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Celebrity Art
by Baird Jones
 
     
  The sixth international Gay And Lesbian Business Expo and Entertainment Festival is coming up at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, Apr. 17-18, 1999. And according to fair organizers, 80 percent of the art purchases in New York City go to -- gay customers!

Vito Acconci is rejecting comparisons between his epochal performance art piece Seedbed (in which he masturbated under a constructed inclined floor) and celebrity magician David Blaine's recent buried-alive antics, in which he was entombed in a glass coffin for seven days on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Speaking through his assistant, the Brooklyn-based avant-gardist Acconci stated, "My inspiration for Seedbed had nothing to do with being buried alive or with escape magic and Harry Houdini. There is no connection between what I did in 1972 at the Sonnabend Gallery and the David Blaine magic performance."

Jeff Koons is one of the top contenders to create a sculpture in Chicago's lakefront Grant Park, according to the Chicago Tribune, which is worried about the propriety of a Koons project. Koons did a sweet, four-story high puppy dog topiary for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. But he is also known for larger-than-life porcelain figurines, some depicting himself and his then-wife, former Italian porn star Cicciolina, in various states of erotic bliss. Koons is something of a Chicago native; he attended classes in 1975-76 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

For their next exhibition, Gilbert & George are setting their photographs against the "dirty" streets of London, according to the London Times. Swallow Street, Spurt Street, Organ Lane, Spanking Hill Wood and sundry other enclaves whose innocence is forever lost. "Sex," they explain, "is the most important thing in art and represents the power of living."

"Artists are on another level. They are highly perceptive people, highly affected by esthetics. They are very aware and give off a powerful aura. Why do you think people can't get enough of celebrities? People crave highly evolved individuals." So says Isaac Hayes in Music Choice magazine.

Photography seems to be the hobby of choice among rock stars. Everyone knows of the photo-collecting and photo-making activities of Crosby, Stills and Nash singer Graham Nash. Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder, who is often seen with a movie camera strapped to his hand, helped snap the dozens of photos that accompanied the Pearl Jam album No Code (1996). Michael Stipe of REM began taking photos at 15, the same year he first heard Patti Smith's Horses. In 1998 Stipe published Two Times Intro: On the Road With Patti Smith, which features his shots of his idol. "I feel," he said, "like there's not a real clear dividing line between the impact that music can have and the impact that a great photograph can have." Stipe said he's working on a photography book that will likely feature images of a globe-trotting rocker's second home, airports.

Bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur of Hole, who studied fine-art photography at Concordia University in her native Montreal, has been chronicling her life, mainly through self-portraits, for more than a decade. Some of that self-investigation can be seen in recent issues of the rock magazines Alternative Press and Spin. Former Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist Dave Navarro, who was also in Jane's Addiction, has spent the past year documenting his life with a photobooth in the living room of his Los Angeles home. He asks everyone who visits to pose for a strip. The strips will be published in an upcoming book, Trust No One. He said the immediacy of the photobooth satisfies his need for instant gratification. "I don't have to wait ... to see what I was feeling or thinking," Navarro said. "If I'm feeling it right then, I want to see it right then."

"Having your portrait painted is a strange experience. At the same time, to anyone who has served in Washington, there is something oddly familiar about it. First, you are painted into a corner. Then you are hung out to dry. And finally, you are framed." So said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, at the unveiling of his State Department portrait last week.

The Irish Times notes that Joni Mitchell is both a songwriter and a painter, winning a Grammy not just for the music on her 1994 album Turbulent Indigo but also for its artwork. "The difference is that I write my frustration and I paint my joy!" Joni explains. "I am a pictorial thinker. This separates me from pop musicians, makes me more of a classical musician or a painterly musician like Debussy."

Elizabeth Hurley is a grade-A whiz at needlepoint, according to the London Telegraph. "I've done needlepoint for years," she tells Cosmopolitan.

After the Victoria & Albert Museum in London recently reported that two Constable paintings in storage had "gone missing," the London Telegraph took a global count of artworks stolen and otherwise disappeared. The tally: 355 Picassos; 271 Miros; 250 Chagalls, 180 Dalis, 121 Rembrandts, 119 Warhols and 115 Renoirs.

British actor Jonathan Pryce told Mirabella magazine that he hoped to become a painter in college, but found he did better in acting class than in art class. "I didn't judge myself the way I did with the painting, because I couldn't see myself performing," he said. "That felt great."

It's the 50th birthday of Dennis the Menace on Apr. 17 and his creator, Hank Ketchum, is being feted with a special exhibition, "From Menace to Matisse: The Art of Hank Ketcham" at Every Picture Tells a Story on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles, Apr. 15-May 30, 1999. Many of his paintings reflect his passion for jazz greats like Joe Williams, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington.

Twenty-five years after the release of Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, their most succesful album, the record company has re-released two CDs with added songs and commentaries. One story explains that the song Picasso's Last Words (Drink to me) was inspired by Dustin Hoffman, who influenced McCartney to write a song about Picasso's last hours as described by Time magazine. The singer/songwriter complied and structured a song with a Cubist point of view.

People magazine reports that Christie's East in New York was preparing to auction three signed pieces of art by Kurt Cobain in a sale held exactly five years after his death. A pencil and watercolor rendering of Michael Jackson carried an estimate of $3,000-$5,000, Cobain's sketch of Ronald Reagan was estimated to sell for $3,000. The works were consigned by high-school art teacher Robert Hunter, who had Cobain as a student in Aberdeen, Wa., in 1983. But when Cobain's mother heard about the auction she called Hunter and convinced him to withdraw the works from the sale and give them to the Cobain family instead.