The Public Review
Anti-immigration rhetoric and policy have become defining features in Austrian politics, particularly since 2017 when the center-right Austria’s People Party (ÖVP) formed a coalition with the far-right populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). Leading politicians unreservedly propagate white supremacist logic, speaking about “population displacement” that creates an environment hostile for non-white residents. Austrian politics and the environment they’ve created reflect a Europe rife with anti-immigrant sentiment.
Site-specificity has been a dominant feature of Dia Art Foundation’s work since its founding in the mid-1970s. As the keeper of monumental in-situ artworks such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), Walter de Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), and, most recently, Cameron Rowland’s Depreciation (2018), Dia has a sensibility for histories of land and site and for art that engages with place-based narratives. This year at Dia’s Bridgehampton location, Tony Cokes was commissioned for the annual installation, with Dia marketing the exhibition as one of the first in recent years by a “non-local” artist. In a contemporary art world that favors global circulation and translatability, what relevance does locality or intimacy with a particular community play? Artist and art historian Kai Hatcher reviews the installation here.
The Philip Guston retrospective was postponed in 2020, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, for fear that Guston’s paintings referencing the Ku Klux Klan could be misinterpreted. The decision was controversial, taken as yet another symptom of the failure of art institutions to confront head-on and self-consciously their histories and complicities in regimes of power, specifically in white supremacy. The exhibition is now on view at Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art, the third of four stops on its tour. Just steps from the seat of the US government, the museum is unusual from its peer institutions; though it was established at the impetus of industrialist Andrew W. Mellon with his funds and collection, it is thoroughly public by US standards—its operations are funded through the federal government and admission is always free. How did this public institution, the most-visited art museum in the United States, situate the painter’s idiosyncratic oeuvre, a landmark in the history of postwar art in the US, both formally and politically? Art historian Rachel Burke reviews here.
In the German-speaking world, the Kunstverein and the Kunsthalle are models of democratic, municipal art institutions. They are nonprofit and non-collecting and are typically supported by public funds and dues-paying members, who are often involved in the institution's governance. Frequently translated as “art association,” the Kunstverein has no real institutional counterpart in the Anglophosphere. From the US, with its thoroughly private, oligarchic, and corporate art institutions, it’s easy to idolize the spirit of the Kunstverein. Yet, like any institution, these member-oriented spaces are a product of a particular history that manifests in the bylaws and operations governing them. Recently, artists have taken the site, history, and bureaucracy of these institutions as their material, creating work that interrupts, amends, and challenges their promise—see Bea Schlingelhoff’s intervention at Kunstverein München or Eva Barto’s at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, both in 2021. Greek artist Iris Touliatou's exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel is the latest of such critical engagements. Artist and writer Brit Barton reviews her exhibition here.
Among The Public Review’s primary concerns is the nonprofit art institution and its mediation of art for the public. This interest arises in large part out of the increasing privatization of art, culture, and their institutions and the dilemmas that this transformation of public history and knowledge entails. An increasing number of books published over the last few years have taken up this shift and examined its implications for the museum, many of them accounts from inside the museum—see Clémentine Deliss’s The Metabolic Museum (Hatje Cantz 2020), Laura Raicovich’s Culture Strike (Verso, 2021), or Karen Archey’s After Institutions (Floating Opera Press, 2022)—and others from scholars including Aruna D’Souza and Bénédicte Savoy. David Joselit’s new book adds to this growing body of literature, offering an account of the museum in the West and a theory of the artwork’s property relations. Our cofounder and editor Genevieve Lipinsky de Orlov reviews it here.
The editors • February 11, 2023
“With The Public Review, we hope to publish public-minded art criticism that finds an eager readership and, in the best case, stimulates discussion and debate beyond itself.”