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Artnet News
3/14/00
 
     
  WHITNEY GALA, THE EASY WAY
In a fascinating act of chutzpah, the Whitney Biennial 2000-featured Internet artist collective TMark is auctioning-off four tickets to the Whitney's exclusive VIP party, which begins at 7 p.m. on Mar. 21. The golden ducats, ordinarily restricted to patrons, curators and Biennial artists, are now offered for sale on eBay. In its blurb on the auction site, TMark pitches the tickets -- each admits two people -- as shortcuts "to being the honored artist at this most important of American art exhibitions...offering access to curators, patrons and fellow important artists." The group promises to reinvest the proceeds into new projects.

TMark -- pronounced "artmark" -- calls itself a "brokerage" that "supports the sabotage of corporate products" via "informative alteration." Among the many proposals detailed on the group's website -- framed as "mutual funds" seeking investors -- are a machine that automatically writes political graffiti and a NAFTA form that allows immigrants to cross borders as easily as commercial products do. The group is pointedly mysterious about its size and location, though several artists and writers are listed as "fund managers" -- DJ Spooky, Andrei Codrescu, Wolfgang Staehle's The Thing.

Why the action mocking the Whitney Biennial? "The use of the art establishment by politically engaged artists is strictly financial, leaving aside the less quantifiable matters of ego and psychological survival," an anonymous TMark representative emailed Artnet News. "We are turning a useless invitation to schmooze and feel loved into useful American currency." The spokesperson declined to say how many tickets the group had received and whether any TMark members were still planning on joining the festivities. Bidders seem to be taking the offer seriously, with the price of a ticket rising over $2,000 from the initial $20 listing. Interested parties better hurry; the auction ends Mar. 16.

SANITATION SENSATION
The New York Times may have broken the "Whitney Sensation" story -- earth-shattering news that a Hans Haacke work in the forthcoming Whitney Biennial 2000 combines the sound of marching troops with anti-art quotes from New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- but it's the right-wing tabloid New York Post that knows how to use it to sell papers, running the story on the front page of both Saturday and Sunday editions.

The Post's Saturday paper was headlined "Whitney kin: Take name off Rudy-bashing museum," with the story inside on page 3 by Gersh Kuntzman bannered with "It's a rogues gallery!" The reporter quoted protests against the Haacke work by a pair of socialites named Whitney -- Marylou Whitney, the 73-year-old daughter-in-law of museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and heir to the $100-million Whitney family fortune, and Marilou's neice, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Conner. Marylou, who agrees with the Post reporter that the Haacke work paints Giuliani as a Nazi, says the museum is "not supposed to be for any foreign artists" (Haacke is a German citizen who has lived in New York for three decades) and that she's resigning from the institution's fund-raising board.

On Sunday, the Post continued its front-page coverage with a headline that read "Museum furor sparks Whitney family feud." In this round, two other Whitneys -- Gertrude Whitney's granddaughter Flora Miller Biddle and her daughter Fiona Donovan, both trustees of the museum -- rally to the artist's defense, releasing a letter calling Haacke's piece "a wholly legitimate and powerful artwork" and adding that the museum doesn't discriminate on the basis of nationality. Haacke has also responded to the criticism, saying that his work "does not speak of the Holocaust; it speaks about freedom of speech." The exhibition opens to the public on Mar. 23.

SUSPECT RUBENS AT THE MET
The World Jewish Congress is calling on the Metropolitan Museum of Art to check the provenance of Peter Paul Rubens' Portrait of a Man (1597). The Met acquired the painting in 1982, but it was at one point owned by alleged Nazi dealer Karl Haberstock. WJC executive director Elan Steinberg wants the museum to acknowledge the work's suspect provenance, reports AP. A spokesman for the museum said it was currently reviewing its collection of approximately 2,000,000 works and that a report on the Rubens is forthcoming.

"CANYON SUITE" UPDATE
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has decided to close its case on the now-infamous "Canyon Suite" watercolors once thought to be by Georgia O'Keeffe, reports the Associated Press. An FBI spokesperson said the bureau lacked jurisdiction over the case, and that it would be better sorted out in civil court. Meanwhile, Jackie Suazo, the former student of O'Keeffe's who says that he made some of the watercolors back in the 1940s and '50s with O'Keeffe as his instructor, is claiming copyright for at least three of the works. Santa Fe art dealer Gerald Peters, who recently refunded the $5 million "Canyon Suite" purchase price to art patron R. Crosby Kemper, still maintains most of the watercolors are O'Keeffes, but says they will not be resold.

MORE CHANGES AT SOTHEBY'S
Warren P. Weitman, Jr. has been named chairman of Sotheby's North and South America, succeeding Richard Oldenburg, who has stepped down after holding the position since 1995. Weitman has been at Sotheby's since 1978 and has held a number of senior positions, including director of trusts and estates, worldwide head of business development and most recently, executive vice president of Sotheby's New York.

ARNING TO M.I.T.
Curator/writer Bill Arning has been named curator at the M.I.T. List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge. Arning was chief curator of White Columns between 1985 and 1996 and is currently an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts and the NYU Graduate School of the Arts. His most current curatorial project at Thread-Waxing Space, "Achieving Failure: Gym Culture 2000," opens Mar. 24.

BENEFIT FOR BELGRADE MUSEUM
Yugoslav artists Mischa Rosic and Zlatko Vasic have organized "The Last Waltz: River of Art," an exhibition benefiting the Museum of Modern Art in Belgrade, which was severely damaged during the recent war in Yugoslavia. Currently the traveling show is on view at Gallery Benjamin in Bjarred, Sweden, Mar. 11-Apr. 9, and features works by 18 artists from seven countries, including Coco Gordon and Maureen Wong from the U.S., Els Van Asten from Holland, Johan Jonsson from Sweden and Viktor Praznick and Predag Lukovic from Yugoslavia. A location for the next installment is still being worked out.

INSIDE CINDY SHERMAN
Viewers of Manhattan public television get a special inside look at avant-garde art poser Cindy Sherman this Wednesday, Mar. 15, at 9:30 p.m. on channel 34. Paul H-O took his notorious Gallery Beat Television cameras right into Sherman's studio for an unfettered interview, an unprecedented look at her props and working method, and a preview of the artist's forthcoming show at Gagosian in L.A., Mar. 23-Apr. 29. Sherman even mentions artnet.com -- now there's a talented artist! The five-year-old cable show, which chronicles the avant-garde art world of Manhattan, is a few weeks ahead of a forthcoming Calvin Tomkins profile in the New Yorker and a piece slated to air on PBS.

SMITHSONIAN INTRODUCES "THE RENWICK INVITATIONAL"
The Smithsonian Institution is launching the "Renwick Invitational," a new biennial exhibition of contemporary craft, with "Five Women in Craft," Mar. 31-Aug. 20, 2000. The inaugural show, on view at the Renwick Gallery, features works by Myra Mimlitsch Gray, Mary Jackson, Janel Jacobson, Sondra Sherman and Consuelo Jimnez Underwood. Also on view is "The Art of John Cederquist: Reality of Illusion," featuring 13 examples of the artist's characteristic illusionistic nonfunctional furniture. Cederquist will hold a slide lecture and a discussion April 2. Admission is free; call (202) 357-2700 for more info.

-- compiled by Giovanni Garcia-Fenech