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The Short List

A view of Takashi Murakami's "Little Boy" show at the Japan Society.  

Best Apocalyptic Art
Takashi Murakami’s “Little Boy: The Art of Japan’s Exploding Subculture”
Murakami, who was known primarily for his cute “superflat” paintings and cutesier handbags for Vuitton, traced his wide-eyed otaku culture back to the A-bomb in the group show he assembled at the Japan Society.

Best New Chelsea Gallery
Freight & Volume
Ground-floor newbies in Chelsea are growing rare, at least if you’re not counting galleries opening their fourth branches—so the arrival of former LFL partner Nick Lawrence’s Freight & Volume last fall was a pleasant surprise. His first show (paintings and videos by Ludwig Schwartz) was open for all of one evening, but the schedule quickly settled into a more conventional rhythm (look for monthlong stints by Asuka Ohsawa and the team of Andrew and Elizabeth Neel this winter).

Best New Non-Chelsea Gallery
Reena Spaulings
A gallery named for a fictitious artist, herself the brainchild of a collective called the Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings would seem to personify the maddeningly insiderish side of the art world. But the Grand Street gallery, opened in 2004, is more than just a prank. In the past year it’s come of age, launching the careers of Seth Price and Klara Liden, among others, and Spaulings (or rather, the gallery’s founders, John Kelsey and Emily Sundblad) will play a prominent role in the next Whitney Biennial.

Best Chelsea Megagallery
Matthew Marks
Larry Gagosian may have more square footage, but this year, Marks came closest to turning his gallery into a mini-museum. The Chelsea pioneer’s spring lineup included photographs by Peter Hujar (anticipating a current P.S. 1 show), sculptor Robert Gober’s first New York show in eleven years, and the first presentation anywhere of new paintings by Jasper Johns since his 1996 MoMA retrospective. The Modern itself even acquired the whole Gober show as a single installation (running water, lactating headless Jesus, and all).

Lou Reed, Damien Hirst, and Julian Schnabel at Hirst's opening on March 11.  

Best (and Most Ridiculous) Opening
Damien Hirst at Gagosian
With a queue down the block by 7 p.m. and Hirst skull T-shirts for sale inside, the Brit art star’s New York opening (of “Damien Hirst: The Elusive Truth”) on March 11 might as well have been a sold-out rock show. The after-party at Lever House, where hedge-fund guys ogled gallerinas and bemused curators whispered about the rumored sale prices ($2 million for one of those lousy canvases?!), was aptly described by an Artforum reporter: “celebrating the end of art.”

Smartest Curatorial Acquisition
Laura Hoptman, by the New Museum
Looking forward to settling in at its new home on the Bowery, the New Museum of Contemporary Art has made another shrewd move—luring this talented curator back to New York. Hoptman’s “Drawing Now” show for MoMA (where she was an assistant curator for six years before jumping to the Carnegie Museum) anticipated the most significant art-world trend of the past few years, and her Carnegie International last winter made Pittsburgh a mandatory stop on the collectors’ circuit.

Best Group Show
“Bridge Freezes Before Road”
Group shows are often just scheduling placeholders, for those summer months when everyone’s out of town. But Neville Wakefield’s show for Barbara Gladstone proved unexpectedly popular, as art lovers (and a few celebrities) braved the heat to see work by young artists under the sway of seventies conceptualists like Robert Smithson.

Best Surprising Career Move
Debra Singer goes to the Kitchen
Just after pulling off an acclaimed (for once) Whitney Biennial with Chrissie Iles and Shamim Momim, curator Deb Singer jumped to the Chelsea space known more for live performance (think Laurie Anderson) than visual art. In her first year and a half on the job, cheaper tickets, video work as good as anything at neighboring art-only galleries, and special events like a block party with Friends of the High Line have re-established the Kitchen as an accessibly avant-garde, truly interdisciplinary venue.

Best Show Title
“I find a Burberry scarf and matching coat with a whale embroidered on it (something a little kid might wear) and it's covered with what looks like dried chocolate syrup crisscrossed over the front”
For the record, the name of David Ratcliff’s show this past April at Team comes from Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho.
—Karen Rosenberg