MET OPENS "MUSEUM WITHIN THE MUSEUM"
New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York governor Eliot Spitzer both showed up at the Metropolitan Museum on Apr. 16, 2007, for the official ribbon-cutting for the Met’s grand new galleries for Roman, Hellenistic and Etruscan art. But it was museum director Philippe de Montebello who won the mock-race to be first to cut all the way through the banner-sized "ribbon," beating out the assembled politicians as well as patron Shelby White, who with her late husband Leon Levy reportedly kicked in $20 million towards the project.
Originally designed as a Pompeian atrium by McKim, Mead and White in the early 1900s, the space at the south end of the museum’s first floor was converted to an elegant restaurant in mid-century, more recently doing duty as a cafeteria. After five years of construction, the space has been carefully reconfigured by Roche Dinkeloo Associates into a two-story atrium, dubbed the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court. Now "the grandest space in the museum," according to Montebello, the court is surrounded by a series of smaller galleries and a mezzanine tracing the development of Hellenistic and Roman art in chronological order from the time of Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) to that of Constantine the Great (AD 306-337).
This "museum within the museum," as de Montebello calls it, houses some 5,300 items that had long been sequestered in storage. Grander pieces are displayed in the main court, like the larger-than-life-size Imperial Roman marble of a Young Hercules and the exquisite bronze statue of Eros sleeping on a marble cushion. Other treasures, including an Etruscan black terracotta inkwell in the form of a little rooster -- inscribed with the letters of the alphabet -- can be found in the surrounding galleries. It all opens to the public on Apr. 20, 2007.ANOTHER ART TROPHY FOR RETAIL PROFITEER
Wal-Mart heiress Alice L. Walton is fast giving new meaning to the old notion of selling your soul to the devil. The latest institution to trade its integrity for a pot of gold is Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which has sold Thomas Eakins’ 1874 Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand for an estimated $20 million to Walton and her nascent Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. Other art-world luminaries involved in the unsavory deal, according to a report by Carol Vogel in the New York Times, include Christie’s president Marc Porter, who negotiated the transaction for the university, and Princeton professor John Wilmerding, who advises Walton.
The Walton family fortune, estimated at roughly $80 billion, comes from its holdings of Wal-Mart stock. According to Wal-Mart Watch, the list of accusations against Wal-Mart is long, and includes: discrimination against employees and workers with disabilities; shifting employee health-care costs to state-funded programs and Medicare; polluting water and air and violations of other environmental laws; and spying on customers, workers and the press.
According to recent article in the New Yorker by Jeffrey Goldberg, Wal-Mart is the second-largest company in the world according to revenue (second only to ExxonMobil), totaling $315 billion in 2006, with $11 billion in profits. The article details Wal-Mart’s extensive exploitation of its employees, whose wages are capped at an average of $10.51 per hour.
A long-term effort to sanitize the Walton family’s unsavory legacy, the Crystal Bridges Museum also allows Alice Walton to save money today. According to the Wal-Mart Watch website, the museum’s nonprofit status allows it to avoid paying Arkansas sales taxes on art purchases, which at these levels amounts to millions of dollars a year.
ART CHICAGO GOES CITYWIDE
This year’s Art Chicago, Apr. 27-30, 2007, is going citywide -- the venerable art fair, now under new management and sited in the city’s vast Merchandise Mart building, is the centerpiece of something called Artropolis, "Chicago’s Celebration of Art, Antiques & Culture." The super-event features five art fairs in all, along with a wide range of ancillary celebrations, cocktail parties, exhibitions and other events.
* Art Chicago’s ca. 130 galleries range from Paule Anglim (San Francisco), Galerie Bhak (Seoul), Valerie Carberry Gallery (Chicago) and James Corcoran Gallery (Los Angeles) to Roebling Hall (New York), Galerie St. Etienne (New York), William Shearburn Gallery (St. Louis) and Zolla/Lieberman Gallery (Chicago). The opening-night preview on Apr. 26 benefits Best Buddies International; tickets are $150. For a complete list, see www.artchicago.com
* The 10th Annual Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair presents 100 dealers, including Arader Galleries, Les Enluminures and the Silver Fund. The preview party benefits the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. For info, see www.merchandisemartantiques.com
* The Artist Project presents almost 50 independent artists who are "undiscovered by the gallery community," with a preview night benefiting the Chicago Artist’s Coalition. For details, see www.theartistproject.com
* Bridge Art Fair Chicago 07 -- which is using Daniel Edwards’ sculpture of a pregnant, birthing Britney Spears on a bear rug as its emblem -- is specializing in new art in all mediums. Participating galleries include Billy Shire Fine Arts (Culver City), Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts (New York), Red Truck Gallery (Manchester, Wisc.) and Strange Weeds (Santa Fe). The website is www.bridgeartfair.com
* The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art is sponsored by the Intuit Center, a nonprofit established in Chicago in 1991.ART FILMS AT TRIBECA FEST
The lineup for the sixth annual Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place Apr. 25-May 6, 2007, includes several movies that take the fine arts world as their subject. Some highlights:
* Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, a documentary by James Crump exploring the relationship between the photographer and his lover and patron, the photo collector and curator Sam Wagstaff. The film includes interviews with Patti Smith, Richard Tuttle, Dominick Dunne and others.
* Razzle Dazzle the Lost World, a new digital film by the legendary experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, "in which he treats the image as a painterly canvas, exploring the depths of Cubism and Abstract Expressionism from source material comprising turn-of-the-century stereopticon slides and an early Edison film."
* A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory, a "dream-like" portrait of Danny Williams, Andy Warhol’s onetime lover and collaborator (who mysteriously disappeared at age 27), by Esther Robinson, Williams’ niece.
For showtimes and more, see www.tribecafilmfestival.orgART DC TAKES OFF
The first art fair to be sited in the nation’s capital, Art DC, Apr. 27-30, 2007, features 80 exhibitors from 15 countries at the city’s new Washington Convention Center, including Red Star Gallery from Beijing, A&R Gallery from San Salvador, Museum Works Galleries from Aspen, and Sundaram Tagore and Westwood galleries from New York. Directed by Ilana Vardy, who also supervises Art Miami, Art DC includes a "New Media" section organized by independent curator Rody Douzoglou, "Slice" for cutting-edge art, "Projects" for large-scale installations and sculpture, and "Another Look: New Art from Shanghai." The opening-night gala on Apr. 26 benefits the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington. For more details, see www.dc-artfair.com MASS MOCA SEEKS $37 MILLION
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) has launched a $37-million capital campaign, with $25 million already in hand from the "quiet phase," according to MASS MoCA director Joseph C. Thompson. Eventually, MASS MoCA plans a $16-million endowment whose proceeds can provide 25 percent of the institution’s annual operating costs. Another $8.6 million is earmarked for the permanent museum of works by Sol LeWitt, and $5.9 million is allocated for debt reduction, which includes a HUD loan. "Up to now, the institution has been operated on a quarter-by-quarter -- and at times even a day-to-day -- basis," said MASS MoCA trustee Duncan Brown, who is leading the campaign. "With the capital campaign, we’ve set our sights set on the long-term sustainability of the museum."
JANE DICKSON MOSAIC FOR TIMES SQUARE
New York artist Jane Dickson has been commissioned by the MTA Arts for Transit program to make a mosaic mural for the Times Square subway station in New York. Titled New Year’s Eve Revelers, the mural includes 70 life-sized figures of all races and ages, wearing party hats and otherwise celebrating the New Year. The mosaics, handmade by Miotto mosaics in Spilembergo, Italy, are to be spread throughout several pedestrian corridors. The site is "a series of passageways that no one stops in," Dickson notes. "Everyone is hurrying past hoping to catch the next train. . . . The images are meant to be enjoyed at a glance, in passing. . . . Eventually some will become old friends." The work is slated to be installed in the fall of 2007.
NUDE PERFORMANCE AT MACO
New York photographer Spencer Tunick, who has staged mass nude photo shoots at cities around the world, takes his show to Mexico City on Apr. 30, 2007, in conjunction with México Arte Contemporáneo (MACO) art fair, Apr. 25-29, 2007. The photo shoot is coordinated by Mexico City art consultant Mireya Escalante and supported by American collector Harold Stream III. The specific location of the event is being revealed only to those who sign up at the website, a number expected to top 9,000, a new record. More than 70 galleries are presenting stands at MACO, ranging from Air de Paris, Alejandro Slaes and AMT to Samson Projects, Steve Turner Contemporary and Upstairs Berlin. For details, see www.macomexico.com
INTERVIEW MAG GOES ONLINE
Interview magazine, the self-described "crystal ball of Pop," has launched its own website, and a sexy mash-up of art and fashion it is, too. The titillating title -- check out the cover photo of Liv Tyler by Max Vadukul (did she forget to put on her pants?) -- doesn’t neglect the fine arts, here assigning Barbara Kruger to interview Wangechi Mutu. "When she says she wants to make work that’s more frightening, she means it." For more, see www.interviewmagazine.com
SMITH-STEWART OPENS ON L.E.S.
Add another stop your tour of the burgeoning Bowery art district. Former P.S.1 curator (and Artnet staffer) Amy Smith-Stewart opens her own gallery, Smith-Stewart, at 53 Stanton Street with "Foam of the Daze," Apr. 20-May 20, 2007, a group exhibition including works by Georganne Deen, Marilyn Minter, Mika Rottenberg and others. For more info, see www.smith-stewart.com
GASSER & GRUNERT MOVES
Things are getting just too busy on the far West 19th Street -- home of the new Frank Gehry-designed IAC headquarters building and other new skyscraper developments -- for art dealers Klemens Gasser and Tanya Grunert, the Cologne-based dealers who teamed up to open their New York gallery in 1998. The pair is moving East, establishing a new outpost of the Chelsea art scene on Ninth Avenue, with a second-floor space at 148 Ninth Avenue at 19th Street. The new space is slated to open on May 7, 2007.
Fans of the 1980s New York art supergroup TwinArt (Ellen and Lynda Kahn) have a chance to see their idols in a retrospective of their large-format 20 x 24 in. Polaroids at Frank Pictures Gallery in Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. "TwinArt: Rewind > Fast Forward, Vintage Polaroids 20 x 24 1987> 2007," Apr. 15-May 20, 2007. The "Instant Replay" series, according to TwinArt, was designed to "expose the dream of effortless, ‘instant’ life as a mirage mirrored in the parallel and reciprocal realms of advertising and consumerism." Today, TwinArt is a bi-coastal company that has done projects for Absolut Vodka, Martini & Rossi and Polaroid, among others. For more info, see frankpicturesgallery.com
NEW HEAD FOR ARTISSIMA
Art critic and independent curator Andrea Bellini has been appointed director of the Artissima art fair in Turin, Nov. 1-11, 2007. Bellini is also co-curator of the forthcoming Prague Biennial and curator of a show of works by the late Italian avant-gardist Gino De Dominicis at Villa Arson Museum in Nice in June 2007.
SALVATORE SCARPITTA, 1919-2007
Salvatore Scarpitta, 88, Brooklyn-born artist who entered his own hand-built race car into the 1972 Venice Biennale, died in Manhattan of complications of diabetes on Apr. 10. During World War II he served on the team that recovered Nazi art loot. He had his first show at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1959, exhibiting "bendati," or "bandaged" paintings that had been slashed and then repaired. He worked with Castelli through the early '80s, and also exhibited at the Houston CAM (1977) and the Hirshhorn Museum (1984).