The First-Ever Biennial for Memes, and Other News

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Memennial 2020: A Biennial 4 Memes

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No longer just for internet trolls, the art of meme-making will receive its own biennial. 

Once strictly an internet satire tool, memes have evolved into a powerful method of communication in modern life. Michael Bloomberg spent over $1 million on meme influencers during his recent presidential run. In August, Bud Light Seltzer put out a job posting for a Chief Meme Officer. Now, the phenomenon has earned its own biennial. Memennial 2020: a Biennial 4 Memes will debut in three cities—Seattle, Dallas, and Sydney—simultaneously next month. Conceived by the Dallas artist Anam Bahlam, the show will be curated by Soomi Han, who Bahlam contacted after seeing her “Me² Meme Art Exhibition” at SMU. The press release makes it clear the exhibition is intended to be more than a joke. “Memes move elections / Memes move revolutions / Memes move consciousness / Memes move laughter out of our dark cavernous guts.” If it sounds over-the-top, just look at what Ryan Scavnicky has been able to achieve. Through his account @sssscavvvv, the practicing architectural designer and critic has accomplished the impossible: he made architecture funny.   

John Waters donates his entire personal collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The filmmaker John Waters will donate 372 works by 125 artists from his personal collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art—his hometown institution—after his death. The elegant lineup is pleasantly unexpected from a collector known as the Pope of Trash, a nickname he earned after filming a scene in the 1972 cult classic Pink Flamingos, in which a performer called Devine feasts on dog droppings. The assembly of works is nuanced, with pieces by the likes of Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Christian Marclay, Catherine Opie, Gary Simmons, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and Christopher Wool, among others. “I’ve always said you have to know good taste to have good bad taste,” Waters tells the New York Times.

After the institution’s recent attempts to deaccession works by Warhol, Brice Marden, and Clyfford Still to create funding for the acquisition of works by Black artists, Waters’ gift stipulates that the museum cannot part with his collection. Not completely unexpected of the patron was his tongue-in-cheek request that the rotunda named after him, must also include two bathrooms. “That was my first demand,” says Waters. “They thought I was kidding.”

House of Soviets in Kaliningrad, Russia

A brutalist gem likened to a robot’s head in Kaliningrad will be demolished next year.

A never-occupied building referred to as the “buried robot” by locals in the Russian city of Kaliningrad will be demolished next year. The Brutalist edifice garnered its nickname after locals likened its protruding terraces to two eyes and a mouth. The 21-story House of Soviets, a concrete structure, was left unbuilt when funding dried up in 1985 during economic hard times for the Soviet Union. Though structurally unsound, the building has become an icon of the city, notably when the fans of the 2018 World Cup took over in a vast square nearby. Luckily, though, those interested may possibly keep a piece of the robot forever. The regional governor, Anton Alikhanov, has said that he and other officials were discussing the possibility of making fragments available as souvenirs. 

An apocalyptic beach performance from the 2019 Venice Biennale pops up outside Berlin.

One of the major highlights from the 2019 Venice Biennale came from Lithuania’s pavilion, which featured an indoor beach filled with carefree day-trippers performing arias that portended ecological doom brought about by climate change. While it may sound slightly overwrought, Sun & Sea (Marina) captivated curators, critics, and collectors alike and received the coveted Golden Lion prize. If you missed last year’s Biennale, fear not—the performance will pop up again next May at an abandoned Bauhaus swimming pool next to E-Werk Luckenwalde, a former coal power station outside Berlin that was recently repurposed into an environmentally friendly contemporary arts center. 

“The Luckenwalde presentation will essentially be the same work as Venice, except for the qualities that the venue brings to the piece when experiencing it,” Lucia Pietroiusti, who curated the Venice installation, tells The Art Newspaper. “An empty swimming pool comes with a whole different kind of underlying catastrophe, at least for me.” And in the age of the coronavirus, the installation takes on an entirely new significance: “This idea of the ‘outside’ being manifested ‘inside’ and all the emotional experiences of that after many months of lockdown.” A crowdfunding campaign to support the performance will launch early next year.

Coming Soon's new store in Manhattan

The design store Coming Soon relocates to a bigger space on New York’s Lower East Side.

Like most stores in Manhattan, Coming Soon boarded up their Lower East Side storefront at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring. Fortunately, the cult design store didn’t close permanently—they simply relocated to a larger space down the block. The co-owners Fabiana Faria and Helena Barquet decided to expand over the summer, a risky move considering the challenges faced by bricks-and-mortar retail today. To that end, online sales had remained strong thanks to nearly everyone’s sudden urge to redecorate their home during quarantine. The new space also required minimal buildout, making the move much more financially feasible. 

Inside, artful vignettes of the brand’s offerings, which include colorful Dusen Dusen hand towels, Cold Picnic soap dishes, and Anna Karlin decanters, forge feelings of home—it’s almost like a group hang of everyone’s favorite independent designers. Perhaps the standout is a cash-wrap counter designed by Chen Chen and Kai Williams (who recently created a stunning installation for Hem’s new showroom around the corner in SoHo) that features various stones and marbles fashioned together with aluminum mesh.

Vases by Sachi Tungare

Today’s attractive distractions:

A former ballerina with Alzheimer’s recreates her Swan Lake choreography.

This coffee table book documents grounded planes during the pandemic.

Sachi Tungare is transforming littered cigarettes into otherworldly vases.

A supermarket that celebrates GTA: San Andreas opens in the Ukraine.

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