IT'S NOT ACID, IT'S ART!
After a two-week-long trial in federal court in Kansas City, Mo., San Francisco artist Mark McCloud -- notorious in the annals of psychedelic art for his 25-year-long quest to compile a complete collection of LSD blotter art -- was acquitted by a local jury of felony charges of conspiracy to distribute LSD. A guilty verdict could have carried a penalty of life in prison. Federal drug authorities spent millions in their effort to nail McCloud, 47, conducting phone taps, monitoring his mail and conducting surveillance from neighboring apartments before the SWAT-style raid by an FBI-DEA task force in early 2000. Police seized his collection of almost 400 framed LSD blotters, which range from a print of Peter Rabbit from the early 1970s to a recent example from Europe showing two lesbian aliens. Authorities also seized 33,000 sheets of McCloud's own blotter art printed on rag paper. None of the material had any traces of the drug.
During the trial, assistant U.S. attorney Mike Oliver argued that McCloud used his role as an artist to distribute LSD through the country. McCloud's attorney, Doron Weinberg of San Francisco, contended that McCloud wasn't responsible for the use of his prints by others as a vehicle for illegal drugs. The case was tried in Kansas City because blotter paper linked to McCloud and impregnated with LSD was seized in a 1999 raid there. Among McCloud's defense witnesses were New York art critic and sometime Artnet Magazine columnist Carlo McCormick, who told the court that McCloud's work is part of an American folk-art tradition. McCloud's blotter art has been exhibited at Psychedelic Solution in New York and at the San Francisco Art Institute; examples of blotter-acid art are also currently on sale on eBay.
BIG BUCKS FOR TOP MUSEUM DIRECTORS
Directors of top U.S. museums must hobnob with millionaire trustees and broker acquisitions of million-dollar artworks. It stands to reason, then, that their rate of pay would soar well above the storied "starvation" level of most art-world jobs. The "Informer" section of the month's Forbes magazine features a table of museum director salaries, under the heading, "Figures to really stare at." In descending order, the "compensation" is: John Walsh, J. Paul Getty Museum (retired 9/2000), $1,403,543; Philippe de Montebello, Metropolitan Museum, $1,134,762; Peter Marzio, Houston MFA, $547,181; Maxwell Anderson, Whitney Museum, $507,790; Earl A. Powell, NGA, $447,718; Malcolm A. Rogers, Boston MFA, $439,022; Arnold Lehman, Brooklyn Museum, $435,038; and James N. Wood, Art Institute of Chicago, $408,890.
ROCKWELL SELLS ON EBAY EBay Premier, the recently launched section of the popular online auction website that specializes in fine art and collectibles, reports that its top lot for March 2001 was a work by Norman Rockwell from 1948 called The Dugout. The oil on canvas went for $345,000, including the 10 percent buyer's premium, and was sold by Mastronet/Robert Edwards Auctions of New Jersey.
Architect Daniel Libeskind has accused Melbourne architect Howard Raggat of copying his Jewish Museum design in Berlin for the new Canberra National Museum. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Libeskind was surprised at the similarities between the two designs, down to the very angles and proportions of the two structures. In an interview, Libeskind called the presumed plagiarism "simply absurd." For his part, Raggat claims he was merely inspired by Libeskind's museum.
ART REVIVAL IN NASHVILLE
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts opened on Sunday, Apr. 8, 2001, in Nashville, Tenn. The $45-million facility, designed by Seab Tuck, is located in a 125,000-square-foot converted post office with Art-Deco details. Among the four opening exhibitions is "European Masterworks: Paintings from the Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario," Apr. 8-July 8, 2001, and "An Enduring Legacy: Art of the Americas from Nashville Collections, Apr. 8, 2001-Mar. 10, 2001. The art center is part of an attempted cultural revival that includes a new $37-million Country Music Hall of Fame and $50-million public library. The non-profit arts center will not have a permanent collection but will play host to traveling exhibitions and showcase local and regional artists.
STAR STUDDED GALA
The New Museum of Contemporary Art will have its 24th annual gala benefit and live auction on Sunday, Apr. 29. Co-chairs Stefano Tonchi and Laura Skoler are joined by honorary chair Stockard Chaning in presenting the cocktail, dinner and auction at the Regent Wall Street. Among those on committees for the event are such art stars as Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Rosenblum, Agnes Gund, Marianne Boesky, Paula Cooper and Barbara Gladstone. The benefit will honor gallerist Ileana Sonnabend, who will be presented by Jeff Koons. Phillips Auctioneers is sponsoring the bash. For tickets and more info call (212) 219-1222, ext. 226.
ORIGAMI AT CRAFT MUSEUM
The American Craft Museum in New York opens "Origamic Architecture," the first major U.S. exhibition devoted to the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding, May 18-Sept. 2, 2001. The show features more than 100 works by Tokyo architect Masahiro Chatani (who supplements the traditional craft with cut-paper and pop-up engineering concepts), his colleagues Keiko Nakazawa and Takaaki Kihara and other artists from around the world. Among the subjects of the origamicists are Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum, the Eiffel Tower and the Chrylser Building along with flowers, animals, abstract geometries and everyday objects.
VERSACE COLLECTION GOES FOR $10 MILLION Sotheby's three-day sale Apr. 5-7 of property from the Miami Beach palazzo of murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace raised a total of over $10 million, well in excess of the presale estimate of $5 million-$7 million. Of the 600 lots, 87 percent sold, with Fashion Wire Daily reporting Madonna, Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley to be among the bidders. Top lot was a painting by Antoine Dubost called Le Retour d'Helene, which was knocked down for a record $236,750 (est. $100,000-$150,000). Seventeen lots of original Versace clothing brought a total of $116,950, funds which will be divided among two gun-safety groups and New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.