MOORE WITH MUSSELS FROM SIMON STARLING
The centerpiece of British art star Simon Starling’s forthcoming exhibition at Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Mar. 1-May 11, 2008, is a steel replica of a Henry Moore bronze that the artist sank like an anchor on the murky bottom of Lake Ontario for the last year. Now covered with Zebra mussels, the invasive species that has been colonizing the Great Lakes since the late 1980s, the work is a comment on issues of colonization, immigration and art’s habit of looking back to move forward. "What’s been exciting about the project is that it has become a magnet for so many interesting ideas, stories and people," says Starling, who won the Turner Prize in 2005. Starling’s sculpture, titled Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore), began as a copy of Moore’s 1954 bronze, Warrior with Shield, which is in the Art Gallery of Ontario -- an acquisition arranged in the 1950s by the British art historian (and spy) Anthony Blunt. The city of Toronto has a significant collection of Moore works, and Starling’s show re-establishes the overlooked connection. "I see Moore as a kind of ‘poster-boy’ for the idea of the international artist at a certain moment," says Starling. "He was perhaps the first British artist to have global reach and influence. I was interested in. . . why Toronto embraced him and his work so warmly." Titled "Cuttings (Supplement)," Starling’s exhibition includes some of his best-known works, including Island for Weeds (Prototype) (2003), which, like Infestation Piece, refers to colonization by using an invasive species -- rhododendrons introduced from southern Spain to Scotland in the 18th century. The flowers were planted on a moveable island and displayed at the 2003 Venice Biennale’s Scottish pavilion. "I’m preoccupied with. . . how an artist can and should respond to a global context at a local level," says the artist. For another work, Tabernas Desert Run (2004), Starling rode a customized electric bicycle across the Spanish desert before using the bike exhaust’s condensation to paint a watercolor of a cactus. As for the lowly Zebra mussel, it is well known to bring particular damage to harbors and -- ironically -- to power plants. For more info and pix, see www.viewoncanadianart.com.
The global art fair circuit tightened its belt three more notches this week. To wit, three younger fairs, all of which debuted in 2007, have announced that they are not returning in 2008: * Art Cologne has canceled its spin-off fair, Art Cologne Palma, which debuted last year in the A Terminal of the Palma de Majorca Airport on the Balearic Islands, Sept. 19-23, 2007. The official reason for the cancellation was that an airport was not an appropriate venue for a high-end art fair, and both Oliver P. Kuhrt, the director of the exhibition company Kölnmesse which runs both Cologne fairs, and Francesc Gálvez, the chief executive of the Balearic Islands, stated that the fair might return after a new trade center had been completed in the city. However, the move comes as Art Cologne itself is trying to regroup after what several dealers involved with the fair have described as its "bitter loss of status" to international fairs such as Art Basel, the Armory Show and the Frieze Art Fair. The original Art Cologne is scheduled to return Apr. 16-20, 2008, to the German city. * Meanwhile, Germany’s new DC Düsseldorf Contemporary, the hip invitation-only fair launched last year to coincide with Art Cologne, also announced that it was going into hibernation. The 2008 installment was to be held at the LTU Arena in Düsseldorf, Apr. 17-20, 2008, and was billed as the "very first art fair worldwide taking place in a football stadium." G+J ArtEvents International, the organizer of the fair, stated that, "All indications are that art market activity concentrates on a few art fairs with international and not just German significance." * In the United States, ArtDC, which had its inaugural run last year at the Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital and was set to return May 16-18, 2008, has been axed. Just weeks ago, ArtDC was trumpeting the participation of "80 galleries from Beijing to Basel and London to Los Angeles," as well as its "Art W" special initiative to highlight female artists. The cancellation announcement stated that the decision was "due to the recessionary nature of the present economy," adding that "galleries and dealers are narrowing their field of participation to the proven markets, such as New York and Miami." FAIREY’S OBAMA BONANZA
Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama has gained lots of momentum lately in his bid for the White House, and it is in no small part thanks to the creative community. Most notably, street artist Shepherd Fairey, best known for his graffiti campaign featuring the image of Andre the Giant and the cryptic word telling viewers to "Obey," has leapt into the news with a poster he designed to promote Obama. The image, which features the Illinois senator’s face with red, white and blue shading, has been widely seen in California and elsewhere, with some 300 volunteers helping Fairey post them. The reaction to Fairey’s efforts was so positive that the Obama campaign contacted the artist to make a second version to sell as a fundraiser, according to an interview with the artist. Meanwhile, prints from a limited edition of 300 that Fairey produced to fund the original postering campaign, featuring the artist’s "Obey" logo on Obama’s lapel, are now selling on eBay for hundreds of dollars, with one U.K. seller asking for $6,500. Expect them to appreciate considerably should Obama take the prize in November. GUERILLA GIRLS TAKE ON ELI BROAD
The opening of the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has generated plenty of rosy publicity, as well as controversy over patron Eli Broad’s decision not to donate his art collection to the museum that bears his own name [see "Alas and Alack at Lacma," Feb. 13, 2008] -- but now vintage art world provocateurs the Guerrilla Girls have taken Broad to task over something else. In a widely distributed mock letter decorated with a frowning flower, the group points out the irony that "Broad, the philanthropist, claims that ‘public education is the key civil rights issue of the 21st century’," while his personal art collection is woefully unrepresentative of the public: 97 percent white and 87 percent male. The Guerilla Girls conclude their missive with an appeal: "Let’s put lots of letters on Eli’s desk! Use ours or write your own, then email Eli Broad email@example.com or snail mail Broad Art Foundation, 3355 Barnard Way, Santa Monica, Ca. 90405." Visit the Guerilla Girls website. SIMMONS TAKES DRISKELL PRIZE
Brooklyn-based artist Xaviera Simmons (b. 1974) has won the 2008 David C. Driskell Prize, awarded by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The Driskell honors "a scholar or artist in the beginning or middle of his or her career whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African American art or art history," and comes with a purse of $25,000. Simmons is best known for a 2006 installation at Art in General in New York, for which she transformed the space into a salon with felted floors, a DJ booth and impromptu jazz performances (the piece, called "How to Break Your Own Heart: Visitors Welcome," traveled to the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and the Zacheta National Art Gallery in Warsaw.) Past winners of the Driskell, which was established in 2005, are scholar Kellie Jones (2005), artist Willie Cole (2006) and scholar and curator Franklin Sirmans (2007). FIRSTENBERG CURATES CALIFORNIA BIENNIAL
The Orange County Museum of Art is bringing in a guest curator to helm its 2008 "California Biennial." Lauri Firstenberg, well-known as the founder and director of the L.A. nonprofit LAXART, is organizing the show, which kicks off Oct. 26-Mar. 29, 2008, at "the main museum in Newport Beach, the Orange Lounge in South Coast Plaza, and in other locations to be determined." SMITH TO HAUS DER KULTUREN DER WELT
Valerie Smith, currently chief curator and director of exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art in New York, is going to Berlin, where she has been named head of exhibitions, film and media at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The four-year appointment takes effect May 1, 2008. SCHNEIDER TO SMOCA
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) in Scottsdale, Az., has announced that Claire Schneider is joining its team as senior curator. The Tennessee-born Schneider currently serves as curator at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, where she has worked for 10 years, helping to organize 2005’s "Extreme Abstraction" exhibition, among other projects. The appointment is effective Apr. 21, 2008, though Schneider is already working with the SMoCA on an exhibition for 2009 to commemorate the institution’s 10th anniversary. LOVELL HONORED BY ALMA MATER
Artist Whitfield Lovell, known for installations incorporating dignified, charcoal drawings of anonymous 19th-century African Americans, has won the Augustus Saint Gaudens Award, awarded annually by New York’s Cooper Union to one of its graduates who has distinguished himself in the field of art. Lovell graduated from the Cooper Union in 1981.