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Artnet News
July 28, 2005 

Are you ready for another Matthew Barney opus? Two years after the artist’s five-part, seven-and-a-half-hour film extravaganza, "The Cremaster Cycle," reached its zenith in a major exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, the artist has completed Drawing Restraint 9, a 135-minute epic shot in Nagasaki Bay on a Japanese whaling ship and starring the artist himself with his exotic consort, the Icelandic pop music star Björk. Björk’s soundtrack CD for the film, featuring 11 orchestral tracks of "folktronic" music (melding traditional Japanese forms with contemporary electronic music), should be in stores soon.

The film had its premiere as part of an exhibition of Barney’s entire "Drawing Restraint" series at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, July 2-Aug. 25, 2005. The show is currently scheduled to tour to the Samsung Museum in Seoul in October and to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June 2006. Plans for a debut in New York City, where the artist lives, have not yet been announced (though showings could be scheduled to coincide with Barney’s next exhibition at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, currenlty set for May 2006).

Barney aficionados know Drawing Restraint as the ongoing allegorical project that originated in 1987 in his studio at Yale with a series of athletic Body Art-style works in which the artist attempted to make drawings while under some kind of restraint (tethered by his legs while climbing a ramp, for instance, or jumping on a trampoline to draw on the ceiling). Drawing Restraint 7 is a three-channel video installation featuring satyrs wrestling in the back of a limo, which was included in both the 1993 Whitney Biennial and the 1993 Venice Biennale. Drawing Restraint 8 is a group of 10 clear vitrines that were in the 2003 Venice Biennale. The Kanazawa exhibition includes videos, artifacts and documentary photographs from the entire series.

Drawing Restraint 9, which has almost no dialogue, is marked by the fantastic theatricality that Barney fans expect. According to reports, the film includes a tanker truck filled with liquid petroleum jelly; a parade of animals; a tea ceremony in which Barney and Björk wear fur costumes inspired by Shinto marriage rites; a trip to the Antarctic on a whaling ship; the creation of an ocean-like sculpture of petroleum jelly; and the transformation of the two artists into whales after they cut off their feet and thighs with flensing knives.

The "core idea" of Drawing Restraint 9, according to its press material, is "the relationship between self-imposed resistance and creativity" and "rebirth, physical transformation, and the possibility of new forms."

New York City’s new budget has no special allocation of anti-terrorism security funding for the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem and other New York City fine-art institutions. According to a report in the New York Observer, the city council did manage to pencil in $2 million in anti-terrorism funding for the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

What happened? No "cogent explanation" has been forthcoming for the inconsistency, wrote Janet Schneider, executive director of the Cultural Institutions Group, the coalition of 34 nonprofits that are housed in city facilities. The newspaper report suggested, however, that the "security pork" was allocated to the three institutions in question because of their lobbying connections. The natural history museum board, for instance, includes the chairman of city council chair Gifford Miller’s mayoral campaign-finance committee, Robert Zimmerman. The support was given "strictly on the merits," said Zimmerman.

One special attraction on the fall exhibition lineup in New York is "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult," Sept. 27-Dec. 31, 2005, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show explores the debate over spiritualism and the paranormal via some 120 photographs made from the 1860s to World War II in a show co-organized with the Maison Européenne de la Photogrraphie in Paris. Among the highlights is a photograph from the 1860s by William H. Mumler, the first photographer to make and market spirit photographs, depicting the Boston medium Fanny Conant with an apparition of Vashti, ostensibly the daughter of a Native American chief who was Conant’s "spirit guide."

The exhibition is divided into three sections: photographs of ghosts or spirits by Mumler, Frederick Hudson in London and Édouard Isidore Buguet in Paris; photos of "vital forces" emanating from the body of the medium, often captured directly on the photographic plate without use of a camera, including examples of "Kirilian photography" from the 1940s; and documentary photographs of séances and mediums, including Eusapia Paladino, and Eva C. and Stanislava P.

The show is organized by Pierre Apraxine, formerly curator of the Gilman Paper Company Collection, and independent curator Sophie Schmit, in collaboration with Andreas Fischer, Clément Chéroux and Denis Canguilhem. At the Met, the show is organized by Mia Fineman, senior research associate in the photo department.

The Stuckists have offered a collection of 160 paintings to the Tate, and museum director Nicholas Serota has rejected the gift with notable forthrightness. "We do not feel that the work is of sufficient quality in terms of accomplishment, innovation or originality of thought to warrant preservation in perpetuity in the national collection," Serota wrote the group, according to a story in the Times of London. Not to mention that the collection includes a painting by Stuckist co-founder Charles Thomson of Serota himself examining a pair of red women’s underpants and wondering, "Is it a genuine Emin (£10,000) or a worthless fake?" The Stuckists were founded in 1999, ostensibly to support traditional values in art. The collection of works, valued by the group at £500,000, was exhibited to large crowds last year at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. For more details, see

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has scheduled a major retrospective of the work of Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith (1906-65) for next winter. "David Smith: A Centennial," Feb. 3-May 14, 2006, organized by Carmen Giménez, features 110 sculptures dating 1932-65 as well as a selection of related drawings. The show tours in smaller form to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, June 14-Sept. 11, 2006, and the Tate Modern, Oct. 4, 2006-Jan. 3, 2007. The show is accompanied by a 512-page catalogue including contributions from David Anfam, Michael Brenson, Dominique Fourcade, Rosalind Krauss and Paul Hayes Tucker.

Smith is a favorite of the museum world; his work was given a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 1969 and at the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum in 1982, and his paintings and works on paper were surveyed at the Whitney Museum in 1979.

The Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles has announced plans for its 7th biennial Emerging Erotic Artist Contest, which features several cash awards, ranging from $100 to $750. Winners are to be announced on Oct. 8, 2005, as part of the West Hollywood Erotic Art Fair Weekend. The contest is open to any artist, professional or amateur, who has never sold any erotic work prior to his or her submission. Each entry requires a $15 fee; the deadline is Aug. 31, 2005. For details, see

Al HELD, 1928-2005
Al Held, 76, Abstract Expressionist painter known for large-scale works featuring bold geometric figures, first hewing closely to the picture plane and then increasingly engaging the illusion of 3D space, died on July 27 in Todi, Italy. According to press reports, he was found floating in the swimming pool at his villa, and died of natural causes. A rough-and-tumble New Yorker, Held joined the Navy at 17 and then studied at the Art Students League and in Paris before having his first New York show at the Poindexter Gallery in 1959. He had major exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1966), the San Francisco Museum of Art (1968), the Whitney Museum (1974), and the New Orleans CAC (2002-03). From the 1960s through the ‘90s he showed with Andre Emmerich Gallery, and more recently at the Robert Miller Gallery in Chelsea. He was a professor at Yale University for almost 20 years.

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