NEW YORK Guggenheim Museum Latrine, potty, WC, john, head, loo, privy, throne-polite epithets for the lowly toilet-are feeble descriptions for the plumbing fixture when it achieves high art honors, as it does with Maurizio Cattelan’s America, a fully functioning, 18-karat-gold replica of a commercial Kohler model. Set inside the Guggenheim’s fifth floor unisex lavatory and accorded the same egalitarian public access as its more accessibly priced porcelain cousins, it transcends all prior notions of performance and interactive art.
BOSTON Museum of Fine Arts The immersive, often interactive installations showcased in “Megacities Asia” explored identity amid the masses, sociopolitical issues, and ecological concerns. In a show that mimicked urban sprawl, curators Al Miner and Laura Weinstein examined the successes and failures of Asia’s boomtowns by cherry-picking artists from Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai, Seoul, and Shanghai. Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa’s Breathing Flower was sited next to the museum’s Huntington Avenue entrance. The giant, inflated crimson blossom fluttered buoyant in the wind. At bustling Faneuil Hall, Choi’s inflatable Fruit Tree was equally vivid.
PEEKSKILL, NEW YORK Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art A citywide public art festival organized by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA), “Peekskill Project,” which launched in 2004, is devoted to bringing contemporary art out of the museum and into the community, specifically into spaces not normally used to present art. The 2015 iteration, “Peekskill Project 6,” featured works by 57 U.S. and international artists selected by an international curatorial committee and presented in various locations around the city, including empty industrial buildings, storefronts, public parks, and private homes, as well as at HVCCA.
WASHINGTON, DC Renwick Gallery From kaleidoscopic prisms to twinkling LED lights, nine room-size installations inaugurated the Renwick’s second reboot since its opening in 1859. Natural references and the importance of labor prevailed, as did explorations of growth and accumulation with materials of everyday life. By featuring contemporary artists Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, John Grade, Janet Echelman, Maya Lin, and Leo Villareal, the Renwick opted to revitalize its original mission—it was the first private museum in the U.S. dedicated to the visual arts.
STOCKBRIDGE, MA Chesterwood Margaret French wrote a line or two a day in the diaries that she kept in the early 20th century. French was the only child of Mary and Daniel Chester French, the sculptor best known for the Lincoln Memorial. He and his wife and daughter spent as much time as possible at his Berkshire summer estate, Chesterwood, until his death in 1931. Margaret’s entries in the diaries were terse and factual. On August 9, 1905, she wrote: “Went down to the store in morning. Played tennis in aft. And drove over to Stockbridge.
HAVANA, CUBA 11th Havana Biennial The Havana Biennial originated in 1984 as a tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Though it initially showcased only artists from the Caribbean, today it includes works by artists from the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Africa. The 11th installment, which spread across the greater metropolitan Havana area, was a daunting enterprise for a first-time visitor.
The 12th Istanbul Biennial focused on artists from the Middle East and Latin America. According to “Untitled” co-curator Jens Hoffman, “We were looking for artworks that are formally innovative as well as politically outspoken and that relate to the general themes of the exhibition such as migration, violence, identity, and politics.”
Walking up the grand promenade of the refreshed and expanded, $100 million, 20-acre campus of the Israel Museum is exhilarating, even exalting. Approximately five years in the planning and execution, the museum’s 45th-anniversary building project is the most ambitious cultural development enterprise in Israel’s history.