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Jerry Saltz’s Want-to-Sees

What our critic is most eager for this fall.


The art world is molting—some would say melting. Galleries are closing; museums are scaling back. Even the stately Met has cut staff; no one knows if the Whitney is going ahead with its new downtown building; it’s anyone’s guess when Dia will finally open a permanent space in the city. Yet the fall season of shows in New York’s galleries, museums, and alternative spaces should quell some of the skittishness and titillate our senses.

1. Performa 09
Various locations; Nov. 1–22.
This three-week performance biennial, invented by impresario-scholar-gadfly RoseLee Goldberg in 2004, is back, bigger than ever, and intends to “write the next chapter of performance art.” The nerviness and artistic energy make this year’s offerings—from about 100 artists, with ten commissioned pieces—unmissable.

2. Kandinsky
Guggenheim Museum; Sept. 18–Jan. 13.
If MoMA’s founding artist is Picasso and the Whitney’s is Hopper, the Guggenheim’s is Vasily Kandinsky—whose influences, by comparison, have faded. This first big U.S. survey of the artist in more than twenty years has the power to alter that impression.

3. Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction
Whitney Museum of American Art; Sept. 17–Jan. 17.
Once the most popular artist in America, O’Keeffe is often written off today (too many flowers and va-jay-jays). But O’Keeffe can be a powerhouse—especially in her less-well-known, abstract work, which is what we’ll see here.

4. Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World
The Drawing Center; Sept. 18–Dec. 18.
It’s time to revisit the whimsy, wit, and relevance of Ree Morton, who died in a car accident in 1977, shortly before her 41st birthday. Morton combined conceptualism, postminimalism, magic, Americana, and kitsch with a feminist twist and a comedian’s wit.

5. Urs Fischer
The New Museum; Oct. 28–Jan. 24.
Three-plus exhibition floors go to the Swiss-born New Yorker known for his outlandish juxtapositions of objects and his architectural interventions, like the huge hole he dug into a gallery floor in 2007. Sure to rattle aesthetic cages, raise eyebrows, and impress us even more than we have been.

6. A Voyage of Growth and Discovery
SculptureCenter; Sept. 13–Nov. 30.
Teaming up for this filmic-sculptural installation are West Coast art star Mike Kelley and local art hero Michael Smith. We’ll see the intrepid journey of Smith’s longtime alter ego Baby IKKI—for which role he dresses in a diaper and a bonnet and goes out walking. Should be raving fun.

7. 1969,
P.S. 1; Oct. 25–April 5.
The art world is finally shaking off its long obsession with 1968—but just barely, as P.S. 1 turns the page and fills its large second-floor galleries with about 80 works, all drawn from MoMA’s permanent collections, all produced in 1969.

8. Sarah Anne Johnson: House on Fire
Julie Saul Gallery, Sept. 17–Nov. 14.
For her third solo show, Johnson combines photography, sculpture, and painting to tell the story of her grandmother’s medical mistreatment. Dark scenarios, enacted by small figures, unfold in an elaborate dollhouse. Uncanny, touching, and formally inventive.

Fall Preview 2009



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