PATAKI'S $100-MILLION ARTS SLUSH FUND?
Former New York State governor George E. Pataki controlled a Port Authority slush fund that channeled nearly $100 million to subsidize New York City arts institutions and real-estate developments since 2003, according to a report by David A. Michaels in the Record newspaper of North Jersey. Manhattan's recently refurbished Park Avenue Armory (formerly known as the Seventh Regiment Armory), home to several high-end art fairs, took home $25 million from the fund, according to the paper, while the Museum of Arts and Design got $1.5 million towards its purchase of E.D. Stone's dilapidated Moorish-style museum building at 2 Columbus Circle. The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum got $5 million and $500,000, respectively, for their renovation plans.
According to critics of the spending, Port Authority funds should go to improve regional transportation and general economic development, rather than for arts and culture projects that are now being called "elite." "This is done in secret," fumed New York State assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, who pointed out that the special grants could go for "pet projects for people in power." The funds come from bridge-and-tunnel tolls and the PATH trains, a sore point for New Jersey commuters.
Other beneficiaries of the money have included the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater ($1 million), the Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History ($6.5 million), the Ballet Hispanico ($1 million), the Brooklyn Academy of Music's parking garage ($2.3 million), the Brooklyn Children's Museum ($1 million) and the New York Botanical Garden ($10.15 million).
MUSEUM HEAD ROLLS AFTER EXCESSIVE SPENDING
The Smithsonian Institution took home $715 million in federal funds last year, and well over a million of that was funneled right into the pocket of Smithsonian secretary Lawrence M. Small. Now Small is out, after an internal audit revealed that his compensation totaled $915,696 this year, according to the New York Times, with "hundreds of thousands" more going for trips in private jets and things like "chandelier cleaning" at Small's home. Thank Iowa Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley for the ouster, after he red-flagged what he called "out-of-control spending."
Small's defenders -- who include Chief Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a member of the 17-person Smithsonian trustee board -- point to his success in raising private money for the Smithsonian, whose 19 museums, zoos and research institutions have an annual budget of $1 billion. Small is succeeded as acting secretary by Cristián Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History. No word on what his salary is, or will be.
SHARJAH BIENNIAL OPENS IN UAE
The Sharjah Biennial 8 gets under way in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, Apr. 5-June 4, 2007, focusing on the theme of "Still Life: Art, Ecology and the Politics of Change." More than 80 artists from around the globe have been invited to make new site-specific works across the city. Among the special commissions is a 1972 work by Gustav Metzger, for which the exhaust fumes from 120 automobiles are piped into a large glass cube. Western artists in the show include Allora & Calzadilla, Peter Fend, Alfredo Jaar, Joachim Koester, Jesus Bubu Negron, Cornelia Parker, Dan Peterman, Marjetica Potrc, Joe Scanlan, Simon Starling, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Sci-Fi author Bruce Sterling is slated to give the keynote address at the accompanying symposium. For details, see www.sharjahbiennial.org.
CANDLELIGHT VIGILS FOR IRAQI ARTIFACTS
Donny George Youkhanna -- former director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and currently a visiting professor at Stony Brook University in New York -- is calling for candlelight vigils around the world to mark the fourth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum, which took place Apr. 9-11, 2003. The initiative is organized through Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE), a nonprofit that seeks to draw attention to the problem of looting around the world, inspired by the horrific loss of Iraq's heritage during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Currently, there are two vigils set for San Francisco and another for Stony Brook -- but Youkhanna is requesting others to organize their own events to call attention to the issue. Information, as well as an interview with Youkhanna detailing his experience in the Iraq Museum during the invasion, can be found at www.savingantiquities.org.
NEW TALENTS AT ART COLOGNE
Art collectors flock to art fairs in search of both blue chips and new talent. The special "New Talents" program at Art Cologne 2007, Apr. 18-22, 2007 includes 25 artists: Ivan Andersen (b. 1968, Denmark), Elena Davidovich (b. 1970, Belarus), Johannes Esper (b. 1971, Germany), Andreas Fischer (b. 1972, Germany), Cuny Janssen (b. 1975, Holland), Sveinn Fannar Johannsson, (b. 1977, Iceland), Ma Jun & Huang Min (b. 1974/b. 1975, China), Seb Koberstädt (b. 1977, Germany), Aylin Langreuter (b. 1976, Germany), Changwon Lee (b. 1972, South Korea), Moonho Lee (b. 1970, South Korea), Stefan Lenke (b. 1976, Germany), Kalin Lindena (b. 1977, Germany), Hugo Markl (b. 1964, United States), Daniel Megerle (b. 1977, Germany), Wesley Meuris (b. 1977, Belgium), Hannes Norberg (b. 1969, Germany), Bea Otto (b. 1964, Germany), Maria & Natalia Petschatnikov (b. 1973, Russia), Phunk Studio (b. 1973/1974, Singapore), Lukas Roth (b. 1965, Germany), Carsten Tabel (b. 1978, Germany), Nikola Ukic (b. 1974, Croatia), Lisette Verkerk (b. 1973, Holland), and Jan Wenzel (b. 1972, Germany).
KILIMNIK BALLET IN LONDON
New Romantic painter Karen Kilimnik is mounting a one-night ballet in London called Sleeping Beauty + Friends. Described as a "collage of set pieces from famous classical ballets such as Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake," Kilimnik's ballet has a little "extra sparkle" thanks to jeweled costumes and sets provided with help from Swarovski. "I want to be like Marius Petipa, the choreographer for the Russian ballet in St. Petersburg in the mid-1800s until 1904 or so," Kilimnik said. "He did over 100 ballets!" Produced by the Serpentine Gallery, the show is done in collaboration with choreographer Tom Sapsford and musician Kaffe Matthews, and is scheduled for the New Players Theater in London on Apr. 4, 2007.
JAMES ENSOR IN SOHO
In 1977, the celebrated Belgian symbolist painter James Ensor (1860-1949) was given a large retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum that included 55 oil paintings plus a large selection of drawings and prints. Now, art lovers can see a new show of "James Ensor Paintings," Mar. 15-May 12, 2007, at Peter Freeman, Inc., at 560 Broadway in Manhattan's SoHo district. The exhibition features 15 paintings from private collections, many never before shown in the U.S. The forthcoming cloth-bound catalogue includes two texts by the artist published in English for the first time, Proust Questionnaire (1926) and My Life in Short (1934), as well as an essay by Xavier Tricot, author of the Ensor painting catalogue raisonné.
Do we have some summer reading for you! Due out this June is Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Viking, $27.95), a new book by Danny Danziger (brother of Chelsea photo dealer James Danziger). Billed as "oral history," the book compiles interviews with 52 individuals who make the museum what it is, from florists and security staff to curators and boardmembers like Henry Kravis and Annette de la Renta.
HIGH GETS DEC ARTS CURATOR
Ronald T. Labaco has been appointed curator of decorative arts at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. A former assistant curator of decorative arts at th Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Labaco organized "Eva Zeisel: My Century" for the International Art + Design Fair in New York in 2006.
DRISKELL PRIZE TO FRANKLIN SIRMANS
The High Museum of Art has awarded the 2007 David C. Driskell Prize to Franklin Sirmans, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil Collection in Houston. The prize recognizes a scholar or artist at 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. Sirmans is giving a lecture at the High on July 22, 2007, in conjunction with the National Black Arts Festival.
CHOCOLATE JESUS IN NEW YORK GALLERY
The irrepressible food-artist Cosimo Cavallaro is at it again, with a six-foot-tall, "anatomically correct" sculpture of Jesus Christ made of milk chocolate. Just in time for Easter -- or is that April Fool's Day? -- the sculpture goes on view at the Lab Gallery at the Roger Smith Hotel at 47th and Lexington Avenue, Apr. 1-7, 2007. The 200 pounds of chocolate are donated by the Theo Chocolate Company of San Francisco.