MATTHEW BARNEY NEWS
All-American art star Matthew Barney still has two weeks to run on his triumphant traveling survey at the Guggenheim Museum (it closes June 11) -- how's he doing? One plus would have to be the sale of several works right out of the show. (New York observers will remember the prophetic time when the Gugg closed its SoHo exhibition galleries, leaving behind only the museum store.) As reported by New York Times art scribe Carol Vogel, the room-installation including live pigeons (titled The Erich Weiss Suite) has been bought by Manhattan collector Adam Sender, while the large installation with a grand piano (The Cloud Club) was purchased by the Dallas Museum of Art for something close to $800,000.
The depth of Barney's iconography is well-described in the Times. "The piece makes references to two post-war artists who have had particular influence on Mr. Barney: the piano itself is a nod to the famous piano wrapped in felt by the German artist Joseph Beuys, while a metal steel slab leaning against the keyboard refers to the work of Richard Serra. On the floor surrounding the piano are potatoes, a reference to Mr. Barney's Idaho-Irish background."
Meanwhile, at the spring contemporary art auctions in New York, a single work by Barney came on the block, and did rather well. Dubbed The Man in Black (1999) and derived from Cremaster 2, the work consists of a copy of Billboard magazine with a picture of Johnny Cash giving the middle-finger salute (topped with some beeswax and petroleum jelly), held in one of the artist's trademark plastic frames. It sold for $25,095, at the low end of its presale estimate of $20,000-$30,000. Another example from the edition of six is also included in the Guggenheim show.
One setback for the gender-bending artist, arguably, came in the May issue of Artforum, where art critic Roberta Smith took a rare sabbatical from her usual berth at the New York Times to pen a tough-minded review of the Guggenheim show. (The Times itself had gotten squarely behind the Barney-Guggenheim enterprise, with not one but two giddy puff-pieces from chief art critic Michael Kimmelman.) Smith's verdict? "Barney's Bayreuth seems more like his Waterloo," she wrote, revealing an artist "who has put his development as a sculptor of objects on hold to make five of the most lavish, intermittently beautiful but generally tedious art films. . . ."
ARTFORUM TAPS TIM GRIFFIN AS NEW EDITOR
When you're on a strict monthly publication schedule, there's no time to mess around when it comes to filling the top job. One week after announcing the retirement of editor Jack Bankowsky, Artforum has named the new holder of one of the art-world's power posts. The job goes to the magazine's own senior editor, Tim Griffin, a handsome man in the Bankowsky tradition, who attended Andover and Columbia University and served as art editor at Time Out in New York before moving to Artforum. In his more recent writing, Griffin has shown himself to be a fan of the 2002 Whitney Museum Biennial Exhibition and of Matthew Barney (he wrote an admiring piece on the artist that ran as pendant to Roberta Smith's critical one). "A good choice," said Charlie Finch, who characterized Griffin as an advocate of "X Games" art. "He'll totally change the magazine if he's given any power."
BIG NUMBERS FOR AMERICAN AUCTIONS IN NEW YORK
The contemporary art market may be taking a breather after last week's hectic auctions in New York, but auctioneers at Sotheby's and Christie's get no rest. Sotheby's May 21, 2003, sale of American works from the collection of Meyer & Vivian Potamkin totaled $15,342,700, more than $2 million above the high estimate. Top lot in the sale was the 1907 New York City scene Easter Eve by John Sloan, which brought $2,236,000, a new auction record for the artist.
Together with the mixed-owner sale of American art, Sotheby's total for American art in the day's morning and afternoon sales was $31,909,100. Auction records were set for works by Theodore Robinson ($2,136,000), Robert Henri ($478,400), Jacob Lawrence ($332,800), Marguerite Zorach ($232,000), Arthur Carles ($198,400) and John Flannagan ($45,000). The sale also posted strong prices for works by Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Maurice Prendergast and Andrew Wyeth. For details, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.
At Christie's, the May 21 sale of furniture and other property from the estate of Mollie Wilmot totaled $4,988,593, with 239 of the 333 lots finding buyers, or 72 percent. The top price was the $657,100 paid for a pair of Russian ormolu-mounted mahogany commodes, ca. 1795-1800, which the auction house says is the second highest price for Russian furniture at auction.
Christie's auction of American art on the following day, May 22, totaled $17,760,500, with 71 of the 92 lots finding buyers, or 77 percent. Top lot was an unusual Wild West picture by Thomas Eakins, Cowboys in the Badlands (1888), which sold for $5,383,500 (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000) -- an auction record for the artist. Eakins' previous record, $3.5 million for John Biglin in a Single Scull (1873), was set back in 1990.
Christie's also set an auction record for Milton Avery when his Bathers by River (1943) sold for $735,500, well above the presale high estimate of $500,000.
THE NOSE KNOWS ART AT FRAGRANCE FOUNDATION Dinaburg Arts, the Chelsea-based art gallery that brought us Spencer Tunick's global "Nude Adrift" project, has now organized "Scent, an Exhibition of Original Art Inspired by Fragrance" for the Fragrance Foundation in New York. Mary Dinaburg commissioned 100 artists to make 8 x 10 in. works inspired by "scent" for the show, which goes on view at Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center on June 9 during the ceremony for the 31st annual FiFi Awards -- the Oscars of fragrance industry. The works are for sale for $350 each -- about 40 are already gone, after a preview of the show on May 15-16 at the Proposition in Chelsea -- with the proceeds going in part to the SculptureCenter in Long Island City. For more info, contact Dinaburg Arts.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD BENEFIT ON EAST END
Need an excuse to head out to the Hamptons on the first Saturday in June? Look no further. The 15th annual East End Benefit for Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic is slated for June 7, 2003, at the Southampton home of Dorothy Lichtenstein. The sunset reception includes cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (courtesy Amagansett Wine & Spirits and Nick and Toni's) plus a live auction of four prints by Roy Lichtenstein donated by Ms. Lichtenstein. Tickets begin at $175; for more info, see www.pphp.org.
MCA CHICAGO LOSES TWO CURATORS
The Chicago contemporary art scene is regretting the loss of two young curators at the Museum of Contemporary Art there, which recently laid off six members of its staff of almost 200 people. Out are assistant curator Michael Rooks, who organized the museum's H.C. Westermann retrospective as well as the recent "War, What Is It Good For" exhibition, and curatorial assistant Sylvia Chivaratanond, who is currently working on the Venice Biennale with curator Francesco Bonami and who is also serving as guest curator of the MCA's forthcoming "Skin Tight" show of avant-garde fashion and art. An MCA spokesperson hastens to point out that the museum staff still boasts an enviable lineup of contemporary-art devotees, including Bonami himself along with Dominic Molon (curator of the current Paul Pfeiffer survey), Staci Boris (organizer of shows of John Currin and William Kentridge) and Elizabeth Smith (who is putting together the forthcoming show of work by Lee Bontecou).
NEW BALTIMORE CONTEMPORARY CURATOR
The Baltimore Museum of Art has appointed Chris Gilbert as its new curator of contemporary art, effective August 2003. Currently a curator at the Des Moines Art Center, Gilbert co-curated "Andy Goldsworthy: Three Cairns" (2002-03) and "Body Double: Figures of Figures" (2001), and also organized the forthcoming "Contested Fields," an examination of "sports and spectacle" that is slated for 2004.
JUDITH BARRY LAUNCHES ICA BOSTON'S WEB ART PROJECT
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston has commissioned New York media artist Judith Barry to design the museum's first web-based art project. Dubbed The Museum You Want, the work is a colorful "polling game" designed to build a database of questions and answers that "functions as a neural net" and also as "a museum that operates with the speed of your thoughts." Barry collaborated with programmers Max Black, Robin Burgener, designer Michael McLoughlin and the digital media design studio C404 on the project.
JOEL GREY, PHOTOGRAPHER
Photographs by veteran actor Joel Grey -- perhaps best known for his role in Bob Fosse's 1972 musical Cabaret -- go on view at Staley Wise Gallery in Manhattan's SoHo art district, June 5-July 3, 2003. The work spans 25 years, and includes pictures taken by the actor while on location and during personal travels through Europe, Asia, South America and the United States. A book of the photographs, Pictures I Had to Take, is forthcoming from powerHouse Books in June.