OZYMANDIAS AND THE AIC
In 2006, he paid $80 million for a single painting, Jasper Johns’ False Start. He donated $19 million to the Art Institute of Chicago for its new Griffin Court project -- scheduled to open later this year -- and threw in an additional half-million to support the AIC’s show "Jasper Johns: Gray," which toured to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He employs a Ph.D to manage his charity work, and has often been named one of the most important art collectors in the world. He’s Kenneth C. Griffin, and for the foreseeable future he is laboring primarily for what he himself called "psychic income," after his hedge fund, the Chicago-based Citadel Investment Group, was brutally humbled in the current financial turmoil.
A recent New York Times article, "Hedge Funds, Unhinged," notes that Citadel has lost an estimated $10 billion, down 55 percent in 2008, adding that "the whiz kid" -- that would be Griffin -- "has lost so much money that it is unclear whether he can make it all back." Although Griffin’s losses do not affect the AIC expansion, as that donation has already been made, and though Griffin and his wife are probably far from destitute, it does seem unlikely that the couple can continue as a pillar of arts patronage. Still, the fact that the Times story refers to the Griffin Court as "a monument to his riches" can’t help but bring the famous poem by Percy Blythe Shelley to mind:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
SEATTLE CRITIC GOES DOWN WITH THE SHIP
Another month, another art critic shown the door by a major paper. This time it’s Regina Hackett, longtime correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A representative of Hearst Newspapers swung by the paper’s office Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, to tell the staff that, "Journalism is a fabulous profession, but it is a business," and that the paper would be shut down in 60 days, either to close forever or reopen as a greatly reduced online-only service (the heartbreaking footage of the announcement is available here).
"I'm like some demented duckling stuck on this island -- stuck on the P-I -- so if I am forced to do something brave and move on out there, it might be good for me, and I am being forced," Hackett told fellow Seattle critic Jen Graves, who writes for the Stranger. Hackett indicated that she was working on a book about Pacific Northwest art and would continue writing an art blog. Her writing is currently hosted as "Art to Go" on the P-I’s website, and presently features her reflections on Mrs. Lonelyhearts, Nathaniel West’s Depression-era novel about a desperate newspaper columnist. "I mean, there are no jobs for us," Hackett told Graves.
QUEENS GOES INTERNATIONAL
The Queens Museum of Art presents the "Queens International 4," Jan. 24-Apr. 26, 2009, organized by curators José Ruiz and Erin Sickler and presenting works by 42 artists, collaborations and collectives who hail from 18 countries but now live and work in Queens, the most diverse county in the nation (according to the 2000 census). The opening reception takes place on Saturday, Jan. 24, from 6 pm to midnight, and boasts performances by local DJs, artists and BMX pros, and food from Vendy award-winning street food vendors.
Artists in the show are Cara Judea Alhadeff, Heidi Boisvert, Omar Chacón, Corey D'Augustine, Gregory de la Haba, Domenick Di Pietrantonio, Alejandro Diaz, eteam, Lars Fisk, Future Shock, Tommy Hartung, Karolyn Hatton, Daina Higgins, Oded Hirsch, Sin-ying Ho, Ryan Humphrey, Janelle Iglesias, Lisa Iglesias, Darren Jones, Cecilia Jurado, Jayson Keeling, Las Hermanas Iglesias, Ha Na Lee, Jia-Jen Lin, Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, Yasue Maetake, Derick Melander, Brendan Mulcahy, Kirsten Nash, Kymia Nawabi, SP Weather Station, Okamoto Studio, Jonas Olson and Carol Pereira, Douglas Paulson and the Anti-Fascist Culture Club, Justine Reyes, Jaye Rhee, Dario Solman, Tim Thyzel, Nicole Tschampel, Jovan Villalba, Chin Chih Yang and Amy Yoes.
"FASHIONING FELT" AT COOPER-HEWITT
This winter, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum presents "Fashioning Felt," Mar. 6-Sept. 7, 2009, a survey of more than 70 contemporary objects made of the ancient material, from clothes and textiles to furniture and applied arts. The show, which is organized by Cooper-Hewitt curator Susan Brown, features site-specific installations by Janice Arnold, who is crafting a palace yurt in the museum conservatory, and Claudy Jongstra, who is making two semicircular environments out of felt made from wool from her own herd of sheep. Works by Christine Birkel, Tom Dixon, Gaetano Pesce, Søren Ulrick Petersen, Yeohlee Teng and Andrea Zittel are also included.
Also on tap for March 2009 is a display of selections from the museum collection made by Shahzia Sikander, in the ninth installment of the series in which guest-curators fashion exhibitions from the Cooper-Hewitt’s storerooms.
STEVE MCQUEEN AT VENICE BIENNALE
Provocative film artist Steve McQueen has been selected to represent Great Britain at the 53rd Venice Biennale, June 7-Nov. 22, 2009. The exact nature of of McQueen's project for the British pavilion is being kept under wraps. His first feature film, Hunger (2007), a sympathetic treatment of Bobby Sands and the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike, has won 23 awards, including the Camera d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
"291" AT WINTER ANTIQUES SHOW
One definite highlight of the Winter Antiques Show, Jan. 23-Feb. 1, 2009, at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, is the recreation of photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s pioneering 291 gallery in the booth of Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Fine Photographs. Opened in 1905 at 291 Fifth Avenue, and originally called the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, 291 specialized in the then-cutting-edge Pictorialist photography by Edward Steichen, Gertrude Kasebier, Clarence White and Stieglitz himself, and later showed important modern painters, often for the first time in the U.S., such as Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso.
The Kraus gallery reproduction of 291 features olive-gray burlap on the walls and replicas of the original lighting fixtures, as well as Steichen’s signature symbolist nude, Little Round Mirror (1902), and his 1904 portrait of William Merritt Chase. The installation marks Kraus’ debut at the Winter Antiques Show as well as the gallery’s own 25th anniversary.
JEHSONG BAAK AT RWFA
Rick Wester, the photo expert who has organized photo auctions for Christie’s, Phillips de Pury & Co. and most recently Bloomsbury in New York, launched his own art services company, Rick Wester Fine Arts, in September 2007. Currently RWFA is featuring "Jehsong Baak: Là ou Ailleurs," Dec. 18-Feb. 21, 2009, an exhibition of works by the Korean-American photographer who lives in Paris. Esthetic kin to works by Robert Frank and Josef Koudelka, Jehsong Baak’s photos were published in a 2006 monograph, Là ou Ailleurs, by Robert Delpire. RWFA is at 511 West 25th Street, Suite 205. For more info, see rickwesterfineart.com
EXPANSION AT TEFAF MAASTRICHT
A record number of dealers are participating in the tony TEFAF Maastricht art fair, Mar. 13-22, 2009, now in its 22nd edition in the Dutch border town. A dozen new exhibitors are taking part, increasing the number from 227 in 2008 to 239 this year. New exhibitors include Ben Brown Fine Arts (London), Galerie Kicken (Berlin), Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Fine Photographs (New York), Kukje Gallery / Tina Kim Gallery (New York) and Daniella Luxembourg Fine Art (London).
TEFAF Maastricht has also jumped on the design bandwagon, with a special section called "TEFAF Design." Exhibitors include Sebastian + Barquet (New York), Galerie Ulrich Fiedler (Berlin), L’Arc en Seine (Paris), Galerie Eric Philippe (Paris) and Bel Etage Kunsthandel (Vienna). For more info, see www.tefaf.com.
GIFTS TO THE GETTY
The J. Paul Getty Museum acquired more than 500 new photographs in 2008. The new acquisitions include classic images by Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide, as well as eight color photographs by Carrie Mae Weems (courtesy collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser); photojournalistic works by Esther Bubley and Alfred Eisenstaedt (from Leo and Nina Pircher); and two photographs from the "Peking Opera" series by Chinese contemporary star Liu Zheng (from Dale and Doug Anderson). The Getty also received what it describes as "an unusual offering" of 100 pieces of historic photographic equipment from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Fishfader. The latter, according to a press release, "will be exhibited when appropriate."
"POSTCARDS" BENEFIT RAISES $75,000
The 11th annual Postcards from the Edge benefit for Visual AIDS held at Metro Pictures gallery in New York, Jan. 9-10, 2009, raised $75,000 for the cause. More than 1,600 artists from around the world contributed postcard-sized artworks, which were sold for $75 each on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more info, see the Visual AIDS blog here.
SOVEREIGN ART PRINTS ONLINE
Limited-edition prints are now available online of the winning works in the 2008 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. These include painter Chow Chun Fai’s image Once a Thief, which took the $25,000 grand prize, an enamel-on-canvas work depicting a still from a Chinese movie of two men inspecting an art catalogue, with subtitles in Chinese and English reading "Any self-respecting thief would be proud to steal that painting." Produced in an addition of 33, the work is £1,500. The Foundation -- founded in 2003 by the Sovereign Group, which specializes in providing offshore accounting services to wealthy clients -- has also published a book chronicling five years of the Asian Art Prize, offered for £30 at their website.
DANNY SIMMONS TO NYSCA
Danny Simmons has joined the 18-person board of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), according to a joint announcement of governor David Paterson and the state senate. A painter (and the brother of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons), Simmons is co-founder of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. NYSCA supports the arts through a broad program of grants in New York, funded through the state and the National Endowment for the Arts.
MARY HAMBLETON, 1952-2009
Mary Hambleton, 56, Brooklyn-based artist whose works on panel combined abstract and figurative elements to express concerns of survival and extinction, died of cancer on Jan. 9. Despite being diagnosed with advanced melanoma in 2002, Hambleton continued to exhibit and teach, receiving several grants as well as a fellowship to Ballinglen Foundation in Ireland. She taught at Parsons School of Design since 1991, and exhibited during the ‘90s at Pamela Auchicloss Gallery. Her most recent show of new paintings was at Lesley Heller in New York in 2007.
JUDITH HOFFBERG. 1934-2009
Judith Hoffberg, 74, art librarian and archivist who published Umbrella, a newsletter that reflected her optimistic love for artists’ books, mail art and Fluxus, died at her home in Santa Monica on Jan. 16. She had acute myeloid leukemia. Her work as an art librarian took her to posts at the Library of Congress as well as at libraries at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California at San Diego, the Brand Library in Glendale, Ca., and the Smithsonian Institution. In 1973 she co-founded the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS), and launched Umbrella in 1978. A lifetime member of the "alternative" division of the art world, Hoffberg organized many exhibitions, including "Artwords & Bookworks" at LAICA in 1978, and "Art & Society: Bookworks by Women" in 1981 at Beyond Baroque in Venice, Ca. During her many travels she also assembled what she called "a huge collection of umbrelliana." For more on Umbrella, click here.