BLOCK BANNED IN CUBA
The author of a best-selling book on new Cuban art has been banned from traveling to the island. Art in General executive director Holly Block, author of Art Cuba: The New Generation (Abrams, 2001), found out that no visa would be forthcoming after she attempted to visit the opening of the 8th Havana Biennial, which runs Nov. 1-Dec. 15, 2003. "I'm not sure about the politics," Block said. "I wasn't denied a visa, I just wasn't given permission to come." It could be something in her book, Block said, or it could be a reaction to the Bush Administration's notorious crack-down on "people-to-people" exchanges and cultural trips to Cuba. Block first visited the island in 1994, and Art in General has exhibited many Cuban artists over the years, including Tania Bruguera, Los Carpinteros, Carlos Garaicoa, Aimee Garcia, Esterio Segura, Toirac and others. "I'm still working on projects with Cuba, and will continue, whether I can go or not," said Block, who noted wryly that her latest assignment is to write the gallery listings for the 2004 Time Out guidebook to Havana.
BONO'S ART A SELL-OUT
If his music career ever begins to fade, U2's singer Bono could make a decent living as an artist, judging by the successful sale of his paintings at a Christie's charity auction on Friday night, Nov. 21. Sixteen of his large-scale black-paint-on-paper images, imaginatively interpreting scenes from Peter and the Wolf, all sold for a total of $368,000 to benefit the Irish Hospice Foundation. The works were created as illustrations for a large-format limited-edition book, Peter & the Wolf, published by Bloomsbury, as well as a new CD package of the Prokofiev classic by Gavin Friday and The Friday-Seezer Ensemble, that are also being sold to benefit the Hospice, which caters to patients with long-term illnesses.
After Bono gave a short, self-deprecating speech to the gathering about how he was not trying to pass himself off as a "real" artist, the lively art- and rock-star-studded auction room crowd, including Elvis Costello, Moby and REM's Michael Stipe, bid up Bono's images of ducks, cats and birds. Stipe coughed up $14,000 early in the sale for a large, wacky study of a duck. Painted in a surprisingly confident expressionist style and featuring bold, jagged lines, Bono's larger pieces are delicately embellished with patterns of flowers drawn by his daughters, Jordan and Eve. The highest price of the night, $60,000, was paid for a stylized self-portrait of the painter as Peter, wearing shades and a T-shirt bearing the words "Baked Bean Boy."
Much of the energetic bidding was instigated by auctioneer Bernard Williams, director of Christie's Edinburgh office, who knew how to stir up the crowd. At one point in the sale, he barked to dealer Tony Shafrazi, seated in a front row, "Shafrazi, you've got a big wallet, get it out!" Someone else in the audience shouted, "Yeah! Bono's the next Basquiat!" The strategy worked, as Shafrazi forked out $17,000 for Bono's Study of the Dumb Duck.
-- David Ebony
FOR PROFIT PINACOTHEQUE IN PARIS
Paris has its first for-profit art museum -- the Pinacothque de Paris, located at 30 bis, rue de Paradis, until recently the address in the 10th arrondissement where insiders purchased Baccarat crystal at discounted prices. The new pinacothque is founded by 39-year-old French curator Marc Restellini, a former director of the Musée du Luxembourg, who says he wants to shake up the staid museum world -- in part by establishing a "chain" of museums in cities around the world. Next stop, New York
In the meantime, will this nouvelle kunsthalle become a major player in the world of art? "Picasso intime. La collection de Jacqueline," its inaugural show, suggests not. On view till Mar. 28, 2004, the exhibition features art inherited by the Spanish master's last wife, Jacqueline Roque, who committed suicide in 1986, leaving the collection to her daughter Catherine. The show does include several exceptional works -- a superb Ingresque self-portrait drawing of 1917, a wonderful head of the artist's son Paulo painted in 1922, a study for a Cubist masterpiece of 1913, and a number of enchanting oils of Jacqueline in various guises -- the sort of things scholars treasure.
But for the most part, the other canvases and works on paper look like the filler found twice a year at the auctions. Entry is 12 euros a pop -- approximately $14 -- best for those with a friend who can get them in free. Maybe things will improve once temporary display walls and a floor that in moves in places as if it were a waterbed are replaced by sturdier stock.
Meanwhile, the new Baccarat Museum on the Place des Etats-Unis, refurbished by Phillipe Stark and Gerard Garouste and featured in the latest issue of Elle (the French edition) looks like a sure bet as a new tourist destination.
-- Phyllis Tuchman
LATIN AMERICAN SALES RESULTS
Results are in for the fall auctions of Latin American art in New York. Christie's evening sale on Nov. 18, 2003, totaled $4,816,598, with 40 of 56 lots finding buyers, or 71 percent. Top lot was the much-watched Frida Kahlo Self-Portrait with Curly Hair (1953), reportedly done not long after the artist discovered her husband Diego Rivera had taken another lover, which went for $1,351,500 ($1,500,000-$2,000,000). The sale set new auction records for six artists: Pedro Coronel ($125,100), Beatriz Milhazes ($74,090), Lygia Clark ($65,725), Cildo Meireles ($47,800), Sergio Hernandez ($45,410) and Kcho ($20,315).
Sotheby's evening sale on Nov. 19, 2003, totaled $7,249,600 (with buyer's premium), with 44 of 54 lots finding buyers, or 81 percent. The sale set a new record for a work by Jose Clemente Orozco when his hyperbolic 1944 oil on masonite, Prometeo, sold for $534,400 (est. $300,000-$350,000) to an anonymous Mexican dealer. Auction records were also set for Remedios Varo ($187,200), Esteban Chartrand ($114,000) and Raul Valdivieso ($30,000). A group of six works by the Photo Realist painter Claudio Bravo, sold to benefit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, totaled $685,200. Bravo's White Package (1967), from the Bill Blass estate, sold for $220,800, well above the presale high estimate of $120,000; proceeds go to the New York Hospital AIDS Care Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For complete, illustrated results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.
FLAY TO HEAD FIAC 2004
French art dealer Jennifer Flay has been selected as artistic director of FIAC, the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain for 2004. FIAC also announced the formation of a new International Steering Committee, whose14 members include dealers Marcel Fleiss, Anne de Villepoix, Thaddeus Ropac, Michael Janssen and Jill Silverman Van Coenegrachts, in addition to Beaux Arts Magazine director Fabrice Bousteau and representatives from the French Ministry of Culture and the Deputy Mayor for Cultural Affairs for the City of Paris. FIAC 2004 is on at the Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles, Oct. 21-25, 2004.
CHAPMANS VANDAL TO JAIL
Are the British courts losing their sense of humor? Self-proclaimed "comedy tourist" Aaron Barschak has received a sentence of 28 days in jail for throwing red paint on Jake Chapman at the Chapman Brothers' press talk on their exhibition of altered "Disasters of War" prints at Modern Art Oxford this summer. Barschak received no jail time earlier this year, when he was arrested for crashing Prince William's 21st birthday party dressed as Osama bin Laden.
GORKY ON STAGE
Fans of the current show of Arshile Gorky drawings at the Whitney Museum, Nov. 20, 2003-Feb. 15, 2004, can augment their museum experience with a one-woman show devoted to the celebrated Armenian modernist. London-based actress and Arshile Gorky biographer Nouritza Matossian is mounting Black Angel: The Double Life of Arshile Gorky, a monodrama with songs and dance of the artist's life, at New York's Lion Theatre at 410 West 42nd Street, Dec. 2- 7, 2003. (Atom Egoyan's 2002 film Ararat features a Gorky biographer who is based on Matossian.). Tickets are $25-$30; for more info, see www.theatrerow.org.
LIGHT ART AT SOCRATES SCULPTURE GARDEN
The riverscape on Manhattan's East Side has a new element this winter. Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City has launched "Winter Light," a series of three month-long installations of light-based works by Leo Villareal, Matthew McCaslin and Jude Tallichet. First up is Villareal's 18-foot-wide Star, a light sculpture with 24 spokes pulsing with animated patterns that goes on view during the month of December. For more info, see www.socratessculpturepark.org.
BEST FRIENDS AT VIRGINIA MFA
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts plans an extensive homage to late museum benefactors Sydney and Frances Lewis, collectors who were widely celebrated in the 1970s and '80s for bartering for artist's works with appliances from their Best Products chain of stores. "Best Friends: Portraits of Sydney and Francis Lewis," Feb. 18-July 11, 2004, features no less than 25 portraits of the couple by Chuck Close, Alex Katz, Robert Morris, Andy Warhol and others.
BOSE PACIA PRIZE FOR 2003
Photographer Sunoj D is the recipient of the Bose Pacia Prize for Contemporary Art, given every year by Bose Pacia Modern gallery in Chelsea to contemporary artists in India. The winner receives an all-expense-paid, week-long trip to New York for an exhibition at the gallery. This year's winner was selected by Artforum publisher Tony Korner and Deepak Ananth, a Paris-based art historian and curator. Runners-up for the prize, whose work is also on view at the gallery, are Justin Ponmany and Sumitro Sasak.
AROHO GRANT TO HARKLEROAD
Los Angeles sculptor Jeannine Harkleroad has won the $50,000 "gift of freedom award" from A Room of Her Own Foundation in Placitas, N.M. The 28-year-old artist makes room-sized works that often incorporate elements from her own performances. The AROHO grant was established in 2000, and is awarded every two years, alternately, to female artists and writers. For more info, see www.aroomofherownfoundation.org.
SALTZ AT GUGGENHEIM
Get an insight into the secret life of art critic Jerry Saltz at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Dec. 2 at 6:30 pm, when he presents the lecture, "The Good, the Bad and the Very Bad: A Year in the Life of an Art Critic." For reservations, call (212) 423-3587; tickets are $10.