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Artnet News
Mar. 6, 2007 

MOMA CLEARS DECK FOR SERRA SURVEY
The Museum of Modern Art plans to open up its entire second floor, clearing out all the temporary walls in its contemporary galleries, to house three huge new sculptures by Richard Serra for the forthcoming "Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years," June 3-Sept. 10, 2007. The new works, which all date from 2006, are made of two-inch-thick steel plate and measure almost 13 feet tall -- and weigh about 200 tons. The largest of the three, Band, an arabesque in which the steel wall loops back on itself four times in what might be described as a quadruple oxbow, measures 36 x 70 ft. As it turns out, the new museum was designed from the beginning to get work like Serra’s into the building, with sturdy floors and a 40-foot-wide loading dock.

The Serra show also fills the museum’s sixth floor temporary exhibition galleries, which are earmarked for early works like Belt (1966-67), To Lift (1967) and Prop (1968), and extends into the sculpture garden, where two new acquisitions are to be displayed at the museum for the first time, including Intersection II (1982-83), a suite of four steel conical sections measuring about 13 x 50 ft. each.

"I don’t think there is another indoor space quite like this one," said Serra during an early morning press conference at the museum on Mar. 6, 2007. As a New Yorker, he said he was keenly conscious of the reception his show would receive in his hometown. "It’s certainly a big moment for me." The charismatic artist gave a frank and fascinating talk about the genesis of his work in the 1960s, discussing his early frustrations as a painter, his "student" experiments with constructions based on animal habitats (undertaken while he was married to the late artist Nancy Graves, who worked with animal forms) and the pivotal "Anti-Form" sculptures made in his Tribeca loft with cast-off rubber scrap (obtained while running a part-time moving business with other artists) and with doors scrounged from a dilapidated Hudson River pier.

These artistic investigations, which Serra readily credited to a collaborative (and competitive) downtown community that included artists like Yvonne Rainer, Robert Smithson, Eva Hesse and Philip Glass, were championed by the art dealers Richard Bellamy and Leo Castelli, and entered contemporary art history with the 1969 "Anti-Illusion" exhibition at the Whitney Museum, where Serra exhibited his signature One Ton Prop (House of Cards). The artist also discussed the next stage of his work, the huge "torqued ellipse" sculptures, a kind of form that had never been made before. Later, in response to a question about skateboard ramps, he noted that he had been a surfer, which formed "part of the subtext" of these sculptures.

The exhibition is organized by MoMA curator Kynaston McShine, who also conducted a wide-ranging interview with the artist for the exhibition catalogue. The catalogue includes an essay by Lynne Cooke, curator for the Dia Art Center (whose plans for a Serra show were derailed when it closed its Manhattan facility).

WAR THREATENS IRANIAN CULTURAL SITES
Several of the plants involved in Iran’s disputed nuclear program sit "perilously close" to ancient cultural sites, according to an article in the Guardian, so a U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear targets could do some damage to archeology and cultural tourism as well as raising all kinds of other hell.

* The Isfahan uranium conversion plant is located just a few miles from the Isfahan cultural complex, designated a world heritage site by UNESCO, that includes mosques, palaces, a giant public square known as the second largest in the world, gardens, fountains and a 33-arch bridge dating from 1602.

* The Natanz uranium enrichment plant is located "very close" to a group of tiled and stucco buildings surrounding the Natanz shrine to the 13th century Sufi teacher and mystic Shaykh Abd al-Samad Esfahani, which boasts a celebrated minaret and pyramidal roof.

* Within 50 miles of the Ardakan and Fasa uranium processing plants lies Persepolis, the ancient palace of Darius I, with its famous "Hall of 100 Columns," as well as the 6th century BC tomb of Cyrus the Great.

The Guardian quotes Mideast antiquities expert John Curtis, who says that "any kind of military activity whatever in Iran, whether aerial bombing or land invasion, would inevitably have the gravest consequences, not only for its people but for its cultural heritage -- which should be a matter of concern not just to Iranians but to the whole world."

JOHNS PRINTS TO NGA
Pop artist Jasper Johns has sold his personal collection of his own lithographs, etchings and screen prints, numbering 1,700 proofs in all, to the National Gallery of Art for an undisclosed sum, presumed to be in the millions of dollars. The sale was announced by NGA director Earl A. Powell III at the press preview for "States and Variations: Prints by Jasper Johns," Mar. 11-Oct. 28, 2007, a new print exhibition accompanying the already-opened Johns painting show, "An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965," Jan. 28-Apr. 29, 2007. The acquisition makes the NGA the home of the world’s largest institutional collection of Johns work.

JENNEY AT THE ALDRICH
New York artist Neil Jenney, celebrated as one of the originals of both the "bad painting" and the "new image" movements of the 1970s, and whose last major exhibition was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1994, is set to have a solo show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., June 24-Sept. 2, 2007. Curated by museum director Harry Philbrick, "Neil Jenney: North America" ranges from what Jenny now calls the "good paintings" of the early 1970s to new works made especially for the Aldrich.

LOTS OF TOP MUSEUM JOBS
Wannabe museum directors, do we have some jobs for you! In addition to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., where director Willard Holmes has said he would step down, two additional museums lost their directors this week. Robert Fitzpatrick, chief of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (and former CEO of EuroDisney), announced that he will step down in 2008, following 10 years on the job. And Trudy C. Kramer, head of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y. declared that she would leave her post as director at the end of 2007.

In addition, Wendy Weitman, curator of prints and illustrated books at the Museum of Modern Art, quietly left her job after more than 20 years at the museum to spend more time with the husband and kids. That post, however, is already filled by Christophe Cherix, print curator at the Musée d’art et d’histoire in Geneva. He starts his new job in July 2007.

GAY ART BOOKS FROM ASCHENBACH
This month sees the launch of Aschenbach, a new imprint from powerHouse Books dedicated to art books aimed at the gay market. Overseen by 24-year-old editor Nicholas Weist, Aschenbach has announced three projects so far: a monograph on Christian Holstad; Nonchaloir by Paul P., featuring the artist’s drawings of models from pre-AIDS gay magazines; and Bruceploitation by underground shock filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, a survey of his artworks, film stills and writing, with contributions from admirers like Vaginal Davis, Javier Peres, Terry Richardson and John Waters.

TEXAS BIENNIAL TAKES OFF
The second-ever Texas Biennial, Mar. 1-Apr. 15, 2007,  features 39 artists from the Lone Star State in an exhibition that sprawls across four venues in Austin: the Dougherty Arts Center, Bolm Studios, Okay Mountain and Site 1808 (this last described as "a grassy meadow by Café Azul"). The jurors who selected the artists were Ursula Davila (assistant curator of Latin-American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art), Fairfax Dorn (executive director of Ballroom gallery in Marfa), Kate Green (curator at Artpace in San Antonio), Valerie Cassel Oliver (associate curator at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston) and John Pomara (professor at the University of Texas, Dallas). For further details, see www.texasbiennial.com

CANADIAN PAINTERS WANTED
The Royal Bank of Canada and the Canadian Art Foundation are opening the doors for the "2007 RBC Canadian Painting Competition," hunting for the very best in work by those holding Canadian passports. (Karin Davie, take note!) Entries are due by May 4, 2007, with winners announced in September. First prize is $25,000, and two runners-up take home $15,000. For more info, see www.rbc.com/paintingcompetition.

CAGE TRUST TO BARD
The John Cage Trust has just become the John Cage Trust at Bard College. The Annandale-on-Hudson institution is taking over the archive containing the celebrated artist and experimental music pioneer’s published and unpublished work, and is also to be in charge of administering copyright issues relating to seminal works such as Cage’s 4’33". Founded after Cage’s death in 1992 by Merce Cunningham, the trust operates with a board of directors comprised of Cunningham, Philadelphia Museum of Art director Anne d'Harnoncourt, archivist David Vaughan and former Cage assistant Laura Kuhn. With the move to Bard, Kuhn becomes the inaugural "John Cage Professor of Performance Arts," and is to oversee undergraduate and graduate courses, workshops and concerts based around the materials.

SPIELBERG, ROCKWELL, LENIN, FBI – TOGETHER, AT LAST
In a story that has more twists than a Hollywood thriller, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, accompanied by an expert from the Huntington Library, paid a call to the offices of Steven Spielberg at Universal Studios in Los Angeles last Friday to confirm that a painting in his collection was, in fact, a stolen work prominently featured on the bureau’s art crimes list. The picture in question, Russian Schoolroom, is an oil painting by Norman Rockwell depicting Russian school kids gazing upon a bust of V.I. Lenin. The work is said to be worth $700,000-$1 million, and was the sole item stolen during a nighttime burglary at the Clayton Art Gallery in St. Louis in 1973.

Spielberg, one of the founders of the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. and an avid fan of the illustrator, said he purchased the purloined painting in 1989 in New York. Apparently, the work was owned by the Circle Galleries of Chicago and the Danenburg Gallery of New York, auctioned in New Orleans in 1988, and then advertised for sale at a Rockwell exhibition in New York in 1989, all without anyone noticing that it was stolen.

Spielberg’s spokesman Marvin Levy told E! Online that Spielberg discovered the truth about Russian Schoolroom -- also known as The Russian Classroom or Russian Schoolchildren -- after an employee checked the FBI "Art Crimes" website (perhaps as research for the new Indiana Jones film?). If you ask us, considering the growing role of Russian collectors in the booming art market, the estimated value of a painting like this seems low. 

ACCONCI SIGNS ON FOR MR. ARTSEE
Architect and artist Vito Acconci has signed on to design Mister Artsee, the "multifunctional, phantasmagorical art-vehicle" conceived by Artnet Magazine contributor Elliot Arkin to bring contemporary art to "neighborhoods, schools, playgrounds, parks and public spaces throughout New York City." Arkin cited Acconci’s knack for "experience-oriented works" as making him perfect for the project.

JEAN BAUDRILLARD, 1929-2007
Jean Baudrillard, 77, influential French philosopher whose ideas of the "simulacra" and "hyperreality" gained wide currency in the contemporary art world, has died at his home in Paris after a long illness. Born in Reims, Baudrillard studied at the University of Nanterre and came under the influence of the Situationist critique of consumer society. His first work, The System of Objects, was published in 1968, and in numerous books afterwards, including For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1972), Simulacra and Simulations (1981) and America (1986), he became known for his pessimistic descriptions of the death of originality and authenticity in contemporary culture. In one of his final works, 2005’s The Conspiracy of Art, he declared that contemporary art had lost any ability to critique or reflect on society.


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