Smoking may seem to be on the way out (in the UK 54% of adults in 1948 compared with 19% now) and yet… Maybe it was the more liberal view of smoking still evident in Switzerland and Germany; maybe it was the politics of smoking promotion in the third world, where sales are still rising; maybe it'spart of the general fascination for things retro whihc leads some artists to typewriters or analogue film; maybe it was the lingering influence of Pavel Büchler’s 1,156 photographs of Work (All the cigarette breaks), 2007-14, which currently fills a wall of the Ikon in Birmingham, so making a work out of not working… Whatever the reason, I spotted ten interesting works in which cigarettes were central, though I didn’t see any using e-cigarettes.
Maverick American David Hammons refuses conventional gallery representation, in line with his preference for street rather than art audiences, but his re-purposing of detritus has achieved iconic status nonetheless: Salon 94’s stand including his elephant dung sculptures was a big hit, and over $1m was being asked for this wall piece of half-smoked Lucky Strikes held on wires in front of a 17th century Buddhist monk’s robe. That makes it a chandelier, though I guess the smoke might offset the modest illumination. Some cigarettes were lit in advance of the (no smoking) fair in order to generate the ash which Hammons likes to appear below this mixture of street and spirit.
Marlie Mul: Cigarette Hedgehog, 2015 at Croy Nielsen, Berlin in Liste
Aluminium bucket, polyurethane foam, acrylic paint, varnish, cellophane, cigarettes
30 x 25 cm
‘Cigarette will be gone soon’, said the Berlin-based Dutch artist Marlie Mul in her 2012 show ‘No Oduur (Your Smoke Draws Me In)’ – ‘Cigarette is guilty, has apologised a thousand times’. Mul is interested in communication systems and in how contingently-produced items can reflect the society which brought them about. Hence her sculptures of air vents – or, as here, a snowed-up bucket – pressed into unintended use as ashtrays. They reflect the shifting social relations attached to smoking now that the huddle has been driven out of the building. Perhaps smokers have a right to feel prickly…
Jesús 'Bubu' Negrón: Colillón de mala muerte, 2015 at Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City in Liste
Pae White: Smoke tapestry #1 (working title), 2015 at Neugerriemschneider, Berlin in Art Basel
Cotton, polyester and trevira, 290 x 290 cm
At Massimo Carlo. There seemed to be party remnants in a space enclosed by large paintings by Jacob Kassay (as glipmsed above) and Gunther Forg (the latter, who died in 2013, was prominent on many stands). In fact, the scatter of bottles and cigarette ends were Murano glass castings and plastic-based sculptures by Dan Colen, also known for his series of paintings featuring burning candles from which the smoke emanating forms disarming messages. Wild Irish Rose is something of a wake both for his friend Dash Snow and the party nights which changed following his death in 2009. The collection sold for a non-too-shoddy £70,000.
Sarah Lucas: Vlady Trotsky, 2012 at kurimanzutto, Mexico City in Art Basel
Cigarettes and wire on kraft paper
Raymond Hains: Mlle Z, 2004 at Max Hetzler, Berlin in Art Basel
Wood, resin, sandpaper, photographic print, 120 x 45 x 20 cm
c-type print, 172x120 cm,