people sitting on an orange floor in front of a mural of a village
people sitting on an orange floor in front of a mural of a village

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Martial Galfione and Mike Gaughan, Metapanorama, 2022. Installation view, Alienarium 5 (Serpentine South, 14 April – 4 September 2022). Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Ahead of the opening of Radio Ballads, the new, social-minded exhibition featuring works by Sonia Boyce, Helen Cammock, Rory Pilgrim and Ilona Sagar, we spoke to the Serpentine’s Bettina Korek about how the gallery is working to build meaningful connections between artists and communities

1. What is your vision for the Serpentine with regards to its focus on environmental art?

My vision for Serpentine’s focus on environmental art is first and foremost about ensuring that ecology is embedded across all strands of our programme, business planning and culture. Serpentine works as a conduit between artists and society, exploring “Art and Ideas for a Changing World”. We strive to be a platform that amplifies environmental art, and arms these ideas with access to top collaborators, advanced technologies and other resources that produce new models of reality.

These ideas manifest through Back to Earth, a multi-year programme where we invite leading artists, architects, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers and designers to devise campaigns, protocols and initiatives prompting responses to environmental crises, with the support of partner organisations and networks.

2. How does Radio Ballads respond to the urgent issues of today?

The exhibition, developed by Serpentine’s Civic team, led by Amal Khalaf, centres the voices of those receiving and giving care in both formal and informal settings, sharing complex and intimate stories of living and working in the care sector today. We feel that it is important to make sustained contributions to communities and for embedded artists to have the time and resources to develop real trust and dialogues with care workers, who, more and more, play such an essential role in society.

A woman standing next to Brad Pitt, in a hat jumper and coat and another man wearing a red tie and pocket handkerchief

Bettina Korek, Brad Pitt and Eli Broad. Image by Michael Underwood, courtesy of Frieze

3. How has the increase in long durational projects in recent years altered how we experience art?

Somehow some walls have come down during the pandemic, and it seems more common that art becomes a permanent part of people’s lives—but it takes a long time to break through this way. Durational projects have the advantage of easing their way into viewer’s lives organically, this is specifically true with the Summer Pavilion designed by Theaster Gates this year, where public engagement is high and passionate.

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We’ve even branched into podcasts and considering questions around physicality and virtual worlds. One episode of our Back to Earth podcast I particularly enjoyed is called Queer Currents, guest hosted by Serpentine Assistant Curator, Kostas Stasinopoulos and asking, What is queer ecology? How do queer theory and artistic practice inform environmental activism and climate justice? Queer Ecology will be amplified this year and will solidify Serpentine’s thought leadership.

purple, white, green and pink flowers

Pollinator Pathmaker, Digital rendering of Serpentine Edition Garden 3 (detail), 2022. © Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg

4. Which creative technologies are you most excited about?

There is so much happening with Web 3. Some fundraising structures like DAOs can be very empowering to artists and organisations, financially as well as possibly creatively. Beyond the speculative buying and selling of NFTs, I’m especially keen on the more interactive and community building aspects of the technology, such as proof of participation NFTs that gamify and reward engagement in a way that, again, into the everyday lives of people.

Read more: LUX Art Diary: Exhibitions to see in April

Then there are artists like Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster who pose questions around the invention of new technologies of consciousness—just as she does in her upcoming Serpentine exhibition this spring, Alienarium 5. The exhibition features a new VR piece that, following on from her critically-acclaimed Endodrome presented at the 2019 Venice Biennale, marks the artist’s second VR work produced by VIVE Arts, and developed by Lucid Realities, and a Holorama produced by Vega Foundation. We’re so excited to see visitors’ reactions.

A woman in a balck top standing next to Pharrell Williams in a big kaki puffer coat and cap

Bettina Korek and Pharrell Williams. Image by Billy Farrell/, courtesy of Frieze

5. What role does the metaverse play in the Serpentine’s future?

We are still very much in an experimenting phase with regard to the metaverse. Our recent project with KAWS, Acute and Fortnite demonstrates our approach to thinking about layers and reaching audiences we wouldn’t necessarily have access to through physical activations. We tend to think of our physical presence in Serpentine gardens, the park, and communities in London as our core, and from here, about how we can branch out to reach other “worlds”. Physicality now exists in parallel with the metaverse.

A tv screen in front of a brick wall with bin bags on the floor and people on the screen

Radio Ballads, Installation view, 31 March – 29 May 2022, Serpentine North Rory Pilgrim, RAFTS, 2022. Photo by George Darrell

6. How does the gallery aim to sustain relevance among diverse audiences?

Serpentine convenes creators, thought leaders and entrepreneurial partners from a plurality of disciplines and fields to make the conversation around art more relevant and inclusive, and in doing so, to expand the diversity and depth of engagement of museum audiences. Serpentine’s goal of building connections between artists and society appeals to a full spectrum of audiences who engage with us at the museum, in their communities and online. Serpentine has always been an artist-led institution and continues to be; we are now equally focused on being audience-centric.

Bettina Korek is CEO of Serpentine Galleries

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blue vases and orange trinkets on the floor
blue vases and orange trinkets on the floor

Shio Kusaka at David Zwirner, New York

In our ongoing online monthly series, LUX’s editors, contributors, and friends pick their must-see exhibitions from around the globe

Bettina Korek, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries in London

This month I’m excited to see my friend Shio Kusaka’s exhibition at David Zwirner in New York. Her ceramics are influenced by her daily life: vessels with designs that highlight their imperfections as if gleaned from lived wisdom, or dinosaur and animal pieces that her kids love. There is a complicated formal world locked away in each of her seemingly playful creations, with sophisticated difference and repetition techniques as well as nuanced tactility that can only existed in a medium such as this.

A woman in a dark room with red lights

Dominique Gonzalez Foerster, Opera QM.15

I’m also looking forward to OPERA (QM.15), an artwork by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster presented at Bourse de Commerce in Paris inspired by the legendary Maria Callas from 6th April. The artist describes the ‘apparitions’ as “an attempt to communicate with certain spirits”—very intriguing proposition. Similarly, Gonzalez-Foerster’s Serpentine takeover this spring considers the questions: what would happen if aliens fell in love with us. She so masterfully creates multifaceted worlds that oscillate between finite and infinite, the empirical and the dramaturgical.

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Lastly, I always recommend visiting a Mayfair hidden gem: the Louis Vuitton flagship on New Bond Street which includes fascinating immersive works by eminent artists such as James Turrell, Alex Katz, Sarah Crowner and furniture by the Campana Brothers. I’ve always admired LV’s innovation in producing collaborations with artists and dedication to bringing art to the public in a way that exceeds expectations for a luxury brand.

Helaine Blumenfeld OBE, sculptor

Given the current state of uncertainty in the world, I recommend two powerful and moving exhibitions (in addition to my own solo show Intimacy and Isolation at the Hignell Gallery, Mayfair, London) to help us remember the sense of healing that Art can provide.

Two pieces of marble on a stand outside

Helaine Bleumnfeld’s Intimacy and Isolation at the Hignell Gallery, Mayfair, London

Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland offers a deep look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s work including rarely seen paintings from public and private collections from 23 January until 22 May. The show explores O’Keeffe’s unique way of looking at her surroundings and translating them into new and hitherto unseen images of reality. Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers have deeply affected and profoundly influenced me from my childhood. Her work suggests transcendence into a realm that lies beyond substance; it is poetic and elusive; it is often joyful. Ultimately, her work is mysterious and visionary. The abstract images reflect O’Keeffe’s desire to capture the ‘essence’ and to reveal a multitude of figurative references that she disguises with transparent layers. She takes serious risks with colour and challenges visual harmony in order to stimulate the viewer to look beyond the parameters, to question what they see. I often find myself revisiting her images in my mind, both on dark days when I feel the need for intense light and renewal and, in celebratory moments when I want to share my optimism and sense of possibility.

a painting of a red black and orange poppy

Georgia O’Keeffe, Oriental Poppies, 1927

Also not to be missed is By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800 at the Detroit Institute of Arts from 6 February until 29 May which highlights the largely unexplored role of women artists in Italy from the Renaissance until the Enlightenment. Although many will know the powerful and difficult story of Artemisia Gentileschi and her daring and dynamic work, this show goes further, highlighting the works of a diverse group of Italian women artists, all of whom challenged the conventions and expectations of a male-dominated art world. The variety in their work reveals to the viewer not only their technical skills but their vision, ingenuity and courage as artists.

Phil America, artist and designer

When you travel the world a lot or frequent art fairs, you start to see a lot of the same artists and trends over and over again. It takes something special, something unique to make me feel like I have to go see a particular show if I don’t know the artist personally at this point.

One gallery I am never disappointed by is François Ghebaly gallery in Los Angeles. The current shows, Victoria Gitman‘s Everything Is Surface: Twenty Years of Painting and Em Kettner‘s The Understudies are not to be missed.

A drawing of a man taking off his face on a dark wooden cavas

Em Kettner, Two Guides, 2022

I had a moment to talk about the show itself as well as the artists with the gallery’s director Belen Piñeiro and she told me, “the shows by Victoria Gitman and Em Kettner deal with intimacy but from very different perspectives. Where Victoria’s work is about surface and challenging our idea of representation, Em’s works on tile develop storytelling and character construction. On both shows however, the small scale of the formats brings the viewer to get up close to the works, observe their minute detail which creates a form of introspection. They require physical presence to fully understand them.”

Read more: Philanthropy: Anita Choudhrie on supporting women in parasports and art

A beaded bag hung on a canvas

Victoria Gitman, On Display, 2006. Photograph by Paul Salveson

If you find yourself in Los Angeles before the shows close on May 7th, your physical presence is required at Francois Ghebaly’s gallery.

Emilia Yin, founder, Make Room Gallery, LA

I will have to say my must-visit exhibition is our booth at Art Brussels, where we present the work of Jacopo Pagin and Guimi You in conversation. The practices of Pagin and You are concerned with the crosscultural history of painting as a medium, as well as the investigation of modern existence and mysticism through such historical lenses.

green painting of a a tree and the sky

Guimi You painting. Photo by Josh Schaedel

Guimi You’s practice is informed by her training in both San-su hwa (traditional Korean painting) and Western oil painting. Her works combine the influence of feminists surrealists like Leonora Carrington with the vast plein air landscapes of Korean silk painters like Jeong Seon. Jacopo Pagin’s limpid canvases are rife with nods to Venetian colorito and Mannerist figuration, inspirations gleaned from his training at the Accademia in Venice. His compositions are shot through with a delicate surrealism evocative of Leonor Fini’s dream-like sketched figures or Cocteau’s sensuous line drawings. While You’s female figures comment upon the Sublime vastness of landscapes– often dwarfed by their colorful expanses– Pagin’s characters become part of the landscape, their heads melded into the surf and the rock faces, bringing to mind pagan goddesses of nature. As Guimi’s own technique finds itself at an intersection of Easten and Western technique, so too does Pagin’s leitmotifs evoke a cross cultural dimension: his works often contain within them decorated fans or Chinese patterns, which, combined with his deeply learned techniques, simultaneously evoke and subvert the craze of Orientalism in 18th-century European art.

illusion painting of faces and swans

Jacopo Pagin, ‘We Kiss’

Though deeply indebted to established styles and practices, You and Pagin both confront their subjects from a wholly contemporary perspective. You’s intense color palettes are drawn from the digital, her initial designs taking shape on iPad software. Her practice is intensely intuitive and personal, drawn from real life, which makes her dreamlike interventions– a maw of pitch blackness enveloping a canvas; a colorless figure pasted into a lush landscape like a glitch on the canvas; a curl of steam morphing into a toy snake– all the more surreal; Pagin’s interventions of abstraction into his paintings is accompanied by his use of a mise-en-scéne, composed of sonic art and installation. These installations are approached in a dense, philosophical manner, by which the paintings function as a “time machine” through which the artist can– in his own words– “reuse and reinterpret the gestures and techniques of the past to continually re-identify myself through diverse means.”

They both previously had sold out exhibitions at Make Room, and this is both of their first time participating at Art Brussels.

The fair will be open from April 28- May 2.

LUX Editorial Team

This month we’re looking forward to seeing Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear at the V&A in London. Fashioning Masculinities is an exhibition which celebrates the diversity of men’s fashion throughout history. Designs from contemporary fashion designers such as Harris Reed and Raf Simons are featured alongside historical artefacts which include sculptures, painting and photographs.

A blue suit shown at an exhibition through a hole in a blue wall

Alessandro Michele for Gucci look worn by Harry Styles

The exhibition displays the wide range of ideas that surround masculinities, particularly beyond the binary, and how this idea has evolved and changed throughout history from the Renaissance to the modern day.

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