The Whitney Biennial is something of a coming-out party for mostly young and mostly unknown contemporary artists working in America. To announce the much-anticipated list of artists selected for this year’s show, which opens in New York on February 25th, the two curators, Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari, have supplemented the traditional press release with a short, weird film. Art wags are now scratching their heads, wondering what this could possibly mean….


Strange Breeds

America’s east coast is peppered with architectural behemoths better suited to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” than the leafy habitat of the tufted Maine Coon cat. Parts of northern New Jersey look like industrial-age Manchester, and the towering girded glass cubes of I.M. Pei’s Jacob K. Javits convention centre in New York City could house a fighter jet. It’s hardly the place one would expect to glimpse the spotted belly of a sprawling Egyptian Mau […]

Art Clippings

Charles Saatchi Review

Charles Saatchi has all the makings of a James Bond villain. He is masterfully powerful with a mottled international background: born in Baghdad, raised in Hampstead, he’s Jewish and obsessed with brash American culture. Saatchi clawed his way up through the advertising industry, creating an empirewith his brother that swayed elections (favouring Margaret Thatcher) and sold addictive vices (Silk Cut cigarettes) to the masses. He marries beautiful women, drives flash cars and builds lairs in abandoned paint factories and old government buildings. Almost as an afterthought, he has become the world’s first art-collecting superstar, perhaps the only one with real name recognition beyond the art world. Yet he never shows up for events and rarely addresses outsiders. Until now.…[link]

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More Intelligent Life Story


Iggy Pop, the gravelly godfather of punk rock, has mellowed since his howling heyday in the 1970s. But his latest album, Les Préliminaires, would seem almost inconceivable to fans of the smack-addled screamer’s early work with The Stooges. Once famous for guzzling gallons of bourbon on stage, rubbing broken glass on his writhing chest and growling “I Want to Be Your Dog“, Iggy Pop has released an ambient jazz album. And not just any jazz album. Sung partly in French, it was inspired by a novel by Michel Houellebecq called “The Possibility of An Island” (“La Possibilité d’une Ile”) … [Link]


Culture 11 Op-Ed

Why Attack Hotels?

Take the population of New York City, double it, cram it into an archipelago half its size, and turn up the temperature: you get Mumbai, a city whose luxury hotels are its best escape. These air-conditioned comfort bubbles, far above the sweltering, seething masses, afford the world-weary traveler or Indian executive access to the best restaurants, luxuries like crisp croissants and pepperoni pizza, glossy magazines that haven’t yet gone limp in the relentless humidity, water that won’t give you “Delhi Belly,” and respite from the traffic jams and screeching hawkers on the streets below… (LINK)


The Madness of the Upper Class

My latest article, about my brief stay in a 5th Avenue Penthouse:

Illustration from L Mag

Readers humbled by New York City’s billionaire hedge fund managers and their trustafarian progeny may take some comfort in knowing that Andrew Carnegie’s warning about wealth slipping between the fingers of subsequent generations?“from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”?still applies. … click to read.

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Spook Country

I have an essay out next week in The L Magazine about William Gibson’s latest novel, Spook Country. This post will eventually become an excuse to link to it.

The L Magazine

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed by Gibson’s latest. I was reminded of Tibor Fischer’s review of Martin Amis’ Yellow Dog, “it’s like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating.”

I liked Yellow Dog, I’ve been on a serious Martin Amis kick since moving up to New Haven and I think sentence-wise it’s better than Money or London Fields. I’d dig out some quotes, but my Yellow Dog is under bedbug quarantine, wrapped tight in permethrin-laced plastic right now.

Partly I don’t like Spook Country because Gibson’s veering off from science fiction, which I think is a cop-out. But more to the point, I think the whole book is a conscious attempt to replace the Neuromancer metaphor for cyberspace. He’s trying to say that cyberspace is becoming just another layer of consciousness, which would be fine but it’s rammed down your throat–all these layers of things other than technology floating about, influencing characters… oh, it’s all so hacky.

The worst is when the omniscent narrator voice goes into the head of a young Cuban character. The writing gets self-consciously ethnic-sounding, like you can tell Gibson has been reading all this breathy, badly translated Latin fiction and has decided that’s the way Cubans think. Worst of all, Gibson has pared down his prose and, let’s just say he’s no Martin Amis once he loses the density.

Spook Country is still worth a read, though, I mean he’s still a good writer. But the density is what made his writing, without it it’s flaccid, sloopy (not sloppy, sloopy) stuff. Plus he’s wrong about his Internet metaphor. Information operates like grammar does, it’s about linkages between things and not about things themselves. It’s still a concept metaphor, what the Internet is and will become reflects that. That’s what pattern recognition is, I think, it’s seeing the ‘shape’ of a network of intermingled exchanges.