SAIGON OPEN CITY CENSORED IN VIETNAM
The two-year-long art exhibition "Saigon Open City," organized by Thai art superstar Rirkrit Tiravanija and Thai curator Gridthiya Gaweewong for Vietnam's Ho Chi Mihn City [see Artnet News, Nov. 22, 2006], has run into serious problems with censorship by the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party.
Billed as the first international art exhibition to take place in the country since 1962, the show was set to launch the first of its three parts -- ironically, looking at the theme of "Liberation" in Vietnamese and international art -- in late November. Yet despite apparent approval for the project by the Vietnamese government, which trumpeted the show on its website, the exhibition's operating license from Vietnam's Ministry of Culture has never been received, forcing chronic delays for the event. "Liberation" was expected to run through Jan. 31, 2007 (symptomatically, the "News" section of the project's official website at www.saigonopencity.org features no postings, almost one-quarter of the way into the project's run).
In Vietnam, lack of an operating license effectively forbids any meaningful participation in public life. Thus, though two sections of the multi-part show have been installed at the HCMC Museum of Fine Arts and the Southern Women Museum, the rooms where they are installed are barred to the public by heavy gates. Furthermore, at least one of the works from the Southern Museum was taken away by authorities, though figures associated with the show such as artist Dinh Q. Le are said to be negotiating with the directors of the state museums over the merits of contended works.
Since the exhibition is not directly funded by the government -- its sponsors include the Ford Foundation, the American Center Foundation, the British Council, the Goethe Institute, the Vietnam-Denmark Cultural Fund and the French Consulate General -- some works, including pieces by artist Po Po of Myanmar and Indonesia's Mella Jaarsma, are on view at the administrative offices of Saigon Open City -- though they are not allowed to have any sign outside the building advertising the show, as this would make it "public." Thus, though Western artists scheduled for the program have continued to take part -- most recently French artist Christelle Lheureux -- the general public in Saigon is cut off from any way of knowing about the events, except through word of mouth.
Those close to the affair say that the hold-ups seem to be less about an organized censorship effort, and more about the recalcitrance of individual bureaucrats. Still, political expression is tightly controlled in modern-day Vietnam -- including a strict bar on public dissent during American president George W. Bush's 2006 visit to the country, which coincided closely with the exhibition's opening -- and some artworks by Western artists apparently feature criticism of U.S. foreign policy. In one particularly symbolic elision, a version of the famous banner by John Lennon and Yoko Ono declaring "War Is Over If You Want It," created in solidarity with the anti-Vietnam War movement, was set to be hung across the façade of the War Remnants Museum, but has yet to be installed.
On Jan. 13, 2007, reports had it that Gridthiya Gaweewong had possibly received the final list of works from the censorship committee, and was awaiting the imminent arrival of the list of approved films (which includes movies by Guy Debord and Martha Rosler) from the Hanoi office of the Ministry of Culture. It remains to be seen whether this is the real thing, or just another false hope in the project's months-long series of delays. What is certain is that a show that was meant to be a watershed in newfound openness following Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization has now turned into yet another example of the censorship, both official and implicit, faced by artists there.
OLD MASTER FEST IN NEW YORK
Sixteen top art dealers have organized a special event, "Master Drawings in New York," Jan. 19-27, 2006, coordinated exhibitions at 16 galleries located on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Exhibitors range from Agnew's, which is coming over from London to exhibit at Adam Williams Fine Art at 50 East 78th Street, to Mia N. Weiner, the Connecticut dealer, who is exhibiting at L'Antiquaire and the Connoisseur at 36 East 73rd Street (which is taking part as well). Also participating are C.G. Boerner, Marianne Elrick-Manley, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Kate Ganz USA, Margot Gordon, Hill-Stone, Trinity Fine Art, David Tunick and Emanuel von Baeyer. For further details, see www.masterdrawingsinnewyork.com
The Brooklyn Museum unveils its new 8,300-square-foot Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art on Mar. 23, 2007, featuring the permanent installation of Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party (1979) as well as a suite of galleries for changing exhibitions, designed by architect Susan T. Rodriguez of Polshek Partnership Architects. The two inaugural exhibitions are "Pharaohs, Queens and Goddesses," the first of a series of biographical shows based on themes of The Dinner Party, and "Global Feminisms," a survey of contemporary feminist art organized by Sackler Center curator Maura Reilly and art historian Linda Nochlin (through July 1, 2007). The museum has declined to say how much the center is costing.
"Global Feminisms" promises to be a major tutorial on new art, with works by more than 100 artists from 50 countries, two-thirds of whom are showing in New York for the first time. Among the artists are Mequitta Ahuja, Pilar Albarracin, Arahmaiani, Anna Baumgart, Rebecca Belmore, Tania Bruguera, Lee Bul, Hsia-Fei Chang, Mary Coble, Parastou Forouhar, Regina José Galindo, Melanie Manchot, Tracey Moffatt, Priscilla Monge, Ingrid Mwangi, Catherine Opie, Patricia Piccinini, Boryana Rossa, Jenny Saville, Shahzia Sikander, Ryoko Suzuki, Milica Tomic, Adriana Varejão and Miwa Yanagi. The show coincides with the 30th anniversary of "Women Artists: 1550-1960," which Nochlin organized with art historian Anne Sutherland Harris and which appeared at the Brooklyn Museum in 1977.
POUSETTE-DART RETRO IN VENICE
The work of Richard Pousette-Dart comes to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice for the first-ever European retrospective of the Minnesota-born Abstract Expressionist, Feb. 17-May 20, 2007. The show of work by Pousette-Dart, the youngest member of the New York School, is curated by Guggenheim collection director Philip Rylands and Luca Massimo Barbero, and spotlights 47 paintings from throughout his career. The retrospective's location is particularly apt in this case -- Peggy Guggenheim featured a solo show by Pousette-Dart at her Art of This Century gallery in 1947, and his work was first introduced to European audiences when her collection presented a group of the Ab Ex painters at the 24th Venice Biennale in 1948.
ANDY WARHOL NEWS
Andy Warhol may have died almost 20 years ago, but he manages to stay in the news almost as much as Britney Spears.
* Over the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend, gossip websites breathlessly trumpeted a clip from Factory Girl, the upcoming Edie Sedgwick biopic, showing stars Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen -- who plays the Bob Dylan-ish folk singer -- in a "steamy sex scene," only to take it down after protests from lawyers for its distributor, the Weinstein Company. The film, which has an R rating and is now scheduled to be released Feb. 2, 2007, actually features three nude scenes by Miller.
* The 5.6-acre Andy Warhol estate on the ocean in Montauk has sold to Millard Drexler, CEO of J. Crew, for an undisclosed price. The estate had been on the market for several years, most recently for something less than $30 million, according to reports. Warhol Manager Paul Morrissey bought the property with Warhol in the 1970s for $220,000.
* Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell celebrates his Jan. 16 inauguration in Harrisburg, Pa., with an array of Pennsylvania products, including native son Andy Warhol -- that is, the celebration includes state icons like the Liberty Bell, Pittsburgh Bridges and the state capitol building that have been "Warholized" -- reproduced in grids of four in bright contrasting colors.
CANADA GETS BERNINI
The Art Gallery of Ontario has announced that it has received a gift of a life-sized patinated bronze statue of a crucified Christ by Italian Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. According to news reports, the work was cast around 1650 but classified as a work by a lesser-known sculptor until 2002. The donor, Toronto developer Murray Frum, has claimed a value of $50 million on the crucifix, which was recently on view at Salander-O'Reilly Galleries [see "Weekend Update," Sept. 26, 2005]. Insiders say that the Getty Museum had previously put the work on reserve. The AGO expects to put the sculpture on view in June.
NEW ARTANGEL COMMISSIONS IN BRITAIN
Filmmaker Clio Barnard and sculptor Roger Hiorns have won commissions in the new £1,000,000 art initiative sponsored by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Artangel, two of Britain's more active nongovernmental sponsors of contemporary art. Called the Jerwood/Artangel Open, the competition drew over 800 proposals for public art projects due for completion between 2008 and 2010. Barnard is expected to make a feature-length film using residents of a British public-housing project as actors, while Hiorns is reported to be seeking a building that he can cover with copper sulfate crystals. A third commission by the panel is to be announced later in 2007. For more information see www.thejerwoodartangelopen.org.uk
Artangel also announced its first international project, Roni Horn's Vatnasaf/Library of Water, a long-term installation and community centre in the town of Stykkishólmur on the western coast of Iceland, north of Reykjavik. The piece, situated in a former library, consists of pillars filled with glacier water that reflect and refract light, as well as a collection of testimonials from area residents described as "an alternative kind of weather reporting." It opens to the public in May.
NEW CURATOR AT DENVER
Flush from opening its new Daniel Libeskind-designed headquarters, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) has anounced that Christoph Heinrich is replacing founding curator Dianne Vanderlip. Vanderlip officially ended her tenure on Jan. 12. Heinrich, who currently serves as chief curator of contemporary art at Hamburg Kunsthalle in Germany, won't officially take the reigns full time until Sept. 2007, but plans to travel frequently to Denver in the interim.
ARTIST PRANKS L.A. CHURCH, DRAWS HEAT
Commuters on the Hollywood freeway in Los Angeles were baffled last Wednesday by a 50-foot-tall projection on the side of the bell tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels which read "Your Ad HERE" and listed a number to call for information. The guerrilla art piece (a commentary on the corporatization of religion?) was the brainchild of 28-year-old James Cui, and drew the disapproval of the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese as well as the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, once its origin was uncovered (the number in the image was, in fact, Cui's own). Cui could face as many as six months in jail and $1,000 in fines, according to the L.A. Times. In the past, the artist has projected other images on the sides of buildings, including a clip of a topless woman with her face blacked out, and movie footage of Arnold Schwarzenegger smoking pot.
ROBERT NOORTMAN, 1946-2007
Robert Noortman, 60, influential Old Master dealer whose gallery is located in Maastricht in the Netherlands, died of a heart attack on Jan. 14. The son of a policeman, Noortman dropped out of school at age 16, and opened his first gallery at 22 in 1968. In 1975 he helped launch the art fair that became the annual European Fine Art Fair at Maastricht. He was a benefactor of the Rijksmuseum and the National Gallery in London, which has a Noortman Room of Dutch paintings. Last year he sold his business to Sotheby's for stock then valued at over $50 million.
ED BREZINSKI, 1954-2007
Ed Brezinski, 52, East Village painter who showed at the legendary Club 57 in the 1980s and later ran the Magic Gallery out of his apartment on the Bowery, died suddenly of unknown causes in Cannes on New Year's Day, 2007. An iconoclast who was celebrated for his peccadilloes, he once ate a "mini-donut" from a Robert Gober sculpture, later saying that he mistook the art for catering. Brezinski exhibited his expressive, painterly versions of Old Master compositions at several shows at Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger's Ground Zero gallery in 1985-86. He left the U.S. for Europe in the early 1990s.