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Artnet News
Oct. 11, 2005 

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s pagan cathedral at the 51st Venice Biennale, June 12-Nov. 6, 2005, has proved to be a little too risqué for some Italian Catholics. One of the triumphs of the biennale, Rist’s installation, titled Homo Sapiens Sapiens, is a four-channel video of naked, gamboling nymphs projected onto the entire vaulted ceiling above the nave of the Chiesa di San Stae near the Grand Canal. Not long after the work debuted, a group of 45 Catholics lodged a protest with the Pope, the Venice patriarchs and the media, saying that showing naked bodies inside a church was unacceptable.

Last month, the parish priest, Father Aldo Marangoni, shut down the exhibition without explanation or further discussion. The move seems all the more impulsive since the Swiss Federal Office for Culture has rented the church for use for cultural projects since 1988, and also helped finance its restoration. Swiss cultural officials argued that Rist’s use of nudity respects church teachings and that, like the work of Masaccio in Florence and Michelangelo in Rome, it depicts paradise before the fall.

You, too, can play a small part in the next Whitney Biennial. People are invited to Wollman Rink in Central Park on Oct. 14, 2005, to watch French artist Pierre Huyghe film a musical about a journey to Antarctica in search of a mysterious albino penguin. Titled A Journey that Wasn’t, the film includes footage of Huyghe’s trip to Antarctica last winter with several artists and collaborators, including Aleksandra Mir and Xavier Veilhan.

For the show at Wolman Rink, an orchestra recreates the experience of their adventure, during which "the albino penguin might appear." The project is a collaboration with composer Joshua Cody and soloist Elliott Sharp, and premieres in the 2006 Biennial; the event is organized by former Public Art Fund director Tom Eccles in collaboration with biennial curators Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne, and is underwritten by Deutsche Bank. It kicks off at 6:30 pm; for details, see

Indiana-born New York artist Melissa Martin (b. 1975) has found an interesting way to deal with her ambivalence towards her father, not to mention the question of cannibalism -- she’s reproduced him as if he had been butchered like a side of beef, with the choice steaks, roasts and sweetmeats all laid out for sale in a supermarket freezer. What’s more, she’s made the ersatz cuts of meat, which are wrapped in cellophane on Styrofoam trays, out of multicolored bubble gum (as if this were all kid’s play?) that she mixed in an industrial mixer. Each package is priced for sale, from $11 for a wrist bone to $200 for a leg roast.

The work is the result of Art in General’s new commissions program, which funds proposals for challenging new works by young artists. Martin’s "Father" is on view at the Tribeca gallery, Oct. 1-Dec. 17, 2005, as are two other commissioned works, "After Before" by Sharon Hayes and "The Experiential Project" by Lee Walton. For details, see

After months of suspense, the Tate in London has unveiled Rachel Whiteread’s installation in its huge Turbine Hall entry space -- a gigantic labyrinth made of 14,000 white polyethylene casts of the inside of different cardboard boxes, stacked up into huge piles. Called Embankment, Oct. 11-Apr. 2, 2005, the work is "100 percent recyclable," according to Whiteread, and is to be dismantled rather than sold. The Tate has 21 works by the artist in its collection, and also offers a notable stop-action film of the set-up of two Whiteread works -- sorry, they’re from 2001, rather than the present installation -- on its website.

Hedge-fund billionaire and budding art collector Steven A. Cohen has spent $110 million to buy Vincent van Gogh’s Peasant Woman against a Background of Wheat (1890) and Paul Gauguin’s Bathers (1902) from Las Vegas casino mogul Stephen A. Wynn, according to a story by Carol Vogel in the New York Times. The sale was brokered by Manhattan dealer William Acquavella. According to the Times, Cohen has spent more than $400 million on art in the past five years, including $52 million for a Jackson Pollock drip painting, $25 million for Andy Warhol’s Superman, $16.5 million for a Francis Bacon painting and $8 million for Damien Hirst’s famous shark in a tank of formaldehyde.

The New Museum has appointed Laura Hoptman as curator. She joins chief curator Richard Flood, another recent hire. Hoptman was formerly a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and organized the 2004-05 "Carnegie International Exhibition" at the Carnegie Museum. The New Museum has also broken ground for its new 60,000-square-foot, seven-story museum facility, designed by Tokyo architects Sejima and Nishizawa/SANAA, at 235 Bowery in lower Manhattan, which is scheduled to be completed in 2007.

While Angelinos speculate about the intentions of supercollector Eli Broad towards the rudderless Los Angeles County Museum of Art, UCLA has gone ahead and announced the new Edythe L. and Eli Broad Center, designed by Richard Meier and set to open on May 20, 2006. Built with $23.2 million from the Broads, the new facility houses the art department, the design and media arts department and the New Wright Gallery. Inaugural activities include an exhibition of works by John Baldessari, Jennifer Bolande, Roger Herman, Mary Kelly, Paul McCarthy, Catherine Opie, Lari Pittman, Charles Ray, James Welling and other faculty members, as well as the unveiling of an untitled torqued ellipse sculpture by Richard Serra. The original building was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Artist and activist Joy Garnett, who keeps the popular NEWSgrist blog, has launched a new project -- the Visual AIDS >blog, developed for Visual AIDS, the New York-based nonprofit AIDS advocacy organization for artists. Blog posts range from exhibition announcements to articles and more.

This year’s Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge benefit, in which hundreds of postcard-sized artworks go on sale for $50, is slated for Robert Miller Gallery on West 26th Street in Chelsea. Admission to the Oct. 16 preview party, 6-8 pm, is $50; the actual sale, for which admission is free, is slated for Oct. 17-18, 2005.

The Frieze Art Fair has initiated a new award for young artists, who are invited to propose a work to be realized at the 2006 installment of the London fair. Dubbed the Cartier Award, the prize comes with production costs of £10,000, an artist’s fee of £1,000, per diems and travel expenses up to £3,000, and a three-month residency, including living quarters and studio space, at the Delfina Studio Trust, Aug. 1–Oct. 31, 2006. The prize is underwritten by Cartier and the Delfina Studio Trust; the selection committee is Fondation Cartier director Hervé Chandes, Delfina Studio Trust studio director Karin Eklund, artist Roman Ondák and Frieze Projects curator Polly Staple. Artists who are within five years of qualifying for a BA/MA or equivalent are invited to apply via the Frieze website; application deadline is Jan. 6, 2006.

Brit bad-girl art star Tracey Emin, already a columnist for the London Independent, has now published her rags-to-riches autobiography at greater length. Titled Strangeland, the 288-page hardback is a combination memoir-confession that chronicles her youth as a "princess" living in a family hotel in Margate, her promiscuous teen years and her subsequent rise to fame in the art world. The tale covers her winning eccentricity -- "I try to be as on time as I can, I try to be as respectful, as truthful, all these things," she writes, "and the result still comes out disheveled, bruised, crooked, not right" -- and her efforts to straighten herself out (according to Martin Gayford, writing in the Telegraph, Emin has given up cigarettes, coffee and alcohol, and learned to drive). The book is published in London by Hodder & Stoughton; the price is £14.99.

Thomas Erben Gallery, formerly on West 20th Street in Chelsea, inaugurates its new space on the fourth floor at 526 West 26th Street with an installation by Senga Nengudi opening on Oct. 20, 2005.

Suite 106, the gallery founded on the Upper West Side by Irena Popiashvili and Marissa Newman, has changed its name to Newman Popiashvili Gallery and moved from its SoHo space to 504 West 22nd Street, where it opens with "Portable Living" by Jaye Moon on Oct. 15, 2005.

-- contact wrobinson @