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Artnet News
May 6, 2008 

We have seen the future of art, and his name is Michael Israel. Equal parts Jackson Pollock, Peter Max and Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, the Florida artist was in the news recently when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of super-investor Warren Buffet at his Omaha, Neb., home base last Saturday. The completed likeness is to be sold on eBay this fall as a fundraiser for Girls, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to building self-esteem in young women.

The long-haired, model-handsome Israel works on stage live in front of large, spinning canvases, either painting with his hands or with paintbrushes in both hands, often shirtless, usually accompanied by rock music. His paintings are most often celebrity portraits. An impressive film clip on his website shows him performing in front of screaming crowds, accompanied by exploding confetti bombs and a chorus line of cheerleaders.

So, who is this guy? A long manifesto on his website places him in the lineage of Edouard Manet, Mark Rothko and other artists who redefined the paradigm of what art is. "Is it a performance? Is he a painter in the artistic sense? Is it a concert? A social commentary? An experience? The answers are all emphatically yes, yes, yes, yes and yes." The website does, however, add sternly that "while our First Amendment guarantees us the right to make any statement we wish, Michael believes that such freedom comes with the moral obligation to use it for good purpose and not sensationalism and vulgarity for the sake of profit and greed."

For the Buffet event, several dozen shareholders watched Israel perform at a stage outside Omaha’s Qwest Center. According to the Omaha World-Herald, which also has some great pics of the "live painting" event, Israel started his portrait with the images of a dollar sign and a heart, then conjured Buffet’s face as strobe lights flashed and music by U2 blared. This guy is going to be huge.

The Dia Art Foundation is happily ensconced up on the Hudson at Dia: Beacon, but is the rudderless institution ever going to find its way back to its original port in New York City? For those who care, the recent announcement that longtime Dia curator Lynne Cooke has been named chief curator at the Reina Sofía Art Center in Madrid comes as bad news, signaling a notable absence of staff at the former Chelsea art powerhouse. Cooke, notorious for her long-running curatorial monopoly at Dia -- the place has certainly not produced any young curators, and the departure of new director Jeffrey Weiss only a few months ago is generally thought to have resulted in part from Cooke's refusal to share the reins -- is supposedly continuing to oversee Dia’s shows, such as they are, even as she runs things in Madrid. Good luck with that.

As for the plan to erect a grand new New York facility, Dia blew its chance for millions in New York City funding in 2006 when it backed out of its agreement to build on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, a site -- with concomitant city money -- now belonging to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Letting down a major arts patron is never a good idea, and when that patron is New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has just announced cutbacks in city capital projects because of budget shortfalls, it’s a double whammy. Dia board chair Nathalie de Gunzburg is said to be convening a summit of museum-world movers and shakers in hopes of coming up with a plan. Good luck with that, too.

Alanna Heiss, the founding director of the P.S.1 Art Center in Queens -- now a full-fledged part of the Museum of Modern Art -- is leaving her post at the end of the year, according to a story by Andrew M. Goldstein in New York Magazine. One of the first leaders, and certainly the longest-lasting, of the original 1970s "alternative space" movement, Heiss has been rumored to be on her way out at P.S.1 for some time. The current decision definitely looks like an ouster.

As Heiss tells it, she told MoMA director Glenn Lowry that she didn’t want to stop working, and he said, "I think I’m going to go ahead on the retirement plan." The change, according to the story, is designed to bring professional practices to the free-wheeling and somewhat disorganized operation out in Queens, which has notable budget shortfalls [see Artnet News, Nov. 2, 2007]. Heiss and Lowry are supposedly discussing some future role for her at the museum. Among the possible successors cited by Goldstein are MoMA media curator Klaus Biesenbach and Whitney Biennial co-curator Philippe Vergne.

The hottest art event of the spring may well be the Milwaukee International, May 16-17, 2008, which goes down at the Polish Falcons Beer Hall at 801 E. Center St. in the Midwestern city. The event -- which curator Matthew Higgs wrote up in Artforum not so long ago as one of the best things going in the art world (its influence was recently felt in New York when it cosponsored the Dark Art Fair at the Swiss Institute during Armory Show weekend) -- attracts an eclectic and impressive list of dealers. Locals Borg Ward, Club Nutz/General Store, Green Gallery, Inova and Paper Boat present their wares alongside an international roster comprised of Angstrom, Marianne Boesky, CANADA, Joey Chang Art, Espacio Provisional, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Golden Age, Daniel Hug, Leo Koenig, Inc., Repuesto, Small A Projects, The Suburban, the Swiss Institute, Western Exhibitions and Hiromi Yoshii. As the press release says, "Art will be for sale, and a fine selection of locally produced beers will be on tap." For more info, see

The Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI), a program of yearly awards for Philadelphia-based arts projects bankrolled by the Pew Charitable Trust, has announced a total of $1,166,231 in grants for 2008, funding upcoming shows and planning for a wide assortment of curatorial initiatives. Winners were selected by a panel composed of Rashida Bumbray, Jason T. Busch, Siri Engberg, Laura Hoptman, Bill Horrigan, Jeremy Strick and Nato Thompson.

The exhibitions that get support are "Lace In Translation," at Philadelphia University’s Design Center, which takes $200,000 (and also, incidentally, received a $20,000 PEI "planning grant" last year); "Dirt on Delight: impulses that form clay," at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art ($250,000); "Megawords Storefront" from the curatorial collective of Megawords (aka Anthony Smyrski and Dan Murphy) ($20,000); "Peter Saul: A Retrospective" at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts ($128,796); "LOVE LETTER" from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program ($237,535); and "James Castle: A Retrospective," upcoming from Philadelphia Museum of Art ($250,000). Look for these shows throughout 2008 in the City of Brotherly Love.

"Planning grants," meanwhile, go to Arcadia University for a project with Tacita Dean ($25,000); the Clay Studio for "planning to build a curatorial team and a series of exhibitions" ($25,000); the Rosenbach Museum & Library to fund new exhibition spaces ($24,900); and a group called Screening (aka Nadia Hironaka and Matt Suib), for laying the groundwork for a project with filmmaker Pat O’Neill.

San Francisco’s Curatorial Industries -- a collective composed of Petrushka Bazin, Jessica Brier, Chialin Chou, Courtenay Finn, Anna Gritz, Clare Haggarty, Kate Phillimore and Sarah Robayo Sheridan, all graduates of the curatorship program at the California College of the Arts -- is putting on an exhibition dedicated to the esthetic power of the box. The group is taking over Metro Self Storage at 300 Treat Ave. in San Francisco for "Self-Storage," Apr. 18-May 18, 2008, a show that "investigates the cardboard box and its intrinsic relationship to the archive." For the duration of the project, the group has invited various artists to contribute works that will be housed in different boxes in a storage unit, each box functioning, in the collective’s words, as "a solo exhibition, an artist’s file, and/or a self-initiated archive."

An impressive list of artists and organizations participates: Archigram Archive, Fern Bayer, Alejandro Cesarco, Joshua Churchill, Dexter Sinister, Trisha Donnelly, Patricia Esquivias, the John Fare Estate, Buckminster Fuller, Ryan Gander, Kristan Horton, Iman Issa, Marie Jager, Stephen Kaltenbach, Steven Leiber’s Basement, Micah Lexier, the Long Now Foundation, Chip Lord, Tom Marioni, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, Lisa Oppenheim, the Prelinger Library, Lisi Raskin, Amy Robinson, Sean Snyder, Superstudio, Andrew Tosiello, Frances Trombly, Tris Vonna-Michell and the Winchester Mystery House. More info at

Cheery stuff from the New Museum! The institution’s upcoming, Massimiliano Gioni-curated show, "After Nature," July 17-Sept. 21, 2008, is described as a "visual novel," "a story of abandonment, regression and rapture." With 90 works on three floors of the institution, the show meditates on the return of society to a state of sci-fi-infused barbarism. Participants are Allora and Calzadilla, Pawel Althamer, Fikret Atay, Roger Ballen, Huma Bhabha, Maurizio Cattelan, William Christenberry, Roberto Cuoghi, Bill Daniel, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Nathalie Djurberg, Reverend Howard Finster, Nancy Graves, Werner Herzog, Robert Kusmirowski, Zoe Leonard, Klara Liden, Erik van Lieshout, Diego Perrone, Thomas Schütte, Dana Schutz, Tino Sehgal, August Strindberg, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and Arthur Zmijewski.

Lorraine O’Grady, the feminist artist extraordinaire whose seminal Mlle Bourgeoise Noire performance is spotlighted in the current "Wack!" exhibit at P.S.1, has launched her own website. One highlight: In addition to her art, the site features an archive of her extensive criticism, including her 1992 essay "Olympia’s Maid," which has become something of a classic in the field of art writing about issues of race and gender. So far, the site’s accompanying blog is mainly about tracking the Google positioning of the new project -- but look forward to sharp insights as things develop!

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