DUNG AT THE TATE
A disgruntled artist has dumped a wheelbarrow full of manure on the steps of the Tate Gallery in London to protest the awarding of the Turner Prize to painter Chris Ofili, who often attaches clods of elephant dung to his canvases. Ray Hutchins, 66, plopped the pile on Dec. 10 and planted a sign titling the poop Modern Art is a load of bullshit. "A real artist who can paint should have won the Turner Prize," said Hutchins, who specializes in detailed renderings of military diagrams.
MAYNARD DIXON IN TUCSON
Over 40 works by famed Western painter Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) are on view at J. Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson, AZ, until Dec. 24, 1998. For the first four decades of this century, Dixon traveled throughout the American West, painting the dramatic wilderness landscape and scenes from Native American life. During the 1920s and '30s, Dixon maintained a studio in San Francisco, where he cut a picturesque figure, with his rakish moustache, black suit, Stetson hat with rattlesnake band, cowboy boots and silver-inlaid ebony sword-cane. He also did a handful of pictures on Depression themes in the '30s, no doubt influenced by his wife, the photographer Dorothea Lange.
CHICAGO MCA HIRES
Elizabeth Smith has been named chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Smith, 40, has been curator at the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art since 1983. She co-curated MoCA's Cindy Sherman retrospective and a touring survey of 20th-century architecture called "At the End of the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture." The MCA has also appointed Francesco Bonami as senior curator; Bonami, 43, has been a free-lance curator as well as New York editor of Flash Art.
The appointments "complete the curatorial and management teams" of new MCA director Robert Fitzpatrick, who also announced several new exhibitions for the MCA. Opening on Jan. 30, 1999, is "Unfinished History," a show co-curated by Bonami for the Walker Art Center; also promised are shows of Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Heinecken, Katharina Fritsch, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt and H.C. Westermann.
SCHAEFER TO GETTY
The J. Paul Getty Museum has appointed Scott J. Schaefer as its curator of paintings. He is currently senior vice president at Sotheby's New York, working in Old Masters. He succeeds David Jaffe, who resigned at the Getty last September to become senior curator at the National Gallery in London.
NEW RECORDS AT SOTHEBY'S LONDON
Though the London auction sales of the Saatchi Collection at Christie's drew most of the attention last week, Sotheby's London also set some notable records with its contemporary sale on Dec. 9, 1998. Top lot was Naked Portrait with Reflection (1980) by Lucien Freud, which sold for $4.65 million (est. $1.2 million-$2 million), a record for a painting sold in Europe (Freud's worldwide auction record is $5.8 million for Large Interior (After Watteau) sold in New York last May). But the sale did set a global record for Gerhard Richter, when Domplatz, Mailand (1968), a picture of the cathedral square in Milan, sold for $3.65 million (est. $1.3 million-$2 million) -- the third time this year that a Richter work broke the previous record. The Hyatt Park Hotel in Chicago bought the painting and will lend the picture to the Art Institute of Chicago until the hotel renovation is completed. A record was also set for Piero Manzoni, when his Achrome (1961-62), a "mixed media" Minimalist abstraction made of bread rolls, sold for $914,442 (est. $413,000-$578,000).
POLKE AT MOMA
Is there life after Pollock? Ask Sigmar Polke! The Museum of Modern Art presents "Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper, 1963-1974," Apr. 1-June 16, 1999, organized by the artist and MoMA drawings curator Margit Rowell. The show features approximately 180 works and some 20 sketchbooks, ranging from "Capitalist Realist" drawings to monumental works from the 1970s.
ALICE NEEL ONLINE
A few art-world websites use the name of the artist as the URL. There's stevemiller.com, probably the first, and gilbert&george.com and alexkatz.com. To this list add aliceneel.com, overseen by the late realist painter's son Andrew Neel and featuring a biography, a list of works in public collections, links to the Robert Miller Gallery (which represents the estate) and more.
Lower East Side legend Karin Luner has created a website for her project, Strapped, a feminist tour-de-force that includes the evocative image of a field of milkweed plants with their pods taped shut. Strapped was devised during a summer residency at the Vermont Studio Center. "It's just to remind you," Luner said, "that the socio-economic disparity for women hasn't changed since the '70s."
MARLBOROUGH BOCA RATON
The global art dealership Marlborough Galleries opens a new facility in Boca Raton, Fla., on Jan. 8, 1999, with a solo show of work by Red Grooms. The 3,500-square-foot space of Marlborough Florida is designed by Dale M. Lanzone, the former head of the General Services Administration's public-art program who now also works with Marlborough on public-art projects. The Florida outpost is the tenth venue for Marlborough, which has galleries in New York, London, Madrid and Santiago, and offices in Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Zurich. "This new venue will allow us to continue to develop our strong relationship with Latin American countries," said Pierre Levai, president of Marlborough Gallery, New York. Marlborough Florida is located at 608 Banyan Trail in Gallery Center; it can be reached by phone at (561) 991-9932 or by fax at (561) 999-9610.
SEATTLE'S MEYERSON & NOWINSKI TO CLOSE
The Seattle blue-chip gallery Meyerson & Nowinski will close Feb. 1, 1999, according to a report in the Seattle Times. AIDS researcher Robert Nowinski, who founded the gallery in 1996, is devoting his time to his San Francisco company VaxGen, which is testing an AIDS vaccine in 35 cities across the country. Meyerson & Nowinski has been run by director Chris Bruce, former curator at the Henry Art Gallery; New York dealer Ronnie Meyerson withdrew from the gallery's day-to-day operation some time ago. Foster/White Gallery announced that it will sublease the space occupied by Meyerson & Nowinski.
MUSEUM ATTENDANCE REVIEW
Courtesy Peter Plagens in Newsweek, a compilation of attendance rates for major museum exhibitions this fall: Claude Monet at the Boston MFA, 5,400 a day; Vincent van Gogh at the National Gallery, 5,144 a day; Mary Cassatt at the Art Institute, 4,316 a day; Jackson Pollock at MoMA, 4,000 a day; Mark Rothko at the Whitney, 2,286 a day.
GETTY TRUSTS PRESERVATION
The J. Paul Getty Trust has announced a $1.1 million grant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support up to 25 model projects throughout the U.S. The program is part of Hillary Clinton's "Save America's Treasures" campaign. Grants will range up to $50,000 and must be matched one-to-one. Guidelines are available at www.whitehouse.gov/Initiatives/Millennium.
NEW RESTAURANT AT NGA
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has opened the Cascade Café, an Italian gelateria and expresso bar complete with 18 flavors of homemade gelato and sorbeto. "The Cascade Café is the first phase of the renovation of our restaurants," said NGA director Earl A. Powell III, "We hope it will enhance the visitor's experience at the National Gallery."
FAX JAM FOR MAX
Museum curators are usually a pretty docile bunch, at least in public. But a new online discussion group for museum curators has publicly chided the Whitney Museum and its new director, Maxwell Anderson, for their treatment of Whitney curators Thelma Golden and Elisabeth Sussman, who were recently forced out of their posts at the museum. The group, known as the Union of the Imaginary (VOTI), mounted a particularly modern protest -- a "fax jam," in which the Whitney's fax number was bombarded with copies of a petition accusing the museum of "intellectual gentrification" and a return to a "timid" and "unproductive" curatorial agenda. The complete text of the fax follows:
"We wish to express our opposition to your treatment of curators Thelma Golden and Elisabeth Sussman. The recent restructuring of the curatorial departments at the Whitney Museum of American Art is indicative of a managerial approach that has been slowly developing in a number of major art museums. Beyond our wish to show support for fellow curators Golden and Sussman, we see your recent actions as signals of a pervasive disrespect for curatorial practice, and as signs of aversion to some of the most esthetically and intellectually challenging experiments in contemporary art.
"Curators at many institutions today are caught in a kind of double bind. Art museums pride themselves on their proximity to an academic environment, positing scholarship as one of their highest goals. Yet due to shifts in the infrastructure of funding, museums have also adopted corporate management models - with the corollary effect that curators are treated as expendable workers. Contrary to both of these models, curators do not have the job security and intellectual support enjoyed by professors in the university system, nor do they enjoy salaries comparable to corporate employees. As a result, they are forced to stand on increasingly shaky ground, while serving as the primary source of ideas for their institutions' exhibition programming. The door is then open to all kinds of abuses.
"We find your actions in regard to these particular individuals to be a form of intellectual gentrification, if not censorship. The fact that Thelma Golden and Elisabeth Sussman presided over the controversial 1993 Biennial Exhibition, one of the most stimulating and contentious contemporary art exhibitions presented after the gutting of the National Endowment for the Arts, or that Golden then went on to curate "Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art," are coincidences that hardly escape us. Since when did exhibitions that set attendance records and raise genuine intellectual questions become a failure? Of course no one is required to subscribe to the esthetic options of these two curators, but to admit that they are part of an important debate, itself linked to a vibrant focus of artistic experimentation, is surely necessary for a public institution that seeks to represent artistic practice today. To sidestep this debate over politics and identity in a multicultural, globally integrating society is to set a timid, unproductive, yet perhaps more easily manageable agenda for the Whitney. This troubling direction reflects a broader conservative trend, the mistaken return to an outdated conception of cultural history.
"We feel it is imperative to mark our opposition to your actions, lest they be misperceived as the innocuous restructuring of an organization like any other in the private sphere. Curating is an eminently public activity and must remain so, if the visual arts are to continue to generate the curiosity, the enthusiasm and the commitment that sustain our efforts as professionals in this field."
(Signed) Mónica Amor, Zdenka Badovinac, Bart de Baere, Wayne Baerwaldt, Carlos Basualdo, Daniel Birnbaum, Francesco Bonami, Dan Cameron, Christophe Cherix, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Lisa Corrin, Jordan Crandall, Amada Cruz, Okwui Enwezor, Robert Fleck, Douglas Fogle, Jesús Fuenmayor, Bettina Funcke, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Hou Hanru, Susan Hapgood, Jens Hoffmann, Brian Holmes, Udo Kittelmann, Aleksandra Kostic, Maria Lind, Rosa Martinez, Laurence Miller, Viktor Misiano, Akiko Miyake, Louise Neri, Michelle Nicol, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Kathrin Rhomberg, Liisa Roberts, José Ignacio Roca, Yukiko Shikata, Nancy Spector, Barbara Vanderlinden, Peter Weibel, Octavio Zaya.