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Artnet News
2/8/02


LONDON IN THE 1950s
Everyone knows what happened in New York in the 1950s -- a bunch of macho abstract painters proceeded to take over the global art world. But what was going on in London, an equally bohemian outpost that would give the world Pop Art by the end of the decade? Now, the question is answered by Transition: The London Art Scene in the Fifties by Martin Harrison (Merrill, 192 pp., $50), published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the Barbican Gallery, Jan. 31-Apr. 14, 2002. The figurative expressionism of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, the proto-Pop Surrealist abstract sculptures of Reg Butler and Eduardo Paolozzi, the photo-based "New Realisms" that preoccupied the academy, early work by Richard Hamilton and Anthony Caro, painting by Peter Blake, David Hockney, Richard Smith, others, it's all here, with a commentary traces the exhibitions that mattered and draws in the influence of critics like David Sylvester and Lawrence Alloway. The book also includes a group of biographies compiled by Louise Vaughan.

"POWER GRAB" AT VENICE?
Guggenheim Foundation director Thomas Krens is being accused of a "power grab" for seeking control over the selection of which artist would show in the U.S. pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale, according to a report in the Financial Times of London. The Guggenheim owns the U.S. pavilion, and plays a leading role in the prestigious international art show, in part due to the presence in the city of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which hosts receptions and mounts special exhibitions and events in conjunction with the Biennale (last time, it was a performance by Vanessa Beecroft). "Krens is seeking to expand that role by leveraging his organization's ownership of the pavilion," wrote the FT reporter, Holly Yeager -- though the source of her information was notably unclear. Apparently, someone is floating a proposal that the Gugg curate the show in every third biennial. The Guggenheim has tried in the past to expand its presence in Venice, proposing that the pavilion be opened for exhibition year-round and seeking to use the historic Customs House building as a satellite branch.

U.S. participation at international festivals is coordinated by a New York-based organization called the Fund for U.S. Artists, currently headed by Pew Charitable Trusts director Marian A. Godfrey. The trust has yet to solicit proposals from museum curators for the 2003 biennial -- which observers say could take on a new shape under the new administration of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (in fact, some say it's not even certain that Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes is the Biennale's overall curator). A spokesperson for the Guggenheim had no comment.

BATTLE OVER DROUOT HEATS UP
Things are heating up in the French auction business. Pierre Berge, former head of Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture, dropped his previously announced plans to bid for the Drouot auction house, and said he would form an auction house of its own. Berge said his company would have 10 specialists, and that sales would begin within three months. A poll of the 110 commissaires-priseurs grouped around Drouot, whose president is Dominique Ribeyre, found that a majority of the auctioneers favored the 68.6-million euro bid by Barclay's Private Equity, an investment firm. Berge's bid was estimated to be worth somewhat less than that of BPE.

In another development, ABN-Amro Capital France, a Dutch investment fund, announced plans to lodge its own bid for Drouot. Other parties that are reported to be eying the auction house are the investment bankers Rothschild & Cie and the internet auctioneer Artprice.com, which is 17 percent owned by Bernard Arnault (who also controls Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg). Artprice has expressed interest in buying La Gazette de l'hotel Drouot, Drouot's 113-year-old auction magazine, which reportedly has a circulation of 60,000. Stay tuned.

BRIT LAWSUIT ON AUCTION PRICE-FIXING
The British firm Class Law is preparing a lawsuit in Britain against Sotheby's and Christie's in the price-fixing case that has already cost the two auction houses $512 million in civil damages in the United States. The law firm says it has enlisted 400 dealers, collectors and museums who bought or sold goods at their London sales between 1993 and 1999. Stephen Alexander, a partner in Class Law, told Will Bennett of the London Telegraph that it was "an open and shut case" that he expected to be quickly settled out of court -- for a substantial sum.

OLITSKI AT 80
Painter Jules Olitski, star of the Greenbergian "Color Field" painting movement of the 1960s and '70s, is celebrating his 80th birthday with an exhibition in London at Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Mar. 20-Apr. 27, 2002. For his newest paintings, the gallery says, the artist uses an "industrial blower" to move thick pools of paint around the canvas surface, to develop ebullient abstract images that suggest "natural phenomena such as whirlpools and galactic nebulae, lunar landscapes and tidal currents." Olitski recently published an essay titled How My Art Gets Made in the December 2001 Partisan Review and his work was included in an ARTnews magazine article called "Best Bets under $50,000."

PRINTED MATTER LAUNCHES WEBSITE
Chelsea's hippest art space -- the Printed Matter bookstore at 535 West 22nd Street -- has gone online at www.printedmatter.org. The celebrated nonprofit, which was founded in 1976 by Sol LeWitt, Pat Steir, Lucy Lippard and several other artists and critics, is a unique operation, specializing in books made as artworks by artists. Its online store features not only the 12,500 titles that are in stock, but records for another 7,500 books made by artists over the last quarter century. "It's a research resource as well as a great place to shop, said Printed Matter director David Platzker, who went on to note that the organization takes in around 150 new books each month. Among this week's hot titles are David Byrne's The New Sins (McSweeney's, $15), Ed Ruscha's The S Books ($25) and John Baldessari's Brown and Green and Other Parables ($26). Also available are artist's periodicals, CDs and other multiples.

PARTY GETTING STARTED AT WHITNEY'S "SOUNDCHECK"
The Whitney Museum has devised a joyful way to celebrate its "2002 Biennial," Mar. 7-May 26, 2002 -- "SoundCheck," a series of special "Lounge Nights" every Friday with contemporary artists acting as disc jockeys in the downstairs restaurant space. Participants (some presenting live performances) include Marina Rosenfeld (Mar. 15), Sanford Biggers (Mar. 22), Chris Johanson (Apr. 5), Gogol Bordello (Apr. 19), Stephen Vitiello (Apr. 26), Jeremy Blake (May 17) and Christian Marclay (May 24). "SoundCheck" is organized by Whitney curator Debra Singer and takes place 6-9 p.m. during the museum's Friday "pay-as-you-wish" evenings. Visitors can also go upstairs and view the Biennial.

LOGAN ART CACHE TO DENVER MUSEUM
The Denver Art Museum has announced a gift of 213 artworks by collector and retired investment banker Kent Logan and his wife Vicki. The gift is the museum modern and contemporary art department's largest in its 24-year history and includes works by Bruce Nauman and James Rosenquist as well as Cecily Brown, Damien Hirst and Roxy Paine. The Logans, who moved to Vail, Colo., after 10 years in San Francisco, are currently building a 7,000-square-foot private museum next to their home to display another 200 works in their holdings.

LADIES FIRST AT FOLK ART
While her husband was in town for the day stumping for New York governor George Pataki, first lady Laura Bush joined Libby Pataki for a tour of midtown Manhattan's American Folk Art Museum on Feb. 6. Bush said she was drawn by the Folk Art Museum's new facility, and spent 60 minutes inside. She told the Daily News that her favorite work was a 1975 portrait of Abraham Lincoln as a black man carved by Elijah Pierce. "I do collect Folk Art," she said. "Mostly what you'd call Mexican tourist pottery."

LET TATE WARHOLIZE YOUR FACE
The new "Andy Warhol Retrospective" at the Tate Modern in London, Feb. 2-Apr. 1, 2002, features Monroe, Mao and a controversial "most wanted" lineup of 14 criminals from the early 1960s. Now, visitors to the Tate website are invited to "Warholize" themselves and win 15 minutes of fame on the web. Pick a high-contrast jpg portrait, upload it to the website using a handy online form, and the result -- if you're chosen as a "superstar" -- is a brightly colored grid of portraits à la Warhol, posted with your name for 15 minutes.

MUSEUM COMPANY RESTRUCTURING
The Museum Company is closing eight of its 99 stores -- including the two in New York City, at Fifth Avenue and 53rd and on 42nd between 7th and 8th Avenues -- and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, owing $505,400 to the Museum of Modern Art and $500,000 to the Smithsonian Institution, according to a report by Carol Vogel in the New York Times. Founded in 1989, the company is headed by Howard Meitiner and has assets of $73.5 million and liabilities of $54.6 million, court papers say. Meitiner declined to give sales figures, but told the Times that they were "substantially higher" than the $75 million totaled by the Metropolitan Museum, which has 14 shops in the U.S. and nine overseas. The Museum Company, which also operates a website, says it is restructuring its operations.



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