Contemporary Among Classics

Classic art was also contemporary once.

Ragnar Kjartansson: Scandinavian Pain & Other Myths was the Southwestern US premiere of work by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976), presented by the Phoenix Art Museum.

It consisted of three major works: the 40-foot long neon installation Scandinavian Pain, along with The End-Venice, Kjartansson’s contribution to the 2009 Venice Biennale during which he secluded himself in a fourteenth-century palazzo and produced one painting per day for six months (the entire duration of Venice Biennale). Each painting depicts his friend and fellow artist Páll Haukur Björnsson, in a Speedo.


Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons
Dress and shoes from the S/S 2018 collection

Art on Dress: Giuseppe Archimboldo


Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn (Dutch, c. 1570-1657)
Portrait of an Old Woman, late  16th-mid 17th century
Oil on canvas


The third work by Ragnar Kjartansson was his superb nine-screen installation that was filmed in one take at the historic Rokeby farm in upstate New York. Named after ABBA’S final album, The Visitors, it records the performances of a group of friends, musicians and artists, playing simultaneously but in different rooms of the mansion. They all play the same song each one enriching it with their own voice, instrument and presence. Kjartansson himself performs most of the time in a bathtub. The film mesmerizes and moves audiences of all ages wherever it is shown. You can watch a recording of the recording, uploaded on YouTube by one of its many admirers.

Anish Kapoor (British, b. 1954)
Upside Down, Inside Out, 2003
Resin and paint


Phoenix Art Museum

January 30th, 2019

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