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Artnet News
Jan. 8, 2008 

Tragedy struck in Orange County on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2007, when police gunned down 25-year-old University of California, Los Angeles graduate Michael Sungman Cho in front of a liquor store in La Habra, Ca. According to the Orange County Register, the shooting followed reports that someone was vandalizing car windows and windshield wipers. Police say that Cho was shot after he refused to drop a tire iron he was holding, turned his back on officers and made a menacing gesture.

A 2005 graduate of the UCLA art program, Cho studied under James Welling, and was said to be preparing for application to graduate school, with his top choice being Yale.  He had studied traditional Korean art, and his current passion was ceramics, according to the UCLA Daily Bruin. Cho’s funeral is planned for Jan. 12, 2008.

About 120 of Cho’s friends, colleagues and family members gathered Saturday night for a candlelight vigil at the spot where he was killed, expressing grief and outrage at the unfortunate turn of events. Community members, some of whom claim to have reviewed footage and video stills of the incident, told the Daily Bruin that the officers used excessive force and called for a full investigation. The police have refused to say how many times Cho was shot.

Though Cho did have a minor police record -- he pled guilty to a DUI in 2006 -- his friends expressed disbelief at the tragedy. "It seems really unlikely that he could be perceived as menacing," Welling told the Orange County Register. "He was always hanging around high-achieving art students."

The tragic incident has an uncanny connection to contemporary art. The Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist gained early attention with her 1997 video, Ever Is Over All, which features a young woman breaking the windows of parked cars with a flower-shaped tire iron. Rist was a visiting professor at UCLA from 2002-2003.

The Czech art collective Ztohoven was honored by the Czech National Gallery in Prague last month as winners of its newly established emerging artist competition, taking home a purse of close to $18,000. Some of that money can go straight towards their legal defense. Known for works that call attention to the power of capitalist media and advertising in the post-Communist Czech Republic, the group was specifically honored for Media Reality, for which they infiltrated a local TV station and spliced footage of a mushroom cloud into a live panoramic shot of mountains in northeast Bohemia. The June 17, 2007, guerrilla art stunt panicked viewers, and has prompted the government to charge the art pranksters with "spreading false information."

"The artists are trying to escape from the cage of art, and into real life," National Gallery director Milan Knizak said, explaining why the institution had honored Media Reality. Knizak’s remarks may prove prophetic -- if found guilty, the members of Zhhoven face up to three years in jail. The fake clip can be viewed online at YouTube.

Artist Terence Koh has stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy with a figure of Christ with an erection, currently on view at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England. Koh’s Christ is one of 74 small plaster-dipped statues of people or objects that are important to the artist, all displayed in vitrines. Titled Gone, Yet Still, the installation also includes replicas of Mickey Mouse, ET and Michelangelo’s David.

Koh’s work is part of a show of selections from the collection of megacollectors Anita and Poju Zabludowicz, titled "When We Build, Let Us Think That We Build Forever," Sept. 21, 2007-Jan. 20, 2008. Other artists in the show are Tracey EminJim Lambie and Banks Violette.

Koh is an old hand at sexualizing religious icons. In 2006, his work Medusa was pulled from the "USA Today" show at London’s Saatchi Gallery because its imagery -- a dozen figures of Christ and Mary with phalluses standing around a urinal -- proved too controversial (another work, featuring a drum kit splattered with semen and insect parts, was also removed). On the other hand, Gone, Yet Still was previously shown in the same form at the Vienna Succession, July 7-Sept. 4, 2005, where it provoked no controversy.

As part of "Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling," July 20-Oct. 20, 2008, the Museum of Modern Art has commissioned five architectural firms to build full-scale prefab houses in the vacant lot west of the museum building on 53rd and 54th street in Midtown Manhattan. The winners:

* Kieran Timberlake Architects of Philadelphia is presenting Cellophane House (2007), made of recycled steel and glass and including photovoltaic cells for off-grid power.  

* Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf of Dornbirn, Austria, whose System 3 (2007) is designed to be stackable for multiple stories and also fit perfectly inside a shipping container for easy transport.

* MIT designer Lawrence Sass, whose House for New Orleans (2006) consists of laster-cut plywood panels that fit together without nails or hinges, and includes filigree based on New Orleans architecture.

* New York City architects Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier, whose Burst *003 (2003) is described as a computer-designed remake of a typical prefab box.

* London architect Richard Horden, whose 76-square-foot, aluminum-clad Micro Compact Home is a cubic dwelling designed as housing for athletes or students. Already in production in Europe, the house is deliverable by helicopter, and features photovoltaic panels and wind turbines for off-grid functioning.

In all, the exhibition includes 64 projects, and examines "factory-produced architecture" for 1833 to today. It is organized by MoMA curators Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen.

Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts, a growing international hotel chain with some 120 properties in 52 countries around the globe, has embraced art in a big way. The hotel has hired Jérôme Sans, cofounder of the avant-garde exhibition space Palais de Tokyo in Paris, as its "cultural curator," in charge of overseeing creative programs at the hotel. For the Le Méridien Sunny Isles Beach in North Miami, for instance, which had its debut last month during Art Basel Miami Beach, Sans tapped artist Sam Samore to provide a special design for the hotel entryway as well as designs for the room key cards. The hotel also boasts a custom-designed scent and a sound piece in the elevators, and offers guests a free tour of the Moore Space in Miami’s design district. For further info, click here.

In recent years, artist Vanessa Beecroft, celebrated for performance events involving troupes of costumed (or barely clothed) fashion models, has turned her focus on the Sudan and the fate of the people there. In 2006, she exhibited photographs taken in the Sudan at Lia Rumma in Milan, and at the 2007 Venice Biennale she did a performance piece involving 30 women called Still Death! Darfur Still Deaf?

Now, Beecroft’s efforts in Africa are the subject of a new feature-length documentary film that premieres at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Titled The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, the movie chronicles Beecroft’s attempt to adopt twin Sudanese orphans, Madit and Mongor Akot. According to New Zealand-based producer and director Pietra Brettkelly, the film follows Beecroft’s difficult 16-month journey with "incredible intimacy and revelation," and "will hopefully provoke further discussion not just on international adoptions but on the license of creatives, of a genius at work, of notions of family." For further details, see

The Guggenheim Museum has long been obscured behind elaborate scaffolding as research on and refurbishment of the famed Frank Lloyd Wright museum building has proceeded. Now, a portion of the renewed facade has been unveiled, just in time for its cameo in The International, a new film from Sony starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts due to be released on Aug. 15, 2008. The section of the scaffolding-free building has been painted with the new light-gray color recently approved by the New York Landmarks Commission. More observation and testing await the structure before the renovation is ruled complete.

Volta, the art fair launched by a trio of young art dealers in Basel in 2005 and purchased last year by the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, now plans to produce a fair in New York City. Corresponding with the Armory Show (which the Merchandise Mart also owns), the new fair is dubbed Volta NY, Mar. 27-30, 2007. Located at 7 West 34th Street, off Fifth Avenue opposite the Empire State Building, Volta NY is organized as a curated show of solo projects under the title "The Eye of the Beholder" by executive director Amanda Coulson and managing director and curatorial advisor Christian Viveros-Fauné. For further details, check  

David and Lee Ann Lester
’s Seafair, the floating art fair housed on a custom-built, $33-million, 228-foot-long yacht, is in mothballs for the winter, according to a report on Bloomberg, and plans to cut the 2008 touring schedule from 44 weeks to 10 or 12. After its launch in September 2007, the yacht, dubbed the Grande Luxe, made a half-dozen stops, in Greenwich, Norwalk, New York City and Miami among other cities. Lester plans to shift the Seafair’s emphasis, according to the report, from a "fine art and antiques" model to one that emphasizes contemporary art. 

Icelandic weather artist Olafur Eliasson has received his first commission for an outdoor public work in the U.S. -- a circular island in a circular pond surrounded by a ring of 24 trees, with a bridge to the island of stone and steel lattice. Dubbed The Parliament of Reality, the $1.2 million work is due to open at the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. The island features smooth boulders for seating, to make it a meeting place, or "parliament." The project is being underwritten by the Luma Foundation, which was founded in 2004 by Maja Hoffman, a curatorial center trustee.

Jeff Koons has made a benefit print edition for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Called Monkey Train (Blue) (2007), the silkscreen features the face of a smiling inflatable money toy against a monochrome blue image of a 19th-century train approaching a crossing. It was produced in an edition of 40 and is priced at $30,000 (of which $5,000 is tax-deductible). (N.b.: the same image is available on a towel at Target for $50.) Koons was selected as the museum’s "artist of the year" in 2007. To order, contact Enid Shapiro at

Emily Tsingou Gallery
in London, which opened in 1998 and has worked with Michael Ashkin, Karen Kilimnik, Justine Kurland, Daniel Pflumm, Jim Shaw, Marnie Weber and other artists, is going private as of March 2008. The dealer plans to publish a book celebrating the gallery’s projects, and do business after March as Emily Tsingou Fine Art.

Add another stop to your Manhattan gallery rounds -- Mountain Fold gallery at 55 Fifth Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, which opens with "Shadows in the Never-Never," Jan. 11-Feb. 29, 2008, a show of works by Antonia Dixon, Sophia Dixon and Megha Gupta. The gallery is overseen by Yu Yamaguchi, who promises to focus on artists whose work "expands beyond traditional mediums." For more info, see

Yekaterina Barbash has been appointed assistant curator of Egyptian Art at the Brooklyn Museum. She had been teaching at NYU and Berkeley College, and was a member of the Johns Hopkins University expedition to the Mut Precinct in Karnak, Egypt, where the Brooklyn Museum also maintains an excavation.

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