hard to establish in an 90´s art world when we were “young galleries” – then dominated by the “post modernists”, or even by painting – are now “blue chip” artists in great demand with very high prices and who´s work looks very elegant and refined (and expensive).
Most of the good artists of my generation are doing things in a very straight-forward, consequential line with what they started out to do. Still it looks, in the atmosphere of FIAC setting – very pristine, exclusive and highly collectible.

above and to the left: Rirkrit Tiravanija, and other artist ́s work, at Kurimanzutto ́s booth

I also note that there are not many video works, save for a few notables, as Doug Aitken´s performance and installation work from the Greek island Hydra, featuring Chloe Sevigny, and two of Bill Viola´s incredible flood/water videos. They are both pretty dark, in content as well as technically, and maybe it is the brightness of the Grand Palais that makes it hard to get them visible in the booths, but it is still a little curious to me, that these were the only videos and film works I saw, when video and film is usually so dominant.

Bill Viola, “Crossing”, video, 1996, Sound and video installation

Back seems the 80´s (as usual) and below here is old school art-star Barbara Kruger, who is always interesting to see. Richard Prince and Jeff Koons have of course already broken all auction price records for their generation a few years ago, so maybe it is time for a few new re-discoveries to take place. Barbara Kruger, and Jenny Holzer could be two that will have to fight out the “blunt-word-art” genre, and I bet it is going to be Kruger who walks out of that one. Kruger seems to have the simplicity that the generation who nowadays reads “American Psycho” or “Bright Lights Big City” as a historic document over a “belle epoque” – the glamourous 80´s – might prefer over Holzer´s “Protect Me From What I Want” – soberness. Jury still out. And may remain out for a while yet…

Mark Quinn, member the British 90´s wave of “Cool Britannica” presents a big image from the London Riots earlier this year. Very decorative indeed but made me think more of the “Banksy-effect” than of the political situation of the young.
Quinn got famous making a sculpture-head-self portrait of his own coagulated blood, back in the days, and did you by the way know how coined the term “Cool Britannica”? Tony Blair, of all people. Perhaps not so cool anymore…

So here is a “real” Banksy, anyway, just for you to see. How it sneaked in to the elegant art fair (and started looking so very serious), I don´t know. But I bet it is expensive!

Paris. The subject of their conversation is the actual iphone-photographic-rendering of the work by Slovakian artist Maria Bartuszova, who passed away 1996. Miss Macel drew my attention to the work of Bartuszova, and again, Christine proves that she sees the gems, discovers and re-discovers the new/old and clarifies art in the most interesting of contexts.

Here is also an image of the curator admiring a young woman´s dress. In this case it is not an excuse to study her legs or some other exquisite part, but actually her clothes. The dress is made by Swiss/French artist Thomas Hirshhorn and is covered with news photographs from the most gruesome of catastrophes over the last two centuries. World Trade Center, Madrid-train and London Subway -bombings, Iraq and Afghan wars, and so on.

The distinction seems to be political. Here are only the situations we as people did to each other. There are no natural disasters here.
The message is clear as day, and the context of a mannequin makes it just all to poignant, the contrasts between our western, mundane life and the reality of sudden disaster.

I sign out with two works form FIAC, one of my friend Jack Pierson, who´s collected fragments of old shop-signs that are put together to make new words, creating a form of collage-like memorabilia of American road-movie times with a language of the present.

The other is an unknown (to me) work of art that seems to somehow also ring with a symbolic resonance of our times. I am not sure of the artist´s intention on this one, but it seemed to me this sculpture might have resembled something else, before it melted into pure form. What do you think it might have been? This is the quiz, with the answer to be revealed in my next blog. First right contribution wins a ticket to the next FIAC-opening!

Yours, by the art world pen,

Thomas Nordanstad
Global curator, Absolut.

From the curator


Coming back from the Frieze art fair, where two hectic days and nights were spent, one can hardly look at a tree or a lamp post in the street without turning it into some kind of sculpture or installation. The vastness of the fair nowadays, it various locations, going from one to another everything in between becomes interwoven with the exhibitions and projects. Images blur together with “real” objects: cars, neon signs, patterns in the road: even people walking by you in the bustling, weekend-London.

Sylvain Deleu

Going through Hyde Park from the Serpentine Gallery for instance, where Absolut Art Award 2011 – winner Anri Sala has his solo show – the echoes of all his little self playing drums and the excellent saxophonist who wanders between the rooms, fill the park with their sounds, hours after you left the show. And it is a truly remarkable exhibition he has made where the drums pick up from a video made in Berlin the “resonance” of the actual performance in a historical, empty building. Where is it actually playing – in Berlin, on the video, or in the room right in front of you? There is nobody in the room except the other visitors and the line of drums keep their mystical beats of the sticks in the air and on the skins, balancing on the actual rim of each.

When art does this kind of magic, this kind of “meaningful” magic, not just a trick or a one liner, but when it really makes you think about location, music, rhythm of all us that are their – it tends to create some kind of bond between us spectators. We look around and back at the drums, then to each other, and we smile.

The winner of “best both” at Frieze Art Fair this year, was Gavin Brown´s enterprise, and of course I mention it partly because it is the home gallery of last year´s winner of the Absolut Art Award 2010: Mr. Rirkrit Tiravanija, but there were also great pieces by painter Joe Bradley, Chris Ofili, Elizabeth Peyton and Peter Doig. As it happens, I know a quite a lot of people in the art world by now (20 years), and I can testify that many people seems to ascribe to the the old myth by Oscar Wilde, who made his comments about the art fairs of the 19th century, the “Salon the Independants”, that the problem with them was that: “Either there are too many people so that you can´t see the art, or there are too many art works, that you can´t see people, which is even worse”.

I personally have no “stake” in the commercial aspects of the art world anymore, aside from saying nice things about my Absolut projects, and sometimes respond to those many questions by people who want to know what Absolut is doing right now in the arts, and how they can get involved. Sometimes it sounds as if they just want to be “sponsored” right off the bat, but most of the time they have heard a few things about Absolut´s involvement in art, after the 30 years of commissions of works including the bottle, and they want to be part of “the new” somehow.

Then there was the winner of the prize. To give out prizes is not new but the significance of winning or being awarded a prize at a prestigious event as Frieze have snowballed the last years. This year´s winner, Ms. Anahita Razmi, is a German video artist that has done a funny and thoughtful series called “Miss Atomic Bomb”. Miss Razmi has also made an entertaining series of herself drinking a bottle of vodka and trying to walk straight in high heels. It should be clear to any reader that this is absolutely not the behavior condoned, encouraged or in any way stimulated by the makers of any brand of alcohol but its nevertheless her choice to do this and very funny indeed. The piece is a “reality” reflection of another work by artist Tracey Emin, who raised to fame with outrageous and often punchy pieces as the tent, embroided with an abundance of men´s names, titled : “Everyone I have ever slept with”.

Emin tent exteriorTracey Emin: “Everyone I have ever slept with, 1963-1995.

Frieze Art Fair

So in between the here and the NOW, which many artist seemed to try and figure out what it really consists of, and where that exactly is, there were some major works of art that really made you think, contemplate and wonder. Amish Kapoor always does that, for instance, and coming from the amazing installation at the Grand Palais in Paris it was nice to see some of his curious smaller sculptures that showed up here and there, amidst the more crowded and loud pieces in the various galleries that represent him.

Anish KapoorAnish Kapoor, Vessel, 2007

Speaking of Grand Palais, it is the venue for this weeks next stop in the ongoing (and seems, never ending) tour of art fairs and other spectacles. FIAC opens on the 20th and for the first time it takes place in one large single place, and a majestically beautiful and historic one at that. More on that in next posting!

Lastly, it is interesting to note that the number one position as the most influential person in the art world is indeed for once and more, and artist! In Art Review´s annual “Power 100 art List”, the number one most powerful person is: Ai Wei Wei, the chinese artist imprisoned for 81 days in Beijing for god-knows-what the authorities didn´t want him to become. So, so much for that, and congratulations!

Here is the list for you:

More on more will come soon, thanks for reading!

From the curator´s desk,
Thomas Nordanstad

Anri Sala


On September 16, artists, gallerists and journalists from more than 20 countries were gathered in Stockholm to celebrate the albanian video artist Anri Sala, recipient of the ABSOLUT ART AWARD 2011. The guests participated in seminars, a prize ceremony, art exhibitions and an exclusive screening of Anri Sala’s latest work to date, 1395 Days Without Red.

”Receiving the ABSOLUT ART AWARD feels like being rewarded more than once. It’s a great honour to me to be its recipient following, Rirkrit Tiravanija. And I also feel awarded by the presence of those who could come; family, friends, old and new – an exceptional archipelago of people that ABSOLUT kindly brought together from significant places and moments of my life, making this moment so meaningful to me. I believe there is a special and candid streak in the way ABSOLUT approaches art and people”, said Anri Sala.

Rirkrit Tiravanija

Art Awards- Rirkrit Tiravanija

Rirkrit Tiravanija was awarded the Absolut Art Award in 2010.
A film by Thomas Nordanstad.

Anri Sala


Anri Sala, recipient of the ABSOLUT ART AWARD 2011, in a film by Thomas Nordanstad.

Keren Cytter


Keren Cytter was the first artist awarded the Absolut Art Award in 2009.
A film by Thomas Nordanstad.

Clip with Anna Malmhake about ABSOLUT ART AWARD winner 2010


The ABSOLUT ART AWARD was instituted in 2009 to celebrate the company’s 30 years of creative collaborations. The annual prize is given to an international artist who explores creativity through the integration of art forms. Christine Macel, Chief Curator at Centre Pompidou, has chaired the ABSOLUT ART AWARD jury since 2010, following Daniel Birnbaum, Director at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, who chaired the 2009 jury. The winners of the ABSOLUT ART AWARD are Keren Cytter (2009) and Rirkrit Tiravanija (2010).

The third annual ABSOLUT ART AWARD winner will be awarded during a ceremony in Stockholm on September 16, 2011.

Thank you for being there!

What an Experience!

Thanks to all of you who came around Mexico City´s vibrant neighborhood of La Roma the other week to see our project there. I have just put together the film below, a seven minute compilation with interviews with the artists, their work, the evenings etc. Hopefully it captures some of the experience. The film “Colonia – 5 dayslaroma” that these images and words come from, will be ready to “sceen” here later in the beginning of September.

Anyone with anything to say, ask, comment or lambaste, is of course welcome to write to me, anytime, at

and Nizar Siala reported in

Two pieces of good news.

Two interesting things happened last week, in terms of “sensitive” art events. One was that my friend, the world famous artist Ai Wei Wei, was finally released from prison in China where he had been for some almost 90 days. Now the world is rejoicing and exhibitions of his work that have been in waiting, both for the political situation to clear up, but mostly for the practical issues of putting a Wei Wei show together without this dynamic man around personally.

One thing strikes me. His art really isn´t that political. His work is ephemeral, poetic, humanistic, sometimes grand, sometimes minimal, sometimes commenting on a troubled world but many times just small, beautiful butterflies coming from his thoughts.

He work is always thoughtful and it has that magic that defines great art in general : It makes me see something in a way that I had never myself imagined it seeing it before, and it “adds” a new perception, a new experience, a new angle, a view not taken before – to that great “Mountain of knowledge” where all new inventive art, invention, discovery and thought is gathered up and by which all that comes after will be measured and added again and again for the future. It is from that mountain that anybody, in my mind, are free and encouraged to take something in order to and make their own art, or form their own discoveries. This is where we always go back later for our references, for our inspiration, and for our sharing of experiences.

The other thing that made me happy last week was that Swedish Television decided to put up my little film “Khadaffi´s court painter” on its program. Right here:

My friend Nizar Siala, who this film is about, used to work really close to “The Leader” as they call Mohammar Ghadaffi, and was for a while the only person who could portray, both in photographic or painted form, Ghadaffi in the whole country of Libya. He is a very interesting artist because I think that he never ever believed a word of what Ghadaffi was rambling about but saw him as an anthropological experiment. I suspect that Siala is perhaps more a conceptual artist than a court painter.

Nizar Siala, Tripoli 2004

Nizar escaped, with great difficulty, quite recently from the country that had gone so wrong, leaving everything behind, and called me about a week ago from Morocco. I was so happy to hear that he was alive, and so curious about his experiences. Hopefully he comes to Sweden soon and can tell me in person. Magasin 3 in Stockholm will be presenting a large show and installation with Ai Wei Wei soon. Go and see it.

Nobody has offered to show the works of Nizar Siala yet. But I will let you know as soon as that happens…

- Borrby, South Sweden, June 27