FARNSWORTH HOUSE TO BE SAVED?
A group of Chicago-area businessmen and politicians has formed The Friends of the Farnsworth House Committee in an effort to convince the Illinois State Legislature to purchase Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and operate it for the public benefit as an Illinois Heritage Site. The famed house, located about 58 miles southwest of Chicago in Plano, Il., is for sale -- and may even be in danger of being destroyed, since it sits on valuable land that could be developed for luxury housing. The state presently owns two other historic houses (one designed by Wright).
Mies designed the Farnsworth House between 1945 and 1950 as a weekend residence for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a distinguished Chicago-area physician. The structure is a major work of 20th century architecture -- a glass box set on stilts, enclosing a single space, with bathrooms and closets housed in a brick core -- the ultimate expression of Mies' "Less is More" philosophy.
In 1972, Dr. Farnsworth sold the house to Lord Peter Palumbo of London, England. Lord Palumbo equipped the residence with furniture designed by Mies, acquired land to expand the site to 62 acres, and created a sculpture park with work by Anthony Caro, Richard Serra and other internationally known artists. The site is currently open to the public but lightly attended.
Lord Palumbo has agreed to sell the house and grounds for $8 million to the state if funds can be raised soon. Otherwise, the house will be put up for auction.
John Bryan, board chairman of the Sara Lee Corporation, a major corporate supporter of the arts, is head of the Friends of the Farnsworth House Committee. Other members include former Illinois governor James Thompson; the architect Dirk Lohan, who is Mies' grandson; Mies biographer Franz Schulze; and art dealer Richard Gray.
The committee has opened a website (www.FarnsworthHouseFriends.org) and feels mildly optimistic that the legislature will vote the needed funds. Obstacles include the current economic downturn, which shrinks tax revenues and the state budget. Also, the state budget was already written by the time the committee was formed. Stay tuned...
ROCKERS AT ROYAL ACADEMY
The traditional June splashbuster at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the huge "Summer Exhibition" of contemporary art, features artworks by rock stars along with the usual hip fare from artists young and old, thanks to the efforts of this year's "senior hanger," Pop art founder Peter Blake. Among the musicians who are lending their visual-arts efforts to the show are Paul McCartney of the Beatles, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and even the late Ian Dury of the Blockheads. The exhibition bows June 5, 2001; a total of £50,000 in prizes is awarded, and most of the works are for sale.
SWINGEING NEW YORK
Speaking of British Pop artists, the painter Richard Hamilton gets the once-over in a survey of his prints at the Charles Cowles Gallery in West Chelsea, June 7-July 20, 2001. The exhibition spans 1968-1998, with works on view ranging from his celebrated print Swingeing London, showing the drug bust of Mick Jagger and Brit dealer Robert Fraser, to his mixed-media illustrations of James Joyce's Ulysses. For more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
HARVARD ACQUISITIONS HONOR RUDENSTINES
The Harvard University Art Museums have acquired 30 contemporary American works -- 29 drawings and one painting (by Ellen Phelan) -- in honor of retiring president Neil Rudenstine and his art historian and curator wife Angelica Zander Rudenstine. The trove includes Jasper Johns' 1995 drawing 0-9, Roy Lichtenstein's 1980 drawing Reclining Nude, five Ellsworth Kelly drawings spanning 1948-1955, a 1972 Sol LeWitt wall drawing, a 1993 drawing by Richard Serra and a series of ten gouaches by Joel Shapiro. The works came as gifts by the artists, all of who knew the Rudenstines personally, as well as through support from patrons and the museums' Margaret Fisher Fund.
BRYAN ADAMS, CARR SALESMAN
Canadian rock musician and amateur photographer Bryan Adams sold four paintings from his substantial holdings of works by Canadian artist Emily Carr on May 9, 2001, through the Heffel Gallery in Vancouver. The four works garnered between $37,000 and $89,250 a piece, closely mirroring their estimated values of $25,000-$80,000. While Carr's popularity (and prices) have been climbing recently, Adams has been reducing his sizeable collection of the West Coast artist's work. He sold two more Carrs at auction last November, and donated another of her paintings to the National Gallery of Canada in February.
GUGGENHEIM.COM IN VENICE
The Guggenheim Museum is taking the occasion of the forthcoming Venice Biennale to give select journalists and art professionals a preview of its new marriage of art and commerce -- otherwise known as Guggenheim.com -- at a brunch at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice on June 9. According to a rather breathless report in the New York Times, Guggenheim.com could "become the first online theme park for the arts," where Cubist paintings are "the visual equivalents of the tilt-a-whirl."
The profit-making site, which is designed to be separate from the Gugg's nonprofit operations, is slated to go live this fall with images from the museum collections as well as a gift shop and travel-planning services for art tours. Former Gugg general counsel Judith Cox heads the enterprise; hip designer Hani Rashid is chief creative officer. Perhaps most astonishing to dot-com veterans, however, was the Times' mention of "venture capital" financing and a "staff of 50 employees operating out of a Lower Manhattan office." Sounds so 1999, somehow...