FAIR FEUDS AND FIZZLES
Not all is rosy in the booming international art market. After several years of expansion, the lucrative art-fair business is retrenching, no doubt a result of the glut of fairs as well as fears of a looming global recession. Some examples:
* In 2007, the venerable Art Cologne, demoted to second-tier status thanks to the rise of Frieze, Art Basel Miami Beach and the Armory Show, moved its fair from the fall to spring as part of a scheme to boost its fortunes -- a strategy that fell remarkably flat. Though the post-fair report boasted attendance of 60,000, almost no one who had actually cruised the empty halls of the KölnMesse believed those optimistic figures (which in any case marked a decrease of 10,000 from the previous year). The participating galleries were not happy, and a trio of disgruntled Cologne dealers -- Daniel Buchholz, Christian Nagel and Monika Sprueth -- penned an open letter complaining about the fair’s "bitter loss of status."
The result? Art Cologne has ousted its director of five years, the American Gérard A. Goodrow, who spearheaded the move from October to April. According to a report in Artnet.de, KölnMesse GmbH, the company that owns the franchise, has a successor in mind "with connections to Basel" -- but the names of any candidates remain confidential. As for Goodrow, he had little to say during a hastily organized press conference, other than that his departure was by "mutual agreement."
At present the next installment of Art Cologne is scheduled for Apr. 16-20, 2008, but whether the fair is a permanent fixture of the spring is uncertain. Also uncertain, according to KölnMesse managing director Olvier P. Kuhrt, is the fate of Art Cologne Palma, another Goodrow initiative, which bowed on the vacation island, Sept. 19-23, 2007, and attracted only 8,500 people to its location in Terminal A of the Palma de Mallorca airport. Though the Cologne fair committed to a three-year run in Mallorca, Kuhrt said that cancellation of the event was nevertheless under study. At present, the KölnMesse website still lists the 2008 edition as taking place Sept. 18-21.
* Meanwhile, in Frankfurt, the two-year-old Fine Art Fair Frankfurt has been axed. Last year, fair director Michael Neff attempted to rebrand the event as a curated affair, doing away with walls, allowing only sculptural work to be displayed and inexplicably titling it "Quality Street®," after a line of Nestlé sweets. The eccentricity was bemoaned by participants and mocked by visitors, despite a final report that claimed "120 sculptures, 100 artists, 48 galleries, 12,317 visitors, 411 light cones illuminating the stage, Deutsche Bank, couscous, 208 meters of black curtains" and more. Sales were put at an extremely modest €1.2 million.
* Last but not least, a variety of disputes continue to dog the new ShContemporary fair, launched in Shanghai in 2007 and hailed as the first professionally produced Chinese fair [see "ShConsumer ShConfidence," Sept. 20, 2007]. Most recently, according to Art + Auction’s Simon Hewitt, a nasty spat has broken out between Swiss dealer Pierre Huber, one of the fair’s directors, and Paris gallerist Enrico Navarra. A multifaceted series of accusations include Navarra claiming that Huber hoarded collectors during ShContemporary (Huber counters that he sold no work during the fair), and a feud over a financial stake in 20 Asian artworks the two men partnered to buy at the beginning of 2007, which have been impounded pending resolution of the conflict (both claim to have been cheated by the other), as well as a lawsuit filed by Huber alleging that Navarra improperly provoked French collector Christophe Laurent to break a $20 million contract with him to establish a collection of Asian art.
NEW ARBUS TROVE ON VIEW IN LOS ANGELES
The trove of 27 previously unknown vintage prints by Diane Arbus, made during 1958-63 at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in Times Square, goes on view at Steve Turner Contemporary in Los Angeles, Feb. 9-23, 2008. Among the subjects of the photos are Princess Sahloo, a snake dancer; Lady Estelline Pike, a sword swallower; Buck Nolan, a giant; and William Dirks, a man with no nose and three eyes, who Arbus called "the man from World War Zero." The exhibition also features a wealth of archival material, including vintage handbills of the performers, photographs of the museum by other photographers and notes by Arbus herself. The collection is from the archive of the late Charlie Lucas -- also known as Woofu -- the longtime manager of Hubert’s.
Following its debut in L.A., the show travels to a Düsseldorf museum and then to Phillips, de Pury & Co. in New York, where the prints go on the block on Apr. 8, 2008. Auction estimates have not yet been published, though the record for a single Arbus print is $478,400, set in New York in 2004. The material is consigned by Philadelphia book dealer Bob Langmuir, who bought it from a Brooklyn collector who found the trove in an auction of unclaimed possessions from a Bronx storage warehouse.
DEATH PENALTY ART AT ACFNY
One provocative New York exhibition that somehow passed under our radar -- until now -- is "Under Pain of Death," Jan. 22-May 10, 2007, a group show of works by 25 artists examining the death penalty "as an existentialist phenomenon involving human feelings of fear, hate, anger, revenge, shame, forgiveness and mercy." The exhibition is organized by Gerald Matt and sometime Artnet Magazine columnist Abraham Orden, and appears at the Austrian Cultural Forum at 11 East 52nd Street in Manhattan. The exhibition includes screenings of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 2, Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark and Mr. Death by Errol Morris. For more info, see www.acfny.org
SITE ARTISTS ANNOUNCED
This summer’s installment of SITE Santa Fe, June 22-Oct. 26, 2008, organized by Lance Fung and titled "Lucky Number Seven," has announced its slate of artists. The list of 23 artists is strikingly cosmopolitan, with three hailing from New Mexico -- Eliza Naranjo-Morse, Nora Naranjo-Morse and Rose B. Simpson -- and the rest from points international: Martí Anson, Studio Azzurro, Erick Beltrán, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Michal Budny, Ricarda Denzer, Hiroshi Fuji, Fabien Giraud, Piero Golia, Soun Myung Hong, Bharti Kher, Scott Lyall, Nick Mangan, Ahmet Ögüt, Mandla Reuter, Nadine Robinson, Zbigniew Rogalski, Wael Shawky, Raphaël Siboni and Shi Qing. The show promises to focus on site-specific commissions by emerging artists.
WHITNEY AT ALTRIA CLOSES
At last, a stop on the New York art circuit that you can strike off your list. After 25 years, the Whitney Museum’s satellite space in the corporate headquarters of tobacco giant Altria is shutting its doors on Jan. 29, 2008, today. Amid languishing corporate returns and the spin-off of its European operations into a separate entity, the cigarette manufacturer is consolidating its U.S. operations to Richmond, Va., where it plans to focus more on developing forms of smokeless tobacco and less on cultural philanthropy -- a blow for institutions like the Whitney that have depended on the cigarette-maker’s need for a clean public image. The final show at Altria was fittingly titled "Undone," curated by Howie Chen and Shamin M. Momin [see "Undone at Altria," Oct. 31, 2007]. A book titled Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria: 25 Years, with contributions from Momin and Whitney director Adam Weinberg, is set to be published in the fall.
DAVID ASKEVOLD, 1940-2008
David Askevold, 67, conceptual artist and educator, died peacefully at a hospital in Halifax on Jan. 23, 2008, according to a representative of the artist-run space Art Metropole, where he was a long-time member. Born in Montana, Askevold won the Max Beckmann Scholarship to study at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art in 1963. He went on to receive his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1968. He taught at a variety of venues both in the United States and Canada, including the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where he was credited with designing a radical curriculum that brought conceptual art into the studio program.
As an artist, he was best known for works that merged photos with texts and diagrams, and films that employed and questioned the conventions of documentary. His work was shown internationally, including at the 1977 Documenta in Kassel. Most recently, he had a solo exhibition at Mandarin Gallery in Los Angeles, Mar. 2-21, 2007. An exhibition of his work goes on view at Canada in Manhattan, Feb. 1-Mar. 9, 2008.