ROMA PAVILION IN VENICE
The lineup of national pavilions at the 52nd Venice Biennale, June 10-Nov. 21, 2007, looks fairly familiar (i.e. Felix Gonzales-Torres for the U.S., Tracy Emin for the U.K., Sophie Calle for France, Isa Genzken for Germany). One new addition, however, is a pavilion devoted to Roma culture (otherwise known as Gypsies). The project is an initiative of the George Soros-funded Open Society Institute, which funds an ongoing "Roma Cultural Participation Project." According to a press release, the Roma pavilion constitutes "the first significant step toward giving Roma contemporary culture the audience it deserves."
The exhibition is still in its formative stages, but it is said to feature artists of Roma descent who hail from nine different countries (contrary to the stereotype, the Roma have largely ceased to be nomadic), making it "the first truly European pavilion in the Biennale’s history." A program of events in Venice spotlighting Roma culture will accompany the show.
TEXAS DEATH PENALTY ART STIRS CONTROVERSY
Texas executes more people than any other state, and state legislators don’t like being criticized for it, either. Houston’s Democratic representative Borris Miles personally removed two artworks from an exhibition organized at the Texas capital building by the anti-death-penalty group the Texas Moratorium Network. Miles refuses to return the works, claiming that the images are inappropriate for children. The works in question are a painting of a hanged man, and an illustration of a man in an electric chair featuring the ironic inscription, "Doing God’s Work."
The State Preservation Board, which regulates art shows in the Capital building, requires that exhibitions call attention to public issues, and have the sponsorship of a member of the legislature -- in this case, Miles’ fellow Democrat Harold Dutton, who has declined to take a stand defending the censored works. Texas Moratorium Network president Scott Cobb told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that Miles had no right to censor the artworks -- and that the lawmaker should have at least gone through the proper channels to lodge a complaint.
The works in the capital were a selection from a larger show seen at the M2 gallery in Houston, Feb. 10-18, 2007. The exhibition featured art by death row inmates and artists, and was juried by a committee that included Annette Carlozzi, curator at the Blanton Museum of Art, Lora Reynolds of Austin’s Lora Reynolds Gallery and Malaquias Montoya, a professor at the University of California, Davis.
LEONARDO LOAN UPROAR IN FLORENCE
Italian senator Paolo Amato chained himself to the gates of the Uffizi museum in Florence on Monday to protest the loan of Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation (1472-1475) to a Japanese museum. The painting is part of "Italian Spring," Mar. 20-June 17, 2007, at the National Museum in Tokyo -- but Amato fears that travel puts the ca. 7 x 3 ft. painting at risk, and that without the work, Uffizi visitors will be missing out. "There is a section dedicated to the young Leonardo with three artworks and the Annunciation is one of these," Amato told the Associated Press. "If you remove it, it’s impossible to understand the meaning of the section."
More than 100 cultural figures have signed onto a petition saying that the painting is too fragile to move. Nevertheless, representatives of the museum are determined to continue with the loan as planned.
ROUND TWO FOR GEHRY AT WEISMAN
The Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota has announced plans for a new, $10-million, 11,000-square-foot expansion by starchitect Frank Gehry, the designer of the museum’s present headquarters. The current Weisman facility, completed in 1993, is often described as the "test run" for Gehry’s celebrated Guggenheim Bilbao -- but has never really been satisfactory as a functional museum, according to local observers. Nevertheless, the Gehry brand has been important enough to the Weisman that they are going back for more, asking the maestro to add several "brick boxes" to show art in (perhaps representing discontent with the current curvilinear galleries?) that will double the exhibition space, as well as a café overlooking the Mississippi and a "creative collaboration" studio funded by Twin Cities-based Target.
Weisman director Lyndel King told the Star Tribune that the expansion would answer two questions asked by visitors about the original, "’Is that all there is? And where can I get something to eat?’" The expanded museum is expected to be done in 2009.
ART TACTICS FOR ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Today’s political demonstrations often use the imaginative techniques that were first developed by artists and dancers for Happenings and other performance-based art -- at least that’s the impression given by "Step It Up," a loosely knit nationwide series of protests against Global Warming slated for Apr. 14, 2007. Brainchild of environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, the program already has close to 900 environmentally inspired "actions" scheduled at various sites across the country.
Among the protests are human chains of people (wearing blue shirts) marking the path of the new, post-meltdown coastlines in Manhattan, Boston and other locales; a "recycled fashion show" in San Francisco; a PowerPoint projection about global warming on the side of a house in Miami; and many "consciousness-raising" workshops across the country. Photos of the happenings are to be posted on the project’s website, www.stepitup2007.org
BARBARA NESSIM COMMISSION IN ROC CENTER
The Centria, a new 34-floor, glass-encased condo tower located on West 48th Street in the middle of Rockefeller Center, features a new commission by artist Barbara Nessim, who until recently headed the illustration department at Parsons, The New School of Design. Her large "digital paintings," multi-panel images worked out on the computer and transferred to canvas, measure 12 x 13 ft. and feature sweetly colored, lyrical images that are both abstract and representational. For more details, see www.barbaranessim.com. The condo tower also features a 25-ft.-tall indoor-outdoor limestone bas-relief wall by Erwin Hauer Studios.
MORE CHICAGO FOR NYC
Everyone knows that the Brooklyn Museum is opening a permanent installation of Judy Chicago’s monumental The Dinner Party (1974-79) on Mar. 23, 2007. But the pioneering feminist artist is the subject of at least two other exhibitions in Manhattan at the same time.
The Hebrew Union College at One West 4th Street in downtown Manhattan is currently presenting "Judy Chicago: Jewish Identity," Feb. 15-July 6, 2007, a survey of the artist’s work with a special focus on the "impact of her family’s Eastern European Jewish roots and the legacy of their values and political activism," organized by scholar Gail Levin. Admission is free.
And ACA Galleries at 529 West 20th Street opens "Setting the Table: Preparatory Work for the Dinner Party," Mar. 23-Apr. 29, 2007, a show that features six "test plates" and the drawings for all 39 plates included in the final installation. Many of the works are for sale -- the suite of 39 drawings is offered as a unit -- at prices as yet to be determined.
Additionally, publishers have readied two new books: The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation by Judy Chicago (Merrell, $49.95) and Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist by Gail Levin (Harmony Books, $29.95).
DATES SET FOR PERFORMA 07
The second biennial of new visual art performance, Performa 07, Nov. 1-20, 2007, promises a range of performances at 20 different venues, from Anthology Film Archives and Art in General to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Guggenheim Museum. Among the special offerings are "Dance after Choreography," a series examining the influence of the Judson Dance Theater, as well as a "Writing Live" blog and a new "apprenticeship program in arts production" for people aged 18-23. Special commissions for the fest have gone out to Isaac Julien, Yvonne Rainer, Francesco Vezzoli and Daria Martin. In the meantime, a panel dubbed "Not for Sale: Forever Radical?", moderated by Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg, is slated to be held at New York University on Apr. 12, 2007. For further info, see www.performa-arts.org.
WARHOL AT MENIL COLLECTION
Andy Warhol is an "evergreen" for exhibition planners, and the stately Menil Collection in Houston has come up with its own high-class way to tap into the art-world affection for all things Warhol. "Andy Warhol: Three Houston Women," Mar. 16-July 8, 2007, brings together for the first time three portraits by the Pope of Pop of celebrated Houston art patrons -- Dominique de Menil (1908-1997), art patron and Menil Collection founder; Jermayne MacAgy (1914-1964), former director of Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum; and Caroline Wiess Law (1918-2004), art collector and trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The show celebrates the Menil’s 20th anniversary year.
ALEXANDRA PEERS OUT AT LTB
Alexandra Peers, the Wall Street Journal editor who was hired to oversee the LTB art-media empire (Art & Auction, Modern Painters, Museums, Gallery Guide, Culture & Travel, Artinfo.com), is out before she was even in. Peers’ appointment as LTB editorial director, a post formerly held by celebrity editor James Truman, was announced late last month; the news that she wouldn’t be taking the job came out earlier this week. Additional details weren’t forthcoming, but insiders say that Peers couldn’t extract an actual employment contract from LTB chief Louise MacBain, and refused to start work without one. According to those in the know, MacBain had verbally offered Peers an annual salary of $200,000, a sum that she later reduced to $160,000. "Louise doesn’t believe in employment contracts," joked one ex-LTB employee. "Not even the ones she’s signed."
Staff turnover at LTB publications continues, with Culture & Travel and Museums magazines both without either an editor or managing editor. According to one report, MacBain recently visited the offices of Art & Auction and floated the idea that a single staff would work together to put out all the titles, an idea that was met with dismay. MacBain has also hotly denied claims that her assets totaled less than the $250 million figure often cited in press reports. Stay tuned.
ICP INFINITY AWARDS FOR 2007
The International Center of Photography "Infinity Awards" for 2007 have gone to William Klein (lifetime achievement award), Milton Rogovin (Cornell Capa award), Karl Lagerfeld (ICP trustees award), Ryan McGinley (young photographer), David Levi Strauss (writing), Sommes-Nous?, Tendance Floue (publication), Tracey Moffatt (art), Christopher Morris, My America (photojournalism) and the Gap (applied fashion advertising photography). The awards are presented at a gala fundraiser on May 14, 2007.