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Artnet News
Jan. 20, 2009 

Icelandic artist Snorri Asmundsson has announced that he is challenging his country’s prime minister, Geir H. Haarde, for leadership of Iceland’s Independence Party at its national convention on Jan. 29, 2009, according to the Icenews news service. The tiny island nation is suffering one of the all-time great financial collapses, and Haarde has come under fire for his handling of events -- including from Asmundsson, who tried to present him with a letter demanding his resignation, last October [See Icelandic Art Meltdown, Nov. 6, 2008]. "There are many who want Geir [Haarde] out, which could happen at this time," Asmundsson is quoted as saying. "I’m not any sort of politico, but I think I could maybe do something now."

Asmundsson’s art has often involved such vaguely satirical public stunts. He ran for president of Iceland against Olafur Ragnar Grimsson in 2004, before pulling out, declaring he was not "ready to forsake four years exactly at this time, when the arts are booming and good fortune is following me along the artistic path." It seems unlikely he will be able to use the same exit line in this round.

The vast $825-billion economic recovery package unveiled by congressional Democrats on Jan. 15, 2009, does have a tiny little boon for the arts: a $50-million budgetary boost for the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the modesty of the request -- about 3/500ths of one percent of the total -- some Republicans have already taken issue with the allocation. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) said arts support was "a far cry from the traditional tools of stimulating the economy." The strategy is a familiar one from the "culture wars" of the 1990s, when the right wing made regular attacks on government support for the arts. The economic recovery package faces further scrutiny in Congress, though it is expected to pass in some form within a month. NEA’s 2008 budget is $144.7 million.

One of the best artistic responses to the art-fair mania of the last five years was the Dark Fair, a "miniature art fair" organized at the Swiss Institute in New York in March 2008.  The Dark Fair featured booths that were literally the size of diner booths, and banned the use of electric light and instead favored candles, flashlights, battery-powered video and art that glows in the dark.

Now, the Dark Fair is taking the show to Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne, Apr. 23-26, 2009. The event also includes a video night organized by Matthew Higgs, opening-night DJ performances by Spencer Sweeney and Gavin Russom, and "Submerging Artists," a group of underwater sculpture. More than 20 galleries are participating, including Canada, GBE, Jack Hanley, Leo Koening, Swiss Institute Contemporary Art and Small A (New York), China Art Objects (Los Angeles), Maureen Paley (London), and General Store/Club Nutz, Green Gallery and Inova (all from Milwaukee). 

The Dark Fair is organized by Nicholas Frank, Scott Reeder, John Riepenhoff, Elysia Borowy-Reeder and Tyson Reeder, who are also responsible for the Milwaukee International, as well as the upcoming Ice Fair, which takes place on a frozen lake in Winnipeg in 2010.

Milan-based artist Francesco Vezzoli officially launches his new faux perfume, Greed, at Gagosian Gallery in Rome, Feb. 6-Mar. 21, 2009. Described as "a signature perfume for the contemporary moment," Greed is specifically modeled on Marcel Duchamp’s 1921 perfume Belle Haleine, and features on its label an image of Vezzoli in drag, photographed by Francesco Scavullo. A special 60-second commercial for the product, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Natalie Portman and Michele Williams, can be previewed here. Greed, it should be noted, exists only as a concept; no actual perfume was produced.

Haunch of Venison gallery in London unveils its new exhibition space in the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens with "Mythologies," Mar. 12-Apr. 29, 2009. The show turns the new space -- 21,500 square feet that was formerly occupied by the British Museum’s ethnographic collections -- into "a giant cabinet of curiosities," featuring works by over 40 artists, from Carlos Amorales and Christian Boltanski to Kiki Smith and Bill Viola. The gallery’s former Mason Yard space is being renovated during the three-year-long residency at Burlington Gardens. For more info, see

In a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the presidential inauguration, the Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art has posted an online exhibition of images of toilets at six museums in Washington. D.C. The photos are by Ira Tattelman, who says, "These toilets have witnessed the back door of history and have done it indiscriminately."

French photographer Marc Riboud has received the lifetime achievement award as part of this year’s Sony World Photography Awards, launched by Sony in 2007. The award ceremony is part of a week-long photo fest in Cannes, Apr. 14-19, 2009, which hosts over 50 exhibitions, as well as seminars, book-signings and other events. For more info, see

The International Association of Art Critics/USA bestows its annual awards honoring artists, museums and curators at the Guggenheim Museum on Mar. 2, 2009. The kudos are distributed by vote of the U.S. chapter of AICA, which now boasts over 400 members. To attend the event, contact

* The award for "best monographic museum show nationally" goes to "Jasper Johns: Gray," organized by curators James Rondeau and Douglas Druick for the Art Institute of Chicago in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Second place goes to "Dali: Painting & Film," which appeared at the Tate Modern, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

* The award for "best thematic museum show nationally" goes to "The Old, Weird America," organized by curator Toby Kamps for the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston. Second place goes to "Declaring Space: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein," organized by Michael Auping at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

* The award for "best monographic museum show in New York City" goes to "Louise Bourgeois," which was organized by Nancy Spector for the Guggenheim Museum in collaboration with curators at Tate Modern and Centre Pompidou. Second place goes to "Martin Puryear," organized by John Elderfield for the Museum of Modern Art.

* The award for "best thematic museum show in New York City" goes to "Action / Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976," which appeared at the Jewish Museum as well as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Second place goes to "Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today," organized by Ann Temkin for the Museum of Modern Art.

* The award for "best show in a commercial gallery in New York City" goes to "Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns" at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, an exhibition conceived by Urs Fischer and Gavin Brown. Second place goes to "Jess: Paintings and Paste-Ups" at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

* The award for best show in a commercial gallery nationally" goes to "James Welling" at Regen Projects in Los Angeles. Second place goes to "Jay Defeo: Applaud the Black Fact" at Nielsen Gallery in Boston.

* The award for best show by a nonprofit gallery or space" goes to "Frederick Kiesler: Co-Realities," organized by Dieter Bogner and Joao Ribas and appearing at the Drawing Center. Second place goes to "Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City," organized by Stephen Pinson at the New York Public Library, Humanities and Social Sciences Library.

* The award for "best show in a university gallery" goes to "Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy," organized by Deborah Rothschild at the Williams College Museum of Art. Second place goes to "New York Cool: Painting and Sculpture from the NYU Art Collection," organized by Pepe Karmel for the Grey Art Gallery, NYU.

* The award for "best show in a public space" goes to "Playing the Building: An Installation by David Byrne," organized by Creative Time and curated by Anne Pasternak. Second place goes to “Mike Nelson: A Psychic Vacuum," organized by Nato Thompson, also for Creative Time.

* The award for "best architecture or design show" goes to "Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe," curated by K. Michael Hays and Dana Miller and appearing at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Second place goes to "Design and the Elastic Mind," organized by Paola Antonelli at the Museum of Modern Art.

* The award for the "best historical show" goes to "Gustave Courbet," organized by Gary Tinterow and Kathryn Calley Galitz for the Metropolitan Museum and the Musée d’Orsay. Second place goes to "Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions," organized by Keith Christiansen and Pierre Rosenberg and appearing at the Metropolitan Museum and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Bilbao.

* The award for the "best exhibition of digital media, video or film" goes to "California Video," organized by Glenn Phillips for the J. Paul Getty Museum. Second place goes to "Fassbinder: Berlin Alexanderplatz," organized by Klaus Biesenbach for the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.

* The award for the "best performance" goes to "Allan Kaprow: 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing)," presented by Performa 07 in cooperation with Haus der Kunst, Munich, at Deitch Studios in Long Island City. The curator was Stephanie Rosenthal. Second place goes to "Waiting for Godot in New Orleans: A Project by Paul Chan," co-produced by Creative Time and the Classical Theatre of Harlem.

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