MUSEUM SELLS ART, DIRECTOR RESIGNS
The truism used to be that death and divorce brought great artworks to auction. These days, it seems, all you need is a college with money troubles. The trustees of Randolph College, a formerly women-only institution in Lynchburg, Va., has voted to auction off four major works from its Maier Museum of Art to raise funds for what is called a dwindling endowment. The works are George Bellows’ Men of the Docks (1912) -- described by many as the centerpiece of the collection -- as well as Edward Hicks’ A Peaceable Kingdom, Ernest Hennings’ Through the Arroyo and Rufino Tamayo’s Troubadour. The paintings are slated to go on the block at Christie’s New York in November, and could sell for more than $30 million, according to the college.
Opponents of the move say the college has plenty of money -- an endowment of $153 million for a student body of 665 people -- but is being mismanaged by the current administration, headed by president John E. Klein. A group calling itself Preserve Educational Choice (PEC), representing more than 1,000 concerned alumnae, students, parents, faculty, staff and former trustees of the college, has petitioned against the administration’s policies, including its attempts to sell off artwork. In a legal battle that is still pending, a group of 11 people associated with the Maier Museum has sought to block the college’s attempt to challenge the terms Louise Jordan Smith Trust, which currently bar the school from selling 36 of the works of art in the collection (the four being sold were not part of the Trust).
After the trustees voted to sell the paintings at a formal meeting on Monday, Oct. 1, 2007, Maier Museum of Art director Karol Lawson resigned in protest. According to reports, the college had art handlers accompanied by local police remove the four artworks from the museum without notifying Lawson, provoking the resignation. Ellen Agnew, the museum’s associate director, and Laura Katzman, head of Randolph’s art department, had previously resigned as part of the ongoing controversy.
A Randolph College spokesperson said that the school had to move quickly to remove the works because of deadlines for the upcoming auction and its catalogue -- yet such unseemly haste suggests that the trustees had previously decided to sell the works. "There was no doubt that the decision was a cursory one," PEC’s Jennifer Berkowitz told Artnet News. "It’s difficult to believe that they voted in the morning and already had the stuff shipped by the afternoon."
Lucy Hooper, president of the Randolph board of trustees, told the Lynchburg News & Advance that the outcome of the November auction at Christie’s would determine whether the college decided to try to sell off more of the Maier Museum’s collection.JUDGE: FLOWERS WERE ART
Artist Chapman Kelley has won a dispute with the Chicago Park District in federal court, in a case that bears on what can be classified as a work of art under the law. The piece at issue was Wildflower Works I by Kelley, a "living painting" created in 1984 and consisting of 66,000 square feet of flowers in Grant Park’s Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The city cleared away half of the work in 2004 as part of the development for the nearby Millennium Park, and Kelley sued for $10 million in damages, plus legal fees, insisting that the piece was protected under the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), which requires that artists be notified 90 days before a change is made to their works.
For its part, the Chicago parks department claimed that a field of flowers is a constantly changing entity that cannot be copyrighted, and was therefore not subject to protection under VARA. At trial, Kelley pointed out on the stand that even traditional paintings change over the years, while appraiser Jane C.H. Jacob saw fit to quote Andy Warhol’s statement that "art is anything you can get away with." According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Kelley’s lawyer Frank Hernandez claims that the ruling is the first time an artist using "alternative materials" has won a VARA suit.
Judge David H. Coar has yet to determine damages in the case -- but a plant-expert who spoke at the trial estimated the worth of the flowers in Wildflower Works I alone at $1.5 million.
NAN GOLDIN IN ELTON JOHN CONTROVERSY
Rocker and photo collector Sir Elton John has closed an exhibition of a suite of photographs he owned by Nan Goldin after police confiscated one image that they said might violate child pornography laws. Titled "Thanksgiving," the show features 149 photographs taken by the American photographer between 1973 and 1999. The exhibition was scheduled at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England, Sept. 21, 2007-Jan. 20, 2008. The disputed work, Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing (1998), depicts two naked girls, one of whom is sitting on the floor with her legs spread. Local police are holding the photograph, and waiting to determine whether it violates any legal standards.
(A version of the disputed image was sold for $3,000 at a Sotheby's New York "Modern and Contemporary Art" sale on Feb. 12, 2004, beating its $2,000 high estimate.)
VAL KILMER IN UKLANSKI FILM
Artist Piotr Uklanski’s first film, Summer Love (2006) -- which he wrote and directed and calls "the first Polish Western" -- goes on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Oct. 17-Dec. 9, 2007. The 93-minute movie stars Polish leading man Boguslaw Linda as the Sheriff, Czech art-house actor Karel Roden as the Stranger, Polish stage and screen star Katarzyna Figura as the Woman -- and one-time Batman Val Kilmer as the Wanted Man. For more, see www.summerlovefilm.com
Visual artists are invited to participate in Visual AIDS’ tenth annual "Postcards from the Edge" benefit, to be held at James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2007. The 4 x 6 in. artworks, signed on the back only, are sold anonymously for $75 on a first-come, first-served basis. For complete details, click here.
NO GO ON ATHENEUM EXPANSION
Four years ago, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., scrapped plans for a $100-million new building by Dutch design firm UN Studio, settling instead on a more modest, $15-million expansion into the nearby Hartford Times building. Now, this revised plan too is "all but dead," according to an article in the Hartford Courant, and the institution is trying to get out of the 99-year lease it signed for the property with the state government. The backpedaling is the result of financial pressures -- the Atheneum ran a deficit of $284,062 in the most recent fiscal year, and the expansion into the new building was expected to cost an extra $250,000 to $300,000 yearly in operating expenses alone. Other factors in the pull-back include the uncertainty following the departure of longtime Atheneum director Willard Holmes.
The Times building is now slated to be incorporated into a mixed retail-residential project by developer Bradley Nitkin, according to a representative of Connecticut’s Capital City Economic Development Authority.
VILLAREAL AT BAM NEXT WAVE
The Brooklyn Academy of Art is accompanying its celebrated "Next Wave" festival of avant-garde music and performance with an art exhibition, "Next Wave Art," Oct. 4-Dec. 16, 2007. Organized by New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center curator Dan Cameron, the show includes works by Bradley Castellanos, James Esber, Yu-Sheng Ho, Dominic McGill, Jean Shin, and perhaps most notably, Leo Villareal, who has been commissioned to design a special LED installation in the windows of BAM’s building. Titled Stars, a preview of the work can be seen here by readers with Quicktime.
VEZZOLI STARS AT PERFORMA GALA
The premiere of artist Francesco Vezzoli’s Right You Are (If You Think You Are) is the lure for the benefit for Performa07, the Second Biennial of New Visual Art Performance on Oct. 27, 2007. A $1,000 ticket gets art lovers a benefit dinner at Jeanne Greenberg’s Salon 94 gallery at 8 pm and a VIP seat at the one-night-only Vezzoli performace at the Guggenheim Museum at 10 pm. For tickets, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artist and Zingmagazine publisher Devon Dikeou doesn’t only hang out at sports events when she visits her hometown of Denver, Colo. -- she also organizes exhibitions. Her latest effort in that regard, "Muniz: Remastered," Oct. 4, 2007-Jan. 20, 2008, opens at the Museo de las Américas, Denver’s museum of contemporary Latin American art headed by Patty Ortiz. The show feature’s Muniz’s interpretations of famous works by Corot, Dürer, Rembrandt and other masters in a range of unlikely materials -- chocolate, sequins, junk, peanut butter and jelly.
CYANOTYPES FROM JO ANDRES
Veterans of the downtown New York art scene will remember Jo Andres, who was celebrated for quirky and kinetically witty dance performances. Now, Andres -- who is married to actor Steve Buscemi, another downtown veteran -- is exhibiting her new photographs at the Raintree Gallery in High Falls, N.Y. Done using the cyanotype process, the pictures feature images of dolls and toys. "Darkness & Delight," as it is titled, goes on view Oct. 6-Dec. 18, 2007. For more info, see www.joandres.com
The Louise T. Blouin Foundation, set up by Louise T. Blouin MacBain to explore "the creative potential of the human brain," has presented its Blouin Awards for 2007 to opera singer Renee Fleming, artist Jeff Koons, architect Richard Meier, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the president of Iceland.
EUGENIE TSAI TO BROOKLYN
Eugenie Tsai has been appointed curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum. She had been curator at the Whitney Museum and director of curatorial affairs at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. She was co-curator of the 2004 Robert Smithson retrospective, and organized a survey of work by Byron Kim, among other shows.
AMY LIPTON TO FIELDS SCULPTURE PARK
Amy Lipton has been named director of the 300-acre Fields Sculpture Park at the Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, N.Y. A former New York art dealer, Lipton has been co-director of Ecoartspace and for the past three years has been curator of the Abington Art Center and Sculpture Park in suburban Philadelphia.
WILLIAM ZIMMER, 1946-2007
William Zimmer, 61, art critic who wrote first for Arts Magazine and the SoHo Weekly News and then for regional issues of the New York Times, died of cancer in New York City on Sept. 28. He taught at LaGuardia Community College in Manhattan, and recently organized an exhibition of the artist John Kingerlee. In his honor, the William Zimmer Prize in Art Criticism has been established; for details, see www.zimmerprize.org.