Fall Art Guide

PW’s guide to Philly’s fall art events.

By Roberta Fallon
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 15, 2009

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Art attack: Work by Wolgin finalist Michael Rakowitz.

According to The New York Times, 25 art galleries have closed in New York. Sucks for them, but we seem fine here. (Fingers crossed.)

Hip art, explosive programming and lots of competitions populate Philadelphia’s art scene this season as galleries, alternative spaces and museums look solid in spite of the recession.


Late in the season but sure to be one of the highlights, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang will produce a new explosion in Philadelphia courtesy of the Fabric Workshop and Museum . Guo-Qiang is best known for his fireworks display at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and for gunpowder explosions shot from the roof of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The as-yet-undefined explosion kicks off the opening of the artist’s four-floor exhibit at the FWM on Dec. 11.

Qiang is working on several new pieces in collaboration with FWM. The new work will be shown along with video of his previous pieces. As for the Philadelphia explosion, FWM spokesperson Jeffrey Bussmann says details are being held back until the Philadelphia Fire Department approves the event and location. 

Though there won’t be any explosions, things will be popping at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in October with exhibits by Barkley Hendricks and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. 

Hendricks’ show “Birth of the Cool”—which originated at the Studio Museum in Harlem and is expanded in Philly with works from local collections—displays the artist’s iconic full-body portraits of African American men and women. The works evoke the icy hot ambiance of Warhol’s best portraits as well as the powerful and enigmatic carvings of African tribal chiefs, warriors and elders. Peep the show for free on Sundays. 

McLaren’s video and music mash-up, “Shallow 1-21,” makes its full-length American debut in the Morris Gallery on October 24. The 86-minute piece by the “godfather of punk rock” combines footage from beatnik-era soft-core porn films with throbbing pop and rock music about love and desire. “Shallow” was a hit at Art Basel in 2008, and excerpts from the video ran on the Sony JumboTron in Times Square last year sponsored by public art group Creative Time. McLaren will lecture at the show’s opening and then come back in November to DJ some sets at a local club, according to Curator of Contemporary Art Julien Robson.

Jack Wolgin International Competition in the Fine Arts

On Thurs., Oct. 22, Temple University bestows the $150,000 Wolgin International Prize for Fine Art in a ceremony and reception at Temple Gallery . The three finalists—Sanford Biggers, Michael Rakowitz and Ryan Trecartin—will have work on display in the gallery all month. 

Trecartin, a Philadelphia artist and video installation phenom, will debut two new videos which are a continuation of works featured last summer at the FWM and at New York’s New Museum. Biggers will recreate several existing works for the show and premiere “Shuffle,” a new video piece. Rakowitz will install his tabletop recreations of the lost artifacts from the National Museum of Iraq, looted after the US invasion in 2003. 

The month-long show includes a full range of programming with panel discussions about Trecartin and Rakowitz and a film series organized by Biggers.

Other Competitions

Cash prizes nowhere near the dollar amount of the Wolgin Prize nonetheless draw many artists out to compete for honors in Arcadia University ’s 25th anniversary “Works on Paper” show in November. The regional show is known for uncovering new talent and showcasing the area’s best artists. The Drawing Center ’s curator João Ribas, this year’s juror, will set eyes on hundreds of works before making his selections. Always a must-see show, “Works on Paper” feeds artists into the “A Closer Look” series at the gallery in 2010.

Fleisher-Ollman Gallery ’s sixth invitational exhibit opens Fri., Dec. 11, and though it offers no prizes, being selected for the highly competitive show is a reward. The show, known for provocative, risky work, is an open call for emerging artists curated by the young gallery staff. 


Alex Gartelmann of My House is organizing a 50-photographer salon exhibit in November. He’s asking artists to push the boundaries of their studio practice. In January, My House will do an exchange show with Baltimore collective Hexagon featuring 20 Baltimore artists in Philadelphia and 20 Philadelphia artists in Baltimore.

Little Berlin ’s September show “Bright Path” captures thoughts about the cosmos by local artists and Brooklyn’s Duke Riley, who is known for nautical recreations. One of his most notable works is a wood, resin and Plexiglass replica of a Revolutionary War-era submarine. Riley floated the submarine out to a cruise ship in the East River and was arrested by the police. For this show, Riley is bringing a big sculpture with him to Philadelphia and will have a live video feed around the piece. 

On October 17, the LB book fair “B.Y.O.T.Y. (bring your own table yo)” brings 25 tables of artist2-made books and zines for an alternative book sale. Each artist will donate a book to LB’s new artist book library, which should be a fun, new resource.

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