FBI INDICTS CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE FOUNDER Attorney General John Ashcroft's Department of Justice is continuing to persecute Steven Kurtz, a co-founder of the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and an art professor at the University of Buffalo, for artworks that are critical of the biological politics of the Bush administration. On June 30, a Buffalo grand jury indicted Kurtz on four counts of mail and wire fraud, charges that each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, for possessing $256 worth of harmless bacteria whose use is restricted to scientists. Kurtz employs the material in artworks that address issues of genetic engineering in food, U.S. government germ warfare research and other questions of public policy involving biology. His collaborator, Robert Ferrell, a professor of genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, has also been indicted.
During the raid by the FBIs Joint Terrorism Task Force of Kurtzs home on May 11, 2004, government agents confiscated Kurtzs artwork, computers and equipment, and even the body of his wife -- whose sudden death had prompted the raid in the first place (no connection was found between the bacteria and her death, and she has since been buried). Also taken was a mobile DNA extraction lab that was part of a Critical Art Ensemble examination of genetically altered food that was slated to be included in Interventionists exhibition at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass. Numerous scientists, artists, the ACLU, the PEN Freedom to Write Committee and other groups have protested the prosecution of Kurtz and Ferrell. For more info, see www.caedefensefund.orgSAATCHI REPUTATION CRUMBLING: CRIIC
The myth of British supercollector Charles Saatchi as a silent and mysterious art-world power has disintegrated, according to Jonathan Jones in the Guardian newspaper, amid critical attacks on everything from his gallerys architecture to his supposedly catastrophic inflation of prices and reputations. After the disastrous London Momart warehouse fire that destroyed an estimated 100 works from his collection, Saatchi told Jones that he was forging ahead with new art -- thus Galleon & Other Stories, the latest show of new acquisitions at his namesake museum at County Hall on the Thames in London.
The exhibition, which opened July 7 and runs through November, features works by Anne Chu, Conrad Shawcross, Jamie Shovlin, Mally Mallinson, Kate MccGwire, Lucy McKenzie, Dexter Dalwood, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Grayson Perry, Yasumasa Morimura and David Thorpe. The relentless Guardian critic, however, is having none of it. Unfortunately, almost everything in the show is terrible, he writes. The British supercollector, claims Jones, spends his money diffusely rather than intensely, and his largesse is simply too indiscriminate for him actually to shape taste. For details, see www.saatchi-gallery.co.ukLOCKOUT FOR SOTHEBYS ART HANDLERS
The pickets are up at Sothebys New York after the troubled auction house failed to reach a new labor contract with Teamsters Local 814, which represents 55 property handlers at the firms headquarters building on York Avenue and 72nd Street in Manhattan (less than 10 percent of the companys U.S. employees). The result was a lockout as of July 15, 2004. The company wanted a great number of givebacks from the men without a fair increase in wages, said a union spokesman. Its another example of corporate greed.
Not so, says the auction house. In a statement, Sothebys noted that its well-publicized financial difficulties since 2000 have resulted in cuts in nonunion staff by one-third, though not one Teamster employee has been laid off since 1998. Whats more, Sothebys handles 40,000 fewer lots in New York than it did six years ago. The new contract that Sothebys proposed, according to the statement, would have helped the company return to profitability without eliminating union positions. Negotiations continue; stay tuned.
ART BENEFIT FOR ART DEALERS
Though a group of art dealers is the last people you'd expect to throw a benefit for themselves -- after all, theyre the ones who routinely convert art into money -- the New Art Dealers Alliance (otherwise known as NADA) is holding a 2004 benefit on July 19 at the Coral Room at 512 West 29th Street in Chelsea. For a $20 admission, visitors get cocktails from a cash bar and a silent and live auction of works by approximately 100 young artists, including Melissa Brown, Jennifer Dalton, Dearraindrop, Don Doe, Laurie Hogin, Christian Holstad, Nick Mauss, Alexis Rockman, Sterling Ruby, Guy Richards Smit and Phoebe Washburn. This event should really be something, said one observer. Auctioning new art to a crowd of savvy art dealers, its a must for art-market watchers. Presumably, the art-dealer members of NADA will be doing much of the buying themselves.
RICHARD PHILLIPS AT LE CONSORTIUM Le Consortium in Dijon, the hip art space run by maverick curators Xavier Douroux, Franck Gautherot and Eric Troncy in Dijon, France, has mounted a special summer survey of work by Postmodernist Hyperrealist Richard Phillips, July 9-Sept. 25, 2004. The show includes a drawings retrospective of about 40 works along with a group of six paintings from a group that the artists dealer, Friedrich Petzel, describes as Treasury and Economics, meaning that they examine issues of money in relation to politics, sex and art. The show includes a 27-foot-wide, multiple portrait of Deepak Chopra that reproduce the pop gurus visage seven times, a play on the title of Chopras best-seller, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Richard finds it mildly ironic, noted gallery director Jessie Washburne-Harris, that one can have success in spirituality. The show also includes a new painting called Bukkake (2003) and a portrait of German Green Party stalwart Joschka Fischer, originally done as a commission for Mont Blanc.
NEW MUSEUM MOVES TO CHELSEA IN SEPTEMBER
The New Museum of Contemporary Art debuts its temporary home in the quarters of the Chelsea Art Museum at 22nd Street and 11th Avenue this fall with two new exhibitions, both opening Sept. 18, 2004. Rules of Crime features three works by British artists Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting, while Adaptive Behavior presents works by 11 emerging artists from around the globe (Fikret Atay, Tonico Lemos Auad, Sushan Kinoshita, Robert Melee, Fiorenza Menini, Yoshua Okon, Tsuyoshia Ozawa, Robin Rhode, Bojan Sarcevic, Kwabena P. Slaughter and Kerry Tribe). The New Museum plans to open its 60,000-square-foot new home at 235 Bowery in SoHo, designed by the Tokyo firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA, in 2006.
PHOTO SAN FRANCISCO OPENS
The Fifth annual Photo San Francisco, organized by Stephen Cohen Gallery, opens at the Festival Pavilion at Ft. Mason Center, July 22-25, 2004. More than 80 galleries and dealers are due to be on hand. The gala opening on July 22 benefits the Fort Mason Center Historic Preservation Fund; for more info, see www.photosanfrancisco.netADELSON GALLERIES TO NANTUCKET Adelson Galleries, the specialist in 19th-century American art that is housed in the Mark Hotel on East 77th Street in Manhattan, is opening a gallery space on the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts for the month of August 2004. On the Water: 19th- and 20th-century American Paintings, Aug. 2-27, 2004, features the John Singer Sargent watercolor Shipping, Majorca (1908) and The Fisher Girl, Nantucket (1881) by the American Impressionist Dennis Miller Bunker, among many other works. A second exhibition, Jamie Wyeth: Paintings, opens Aug. 11 and benefits the Nantucket Historical Association, tickets are $50. Adelson Galleries on Nantucket is located in the Sconset Room of Harbor House Village on South Beach Street; for more info, contact (508) 638-2840.