It didn’t take long for Frieze to find its Californian groove and the UK art fair is back in Los Angeles this month. Plus: training the lens on the male; farce and fantasy on stage and page; a new Nigerian journal offering a fresh African insight; and why you should have Georgia on your mind – and playlists.
The second album by London’s Georgia Barnes is an ode to dance music, mixing the best elements of 2010s electropop with punchy vocals to ecstatic effect. First single, “About Work the Dancefloor”, is unashamedly 1980s, full of all the synths that retro-loving listeners could possibly dream of. Another of the album’s showpiece songs, “Mellow” – a collaboration with Georgia’s fellow Londoner Shygirl – recalls Canadian popstar Peaches’ seminal album The Teaches of Peaches; while “The Thrill”, a great piece of electronica, is built on the type of sensual beats that are guaranteed to inspire an impromptu catwalk-style strut.
‘Seeking Thrills’ is out now
Some naysayers were dubious about the chances of a UK art fair breaking into California but last year’s inaugural Frieze Los Angeles proved them wrong by being a hit with collectors. It was helped by a tightly edited presentation of about 70 galleries, a focus on some great LA artists and its location in the backlot of Paramount Pictures. This year a new section, Focus LA, will show art from 13 emerging Angeleno galleries. As in London, the organisers are promoting “Frieze Week”, encouraging city museums and nonprofit gallery spaces to show exhibitions to coincide with the fair. This begins with a programme of public art mimicking advertising hoardings by veteran sloganist Barbara Kruger.
Frieze Los Angeles runs from 14 to 16 February
Three essential exhibitors:
Founded in the 1970s, Louver launched the careers of a generation of artists. It brings to Frieze a solo presentation by African-American feminist Alison Saar, daughter of 93-year-old Betye, who has a simultaneous show at the LA County Museum of Art.
Night Gallery LA’s Night Gallery is filling its stand with garish, large-scale works by figurative artist Mira Dancy and sculptures by Anne Libby. nightgallery.ca
Another city gallery, Parker is showing watercolours painted since the 1960s by the surreal – and scatological – Chicago painter Gladys Nilsson.
Walmart heiress Alice Walton put the small city of Bentonville on the international art map by opening the spectacular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art there in 2011. Three of her relatives have now led the development of nearby satellite project The Momentary in what was once a Kraft Foods factory. The venture, which opens this month, will focus on cutting-edge art, music, theatre and food. The inaugural show, State of the Art 2020, will feature 59 artists from across the US. Supported by the Walton Family Foundation, the museum is part of an Arkansas urban-redevelopment project, which, it claims, will bring “cyclists, artists and the entire community together”.
The Momentary opens on 22 February
On a cliff overlooking the Oresund Sound about 40km north of Copenhagen, the Louisiana is Denmark’s most atmospheric contemporary-art museum. Per Kirkeby, a neo-expressionist painter and poet known for his love of the natural world (he was a former Arctic geologist) is closely associated with the gallery: the permanent collection holds many of his works. Most Kirkeby exhibitions so far have focused on his large-scale canvases but this show takes a different approach. Curated by Louisiana director Poul Erik Tojner, it spotlights the artist’s dark, Rodin-inspired bronzes, cast in forms reminiscent of stratified clay and calcified forests. ‘Per Kirkeby: Bronze’ opens on 21 February
London’s Barbican continues its run of exhibitions exploring photography and representation (building on 2016’s Strange and Familiar and 2018’s Another Kind of Life) with this excellent show. Featuring 50 photographers and film-makers, from Richard Avedon to younger artists such as Hank Willis Thomas, this substantial display will cover gentlemen’s clubs, fatherhood, hypermasculine stereotypes and men as seen by women. Masculine identity has rarely been the subject of such scrutiny. “Notions of gender are not innate but socially constructed,” says the exhibition’s curator, Alona Pardo. “Masculinities performed through the works in this exhibition underscore the instability of gender and throw light on the complexities of being male.” ‘Masculinities’ opens on 20 February
London has spiralled into darkness. A power outage has sparked a national crisis, raising the threat level to severe and resulting in a spate of public disturbances and looting. Cobra, the government’s emergency council, is at work to protect the nation. The prime minister (played gloriously by Robert Carlyle) and his team are racing against time to turn the lights back on. But the entanglement of near-impossible decisions, personal pressures and sly political opponents threatens a further descent into chaos. Written by Ben Richards, this six-part series is an old-school high-octane thriller.
‘Cobra’ begins on Sky One on 17 January
There are few movies able to straddle the genres of comedy, thriller, domestic drama and social parable without tonal confusion. But Parasite – the 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or winner by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho – is one. It begins as a deliriously entertaining con-artist caper; a satire targeting the cupidity (and stupidity) of the mega-rich. A heist is carried out by a member of an impoverished family, who poses as an English tutor to enter the plush home of unsuspecting millionaires. This in itself is a winning premise but Bong has a more nightmarish take on the upstairs/downstairs dynamic. To say more would diminish the impact of the film’s dark turn – and its bloody Shakespearian climax lingers long after viewing.
‘Parasite’ is released in the UK on 7 February
Originally written by Italian Nobel laureate Dario Fo in 1974, the political farce Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! focused on the sky-high prices of everyday goods to comic effect. Now the Sydney Theatre Company is reviving the English translation under the title No Pay? No Way! in two different venues. This adaptation, created by Australian writer/TV presenter Marieke Hardy and directed by Sarah Giles, promises to be a laugh-a-minute affair. In the play, Antonia, despairing at how much her shopping costs, instigates an uprising at her local supermarket. As she and her friends take to shoplifting, they must outsmart the police – and their husbands.
‘No Pay? No Way!’ runs at Sydney Opera House until 20 March and Riverside Theatres until 4 April
Hiram Walker is born into slavery on a tobacco plantation in 19th-century Virginia. As a young man he’s called to the big house to be a servant for the owner’s son who, as we later discover, is his half-brother. But at the heart of the novel is Walker’s odd ability to vanish from one place and reappear in another. “A power was within me,” says Walker. “But with no thought of how to access it or control it, I was lost.” Cue his journey of discovery, superhero-style (Coates wrote Marvel’s Black Panther comics). This is a rich, poignant tale in which Coates rewires cold facts into a magical-realist adventure.
‘The Water Dancer’ is released in the UK on 6 February
An exciting new title from Nigeria, Ìrìn Journal was founded by Ayomide “Mimi” Aborowa, who chose its moniker because of the word’s meaning in Yoruba: “journey”. It’s a name that makes sense considering the biannual title’s focus on exploring African culture through in-depth articles on travel. Each issue will focus on a different African city and the first is dedicated to the magazine’s hometown of Lagos. Its features range from an interview with the owner of record store Jazzhole to a tongue-in-cheek Lagos “bus-survival guide”. Due to its arresting design and fascinating array of characters from the increasingly influential city, Ìrìn Journal’s debut deserves to put it on the path to success.
‘Ìrìn Journal’ is available now
Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung
Bamako Encounters is a pan-African photography biennial that takes place in Mali’s capital. We talk to its Cameroon-born, Berlin-based curator about this year’s title, ‘Streams of Consciousness’, and the future of the arts in Africa.
“The title Streams of Consciousness comes from psychology. In literature it describes a flow of writing and I wanted to see how one could implement this in photography. I’ve never believed that the photograph is a still; something happens before and after. There’s also a flow in understanding an image – and a sonic aspect. I was also inspired by the titular jazz piece by Abdullah Ibrahim and Max Roach. I wonder: can you hear an image? The photography [on show] is pan-African and includes the diasporas; relations with other parts of the world are important, which is why it’s called Encounters. We’re not living in an easy time and Mali is a complicated place but I worked with a team of Africa-based curators who printed almost all the photographs here, and reached out to young people. This year the Institut Français was less involved than in the past; in general I think the African states have to claim responsibility. Culture is not something that you do after you’ve solved other problems. Culture is the base – you have to start with it.”
Bamako Encounters is on at the Musée National du Mali and 11 other venues until 31 January