SAY BYE TO SOTHEBYS.COM AUCTIONS
The art world's biggest e-commerce effort -- Sothebys.com art auctions -- is going the way of the dodo. According to a joint announcement by eBay and Sotheby's, online auctions on Sothebys.com are to be discontinued in May. Simply put, the dot-com art sales "have not generated a profit for Sotheby's," said auction house CEO Bill Ruprecht, who added that the move would result in a one-time restructuring charge of $2 million-$3 million in the first quarter of 2003.
Sotheby's teamed up with eBay a year ago in an effort to improve results in its online art auctions, which were costing the company millions of dollars a year. But Sothebys.com generally attracted buyers and sellers at the very lowest end of the art market, with many lots changing hands at bargain-basement three-figure prices. As for eBay, it claims $1 billion in sales of art, antiques and collectibles in 2002. The two companies haven't completely ended their relationship; Sotheby's is continuing to use eBay's "Live Auctions" program to allow clients to bid over the internet on lots in real-time sales.
AXA LAUNCHES COLLECTORSWORLD
The first website devoted to art conservation in all its forms is CollectorsWorld, an online platform sponsored by the AXA Art Insurance, which already sponsors the related AXA Art Conservation Project. Designed to bring together disparate professional groups, from curators and conservators to collectors and lawyers, the site features online forums, essays on topics like "Managing your Collection," opinion pieces by Paris-based preservationist Lois de Menil, and independent presentations from organizations like the American Institute for Conservation and the International Foundation for Art Research. Among the first forums are "Skin Deep," devoted to the problems of restoring post-war paintings with single surfaces (i.e., works by Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman), and "Stop the Shakes" on ways to avoid earthquake damage to museum objects. Eventually, all the information developed on the site is to be available in a unified database.
LIVE PERFORMANCE AT THE TATE
London's Tate Modern is letting the performance artists loose in the museum with "Live Culture," a series of events and a symposium that runs Mar. 27-30, 2003. The fest opens with the London debut of an action titled Armadillo for your Show by Oleg Kulik, and includes a performance installation by New York's own Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a bloody "catwalk show" by Franko B, a marathon "jumble sale" game by the Sheffield-based Forced Entertainment team and 34 short pieces using "the naked female body" by the Spanish movement artist La Ribot. A series of film screenings is organized by Rona Lee, Aaron Williams, Pope & Guthrie and Blast Theory, and on hand for lectures are Marina Abramovic, Performance Art author RoseLee Goldberg and curator Yu Yeon Kim. Contributors to the two-day symposium, Mar. 29-30, include Ron Athey, Catherine David, Coco Fusco and others, and is to be webcast at tate.org.uk/audiovideo.
GARDEN COMPETITION AT QUEENS MUSEUM
Artists, get out your spades and gardening gloves! The Queens Museum of Art plans to commission five gardens from artists for the forthcoming exhibition "Down the Garden Path: Artists' Gardens since 1960," opening in summer 2004. The new gardens, each budgeted at $10,000, are to be sited outdoors in glorious Flushing Meadows Corona Park and in the Queens Botanical Garden. Interested artists should send not proposals but "qualifications" -- a resume plus 10 slides or a DVD -- by May 16, 2003, to Valerie Smith, director of exhibitions, Queens Museum, NYC Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Corona, N.Y. 11368. For more info see www.queensmuseum.org/gardens.
STRUTH IN TIMES SQUARE
German photographer Thomas Struth, whose retrospective is on view at the Metropolitan Museum, Feb. 4-May 18, 2003, can also be seen in the glittering lights of Times Square. A selection of the artist's "Video Portraits," straightforward shots of people calmly looking into the camera for one whole hour, are being presented on the three-story-high Times Square Astrovision screen at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue at 43rd Street. Four friends of the artist -- including art dealer Kim Heirston and the artist's young godson -- are featured in the minute-long segments, which are presented on the last minute of every hour from 6 a.m. till 1 a.m., excluding "primetime" blocks of 7-9 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. "The 59th Minute: Video Art on the Times Square Astrovision" is a project of Creative Time.
VARNEDOE IN D.C. Kirk Varnedoe, who stepped down in late 2001 after 12 years as director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art to take a post at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, is resurfacing in the museum world -- at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The celebrated curator and art historian, who organized the controversial "High and Low" exhibition at MoMA as well as retrospectives of Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock, is now delivering six Andrew W. Mellon Lectures, to be held in the East Building at 2 p.m. for six consecutive Sundays beginning on Mar. 30, 2003.
The overall title of the lectures is "Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock," and the individual themes are "Why Abstract Art?" (Mar. 30), "Survivals and Fresh Starts" (Apr. 6), "Minimalism" (Apr. 13), "After Minimalism" (Apr. 27), "Satire, Irony and Abstract Art" (May 4) and "Abstract Art Now" (May. 11). Admission is free, but be warned, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Varnedoe is currently living with lung cancer, which he has called "incurable, but not untreatable."
MOMA QNS WANTS YOU
Interested in seeing the "Matisse Picasso" exhibition at MoMA QNS without paying the steep $20 admission? Try volunteering to work there. MoMA QNS is seeking art-loving volunteers to work throughout the show, Feb. 13-May 19, 2003, greeting visitors and manning the information desk. In return, you get MoMA store discounts and free admission to the blockbuster show. For more information see the MoMA website.
FRANK MOORE EXHIBITION OPENS IN BUFFALO
During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and '90s, one of the art-world's more inspirational figures was Frank Moore, who not only wove the controversial and difficult subject matter into his darkly allegorical paintings but also worked as an advocate and activist who put the "positive" in HIV-positive. Now, the first museum exhibition to survey his work has opened at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y. Feb. 1-Apr. 20, 2003. "Frank Moore: Green Thumb in a Dark Eden" features 53 works from the 1990s on the theme of "the garden and its dark double, the anti-garden." The show is organized by Sue Scott for the Orlando Museum of Art, where it debuted last summer. Moore, who had strong family ties to Buffalo, died on Apr. 27, 2002.
SONNABEND DOES PROUV
For its next exhibition, the Sonnabend gallery on West 22nd Street in New York is forgoing the usual cutting-edge art fare for a show of furniture by the French designer Jean Prouvé, Feb 22-Mar. 22, 2003. A founding member with Le Corbusier of the Union des Artistes Modernes, Prouv made sleek and modern furniture that has become highly sought after, with vintage dining tables routinely drawing in excess of $100,000 at auction. The Sonnabend show is curated by the Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, and features furniture designed for Art France and prototypes.
NEW BUYER'S PREMIUMS AT AUCTION HOUSES Sotheby's was first to raise the buyer's premium, the special fee charged to winning bidders at its art auctions, to a hefty 20 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the remainder. Ten days later, Christie's followed suit -- but held the competitive line at 19.5 percent on the first $100,000, matching Sotheby's 12 percent on amounts exceeding $100,000. As for the premium at the restructuring Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg, which expects to announce its spring auction schedule in a week or so, the rates remain uncertain, though it would seem to make sense to keep them a hair lower than those at its two competitors. Stay tuned.
GRAND OPENING AT NORTON
On Mar. 8, 2003, the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach unveils its new Southwest Wing, making it the largest museum in Florida. The two-year-long, $35-million expansion, designed by Chad Floyd and Centerbrook Architects of Centerbrook, Conn., adds 14 new galleries, increasing the exhibition space by 75 percent, along with a three-story atrium and a glass ceiling designed by Dale Chihuly. The 42,000-square-foot wing houses the museum permanent collection. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception takes place on Mar. 5, 2003.
"NEW POWER" AT RUSH ARTS IN NEW YORK
The Rush Arts Gallery in the Chelsea Arts Building on West 26th Street opens a special national juried exhibition of African American art, Feb.7-Mar. 15, 2003. "Impregnable Direction," as it is titled, premiered at the Hampton University Museum in Hampton, Va., and features works by eight artists: Syd Carpenter, Marita Dingus, Daniel Hoover, Jennifer Lackland, Roy LaGrone, Eric Mack, Teri Richardson and Ron Tarver.
SHIRIN NESHAT AT AFA
Iranian artist Shirin Neshat will be the first speaker at ArtTalks, a new program at the American Federation of Arts devoted to sponsoring public talks by influential figures in the art world. Neshat will speak on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003, from 6-8 pm at the AFA, 41 East 65th Street in New York. Reservations can be made by calling (212) 988-7700 x 41. Admission $15 and $10 for students and AFA members.
NEW APPOINTMENTS Jenny Dixon, executive director of Bronx Museum of the Arts, is succeeding Shoji Sadao as director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. Currently closed for renovation, the Noguchi Museum is temporarily located at 36-01 43rd Avenue in Long Island City. . . . Independent curator Ellenor M. Alcorn, author of English Silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has been named consulting curator for the Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of English Silver at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. . . . Ellen Harris, former CEO of the Montclair Art Museum and deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art, has been named executive director of the Aperture Foundation.