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Artnet News
Mar. 12, 2009 

Have things gotten so bad that Chelsea contemporary galleries are going socialist? Not really, but some of the most powerful galleries in the storied New York art district are pooling their cultural power to send a special exhibition to Cuba at the end of the month to promote "cross-cultural ties through visual means." The initiative, dubbed "Chelsea Visits Havana," is organized by Alberto Magnan and Dara Metz, both connected to Chelsea outpost Magnan Projects. It touches down at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in the Cuban capital, Mar. 28-May 17, 2009, timed to debut alongside the Havana Biennial, Mar. 27-Apr. 30, 2009.

Skimming the crème from some of the most important New York galleries makes for what looks to be a museum-quality show of 33 artists, divided into three thematic sections: "Fantasy vs. Reality," "Control vs. Chaos" and "History vs. Present." The selection of artists is meant to represent the "diversity of New York’s melting pot."

Stars of "Chelsea Visits Havana" include masters of schizoid capitalist esthetics like Matthew Barney (courtesy Barbara Gladstone) and Tony Oursler (courtesy Lehmann Maupin). The exhibition also puts the spotlight on exemplars of postmodern painting practice like Will Cotton (courtesy Mary Boone) and Walton Ford (courtesy Paul Kasmin), and important figures in contemporary photography like Edward Burtynsky (courtesy Charles Cowles) and Nan Goldin (courtesy Matthew Marks). Also on view are more eccentric figures like Duke Riley, the hipster artist known for building a homemade submarine and getting arrested as a terrorist in New York harbor (he shows at Magnan), and geographer-cum-conceptual artist Trevor Paglen, whose most recent show of photos track spy satellites (courtesy Bellwether).

The complete list of artists featured in the show includes Marina Abramovic (Sean Kelly), Alejandro Almanza Pereda (Magnan), Assume Vivid Astro Focus (John Connelly Presents), Radcliffe Bailey and Carlos Vega (Jack Shainman), Guy Ben-Ner (Postmasters), Matthew Benedict (Alexander and Bonin), Long-Bin Chen (Frederieke Taylor), Delia Brown (D’Amelio Terras), Jules de Balincourt (Zach Feuer), Christoph Draeger (Freight + Volume), Dinh Q. Le (PPOW), Loretta Lux (Yossi Milo), Nicky Nodjoumi and Jade Townsend (Priska C. Juschka Fine Art), Jack Pierson (Cheim & Read), Matthew Ritchie & James Case Leal (Andrea Rosen), Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Lehmann Maupin), Andrew Schoultz (Morgan Lehman), Devorah Sperber (Caren Golden), Brian Tolle (CRG), Michael Waugh (Schroeder Romero) and Doug Young (Roebling Hall).

In addition, an installation from Jonathan Schipper makes the trip to "Chelsea Visits Havana," from Brooklyn-based powerhouse Pierogi 2000 -- proving the exhibition’s mission is bigger than one neighborhood -- while a special commission by Irish-born artist Padraig Tarrant is from Fundación Amistad, the organization dedicated to Cuba-U.S. exchange that is providing most of the funding for the endeavor (according to the foundation’s website, the ambitious show is being executed for a jaw-droppingly modest total of $30,000).

Mary Boone Gallery seems to have adopted a new approach to generating sales in a recession -- sue your collectors. In a lawsuit filed in New York state supreme court on Feb. 9, 2009, the gallery seeks to compel Ohio collector Mary Kidder, a trustee of the Columbus Museum of Art, to complete a purchase of a painting by Will Cotton for $32,000. (According to the lawsuit, Kidder had seen Cotton’s work in the Boone gallery booth at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair in 2008; the painting she was eventually offered by the gallery, titled Ribbon Candy, carried a list price of $50,000, discounted "in recognition of Kidder’s prominence in the art world and the gallery’s desire to do business with her.")

The gallery claims that the collector agreed to buy the work, forming a "binding contract" for the purchase, "pursuant to the custom and practice of the art world," and sent the collector an invoice. About two weeks later, according to the lawsuit, Kidder told the gallery she had changed her mind and was canceling the transaction. Since the gallery had paid Cotton $30,000 for the painting on her account, the gallery says, Kidder should complete the purchase, or at least compensate the gallery for its costs ($30,000 to Cotton).

What are the prospects of the lawsuit? Well, you can never tell, though New York attorney John Koegel suggests that the gallery’s argument contravenes both ordinary commercial practice as well as regulations covering purchases for more than $500. "To make a contract of sale binding," said the lawyer, "it has to be in writing." One might note, as well, that it must be hard to stay in business on deals that net a mere $2,000.

Tony Allen-Mills of the London Sunday Times broke the story, which was quickly picked up by other papers, as well as by and Richard Prince would be donating his substantial collection of first edition books and off-beat publications to the Morgan Library. The trove includes a signed first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses and Vladimir Nabokov's own annotated copy of Lolita, along with many other treasures dating from 1949, the year of Prince's birth, to 1984. Under the supposed deal, the 3,000-item collection would be put on view at the library in a long-term exhibition.

One problem: Prince says the story isn't true. "I have never talked to anybody at the Morgan about this possibility and have never talked to any reporter about this possibility," he said in an email to Artnet Magazine. "I have no idea where or how this story started." It turns out that Allen-Mills wrote his report based on an interview Prince gave to Bookforum -- and the author of that text, Geoff Nicholson, does claim in passing that Prince is "negotiating to donate it to the Morgan if they let him have an exhibition there for a couple of years." A spokesman for the Morgan Library also said he didn’t know anything about the deal. Bookforum, for its part, says that "the article was reviewed by Richard Prince before publication."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has cut its staff again, announcing 74 new layoffs in its struggling merchandising department. According to Randy Kennedy at the New York Times, museum director Thomas P. Campbell "told staff members that no departments would be excluded from the further reductions that are expected" -- and officials indicate that the number of total job cuts could go as high as 250 before the summer. In the past the museum staff has numbered about 2,500 people.

A report by "wealth-research" firm the Spectrum Group confirms what dealers at the recent Armory Show fairs probably already suspected -- the nation’s millionaires are hurting. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of households with a net worth of more than $1 million dropped by 2.5 million from 2007 and 2008, and now stands at 6.7 million. Meanwhile, close to half of all remaining millionaires have seen more than 30 percent of their net worth wiped away. "The population of millionaires is now at levels last seen in 2003-04, meaning that the economic crisis has all but erased the millionaire boom of the past five years," the WSJ reports. That’s a period of time that not un-coincidentally coincides with the big boom in art fairs, which kicked into high gear with the first Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002, and the first Frieze Art Fair, in 2003.

Separately, Forbes magazine reports that the number of billionaires in the world has shrunk to 793, from 1,125 on last count.

The art world may have to wait a little longer to see what works Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton has spirited off to Bentonville, Ark., for her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. According to reports, the Moshe Safdie-designed museum, originally set to open in 2010, now has a projected 2011 date. Or so said Bentonville mayor Bob McCaslin in his "state of the city" address. The Associated Press adds that an electrical subcontractor on the project states that the project "will run through 2011," indicating that it could face even more delays.  

They better not take too long. According to earlier reports, Crystal Bridges benefits from a law passed by the city of Bentonville, seemingly written specifically for Walton’s pet project -- it provides special tax exemptions to any museum that has more than $100 million worth of art and opens to the public between 2005 and 2013 [see Artnet News, Feb. 24, 2006].

The Japan Society on East 47th Street in Manhattan has found an inventive new way to post info about the works in its new show, "Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Anime + Video Games," Mar. 13-June 14, 2009 -- put the text not on those tiny wall labels, but rather paint it directly on the wall in giant comic-style "word balloons" above the artworks.

The show of more than 150 comic books, toys, films and other manifestations of the hip Japanese cultural phenomenon, originally assembled by the Vancouver Art Gallery, boasts several other novel installational approaches, as well. For one, many of the artifacts are displayed on the wall inside clear plastiform bubbles that resemble modern product packaging; for another, the show includes a game room with Pac-Man and Super Mario video games, available for playing; for a third, the show boasts a kind of gallery-theater in which excerpts from no less than a dozen anime cartoons are playing. For more info, see

Veteran fair organizer Sanford Smith has moved to cut overhead by combining two of his events, Art 20 and Modernism, which were originally scheduled to take place one after the other at the Park Avenue Armory in the first half of November 2009. "We have always produced specialty shows targeted to a specific clientele who have expressed serious interest in the material," he wrote in an email. "We will continue to operate this way in this difficult economic climate because we believe, as we have always believed, this produces the best results for exhibitors."

The move means that fewer dealers are able to exhibit, about 70 to 80 in all. The two charities benefited by the two preview parties, the Brooklyn Museum and Planned Parenthood, will share the proceeds this time around. Smith also operates the Outsider Art Fair, Works on Paper and the N.Y. Antiquarian Book Fair.

The Los Angeles-based Centre Pompidou Foundation, which musters U.S.-based support for the Paris museum, says it received more than $3 million in gifts in 2008 -- including Chuck Close’s mural-sized portrait of his dealer Arne Glimcher, donated by Glimcher and his wife, Milly. The foundation also purchased 13 works for the museum, by a list of artists that includes Robert Gober, Jonathan Lasker, Zöe Leonard, Robert Morris, Jorge Pardo, Robert Watts and James Welling. The works by Close, Gober and Pardo are the first to enter the Pompidou collection. "I’m gratified," said Pompidou foundation director Scott Stover. As for curators at U.S. museums, they probably welcome the Pompidou’s success in picking up acquisitions in their backyard. Not.

The accomplished independent film director, actor and photographer Dennis Hopper is now adding a new job to his portfolio: curator. Hopper has organized two exhibitions at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos -- site of Hopper’s pioneering film, Easy Rider, as it happens -- featuring works by several of his friends, and by himself. "Forty Years of Friendship: L.A. to Taos" presents works by Larry Bell, Ken Price, Ron Cooper, Ronald Davis and Robert Dean Stockwell, while "Selected Photographs and Paintings" features 13 of Hopper’s own works from the 1960s. Both shows run May 9-Sept. 20, 2009.

It’s an illustrious bunch, the International Association of Art Critics, which is headquartered in Paris (and which has a chapter in this country, AICA-USA). The international group has just elected its new officers: President is Yacouba Konaté, a philosopher at the University of Abidjan-Cocody in the Ivory Coast, who was artistic director of the Dakar Biennale in 2006; secretary is Haydee Venegas, an art historian at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in Puerto Rico; and acting general secretary is Marie Luise Syring, a freelance art critic who formerly served as director of Düsseldorf Kunsthalle (1998-2001) and was cultural development director at the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf (2002-2008).

One of San Francisco’s most vital galleries of contemporary figurative painting, Hackett Freedman, is going private after the close on May 1, 2009, of its two current exhibitions of new works by Raimonds Staprans and Marc Trujillo. The gallery is continuing to operate by appointment from its same location, offering a "select inventory" that ranges from 20th-century masters like Milton Avery, Richard Diebenkorn and Hans Hofmann to contemporary art. According to Tracey Freedman, who founded the gallery with Michael Hackett in 1986, "this move to a quieter level of operations will allow us to consider new possibilities."

Jay A. Clarke
, associate curator of prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, has been named curator of prints, drawings and photographs at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. Her exhibitions at the AIC included "Postwar German Works on Paper: Gifts of Susan and Lewis Manilow" as well as the current show, "Becoming Edvard Munch."

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