The One That Got Away: 12 Art World Insiders Name the Show They Most Regret Missing

Artists, curators, and dealers confess.

Franklin Sirmans, Nancy Spector, Jerry Saltz, and Gabriela Palmieri. Sirmans photo courtesy Los Angles County Museum of Art, all others Patrick McMullan.
Franklin Sirmans, Nancy Spector, Jerry Saltz, and Gabriela Palmieri. Sirmans photo courtesy Los Angles County Museum of Art, all others Patrick McMullan.

If you are an art lover in, say, New York, where I live, you can go crazy trying to keep up on the shows at the hundreds of galleries, museums and nonprofit exhibition spaces, not to mention the public art, the pop-up shows, and the auction house previews, etc., etc. That’s to say nothing of the busy art scenes in big and small cities, towns, and burgs everywhere else on the planet.

Many of us still deeply rue missing numerous shows. But for most of us there’s probably one that really stings.

For me, it’s the Tino Sehgal exhibition “This Progress,” at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, in 2010. In my defense, it was on view for a shorter period than most museum shows, and I work full-time, and my apartment isn’t going to clean itself, but really, I just screwed up. I know some were a bit skeptical, but to me it sounded, frankly, magical.

Art-world FOMO may only get worse. Seemingly every museum on the planet is expanding, meaning we will all miss more museum shows. Galleries are opening new venues abroad left and right, or growing their existing facilities, so you’ll have to fake having seen yet more shows by your artist friends. What’s more, art fairs are meanwhile branching out across the oceans.

As a way to try to help us all feel a little less bad about the ones that got away, we polled art-world experts and insiders across the US to find out what exhibition they are still kicking themselves for not seeing. They missed gallery shows, museum shows, and apartment shows, for reasons that range from being just a teenager at the time it took place to train delays.

Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946 Maquette for plate VIII of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 Digital image: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946 Maquette for plate VIII of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 Digital image: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude PlanchetArtwork. Photo: Courtesy© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014.

Claudia Altman-Siegel
Altman Siegel Gallery, San Francisco

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014–15.

This question is basically impossible, especially for me since I live outside of center. No matter how much I travel I still miss a lot. Recently I have been regretting missing the Matisse exhibition, though. At the time, in some sort of haze of hubris, I thought I knew the work and that it was really a popular show meant to bring ticket sales. But during the Basel fair this month, I saw a gallery of Matisse cut-outs at the Fondation Beyeler and they were so sensitive, touching, and bigger than their component parts.  I realized the power of the work and the greatness of Matisse that even in his simplest gestures he was able to convey a spirited immediacy. So back home in San Francisco, the work is sticking with me and I am feeling bad that I missed my chance to see it in depth.

Anri Sala, Still from Long Sorrow (2005)Image: Courtesy New Museum

Anri Sala, Still from Long Sorrow (2005). Image: Courtesy New Museum

Kevin Beasley
Artist

Anri Sala: Answer Me” at the New Museum, New York, 2016

Of all of the shows I have missed lately this would have to be the one I regret most. The last striking video exhibition I saw at the New Museum was “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Primitive,” and although it was on only one floor, it was a brilliant use of the space. I could only imagine what Sala’s multi-floor installation felt like, considering its intent to engage the architecture and various slippages of institutional sonic space. As described by Sala in a New York Times interview, “Ravel Ravel” is a work where the history of classical music slips (quite literally) in and out of sync, transporting the concertos into other, more recently evolved genres of music. This was right up my alley. That said, I must revert back to the idea that as an artist, sometimes mythology creates far more interesting experiences than what reality presents, and as I continue to work (my excuse for missing so many shows) I hope to collapse both reality and the imaginary into some kind of approach towards a future. Thank you, Anri, for making an exhibition we dream about experiencing.

Helen Frankenthaler, <i>Flirt</i>, 1995. Copyright 2015 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Helen Frankenthaler, Flirt, 1995. Copyright 2015 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Sara Friedlander
Vice President, Head of Evening Sale, Christie’s

Pretty Raw: After and Around Helen Frankenthaler,” at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 2015

This is embarrassing because I had read about the show—and even purchased the catalogue—and I’m a huge fan of everything [curator] Katy Siegel does. For some reason the quick trip to Boston to visit the Rose kept slipping away. But then I read Roberta Smith’s beautiful “Last Chance” review in the New York Times and I knew it was a sign. I had to get there! IMMEDIATELY! I booked my train ticket for the closing date, I remember, it was June 7th, a Sunday, because I couldn’t go during the week. Due to signal delays the train stalled at New Haven for 5½ hours. 5½ hours! Damn you, Amtrak! By the time it was ready to leave, I knew I wouldn’t get to Waltham until it was too late. I got out at New Haven and had an entire pizza pie, completely depressed to have missed the exhibition.

For a university museum to do a show that had such wide critical acclaim—I knew it would be something special. Plus, group shows can be a challenge but I heard that the presentation of artists from Morris Louis to Lynda Benglis, Polly Apfelbaum and Mark Bradford, Laura Owens and Christopher Wool, created entirely new dialogues between postwar and contemporary artists. And even though it was only last year, the exhibition was still a precursor to so many exhibitions that would happen this year involving women artists, like the Denver Museum’s “Women of Abstract Expressionism” and Hauser Wirth & Schimmel’s beautiful “Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016,” so in that sense it felt like the Rose was on the brink of something big to come. Not only did it appear that the exhibition created a more prominent place for Frankenthaler within the broader context of Abstract Expressionism, it also illustrated several generations of artists working in a variety of mediums (painting, ceramics, performance) and, as Roberta said in her review, “It approaches postwar art from a new, implicitly revisionist perspective that expands it beyond the usual male suspects.”

Martin Wong, Brainwashing Cult Cons Top TV Stars, 1981, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Martin Wong, Brainwashing Cult Cons Top TV Stars, 1981, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Rachel Harrison
Artist

Martin Wong: Human Instamatic,” at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 2016.

I missed the show because I work too much, and had a deadline, or three, around the same time. Really, no excuse. Everyone I know who saw it loved it and said I shouldn’t miss it. Huge regret.

(If you, too, missed the show, check out artnet News’s video.)

Visitors to Christo's Floating Piers (2016) overwhelmed local authorities. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

Visitors to Christo’s Floating Piers (2016) overwhelmed local authorities. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

Rhona Hoffman
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

Christo’s Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2016.

Christo is a visionary land artist who makes many of his big dreams come true. Floating Piers was only an idea 46 years ago. For many reasons and as usual it took these many years to make it a reality.

I was in Basel for the art fair that week, not as a participant but as a visitor, and could easily have gone to see this BUT I forgot to go and I will regret this for a very long time. I am a Christo fan. I drove the entire Umbrella project in California, I walked the Gates in New York on a very cold February day, and I spent a week in Berlin watching Christo wrap the Reichstag. How could I have forgotten this? I was only a short train and cab ride away.

peter-fischli-david-weiss-kitchen-hans-ulrich-obrist

Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s work for Hans Ulrich Obrist’s kitchen exhibition, 1991. Photo by Fischli & Weiss.

Gianni Jetzer
Curator at Large, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., and curator of Art Basel’s Unlimited

The 1991 group show Hans Ulrich Obrist organized in his kitchen in St. Gallen.

I missed it because at the time I was a troubled teenager in Switzerland. I guess it was the beginning of his gluttonous appetite for art and artists. I would have loved to witness Hans Ulrich Obrist unplugged, so to say.

Louise Bourgeois, <i>Spider</i>, 1997 (detail). Collection The Easton Foundation. Photo Frédéric Delpech © The Easton Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014.

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997 (detail). Collection The Easton Foundation. Photo Frédéric Delpech © The Easton Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014.

Gabriela Palmieri
Chairman, contemporary art, Sotheby’s Americas

Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells” at Haus Der Kunst, Munich, 2015.

It was the first exhibition of its kind to concentrate on her “Cells” series, and the Haus der Kunst assembled the largest number of “Cells” presented to date! I’ve always been fascinated by the “Cells,” which were spectacularly ambitious architectural spaces that occupied the Bourgeois’s artistic production during a span of 20 years. They’re intensely psychological and emotional, so to see them installed together in the museum context would have been an experience as the artist intended—a charged barrier between the interior world of the artist and the exterior world that is the other all harnessed by the exhibition space.

I have no excuses for missing the show, only regrets! I have put it on all “must sees” for collectors going to Europe, since the show is continuing to travel, and those who have seen it said it was even better than I had promised. It brilliantly went on from Haus der Kunst and to the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. It’s presently on view at Guggenheim Bilbao and concludes at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, so there is time for me (and all Bourgeois enthusiasts) yet!

Exhibition view, "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Exhibition view, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Ann Philbin
Director, Hammer Museum, UCLA

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 2011.

I usually make it back to New York City a few times a year, but for this one, I just couldn’t get from Los Angeles to New York to see it. Everyone I spoke to who saw it, without exception, was awed by his process, by his journey from the point of inspiration to the final collection.

Roberto cuoghi

Installation view of Roberto Cuoghi, Šuillakku Corral (2014) at the New Museum
Photo: Benoit Pailley

Jerry Saltz
Critic, New York magazine

Roberto Cuoghi, “Šuillakku Corral,” at the New Museum, New York, 2014

I love Cuoghi’s work; I was at the opening; the image/sound main installation was too crowded and noisy to hear or see. Somehow, someway, even though I think Cuoghi’s great and I admire Massimiliano Gioni as one of the best curators in the world, and know how hard it is to present art in this prison-like space, I never made it back. My wife still can’t believe it.

I call this the “I Never Went to the Mudd Club” or “You Don’t Have to Live like a Refugee” category. I mean, I lived in New York most of the time this place was open but somehow I never felt cool enough to go there or could stay up late enough. Even then.

If there’s an “I Missed a Whole Career” category, I met the artist Lizzi Bougatsos in the 1990s when she must have been like 19 years old. It was in some Summer Art Workshop thing where I spoke. I did a studio visit with her; her work was okay; but then she said she wanted to sing for me. She did; I was smitten, struck, stunned. I said, “You have a destiny.” Bougatsos went on to be part of 50 downtown scenes, a part of Gang Gang Dance, and a performer in her own right; I used to talk to her all the time when she worked for Colin de Land. But somehow, through all this, even being the first to glimpse her magic, I have never seen her perform once. Somehow, after promising myself 20 times that I’d finish my work early, go out, and see her, my social disorder and inability to really hang out after midnight when things get great means that I never made it.

I’ve so wanted to make it to a bunch of shows by younger artists who were my students or whose work I see in group shows and promise myself that I’m going to see their first solo shows. But being a busy weekly critic and teaching and lecturing regularly has kept me away from a lot of this over the last 15 years; and it makes me sad. I can think of like six artists right off the top of my head who fit into this category right now but feel too depressed to name them. I’m still watching from afar, however.

On the good side I just took the A train to Rockaway Beach for the first time in my life and had one of the best days of my life there. If anyone wants to sell us a bungalow to retire in, make me an offer.

Installation view of "Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979," 1998, at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Photo Brian Forrest, courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Installation view of “Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979,” 1998, at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Photo Brian Forrest, courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Franklin Sirmans
Director, Pérez Art Museum Miami

Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, organized by curator Paul Schimmel in 1998.

This show would become a bible for me and affected everything I wrote, and probably thought, about contemporary art from the time I got the catalog in 1998 onward. I still have it, filled with post-its, and the book stays front and center amongst group shows on my shelf, even throughout moving four or five times.

I missed it because I was living in Italy and working for Flash Art but even if I were home in New York, I don’t think I could have afforded to go to LA then.

What made it special? Gosh, everything is in there, everything you need to know to make a consideration of art in the big dirty world.

Annette Messager, poster for "Utopia Station." Image courtesy e-flux.

Annette Messager, poster for “Utopia Station.” Image courtesy e-flux.

Nancy Spector
Chief curator, Brooklyn Museum

“Utopia Station” at the Venice Biennale in 2003, organized by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Molly Nesbit, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

The exhibition combined performative projects, art works, posters, and creative thought leadership about a keenly relevant issue. I was not able to travel to Venice that year because I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. Because I missed it and because the topic of utopia is particularly urgent today, we’ve invited the curators to reinvent the exhibition and its related programming for the Brooklyn Museum in 2017.

Installation view of William Pope.L, "Trinket," 2015, at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Photo Brian Forrest, courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Installation view of William Pope.L, “Trinket,” 2015, at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Photo Brian Forrest, courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Olga Viso
Director, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

William Pope.L’s 2015 exhibition “Trinket,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles.

I had just been to LA the month before the show opened and was too consumed with the planning and fundraising for our new sculpture garden and campus renovation. I was not able to make it back to LA in time to see it before it closed.

Based on what my Walker curatorial colleagues Adrienne Edwards and Fionn Meade shared, the exhibition provided a Rosetta stone for unpacking Pope.L’s multivalent, cross-disciplinary practice. The exhibition, with its centerpiece a monumental American flag blowing in the center of the Geffen, was not only timely and emblematic of the current political moment, but a focal point of Adrienne’s unforgettable conversation with the artist held at the Walker in the months that followed. The talk was part of “New Circuits,” a curatorial research convening organized by the Walker in September 2015 focused on the intersection of performance and the visual arts.


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