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For years, visitors to the Venice Biennale -- visitors with a global perspective, at least -- have wondered at the absence of a pavilion for India, the second most populous country in the world. The Indian government has other priorities, but three Westerners -- Indiaphiles all -- have now organized a special exhibition of Indian contemporary art for the biennale. Located in the refectory of the former Convent SS. Cosma and Damiano on the Giudecca -- the future site of the Museo della Gondola -- the exhibition features six contemporary artists: Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Ranbir Kaleka, Nalini Malani, Nataraj Sharma and the Raqs Media Collective (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, Shuddhabrata Sengupta). The project is co-organized by artist Julie Evans; Gordon Knox, head of the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Ca.; and Peter Nagy, the former East Village artist who now runs Nature Morte gallery in New Delhi.

What better voice to suggest exotic Old World bohemian sophistication than that of movie star Isabella Rossellini? The actress was enlisted by the Jewish Museum to narrate the extensive audio tour of "The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and Their Salons," Mar. 4-July 10, 2005, a dense installation of artworks, historical documents and photographs evoking the drawing-room gatherings of 14 influential art patrons, from Henriette Herz in 1780s Berlin to Salka Viertel in 1930s Los Angeles.

Among the women salonires are Ada Leverson, who welcomed Oscar Wilde to her salon after his controversial arrest; Margherita Sarfatti, who was Mussolini's mistress and de-facto head of Fascist arts policy in the 1920s; and Florine Stettheimer, who is represented by 11 oil paintings in the exhibition, a mini-retrospective that alone is worth the price of admission. The show is organized by guest curators Emily D Bilski, an independent scholar, and Hunter College art historian Emily Braun.

The audio tour, which features music and six other voices in addition to Rossellini's, is designed to be more dramatic than usual, providing a kind of audio theater of readings from the writings of artists, authors and cultural figures. Visitors can hear recordings keyed to individual artworks and documents, or to photographs of each salon's most famous artists, writers and thinkers, which are hung around each room at ceiling level. What's more, the audio tour is free.

In mid-March, the British art prankster and graffiti artist known as Banksy [see "London Calling", Aug. 25, 2003] managed to surreptitiously install his works at four top New York museums. He placed a small painting of generic can of tomato soup at the Museum of Modern Art, a painting of a Empire Period lady wearing a gas mask at the Metropolitan Museum, a small gold-framed painting of an 18th-century dandy holding a can of spray paint at the Brooklyn Museum and a small drawing of a beetle carrying bombs at the American Museum of Natural History.

"They're good enough to be in there, so I don't see why I should wait," the artist said. According to Banksy, he was dressed as a British pensioner during the actions. The Met guards quickly spotted the bogus exhibit, but the generic soup lasted three days. Images and further details can be found at (with special thanks to the Wooster Collective and Modern Art Notes).

Christie's has announced total auction sales of $2.46 billion in 2004, an increase of 25 percent over 2003 (but somewhat less than arch-competitor Sotheby's $2.7 billion total for 2004). Of Christie's 2004 amount, $151 million was in private sales, including the sale of Duccio's Madonna and Child to the Metropolitan Museum for an undisclosed sum (reported to be about $45 million). The auctioneer sold 227 lots for more than $1 million in 2004. Christie's CEO Edward Dolman said that growth was "driven principally by our sales in Asia, and by new clients collecting and investing in all categories." By department, Impressionist and modern art totaled $485.4 million, post-war and contemporary art totaled $321.5 million and Old Master paintings totaled $99 million.

The Armory Show 2005, Mar. 11-14, is now a fading memory -- how about a look at the post-fair stats? According to the fair organizers, a total of 40,000 people visited the show (up from 38,000 in 2004), among them a sprinkling of celebrities, including Candice Bergen, Catherine Deneuve, Will Farrell and Steve Martin. Total sales reached a new level, an estimated $45 million in all. The 2004 version had 162 exhibitors from 39 cities on four continents -- 27 fewer galleries than last year, due to an increase in booth size of 35 percent.

Hauser & Wirth said it sold out its display of Lee Lozano works on the opening day, and Paris dealer Emmanuel Perrotin also reported selling 21 works during the premiere. David Zwirner sold his Jason Rhoades installation to a European foundation. Haunch of Venison "sold everything" and reported that an American museum asked to be wait-listed for a Keith Tyson work. Contemporary Fine Arts from Berlin sold ten works by the German artist Norbert Schwontkowski, and reported much interest in Tal R paintings. Brandstrom & Stene from Stockholm said that the Guggenheim Museum was interested in Per Wizen, and Nolan/Eckman said that it sold a Peter Saul painting for a record high price. The New Museum of Contemporary Art sold out its Hiroshi Sugimoto benefit edition, which was produced by Carolina Nitsch, while White Columns sold nearly all its works by Carter, an artist who has an upcoming show at the gallery.

Its a match made in heaven -- '60s counter-culture grump Robert Crumb and grumpy art critic Robert Hughes. The two are together in "Welcome to Crumbland: R. Crumb and Robert Hughes in Conversation" at the New York Public Library on Thursday, Apr. 14 at 7 pm. The event is Crumb's only scheduled U.S. promotion for his forthcoming The R. Crumb Handbook (MQ Publications). The two should get along; Hughes has described Crumb as the "Brueghel of the 20th century." Tickets are $10; for info, call (212) 868-4444.

Good news for aspiring curators. The indefatigable alternative space Exit Art at 475 10th Avenue is inviting people to organize exhibitions for two new spaces -- the Fast Track Gallery and Shop Windows. The former is a 500-square-foot space with a 16-foot-tall ceiling, while the latter consists of four 11 x 8 foot windows on the ground floor level at 36th Street. Proposals can range from one-night presentations to longer exhibitions. Floor plans and more details are available at

Collectors Janice and Mickey Cartin have given the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., a group of 104 photographs ranging in date from 1949 to 1983 by 12 contemporary artists: Roger Ballen, Zarina Bhimji, Edward Burtynsky, Frank Breuer, Lucinda Devlin, Olafur Eliasson, Esko Mnnikk, Arnold Odermatt, Lorraine OGrady, Joe Ovelman, Collier Schorr and Chris Verene. A selection of the acquisition goes on view at the museum in "Old Masters/New Directions: A Decade of Collecting," Aug. 6-Dec. 18, 2005.

The Smithsonian Institution is closing the West Coast Research Center of the Archives of American Art on May 13, 2005, following severe budget reductions in "non-defense" agencies by the Bush administration. The archives' southern California office was opened in 1984 at the Huntington Library, and recently has been the only Smithsonian outpost on the west coast. Susan Ehrlich remains in her post as west coast regional collector, however, and is continuing to collect papers from area sources.

Scottish actress Kara Wilson is bringing Deco Diva, her one-person show about Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, to New York's 59E59 theatre, Apr. 5-24, 2005. During the 60-minute performance, Wilson -- a practicing artist (and wife of Tom Conti) -- completes a replica of a de Lempicka portrait, which is auctioned off to the audience at the end of the show. Deco Diva premiered several years at Edinburgh; its New York appearance is part of a festival called Brits Off Broadway. Tickets are $25; for info, see

Jeffrey Hatcher's award-winning two-person play about Pablo Picasso in Nazi-occupied Paris, which premiered in 2003 in Philadelphia, is on its way to the Manhattan Theater Club, Mar. 31-May 29, 2005. Character actor Dennis Boutsikaris has the title role, while L.A. Law star Jill Eikenberry plays the mysterious interrogator in the "cat-and-mouse mystery about art, sex, death and the lure of power," as the show has been billed. For more info, see

After nearly four years as executive director of Washington Project for the Arts\Corcoran (WPA\C), Annie Adjchavanich is moving to the Left Coast to become director of the new, 3,200-square-foot Billy Shire Fine Arts gallery at 5790 Washington Boulevard in Culver City, Ca. Shire founded La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood in 1986, and is now widely know as a pioneer, dealer and publisher of West Coast underground comix art. WPA\C membership and finance director Kim Ward is interim director of WPA\C while the search for a new director is under way.

"The Eye of the Storm, Works in situ by Daniel Buren" opens at the Guggenheim Museum, Mar. 25-June 8, 2005, and 60 French collectors are coming along to add their support, thanks to the ADIAF -- the Association for the International Diffusion of French Art. Founded in 1994 to help promote French art abroad, the ADIAF and its president, Gilles Fuchs, seized the opportunity to organize the trip with French museums associations such as Centre Pompidou, Jeu de Paume, Palais de Tokyo and the Maison Rouge.

Santa Monica architect and Morphosis co-founder Thom Mayne has won the $100,000 Pritzker Prize for 2005. Among his projects are the new metal-clad Caltrans building in Los Angeles, whose windows mechanically open and close in response to environmental conditions (and which is informally dubbed "the Death Star"); Morphosis has signed on to create a new "semi-transparent," eight-story engineering center for Cooper Union, due to be finished in 2008. He has no art museums among his buildings, a rarity for Pritzker winners.

WALTER HOPPS, 1933-2005
Walter Hopps, 72, art dealer and museum curator who organized the first U.S. retrospective of Marcel Duchamp, died of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Mar. 20, 2005. With artist Ed Kienholz, he opened the Ferus gallery in Los Angeles in 1957, showing Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, Billy Al Bengston and other young turks of the burgeoning L.A. arts scene. He became curator of the Pasadena Art Museum in 1959, and it was at Hopps 1963 Duchamp show that the French Dadaist famously played chess with a nude woman. In the 1980s, Hopps worked with Dominique de Menil to found the Menil Collection in Houston. He organized many major museum exhibitions, including a 1976 mid-career survey of Robert Rauschenberg at the National Collection of Fine Arts, a 1996 retrospective of Ed Kienholz at the Whitney Museum and the 2003 James Rosenquist exhibition at the Guggenheim (with Sarah Bancroft).

DON CELENDER, 1931-2005
Don Celender, 73, Conceptual artist and art professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., died of cancer in a Pittsburg hospital on Mar. 3. One of the lighthearted prankster conceptualists of the 1970s, Celender originated Artball cards, a parody deck of collectible cards featuring famous artists as baseball players. He sent out extensive surveys to all kinds of people and exhibited the result, for instance asking prisoners, chefs and others for their ideas about art, to charming and touching effect, or sending outlandish but straight-faced proposals to museum directors, whose replies could be purposely or unwittingly comical. He was represented by OK Harris Gallery in SoHo, where he had 29 exhibitions during 1970-2004.

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