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Artnet News
Jan. 15, 2009 

You know the art market is sinking when new art "movements" start popping up. First there was "Relational Esthetics," and now we have "Altermodern." Both are the work of French-born Tate Britain curator Nicholas Bourriaud, who is the organizer of "Altermodern: Tate Triennial 2009," which opens at the museum, Feb. 3-Apr. 26, 2009. The "alternative modern," as Bourriaud defines it, characterizes a global phenomenon of 21st-century art as coming after postmodernism, and as expressed by "the many different forms of social and technological networks offered by rapidly increasing lines of communication and travel" in today’s world.

Relational Esthetics, the kind of contemporary mix of art-and-life currently on view in "theanyspacewhatever" at the Guggenheim Museum, has been called "the most influential stylistic strain to emerge in art since the early 1970s" by critic Jerry Saltz. It seems likely that Altermodern will be avidly taken up as well, despite the fact that much 19th-century art was global (from Frederick Edwin Church and J.M.W. Turner to Paul Gauguin) and obsessed with up-to-the-minute science (Impressionism as well as the new art of photography).

Artists in the triennial -- British residents as well as "passers-by" -- include Franz Ackermann, Darren Almond, Charles Avery, Walead Beshty, Spartacus Chetwynd, Marcus Coates, Peter Coffin, Matthew Darbyshire, Shezad Dawood, Tacita Dean, Ruth Ewan, Loris Gréaud, Subodh Gupta, Rachel Harrison, Joachim Koester, Nathaniel Mellors, Gustav Metzger, Mike Nelson, David Noonan, Katie Paterson, Olivia Plender, Seth Price, Navin Rawanchaikul, Lindsay Seers, Bob and Roberta Smith, Simon Starling, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Tris Vonna-Michell.

Russian premier Vladimir Putin is entering the art market with his debut painting Pattern (2009). The folksy, Chagall-esque image depicts a window with curtains bearing a red "Ukrainian pattern," looking out onto a snowy night, and is featured as part of a charity auction in St. Petersburg put together by artist Nadezhda Anfalova. The auction is set for the 200th birthday of Russian author Nikolai Gogol, and all works in the celebrity sale -- including paintings by local governor Valentina Matviyenko, opera singer Anna Netrebko and rock singer Sergei Shnurov -- are done on "overcoat cloth," to commemorate Gogol’s famous story, The Overcoat. According to the Daily Mail, Putin’s Pattern is reputed to have been "improved" by Anfalova. "Of course Putin's picture will go for the most -- the buyers look at the name," she told the paper.

Czech artist David Cerny -- previously best known for his parody of Damien Hirst, in which he pickled what appeared to be a body of Saddam Hussein -- has been forced to apologize for a satirical stunt that caused embarrassment for his home country as it takes over presidency of the European Union. Cerny’s work, Entropa, is a large-scale public sculpture installed at the EU’s Brussels headquarters, featuring representations of each of the Union’s member states, supposedly contributions from 27 different artists. Shortly after Entropa’s unveiling, the unflattering imagery used to depict the countries started raising eyebrows. When Bulgaria -- depicted as a "Turkish lavatory" -- objected, the hoax came undone.  

In a statement posted on his website, Cerny called the work a "playful analysis of national stereotypes," but went on to apologize to Czech government officials for the deception: "We did not want them to bear the responsibility for this kind of politically incorrect satire. We knew the truth would come out. But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself." Cerny states that the commission began as a sincere effort to collaborate with other EU artists but that this was impossible "due to time, production, and financial constraints," leading him and collaborators Kristof Kintera and Tomas Pospiszyl to fabricate names, and in some cases websites, for the fake EU artists.

"We have information about some states, we only know various tourist clichés about others. We know basically nothing about several of them," Cerny admits, adding that Entropa shows "how difficult and fragmented Europe as a whole can seem from the perspective of the Czech Republic."

The prank is having serious political repercussions. European parliament was already embroiled in considerable debate about the Czechs taking the reins of the presidency, in part because the country opposes the Lisbon Treaty, seen by many as indispensible to the further integration of Europe. According to the Guardian, "the [Entropa] incident has further undermined confidence in the Government’s abilities, coming, as it does, after a faltering start to the EU presidency" (And after all, couldn’t someone in the Czech government have guessed that something was afoot, based on the piece’s title alone?)

So what did Cerny’s parody actually look like? The Financial Times has a good slideshow of the work, showing the specific elements: an outline of France with a banner that says "Strike!" on it; Germany with a swastika-like formation of autobahns; Italy as completely taken over by a soccer field; Luxemburg as a gold nugget affixed with a "For Sale" sign; the Netherlands completely flooded; Poland depicting a group of Catholic priests planting a rainbow gay pride flag in the earth; Romania as a Dracula theme park, with a giant fanged portal; and Spain as a barren building site, apparently a reference to its disastrously collapsing property market. Great Britain is illustrated by leaving a gap, riffing on the fact that it refuses to fully become part of the Union.

Two notable public art installations were unveiled in downtown Manhattan this week, one a temporary display in City Hall Park and the other a permanent commission for the new South Ferry subway station.

The Public Art Fund has sited four new sculptures by Robert Melee in City Hall Park, which remain on view through April 2009. Melee’s signature works, resembling golems covered with melted wax, measure as high as 13 feet tall, and are cast in bronze and painted with bright enamel.  Melee’s work was recently on view at Andrew Kreps Gallery in Chelsea [see "Gotham Art & Theater," Oct. 28, 2008]; this suite of works is new, and marks the 30th anniversary of Public Art Fund exhibitions at City Hall Park.

Meanwhile, Doug and Mike Starn have completed a multi-part installation for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority "arts for transit" program, a $1.2-million commission that includes a 20-foot-wide, floor-to-ceiling mosaic map of Manhattan, a 230-foot-long, fused-glass mural of intertwining branches from the Starns’ "Structure of Thought" series, and a stainless-steel fence that also is designed as a lattice of branches. The installation, titled See It Split, See It Change, is integrated in the interior of the new South Ferry Terminal concourse, which includes the 1 line and the R and W lines, and is situated at the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry. The new station is due to open in the next several weeks.

After working several years on the MTA project, the Starn brothers have a new piece well under way at their new studio, the former Tallix foundry in Beacon, N.Y. There they are overseeing a massive, real-time installation dubbed Big Bambú, in which 2,000 bamboo poles, many with their foliage, are lashed together in a constantly changing structure. The "self-healing organism" has no scaffolding, but rather is built by rock climbers. An exhibition project for Big Bambú for the Detroit Institute of Arts is under development. For more info, see

The Zwirner Gallery in New York’s Chelsea art district has embarked on a new presentation of On Kawara’s epic One Million Years, the artist’s 20-volume collection of a printed listing of all the individual annual dates (and consisting of One Million Years [Past], made in 1969, and One Million Years [Future], made in 1981 -- comprising two million years in all). For the presentation, pairs of readers sit in a glass booth and alternate in reciting the dates, which are recorded on CD, eventually to be issued as a boxed set.

The work has been presented many times at sites around the world, including during the 100-day-long Documenta 11 in 2002. The gallery is looking for volunteers to participate as readers, in two-hour-long stints. To volunteer, or for more info, contact

A new film by "sex-kitten artist" Laurel Nakadate premieres at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 16-22, 2009. The feature-length Stay the Same Never Change was shot in Kansas City with a cast of amateur actors, and has an original soundtrack by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Famously misanthropic playwright Neil LaBute blurbed the movie as "a quiet and beautiful creature. . . . captured through the imagination and unorthodox technique of a true visual artist." Nakadate has been reviewed in Artnet Magazine by Charlie Finch in "Danger Is her Game" and by Jerry Saltz in "Whatever Laurel Wants". She is now represented in New York by Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, where she is scheduled for a solo show, May 2-June 27, 2009.

The North Dakota Museum of Art (NDMOA) is fighting for its survival in the economic crisis, trying to raise $100,000 by Mar. 30, 2009, "about half the amount needed before June 30" to fill gaps in its $1.3 million annual budget, according to director Laurel Reuter. The NDMOA is located on the campus of the University of North Dakota, and receives only limited public funds, despite being the official state museum. Among the achievements of the small institution is the touring show of Latin-American artists responding to state violence, "The Disappeared," currently on view at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C., and Mary Lucier’s critically acclaimed video The Plains of Sweet Regret.

The NDMOA’s "Keep the Lights Bright" campaign seeks to surround the museum with a forest of lights, turning then on one at a time to symbolize individual donations to the museum. Even in good economic times, the arts are "a hard sell in a state mad about hockey, hunting and every other possible human sport," the museum notes. Nevertheless, some 99 donors gave $40,964 in the last two weeks of December. Donations can be made online here.

Antony Hegarty, the prize-winning frontman for the New York City musical act Antony and the Johnsons -- known for tunes exploring transgender life -- is having his first art show in London. "Antony -- The Creek," Jan. 17-Feb. 28, 2008, takes place at Isis, a gallery launched last year at 20 Hanaway Street by John Marchant, a former assistant to photographer Nan Goldin. "Recalling the notebooks of William S. Burroughs and Antonin Artaud, Antony’s works employ a transgender intervention to readjust the colonial topography of the American Dream, seeking to identify a sense of crisis, morality and truth upon which a path forward can be forged." Work in the exhibition has been made with several collaborators, including Dr. Julia Yasuda, an intersex person who introduces Antony performances in Morse Code. For more info, see

Artist Richard Tuttle, curator and art educator Ruth Bowman and William J. Dane, keeper of manuscripts and prints at the Newark Public Library, are the honorees of the gala for the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions on Jan. 21, 2009. The benefit includes an art auction featuring works -- many of them prints made at the center -- by Chakaia Booker, Willie Cole, Lesley Dill, Chris Ofili, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Fred Wilson and several other artists.

Headed by Kathleen Goncharov, the Brodsky Center is located at Rutgers University. The Jan. 21 benefit takes place at the West Side Loft in New York City (at 226 West 37th Street), and includes cocktails, dinner, dancing and dessert as well as the benefit auction.  Tickets begin at $350; for more information, see, or contact 

The College Art Association has announced the winners of its annual awards, in advance of the organization’s 2009 conference in Los Angeles, Feb. 25-28, 2009. Winner of the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism is Boris Groys, the Berlin-born NYU prof whose most recent book is Art Power (MIT, 2008). In one of his more glib pronouncements, Groys likened Osama bin Laden to a video artist.

Other award winners are Mary Heilmann (distinguished body of work), Chris Burden (artist award for lifetime achievement), Guerrilla Girls (distinguished feminist award, a new honor), Georges Didi-Huberman (lifetime achievement for writing on art), Roland Reiss (teaching of art), Charles W. Haxthausen (teaching of art history) and Carol Stringari (scholarship and conservation).

The Charles Rufus Morey Book Award goes to Anthony J. Barbieri-Low for Artisans in Early Imperial China (University of Washington). The Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award goes to Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, eds., for Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds (Yale). Another new prize, the Barr Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries and Collections, goes to Phillip Earenfight, ed., A Kiowa’s Odyssey: A Sketchbook from Fort Marion (University of Washington).

The Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize for an article in Art Bulletin goes to Marnin Young for "Heroic Indolence: Realism and the Politics of Time in Raffaëlli’s Absinthe Drinkers." And the Art Journal Award for an article in that publication goes to Richard Meyer for "Artists sometimes have feelings," a personal essay on working with living artists (in Meyer’s case, Paul McCarthy and Anita Steckel).

Claudia Schmuckli, acting chief curator at the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston, has been named director at the museum. Schmuckli previously served on the curatorial staffs of both the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum before joining the Blaffer in 2004 as director of public relations and membership. She succeeds Terrie Sultan, who was named director of the Parrish Art Museum a year ago.

Mark Bessire
, director of the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Me., has been appointed director of the Portland (Me.) Museum of Art. Bessire formerly directed the Portland ICA, where he organized "The Photography of Ike Ude" and "Eracism: William Pope.L."

Former New York art dealer Bill Maynes has been appointed director of the Fields Sculpture Park and Visitor’s Center at ART/OMI, the 300-acre reserve for outdoor sculpture in Omi, N.Y., in the Hudson River Valley.

RAY YOSHIDA, 1930-2009
Ray Yoshida, 78, Hawaii-born artist who taught at the Art Institute of Chicago for over 40 years, died of cancer in Kauai, Hawaii, on Jan. 11. Known for colorful semi-abstractions with snippets of imagery arrayed like hieroglyphics, Yoshida had a retrospective that opened at the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu in 1998 before traveling to the Chicago Cultural Center. He originally showed with Phyllis Kind Gallery; his last solo gallery show was at Adam Baumgold in New York in 1999. Revered as a teacher, he taught many members of the Hairy Who generation like Jim Nutt and Roger Brown as well as critic and dean Robert Storr. 

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