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Artnet News
Nov. 6, 2007 

They don’t call it the new "Gilded Age" for nothing! According to a report released this month by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, museums and other "cultural organizations" were the big winners in the realm of charitable donations last year, with contributions to that sector growing by a staggering 51 percent -- even as charitable donations overall grew by a mere 4.3 percent. "The growing divide between the wealthy and the middle class has meant that causes supported by the less affluent face an increasingly tough time," the Chronicle reports.

Among the other fascinating stats available on the Chronicle’s website is a breakdown of the various kinds of investments that make up nonprofit endowments. While the words "hedge fund" have come to signify casino capitalism in the financial pages of newspapers -- and a certain "new money" excess in the art press -- museum trustees apparently disagree:

* Between 2004 and 2006, the Museum of Modern Art reduced the percentage of its $555,067,000 endowment held in "cash or money market accounts" from 11 percent to zero, making up the difference by increasing its hedge fund investments from 10 to 25 percent of the total -- ending with more than $138 million sunk in hedge funds. The museum also boosted its bond and real estate portfolio.

* The Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose endowment totaled over $314 million in 2007, also has been gradually moving its endowment from bonds to stocks (now 72.5 percent of its total) and, to a lesser degree, hedge funds (now 3.1 percent, or about $12.8 million).  

* The New Hampshire-based Currier Museum of Art is currently closed for expansion and set to reopen in 2008, but its $48 million endowment is not idle. Since 2003, it has not-quite-doubled its exposure to hedge funds (from 9 to 16 percent), and tripled its investments in real estate (3 to 9 percent).

* New York’s Jewish Museum has about $12,204,300 tied up in hedge funds, or 17 percent of its $71 million endowment. At the same time, between 2005 and 2006, it sold off bond holdings and converted them into the "cash or money market" sector of its portfolio.  

Whether the big slowdown in hedge-fund investments has had any effect on our beloved arts institutions is known only to their boards of trustees. Stay tuned.

A long six months after it won him "best director" honors at Cannes, Julian Schnabel’s new film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is set to open in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 30, 2007. Poetically filmed and emotionally inspiring, the film is based on the autobiography of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of French Elle who suffered a paralyzing stroke at age 43 and was able to "dictate" his story, one letter at a time, by blinking his one good eye. Mathieu Amalric, who played the French information broker in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, stars as Bauby, while Emmanuelle Seigner plays Céline, the mother of Bauby’s children and one of several women who came to his aid during his illness. Other cast members include Max von Sydow as Bauby’s aged father, himself incapacitated, and Olatz Lopez Garmendia -- Schnabel’s wife, who also played a part in his last movie, Before Night Falls -- as Bauby’s physical therapist. To view the trailer, click here.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art may have Damien Hirst’s iconic 13-foot-long pickled Tiger Shark, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, on view in its galleries at present -- a loan from hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen -- but Cohen has nothing on New York super-developer Aby Rosen. Opening at the Rosen-owned Lever House on Madison Avenue on Nov. 10, 2007, is a custom-made Hirst installation of unparalleled ambition -- approximately 30 formaldehyde tanks in all, including several with a sheep carcass set atop a stainless steel autopsy table, plus a 30,000-pound tank holding two sides of beef, a shark tank, about 15 medicine cabinets and more. Titled School: The Archaeology of Lost Desires, Comprehending Infinity, and the Search for Knowledge, the work is to become part of the Lever House’s permanent art holdings.

Meanwhile, nobody is going to one-up the state of Texas. This summer, Dallas art dealer Kenny Goss and his partner, Faith singer George Michael, formed the Goss-Michael Foundation to house their cutting-edge collection of British art, reportedly worth $200 million or more. Now on view at the foundation is a slew of works by Hirst, including Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain (2007), a calf spiked with arrows in a 10-foot-tall tank of formaldehyde, alongside spin paintings and other works made with dead butterflies, flies, fish and doves, respectively. For more info, see

Even as the aborted "Saffron Revolution" in Burma fades from the headlines -- as of this writing, a United Nations envoy is in Burma trying to negotiate the release of political prisoners from last month’s large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations -- it is worth taking note that art-world types have come together around the issue. Last month, "over 30 people in the arts who are of Asian background" signed an Open Letter to Burma, stating among other things that, "As citizens of the world, as artists valuing free expression, as people of Asian heritage, we write in support of the courageous Buddhist monks and nuns, and other people from all religions and walks of life in Burma, as they continue to seek peaceful change and national reconciliation," and calling for the "release of all political prisoners" including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (who remains in custody today).

Signatories from the visual arts community included architect and sculptor Maya Lin, curator Eungie Joo, painter and installation artist Byron Kim, and Burmese performance artist Htein Lin (who became the first artist from Burma invited the Venice Biennale earlier this year, according to the Myanmar Times), alongside authors like Michael Ondaatje and Amy Tan.

More cool stuff at Performa 2007, the second biennale of performance art in New York. The Bronx Museum of the Arts is hosting a performance titled "Delayed Patriotism" by Cuban-born artist Tania Bruguera from noon-2 pm on Nov. 18, 2007. In the past, Bruguera has centered her art around founding progressive institutions of various kinds -- in 2002 she set up an alternative art school in Havana -- and this piece focuses on the establishment of something called the "Party of Migrant People (PMP)," a political group that has as its mission defining displaced people as a new world culture. Audience members are asked to participate in a series of group portraits that "capture the great American family portrait." For more info, see

Art-world parodist and longtime Artnet Magazine contributor Elliott Arkin has a dream, and that dream goes by the name of Mr. Artsee. Conceived as a "souped-up" ice-cream truck that has been converted into a whimsical "art-mobile," Mr. Artsee would travel city streets to "bring contemporary art to neighborhoods, schools, playgrounds, parks and public spaces throughout New York City." Earlier this year, Vito Acconci and Acconci Studio came up with several concept drawings for the vehicle, which Arkin imagines as functioning like a Swiss Army Knife, with collapsible extensions that double as a stage, a movie screen and a podium. The Mr. Artsee board of advisors includes Dutch art collector Coco Van Meerondonk and Museums Magazine founder Larry Warsh. Stay tuned.

A survey of paintings and monotypes by the Latvian-born Abstract-Expressionist artist Edvins Strautmanis (1933-1992) is currently on view at the Wooster Arts Space in SoHo in New York, Nov. 3-Dec. 1, 2007, sponsored by the dealers Rosenberg + Kaufman. Known for broad-brush calligraphic abstractions painted on canvas laid on the floor, Strautmanis lost an eye to cancer at a young age and painted with just one eye during his entire career. "Strautmanis brought a great energy to his work," said dealer Stephen Rosenberg, "and we thought it was time to give him some wider exposure." The show includes nine paintings made in his SoHo studio during 1979-91, and a group of monotypes he did in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Strautmanis exhibited his work early on with Allan Stone Gallery and OK Harris, and with Stephen Rosenberg Gallery through the 1990s.

The charity Magic of Persia is hoping to capitalize on a boom in Iranian art. On the heels of a $15 million auction of "Modern and Contemporary Art" at Christie’s Dubai, Oct. 31, 2007, 32 Iranian artists have donated work to a fundraiser auction for the charity to take place Nov. 24, 2007, in the Goldolphin Ballroom at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, with Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie’s Middle East and Europe, serving as auctioneer. The sale hopes to raise $1 million for Magic of Persia’s educational workshops and free family days at museums, as well as for something called Encyclopedia Iranica, a scholarly project that charts the history of Persian civilization. Charities for children with special needs in Dubai also get a cut of the proceeds.

Artists donating work for the auction include Y.Z. Kami, Farhad Moshiri, Shirin Neshat, Shirana Shahbazi, Parviz Tanavoli, and many more. More info is available at

It’s not often that something that doesn’t happen in the art world makes news, but given the recent spate of colleges and universities selling off their art collections, the fact that the University of Iowa has opted out of the game seems significant. The local Gazette reports that the school was considering selling Jackson Pollock’s Mural (1943) -- one of his most famous paintings, donated to the U of I by Peggy Guggenheim -- earlier this year, as part of a scheme to diversify its collection. School museum director Howard Collinson said that the advisory board "adamantly" opposed the sale, with fear of public outcry being a factor.

Performance art pioneer Laurie Anderson has won the $300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which goes annually to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life." The award ceremony, on Nov. 13, 2007, is set to feature a performance in honor of Anderson by Philip Glass and remarks from performance artist Marina Abramovic.

Northern Irish artist Katrina Moorhead has won the $30,000 Arthouse Texas Prize for 2007. Moorhead, who has lived in Texas for the last 10 years and is known for installations that explore the collision of people with nature, was seen at the 2005 Venice Biennale at the Northern Ireland pavilion.

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