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Artnet News
Apr. 14, 2009 

British artist Damien Hirst, who has conquered the art market from top to bottom (Hirst’s spin-art skateboard for the streetwear company Supreme sold out earlier this month at $88 apiece) has returned to basics. Hirst’s new retrospective at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev debuts several of his new paintings of human skulls -- made by the celebrated art star with his own hands. It’s a series that Hirst thinks enough of to emblazon on the banner announcing the show on the museum facade.

The show, which Pinchuk Art Centre director Peter Doroshenko calls "the craziest Hirst exhibition to date," is titled "Requiem," Apr. 25-Sept. 20, 2009, and includes more than 100 works dating from 1990 to 2008. As for the press reports of economic and political difficulties in the Ukraine, Doroshenko writes, "Never fully believe what you read. . . not much has changed. . . . new presidential elections in November mean that things can only get better!"

"Things are changing," writes dealer Alberto Magnan, who recently helped put together "Chelsea Visits Havana," a show of art from the tony New York art neighborhood now on view in the Cuban capital, Mar. 28-May 17, 2009 [see Artnet News, Mar. 12, 2009]. Magnan has every reason to be proud. Just as the Obama administration relaxes some of the punitive trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, the L.A. Times notes a nascent spirit of rapprochement in Havana as well -- and exhibit A is a performance by one of Magnan’s artists, Duke Riley.

Riley, of course, is the New Yorker best known for being arrested while operating a replica of a Revolutionary War-era submarine in New York harbor in 2007 (he was dubbed the "Sub Moron" by the New York Post). For "Chelsea Visits Havana," he decided to stage a belated St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Cuban capital (footage is available on YouTube). The march was highlighted by lots of green hats, of course, as well as a band playing the theme to the Bridge on the River Kwai, and the crowning of "Miss Cuba Ireland." The parade was even led by a blonde cross-dresser -- exactly one more than is permitted to be in New York’s St. Paddy’s Day spectacular, making the performance both a test of freedom of expression in Cuba and a riff on U.S. hypocrisy about such matters.

The Tribeca Film Festival, which kicks off in Manhattan during Apr. 22-May 3, 2009, doesn’t really have a lot to offer the art world. Blank City, a 106-minute-long documentary by Celine Danhier, looks at the ragtag New York film movement of the Punk era, focusing on work by Jim Jarmusch, Nick Zedd and others. Australian director Rhys Graham’s 26-minute-long documentary Skin features tattoos by Ex de Medici on the 65-year-old, overweight body of Geoff Ostling. And the festival boasts the North American premiere of Ken Jacobs’ 10-minute-long Hot Dogs at the Met (2008)

One stand-out for art lovers, however, may be Con Artist, an 80-minute-long documentary by Michael Sládek that brings the 1980s art-and-money high-jinks of art star Mark Kostabi up to the 21st century -- where he says, "Actually, I’m a game-show host now." For the juicy trailer -- in which Donald Kuspit hazards that Kostabi may be "slime that doesn’t stick" and the artist himself admits "fame is love and I need love" -- see

Right-wing Florida state senator Ronda Storms has introduced a bill to kill Florida’s long-standing "percent-for-art" program requiring government construction projects to set aside a small percentage of their budgets to fund artworks in new and renovated state buildings. Her justification is the economic crisis -- Florida faces a $3 billion shortfall for 2010 -- calling public art "fat" and a "luxury." According to the St. Petersburg Times, however, this is something of a pretext: Storms has a long-time axe to grind with public art: she introduced a failed bill to repeal percent-for-art funding last year, and was decrying the use of public funds for artwork as far back as 2006, when she was a lowly county commissioner.

Of course, one person’s "fat" is another’s healthy diet, and Storms seems to have some oddball ideas about what makes good government policy. In the recent past, she has enthusiastically supported a variety of reactionary legislation, including bills that make marriage licenses more expensive for couples who don’t take "premarital education" courses; mandate that women getting abortions be shown ultrasound images of their fetuses; prohibit the teaching of evolution; and allow "inspirational messages" -- prayer, that is -- in public schools.

The city of Milwaukee got a little closer to having some world-class public art this morning, when an 8 am council meeting of city aldermen voted 12-2 to move forward with a sculpture project by Janet Zweig. The seemingly uncontroversial endeavor -- Zweig proposes to create five kiosks attached to lampposts, each containing an 80-frame flipbook animation on the subject of "encounters between Milwaukeens" (part of a downtown rejuvenation project overseen by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) -- became something of a referendum on public art in general, and the local art community seems to have turned out. "In my eight years on the job, I've not seen the community quite this engaged and ready to step up on behalf of a public art project," Journal Sentinel reporter Mary Louise Schumacher wrote. According to Schumacher, at the hearing alderman Terry Witkowski commented that he'd "never seen a committee room so full on a subject not related to taverns."

The Museum of Modern Art is sending its signature 42-foot-wide triptych by Claude Monet, Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond (ca. 1920) to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta for "Monet’s Water Lilies," June 6-Aug. 23, 2009. The exhibition, organized by MoMA curator Ann Temkin, includes several other paintings portraying the artist's garden in Giverny. It subsequently appears at MoMA, Sept. 13, 2009-Mar. 29, 2010. 

In fall 2011, MoMA is sending an even larger exhibition from its collections to the High featuring works by a dozen artists: Brancusi, Calder, de Chirico, Duchamp, Johns, Léger, Matisse, Miró, Mondrian, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol. MoMA is receiving an undisclosed fee for the two shows, which is being applied to the museum exhibition program.

Downtown Manhattan art-scene veteran Anna Knoebel, who labored in the fertile fields of artist Devon Dikeou’s Zingmagazine for several years, has launched a publishing empire of her own. Dubbed Abe’s Penny: A Micro-Magazine, the publication -- helmed by Anna with her sister, Tess Knoebel -- consists of four postcards that subscribers receive one by one, once per week, for one month. Each postcard features an image and a few lines of text. The full set of four postcards is a full story. Volume 1.1 featured photos by Tod Seelie with a poem by Brandon Johnson, and Volume 1:2 had photos by Melanie Flood and a poem by Sam Witt. Subscriptions are $48. For details, see

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