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Artnet News
June 20, 2008 

The big auction houses have never made any secret about their ambitions to move into the primary market: As Christie’s deputy head Amy Cappellazzo told Art Review not too long ago, "We’re the big box retailer putting the mom-and-pops out of business." Christie’s acquisition of the private dealer Haunch of Venison was widely seen as a move in that direction -- but now Sotheby’s has once-again leapfrogged its rival by securing a high-profile auction of completely new works by Damien Hirst. The sale is dubbed "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," and is set for Sept. 15-16, 2008, in London. A preview show opens to the public Sept. 5-15.

Sotheby’s is making the most out of the coup, billing the event as "an historic sale." The centerpiece of the auction is The Golden Calf, a bull preserved in a tank of formaldehyde -- a classic Hirst trope, this time with the twist that the animal is fitted with a solid gold halo and hooves and horns cast in 18-carat gold. The work is estimated at £8-12 million. As for the rest of the sale, Sotheby’s promises it will "document the full breadth of the artist’s creative output," including new works incorporating his popular butterfly, pill and cancer motifs, as well as a suite of preparatory drawings, all created in the last two years.

Acknowledging his dealers, Hirst said in a statement, "I never want to stop working with my galleries," then added, "This is different. The world’s changing, ultimately I need to see where this road leads." As for those scrappy mom-and-pop operators, Hirst dealers Larry Gagosian and Jay Jopling, the Sotheby’s press release quotes them both as being OK with the arrangement. "As Damien’s long-term gallery, we’ve come to expect the unexpected," Gagosian said. "He can certainly count on us to be in the room with paddle in hand."

At long last, the ordeal of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) member Steven Kurtz appears to be over. And now that it is, the Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, N.Y., is hosting "Seized," June 7-July 18, 2008, an exhibition which explores the art projects at the core of a years-long legal dispute with the government that became an international symbol of the abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act.

By now, Kurtz’s story is well-known. CAE is famous for works that explore the political implications of contemporary technology, and in 2004, Kurtz was preparing a work on the effects of genetically modified agriculture for a show at Mass MOCA when when his wife suffered a fatal heart attack. Police responding to his 911 call notified the authorities about possible suspicious materials found at his house -- and thus began an ordeal that involved Kurtz being detained as a possible "bioterrorist," and a prosecution that bore the potential of up to 20 years in prison. (The events were the inspiration for artist Lynn Hershman-Leeson’s 2007 film Strange Culture, which starred Tilda Swinton and Thomas Jay Ryan, and toured venues including the Museum of Modern Art as a fundraiser for Kurtz’s defense.)

When the government’s initial terrorism case against the artist fell apart, prosecutors attempted to charge Kurtz and University of Pittsburgh public health professor Robert Ferrell, who had helped him acquire the bacteria cultures for his art project, with mail and wire fraud. However, on Apr. 21, 2008, federal judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the evidence cited in the government’s indictment as "insufficient on its face." Prosecutors failed to appeal the case within 30 days, thus finally vindicating the long-suffering artist.

The Hallwalls show includes Marching Plague (2004-2007), a completed installation that was created in consultation with scientists from the Harvard-Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons Armament and Arms Limitation, focusing on the military’s history of using human guinea pigs in biological warfare experiments. Aspects of this project were previously staged at venues in Denmark and Germany (complete documentation of the work is available at the CAE’s website.)

Also on view in Buffalo are two installations relating to the 2004 incident, one called Body of Evidence featuring an aggregation of detritus such as pizza boxes and candy wrappers left behind by law enforcement agents who participated in the raid on Kurtz’s home, and another displaying books confiscated from his library as "suspicious." Finally, "Seized" also contains "project documentation and ephemera" relating to the three works-in-progress that were confiscated from Kurtz’s house by the government, Free Range Grain, Molecular Invasion and GenTerra.

According to a CAE press release, the artist is still is still trying to recover the materials for these projects from authorities -- along with lab equipment, computers, manuscripts, notes and other personal belongings that were confiscated.

The 16th Biennale of Sydney, June 18-Sept. 7, 2008, has the theme of "Revolutions -- Forms That Turn," which encompasses everything from anarchy and rebellion to changes in esthetic perspective. The first part of the title, "Revolutions," suggests "a directly political and content-based exhibition," says artistic director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, while the second phrase, "forms that turn," evokes "the autonomy and isolation of the art object, spinning on its own and detached from daily life." Among the 180-plus artists in the show are Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Kasimir Malevich, Tina Modotti and Aleksandr Rodchenko; contemporary artists range from Vernon Ah Kee, aiPotu, Allora & Calzadilla and Francis Alÿs to Viktor Vasarely, Lawrence Weiner and Gil Joseph Wolman.

Venues include the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Sydney Opera House, plus Cockatoo Island, a former prison and shipyard, and the historical Pier 2/3 wharf in Walsh Bay. The biennale has an online component as well: an irreverent blog featuring comments like "party, party, party. . . two years of isolation overcome in a single week," and a hardly more mainstream website with projects by Paul Chan, the South African art tabloid Artheat, and the Second Life Liberation Army, the "military wing" of a "liberation movement" within the imaginary online world.

For nine years now, the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 have commissioned a special architectural project for P.S.1’s large gravel courtyard each summer. Winner for 2008 is Work Architecture Company, whose PF1 (Public Farm One) features a "flying carpet"-like structure of linked sections of large cardboard tubes, containing "a variety of vegetables and plants." This "working farm," as it is called, designed by architects Amale Andraos and Dan Wood with a budget of $70,000, also includes swings, a pool, a bar and seating, and serves as the setting for the P.S.1 summer music series.

"Receiving this extraordinarily seductive visual version of a farm at P.S.1 struck deep into my rural roots," said P.S.1 director Alanna Heiss in a press statement. "I own a farm in South Dakota, and my neighbors are very excited about coming to New York City this summer to see the urban competition!"

PF1 is slated to be unveiled to the public on June 20, 2008. Also on view is "Arctic Hysteria: New Art from Finland" and "That Was Then. . . This Is Now," opening on June 22, an exhibition inspired by the artistic and sociopolitical climate of the late 1960s.

The new armistice in the cultural property wars between U.S. museums and the Italian government is definitely bearing some fruit this fall. "Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples," a selection of some 150 sculptures, paintings, mosaics and luxury articles from museums in Naples, Pompeii, Boscoreale and elsewhere, opens at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Oct. 19, 2008-Mar. 22, 2009.

Examples include silver wine cups decorated with episodes from the Labors of Herakles, a mirror with a scene of cupids fishing, a mosaic portraying the setting for Plato’s Academy, a dining room fresco decorated with images of Apollo and the muses, a marble of Artemis, a portrait of Homer, an equestrian statue of Alexander the Great and a monumental sculpture of Aphrodite. Guest curator for the show is George Mason University art history prof Carol Mattusch. The show subsequently appears at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the co-organizing institution, May 3-Oct. 4, 2009.

The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents "Total Enlightenment: Moscow Conceptual Art 1960-1990," June 21-Sept. 14, 2008, featuring about 130 works by 20 artists, including Erik Bulatov, Ilya Kabakov, Vitaly Komar & Alexander Melamid, Alexander Kosolapov, Igor Makarevich, Elena Elagina, Andrei Monastyrski, Boris Mikhailov, Dmitri Prigov, Leonid Sokov and Vadim Zakharov. The exhibition is the first to place the group in an art-historical context, here defined not in relationship to the market economy as in the west but rather in relation to "the ideological text. . . of the Soviet symbolic economy." The show is organized by Boris Groys, and subsequently appears at the Fundación Juan March in Madrid, the co-organizing institution, Oct. 10, 2008-Jan. 11, 2009.

The Museum of the City of New York presents "Campaigning for President: New York and the American Election," June 24-Nov. 4, 2008, selections from the museum’s holdings of 1,250,000 buttons, banners, posters, hats and other presidential campaign materials. Many of the items suggest that electoral dirty tricks didn’t begin with Carl Rove: a "mechanical nose-thumber" produced for James Garfield’s campaign, a campaign button identifying Socialist candidate Eugene Debs as "convict no. 9653" and an African-American doll embodying accusations that William McKinley had fathered an illegitimate black child. The show is organized by museum curators Sarah Henry and Thomas Mellins with the late Jordan Wright serving as guest curator. For further details, see

The Miami Art Museum (MAM) has acquired 44 artworks in the past year in anticipation of moving to its new 120,000 square foot, Herzog & de Meuron-designed building in the city’s downtown in 2011. Among the notable gifts to the museum are two photo collages from the mid-1970s by Jan Dibbets, a gift of Joan and Roger Sonnabend; Mark Dion’s South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit: Mobile Laboratory and Uniforms, commissioned by an anonymous donor; Fernand Léger’s 1950 gouache Woman and Armchair, a gift of Jeffrey H. Loria; and Tom Wesselmann’s oil from 1980-82, Brown Eyes under Glass, a gift of Janet M. and Joseph D. Shein; and Catherine Sullivan’s multi-channel video, Triangle of Need (2007), a gift of Ella Fontanals-Cisneros.

Other acquisitions have included works by Alexandre Arrechea, Daniel Arsham, Shimon Attie, Hernan Bas, Ruth Bernhard, Walead Beshty, Pablo Cano, Westen Charles, Bruce Conner, Mario Cravo Neto, Julie Davidow and Carol Prusa, Francesca DiMattio, Erman, Dario Escobar, Nancy Graves, Lyle Ashton Harris, María Eugenia Haya, Quisqueya Henriquez, John Henry, Carla Klein, Anna Maria Maiolino, Pepe Mar, Enrique Martínez Celaya, Nela Ochoa, Martin Oppel, Bruce Pearson, Emilio Perez, Karen Rifas, Burt Rodriquez, Susan Rothenberg, Kiki Smith, Pablo Tamayo, Fabien Verschaere, Garry Winogrand and Andrew Young.

Visitors to New York have a second chance to see sculptor Nancy Azara’s Heart Wall, a mural-sized mixed-media installation of carved and painted wood with gold leaf and encaustic that was acclaimed by art critics in the New York Times, Art in America and Sculpture magazine when it was first exhibited in 2000. The work goes on view at 340 Madison in the office building’s lobby art program on June 17, 2008 (the cross street is East 44th Street). The project is organized by Carmela Rea Fine Arts and made possible by Broadway Partners.  Images and info are available at the Azara’s impressive website,

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