NO DANCING WITH THE FLAVIN
A year ago, Artnet News published a light-hearted piece on a music video by former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland, which set the pop star’s gyrations amid florescent light environments, and clearly owed a debt to the work of the late minimalist Dan Flavin [see Artnet News, July 29, 2008]. Well, not everyone thought the reference was so amusing. John Silberman, of the law firm that represents the Flavin estate, writes to say that the similarities actually led to legal action -- and that as a consequence Sony BMG and the production company Partizan Entertainment "have agreed not to make any further use of the video."
And, indeed, it appears that the offending Philip Andelman-directed clip for Rowland’s single Work has been yanked from YouTube and MTV.com (as of this posting, the full video still appears on something called wat.tv, for those who are interested). According to Silberman, the settlement also involves monetary damages for the Flavin estate, though of an undisclosed amount.
NUDE BERLUSCONI ART CAUSES STIR
It’s amazing how much mileage an artist can get by putting the heads of celebrities on nude bodies. Italian painter Filippo Panseca has attracted some unlikely international attention for his 55 x 55 in. painting depicting flamboyant right-wing Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as a semi-nude harpy descending on a nude maiden who, in turn, bears the face of Italy’s "minister of equal opportunities," Mara Carfagna. This new work is featured alongside another, earlier painting by Panseca from 1992, depicting Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario as a bare-breasted harpy soaring above a harem, in a show titled "Art & Savonnerie" in the Priamar Fortress in the town of Savona, Apr. 19-May 10, 2009. The imagery has caused an uproar.
Some background, for those not versed in recent Italian politics: Two years ago, Berlusconi, known for his "appreciation for female beauty" (as the Associated Press puts it diplomatically), apparently appeared on a TV show with Carfagna -- a showgirl and former model -- telling her, "If I weren't married I would marry you immediately." This incident caused Lario, in turn, to take to the press to demand a public apology from her husband. Last May, Berlusconi, apparently unaffected by the outcry, appointed Carfagna to his cabinet, where she has been most notable for presiding over the criminalization of prostitution.
For Panseca’s part, the artist told the AP that the painting was "a joke," adding, "I didn't expect to raise such clamor with this." In the ‘80s, Panseca was famous as "set designer" for Italian leader Bettino Craxi, a mentor of Berlusconi.
The stir is probably the best thing that could have happened to the otherwise obscure "Art & Savonnerie" show, third in a series of exhibitions sponsored by L’Amande Soap. According to a local paper, the show claims to promote "a dialogue between the thrill of creation and the ancient tradition of soap." Also featured are works by artists Gianni Celano Giannici, Jean Louis Kolb, Jean Mas and Vincenzo Marsiglia, as well as 20 vintage posters for soap from the 19th and early 20th centuries, organized by soap expert Patrick Boulanger. What Panseca’s canvases have to do with the topic is not clear -- though he certainly has stirred up quite a soap opera.
"NOTHINGNESS AND BEING" AT COLECCIÓN JUMEX
The newest exhibition at La Colección Jumex in Mexico City, which debuts on Apr. 23, 2009 -- in time for the art lovers in town for the Zona Maco art fair, Apr. 22-26, 2009 -- is "Nothingness and Being," an exhibition organized by Whitney Museum of American Art adjunct curator Shamim M. Momin. The show explores "the condition of humanness via notions of absence, void, negation, skepticism and fracture," with approximately 100 works by artists ranging from Eduardo Abaroa, Francis Alÿs, Carlos Amorales, Knut Asdam and Sandra Bermudez to Santiago Sierra, Gary Simmons, Mungo Thomson, Banks Violette and Cerith Wyn Evans. The exhibition is the seventh installment of the annual interpretation of Eugenio Lopez Alonso’s Jumex Collection, one of the largest private art collections in Latin America, located in the grounds of a Jumex juice factory outside the city.
ROSS BLECKNER: U.N. GOODWILL AMBASSADOR
Contemporary art star Ross Bleckner has been appointed a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador -- specifically, he has been named a U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking. At the beginning of the year, Bleckner went with the U.N. on an official mission to Gulu in Uganda, which has in recent years been plagued by rebel groups that abduct, recruit and conscript children as soldiers or sexual slaves. There, Bleckner assisted in the rehabilitation of former child soldiers and abducted girls through art therapy. For more info on the children of Gulu, click here.
Bleckner’s official induction ceremony, which takes place at the U.N. on May 12, 2009, provides the occasion to open "Welcome to Gulu," an exhibition of 200 paintings made by children from Gulu. Proceed from the sale of works in the exhibition, as well as portraits taken by Bleckner, benefit Gulu children . Following the opening at the U.N., some of the artworks are to be displayed at Lehman Maupin Gallery in Chelsea, and in the windows of Moschino at West 14th Street and Ninth Avenue. Also available is an illustrated 64-page catalogue featuring works by 25 artists, priced at $50.
"ENJOY BANKING" STREET ART
"The most effective means to get through these challenging times is humor," writes blogger/dealer Ed Winkleman, referring to the social value of "Cash for Your Warhol," a project profiled in a recent Artnet News column [see Artnet News, Apr. 16, 2009]. As another example of arty black humor, Winkleman cites the current "Enjoy Banking" street art campaign, large cheerful stickers glimpsed on the streets of New York -- for instance, green bubble letters declaring "Enjoy Subprime Lending" recently appeared on the storefront of the closed headquarters of Guild & Greyshkul in Soho. Other stickers in the same style proclaim "Enjoy Stimulus Package," "Enjoy Consumer Confidence," "Enjoy Credit Crunch," "Enjoy Golden Parachute" and "Enjoy Bailout Package."
The campaign seems to have struck a nerve. So, who’s behind it? An internet search reveals a website www.enjoybanking.com -- which however, offers little more than the ability to input name and email for future updates. Enjoy Banking’s Twitter page (www.twitter.com/enjoybanking) is marginally more illuminating, with its bio describing itself as "Multimedia art and in4mation campaign responding to changing economic landscape. *We Like* Art. Marketing. Financial Media. Economy. Design. Educate. Street."
Such an approach would seem to indicate that the guerrilla sticker campaign represents either an artist’s Shepard Fairey-inspired riff on marketing, or a marketer’s exploitation of Shepard Fairey-style viral activity (or both?). At any rate, the various Tweets offer links to articles on investor Warren Buffet and economist Martin Fedlstein, and street artists like Barry McGee and Ron English, in equal measure. A Flickr page, seemingly by the same entity, charts the progress of the "Enjoy Banking" campaign in pictures.
HARD TIMES FOR SHANGHAI FAIR
An article by the Shanghai Daily reports that questions are circulating about whether the ShContemporary art fair will be able to return in 2009 -- though the author, Wang Jie, hastens to add that such "speculation. . . has not yet been confirmed." However, as a sign that there are rough waters for the Chinese art scene, Wang notes that the ShContemporary organizing committee began media promotion and planning for the September event last month, "a half year earlier than usual." ShContemporary is one of the swankiest art fairs in China, though it has struggled to build an audience for contemporary art among still-conservative Chinese collectors [see "The China Price," Sept. 19, 2009], and ShContemporary co-founder Lorenzo Rudolf recently quit, saying that the fair should take a hiatus in 2009. "No comments, but more details will be given later," organizer Gu Zhihua told the Daily.
(The same article notes another sign of galleries facing reduced prospects in Shanghai: Local galleries are partnering with hotels -- among them, the Hilton, the Renaissance and the Shanghai Xijiao State Guest House -- to give their art more exposure to Western business travelers.)
MOELLER FINE ART OPENS IN BERLIN
Veteran New York City art dealer Achim Moeller is opening a new gallery in Berlin. Moeller Fine Art Berlin, as it is called, debuts on Apr. 28, 2009, in the ground floor of the Belle Epoque Palais Eger at Tempelhofer Ufer 11, originally designed by architects Gustav Knoblauch and Hermann Wex in 1881 and remodeled today by architect Thomas Kröger. "Ouverture," the opening exhibition, features works by contemporary artists Adel Abidin, Piero Dorazio, Matthias Düwel, Eric Fonteneau, Hubertus Gojowczyk, Mildred Howard, Tom Molloy, and Jeanne Silverthorne, as well as masterworks by Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Gino Severini, Marcel Duchamp and Mark Tobey. A second inaugural exhibition, "Your Uncle Feininger: Comics, Fairy Tales and Toys," includes 68 hand-carved and painted wooden figures and houses made by Lyonel Feininger during 1925-55, as well as a group of previously unexhibited prototypes for a series of toy trains. For more info, see www.moellerfineart.com
ART MARKET PANEL AT FIT
The Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan offers a master of arts degree in the art market, and its students are presenting a panel titled "Regrouping: Art World Professionals Examine the Art Market" on Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2009, from 7-8:30 pm in FIT’s Katie Murphy Amphitheater. Participants include Bronx Museum director of development Yvonne Garcia; Chelsea art gallery director Florence Lynch; art dealer Paul Morris, a founder of the Armory Show in New York and now vp art properties for Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.; independent curator and art advisor Lowell Pettit; and some art critic named Walter Robinson. The panel is moderated by Sheri Pasquarella, co-founder of the New Art Dealers Alliance.