NEW WALL STREET SCAMMER HAS ART TIES
Another week, another giant scandal shaking the U.S. financial system -- and possibly the art world. This time out, the heat is on Houston financier R. Allen Stanford -- Forbes’ 205th richest man in 2008 -- who the Securities and Exchange Commission is charging with "a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world," connected to his $50-billion Stanford Financial Group. For his part, Stanford has been quoted as saying that the charges are the result of "disgruntled former employees." Whatever the case, the SEC complaint makes amusing reading. Among other things, it alleges that while assuring investors that their money was watched over by a team of wealth-management experts, Stanford actually put billions of dollars under the supervision of his college roommate and a man whose primary experience was in "cattle ranching and car sales."
And here’s the best part -- in the art world, Stanford’s charitable foundation has recently been promoting something called the Stanford Financial Excellence in the Arts (SFEA) Award, designed "to recognize and reward local arts organizations that demonstrate exemplary fiscal management of their resources." The brief for this self-styled "Right-Brain Award for a Left-Brain World" crows that "by rewarding fiscal responsibility, it encourages and develops arts organizations' ability to manage their finances in order to mirror healthy, for-profit corporations, making for a better bottom-line for the nonprofits." Let’s just hope none of the recipients took that "mirroring" advice too literally.
Last year, Stanford partnered with the local Dallas arts council to dole out $45,000 in unrestricted SFEA grants. The Dallas Museum of Art took the top $20,000 honor at a ceremony on Nov. 13, 2008, with awards designed by area glass artist Diana Chase. In Charlotte, N.C., the Carolina Raptor Center, a nature preserve, beat out the McColl Center for Visual Art and the Mint Museum for 2008’s top $20,000 award. In Florida, Stanford handed out $20,000 to the Sarasota Orchestra in December, as well as modest grants of $2,500 to the Ringling College of Art and Design and Ringling student Kayla Carlson.
The Stanford Group’s arts activities, however, go considerably beyond the SFEA award. According to a "Community Investment Report" posted online, in addition to such worthy initiatives as teaching golf to Venezuelan kids and backing the movie version of the self-help book The Ultimate Gift ("the story of a wealthy oil and cattle baron" who teaches his grandson the values of "work, money, friends, family and gratitude"), Stanford Financial Group has a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, where it sponsors the "International Collectors’ Circle" and annual "POP" fundraiser. Curator Bonnie Clearwater is quoted as saying that it "has been tremendously gratifying to partner with Stanford Group." Stanford was also key sponsor of the Miami Art Museum’s exhibition "Work in Progress," Dec. 1, 2007-Apr. 6, 2008, showcasing MAM’s new Herzog & de Meuron building.
Another long-time Stanford Financial beneficiary is the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where the firm was behind "Constructing a Poetic Universe," Mar. 11-June 10, 2007, a showcase of Latin American art collected by tire magnate Bruce Halle and his wife Diane. As the "Community Investment Report" trumpets, "Stanford Financial Group’s support allowed the museum to do everything it wanted to do with the exhibit: shipping, education, lectures, promotion -- even flying six of the artists in to Houston to oversee installation." The report also describes Stanford as a key "partner" in the MFAH’s ongoing mission to become the "last word" on Latin-American artists like Antonio Berni, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Leon Ferrari and Gego. Stanford plasters curator Mari Carmen Ramirez’s face across the top of the page. MFAH development officer Amy Purvis sums things up: "Stanford gets it."
In the world of cricket -- Stanford has been an avid patron there, too, bankrolling a $20-million annual tournament -- the fallout has already begun, with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the West Indies Cricket Board renouncing their ties to Stanford Financial today. No word on the impact on the various museums.
PRESSURE SAVES ARTS STIMULUS
In a last-minute turn-around, the modest $50 million bump for the National Endowment for the Arts was saved in the $800-billion economic stimulus act signed into law by president Barack Obama today, Feb. 17. In addition, the so-called "Coburn Amendment," making theaters and art centers off-limits for stimulus funds, was modified. A New York Times article on the development credits the team of representatives Norm Dicks, Louise M. Slaughter, David R. Obey and Nancy Pelosi, who fought for the value of the arts against charges that it benefited only a "leftist elite." However, real credit seems due to what the article describes as "tens of thousands of arts advocates around the country" who blitzed lawmakers with phone calls on the issue, putting the NEA boost back on the table.
PALESTINE AT VENICE
Seven Palestinian artists are exhibiting at the 53rd Venice Biennale, June 7-Sept. 30, 2009, in what is called the first Palestinian participation in the international show. Under the rubric "Palestine c/o Venice," the show -- according to Salwa Mikdadi, an independent curator based in Berkeley -- "takes on a conceptual framework that embraces the Palestinian people questioning the disproportionate use of the media image of nameless faces and voiceless people." The artists include Taysir Batniji (who lives and works in Paris), Shadi HabibAllah (Ramallah), Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti (Bethlehem), Jawad Al Malhi (Jerusalem), Emily Jacir (Ramallah and New York) and Khalil Rabah (Ramallah).
The venue for "Palestine c/o Venice" is the Convento Ss. Cosma & Damiano in the Campo San Cosmo on the Giudecca. The commissioner for the show is Vittorio Ubani, director of Nuova Icona, a Venice-based cultural nonprofit. The exhibition is underwritten by the Darat al Funun Art Center in Amman, Jordon.
Noting that "Palestinian communities under seige [are] unable to obtain travel passes," the organizers of "Palestine c/o Venice" have arranged to have duplicate versions of the show exhibited at six Palestinian art institutions, including the A.M. Qattan Foundation, Birzeit University Art Museum, Al-Hoash Palestinian Art Court, International Academy of Art Palestine, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art and Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation. For more info, see www.palestinecoveniceb09.org
PAUL OUTERBRIDGE AT THE GETTY
The J. Paul Getty Museum presents more than 100 prints by the visionary color photographer Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) in "Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance," Mar. 31-Aug. 9, 2009. The show, which is organized by Paul Martineau, covers Outerbridge’s early years in Paris, when he worked for Vogue and became part of the Surrealist circle; his advertising photography in New York in the 1930s, when he mastered the carbro color printing process; and his later studies of the female nude, made from his portrait studio in Laguna Beach, as "an object of sexual fantasy and fetishistic obsession."
RADIATOR DESIGN AT MAD
The fascinating and surprising world of radiator design is the subject of next month’s special exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design. "Totally Rad: Karim Rashid Does Radiators," Mar. 4-May 17, 2009, showcases ca. 30 innovative radiator designs in a show organized by designer Karim Rashid. Highlights include Ron Arad’s Arabesque (2006), stainless steel tubing arranged in repeating figure eights; Studio Dell’Aqua Bellavitis’ Bambu (2006), a sculptural cluster of upright steel tubes that curve gently like bamboo stalks; and Rashid’s own Klobs (2006), a sculptural set of biomorphic modules. The show inaugurates the museum’s new second-floor "Design and Innovation Gallery."
FLUXUS ART TO MOMA
The Museum of Modern Art has added a trove of ca. 3,000 works by Fluxus artists -- George Brecht, Robert Filliou, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Yoko Ono, Ben Vautier, Robert Watts and others -- courtesy Gilbert and Lila Silverman, who began collecting Fluxus art in 1978 (and enlisted artist Jon Hendricks as curator in 1981). The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection makes MoMA a major center for scholarship in Fluxus art.
KEITH HARING AT PASCAL DE SARTHE FINE ART
Pascal de Sarthe Fine Art of Paradise Valley, Ariz., is exhibiting "Keith Haring -- Paintings, Sculptures, Works on Paper" at the Bentley Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 3-Mar. 3, 2009. The show features important subway drawings, a painted vase, painted aluminum sculptures like Ringed Figure and Breakdancer, and major paintings including Mr. Softee (1985). Though this show is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the Phoenix area, Haring exhibited his work in 1991 at the Phoenix Art Museum in "Haring, Disney, Warhol," and painted an outdoor mural with local schoolchildren in downtown Phoenix in 1986. A portion of the proceeds from the show go to the Southwest Center for HIV in Phoenix. For more info, click here.
MCDERMOTT AWARD TO BILL VIOLA
Video artist Bill Viola is the recipient of the $75,000 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts from the Council for the Arts at MIT. Established in 1974 to honor the co-founder of Texas Instruments, a longtime patron of the arts at MIT, the award celebrates creative achievements nationwide.
BARD AWARD TO ENWEZOR
San Francisco Art Institute dean Okwui Enwezor has received the 12th annual Award for Curatorial Excellence from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. The Nigerian-born curator organized the 2nd Johannesberg Biennale in 1997, Documenta 11 in 2002 and the 7th Gwangju Biennale in 2008, as well as several museum exhibitions.