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Artnet News
Apr. 20, 2007 

The selection of the late artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres to represent the United States in the U.S. pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, June 10-Nov. 21, 2007, is fraught with political irony. Not only was Gonzalez-Torres a Cuban native (he became a U.S. citizen), but his death in 1996 was due to AIDS -- both issues that could have been expected to ignite a firestorm in the right-wing culture wars of a decade ago. He is also only the second artist ever to be selected posthumously for the U.S. pavilion (Robert Smithson is the other) -- so the exhibition can be seen as an elegy to promises unfulfilled. Today, Republican Party culture warriors are bogged down with real issues like the Iraq War and corruption, too busy to resurrect the manufactured battles of yore. A blessing, of a sort.

Titled "Felix Gonzalez-Torres: America," the show focuses on the artistís "optimistic but critical relationship to his adoptive culture." Most notable, perhaps, is the inclusion of a never-before-produced work by Gonzalez-Torres in the pavilion courtyard. Based on sketches made for several public sculpture competitions between 1992 and 1995, the untitled piece consists of two circular pools of water, each 12 feet in diameter and carved from Carrara marble. The two pools touch at one point, sharing an almost intangible flow of water -- an evocation, seemingly, of both human connectedness and the union that allows a deadly virus to pass from one person to another.

An exhibition by Gonzalez-Torres was proposed for the Venice pavilion in 1995 (and turned down), so curator Nancy Spector did have some guidance for the current show, and is following Gonzalez-Torres' original ideas for the installation. Other works in the exhibition include the largest and final version of his light bulb pieces, Untitled (America), as well as several of his signature stacks of paper, one called Untitled (Republican Years) and sporting a "funereal" pattern, and another called Untitled (Monument), featuring sheets that read "Memorial Day Weekend" and "Veterans Day Sale" and meant to highlight the intertwining of consumerism and patriotism. The exhibition also brings a series of 12 outdoor billboards -- all depicting a bird in flight -- to sites throughout Venice. Likely budgeted at $1 million plus, the installation is sponsored by Hugo Boss and other backers.

New Museum curator Dan Cameron has accepted the position of director of visual arts at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and is set to assume his new position May 1, 2007. According to the article, Cameron also plans "to bring a multimillion dollar, citywide, international art exhibition to the Crescent City, similar to the highly successful Venice Biennale." Titled "Prospect 1 New Orleans," the event is intended to be a three-month affair, bringing together some 75 international artists. Cameron hopes to launch the first "Prospect" in October 2008.

The 50-year-old Cameron is described as a longtime fan of New Orleans culture, and the article has him waxing nostalgic about his "first soft-shell crab po-boy, watching the sunset and listening to the Nevilles." He estimates that as many as 100,000 members of the "elite of the international art world" could attend the exhibition, contributing to economic development. Though CAC is primarily funded by the city and state, public money on the Gulf Coast is tight -- so Cameron is recruiting funders like insurance magnate Peter Lewis to back his multimillion-dollar project.

Though it is too early to say, Cameron could be walking into a minefield here. Civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson have charged that reconstruction efforts are designed to "turn New Orleans into a theme park, with its former residents unable to afford to come back." And to be fair, Cameronís vision for "Prospect 1 New Orleans" sounds a little like a high-brow Mardi Gras -- "Since people in the art world tend to be flush, when they show up, they like to live it up," he enthused to the Times-Picayune.

Wildenstein & Co., the venerable Old Master dealer on 19 E. 64th St., is hosting a museum-sized retrospective of the ever-popular Impressionist Claude Monet, Apr. 27-June 15, 2007. Featuring more than 60 works by Monet, lent from public institutions and private collections, the show claims distinction as the "largest Monet exhibition in 30 years." For the duration of the show, admission to Wildenstein is $10, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Moti Hasson Gallery at 535 West 25th Street is hosting the first ever benefit art auction for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, May 16, 2007. The Foundation has a dual specialty, giving money to cancer patients (an impressive $46,000 last year) and to emerging artists (an even-more-impressive $80,000). The idea of doing an auction for the Foundation was hatched by painter Lane Twitchell, who enlisted the help of Beth Campbell and Dana Schutz to solicit works from artists who had received support from the Foundation in the past. The result is a catalogue of lots -- some of which can be purchased now online, some to be sold on the 16th -- that showcase the Foundationís influence and should turn a few collectorsí heads, including pieces by Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Patty Chang, Aida Ruilova, Sarah Sze, Banks Violette and Kehinde Wiley.

For information on the sale, see

On the occasion of his 50th class reunion to Duke University in Durham, N.C., retired TV exec Blake Byrne is giving generously to the institutionís Nasher Museum of Art. The gift doubles the Nasherís holdings of contemporary art, and includes pieces by Anthony Caro, David Hammons, Jasper Johns, Sol Lewitt, Glenn Ligon, Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, Paul Pfeiffer, Ed Ruscha, Thomas Scheibitz, Rudolf Schwartzkogler, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gary Simmons and Kehinde Wiley. An exhibition titled "Collected Identities: Gifts from the Blake Byrne Collection," is currently on view, Apr. 19-Sept. 30, 2007. Byrne is chairman of the Nasherís board of advisors.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is trumpeting a donation of 17 significant paintings to its permanent collection, a gift of Winifred Vedder, widow of businessman Dwight Vedder. The gift includes works by Helen Bradley, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Armand Guillaumin, Henri Matisse, Berthe Morisot, Grandma Moses and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and is set to be unveiled to the public in a special show, "A Gift for Santa Barbara: The Dwight and Winifred Vedder Collection," opening on Apr. 27, 2007.

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