TUT'S TISSUE BOX
Let the art-world moralists worry about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art selling its birthright for a mess of King Tut pottage. All we can think about is the fantastic Tut-styled tissue box cover on sale in the exhibition gift shop! Priced at $24.95, the impeccably styled plastic replica is based on the boy-king's gold-and-royal-blue sarcophagus, with the tissues emerging from a discreet opening positioned between his nose and his mouth. It can be purchased online at the special website for the show, "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs."
LACMA curators have effectively left the building to make way for a prepackaged blockbuster put together by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and National Geographic along with two decidedly profit-making entities, AEG LIVE, the world's second largest rock concert promoter, and Arts and Exhibitions International, a company run by former Clear Channel exec John Norman that has previously organized shows about the Titanic and Princess Diana, among others. The profit-maximizing approach may well be the wave of the future. "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," which opened an 18-month tour at LACMA, June 16-Nov. 15, 2005, got off to a rip-roaring start, grossing $400,000 in its first month.
Needless to say, the marketeers are firmly in charge of what Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight felicitously called "an ethically dubious ode to the cash register." The $6 audio tour is hosted by Omar Sharif and other gift-shop items include Tut shot glasses, an imported "Tut Shahia Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gift Set," an exclusive exhibition soundtrack (featuring "the ambient sounds of ancient Egypt") and "mummy putty" -- whatever that is. And if the abnormally high ticket prices aren't steep enough for you -- timed Tut tickets, available only through AEG, set you back $25 for a weekday and $30 for a weekend (plus the $3.75 "convenience charge") -- really big spenders can buy a "V.I.P." pass for a cool $75 and skip to the front of the line.
Where all the dough is going is anybody's guess -- LACMA's cut of Tut profits is specifically not being disclosed. Last Sunday, in a long piece chiding a variety of museums for their questionable turns towards commerce, New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman opined that LACMA expects little in direct financial benefits, but rather is hosting the show in the quixotic hope of boosting museum membership. As for Egypt, it is looking to make $10 million per stop on the Tut tour. After its LACMA debut, the exhibition goes to the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Field Museum in Chicago and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
In the meantime, the public hunger for Tut remains strong. A lively secondary market for tickets can be found online, with brokers like Tickets4U and goTickets selling same-day Tut tickets for $115 or $125 a pop, and scalpers auctioning them for two or three times their value on eBay.DEBATING THE FATE OF 2 COLUMBUS CIRCLE
"We are here to save the Landmarks Commission from itself." This sentiment, expressed by Yale architecture dean Robert A.M. Stern, was the general feeling in the air at a "people's meeting" to discuss the fate of Edward Durell Stone's increasingly famous building at 2 Columbus Circle in New York, held last week on July 14, 2005, at the General Society for Mechanics and Tradesman Library in midtown Manhattan. The Moorish-styled white marble façade of the historic building is set to be junked when the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) takes over the facilities, despite the imprecations of no less than seven preservation groups - the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Preservation League of New York State, the World Monuments Fund, the Historic Districts Council, the Municipal Art Society and DOCOMOMO.
Many people at the packed meeting, chaired by New York City Council deputy majority leader Bill Perkins, seemed to think that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has inexplicably refused to consider landmark status for 2 Columbus Circle, was guilty of "gross dereliction of duty," to quote former New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp. The issue remains in the news thanks in large part to an advocacy group named Landmark West, which went to court to fight the redevelopment and discovered emails between current landmarks commission chairman Robert Tierney and Laurie Beckelman, a former chair of the very same commission who now works for MAD as a kind of "fixer," ushering the 2 Columbus Circle redevelopment through the city approvals process. The emails seem to show the pair colluding to keep the Stone building from being considered by the landmarks panel.
Last week's meeting heard testimony from a long and eclectic list of witnesses, including art collector (and Warhol superstar) Jane Holzer and author Tom Wolfe, who stated he had spoken to the original owner of the building, Huntington Hartford, earlier in the day and that Hartford had called the attempt to reclad 2 Columbus Circle a "disgrace." The lone dissenting opinion was voiced by Rick Bell, speaking for the American Institute of Architects, who claimed that the MAD design was needed to bring life back to the currently derelict building.
What now? The landmarks commission, as well as the Museum of Arts and Design, have clearly lost a great deal of credibility -- but it seems unlikely that disgrace can stop development. For more info, go to www.save2columbus.org"SET AND DRIFT" ON GOVENOR'S ISLAND
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council is extending its art programming out into New York harbor -- specifically, to Governors Island, the historic site just 800 yards off of the southern tip of Manhattan. "Set and Drift," July 16-Aug. 13, 2005, features special art installations by six artists and artist groups in and around the island's historic buildings -- it was a Coast Guard base until 1996 and is just now being developed as a historic attraction. Leo Villareal has installed a light piece along the shoreline, perhaps best viewed from a perch at the Battery Gardens restaurant in Battery Park. The veteran conceptual artist Serge Spitzer (also the designer of the 7,500-square-foot Art Barn in Quogue, L.I.) installed in the cellar of Fort Jay a 1997 video projection work showing Dionysian scenes from a Spanish tomato festival. Artists Matt Bua and Jesse Bercowetz have constructed a ramshackle structure, dubbed The Last House on the Left, tracing a hackneyed history of the island. Other artists in the show are Anna Craycroft, Jen Zackin and neuroTransmitter with Daniela Fabricius. Ferry tickets are $6 (bring a picnic lunch); for details, see www.lmcc.net/setanddrift DRAWING CENTER RECONSIDERS MOVE TO GROUND ZERO
After coming under fire for showing -- gasp -- political art, the Drawing Center is reconsidering its plan to move to a new facility at Ground Zero, according to a report in Crain's New York (and following a similar story published here last week). "We would never be able to accept censorship," said Drawing Center executive director Catherine de Zegher. In any case, according to the story, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the site, has decided to raise the $350-million cost of a 100,000-square-foot World Trade Center memorial before moving on plans for a museum and performing arts complex.
It almost goes without saying that the controversy over the Drawing Center's "unpatriotic" art -- for details, see Artnet News, July 13, 2005 -- was entirely fabricated by the right-wing press. New York artist Amy Wilson, one of the primary targets of the attacks (for a work using an image from Abu Ghraib), said she was "disappointed" that the Drawing Center had not mounted a more vigorous defense of artistic freedom, especially on its website, which contains no trace of the controversial works. Following the fracas, Wilson herself posted an image of the entire painting in question, which is titled A Glimpse of What Life in a Free Country Could Be Like (2004)."NEW TALENTS" AT ART COLOGNE
The 25 artists for the "New Talents" section of Art Cologne, Oct. 28-Nov. 1, 2005, have been selected. The artists (and their sponsoring dealers) are Tjorg Douglas Beer (Produzentengalerie, Hamburg), Mona Breede (Galerie Heinz-Martin Weigand, Ettlingen), Christoph Breuer (Felix Ringel Galerie, Düsseldorf), Benjamin Cottam (Gasser and Grunert, New York), Thea Djordjadze (Galerie Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers, Munich/Cologne), Johanna Domke (art agents gallery, Hamburg), "Famed" (Sebastian Matthias Kretzschmar, Kilian Schellbach and Jan Thomaneck) (Galerie Brigitte March, Stuttgart), Diego Fernández (Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne), Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann (Fiedler Contemporary, Cologne), Thomas Grundmann (Galerie Susanne Zander, Cologne), Bertram Hasenauer (Galerie Hohenlohe & Kalb, Vienna), Annette Kelm (Galerie Crone Andreas Osarek, Berlin), Sekyung Lee (Galerie Ulrike Schmela, Düsseldorf), Stefan Löffelhardt (Galerie Aurel Scheibler, Cologne), Christian Mayer (Galerie Mezzanin, Vienna), Stephan Mörsch (Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg), Karina Nimmerfall (Galerie Grita Insam, Vienna), Michaela Schweiger (Galerie Ursula Waldbröl, Düsseldorf), A.L. Steiner (Kenny Schachter ROVE, London), David Willen (Galerie Bob Gysin, Zürich), Heo Yang Gu (Gallery Maek-Hyang, Daegu/Korea), Katrin Hoffert (Galerie Fiebach & Mininger, Cologne), Ernst Stark (Galerie Martina Detterer, Frankfurt/Main), Wolfgang Stehle (Galerie Six Friedrich Lisa Ungar, Munich) and "3 Hamburger Frauen" (Ergül Cengiz, Henrieke Ribbe, Kathrin Wolf) (Galerie Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart).
The selection panel included Cologne-based artist Astrid Klein; Hamburg Kunstverein director Yilmaz Dziewior; Berlin dealer Henrike Höhn; Gerd Harry Lybke of Galerie EIGEN + ART, Leipzig/Berlin and the Cologne journalist Frank Frangenberg. The panel was chaired by Bernhard Wittenbrink, chairman of the Cologne-based Bundesverband Deutscher Galerien, with Art Cologne director Gérard A. Goodrow acting in an advisory capacity.EDINBURGH ART FESTIVAL, 2005
Over 30 galleries, museums and art schools are taking part in the 2005 Edinburgh Art Festival, which was launched last year to add an art component to the famous festivals of new film, music, performance, books and more that take over the Scottish city every summer. Among the attractions are a July 28 performance of Cai Guo-Qiang's Black Rainbow, a dark daytime arc in the sky above Edinburgh Castle made with 2,000 exploding pyrotechnic smoke shells, and an exhibition of works by Ian Hamilton Finlay at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Ingleby Gallery on the occasion of the artist's 80th birthday. Museum shows include Henri Cartier-Bresson and Francis Bacon at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and "Gauguin's Vision" at the Scottish National Gallery, while gallery exhibitions include a show of works on paper by Paula Rego at Talbot Rice Gallery, Claire Barclay at Doggerfisher and Cai Guo-Qiang at the Fruitmarket Gallery. PHOTO SAN FRANCISCO 2005
The sixth International San Francisco Photographic Art Exposition, otherwise known as Photo San Francisco 2005, opens July 21-24, 2005, at Fort Mason Festival Pavilion. More than 80 dealers are on hand, including Barry Singer Gallery (San Francisco), Paul Kopeikin Gallery (Los Angeles) and Frederieke Taylor Gallery (New York), as well as Stephen Cohen Gallery, the organizer of the show. The gala opening on July 21 benefits Instituto Terra, a nonprofit working to preserve Brazil's Atlantic Rain Forest. General admission is $15; for more info, see www.photosanfrancisco.net HICKEY, PAGEL FOR PIER WALK 2006
Art critic and curator Dave Hickey and Los Angeles Times critic David Pagel have signed on to co-select the artists in Navy Pier Walk 2006, a show of 15-30 artists that goes on view at Chicago's celebrated Navy Pier, May 5-Oct. 12, 2006. The current exhibition, curated by New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl and including works by Kay Rosen, Ulrich Ruckriem and Franz West, is on view now. For more info, see www.pierwalk.org. EYESTORM CLOSES NEW YORK GALLERY
Eyestorm, the mass-market print publisher whose fortunes rose and fell during the late '90s internet boom (and whose published works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Ed Ruscha among other artists, have performed quite well upon resale at public auctions), is closing its New York gallery as of July 22. Eyestorm has operated a public gallery on West 27th Street in Chelsea for three years (and on Mercer Street in SoHo before that); word is that the company is seeking a franchisee to handle the New York market. Michael Hall, who has headed up Eyestorm's New York operation, is going to work for the Armory Show. Hall succeeds Armory Show managing director Tim Smith, who moved last month to SeaFair, the new company formed by David and LeeAnn Lester to organize art fairs on luxury cruise ships. YANG SHAOBIN IN EUROPE
The Chinese painter Yang Shaobin (b. 1963) had his international break-out in the 1999 Venice Biennale, where his blood-red paintings of expressionistic heads made a vivid impression. This summer, the artist's work is on view at several venues in Europe, including the Prague Biennale, the Beelden aan Zee museum in Holand, and the Kunsthalle Bern, where his works are included in the pioneering collection of Uli Sigg. A new series of the artist's paintings are also on view at Alexander Ochs Gallery in Berlin, June 25-July 30, 2005. For these works, in the words of the gallery, the artist has become a "storyteller" who "takes up the second reality of the TV," depicting images of war and conflict in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. Mid-sized paintings sell for as much as $70,000, the gallery says. LACE NAMES NEW DIRECTOR
Carol Stakenas has been named executive director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE). She had formerly served as deputy director and curator of Creative Time in New York and as director of the Third Millennium Foundation International Center for Tolerance Education in Brooklyn. NICOLE KIDMAN MAKES A CUTE ARBUS
The Diane Arbus biopic, titled Fur and starring Nicole Kidman, is shooting around New York City, and the film's publicist has passed out a fetching image by photog Steve Sands of the actress in costume in sandals and a pretty blue sundress. Could that really be Arbus? Decide for yourself -- click here.
Contact wrobinson @ artnet.com