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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."



One-half of "Comedian"



In the really old days, before the advent of the talkies in 1927, the lowest form of variety show in the U.S. was burlesque, home of striptease and the raunchiest jokes.  Here's where the phrase, "top banana," originated, meaning the lead comedian in the show.


I suspect this info is already known to Maurizio Cattelan, the Italian conceptualist, heretofore famous as the creator of "America:" a fully-functional, solid gold toilet that had art-lovers who visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York a year or so ago lined up to use it. 


Why do I suspect that this artiste is already familiar with the phrase, "top banana"? I say this because his contribution to civilization this year was a real, live banana fastened by silvery-grey duct tape to a partition in the Paris-based Perrotin gallery booth at Miami Basel.  Its title was "Comedian," and its price tag ranged from $120,000 to $150,000. Read More 

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Charles Demuth (1883-1935). Dancing Sailors, 1917. Watercolor over graphite on paper, 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4). Courtesy Demuth Museum, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“Why do you bother?” two likeminded art-world friends asked, when I told that that I’d been to the media preview of “Maurizio Cattelan: All” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (through January 22). They knew—and I knew---that none of us was going to rhapsodize about the show, but  Read More 
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