On an August afternoon in Detroit’s Banglatown—so named for the sizable Bangladeshi population—artists, designers, and property developers gathered in the garden of Kate Daughdrill’s Burnside Farm, plucking spring rolls from a picnic table made of beams salvaged from the burnt-out home next door. The lunch included a planning discussion for the third edition of Culture Lab Detroit, an annual design and urbanism symposium happening next month. It was business as usual for Daughdrill, who operates Burnside Farm out of her home and garden. Purchased for $600 in 2011, the house is just one of the many instances of artists and activists who’ve approached the desolation of the Motor City as a blank canvas.
On a hot day in May, Monte Laster and I drove an hour and a half out of Dallas to Castle Rock Mountain, a ranch he had purchased just two weeks prior to serve as the American base for his community engagement platform—the French American Creative Exchange (FACE). I was in town for the first edition of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna International Music and Arts Festival, which commissioned Laster to create a new project based on notions of place, identity, and dislocation. Although he was raised in Fort Worth, Laster has lived in France since 1989, primarily in the disenfranchised banlieue of La Courneuve, a fifteen-minute train ride north of Paris. “I’m 100% Texan and 80% French,” the artist said. Castle Rock was a bit of a homecoming.
The concrete was still wet when the new Garage Museum of Contemporary Art opened this week in Moscow’s Gorky Park, but that didn’t stop the crowds. Designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA for the expanding art space helmed by collector and magazine editor Dasha Zhukova, the Garage preserves Moscow’s architectural past, sets a new bar for the future of contemporary art, and revitalizes a park along the way.
A few weeks ago, artists of different generations and pursuits gathered in Istanbul for the Istanbul International Arts & Culture Festival (IST.), a weekend of free conversations and art exhibits—the stuff that brings together luminaries from fields as diverse as architecture, literature, and millinery.
Once a small series of workshops, IST. is now an international affair; past guests include Zaha Hadid, Gore Vidal, and Courtney Love. And if this fifth annual event proved anything, it’s that the art scene in this timeless city is fresher than ever.
Several years ago, while walking home from a Little Caesars in southwest Miami, I came across a headless chicken, drained of its blood and abandoned in the middle of the street. I later learned that the bird was sacrificed in a Santeria ritual (its placement in the intersection was a suburban approximation of the crossroads: the portal between worlds). The encounter provided further evidence of something I learned the moment I moved to the country’s largest Caribbean city—and kept learning until I left. The tropics will reveal themselves to you, but without warning or explanation.
This was on my mind last month when I visited another Caribbean capital, New Orleans, to make sense of another street scene. Four years in the making, EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean, an exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, presents Carnival—dance, music, costuming; all of the inhaled and exhaled culture of the Caribbean and its leaky diaspora—in the context of contemporary art.
Sometimes art-fair weeks have an echo-chamber reverb—the same canapés, the same Instagrams, the same Damien Hirst spin paintings. But if you’re lucky, the stars align and bequeath you unique experiences. On Friday, at 10:30, the morning after the opening of the Dallas Art Fair, which is the centerpiece of Dallas Art Week, Christie’s gave me the keys to a 2015 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse—at 255 mph, the fastest car on the road, and at $2.5 million, just about the most expensive. At 11:30, I was in the home of Dallas collector Marguerite Steed Hoffman, watching as she delicately turned the pages of a medieval illuminated manuscript while standing next to one of Gerhard Richter’s candle paintings. And at 12:30, I ate a plate of fried alligator. Dallas made this all seem normal.
In a few hours, a conference room on the fourth floor of Mexico City’s Hilton Reforma will swing open and the third day of the Material Art Fair will commence. But it’s five a.m., and I’m on the sixth floor, in the heated indoor pool, with about five near-naked and naked artists and a bottle of mescal bobbing in the shallow end. None of us has a room here. Lenin said you can’t trust artists because they can navigate all levels of society. In this case, that means all floors of the Hilton.
The evening began yesterday at a Mariachi bar. I proceeded to a store selling giant micheladas that had the mouthfeel of a Papa John’s pizza in a cup. Then I went to a grimy rave. Then to the end-of-the-world wealth of a penthouse party in Polanco where the free sushi meant that at least two people were doing blow off of chopsticks, and where, in line for a marble bathroom indecorously coated in piss, I met a Spanish developer named Iggy who was building an entire village with Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss architecture firm, on a stretch of virgin Mexican coast. After that, I picked up more mescal and sat on the desolate, please-abduct-me corner of a Centro Histórico street, pulling from the same bottle now bobbing in the Hilton pool’s shallow end.
Read the rest at The Paris Review (Published May, 2014)