Best (and worst) of 2011

In a year that saw stellar shows of modern-art second bananas and theme park rides as art, there were plenty of highs and lows.

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  • Maurizio Cattelan, "All", installation view at the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum

    Maurizio Cattelan, "All", installation view at the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum

  • Carsten Hller, "Experience," installation view at the New Museum of...

    Carsten Hller, "Experience," installation view at the New Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Francis Als, The Modern Procession

    Francis Als, The Modern Procession

Maurizio Cattelan, "All", installation view at the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum

Maurizio Cattelan, "All", installation view at the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum

The worst



"Maurizio Cattelan: All" at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
I suppose that Maurizio Cattelan, the Roberto Benigni of relational aesthetics, should be congratulated for being shrewd enough to mount his work in such a way that its inherent emptiness is obscured by sheer spectacle. And indeed, the installation here, in which Cattelan has hung his entire oeuvre in the center of the Gugg rotunda like a gigantic charm bracelet, has proved to be immensely popular with museumgoers (so much so that the museum is extending hours to accommodate the crowds). So what do I know, right? But it's still a big one-liner laid on top of a bunch of smaller ones, so in this respect, I must insist that the show sucks. The fact that Cattelan himself would probably agree with me doesn't make it less sucky.

"Carsten Hller: Experience" at the New Museum of Contemporary Art
Speaking of relational aesthetics (otherwise known as Conceptualism for oligarchs), it's been responsible for a lot of lame ideas passing as artwork; the theme park rides that make up Carsten Hller's NewMu survey are surely among the lamest. Look, if you're going to turn a museum into Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, at least try to beat them at their own game. Don't just settle for arty pretension, which is exactly what Hller does here.

"Francis Als: A Story of Deception" at MoMA PS1 and the Museum of Modern Art
This interborough survey of Belgian-born Mexico City artist Francis Als was pretty much dead on arrival—but then that was to be expected from someone who boasts about the "minimum effect" of his work. That's exactly the effect his performance videos and paintings—which supposedly critique the globalism that this artist is in fact a creature of—had on me.

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