BASQUIAT AND PUERTO RICO
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan has opened "Basquiat: An Anthology for Puerto Rico," Oct. 21, 2006-Jan. 7, 2007, an exhibition featuring 131 original works on paper and another 25 prints by the celebrated New York graffiti artist. The exhibition is organized by ArtPremium, the bimonthly art magazine founded in 2004 by Corinne Timsit. The works are from the collection of Enrico Navarra, the Paris dealer, and underwritten by UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico and other sponsors. Raised in New York, Basquiat was Puerto Rican on his mother’s side; his father is originally from Haiti.
KATZ V. MARDEN IN NYC?
Proponents of figurative versus abstract painting can really square off in New York City this fall, as a pair of emblematic exhibitions opens in two local museums. At the Jewish Museum is "Alex Katz Paints Ada," Oct. 27, 2006-Mar. 18, 2007, presenting nearly 40 paintings made by painter Alex Katz (b. 1927) between 1957 and 2005, all featuring the image of his wife and muse Ada Katz. The exhibition, organized by Jewish Museum deputy director Ruth Beesch, is accompanied by a book of the same name, featuring an essay by Robert Storr plus historical texts by the poet James Schuyler and the art critic Lawrence Alloway; list price is $39.95.
The Katz paintings are notable for their simple elegance, harmonious color and rich emotional undercurrents -- as are the abstractions of Brice Marden (b. 1938), presented at the Museum of Modern Art in "Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings," Oct. 29, 2006-Jan. 15, 2007. Featuring 56 paintings spanning more than 40 years and spread over 10 galleries, the exhibition is organized by Hammer Museum curator Gary Garrels, and subsequently appears at the San Francisco MOMA (Feb. 23-May 13, 2007) and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (June 12-Oct. 7, 2007).
NATIONALISM V. ART IN RUSSIA
Creeping repression in Russia has once again reached into the contemporary art world, targeting the satirical artworks of the Blue Noses (Vyacheslav Mizin and Alexander Shaburov). On Friday, Oct. 20, 2006, English dealer Matthew Bown was stopped at the Moscow airport and detained after he attempted to take a series of 11 photographs by the Blue Noses with him for an exhibition at his London gallery, scheduled to open Nov. 9-Dec. 2, 2006. The works in question show men in their underwear lounging on a couch -- apparently wearing cutout paper masks of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush. Bown was released after being questioned for approximately nine hours, and allowed to return to London -- though without the Blue Noses photographs.
The customs agents reportedly said that the photos violate a Russian law prohibiting offensive depictions of public officials. They were also concerned about the inflammatory nature of another work, which shows a female suicide bomber wearing a burka that is lifted up, in the style of Marilyn Monroe on the subway grating, to reveal elaborate black nylons and high heels. For more details, see http://matthewbown.com
The following day, Oct. 21, 2006, a group of young men dressed in black broke into the Guelman Gallery in downtown Moscow, vandalized the exhibition of works by Georgian artist Alexander Djikia and assaulted dealer Marat Guelman – who had supplied the Blue Noses prints to Bown -- breaking his nose and giving him a concussion. Guelman told the online Russian daily Kommersant that the incident at the airport was the result of a "misunderstanding," and said he expected to have the Blue Noses’ photos returned to his gallery. As for the attack, it was ascribed to "nationalists," though Guelman said he did not think it had anything to do with the fact that his current show featured a Georgian artist.
Blue Nose artist Alexander Shaburov told Kommersant that he did not consider the "Masks Show" photos, as they are called, to be insulting to Putin. "It's about how the media substitutes for our private lives," he said, "how in Russia, as in all information societies, figures from television become closer than our real neighbors and acquaintances. It is simply the citation of a fact."
Guelman, who founded his gallery in 1990, has also been active in left-wing politics. According to the New York Times, he appears on the list of "Enemies of Russia" circulated online by Russian neofascists, alongside Anna Politkovskaya, the recently assassinated Russian journalist.
MICHELANGELO’S DAVID GOES TO CHINA
Well, a copy at least. As a gesture of good will, the city of Florence has produced a 1:1 bronze replica of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s David and sent it to the city of Ningbo in China. Ningbo, a port city with a population of about 800,000 (similar in size to Detroit, and about twice the size of Florence) in northeastern China, shares with the Italian city a status as a center of contemporary menswear manufacturing, according to Ningbo’s English-language website. In return, the government of Ningbo has sent two stone lions to Florence, traditional symbols of cultural prestige in China.
The gesture was voted on unanimously by Florence’s parliament last year to coincide with Italian Fashion and Cultural Week in Ningbo, as well as the Italian government’s official "Year of China." The statue was shipped from Florence on Sept. 6, 2006, and spent 25 days at sea before arriving at its destination. It was unveiled in a plaza near Ningbo Grand Theater last Saturday, in a ceremony that, judging from a picture available on the China Central Television website, involved unveiling the replica between to giant red doors, with smoke billowing from around its feet.
"ANONYMOUS" ART SHOW IN FRANKFURT
The Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt is set to roll out "Anonymous: In the Future No One Will Be Famous," Oct. 31, 2006-Jan. 14, 2007. Organized by an anonymous curator and featuring a selection of anonymous artists (they have agreed not to reveal their identities for the duration of the show), the exhibition is a reaction to what participants describe as the pernicious branding of artists in the contemporary art world.
The artists have even published "Notes toward a Manifesto" (of anonymity, presumably), declaring, that "Anonymous artists wish to wriggle the status quo into a status incognitus. Their aim is to remove the increasing barbarization of thought via short circuits and fast lanes created by the marketing of artists as brands whose works have become masterpieces in ignorance of philosophy." Also available is a 160-page catalogue, edited by "anonymous" and Max Hollein -- as well as a limited-edition run of 500 catalogues with pages that are completely blank.WRONG GALLERY CONTROVERSY AT TATE MODERN
Leave it to the jokers at the Wrong Gallery to revive the old art-world practice of baiting the monarchy in England. The tiny novelty space, which has currently set up shop on the third floor of Tate Modern, is showcasing a painting by New York painter George Condo titled Dreams and Nightmares of the Queen. Part of a suite of nine portraits of Queen Elizabeth II (recently profiled by the New Yorker), the controversial work is a brushy rendering of the monarch as a regal Cabbage Patch doll (Condo had intended to paint Her Majesty in the nude in the style of The Rokeby Venus, but he was warned that nude portraits of the royal family were not allowed in public institutions.) While the royal family has declined to comment, Brendan Kelly of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has spoken out, describing the Condo portrait as "embarrassingly bad" -- though Andrew James, the society’s secretary, was less dismissive, according to the Sunday Times, noting, "It’s unsettling, but the picture speaks to you directly."
SCULPTURE FOR COLD SPRING HARBOR LAB
San Francisco artist Mara G. Haseltine has unveiled an 84-foot-long painted steel and composite plastic sculpture -- depicting a ribosome, the part of a cell that produces proteins -- at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the Long Island genetic and biomedical research center established by James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix, the genetic code for life. The Waltz of the Polypeptides, as it is called, stretches across its grassy site like some high-tech stones in a Zen garden, and is designed to allow viewers to literally "walk through the birth of a single protein, the B-Lymphocyte Stimulator protein, or BLyS" (pronounced "bliss"). Originally made in 2003 for the lobby atrium of Human Genome Sciences in Rockville, Md., the work has now been donated by the company to the Long Island lab. Haseltine has also recently dedicated SARS Inhibited (2006) at the central plaza of Biopolis One-North, a new science facility in Singapore designed by Zaha Hadid.
$2.5 MILLION TO DUKE FOR VISUAL STUDIES
Duke University has received a $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to sponsor a "visual studies initiative," an interdisciplinary program designed to explore "visual literacy." "The visual can have its own logic that can’t be expressed in text," said Hans van Miegroet, chair of Duke’s dept. of art, art history and visual studies, and director of the initiative. "Every society and culture has a particular set of visuals that have meaning, whether it’s an AC/DC poster or the latest video game." The project also involves Duke’s new Nasher Museum of Art. The grant allows the hiring of five new faculty members as well as the establishment of graduate fellowship endowments. The program is expected to launch in fall 2008.
In November, Princeton University Press is publishing Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock, the transcribed text of one-time MoMA chief curator Kurt Varnadoe’s final lectures. Given at the National Gallery of Art three months before Varnedoe’s death in 2003, the talks are not just for Varnedoe completists -- they tackle the question "What is abstract art good for?" and constitute the charismatic scholar’s final word on the subject. The publication comes with a introduction by New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik, and is $45. For fans who want a taste in advance, the NGA has posted a video clip of Varnedoe’s introduction on its website.
CHELSEA WALKING TOUR FOR CHARITY
Seven Chelsea galleries -- Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts, 511 Gallery, Gladstone Gallery, Lombard-Fried Projects, Mixed Greens, Jack Shainman Gallery and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. -- are joining together for the "FightSMA Chelsea Gallery Walking Tour," a guided tour to raise funds for research into Spinal Musculature Atrophy. The tour begins at 2 pm on Oct. 28, 2006, at Cullen’s gallery on 526 W. 26th Street. The director of each gallery will speak about their exhibit to participants. Suggested donation is $20.
Berlin artist Alice Creischer (b. 1960) has won the Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art, a prize that includes a purse of 350,000 Norwegian krone (more than $50,000) and a six-month residency at the Munch Estate in Oslo. Creischer is known for sophisticated installations as well as curatorial projects and critical writing; her 2001 exhibition at the Secession in Vienna, titled "The Greatest Happiness Principle Party," addressed a 1931 event that triggered a world economic crisis, while "Violence on the Margin of All Things," organized in 2002 at the Generali Foundation in Vienna, featured works by 20 artists on the theme of historic and artistic militancy. NEW PRES FOR JAPAN SOCIETY
Richard J. Wood has been named the president of New York’s Japan Society. Wood has been serving as interim president of the society since May, when Frank L. Ellsworth decided not to continue his tenure.