CHINESE TOURISTS, LOVE POETRY, MORE AT MET
The Metropolitan Museum of Art expects to welcome more Chinese tourists than ever this year. This news kicked off the twice-yearly press lunch at everyone’s favorite New York museum last week, as Met officials announced impressive attendance numbers and noted that by far the biggest increase of visitors came from China. Further explosive growth is expected in that area in the near future, the museum said.
Other tidbits: Coming up at the museum towards the end of the year is a joint reading of steamy love poems by Blue Velvet actress Isabella Rossellini and Met museum head Philippe de Montebello, on Dec. 9, 2008. The evening reading is held in conjunction with "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy," Nov. 18, 2008-Feb. 16, 2009, a survey of 150 art objects relating to love, marriage and sex, curated by Andrea Bayer and Linda Wolk-Simon.
The love poetry is one of three planned events showcasing various sides of the soon-to-retire director, collectively dubbed "Philippe de Montebello: A Triptych." Also on the schedule is a Sept. 26 performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals featuring the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and narrated by de Montebello, and an Oct. 28 conversation between the Met director and irascible art critic Robert Hughes.
A major exhibition paying tribute to de Montebello is also on the fall schedule. Curators from all 17 Met curatorial departments have joined together to organize "The Philippe de Montebello Years," Oct. 24, 2008-Feb. 1, 2009, showcasing important acquisitions made under his watch.
As to the question that was on every reporter’s lips at the conference -- when, exactly, de Montebello was leaving the institution, and who his successor might be -- he artfully dodged any substantial comment, saying simply that it was impossible to know whether or not this would, in fact, be his final press luncheon. According to press reports, the museum search committee is expected to pare down its list of candidates before the end of the month.
In the meantime, fans will just have to content themselves with the normal encyclopedic riches of the upcoming season. Among the upcoming exhibitions are "Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632-1717)," Sept. 9, 2008-Jan. 4, 2009; "Royal Porcelain from the Twinight Collection, 1800-1850," Sept. 16, 2008-Apr. 19, 2009; "Rhythms of Modern Life: British Prints 914-1939," Sept. 23-Dec. 7, 2008; "New York, N. Why?: Photographs by Rudy Burckhardt, 1937-1940," Sept. 23, 2008-Jan. 4, 2009; "The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design without End," Sept. 30, 2008-Mar. 29, 2009; "Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium, B.C.," Nov. 18, 2008-Mar. 15, 2009; and "Choir of Angels: Painting in Italian Choir Books, 1300-1500," Nov. 25, 2008-Apr. 12, 2009.
ARCENEAUX TO REDEVELOP WATTS?
Los Angeles artist Edgar Arceneaux, currently featured in the Whitney Biennial in New York, has a new project in mind, and it ain’t small: He’s planning the revitalization of the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles, site of Simon Rodia’s iconic Watts Towers and still one of the more downtrodden neighborhoods in the city. His initiative, the Watts House Project (WHP) is described as "an artist-driven urban revitalization project" and "a large-scale artwork-as-urban-development." In a nutshell, the plan calls for stimulating economic development by allowing local residents to harness the cultural capital of the towers, turning Watts into a center of creativity.
Thus far, Arceneaux has solicited several proposals for a "Watts Towers Cultural Crescent" from University of Southern California architecture prof Peter Zellner and his students, which incorporate "green architectural projects for the location of an artist-in-residency program, exhibition spaces, a café, communal house, daycare, educational programming, WHP offices and residential housing." As the first step in implementing this new cultural masterplan, Arceneaux hopes to purchase a foreclosed property on 107th Street -- the location of the towers -- to serve as a beachhead for the WHP’s redevelopment initiative, which would involve "the renovation and façade improvement of the entire 107th street residential block facing the Watts Towers."
The auction of the property is to be held on Saturday, and the artist is busily tapping into art-world support to get his dream off the ground. A fundraiser at LAXART on June 11, 2008, drew about 100 supporters, including Zellner, artists Shana Lutker and Vincent Johnson, United States Artists executive director Katherine DeShaw, Hammer Museum education director and curator Aimee Chang, REDCAT associate curator Clara Kim and gallerist Susanne Vielmetter. About $20,000 was raised, with more money expected to come in before the weekend property sale, according to a press rep for LAXART.
Artist Wangechi Mutu has also donated a collage to an online auction to support the WHP, with bidding still open. The piece can be viewed online at the LAXART website, which also offers downloadable forms that can be used to bid on the work. All proceeds go to support Arceneaux’s project.
TRACEY EMIN SPICES UP RA SUMMER SHOW
The London art world knows that it’s summertime when the Royal Academy of Arts opens its annual "Summer Exhibition," June 9-Aug. 17, 2008, the largest "open call" show of contemporary art in the world (and, and 240 years old, the oldest). Organized around the theme "Man Made," the exhibition includes approximately 1,200 works, all for sale, submitted by amateurs and professionals alike to a jury including Royal Academicians Humphrey Ocean, Tony Cragg and Gordon Benson.
Highlights include a monumental sculpture by Anthony Caro, a room dedicated to the late painter R.B. Kitaj and a specially curated gallery by Tracey Emin including, needless to say, male and female nudity and a "warning" sign. But according to Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak, who detests the show as an exercise in mediocrity (and also slams in passing new RA exhibitions secretary Charles Saumarez Smith, whose taste he calls "dangerously banal"), Emin brings everything to the show that it typically lacks: "lippiness, sexiness, fractured femininity, spiritual turmoil, hard-core experience of the other side of the tracks, total fearlessness, beautiful thinking, beautiful dreaming, a refusal to shut up, a refusal to go ‘normal’ on us, an unshakable faith in art [and] a ton of experience with progressive techniques allied to a blossoming talent as a painter."
ALBION IN NEW YORK
Albion, the big-league London gallery founded in 2004 by Michael Hue-Williams in a space-age 16,000-square-foot riverfront structure designed by Norman Foster, has come to New York. The Big Apple branch, dubbed Albion New York (not to be confused with the upstate town of Albion, N.Y.), is located at 102 Prince Street in the heart of Manhattan’s SoHo district, just across the street from the tony Mercer Hotel. What’s more, the gallery has David A. Ross as its director, in what looks like the first commercial-gallery job for the former head of the Whitney Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The long-term plan is to open "an architect-designed gallery which will serve as both New York headquarters and an exhibition space," somewhere in the city. In the meantime, the temporary SoHo space opens to the public with an exhibition of works by the German-Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna, June 19-Aug. 1, 2008. A smaller, concurrent exhibition by Vito Acconci features archival works and a suite of his 1992 "florescent furniture."
"BAY AREA NOW" AT YERBA BUENA CENTER
The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco presents "Bay Area Now 5," July 19-Nov. 16, 2008, the fifth version of the triennial survey of local art. Organized by Kate Eilertsen and Berin Golonu, the show presents works by 21 artists: Maria Antelman, Elaine Buckholtz, Joshua Churchill, Brian Conley, Ala Ebtekar, Ana Teresa Fernández, Donald Fortescue and Lawrence LaBianca, Misako Inaoka, Jonathon Keats, Edmundo de Marchena, Ian McDonald, Praba Pilar, John Roloff, Paul Schiek, Erik Scollon, Leslie Shows, Ginger Wolfe-Suarez and Primitivo Suarez-Wolfe with poet Moira Roth, Canan Tolon and lauren woods.
Also on view: "Theory of Survival," July 19-Aug. 24, 2008, an exhibition guest-curated by Taraneh Hermami and featuring artists of the Iranian and Iranian-American diaspora.
MICHELLE OBAMA HITS THE ART WORLD
The current heroine of our political season, Michelle Obama, is the celebrant of a special art-world benefit for the Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign scheduled for June 17, 2008, at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. at 530 West 22nd Street in Chelsea (the following dinner is at the home of Calvin Klein). Members of the benefit committee, in addition to Klein and art dealer Brent Sikkema, are Shelby Bryan, André Leon Talley and Anna Wintour. Tickets begin at $1,000 per person; dinner is $10,000 per person. For more info, or to rsvp, contact Jennifer Tabach Gerst at jgerst @ barackobama.com.
DEVELOPERS CLAIM CHELSEA GALLERY BLOCK
The rampant real estate development in Manhattan’s West Chelsea art district is quietly claiming a swath of West 25th Street. According to insiders, a massive real-estate investment firm called Cardinal Investments, whose holdings stretch from New York to the West Coast and Fiji, has bought all the buildings on the north side of West 25th Street between the High Line at 10th Avenue and the Chelsea Tower, home of the new Marlborough Chelsea, at 545 West 25th. Among the art dealers with spaces along the block are Mitchell Algus, Arario, ClampArt, Daniel Cooney, Betty Cuningham, Kent, Florence Lynch and ZieherSmith. As leases run out, dealers are being offered the chance to buy their spaces at $1,000 a square foot, pricing some of the smaller galleries at $750,000 or so.
"The whole neighborhood is being transformed," said one dealer. "I don’t know if art galleries will be able to afford it in the future." The seller of the buildings, who had recently developed them as galleries, was Jack Fuchs’ Whitehall Business Archives.
COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS REDUX
Collaborative Projects, that legendary group of New York artists who formed a nonprofit organization in the late 1970s to take advantage of the then-abundant government grant monies for the arts, is having another moment in the sun. Dealer Brooke Alexander, who showed many members of the collective during its heyday, is mounting "Collaborative Projects Redux" in June at his 3,000-square-foot Wooster Street gallery in Manhattan's SoHo district. Among the artists with works in the show are John Ahearn, Richard Bosman, Jane Dickson, Jenny Holzer and Peter Nadin, Richard Mock, Joseph Nechvatal, Tom Otterness, Judy Rifka, Walter Robinson (yes, him) and Robin Winters.
Colab is celebrated for "The Times Square Show," an exhibition held in a former massage parlor building in Times Square in 1980, as well as for "The New Cinema," a movie house on St. Mark's Place where James Nares, John Lurie, Becky Johnston, Eric Mitchell and other auteurs showed their films in the early 1980s. For images of "Collaborative Projects Redux," see www.baeditions.com
"ART OF FAILURE" DEBUTS ON HBO
A new documentary film about 1980s New York Neo-Expressionist painter Chuck Connelly, who was well-known back in the day for doing the painting scenes for actor Nick Nolte in Martin Scorcese’s 1989 New York Stories, bows on HBO on July 7, 2008. Six years in the making, The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale chronicles the passionate rejection of art-world hypocrisy and consequent retreat into alcoholism by the painter, who now lives and works in Philadelphia. The film is directed by Jeff Stimmel and features candid interviews with artist Mark Kostabi, art dealer Annina Nosei and, yes, critic and artist Walter Robinson (him, again). The film premieres on June 17, 2008, at the National Arts Club in New York, where an exhibition of Connelly’s work is also on view. The film also appears at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 27 and on the BBC on July 29. For more details, see www.theartoffailure.com
CHEVALIERS TO GUERRERO, HEARTNEY
The French government recently handed out its version of knighthoods, the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, to two stalwarts of the New York contemporary art scene: Antoine Guerrero, the administrative director of P.S.1 Art Center in Queens for 15 years (when he wasn’t working for the American Center in Paris or Galerie Agnes B, also in Paris); and Eleanor Heartney, art critic and author of Art & Today (2008) and Postmodernism (Movements in Modern Art) (2001).
PUBLICATION OF THE YEAR
David Platzker’s Specific Object has named the nonprofit Esopus magazine, edited by Tod Lippy, as the Specific Object 2007 Publication of the Year. Esopus is a New York City-based twice-yearly periodical that mixes artist’s projects, poetry and fiction with interviews and art historical essays. For more info on the publication, see www.esopusmag.com