"RUSSIA!" PUFFS PUTIN: CRITIC
The first indispensable read of 2006 for art lovers is Jamey Gambrell's cutting article on "Russia!" at the Guggenheim Museum in the New York Review of Books issue dated Jan. 12, 2006. According to Gambrell, a contributing editor of Art in American magazine and a long-time Russian art-world hand, the show -- featuring 275 objects, and on view till Jan. 11, 2006 -- is "well worth seeing" but also very much "an affair of state," designed to rehabilitate Russia's grim Cold War reputation and cast Russian president Vladimir Putin in an enlightened role as cultural emissary. Especially misleading, Gambrell says, is the presentation of material from the 1940s to the present, which tends to blur the distinction between state-supported artists and those who worked underground.
The exhibition is sponsored by Vladimir Potanin, a Guggenheim trustee and perhaps the richest man in Russia, according to Gambrell, whose foundation is careful to avoid supporting "the civil society initiatives or human rights groups" that landed fellow oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail. "The patrons and sponsors of 'Russia!' were no doubt pleased," she concludes. "Those concerned about the accurate presentation of art and history, which should be the Guggenheim Museum's mission, will feel differently."
REEBOK GETS BASQUIAT
The estate of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has entered into a multi-year agreement with Reebok to produce a new collection of shoes as well as a new global ad campaign. The new shoe, dubbed Reeboppers and designed by Maharishi of London, features the late artist's favorite colors -- black, red and white -- as well as his trademark crown logo. The shoe is priced at $140 and due in stores at any moment; more designs may be forthcoming as well. Reebok's "I Am What I Am" campaign is including Basquiat along with other celebrities, including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Allen Iverson and Christina Ricci. The deal was promoted by David Stark, president of the brand licensing agency Artestar and agent for the Basquiat estate.
GELDZAHLER FILM DEBUTS IN NEW YORK
Filmmaker Peter Rosen's Who Gets to Call It Art? is an 80-minute long documentary film about the legendary art-world figure Henry Geldzahler, the Metropolitan Museum's first contemporary art curator who later was appointed New York's commissioner of cultural affairs. Among the artists holding forth on Geldzahler, who died at age 59 in 1994, are Francesco Clemente, Mark di Suvero, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Larry Poons, James Rosenquist and Frank Stella, among others. The film is slated for a two-week engagement at Film Forum in lower Manhattan, Feb. 1-14, 2006.
Another top Manhattan art dealer has fallen in Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau's long-running investigation of sales-tax evasion in the art and jewelry businesses [see Artnet News, Oct. 5, 2004 and July 27, 2004]. According to a press release from the DA's office, gallery owner Helen Fioratti and L'Antiquaire and the Connoisseur, Inc., located at 36 East 73rd Street in Manhattan, have pleaded guilty to failing collect sales taxes between 1999 and 2004.
"On numerous occasions," according to Morgenthau's press release, "Fioratti and the corporation sent worthless items, like catalogues, to out of state addresses to create records making it appear that the art itself was shipped out of state, all the while allowing the customers to have the actual works sent to their residences within New York." Fioratti has agreed to pay back taxes and penalties totaling $635,083.40, plus a fine of $15,000.DRAWING CENTER TO SOUTH STREET SEAPORT?
After being chased away from a proposed new museum at Ground Zero, the Drawing Center now plans to move to the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, a site that is rich in tourists and mass-market retailers like the Gap, but sparse when it comes to art traffic. According to a report in the New York Times, the nonprofit organization plans to build a new, 23,500-squre-foot structure just north of the seaport on a site currently occupied by a fish-market shed. The Drawing Center has been promised up to $10 million by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; the new facility is expected to cost up to five times that amount. RAIN DELAY FOR NEW L.A. ART SPACE
Torrential rains in southern California have pushed back the prospective opening date of the new Los Angeles nonprofit art space LA><ART from late January to Mar. 18, 2006. "The water penetrated the building," said LA><ART director Lauri Firstenberg, "so we have to do more work on the exterior." Firstenberg, who formerly was director of Artists Space in New York, is opening with an exhibition by Daniel Joseph Martinez titled "How I Fell in Love with My Dirty Bomb (Opium des Volks) Flesh Eating Prosthetics (Phagocitage des Prosthese)," Mar. 18-Apr. 29, 2006. Designed by L.A. architect Peter Zellner, the gallery is located at 2640 S. La Cienega Boulevard, near Kim Light's Lightbox and Blum & Poe galleries, among other commercial spaces. LA><ART's first exhibition is underwritten by Linda Pace, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, the Danielson Foundation, E-flux, Art Papers and X-tra. For more info, see www.laxart.org. RILEY TO MIAMI
Terence Riley has been appointed new director of the Miami Art Museum, succeeding Suzanne Delehanty, who resigned after 11 years on the job. Riley had been architecture and design curator at the Museum of Modern Art until he suddenly announced his resignation, effective this coming March. Speculation that Riley might be hankering to enlarge his own architectural practice isn't completely wrong -- he'll be overseeing MAM's new $200-million, 125,000-square-foot facility on Biscayne Bay. CURATORIAL APPOINTMENTS
Laurie E. Barnes has been named curator of Chinese art at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. Barnes currently heads the Asian art department at the Detroit Institute of Art, a post she has held for 16 years. . . . Simon Kelly has become associate curator of European painting and sculpture at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Kelly was most recently a curatorial fellow at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
-- contact wrobinson @ artnet.com