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Apr. 30, 2009 

Veteran biennial curator Hou Hanru passed through New York City this week on his way from Paris to the San Francisco Art Institute, where he is director of exhibitions, and took the opportunity to brief the press on his plans for the 10th Biennale de Lyon, Sept. 16, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010. Hanru came late to this job -- the original curator, Catherine David, left the post midway through, leaving Hanru a mere seven months to organize the show -- but he has plenty of experience, having put together biennials or triennials in Shanghai (2000), Gwangju (2002), Guangzhou (2004-06), Tirana (2005) and Istanbul (2007), not to mention a host of other big international exhibitions.

"The Spectacle of the Everyday," as the show is titled, presents 55 to 60 artists from around the world in four primary sites: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon (headed by Thierry Raspail, who founded the biennale and serves as its artistic director) and three other spaces in the city. An exploration of the ways that artists develop independent and even utopian activities in the face of an overwhelming media-dominated consumer society, Hanru’s biennale is divided into four sections, or "chapters," as he called them: "The Magic of Things," which involves giving new power to everyday objects and settings; "Celebration of the Dérive," a focus on the streets as a center of activity; "Another World Is Possible," a look at individual and collective responses to globalization; and "Living Together," which opens the show to artists who work with exchange, sharing and collective activities.

The list of participating artists is still in formation, but among the names so far are Adel Abdessamed, Jimmie Durham, Huang Yong Ping, Barry McGee, Carlos Motta, Sarkis, Agnes Varda and Lin Yilin. Raispail put the budget for the show at €6 million, and noted that the global recession had affected it only slightly.

The Chelsea Art Museum, under director Till Fellrath and curator Sam Bardaouil, is taking a challenging approach to the new Persian avant-garde with "Iran Inside Out," June 26-Sept. 5, 2009, a show of 50 contemporary artists with half coming from inside the country -- where "eluding government censors is crucial to their art practice" -- and the other half living outside Iran. 

Artists outside Iran in "Iran Inside Out" include Ala Ebtekar, Ali Reza Ghandchi, Caraballo-Farman, Darius Yektai, Kamran Diba, Mitra Tabrizian, Nazanin Pouyandeh, Nazgol Ansarinia, Negar Ahkami, Nicky Nodjoumi, Parastou Forouhar, Pooneh Maghazehe, Pouran Jinchi, Ramin Haerizadeh, Roya Akhavan, Samira Abbasy, Sara Rahbar, Shahram Entekhabi, Shahram Karimi, Shirin Neshat, Shiva Ahmadi and Shoja Azari.

Artists inside Iran include Abbas Kowsari, Alireza Dayyani, Barbad Golshiri, Bita Feyyazi, Daryoush Gharahzad, Farhad Moshiri, Golnaz Fathi, Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Mehdi Farhadian, Newsha Tavakolian, Pooneh Maghasehe, Ramin Haerizadeh, Reza Derashani, Sadegh Tirafkan, Sara Rahbar, Shahram Karimi, Shirin Aliabadi, Shirin Fakhim and Farideh Lashai.

Art Chicago, May 1-4, 2009, which has its opening preview today, Apr. 30, tests the art-market waters in the Midwest with a show presenting 110 galleries from around the world on the 12th floor of Chicago’s famous Merchandise Mart building. The fair also includes three special sections: "New Insight," a show of MFA students organized by Renaissance Society director Susanne Ghez; "Partisan," a special exhibition of works exploring social and political ideas, culled from Art Chicago galleries by Mary Jane Jacobs, director of exhibitions at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and "The Hairy Who and Imagist Legacy in Contemporary Art," organized by Chicago MCA curator Lynne Warren and also featuring artists represented at the fair. "We emphasize outreach to experienced collectors, and programs designed to attract and engage new collectors," said Paul Morris, the former art dealer and Armory Show co-founder who now oversees Art Chicago for Merchandise Mart. For more info, see

For newer art, there’s NEXT 2009, May 1-4, 2009, featuring works from 76 exhibitors, both commercial galleries and alternative spaces, in a fair overseen by curatorial advisor Christian Viveros-Faune. The fair boasts several large-scale installations (by Jeff Carter, Dave and Jenn, Rachel Mason, Angel Otero, Marc Sèguin and Andrew Witkin) as well as a total of $125,000 in purchase awards from the West Collection. Admission is $20, and covers both Art Chicago and NEXT. For a complete list of participating galleries, see

"Rich and dumb" typically describes starlets or heiresses, not art museums -- but the Getty Trust in Los Angeles may change all that. From sexual shenaningans in the executive suite (described by Sharon Waxman in Loot) to the ignominious ouster of Getty director Barry Munitz and the indictment of curator Marion True for antiquities smuggling, the Getty has faced one embarrassment after another. Now, the Getty has announced that its endowment was so poorly invested -- including an unbelievable two-thirds of the total in unsafe "alternative" assets -- that drastic cuts in programming and personel are necessary. In all, the institution is cutting about $75 million from its $300-million budget, and eliminating more than 200 positions, including 62 jobs at the Getty Museum. Perhaps one employee who imay prove superfluous is James Williams, chief investment officer at the trust, who told the press that his portfolio is "consistent with the best institutional funds out there." One would have to agree that his results seem certainly as good as the work at Bear Stearns or A.I.G. As for Getty Trust CEO James N. Wood, he has a plan: the cost of parking at the Getty is going up from $10 to $15.

Artnet News can now reveal that the Obama Administration has a definite relationship to the avant-garde Fluxus art movement. Deputy White House Social Secretary Joe Reinstein is married to academic Hannah Higgins, who arrives in D.C. this June from Chicago along with the couple’s daughters Zoe, 13, and Nathalie, nine. Higgins is the daughter of Fluxus movement artists Alison Knowles and the late Dick Higgins, and author of Fluxus Experience, a 2002 history of the ‘60s cultural movement (her latest tome, The Grid Book, is due from MIT Press later this year). She is leaving her job as associate professor of art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago to teach a course on Black Mountain College (home in the 1950s to innovative artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Robert Motherwell and Willem and Elaine de Kooning) as a fellow at the Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art. It also helps that the Reinstein-Higgins family includes a fifth member, a Portuguese water dog named Austin, who is slated for a puppy playdate with Bo, the Obama family’s recently adopted First Dog.
-- Laura K. Jones

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