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Artnet News
May 15, 2008 

According to artists, among the questions brought up by the work of Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr -- who run the Tissue Culture and Art (TC&A) project at the University of Western Australia in Perth, where they design art projects using living biological matter -- is "Are our values going to change as these technologies take over?" Museum of Modern Art design curator Paola Antonelli had to face this issue head on, recently, when a project by the duo in the just-closed "Design and the Elastic Mind" show, Feb. 24-May 12, 2008, got out of hand.

For the work, titled Victimless Leather, Catts and Zurr set out to create an object "grown out of immortalized cell lines which cultured and form a living layer of tissue supported by a biodegradable polymer matrix in a form of miniature stitch-less coat-like shape." In other words, it was a tiny jacket made of mouse stem cells. For the exhibition, the piece was displayed in a round glass jar and connected to various tubes that fed it nutrients. Things went south, however, about five weeks into the MoMA show when the living coat began to expand too rapidly, clogging its incubation system.

With the artists in Australia, Antonelli had to make the decision to pull the plug on the coat -- and Victimless Leather became a victim itself. The curator admitted to the Art Newspaper that she had reservations about ending the experiment. "I had to make the decision to kill it," she said. "And you know what? I felt I could not make that decision. I’ve always been pro-choice and all of a sudden I’m here not sleeping at night about killing a coat."

In other hot news, Art Newspaper reporters Sarah Thornton and Georgina Adam report that Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family is behind some of the record-setting prices of contemporary work at recent evening auctions. Specifically, last year’s $72.8 million sale of Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) (1950) at Sotheby’s -- the so-called "Rockefeller Rothko," because its consignor was David Rockefeller -- was purchased by Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned. From one oil-rich family to another, then.

The Al-Thanis were also behind the $52.7 million paid for Francis Bacon’s Study from Innocent X (1950) at the same Sotheby’s sale, as well as the £9.7 million purchase of Damien Hirst’s pill cabinet Lullaby Spring (2002), which set a record for a living European artist at Sotheby’s London last June.

The Art Newspaper also reveals, in passing, that Ukrainian collector Victor Pinchuk was the man who doled out $23.6 million for Jeff KoonsHanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) (1994-2006), consigned by Adam Lindemann with much fanfare  last year before setting an auction record for most expensive work by a living artist. Peter Doig’s White Canoe (1990-91), which stunned audiences when it sold in February 2007 for £5.7 million, was bought by Georgian billionaire Boris Ivanishvili, a man who made his fortune in the heady days of post-Soviet privatization.

After unveiling its $21.4 million, 33,000-square-foot expansion earlier this spring with a show of works from its permanent collection, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H., gets back to its regular exhibition programming with "Andy Warhol: Pop Politics," Sept. 25, 2008-Jan. 4, 2009, a survey of Warhol’s paintings, prints and photographs of political figures, ranging from his iconic images of Mao and JFK to commissioned portraits of Edward Kennedy and Jimmy Carter and his "Vote McGovern" print featuring a green-faced Richard Nixon. Organized by Sharon Matt Atkins, the show also appears at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N.Y., Jan. 18-May 3, 2009.

The 2008 Whitney Biennial is drawing to a close -- the full exhibition ends on June 1, and finishes winding down on June 22 -- but the ad campaign for the show sponsored by the Gap clothing company is just getting started. Alert media hounds will have noticed the many pages of black-and-white Gap ads for the biennial in the pages and back cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine and in a four-page spread in today’s New York Times, among other spots (including Manhattan bus shelter ads).

The ads tout a series of Gap t-shirts custom-designed by 13 contemporary artists, many of them modeled by the artists themselves, shot by hip fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Among the artist-models are Chuck Close, Marilyn Minter, Kiki Smith, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ashley Bickerton, Kenny Scharf, Glenn Ligon, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kerry James Marshall, Hanna Liden and Sarah Sze. Jeff Koons enlisted Stephanie Seymour to wear his design, while model and actress Shalom Harlow does the honors for Barbara Kruger. The shirts range in price from $28 to $38, and can also be purchased at select museums, including the Whitney (which gets to keep the profits). The artists were also compensated for their efforts.

Gap founders Don and Doris Fisher, who are big art collectors, are behind the collaboration. "They have wanted to do a project like this for awhile," said a Gap spokesperson.

Eva-Maria Häusler
, the former show manager of Art Basel (she resigned in September 2007), and Peter Vetsch, Art Basel’s head of communications, have been hired as the new joint heads of of Art Forum Berlin, which next opens Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2008, with the theme of "Desire." Vetsch and Häusler, who succeed Art Forum director Sabrina van der Ley, are charged with revitalizing the Berlin art fair, which has recently been overshadowed by the Berlin Gallery Weekend festivities in May and threatened by the nascent new fair, Art Berlin Contemporary, planned for this September in a more central location in the city than Art Forum Berlin’s home in the fairgrounds on the city’s western edge.

Korea-born, New York-based painter Suejin Jo has taken the first-ever Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Solo Exhibition Award. The award was established to support a gallery show for an emerging or under-recognized artist, and was juried in its inaugural year by DC Moore Gallery, which represents Jacob Lawrence’s estate. Jo’s paintings, which use dry pigments and are said to resemble frescos, can be seen at the Broome Street Gallery in Soho, June 10-June 22, 2008.

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