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Artnet News
Jan. 9, 2007 

The Los Angeles Times put a spotlight on the arts policy of L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in an article published on Monday, Jan. 7, 2007, painting a picture of an administration happy to celebrate its commitment to the city’s creative community -- though that "commitment" may not translate into much bottom-line support. Titled "A patron at the helm?", the article depicts Villaraigosa as a charismatic politician with a fundamentally opportunistic relation to the arts, perceived to be "always in the spotlight at a cultural event such as a street festival or a pop concert," but "hard to pin down when it comes to spending quality time with arts leaders." In fact, the paper claims that it took its own reporters more than a year to gain a 25-minute audience with Villaraigosa on the subject.

Though megacollector Eli Broad spoke up on Villaraigosa’s behalf, the article cites a long list of L.A. cultural players to the effect that the mayor’s all-talk-no-action policies have left a cultural power vacuum. Among those questioning his record are Cindy Bernard, director of the Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound; Gordon Davidson, founder of the Center Theatre Group; Fred Dewey, artistic director of Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center; Lyn Kienholz, president of the California/International Arts Foundation; and Nicole Possert, co-chair of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition. Also chiming in is Margie Reese, former general manager of the city’s Cultural Affairs department -- incredibly, the L.A. Cultural Affairs post has remained vacant since Reese resigned in June, awaiting a director to put together a $250,000 "master plan" for city arts policy.

Even Villaraigosa’s most significant cultural achievement thus far, getting city funding to save an important David Alfaro Siqueiros mural, seems to have come together only after the project’s co-sponsor, the Getty Trust, expressed frustration as to city hall’s sluggish pace. On another front, the article credits the mayor with spearheading an initiative to play music by local performers to callers while they are on hold to the city’s information system.

Among other tidbits in the Times article: the city contributed exactly zero funds to "Los Angeles 1955-1985," last year’s giant exhibition of L.A. artists at the Pompidou Center in Paris, missing a perfect opportunity to promote the city’s art in Europe; suggestions for the city’s "master plan" include investing in the idea of L.A. as a "mural capital"; L.A. officials are hungry for a public art project to rival Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s The Gates (last year’s Not a Cornfield didn’t do the trick, apparently); and Villaraigosa seems to have spent a good portion of his 25-minute audience convincing the Times reporters of his "patron" status by showing them his suits, describing his recent trip to a Shakira performance ("I go to a lot of concerts," he confided) and playing his personal CD collection in an effort to demonstrate that he can distinguish between Spanish and Arabic beats.

The Los Angeles mayor’s office may dither, but Artfairs, Inc., the company set up by L.A. dealer Stephen Cohen to manage his art fairs, is moving to consolidate a local art-identity. The third annual Art L.A, Jan. 25-28, 2007, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium has more than a few of the city’s hipper galleries among the 50 or so taking part. "This is really an L.A.-centric event," says director Tim Fleming. "It's really a community-building effort -- opening communication lines for the future."

Local exhibitors include Ace, ACME, Christine Argillet, Bamboo Lane, Cherry and Martin, China Art Objects, Chung King Project, Dangerous Curve, de Soto, Destroyer, Honor Fraser, Anna Helwing Gallery, Daniel Hug, Kantor/Feuer Gallery, Kontainer, Sam Lee, Lightbox, Mandarin, Outpost for Contemporary Art, Patrick Painter, David Patton, Peres Projects, RAID, Sister, SolwayJones Gallery, Taylor De Cordoba, 1301PE, TRUDI, Susanne Vielmetter and Western Project.

Special programming includes a Useless Magazine-curated nine-channel video installation from the website, and a lobby installation by Machine Project that plans to fill the space with a series of lectures, performances and events, including, maybe, "something about the relationship between the movie Tron, memetechics, and Gnosticism."

The Los Angeles Art Show follows quickly on Art L.A.’s heels, Jan. 24-28, 2007, featuring a more international roster, alongside L.A. heavy-hitters like Gemini G.E.L., Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Forum Gallery and Louis Stern Fine Arts.

The 52nd International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia, which opens under the directorship of Yale School of Art dean Robert Storr on June 10, 2007, is going to be all about Africa. A special "African Pavilion" is being set up within the Artiglierie building at the Arsenale, with details expected to be announced next week. In late 2005, Storr chaired a four-day conference in Venice under the title, "Where Art Worlds Meet: Multiple Modernities and the Global Salon," which boasted speakers ranging from Paolo Herkenhoff and Gerardo Mosquera to Emily Jacir and Steve McQueen.

In the meantime, artists who are being presented in the national pavilions include Guillermo Kuitca (Argentina), Susan Norrie, Daniel von Sturmer and Callum Morton (Australia), Tracey Emin (Britain), David Altmejd (Canada), David Maljkovic (Croatia), Sophie Calle (France), Isa Genzken (Germany), Aernout Mik (Holland), Steingrímur Eyfjörð (Iceland),  Masao Okabe (Japan), Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Mexico), Willie Doherty (Northern Ireland), Gerard Byrne (Republic of Ireland) and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (United States).  

Despite the outcry against his big sell-off of its art collection, New York Public Library board czar Paul LeClerc has flogged another irreplaceable bit of New York heritage for a few pieces of silver. The library’s nine-foot-tall Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, painted in ca. 1800 and dubbed the Munro-Lenox Portrait after two of its early owners, has been sold to hedge-funder Michael Steinhardt and his wife Judy, according to Carol Vogel in the New York Times.

In keeping with his stonewalling in regard to his squandering the public heritage, LeClerc refused to say what the Steinhardts paid for the picture (it carried an auction estimate of $6 million-$8 million in 2006), though LeClerc did crow that his booty from selling off the library’s art collection now totals $52.8 million (the stone lions out on the steps of the Fifth Avenue headquarters have so far escaped his notice, thankfully). What he plans to do with the dough is also a big secret, though the library did just announce that it had acquired the archives of celebrated drone-singer Meredith Monk for the New York Library for the Performing Arts.

In any case, feeding at the public trough is profitable -- the New York Times recently reported that LeClerc recently gave himself a raise of some $200,000 a year, bringing his compensation to more than $800,000. In the Monk press release, LeClerc is pleased to take the honorific "Dr." -- perhaps better to tend to those who find him a pain in the ass, or worse.

Los Angeles supercollector Dean Valentine and his wife, Amy Adelson, have donated 42 contemporary artworks by 24 artists to the Hammer Museum. Most of the works are sculptures and mixed-media installations made in Southern California in the past decade. The list of artists includes Xavier Cha, Liz Craft, Sam Durant, Hannah Greely, Katie Grinnan, Evan Holloway, Matt Johnson, Nathan Mabry, Jason Meadows, Pentii Monkkonen, Jason Rhoades, Paul Sietsema, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Eric Wesley. Valentine, a TV executive and media investor, recently joined the museum’s trustee board. As for the Hammer Museum, it only recently started building its own collection, and a selection from its new holdings, "Hammer Contemporary Collection," opens there on Jan. 16, 2007.

The Milk Gallery in on West 15th Street in New York’s Chelsea art district -- perhaps better known as the auction room for Phillips, de Pury & Co. -- is the site of a special benefit art auction on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007, featuring works by artists ranging from Ghada Amer and Jeff Koons to Julian Schnabel and Andy Warhol. Phillips auctioneer Brook Hazelton is conducting the sale, which begins at 8 pm, following a cocktail reception that starts at 6 pm. Tickets are $75.

The auction is arranged by Stoked (Successful Teens with Opportunity, Knowledge, Experience and Determination), a nonprofit organization founded by snowboarder Steve Larosiliere to sponsor mentoring relationships between at-risk youth and successful adults in nontraditional sports like surfing, skating and snowboarding. The art auction is organized by William Quigley, an artist and activist. To differentiate itself from other art benefits, Stoked is reserving 40 percent of the art sale price for the donating artists themselves. For details and to register, go to

L.A. Weekly art critic Doug Harvey has a second life as an artist, and is exhibiting his paintings and sculptures in "Great Expectorations," Jan. 13-Feb. 17, 2007, at High Energy Constructs at 900 N. Hill Street in L.A.’s Chinatown district. Described as "a multi-faceted serial piece" that is "simultaneously disturbing and therapeutic," the show is the artist-writer’s first solo since the late 1990s. For details, see

All kinds of artist’s publications that are physically published -- books, vinyl, CDs, catalogues or zines, for instance, but not weblogs or PDF files -- are eligible for the Specific Object Publication of the Year Award 2006, a citation that comes with a $500 cash prize. Previous winners have been Philippe Parreno, Fade to Black (mfc-Michèle Didier) (2006) and Jonathan Monk, Cover Version (Book Works) (2005). For details, see

Jerry Saltz has won the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism for 2007 from the College Art Association. (Saltz seems to be coming into his own, since he recently won citations for his criticism in polls conducted by Time Out NY and the Baer Faxt.) Among the other winners of 2007 CAA awards are Will Barnet (Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Art), Betye Saar (Distinguished Body of Work) and Margot Lovejoy (Distinguished Teacher of Art). The formal announcement of the awards takes place at the CAA’s 95th annual conference in New York, Feb. 14-17, 2007. For details, see

A sign of the end times? It Atlanta, a public sculpture titled Spaceship Earth fell apart last week, just three months after its unveiling. Conceived by Finnish-born sculptor Eino for the campus of Kennesaw State University, the 175-ton sculpture depicted a bronze figure of Sierra Club founder David Brower standing atop a stone globe, and seems to have fallen to pieces after the resin holding it together gave way beneath its weight -- though the artist suspects vandalism.

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