ECONOMIC MELTDOWN AS ART
The trouble-making artist duo of Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese (aka Ligorano/Reese), known for such visual artistry as creating mug shots portraying members of the George W. Bush administration, is weighing in on the current economic crisis. On Oct. 29, 2008, the team plans to set up in front of the courthouses in Foley Square in downtown Manhattan and stage what they are calling a "literal meltdown of the economy." And they do mean "literal" -- the artists are proposing to spell out the word "ECONOMY" in letters carved out of 1,500 pounds of ice, which they will then let slowly melt.
We don’t quite know whether to hope the sun shines or not. Ligorano/Reese, who have shown both at New York’s Jim Kempner Fine Art and Michele Mosko Fine Art in Denver, gained some notoriety earlier this year when they staged a similar performance during the Democratic and Republican conventions, allowing ice sculptures of the word "DEMOCRACY" to melt. More information on their upcoming performance is at www.mainstreetmeltdown.com
NO ART AT SÃO PAULO BIENAL?
"Why aren’t you on your way to the São Paulo Bienal," someone asked the New York-based Brazilian media artist Solange Fabião at the grand opening of the Chanel Mobile Art pavilion in Central Park. "Because there’s no art there!" she answered, bluntly enough. In truth, the 28th Bienal de São Paulo, Oct. 26-Dec. 6, 2008, under the direction of chief curator Ivo Mesquita and the title of "In Living Contact," has dispensed with the typical biennial task of surveying contemporary art. Instead, the event promises a critical investigation of "the culture and system of biennials within the international art circuit," reducing the number of participating artists and "diversifying activities in the exhibition space."
This time around, the four-story biennial pavilion includes on its ground floor a "public square" inspired by a 1953 design by architect Oscar Niemeyer, a space densely scheduled with performances, cinema and discussions. The second floor, typically divided into galleries, is this year being left open and stripped down, to "offer visitors a physical experience of the building’s architecture" -- a "space in which everything exists in a full and active process of becoming." On the third floor is a video lounge showing both historical art vids as well as tapes of proceedings taking place elsewhere at the biennial. Also on tap: a complete library of catalogues of biennial exhibitions around the world -- funny, we have one of those, which has proven to be all but obsolete in the digital era -- not to mention the Arquivo Histórico Wanda Svevo, a repository of the Sao Paulo Bienal’s own history.
Some artists are participating, specifically those who work "on the borderline between reality and fiction, between the creation of documents and instituted truths, between personal memory and collective history." On the list are Marina Abramovic, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Vasco Araújo, Nicol Assaël, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Sarnath Banerjee, Erick Beltrán, Mabe Bethônico, Leya Mira Brander, Fernando Bryce, Rodrigo Bueno, Sophie Calle, Mircea Cantor, Iran do Espírito Santo, Andela Ferreira, Fischerspooner, Peter Friedl, Israel Galván, Goldin + Senneby, O Grivo, Carsten Höller, Mauricío Ianês, Joan Jonas, Armin Linke, Dora Longo Bahia, Cristina Lucas, Rubens Mano, Allan McCollum, Joäo Modé, Matt Mullican, Carlos Navarrete, Rivane Neuenschwander, Javier Peñafiel, Alexander Pilis, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Nicolás Robbio, Joe Sheehan, Gabriel Sierra, Valeska Soares, Los Super Elegantes, Vibeke Tandberg, and Carla Zaccagnini. As for which artists are represented only by video, that remains unclear.
$69 MILLION FROM ELIASSON’S WATERFALLS?
The spectacle of Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls, the Icelandic weather artist’s controversial group of four man-made waterfalls in New York harbor on the East River, came to an end, Oct. 13, 2008. However, the administration of NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has wasted no time in spreading the news that the project was a phenomenal economic success, trumpeting that it made the city an estimated $69 million, above the initial projection of $55 million.
After the unforeseen environmental side effects of the project forced it to operate on partial hours [see Artnet News, Aug. 28, 2008], the city’s official press release strains to accentuate the positive. For skeptics, this makes for some humorous reading, as when the report stresses that "90% of the installations’ construction materials. . . will be re-used in other construction projects," or touts the number of YouTube videos (200!) and Flickr photos (6,000!) about the Waterfalls as evidence of its runaway success.
More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that the report counts the entire $15.5 million cost of Eliasson’s artwork as part of the revenue generated by the project, a convenient assumption that essentially renders the entire endeavor as pure profit. While only $2 million of those costs were covered by the city and state, via the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (a "joint State-City corporation"), the rest was raised as nonprofit donations by the Public Art Fund, including a hefty portion from the mayor’s own namesake company Bloomberg LP.
Furthermore, the remaining Waterfalls revenue comes in two rather opaque categories: $26.3 million in "incremental visitor spending" and another $26.8 million in "indirect spending from these expenditures" (spending on the spending?). Apparently, tourist traffic increased, notably on the ferries and in Lower Manhattan. According to the report, 1.4 million people saw the project -- based on "visitor counts and surveys" done by the consulting firm Audience Research & Analysis -- though only a comparatively modest 79,200 were visitors who came to New York just for the Eliasson project (.17 percent of the total). The number is equal to about two weeks of traffic at the Museum of Modern Art, which draws about 2.1 million visitors a year.
The New York Times’ Cityroom blog consulted an authority on "urban economics," Carol O’Cleireacain, asking her whether she thought the city’s projections were realistic. O’Cleireacain responded diplomatically: "As in many economic models, it all depends on the assumptions you make," she said. "If you make generous assumptions, you’ll come up with generous results." According to the Times, O’Cleireacain concluded that "it was more reasonable to assume that tourists who were already visiting, or planning to visit, New York City went to see the installation than to assume that the installation itself drew substantial numbers of tourists."
Additionally, as Crain’s New York Business notes, the costs of alleviating the work’s unexpected environmental impact are not counted in the report. If the construction expenses count as revenue, shouldn’t the cost of hiring Dom’s Tree Service to hose down blighted trees also be included?
At any rate, even the stated totals compare unfavorably to the city’s last great public art showpiece, Jean-Claude and Christo’s The Gates, which cost $20 million but brought in $254 million, blowing away its own initial city projection of $80 million -- if you can believe the city’s estimates of such things, that is.
GETTY SEX SCENES FUEL NEW BOOK
Art and sex, could there be a bigger draw? Blogger and one-time Hollywood correspondent for the New York Times Sharon Waxman, author of the forthcoming book, Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World (Times Books), has posted an excerpt on Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast website -- and it doesn’t have anything to do with that boring controversy over some plundered pots. Rather, the subject is sex in the executive suite at the grand Getty Trust, where, apparently, "they were fucking like rabbits behind the paintings."
The dish reaches the top level. Harold Williams, president of the Getty Trust in 1987, left his wife to marry Getty arts consultant Nancy Englander, according to Waxman, and late antiquities curator Jiri Frel was "known for his priapic tendencies." The Getty’s associate director, Deborah Gribbon, had an affair with drawings curator George Goldner, Waxman reports, and another curator, Nicholas Turner, who was married, sued the institution for sexual harassment in 1997, when his assistant, with whom he had had an affair, wouldn’t leave him alone. None of this is new news, of course. All that money and all that art, must do things to the libido.
BOGDANOVICH PAINTINGS AT TRIG ISON
Trigg Ison Fine Art in West Hollywood, Ca., unveils a retrospective of 50 paintings and drawings by Borislav Bogdanovich (1899-1970), the father of celebrated film director Peter Bogdanovich. "Borislav Bogdanovich: Impressions," Nov. 2-30, 2008, includes cityscapes, still-lifes, portraits and nudes from a trove of over 1,000 works held by the artist’s son and his daughter, Anna Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich, who was born in Yugoslavia, exhibited his work in Belgrad, Zagreb and elsewhere in Europe before the War, and at Lilienfeld Galleries in New York in the ‘40s and early ‘50s. He had a retrospective at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Belgrad in 1975 and at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris in 1976. For more info, see the Trigg Ison Fine Art website
SPACE ODDITY AT MOMA
The Museum of Modern Art is presenting a special program of 15 music videos starring glam rocker (and former art student) David Bowie on Dec. 1, 2008. Co-organized by MoMA media curator Barbara London and Sonic Youth founder Thurston Moore, the show includes Life on Mars (directed by Mick Rock) and Heroes (directed by Stanley Dorfman). MoMA has been collecting rock videos since 1985; the museum received a complete set of Bowie music videos earlier this year as a gift of the David Bowie Archive. For advance tickets, see www.moma.org
CUBAN ART IN NEW CANAAN
The Silvermine Guild Arts Center in New Canaan, Conn., is celebrating National Hispanic Month with a survey of contemporary Cuban art. Organized by Benjamin Ortiz, the show, "Reflections: Contemporary Cuban Art / Reflexiones: Arte cubano contemporáneo," Oct. 19-Nov. 7, 2008, features works by 37 artists who live both inside and outside Cuba. Participants include José Bedia, Luis Cruz Azaceta, Ofill Echevarría, Roberto Estopiñán, Roberto Fabelo, Sita Gómez, Victor Gómez, Wifredo Lam, Manuel Mendive, Ibrahim Miranda, Elsa Mora, Clara Morera, René Peña, Sandra Ramos, Ruby Rubio and Cepero Selgas. For more details, see www.silvermineart.org
VITO SCHNABEL, CURATOR
New York curator and art dealer Vito Schnabel, 23, is fast developing a reputation of his own to match that of his superstar father, artist and film director Julian Schnabel. Vito, who operates a private viewing space in his apartment at Julian's famously pink-toned Palazzo Chupi at 360 West 11th Street in the West Village, plans to open a 4,300-square-foot gallery space on West 23rd Street in Chelsea in the next year. In the meantime, he has organized an exhibition of new paintings by veteran New York abstractionist Ron Gorchov that opens at Nicholas Robinson Gallery at 535 West 20th Street, Oct. 23-Dec. 6, 2008. (Vito collaborated on the Gorchov survey at P.S.1 in 2005 as well). Further down the road, Schnabel is organizing a show of work by Terence Koh at Richard Avedon’s former studio on the Upper East Side, opening Nov. 12, 2008, and an exhibition in March 2009 at Phillips de Pury in London.
RIMA MARDOYAN AT GUILD HALL
A survey of abstract encaustic paintings by New York City artist Rima Mardoyan goes on view at Guild Hall in Easthampton, Long Island, Oct. 25-Nov. 30, 2008. "Climates, both natural and political, are the inspiration for Mardoyan’s ‘Turbulence’ and ‘Genocide’ series," according to art critic Jessica Frost, writing in a gallery essay about the exhibition. The show begins with a series of paintings produced in reaction to 9/11. In addition, the art critic and independent curator Klaus Kertess is slated to give a gallery talk about the show at 3 pm on Oct. 26, 2008. For more info, check out her works on the Salomon Contemporary gallery website.
JUDITH RICHARDS STEPS DOWN AT ICI
After 28 years at Independent Curators International, where she served as executive director since 1997, Judith Olch Richards has resigned from the organization, effective June 30, 2009, to pursue new professional opportunities. During her tenure, ICI organized and circulated approximately 50 exhibitions, including "High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975" (2006-08), "100 Artists See God" (2004-06) and surveys of work by Lee Krasner (1999-2001), Mark Lombardi (2003-05) and Jess (2007-09).
TERRY FOX, 1943-2007
Terry Fox, 65, Seattle-born conceptual artist whose performance and video artworks combined a winning whimsicality with a sense of Zen-like philosophical research, died in Cologne on Oct. 14. After performing his celebrated Levitation Piece in Richmond, Ca., in 1970 -- Fox laid on a mound of earth and attempted to will himself to rise up in the air -- he was included in "Prospect 71" at the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle in 1970 and in Documenta V in Kassel in 1972. He had "Project" exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in 1971 and 1980, and was included in the 1975 Whitney Biennial. More recently he exhibited at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, and at Esso Gallery and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York at Paule Anglim in San Francisco.