Sunday, September 30, 2018

Masters Mingle, but don’t Match, at David Zwirner Gallery

At David Zwirner Gallery, modern and medieval art mingle in an exhibition with strong pieces but a weak concept. Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art, participates in today’s curatorial trend of placing artworks from across centuries together with the intention of drawing historical and cultural connections. Featuring hard-hitters like Bosch, Titian, Goya, Munch, Bourgeois, and Dalí, the show explores surrealist themes in their work, such as myth, the subconscious, and religious narratives. However, this theme is interpreted quite loosely. The juxtaposition of Ernst’s Forêt, soleil, oiseaux ou le chant à la lune with an old master Judith Beheading Holofernes emphasizes the time of the day the paintings depict (both being night scenes) rather an investigation of surrealist and grotesque subjects. Taking up the entire two floors of the gallery’s 20th Street location, the expansive exhibition underscores Zwirner’s power in both the modern and old master markets. There is quality at the level of each individual piece, however. Taken as a whole, the exhibition comes off as a fever dream garage sale instead of a study of the fantastical mind.


  1. Love the fever dream garage sale comment at the end to sum up your impression of the show. Well thought out. Could be worth mentioning how the gallery does not reveal the date + material of each piece, instead only recording the artists name and life span, in my opinion further mucking up and confusing the viewer (although I understand it’s an invitation to consider the works as representative of a wider time period)

  2. I guess the argument could be made that the curation is purposefully all over the place to heighten the feelings of overstimulation and maximalism that generally go hand in hand with fantasy. Maybe if the exhibition had been constrained to a smaller space (keeping the wide variety of work), it would feel more deliberate rather than just overwhelming and, as you say, feverish.