New York stories: pictures of Gotham

Katia Liebmann, Gotham City, 1997

One of the aspects I enjoy the most when visiting New York is the city’s familiarity from film and television. No matter how often I visit – not often enough and never for long enough – the connection with the movies won’t ever completely fade. New York has played itself and pretended to be other, often imaginary, places. It’s great backdrop after all. Katia Liebmann’s 1997 series Gotham City uses New York as a backdrop to a series of masked self-portraits.

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New York stories: tales from the city

Nan Goldin, Nan One Month after Being Battered, 1984

Nan Goldin’s pictures from the late 1970s and 1980s provide a unique record of a slice of New York life at a time when hedonism was giving way to tragedy. The body of work she titled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency focuses on those who hung out around the Bowery where a hard-drug subculture met an emerging gay scene.

As a student in Boston, Goldin had shown her work in the form of Cibachrome colour prints; moving to New York she switched to showing work as slide shows often with a soundtrack and shown in clubs. The pictures were made using available light and most have a snapshot aesthetic. They document sexuality, drug use, domesticity and the sometimes violent relationships of Goldin and those she hung out with.

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New York stories: walking the line

Joel Sternfeld, Looking South at 27th Street, September 2000 from Walking the High Line, 2002

Most cities have their forgotten spaces, but it still somehow surprises me that the High Line, the elevated railway that carried goods through Manhattan from the 1930s until 1980 was allowed to decay for more than two decades in a city where space is at such a premium. Thanks to a campaign by New Yorkers eager to see the derelict tracks reborn as a park the future of the High Line as a public space now seems secure.

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Spots before the eyes

The world – well Gagosian Gallery, anyway – has gone dotty for Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. In an unprecedented move, Gagosian is showing a single artist across all its sites, and not just a single artist but a single strand of that artist’s work. The Complete Spot Pantings 1986-2011 is on now at all 11 Gagosian spaces globally. Why? What’s it all about?

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