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Artnet News
Feb. 24, 2006 

According to the website Wal-Mart Watch, the Crystal Bridges art gallery -- funded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and set to open in 2009 in Bentonville, Ark., with works by the likes of Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper -- has benefited from some serious tax maneuvering. Last year, the state legislature passed Arkansas Act 1865, sponsored by Bentonville Republican Horace Hardwick, which provides for a series of sales and use tax exemptions to nonprofit museums that open to the public between 2005 and 2013, cost more than $30 million to build and house more than $100 million worth of art -- in other words, Crystal Bridges.

The six percent state sales tax that would ordinarily be due on Walton's 2005 purchase of Asher B. Durand's masterpiece, Kindred Spirits (1849) for an estimated $35 million from the New York Public Library [see Artnet News, May 19, 2005] would have alone amounted to more than $2 million of tax revenue.

Ordinarily, the tax funds would support education -- and Arkansas consistently ranks at the bottom nationally in funding for primary and secondary school education. Alice Walton, on the other hand, is listed as the world's 30th richest person. Does it sound like Wal-Mart's scorched earth corporate policy is proving useful to its so-called charitable activities as well? In a recent article about Crystal Bridges published in the Nation Institute's Tom Dispatch, critic Rebecca Solnit accused Walton of "turning hallowed American art into a fig leaf to paste over naked greed and raw exploitation."

In a recent study of licensing income, Forbes magazine reported that the estate of Andy Warhol raked in $16 million in 2005, making the '60s art superstar the magazine's number four "top-earning dead person," right behind Elvis Presley ($45 million), Charles M. Schultz ($35 million) and John Lennon ($22 million), and beating out Dr. Seuss ($10 million), as well as Warhol subjects Marlon Brando ($9 million) and Marilyn Monroe ($8 million). But the real news in the 2005 list is the arrival of Warhol, a new development (the other lucrative dead people were already solidly at the top of a similar 2004 Forbes round-up). So, what accounts for Andy's sudden rise?

A Warhol licensing bonanza, that's what. The Andy Warhol Foundation agreement with the Beanstock Group -- a marketing corporation that has masterminded licenses for the Mary Kate and Ashley Olson clothing empire, among others -- started to pay off big last year. Already in 2003, the group won the Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association's "Best Corporate Brand License of the Year" award for its Andy Warhol licensing program, and now one can see why. Current or future Warhol product news includes:

* The new "Warhol Factory X Levi's collection," a collection of men's and women's jeans, tops, sweaters and jackets, embellished with dollar sign, Marilyn Monroe, Mao and other imagery ($190-$250 for jeans; $80-$300 for tops) -- set to debut in spring 2006 in the U.S. and Canada.

* A number of gift-shop-type products from the New York-based company Loop, including paper weights ($16 each): bags -- in tote, messenger, DJ, hobo and satchel styles -- featuring flowers, Campbell's soup designs and more ($26.40-$55); and Elvis and Chairman Mao-themed sleep masks ($11).

* European designer Joao Tovar's "All Is Andy Warhol" line, on sale across Europe (to see images of some of the clothes featured on an Italian TV show, click here). Tovar's fashion house, Cultura, is also pushing a CD called Andy Warhol by Cultura, with 25 tracks from the likes of Air, Faultline, Massive Attack, Moby and Unkle.

* Wallets stamped with the Velvet Underground banana, as well as bags using early Warhol ice cream and butterfly motifs, all branded with Warhol's signature, from Paul Frank Industries, currently available at stores in the U.S. and Europe.

* London designer Philip Treacy's 2004 line of "Warhol Hats," assorted varieties of beanies, ball caps and fedoras, made from material that features images of famous celebrities as well as Warhol's late-career camouflage are still available at, along with a line of bags, including a Campbell's soup can-shaped clutch.

* Stationary and other items from San Francisco's Chronicle Books, including an "Andy Warhol Men" silver foil address book, with a cover featuring a silk-screened image of a male bottom ($12.95), the "Pop Box" kit offering "exact reproductions of fascinating ephemera from the Factory years and beyond" ($24.95) and the "Warhol Idea Book," a sketch pad replete with quotes and illustrations ($18.95).

* A 2004 deal with Corbis makes the company exclusive licensor of digital Warhol artwork. The Seattle-based company offers some 500 Warhol images on its website for use by publishers and advertisers -- for a minimum of about $10,000 a pop, according to a company rep.

* Finally -- not a Beanstock licensee, but nevertheless doing its part to build Warholmania -- there's Factory Girl, the George Hickenlooper-directed movie, currently in post-production, about the relationship between Sienna Miller's Edie Sedgewick and Guy Pearce's Andy. The film is such a hot property that it recently prompted a lawsuit by Sony against the Weinstein Company, claiming that it had been cheated out of distribution rights.

Chelsea dealer Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is opening up a second space at 33 West 55th Street. The gallery, to be known as LT/Shoreham Gallery -- it is located just east of the lobby entrance of the Shoreham Hotel, a stone's throw from the ever-popular power-restaurant Michael's -- kicks off with a bang with new work by Nikki S. Lee, the Korean artist known for performances and photo works featuring herself playing a variety of social roles. The show, "In Production," Mar. 8-May 6, 2006, features 15-20 self-portraits by Lee, displayed in light boxes. The pics are stills from her upcoming feature documentary/art project about herself, AKA Nikki S. Lee, which is set to premiere in the fall.

Following the Lee show, the new gallery continues with "Alchemy and Imagination," curated by Klaus Ottmann with works by Yves Klein, James Lee Byars and other heavy hitters.

Visitors to the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis get treated to a quatrafecta of architecture, sculpture, photography and literature this spring, when the Tadeo Ando-designed building's signature Richard Serra sculpture receives homage from Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. "Hiroshi Sugimoto: Photographs of Joe," May 12-Oct. 14, 2006, features 19 blurred, softly lit images of Serra's Cor-Ten steel sculpture, and is itself accompanied by a publication, Joe, with text by novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who attempts to "relate to the sculpture and the photographs without describing or defining them."

Williamsburg, the land of 10,000 artists (literally, according to a statistic published by Artforum) has a big block party to coincide with the weekend of the Armory Show, Mar. 11, 2006, when galleries across the Brooklyn neighborhood keep their doors open until 11 pm. Participating venues and shows can be found at

The 2006 release date is still TBA for Chilean director Raoul Ruiz's Klimt, staring John Malkovich in the title role, but word is that the film is tied up by behind-the-scenes disputes. According to Variety, Ruiz -- who last directed an adaptation of the Marcel Proust's unfilmable Time Regained -- has transformed the life of the decadent Vienna Succession artist into what is described as less a biopic and more of a "phantasmagoria." The feature about the notoriously strong-willed Klimt has apparently had its share of production kinks as a result of its auteur. It was written originally by Ruiz in French, who then had its script translated into German before retranslating it into English for the final draft, a process that has left its mark in the form of some strangely foreign sounding dialogue ("Kisses anywhere other than the lips is like smoking without inhaling," is one reported line.)

Aside from Malkovich, the film features Nikolai Kinski as Egon Schiele, Stephen Dillane as a British diplomat and Saffron Burrows as the artist's muse, Lea de Castro. According to Variety's lukewarm advance review, the story begins on the artist's death bed and flits back and forth through time, including recreations of the Paris 1900 exposition, "a bizarre gilded cage sequence in a brothel" and lots of heady on-camera debates about form versus function.

Thomas Eller, former editor-in-chief of the German-language Artnet Magazine, has won the 2006 Käthe Kollwitz Prize for artistic achievement, worth €10,000. Eller, who commutes between Berlin and New York, creates 3D photo installations and was chosen for the way that he "analyzes our habits of seeing -- irritating them ever so slightly through means at once concrete, subtle and poetic," according to jury member Jörn Merkert. The prize is to be awarded on Apr. 9, 2006, at the accompanying launch of an exhibition dedicated to Eller's work at the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Köln, on view till May 21, 2006.

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