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Artnet News
Jan. 19, 2006 

Jeff Koons has won one for "fair use." The neo-Pop artist, who famously appealed his 1988 String of Puppies copyright-infringement case all the way to the Supreme Court -- and lost -- has been dragged into court once again for copying another artist’s work. For a seven-painting commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, Koons drew on part of a photograph taken by Andrea Blanch titled Silk Sandals by Gucci and published in the August 2000 issue of Allure magazine to illustrate an article on metallic makeup. Koons took the image of the legs and diamond sandals from that photo (omitting other background details) and used it in his painting Niagara, which also includes three other pairs of women’s legs dangling surreally over a landscape of pies and cakes.

In his court filing, Koons’ lawyer, John Koegel, said that Niagara is "an entirely new artistic work. . . that comments on and celebrates society’s appetites and indulgences, as reflected in and encouraged by a ubiquitous barrage of advertising and promotional images of food, entertainment, fashion and beauty."

In his affidavit in the case, Koons noted that it was important to use the photo from Allure, rather than painting a model’s legs himself. "My paintings are not about objects or images that I might invent, but rather about how we relate to things that we actually experience. . . . Therefore, in order to make statements about contemporary society and in order for the artwork to be valid, I must use images from the real world. I must present real things that are actually in our mass consciousness."

In his decision, judge Louis L. Stanton of U.S. District Court found that Niagara was indeed a "transformative use" of Blanch’s photograph. "The painting’s use does not ‘supersede’ or duplicate the objective of the original," the judge wrote, "but uses it as raw material in a novel way to create new information, new esthetics and new insights. Such use, whether successful or not artistically, is transformative."

The detail of Blanch’s photograph used by Koons, it seems, is only marginally copyrightable. Blanch has no right to the appearance of the Gucci sandals, "perhaps the most striking element of the photograph," the judge wrote. And without the sandals, only a representation of a women’s legs remains -- and that is "not sufficiently original to deserve much copyright protection."

Blanch, a 20-year veteran of the photo world -- she started out as an assistant for Richard Avedon, and in 1998 published Italian Men: Love & Sex, a book of interviews and photographs -- told Artnet News that she had discovered Koons’ use of her image by accident, during a visit to his 2002 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. "At first I was flattered," she said. She soon came to a different conclusion after thinking about the situation. "I really believe that if the person is living, you have to ask permission!"

The battle is not over yet -- Blanch has filed an appeal. So far, her costs have been minimal; her lawyer has taken the case on a contingency basis. But if she loses, she may have to pay the defendants’ costs, and since she has sued Deutsche Bank and the Guggenheim along with Koons -- she claims that the two institutions which commissioned the work share responsibility for the alleged copyright violation -- the eventual bill could be rather large.

When Alexandra Munroe resigned as director of Japan Society Gallery last year, everyone wondered what her next project would be -- and now it turns out to be the Guggenheim Museum, where she has been appointed as the museum's first senior curator of Asian art. China is a growth area in contemporary art, and the Gugg clearly plans to be there -- Guggenheim Foundation director Thomas Krens noted that Munroe would be the first curator of Asian art at any international museum of modern and contemporary art.

Among Munroe's first projects is "Contemplating the East: Asian Ideas and Modern American Art," a show examining the impact of Asian art and ideas on 20th-century Western art, slated to premiere at the museum in 2009. An NYU grad who speaks fluent Japanese, Munroe organized "Japanese Art after 1945: Scream against the Sky" for the Yokohama Museum of Art and "Yes Yoko Ono" for Japan Society Gallery in 2000.

Curator Cathy Byrd has put together "Potentially Harmful: The Art of American Censorship," Jan. 10-Mar. 10, 2006, at the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design Gallery at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The timely exhibition seeks to tackle head-on issues of artistic freedom through a presentation of dozens of controversial works, including pieces by Lynda Benglis, Critical Art Ensemble, Sue Coe, Karen Finley, Eric Fischl, Robert Mapplethorpe, Carolee Schneemann, Dread Scott, Andres Serrano and Anita Steckel. The show is accompanied by a program that includes legal seminars, presentations by spoken-word and performance artists, artists' talks, panel discussions, film screenings and a website by the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Andy Warhol superstar Ultra Violet opens her own solo show at Stux Gallery in Chelsea, Jan. 26, 2006. Ultra Violet’s multimedia works feature different meditations on the power of light to convey emotional meaning, according to the gallery, and use the artist’s signature neon, including I Bear Witness of the Light (2005), which features the numbers "9" and "11" in blazing red neon Roman numerals.

In April, the Chelsea Art Museum also features a recreation by Violet of Yoko Ono’s famous Cut Piece. The performance is sponsored by Amnesty International, and is intended to raise the profile of the group's campaign to combat violence against women.

Eighty-nine-year-old Los Angeles resident Maria Altmann has won the right to five paintings worth an estimated $150 million by Vienna succession maestro Gustav Klimt, under a decision by a special arbitration panel in Austria. The paintings, which currently hang in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, belonged to the Altmann family but were grabbed by the Nazis when Germany seized Austria at the beginning of World War II. According to the Austria Press Agency, the Austrian government intends to abide by the decision, which it has fought since 1997. The returned works include:

* Two portraits of Altmann’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. The 1907 Portrait, a striking image of the confident, dark haired woman draped across a delicately patterned gold leaf background, is one of Klimt’s best-known and widely reproduced images.

* 1918’s Apfelbaum, an 80 x 80 cen. canvas featuring a large tree holding a multi-colored pattern of fruit against a stormy sky

* The 1903 Buchenwald/Birkenwald, a view through a grove of beech trees employing a dappled pattern of light greens and oranges

* 1916’s Haeuser in Unterach am Attersee, an unusually meditative picture featuring Kammer Castle on Austria’s Attersee lake, the artist’s frequent summer getaway spot

A new £22-million art center dedicated to the life and work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth is planned for her home town of Wakefield in central England. Designed by architect David Chipperfield (who is also doing the new Figge Art Museum building in Iowa), the facility features works by Hepworth, Henry Moore and other U.K. artists, along with art studios, conference rooms and commercial space, according to the Yorkshire Post. The center is planned to open at the end of 2008.

Collector Helga Wall-Apelt has donated artworks and funds worth an estimated $50 million to Florida State University for the new "Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art" at FSU’s John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The gift includes Wall-Apelt’s valuable personal collection of Chinese jades, Southeast Asian sculptures and Cambodian stone figures, along with $4 million for the 10,000 square foot museum expansion, and an additional $4 million for the Ringling endowment. The Ringling begins search for a curator for the new Asian Art center immediately, a position it hopes to fill in the next six months. Wall-Apelt is president of the local Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine and also founder of the Sarasota Museum of Asian Art.

Yale University Art Gallery plans to send a show of works from its renowned Société Anonyme collection of the 20th-century avant-garde, founded in New York in 1920 by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. "The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America" features more than 240 works by Constantin Brancusi, Duchamp, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray and Joseph Stella, in the first major tour of the collection.

Organized by Yale curators Jennifer R. Gross and Susan Greenberg, the show debuts at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Apr. 23-Aug. 20, 2006, before appearing at the Phillips Collection, Oct. 14, 2006-Jan. 21, 2007, the Dallas Museum of Art, June 10-Sept. 16, 2007, and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Oct. 26, 2007-Feb. 3, 2008. The exhibition appears at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2010, after the renovation of its main building, designed by Louis I. Kahn, has been completed.

Born in Brooklyn, Katherine S. Dreier (1877-1952) and the Société Anonyme -- a name coined by Duchamp that can be translated as "Incorporated, Inc." -- organized the first solo shows in the U.S. of Louis Michel Eilshemius, Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Fernand Léger, as well as the "International Exhibition of Modern Art" at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926.

Rare is the wedding dress that warrants its own show at an art museum, but the Philadelphia Museum of Art has one. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the wedding of movie star Grace Kelly and Monaco’s Prince Rainer III, "Fit for a Princess," Apr. 1-May 21, 2006, puts the spotlight on Kelly’s four-piece wedding gown, designed by Helen Rose. The show is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue by curator Kristina Haugland.

It’s all about the passing scene at Photographic gallery, located in scenic Olde Manhattan at 252 Front Street between Dover Street and Peck Slip. The gallery is featuring photographs by Barbara Mensch from her series "Portraits of the Men of the Fulton Fish Market," Dec. 17, 2005-Mar. 5, 2006. Mensch moved into the neighborhood in 1979, and the fish market is slated to move to new quarters in the Bronx soon. Columbia University Press is publishing the photographs in a monograph titled A South Street Story. Also on view are two groups of photographs by 74-year-old photographer Kenneth van Sickle, the first taken in Paris in 1955 and the second done in New York in 2005. For more info, see 

The Joan Mitchell Foundation has announced 25 winners of its $25,000 painters and sculptors grants for 2005. The winners are Ray Abeyta (Brooklyn), Manuel Acevedo (Elizabeth, N.J.), Sachiko Akiyama (Brookline, Mass.), Chris Ballantyne (San Francisco), Willie M. Birch (New York), Rosalyn Bodycomb (New York), Steven Deo (Rio Rancho, N.M.), Mark Dion (Beach Lake, Pa.), Wei Dong (Hoboken), Stephen Ellis (New York), Lonnie B. Holley (Birmingham), Mei-Ling Hom (Philadelphia), Shih-Chieh Huang (New York), Yoko Inoue (Brooklyn), Kristen L. Morgin (Long Beach), Rebecca Purdum (Ripton, Vt.), Joe Ramiro Garcia (Santa Fe), Sean Russell (Las Vegas), Paul C. Smith (New York), Dan Steinhilber (Washington, D.C.), Fred Stonehouse (West Allis, Wisc.), Renée Stout (Washington, D.C.), Marie K. Watt (Portland, Ore.), Yuriko Yamaguchi (Vienna, Va.) and Sunkoo Yuh (Athens, Ga.). Launched in 1993, the Mitchell Foundation grants go to artists suggested by anonymous nominators. For more info, see the website

Styling itself after the legendary Ferus Gallery (which brought Ed Kienholz, Billy Al Bengston and Richard Diebenkorn to the world in freewheeling 1960s Los Angeles), the new Angela Hanley Gallery has opened at 2404 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Directed by transplanted New Yorker Allyson Spellacy, the new space hopes to bring some of that New York brass to its left coast programming. First up is "TBA," Dec. 17, 2005-Jan. 30, 2006, described as a "a snapshot of a bunch of kids brought together in a spontaneous moment of solidarity" and offering a crop that includes Jennifer Boysen, Jeff Britton, Heather Bennett, Sian Foulkes, Gustavo Godoy, Jeff Hatfield, Christopher Miner, Joyce Pensato, Mike Rogers, Casey Ruble, Lever Rukhin, Fiona Ryan, Jim Skuldt, Jeff Sonhouse, Lynn Sullivan, Mark Alan Taylor, Eric Torborg, Nari Ward, Alissa Warshaw and Jason Wyckoff.

Mary Leigh Cherry, who founded cherrydelosreyes gallery in 2001 with painter Tony de los Reyes, has a new partner and a new name for 2006. The gallery is now Cherry and Martin, a joint venture between Cherry and Philip Martin, opening with an exhibition of Holy Coulis and Max Maslansky, Jan. 7-Feb.11, 2006. Also on the schedule at Cherry and Martin are shows by Nathan Mabry, Kim McCarty and a group exhibition including Alison Fox, Angelina Gualdoni and Rebecca Morris.

The Devon Wildlife Trust, a British conservation nonprofit, has hit its fundraising target with a little help from celebrity art. The auction called for celebrities to "doodle a dragonfly" that was then sold on eBay over the holidays. Participants included musicians Bill Wyman and Phil Collins, but the most attention was received by Kate Winslet’s crisp, lovable cartoon of a bug clinging to a piece of grass, snapped up for £600 by a Titanic afficionado from the U.S.

Pablita Velarde, 87, Native American artist known for detailed traditionalist paintings and murals depicting life in the New Mexico’s Santa Clara Pueblo, died in Albuquerque on Jan. 17, 2006. Velarde -- whose Tewa name was Tse Tse, or "Golden Dawn" -- first became artistically active during the Depression as part of the Works Project Administration, documenting native culture. While working for the WPA, Velarde embarked on a cycle of murals depicting Pueblo history at Bandelier National Monument, painting more than 85 scenes. In the 1950s, Velarde became a professional painter, breaking definitely with the traditional female role as basket maker. Her work was exhibited internationally, and she received the Palmes d'Académiques from the French government in 1954, the Waite Phillips Trophy from the Philbrook Art Center in Oklahoma in 1968 and the New Mexico Governor's Award in 1977. A retrospective featuring the complete cycle of Velarde’s Bandelier works is planned at Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture this spring.

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