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The Year in Art

December 6, 2011

The Cold War, fifties brushstrokes, and a pickup artist run amok.

Christian Marclay’s The Clock at Paula Cooper Gallery.

(Photo: Benjamin Norman/The New York Times/Redux)

The Top 10

1. The Clock, Christian Marclay 
I imagine Darren Aronofsky onstage at the Academy Awards next February, announcing, “And the winner for Best Picture is … Christian Marclay’s The Clock.” Movie stars would be dumbstruck; the art world would cheer. Marclay’s film, painstakingly assembled out of time-specific clips from classic movies, was a 24-hour odyssey of chronology.

2. The Chauvet Cave Paintings, in 3-D
Speaking of movie theaters, I yelped when I saw the panoramic shots in Werner Herzog’s astounding Cave of Forgotten Dreams and gleaned that 30,000 years ago, painters in southern France could draw with atmospheric and linear perspective. Mammals have never been rendered better.

(Photo: © Willem de Kooning/Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York)

3. “De Kooning: a ­Retrospective,” ­­ at MoMA 
The transcendently sensuous show of almost 200 works by the Dutch-American master Willem de Kooning teemed with visual wisdom, annulling the many ridiculous critical complaints that this cloudburst of artistic genius was too big or passé. A painting supernova.

4. “Alexander ­McQueen: Savage Beauty,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art made me gay! I was shaken to my hetero core by the unbridled originality, brazenness, and riveting vision on display in the Met’s Alexander McQueen show of clothes that became sculpture that turned into art. Dismissing this as “only a fashion show” is like saying Mozart only wrote songs.

5. “Bliss,’ Ragnar Kjartansson 
This twelve-hour performance with ten Icelandic opera singers, all repeatedly performing the divine final aria of The Marriage of Figaro, created a replicating masterpiece of love, redemption, and Icelandic insanity.

6. “Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels,” at the Neuberger Museum 
Given the continued imbalance in the system, for a woman to paint at all is still a political act; for her to do so in a vaguely gestural figurative style is almost insurrectionary. The show proves that like all outstanding artists, Schutz probably has an extra wrinkle in her frontal lobe.

 Read more at: Shows of the Year
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