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Jan. 13, 2010

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When Marina Abramovic makes dessert, you expect something with a bit of a punch. And so it was at the Park Avenue Winter restaurant in Manhattan last night, where the famed performance artist introduced her Volcano Flambé, a "multisensory culinary intervention" loaded with chocolate, real gold and, supposedly, a number of aphrodisiacs.

The event was part of a year-long project organized with Park Avenue Winter executive chef Kevin Lasko with the assistance of Creative Time. According to the plan, throughout 2011, four artists (Janine Antoni, Paul Ramirez Jonas and Michael Rakowitz as well as Abramovic) are each taking residency in the eatery, which overhauls its décor and changes its name every three months in accordance with the season.

But Volcano Flambé is no ordinary dessert. As designed by Abramovic in collaboration with chef, the dish is accompanied by a special soundtrack-- provided via headphones hooked up to an iPod-- in which Abramovic guides the listener through a meditative dining experience. "Close your eyes, breathe deeply, focus on the blue flame," she intones, as she urges the subject to savor each individual component of the dish: salty crumble, sweet banana mousse, tangy almond meringue, and a sauce that is set ablaze before meeting an icy mountain of chocolate sorbet. 

"Gold never leaves the body," Abramovic noted in her general comments, revealing that the precious metal had in fact been infused into sugar and sprinkled atop the volcanic layers for added luxury. The point of the work, Abramovic said, is finding the place food holds in the canon of everyday activities that she has made it her lifelong goal to ritualize, re-activate and render conscious. 

Aside from an elevated cholesterol count, diners take away a collection of Spirit Cooking Recipes designed and written by Abramovic and based on Abramovic Spirit Cooking, her limited edition book from 1996. The dessert, which is in fact a version of Baked Alaska, is now available on Winter’s menu, priced at $20. 

"My message is always the same: we must have awareness, we must learn to regain our center of gravity," Abramovic expounded, before sweeping out the door and into the night.  "Everything now is done too fast, and we must learn to ritualize. My job --" she paused, smiling mischievously -- "is to condition you."

-- Emily Nathan

The copyright infringement battle between artist Shepard Fairey and the Associated Press is over, according to a joint announcement of the two parties. Neither Fairey nor the AP moved an inch from their respective positions on intellectual property and fair use. Rather, both agreed to work together in the future on licensing Fairey’s famous Obama Hope poster, which was based on an AP photo. Fairey has also agreed to use AP photos for his work in the future only with proper AP licensing.

Any financial terms of the settlement remain undisclosed, however. The dispute continues over clothes produced by Fairey’s company, Obey Clothing, using the Obama Hope image.

On Jan. 13, 2011, District of Columbia artists Mike Dax Iacovone and Mike Blasenstein opened what they’re calling the Museum of Censored Art-- a battery-powered trailer parked (legally) outside the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to protest its November removal of David Wojnarowicz’s provocative video A Fire in My Belly from its exhibition "Hide/Seek." The putative museum -- funded with the help of $1,756 raised two days earlier with a "happy hour" fundraiser -- screens the banned Wojnarowicz video in its entirety. The project shares opening hours with the NPG (11:30 am- 7 pm daily), and runs through Feb. 13, 2011, the closing date for "Hide/Seek." Interested in supporting the group? Visit its website here

Note: Among the art museums who have recently joined the nationwide protest against the NPG censorship are the Museum of Modern Art, which has acquired two versions of the video and put one on view in the second-floor galleries, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, which is screening the vid as part of its exhibition "Home Bodies: Selections from the Permanent Collection."

As floodwaters surrounded the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia, late yesterday afternoon, the museum staff hastened to move artworks from the museum’s ground level, including the Asian art collection and its entire exhibition of works by expressionist painter Scott Redford. Museum director Tony Ellwood called in 30 employees on short notice to assist with the undertaking, but they were later ordered to evacuate in the face of rising waters. The extent of the damage has yet to be determined.

Ellwood reports that artworks at the nearby Gallery of Modern Art are safe, including works by Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin and Ricky Swallow, but says that the River Café and the art center for children are "pretty much gone." All of Brisbane’s main cultural institutions, most of them along the South Bank, have been closed due to flooding.

The Dahesh Museum may have been without a home since 2007, but the celebrated collection of 19th-century academic art has still managed to mount one exhibition per year in collaboration with Syracuse University, which operates the Palitz Gallery/Lubin House at 11 East 61st Street in Manhattan. Coming up next month is "The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art," Feb. 9-Mar. 24, 2011, which features 40 drawings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Rosa Bonheur, Léon Bonnat, Alexandre Cabanel, Frederic Lord Leighton and others. The exhibition is designed to illustrate that drawing remained central to both student and mature academic artists. Admission is free.

The Haggerty Museum of Art in Milwaukee has received three major donations, valued cumulatively at $1 million, including works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and photographs by Frank Paulin. The gift includes 80 contemporary works given by Michael and Mary Tatalovich, 30 photographs by Paulin from New York’s Bruce Silverstein Gallery, and 25 modern and contemporary photos of rural Wisconsin donated anonymously by a Los Angeles collector.

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