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Artnet News
Oct. 3, 2008 

Will the meltdown at American International Group (AIG), whose share price fell from a 52-week high of $70 all the way down to $1.25 on Sept. 16, 2008 (shares are currently trading, after a U.S. government bailout, at close to $5), hit the art world? AIG is the corporate patron of the Starr Foundation, which is chaired by former AIG chief Maurice R. Greenberg and headquartered at 399 Park Avenue in New York.

The Starr Foundation frequently makes news for its munificent charitable gifts, whose beneficiaries include arts institutions like the Clark Art Institute ($5 million), the Cooper Union ($10 million) and the Museum of Modern Art (an unspecified amount to support "Georges Seurat: The Drawings").

The Starr Foundation is one of the country’s richest, with assets of around $3.2 billion, according to a 2006 filing with the Internal Revenue Service. And though the foundation listed an impressive $428 million in cash on its balance sheet at the end of 2006, it also had $2.8 billion in AIG stock. According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation, that stock has fallen more than 90 percent in value, and now has a book value of less than $200 million. 

The importance of the Starr Foundation was but one subject mentioned by Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman, speaking informally at yesterday’s press preview for the museum’s new "Gilbert & George" exhibition. Clearly, Lehman said, museums like his are facing hard choices. Contributions from the city have dropped about 10 percent, he said, and portfolios have shrunk 15-30 percent. And corporate support is becoming scarce as well: "Gilbert & George" is the last exhibition underwritten by Altria, which in 2007 announced the end of its arts funding program and closed its New York City corporate gallery.

As if we needed more proof that the art world was eagerly watching the current elections, two of the art world’s most indefatigable political forces, SoHo art dealer Ronald Feldman and curator and art historian Maurice Berger, have launched, a new website designed to track the contemporary political campaigns, interpret the results of the many polls of voters, and predict the results of the elections. At present, Polltrack’s electoral map shows Barack Obama ahead, with 260 elector votes, compared to John McCain’s 185 votes; 93 are too close to call. Blog entries, largely authored by Berger, explain and expand upon the polls. The site’s new nonpartisan blog, called Voices on the Ground, features reporting from around the nation, and incorporates photographs and other artworks, such as Paul Shambroom’s series of color photos of town meetings. "If you think of the presidential election as a sport," said Feldman, "Polltrack gives you a front-row seat."

The Goethe-Institut Washington now plans to devote its 925-square-foot exhibition space at 812 Seventh Street NW in downtown Washington, D.C., to shows of young German photographers. Dubbed FotoGalerie, the space debuts in its new guise Nov. 18-Dec. 31, 2008, with "A Disenchanted Playroom: Thirteen Photographs by Wolfram Hahn." The 29-year-old photographer is exhibiting color portraits of children transfixed by unseen television programs. The shows are being organized in collaboration with C/O Berlin, an art center located in Berlin’s old post office. The launch of FotoGalerie coincides with FotoWeek DC, a city-wide celebration of photography in the city’s museums, universities, galleries, art schools and elsewhere.

New York writer Michael Gross, the provocative nonfiction author of the hit books Model (1995) and 740 Park (2005), now has an official publishing date for his next tome, the book that everyone in the art world is waiting to read: Rogue’s Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum (496 pp., Broadway). The unauthorized tale of the museum and its scandals hits the bookstores on May 12, 2009.

New York’s Gladstone Gallery, which already operates two large gallery spaces in New York’s Chelsea art district, is branching out to Brussels. The gallery’s new Brussels location, at 12 rue du Grand Cerf Brussels, opens with "No Information Available," Oct. 12-Nov. 21, 2008, an exhibition organized by Francesco Bonami. Something of an homage to retiring Museum of Modern Art curator Kynaston McShine’s breakthrough Conceptual Art show of 1970, "Information," Bonami’s effort proposes "a world of invisible clues opposed to the given facts of the information age." Artists in the show are Tauba Auerbach, Isa Genzken, Fernanda Gomes, Sergej Jensen, Ian Kiaer, Hugo Markl, Mitzi Pederson, Bojan Sarcevic, Scott Short, Rudolf Stingel, Rosemarie Trockel, Franz West and Jordan Wolfson. For more info, contact Natascha Van Deun at

New York City painter Peter Saul has won the second annual $25,000 award from the Artists’ Legacy Foundation, established in Oakland 2000 by artists Squeak Carnwath and Viola Frey. This year’s jurors for the award included painter Polly Apfelbaum, painter and art critic Richard Kalina, and sculptor Gay Outlaw.

Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana have been named the winners of the Designer of the Year Award for this year’s Design Miami, Dec. 3-6, 2008. The Campana brothers are designing a VIP lounge at the fair for HSBC Private Bank, the fair’s principal sponsor, and are also installing Diamantina -- a fanciful combination of plastic garden chairs enveloped by the rattan-like growth of the native Brazilian Apui plant, all studded with amethyst crystals -- in the central courtyard of the fair’s new custom-made structure, designed by New York architects Aranda/Lasch.

Catherine David, director of Documenta 10 in 1997 and head of Witte de With Centre in Rotterdam in 2002-04, has been appointed director of the 2009 Lyon Biennale, Sept. 16, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010. One subject of the 2009 biennial is "the end of Western artistic hegemony," according to Thierry Raspail, artistic director of the show, which takes place at five venues: La Sucrière, the Bullukian Foundation, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Villeurbanne, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon, and one additional space, to be announced.

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