Magazine article Artforum International

"Less Is More" and "Che Fare? Arte Povera-The Historic Years": HAUS DER KUNST, MUNICH/KUNSTMUSEUM LIECHTENSTEIN, VADUZ

Magazine article Artforum International

"Less Is More" and "Che Fare? Arte Povera-The Historic Years": HAUS DER KUNST, MUNICH/KUNSTMUSEUM LIECHTENSTEIN, VADUZ

Article excerpt

IN SEPTEMBER 1971--in "Notes on the Spectator," his editorial statement for the inaugural issue of the Milanese art journal Data--Tommaso Trini discerned the collapse of a classic avant-garde opposition between art and anti-art. The embrace of previously rejected forms, an ever-quickening cycle of acceptance increasingly determined through the "complicity of a clique [gruppetto] of spectators-readers-dealers-critics-collectors," had imploded when artists definitively joined the gruppetto, making their function as producers indistinguishable from that of participants in art's consensual reception. No longer could one speak of an extra-artistic work or situation, but instead only of the discursive nature of a given context as well as of presentational styles and other "elements [that| underlie communication in art," all of which had in fact become the work of art. Trini named collectors as primary spectators and furthermore emphasized buying as a participatory move. Artists, he maintained, should not consider selling and collecting as external to creative considerations, for "aesthetic experience belongs to the spectator, and measurements of economic value are part of his means of observation." What mattered now for art was to consider what it meant when artist and spectator--and artist and collector--stood in alignment.

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I thought of this odd and prescient essay recently while taking in two exhibitions that chart such realignments at the moment of their emergence in the years around 1970. The first, "Less Is More: Pictures, Objects, Concepts from the Collection and the Archives of Herman and Nicole Daled, 1966-1978," which was on view at the Haus der Kunst in Munich this past spring and summer, made clear that engaged and self-aware collectors actively helped to define the terms of what is known loosely as Conceptual art. The second, "Che fare? Arte Povera--The Historic Years," now nearing the end of its run at the Kunstmu-seum Liechtenstein in Vaduz, frames the shifts Trini articulated within the context of Arte Povera visceral material intensity. Like "Less Is More," "Che fare?" concentrates exclusively on early works in their original iterations, and features a number of pieces not seen in years or decades. The conjunction of these shows suggests, more strongly than usual, key areas of overlap between Arte Povera and Conceptual art, two movements that continue to brush by each other today as in the past, while remaining relegated for the most part to separate historical camps.

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"Less Is More" gathered some two hundred works by forty artists, along with groupings of documents from Dan Graham, Robert Ryman, Carl Andre, Peter Roehr, Douglas Huebler, and many others. (Most arresting in the latter category is the manuscript for Sol LeWitt's foundational 1968 essay "Sentences on Conceptual Art.") Throughout the exhibition we saw the collectors--principally Herman Daled--investigating their own role and status, and even undermining market efficiency through their co-involvement in the activities of production and display. For decades, Daled has made index cards (without pictures) the point of access to the works he owns, which he himself views only in storage. Art, in the best manner of Conceptual practices, is replaced by linguistic information, and institutional information at that: vendor, date of acquisition, purchase price, title, occasionally a terse description. In the exhibition's catalogue Benjamin H. D. Buchloh rightly makes much of this and other positions that merge collector and artist--as Trini had foreseen--in a joint project to shift "the registers of artistic production into linguistic definition and the critique of institutions." Recalling the argument of his classic 1989 essay "Conceptual Art 1962-1969: From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions," Buchloh further admires Daled for understanding what Buchloh calls the paradoxes of Conceptual art. …

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